23 Best Things to Do in Ottawa, IL

Ottawa, IL
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Ottawa, a picturesque and captivating city, lies in the land of the Prairie State.

The city is surrounded by historical landmarks, amusing adventure centers, and panoramic natural sights.

If you enjoy engaging in outdoor activities, Ottawa is the perfect city for you in the state of Illinois.

There are many things to do in the city: skating, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, hanging out in bars, drinking excellent coffee, feasting on delicacies, and more.

You can even go skydiving if your adrenaline-rushing body asks for it!

Get ready for a new adventure and check out this list of the best things to do in Ottawa, Illinois:

Experience a Vintage-Themed Theater at VIP Roxy Cinemas

Entrance of Roxy Cinema
Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you feel like you're up for a relaxing movie night?

Enter the vintage-themed theaters at VIP Roxy Cinemas!

Situated on La Salle Street, this movie theater offers a unique ambiance to customers where they let you enjoy a film while feeling a solid vintage atmosphere.

Name board of Roxy Cinema
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

The sound system is sensational, the seats are cozy, and the tickets are inexpensive.

Have a good movie night under a vintage ambiance at VIP Roxy Cinemas when you're in Ottawa.

Explore the City of Ottawa with Awesome Ottawa Tours

The instant you set foot in Ottawa, you might feel overwhelmed by the spectacular views.

Fret not!

All you have to do is sign up for a tour organized by Awesome Ottawa Tours.

You'll find this tour operator on Court Street.

Once you've signed up for a tour, you can roam the streets however you like.

The tours last for approximately three hours.

That's plenty enough for you to get a glimpse of how fascinating Ottawa is.

Explore the streets of Ottawa with Awesome Ottawa Tours, and think of it as a teaser in finding out more about the city.

Go for a Skating Session at Paramount Skating Arena

If you're a skating enthusiast, don't miss out on Ottawa's one and only indoor skating rink, Paramount Skating Arena.

Paramount Skating Arena is located on Chestnut Street.

The skating facility has been running for more than three decades.

The entertainment center has always been a popular attraction among family or friends gatherings.

You can also play hockey in a friendly game if you wish.

Stop by Paramount Skating Area and enjoy the best skating facility in Ottawa.

De-Stress at Shakers Sports Bar & Grill

After a long and tiring day, you might find yourself looking for a place and way to unwind.

On West Stevenson Road, you'll find Shakers Sports Bar & Grill, one of Ottawa's best bars.

Here, you'll enjoy playing eight-ball pool, hitting the targets with darts, watching TVs, and listening to live music performed by Ottawa musicians while sipping your favorite craft beer.

Find a comfortable spot in the area and de-stress at Shakers Sports Bar & Grill.

Try Out a Thrilling Sport at Buffalo Range Shooting Park

Did you know that shooting is a sport?

Such a thrilling and adventurous sport shouldn't be missed.

You'll find Ottawa's Buffalo Range Shooting Park on North 2803rd Road.

The shooting park invites anyone at any level who finds delight in shooting sports.

The facility ensures safety above anything, so you don't have to worry about anything.

Sharpen your senses, test your accuracy, and experience the exciting sport at Buffalo Range Shooting Park.

Are you into art exhibits?

If so, don't forget to visit Open Space Art Gallery & Studios on West Madison Street.

The gallery showcases a clever and creative space for art exhibits by aspiring and professional artists.

There are plenty of entertaining arts displayed in the art gallery that inspires the artists and the viewers more.

Moreover, the art studio offers art workshops and classes to those interested, so don't hesitate to participate if you're curious!

Find Peace at Allen Park

When you have a troubled mind, parks are one of the best go-tos to relieve that lingering weight.

You'll find peace hanging out at Ottawa's Allen Park, located on Courtney Street.

The park is a popular spot for any nature lover as it shows the panoramic view of the famous and alluring Illinois River.

You can have picnics, hang out with your beloved dog, or relax in the soothing atmosphere of the park.

You'll also see monumental art sculptures, which add to their magnificence.

If you wish to unwind during the night, you can catch the bright colors of the fireworks flashing in the night sky while sitting at the river banks.

Make sure to add Allen Park to your list of places to visit in Ottawa.

Discover How Glass Is Made at Starved Rock Hot Glass

Sometimes, you wonder and question how some things are made—of course, glass doesn't miss the list.

At Starved Rock Hot Glass, situated along West Main Street, you'll see how glassmaking works.

There are classes, and you'll also be astonished by how glass can be made with a weight as light as paper.

Discover how glassmaking works at Starved Rock Hot Glass and prepare yourself with water and proper wear as the facility may involve high-temperature situations.

Go Horse Riding at Catlin Park

Have you tried horse riding before?

If not, head to Catlin Park and ride a horse.

Located on East 1251st Road, Catlin Park has an area of 333 acres consisting of luminous forests, mini streams, and fluvial ravines.

While in the park, you'll see the abundant wildlife around—deers, wild turkeys, rabbits, and more.

There are also picturesque trails that are perfect for walking or horseback riding.

Whether you're a pro or a beginner at horseback riding, you'll still enjoy the view the park offers.

Satiate Your Adrenaline-Rushing Body with Skydiving at Skydive Chicago

Skydiving is considered to be the most thrilling adventure there is.

If you're a skydiving enthusiast, Ottawa has the perfect setting for you.

Relish in the vast blue skies of Ottawa with Skydive Chicago.

The next thing you know, you'll be free falling from a plane way above the ground.

The instructors and staff are there to assist you in every step, so don't be nervous and let the thrill flow.

Satiate your adrenaline-rushing body with skydiving with Skydive Chicago, located on East 1969th Road, when you're in Ottawa.

Go for a Hike at the Dayton Bluffs Preserve

You won't regret spending a day at Ottawa's Dayton Bluffs Preserve.

Every nature lover shouldn't miss this tranquil preserve.

You can go hiking while sightseeing the vast woodlands, glistening bodies of water, and the evergreen prairies.

As you keep hiking, you'll soon come across the majestic Fox River.

Your pets are welcome at the Dayton Bluffs Preserve but don't forget to keep them on their leashes.

Spend a day at this hidden gem in Ottawa, and delight in the breathtaking views.

Spend a Day at Fox River Park

You can't leave the city of Ottawa without spending a day at Fox River Park on Hudson Street.

Here, you'll see the majestic sight of Ottawa's Fox River Park.

The park offers plenty of amenities—you can go biking, hiking, playing basketball, have picnics, go fishing, golfing, frisbeeing, canoeing, and more.

The park also has a vast space of green fields, a playground for children, and a splash area.

If you want to go swimming, Fox River Park has a riverfront area with a pool and a beach engulfed with scenic sights.

Don't miss out on this pacifying area and spend a day at Fox River Park!

Find Out How Coffee Is Made at Ottawa's Famous Coffee Roasting Company

The aroma of a cup of coffee never fails to stimulate our senses.

If you're a coffee lover, visit Ottawa's Famous Coffee Roasting Company!

Located on La Salle Street, the roasting company offers free tours and shows visitors how coffee is made, from coffee bean selection to roasting.

The tour lasts approximately two hours—that's more than enough to uncover the mystery behind the addicting taste of coffee.

Don't forget to visit Ottawa's Famous Coffee Roasting Company and find out how coffee is made.

Visit One of Ottawa's Finest Restaurants at Berta's Tap

After wandering around the streets of Ottawa, you might find yourself hungry and arid.

On Clinton Street, you'll find Berta's Tap, one of Ottawa's finest restaurants.

Berta's Tap has been running since 1945 and continues to serve people fine dishes and drinks—especially their burgers and homemade Italian beef.

The bar and grill restaurant offers fine meals for lunch and dinner, high-quality drinks, such as cocktails and draft beer, and plays pleasant live music that is perfect for fine dining.

There's more Berta's Tap can offer, so visit the famous restaurant in Ottawa.

Grab a Cup of Morning Coffee at Jeremiah Joe Coffee

Having a cup of coffee in the early cold morning is one of the best things to do after waking up as it stimulates your brain.

At Jeremiah Joe Coffee, located on La Salle Street, you can taste the rich and excellent coffee Ottawa has to deliver.

Whether you want an ice-blended cappuccino or a hot Americano with cinnamon whipped cream, the coffee shop serves your coffee however you want it to be.

They have a variety of flavors and also have cozy and relaxing interiors to top the soothing feeling.

Jeremiah Joe Coffee will leave you wanting more coffee!

Get Your Daily Sweet Treats at The Ottawa Bakery

If you're feeling hungry and need something sweet, stop by The Ottawa Bakery.

Situated on Court Street, the bakery offers a variety of delicious pastries that'll satiate your hungry stomach.

They bake cupcakes, muffins, cookies, danishes, cinnamon rolls, scones, pies, donuts, carrot cake, and more.

They also have a breakfast menu that offers sausage and egg sandwiches.

Their products are guaranteed fresh and delicious, so don't hesitate to get your daily sweet treats at The Ottawa Bakery.

Treat Yourself with Soft Serves at Tone's Cones

If you have an unexplainable love for sweets, Ottawa has the perfect store for you on West Main Street.

At Tone's Cones, you'll have different delicious sweets and desserts!

The shop has been running for more than two decades and has continued to serve everyone with premium soft serves.

They serve ice creams of different flavors, sundaes, funnel cakes, shakes, cotton candy, waffle cones, flurries,  specialized cakes, and more with over 40 diverse toppings!

They even have a drive-through service if you're in a hurry.

Treat yourself with delightful bites at Ottawa's number one spot, Tone's Cones!

Tour the Historic Reddick Mansion and Gardens

Exterior of the Historic Reddick Mansion and Gardens
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

Step back in time and relive the 1900s era at the Reddick Mansion and Gardens.

This grand Italianate mansion was built in 1855 where the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate was held.

Located on West Lafayette Street, it was presumed to be the most expensive and lavish home in the Midwest during the pre-Civil War period.

You can tour the beautiful 22-room mansion and garden from Friday to Monday around noon.

You’ll notice the distinct rich red brick and Lemont limestone material that give this mansion its distinct features.

Windows of the Historic Reddick Mansion and Gardens
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

Wander around the four floors of the old residence and appreciate the craftsmanship and architectural details of every room; likewise, you’ll see the well-preserved antique objects around the historic home.

Located west of the mansion, you’ll also see a two-story brick structure which is the other remaining original edifice on the property.

Meander around the award-winning Garden and see a variety of colorful blooms and lovely landscapes; likewise, you’ll appreciate the beautiful Quilt Garden and discover lush plants at the Eliza Jane Reddick Herb Garden created in 1995.

Get a piece of history at the Reddick Mansion and Gardens.

Visit the Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Museum

Learn more about local history and highlights of scouting at the Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Museum.

The specialized museum located on Canal Street was opened in 1997 aiming to promote and preserve the Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Camp Fire heritage and traditions.

Step inside and see the exhibits showcasing the history of these organizations.

Browse through the Lone Scout Memory Lodge collections and Robert Baden-Powell memorabilia presenting the developments of youth programs conducted by these institutions.

Learn how W.D. Boyce founded the Boy Scouts of America, see his Ottawa home, and learn about his great legacy.

Another section of the museum features antique collections representing Ottawa’s historical past.

See the vintage Gay Buggy Company carriage, pianos manufactured by the Weaver Piano Factory, Western Cottage Organs, and other exhibits.

Drop by the gift shop for some souvenirs on your visit or join the events hosted by the Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Museum.

You can visit the museum from Thursday through Monday.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Buffalo Rock State Park

View of a river from Buffalo Rock State Park's cliff
Hank Erdmann / Shutterstock.com

Buffalo Rock State Park offers plenty of enjoyable activities your family will enjoy.

The 298-acre park is located on a bluff that was once an island situated along the Illinois River.

The state park offers visitors a sweeping view of the river and has become a popular nature location.

See the Effigy Tumuli created by artist Michael Heizer as a tribute to the ancient Native American tradition called tumuli; the sculpted animal images include the water strider, frog, snake, catfish, and turtle, all native to the Illinois River.

Grill some food and have a relaxing picnic at the tables under shades of towering oaks, hickory, and walnut trees or use the covered shelters available.

Landscape of Buffalo Rock State Park
Hank Erdmann / Shutterstock.com

Other amenities nearby include a playground area, baseball diamond, and horseshoes.

Drop by the buffalo pen and grazing area to see three American bison who have made the park their home.

If you want to go hiking, you can take the River Bluff Trail which leads to two observation decks, or the Woodland Trail which offers scenic views around the park.

Have a great nature experience at Buffalo Rock State Park.

Nature trail at Buffalo Rock State Park
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

Stop by and See the Artistic Ottawa Murals

You’ll get to appreciate more of the local culture and history as you spot Ottawa’s downtown murals.

This public art program, sponsored by the Ottawa Visitors Center, aims to revive the historic downtown area and create a cultural attraction for both city residents and tourists.

The murals highlight figures and events that tell of Ottawa’s history, industry, and famous personalities.

The first mural was set up in 2002 and currently, the city has ten murals dotted around the area.

Stroll along La Salle Street and catch the General W. H. L. Wallace mural by G. Byron Peck, and Ottawa’s Earliest Residents created by Roger Cooke Fine Arts.

Along La Salle and Wet Jackson Street, you’ll find The Day of the Great Debate by Don Gray; likewise, you’ll spot the Peltier Glass Factory mural right on LaSalle and Jefferson Street, created by E. Colin Williams and Murals by Jericho.

See the artistic mural piece by Joshua Winer called Streetscape Reflections on LaSalle Madison Street’s northeast corner and the History of Communications by Tim Trumbo on West Lafayette Street.

If you love the Sesame Street children’s program, you’ll also love the mural designed and painted by Vicki Crone entitled Imagine & Learn with Bob McGrath located at the

Jefferson School on Columbus Street.

Other Ottawa city murals you can see include Thomas Melvin’s Open for Business mural at First National Bank on Madison Street, Ottawa as a Canal Town by Gregory Ackers, and the inspiring mural by John Pugh’s Trompe L’ Oeil called Revolution.

Discover Facts about the I&M Canal Toll House

Signage of the I&M Canal Toll House
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

The I&M Canal Toll House on Columbus Street is the only remaining toll house among the seven structures operating in the mid-1800s to early 1900s.

These stops stood in Chicago, Lockport, and La Salle and were used to collect tolls in the area.

This toll house was built in 1849 by Ottawa’s first toll collector, Albert F. Dow with the canal commissioners paying him rent for the building.

Throughout the years, this 16’ x 24’ building was also utilized by different establishments.

Take a guided tour of the site, have a glimpse of what life was like back in the day, and learn about Lincoln’s travels along the Canal.

Likewise, see the old rope bed and original toll logbook on display, along with old photos of early modes of transportation in the area.

Learn more about I&M Canal Toll House on your visit.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit Starved Rock State Park, Illinois Number One Attraction

Waterfall at Starved Rock State Park
Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com

Ottawa is a gateway to Illinois' number one attraction, Starved Rock State Park, which is 22 minutes away from Ottawa.

The park is everything similar to the word magical.

There are majestic seasonal waterfalls, abundant wildlife, vast neat grassy grounds, gorgeous canyons, gorges, and more breathtaking sights.

Creek running through the Starved Rock State Park
Hank Erdmann / Shutterstock.com

The Illinois River is also in sight, offering the availability of fishing and boating.

Whether it's winter, spring, summer, or fall, Starved Rock State Park is always in its best state.

The park looks marvelously different, depending on the season.

You can also pitch a tent and go camping on the grassy grounds.

There are also bathhouses with flush toilets and showers.

Don't forget to visit Illinois' most famous attraction when you're on your way out from Ottawa!

Stunning view of a trail in Starved Rock State Park during fall
Nicola Patterson / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Ottawa is one of the best cities to visit in Illinois.

It's enveloped by majestic views and pleasing attractions that will improve your travel experience.

When you're in Illinois, make sure to visit Ottawa and enjoy everything on this list of the best things to do in the city.

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