I have had the good fortune to travel to many places, but it is always good to come home! Welcome to Ottawa – Canada’s capital. (Photo courtesy of wikipedia) Having lived in Ottawa for a great part of my life – I have taken much of what the city has to offer for granted! Turns out there is quite a lot to see and do in town.
Ottawa’s history goes back to the Algonquin Indians, however it wasn’t until 1826 that the British troops turned Ottawa, then known as Bytown, into a permanent base. Queen Victoria then declared Ottawa Canada’s capital in 1857.
Downtown Ottawa lies on the south shore of the Ottawa River, with the Rideau Canal cutting through town. Once out of town, the land opens up into farmlands stretching as far as the US border. Beyond the Ottawa River, the province of Quebec and the beautiful Gatineau Park, lies to the north of town.
Things to do
There is something for everyone in Ottawa, whether you are interested in the history or politics of Canada, sporting or music events, or just getting out with the family…
Some of my favourite festivals include:
The Tulip Festival
More photos from the tulip festival: Yellow Pomponettes
Winterlude – 3 weeks of winter fun around the Rideau Canal – the largest skating rink in the world!
Sports – such an active city, Ottawa plays host many events including the Ottawa Marathon, Army Run (post re: Army Run 2011) and the Winterlude Triathalon. Throughout the summer, Alcatel-Lucent Bike days have a number of the parkways closed to car traffic, opening the roads for cyclists, runners and roller bladers to get out there and enjoy the car free roads. Great skiing, both down hill and cross country, can be found just on the other side of the river, in Gatineau Park. Water sports abound with boat rentals available at Dow’s Lake for kayak/canoe or paddle boating on the Rideau Canal, or cross the bridge and head on over to Quebec for some longer outings.
For cross country skiing, the trails are open 24 hours daily. There is something magical about skiing in the park at night. If you park at the Gamelin parking lot (P3), when you crest the last hill on the way to the car, the skyline of the city of Ottawa twinkles into view! (I promise to get photos this winter to share!) For more information about Gatineau Park and skiing, click here – it is yours to discover!
There are so many museums and galleries to explore. Some of the more popular include the Museam of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the National Gallery of Canada. One of the smaller museums that I quite like to enjoy is the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, which recently moved to to the National Gallery of Canada. For those venturing out of town, I have hear that the Diefenbunker offers a unique look into Canada’s Cold War. While I ride my bike out that way all the time, I have never actually been inside. For the runners out there – the Diefenbooker race happens every April – a unique way to check out the site!
The iconic Parliament Hill is the landmark of Canada’s capital. If you are planning a visit – check out the Peach Tower. Tickets are not required and the observation deck is sure to give you a spectacular view. There are many free events on the hill – check out the website for more information for when you visit. You can also buy tours, such as the Centre Block Guided Tour, which visits takes you centre stage into Canadian democracy. Check the Parliament Hill site for more information as tour schedules may change without notice!
Fireworks and music light up Ottawa on Canada Day (July 1st). There are always thousands of visitors who flock to the Hill, although perhaps not always as busy as 2011, when Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge where on Parliament Hill for the Canada Day celebrations. Photo below, courtesy of the National Post (photo credit to Timothy Clary).
Where to stay
With so many options on where to stay for a trip to Ottawa, I would like to direct you to a website directory. There are just too many to list here. I will recommend the Chateau Laurier for historical elegance or the Lord Elgin Hotel to be close to the action. If you are looking for something a little different, I have heard that the Hostel International Ottawa Hostel is quite unique. It has received quite a bit of press over the Hallowe’en period for tales of haunted rooms and ghost sitings. This hostel is particularly unique as it is found in an old jail house (1862-1972), complete with gallows and rooms in the old jail cells.
Plenty of choice in Ottawa – from fine dining at Beckta to pub fare in the Byward Market…you can find anything your heart (and stomach) desire! Summer time is great to get out onto a patio to enjoy a drink or dinner. In winter, for something different, strap on some ice skates and hit the canal for a Beaver Tail – when in Canada, eh!
For more photos of Ottawa at night – click here.
Welcome to Ottawa – Canada’s Capital. Hope you have a great time!