In anticipation of my upcoming visit to Ottawa next weekend I’ve started to accomplish some research and contacted Ottawa Tourism. Ottawa, as Canada’s capital, is certainly one of Canada’s most popular travel destinations and it features a great variety destinations, activities and events to offer.
I had a way to talk with Jantine Van Kregten from Ottawa Tourism who had been kind enough to give me a good general overview of items to see and do in Ottawa.
1. Please provide us with some general information regarding Ottawa. How big is the city, where is it located, what’s the current weather like?
Ottawa may be the capital of Canada, and its fourth largest city. With the neighbouring city of Gatineau in the province of Quebec, the region has about 1.2 million people. Ottawa is situated in eastern Ontario, about four hours’drive northeast of Toronto; two hours west of Montreal; and one hour north of the border with their state of New York.
Ottawa enjoys four distinct seasons, with warmest temperatures and sometimes high humidity in July and August; a temperate fall with gorgeous fall colours; a cold and snowy winter; and a moist spring.
2. How can one arrive at Ottawa and what is the best means of navigating around in Ottawa?
Ottawa is accessible with direct flights from major centres in Canada and several U.S. cities including New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and more. Ottawa is really a major stop across the Windsor-Quebec City corridor of VIA Rail and bus service also links the city with other Canadian cities.
By car, major thoroughfares include Highway 416 that links Ottawa with Highway 401. Highway 417 runs through the city, while Autoroutes 5, 50 and 148 will be the major highways on the Quebec side of the river.
3. Ottawa is Canada’s capital and has played a significant role in the real history of the country. Please tell us more about this and the Canadian Heritage Experiences offered in Ottawa.
The story of Ottawa begins with the building of the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832 by Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers and tens of thousands of mostly Irish labourers. The Canal stretches 202 km (126 miles) through eastern Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and was built to make certain a supply line in case of American attack (which never came). The Canal was never employed for a military purpose and its 49 locks remain operated in the exact same way as when they certainly were built. In fact, the Rideau Canal is Canada’s nominee to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is expected in 2007, the 175th anniversary of its construction. ottawa vacation
Queen Victoria decreed in 1857 that Ottawa would be the capital of the united states that became Canada. The majestic Parliament Buildings were constructed shortly thereafter and remain a “must-see” attraction in the capital. Whilst the capital, Ottawa is also home to 24 Sussex Drive (the prime minister’s residence and not ready to accept the public); Rideau Hall (home of the Governor General, with guided tours of residence and gardens available); and a large number of high commissions and embassies from governments around the world.
Don’t miss Laurier House, home to both Sir Wilfrid Laurier and WIlliam Lyon Mackenzie King, two former prime ministers, or the Mackenzie King Estate, King’s summer home in Gatineau Park.
4. Please tell us about a number of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Ottawa area.
The newest addition to the national museum scene may be the impressive Canadian War Musuem, which opened in May 2005 in a wonderful location alongside the Ottawa River. Canada’s most-visited museum is Gatineau’s Canadian Museum of Civilization. The National Gallery of Canada offers the largest collection of Canadian art, alongside European and American masters. Other cultural facilities are the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Canada Aviation Museum; the Canada Science and Technology Museum; the Canada Agriculture Museum; the Royal Canadian Mint; the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada; and the Canadian Museum of Nature, currently in the midst of a massive renovation project, to be completed in 2009.
Other museums are the Bytown Museum, which tells the real history of Ottawa’s early days, including the building of the Rideau Canal; the Billings Estate Museum that traces the real history of a prominent local family; and the funky Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, a four-storey underground bunker which was constructed between 1959 and 1961 as the location to that the Canadian political and military elite would ride out the consequences of a nuclear attack.
5. Our readers would like to discover concerning the festivals and special events in Ottawa.
The festival scene in Ottawa is a strong, year-round affair. The year begins with Winterlude, a huge winter festival held over the first three weekends in February. In March, the Irish community celebrates Irish week, and in March and April, the maple syrup season spawns several delicious festivals and events celebrating this tasty treat.
May is one of the Canadian Tulip Festival–three weeks of celebration of Ottawa’s favourite flower. During World War II, the Dutch royal family took refuge in Ottawa and Princess Margriet came to be here, in a hospital room designated Dutch soil for the event. Canadians played a huge role in liberating the Netherlands and when the royal family returned home following the war, as a gesture of friendship, respect and appreciation, they sent tens of thousands of tulip bulbs. The bulbs have followed annually since and now 3,000,000 tulips bloom in Canada’s Capital Region.
Late May brings Canada’s largest marathon within the Ottawa Race Weekend. Over the summertime months, festivals abound: Doors Open Ottawa showcase heritage buildings; Italian Week; the Ottawa Fringe Festival; the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival; the Nortel Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival; Cisco Systems Ottawa Bluesfest (Canada’s largest); the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (the world’s largest); the Sound of Light fireworks festival; Ottawa Busker Festival; Ottawa GreekFest; CKCU Ottawa Folk Festival; the Central Canada Exhibition; and Pride Week.
On Parliament Hill, two free activities occur daily in the summertime: the 10:00 a.m. Changing the Guard ceremony and the evening Sound and Light Show.
In the fall, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival colours the skies; whilst the La Vendemmia Harvest Festival tempts visitors’palates. The Ottawa International Animation Festival showcases artists from around the globe whilst the Ottawa International Writers Festival provides a community for authors’lively debates. Fall Rhapsody celebrates the splendid autumn colours.
The capital lights up for the holidays with the Christmas Lights Across Canada program.
6. What about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Ottawa?
Several neighbourhoods offer entertainment options in Ottawa. The ByWard Market is certainly one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods and also functions as its entertainment district, with over 100 food and drink options in merely a four-block-square area. Whether it’s fine dining, a good diner, a cosy bistro, or a romantic cafe, you’ll find it in “the Market.”
Elgin Street is another popular nightlife area, by having an eclectic collection of bars, restaurants and cafes in just a few blocks. Bank Street offers three to four distinct areas along its length, including a favorite area called the Glebe. In the near west end, Westboro is also an attractive selection for dinner and drinks.
Needless to say, one could also choose to explore the different options at the Casino du Lac-Leamy–whether it’s gaming excitement or a show at its popular theatre or a dinner at its five-diamond restaurant Le Baccara. The region’s other five-diamond establishment (two of only 11 across Canada) is Signatures at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa.