This study characterizes the ability of novel oncolytic rhabdoviruses (Maraba MG1) to boost natural killer (NK) cell activity. Our results demonstrate that MG1 activates NK cells via direct infection and maturation of conventional dendritic cells. Using NK depletion and conventional dendritic cells ablation studies in vivo, we established that both are required for MG1 efficacy. We further explored the efficacy of attenuated MG1 (nonreplicating MG1-UV(2min) and single-cycle replicating MG1-Gless) and demonstrated that these viruses activate conventional dendritic cells, although to a lesser extent than live MG1. This translates to equivalent abilities to remove tumor metastases only at the highest viral doses of attenuated MG1. In tandem, we characterized the antitumor ability of NK cells following preoperative administration of live and attenuated MG1. Our results demonstrates that a similar level of NK activation and reduction in postoperative tumor metastases was achieved with equivalent high viral doses concluding that viral replication is important, but not necessary for NK activation. Biochemical characterization of a panel of UV-inactivated MG1 (2-120 minutes) revealed that intact viral particle and target cell recognition are essential for NK cell-mediated antitumor responses. These findings provide mechanistic insight and preclinical rationale for safe perioperative virotherapy to effectively reduce metastatic disease following cancer surgery.