Best Places to See Santa in Ottawa

Christmas is a time of wonder. The lights, the presents, and the music all add up to a season that fills our minds with memories and our hearts with delight. None of this is more evident than through the eyes of a child. Many of us have memories of leaving out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and then waking up to gifts under the tree in the morning. Visiting Santa is a highlight of the season for many children as they sit on his lap and verbalize their gift list. Even though we as adults know that it’s just a kind soul donning a big belly and red suit, we still love seeing the awe in the eyes of the kids as they visit Santa himself.

If seeing Santa is on your list of things to do this holiday season, then we have suggestions for you on the best places to see Santa in Ottawa. From attractions to stores, prepare that holiday list and get the kiddos ready to visit good ole’ Saint Nick.



If you are looking for a Christmas market, light show, and live entertainment, then Christmas Glow is the place to go! Not only do they have visits with Santa, but their holiday theme this year is all about the jolly guy. Children can help Santa “Glow Around the World” as they try to help Mr. Claus deliver presents in 6 different countries. Not only can kids tell their Christmas wishes to Santa, but they can also play on playgrounds, stroll through the Christmas Light Gardens, and ride on Glen the Glow-comotive.
Adults can peruse the market filled with local artisans and enjoy seasonal beverages. Christmas Glow truly has something for everyone, no matter his or her age. The best part? The entire thing is under roof, so you can enjoy all of the activities regardless of the weather.

A soft-focus shot of a Christmas tree strung with lights.

Alight at Night

If the holidays have you craving a picture-perfect Currier and Ives winter setting, then Alight at Night is perfect! Upper Canada Village is lit up with almost one million lights strung on trees, fences, and historic buildings. Head to Christ’s Church to join in with carolling, or take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the streets. Old Saint Nick takes up residence in a Victorian-style mansion to greet children and listen to their Christmas wishes. Kids can also ride the vintage merry-go-round and the life-sized toy train. There are a variety of restaurants in the village, so you truly can make a day of it!

Christmas lights hanging in a tree.

Vintage Village of Lights

There is a lot of history in Ottawa, and part of that experience is visiting the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. At Christmas, the museum puts on the Vintage Village of Lights, which spreads holiday cheer! The 1920s and 30s village is decked out with festive decorations, and children can do fun activities along the way such as decorating gingerbread cookies, decorating ornaments, and – of course – visiting Santa. 

Ottawa Santa Shuffle

If you want to include a different way to see Santa into your holiday plans, then experiencing the Ottawa Santa Shuffle may be the way to go. Designed as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army, children can participate in the 1km Elf Walk or the 5km Fun Run. Kids of all ages can prance, run, or walk their way along the running path, and there will be lots of “Santas” in view as participants dress up as Santa, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and just about anything Christmas related. Although this event doesn’t involve photos or listing off gift wishes, it does let people focus on raising money for those in need while burning a few calories at the same time. 

Manotick Village Christmas

Manotick Village Christmas

Manotick Village Christmas is the perfect event for those who want to check multiple activities off their list at once. Shop at the Crafter’s Market, have breakfast with Father and Merry Christmas and bundle up to watch the Santa Claus Parade. The day is filled with other festivities that include horse-drawn wagon rides, strolling carolers, and photos with Santa. Be sure to head to local businesses to claim your free gingerbread cookie and taste roasted chestnuts. Yum! 

Carlingwood Shopping Centre

Carlingwood Shopping Centre

Treat your kids to a breakfast with Santa done right! Tickets include a hot breakfast, a meet and greet with Santa and friends, face painting, crafts, balloon animals and more. It’s sure to be an event that they won’t soon forget. Kids will also receive a ticket to ride the Carlingwood Express to the North Pole. Better yet? Children can arrive in their pyjamas and enter to win a prize. To tie in with the PJ theme, they will be accepting donations of unworn sleepwear to give to needy children through Pyjama Patrol. What a great cause that Carlingwood Shopping Centre is supporting!

Packenham Annual Santa Claus Parade

Packenham Annual Santa Claus Parade

Santa Claus parades are a highlight for many kids; so hopefully, the trip 45 minutes west of Ottawa won’t be a bother. Why? Well, the Packenham Annual Christmas Parade is happening! The route starts at the Stewart Community Centre and kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus post-parade. Packenham also offers free hot chocolate and hot dogs along with complimentary public skating. What a fun, free event for all! 

No matter where you choose to see Santa this season, it’s a great way to have a memorable photo while letting children talk to the big guy about their Christmas list.

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