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2014-2015Ottawa Visitor Guide

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2014-2015 Ottawa Visitor Guide

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Let’s Go Ottawa

Fun family activities before summer ends!


As summertime winds down into back-to-school time, I thought I’d review a few family-friendly treats that you might want to explore. Ottawa is an extremely family-friendly destination – major museums have first-rate children’s programming year-round, like Artissimo at the National Gallery of Canada (how’s about seeing your child’s art on the walls of the Gallery?), or the fun interactive round-the-world-trip that is the Canadian Children’s Museum inside the Canadian Museum of Civilization, or the creepy critters of Animalium at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

But let’s take a look at some seasonal summertime attractions that will be behind us before we know it!

saunders-farm-maze-with-kids-credit-ottawa-tourismThis is just one of the mazes at Saunders Farm. Great for burning off excess energy!Take a ride in the countryside to check out Saunders Farm. You may be familiar with Saunders for their imaginative, creepy Hallowe’en programming in October (and it’s definitely worth a visit then) but don’t miss it in the summer! You and your kids can enjoy the splash pads, take a wagon ride, and burn off energy in the world’s largest collection of hedge mazes. Bring your own treats, or buy some fresh from the farm — you’ll want to make a day of it. Saunders is located a good 45 minutes or so from downtown Ottawa (about 20 minutes from the west-end suburb of Kanata) . Open until September 6 (then open again in October for Hallowe’en season). Don’t just take my word for it, though, check out this great Kids in the Capital blog post from Lynn.

You have until Labour Day (September 6) to try out the brand new Calypso Theme Waterpark, which opened back in June less than a half-hour’s drive east of downtown Ottawa in the small town of Limoges. It boasts 35 waterslides, more than 100 water games and plenty of other activities. From the Zoo Lagoon for toddlers to Canada’s largest wave pool to the Fast Track extreme slide, you’ll find something for every member of your family.

dscn4862Pirate Adventures' pirate ship is pretty convincing!Another fun way to enjoy the water is to take a cruise with Pirate Adventures on the Rideau River, near Mooney’s Bay Beach in the south end. Once you’re suited up in your pirate gear, you’ll set sail in your pirate ship for hearty adventures. Uncover the clues of a treasure map, repel a boarding attack, make a villain walk the plank and more! Spend a day the pirate way!

The traditional end-of-summer fling is SuperEx, also known as the Central Canada Exhibition, which runs August 19-29, 2010 at Lansdowne Park in the Glebe neighbourhood downtown. From midway rides to agricultural exhibits to concerts, you’ll have a lot of distractions to keep you and your little ones busy.

There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending a dime, too! The Changing the Guard ceremony is awe-inspiring for kids, with the uniforms, the marching, the music and the spectacle of it all. The free ceremony takes place on the lawn in front of Parliament Hill every morning at 10:00, weather permitting, until Friday, August 27.

Tours of Parliament are also free — you can pick up your same-day tickets from the big tent located between Centre Block (the main building, with the Peace Tower and clock) and West Block until September 6. After that, go to the base of the Peace Tower and follow the signs.

And every night at 9:30pm until September 12, weather permitting, you can enjoy the free Sound and Light Show known as Mosaika, where dramatic images are projected onto the façade of the Parliament Buildings. Learn more about Canada through the spirit of its people in this highly entertaining, bilingual show. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, as bleacher seating is limited.

One of my favourite events is the annual Lumière Festival, this year held a bit later than normal, on Saturday, September 4. The event actually starts well before that, as people are encouraged to sign up for lantern-making workshops. The night itself is magical — little kids dress up as fairies or in other whimsical costumes and carry lanterns. Programming is musical, inventive, humourous — and the setting is beautiful, in Stanley Park in New Edinburgh, which runs along the eastern shore of the Rideau River before it empties into the Ottawa River.

Another fun activity for families is Alcatel Sunday Bikedays, which take place each Sunday (9:00am until 1:00pm) until September 5. Visit RentABike to, well, rent a bike, and then explore some fun areas of town where the streets have been closed to motorized traffic to let cyclists, inline skaters and joggers take over! One of the most popular routes is along Colonel By Drive downtown, overlooking the Rideau Canal.

Also on Labour Day weekend, you can enjoy entertainment each dawn and dusk by just looking up, way up! The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival runs September 3-6, 2010 and if the weather cooperates, you can see dozens and dozens of multi-coloured (and sometimes interestingly shaped) balloons drift by. Activities such as live bands, extreme sports demos, crafts and classic car displays — not to mention rides in some of the balloons — are based in Parc de la baie in Gatineau, Québec (just across the Ottawa River from Ottawa). The prevailing winds usually blow the balloons farther eastward but every few years, the wind shifts and sends the balloons over downtown Ottawa, making everyone a part of the festival!

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Fortissimo: fun, free and fantastic!


I admit it — I really look forward to Fortissimo each year. This is a free event held each August by the Ceremonial Guard, the same group that performs the Changing the Guard ceremony each morning at 10am between late June and late August in Ottawa.

Fortissimo features masssed military bands, pipes and drums, soloists, tributes, humour, marching, dancers, a head-to-head race between two groups of soldiers, and more. All with the dramatic backdrop of Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

This video was taken on Thursday, August 12 — the first night of this year’s event, which runs each night at 7:30pm until Sunday, August 15. Did I mention it was free? There’s something for everyone — the video just shows a few highlights. The tribute to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, hosted in Vancouver and Whistler, for example, was amazing.

Swing on by and check it out — bring a folding chair, or a blanket, to sit on, then stay on at the end for Mosaika, the free Sound and Light Show that projects images onto the Parliament Buildings. That starts at 9:30pm and it runs until September 12.

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Sound of Light show at the Casino du Lac-Leamy


The Sound of Light is a fireworks competition held annually at Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Québec, near Ottawa, Canada’s capital. It is hosted by the Casino du Lac-Leamy.

Since 1996, the friendly competition has seen teams from around the world compete. This video was shot on Wednesday, August 11, 2010, when Team USA showed its stuff. TheU.S. Ambassador was even in attendance.

I took a shuttle bus from downtown Ottawa ($3, with a free return trip). We were amazed by the crowds and the number of things to see and do before and after the fireworks themselves. Definitely a fun outing!

The first show was on Saturday, August 7 (Portugal) and additional shows will be held on Saturday, August 14 (Germany), Wednesday, August 18 (China), and Saturday, August 21 (grand finale).

This year, the event was slightly later than usual because Gatineau hosted the Québec Summer Games. Usually, the event falls in late July and early August.

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A guide to beer in and around Ottawa


dscn3690The distinctive ceramic swing-top bottles are now used for Beau's seasonal brews.If you’re visiting Ottawa, and work up a thirst while touring the region, you may want to indulge in a local pint. Here’s a guide:

Sidle on in to a one of Ottawa’s many drinking establishments (we’re really partial to pubs, you know!) and order a Beau’s. That’s short for Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company, a great family-run brewery that just celebrated its 4th anniversary in July. Their signature brew, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, is deliciously refreshing and has won several awards, including Best Beer in Ontario at the Golden Taps Awards. They’re located in Vankleek Hill, about an hour’s drive east of downtown Ottawa, and at dozens and dozens of great bars and restaurants in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and now even Toronto. They provide the beer at the annual Ottawa International Jazz Festival and many other events. Check out their seasonal beers as well, including Bog Water Dirty Brown Ale, Beaver River, or Night Märzen.

Heritage Brewing has been around since 2000 and features a Premium Lager and a Traditional Dark Lager. Their seasonal beers are great, too, including the fun Maple Bush Lager, made with maple sap instead of water. It’s only available at the end of spring and sells out every year. Delicious, with a hint of maple flavour. Their brewery is at 866 Campbell Avenue in the west end of Ottawa and they share it with the Scotch Irish Brewing Company. Scotch Irish is known for their ales, including a very hoppy Sgt. Major India Pale Ale.

dscn4334Donna from Heritage showing off her beer!The newest beer in town was launched in April/May of 2010. It’s named after the original aboriginal moniker for the Ottawa River and the Kichesippi Beer Co. currently brews a pale ale known as Natural Blonde. This beer can be found at several Ottawa locations, including Whalesbone Oyster House, The Manx, ZenKitchen and D’Arcy McGee’s.

The HogsBack Brewing Company launched only a handful of weeks earlier than Kichesippi. Brewed in small batches, and made from all-natural ingredients, HogsBack Vintage Lager can be enjoyed at the Black Tomato and the Fish Market Restaurant in the ByWard Market neighbourhood and the Wellington Gastropub in West Wellington.

You might also enjoy a visit to one of the three Clocktower Brew Pub locations for some of their original brews—the original is at 575 Bank Street in the Glebe, the second location is on 422 Mackay Street in New Edinburgh and the newest location is at 89 Clarence Street in the ByWard Market neighbourhood.


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Have you heard? Lesser-known August treats


folk sparks nightmovie- 0161The Ottawa Folk Festival not only has great music, it has great sunsets over the Ottawa River!You may be familiar with the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (on till August 7), or the Casino du Lac-Leamy‘s spectacular Sound of Light fireworks show (August 7-21, Saturdays and Wednesdays) — they are justifiably two of the best-known and best-loved events in August in Ottawa.

But there are plenty of other events this month that visitors might not be aware of. Read on!

Capital Hoedown: This is a brand new country music festival, to be held August 5, 6 and 7 at the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre. Headliners include Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson. Yahoo!

Outdoor movies: For the next two Friday and Saturday nights (August 6-7, 13-14), you can catch movies in Dundonald Park on Somerset Street West downtown — bring your own lawn chairs and munchies! Pay-what-you-can.

Pipefest 2010: A collection of pipe bands, drummers and Highland Dancers will raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society on Parliament Hill on Saturday, August 7.

Theatre options: You have until August 14 to catch The Andrews Brothers at the Gladstone Theatre – a cross-dressing comedy set in the South Pacific during World War II. Or check out Summer Fling — a Theatrical Affair, a series of performances around Downtown Rideau until August 28.

Puppets Up! International Festival of Puppetry: It’s worth the drive west of Ottawa to the beautiful small community of Almonte this weekend (August 7-8) to see 54 world-class puppet shows in tented or storefront theatres.

Ottawa Folk Festival: This festival (August 13-15) has one of the best vibes of the year. A beautiful location on the Ottawa River definitely helps, but so do the friendly volunteers, the good food and the top-notch music, with The Acorn, Calexico, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Jim Bryson and The Weakerthans Band, The Jim Cuddy Band and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott all set to perform.

Stinky Weekend: Believe it or not, there are two great garlic festivals over the weekend of August 14-15: one in Perth and one at the Carp Farmers’ Market.

Caribe-Expo: Check out the Caribbean flavours on the weekend of August 14-15 in downtown Ottawa.

Fortissimo: fortissimo-pipers-credit-ottawa-tourismThe Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band played Fortissimo a few years ago.I’m a sucker for military music and Fortissimo is the best. Pipes and drums, lots of marching and usually some fun team competitions (one year, each team built a bridge, dismantled a cannon, then transported it and rebuilt it on the other side to fire — the winners won by literally a split second — amazing!). Catch it — free — August 12-15 on Parliament Hill.

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