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2014-2015Ottawa Visitor Guide

View our Ottawa Visitor Guide online to plan your stay in Canada’s Capital region.

2014-2015 Ottawa Visitor Guide

Ottawa 2017

Let’s Go Ottawa

Happy Canada Day!


canada-day-festivities-credit-ottawa-tourismCanada Day comes each July 1 and nobody celebrates like Ottawa!

Hundreds of thousands of people congregate on Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park and Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau — the official sites — as well as in downtown neighbourhoods such as the ByWard Market and Downtown Rideau.

Everyone dresses in red and white, paints their faces and otherwise celebrates the joy of being Canadian! It’s a real party day.

There’s a fun run first thing in the morning, a carillon concert on Parliament Hill, the Changing the Guard ceremony, the RCMP Musical Ride show, then a noon-hour show with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip! The aerial acrobats from Canada’s air force, the Snowbirds, will also do a fly-past.

The party continues all afternoon and into the evening show with the Barenaked Ladies and many other performers. It’s all capped off by a huge fireworks show just after 10pm!

There’s no better place to celebrate Canada Day than in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

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Diefenbunker, new and improved!


diefenbunker-canadas-cold-war-museum-sign-credit-ottawa-tourismWhen you see the barbed wire, you're close!The Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, is easily one of my favourite attractions in Canada’s capital region. Located about a half-hour’s drive west of the downtown core, in the small town of Carp, the Diefenbunker is a four-storey, 100,000-square-foot underground bunker. It was built between 1959 and 1961 to withstand the effects of a nuclear attack as the place where 535 members of Canada’s politicial and military elite could live self-contained for a month. It was named for John Diefenbaker, who was Prime Minister during its construction, but who never visited.

Because of fire and building code regulations, the Diefenbunker has been operating since 1998 with a maximum capacity of 60 visitors at a time. That meant you had to reserve a guided tour at a specific hour, and larger groups were a problem.

Now, after going through an extensive retrofit, the capacity has increased to 500! Today, June 28, they’re launching their new self-guided audio tours as part of the celebration of their upgrade. NOTE: if you visit, the temperature underground is a constant 15 degree Celsius or so (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit) so even if it’s hot hot hot outside, you might need a sweater below.

What can you see at the Diefenbunker?

  • Blast tunnel – A long dark tunnel that is perpindicular to the “front door” and would have absorbed the worst of the nuclear blast. Spooky!
  • Entrance door – A HUGE thick metal door (way bigger than any bank vault you’ve ever seen). Is it to keep people out, or in?
  • Prime Minister’s suite – Impressive for its unimpressiveness. A private bathroom and an office area outside are the only things that differentiate his or her quarters from other senior staff. Note: it’s a SINGLE bed — spouses were not on the list!
  • War Cabinet Room – Did you know that business groups can rent this out for board meetings? It’s dressed in ’60s / ’70s finery (including ashtrays at every place setting, old-style TVs mounted on wall brackets and analog clocks showing times around the world). The nearby room that shows fallout patterns across the country is also impressive.
  • Decontamination shower – It actually looks more or less like a regular shower but the creepiness comes from considering its use!
  • CanX – In the cafeteria, you can get a taste for life inside the bunker. Yes, you can purchase and eat military-style meal replacements… if you dare!
  • Escape hatch – How do you get out of the Diefenbunker in an emergency? (HINT: it involves a narrow vertical tunnel). Nearby is also a scale model of the Diefenbunker and photos of its construction which helps you understand show how massive the structure really is. How could they have kept it a secret so long?
  • Bank of Canada vault – In the event of an attack, the gold reserves of the Bank of Canada would have been transferred here by train. The coolest feature is the space around all 360 degrees of the vault, with mirrors in each corner. One guard, standing at the entrance, could see all the way around the vault (to stop anybody from trying to break in / drill through and steal the gold).
  • Kids’ area (Rex Zero headquarters) – Based on a children’s book series by Tim Wynne-Jones about the Cold War, it’s a room done up as a child’s bedroom from the late ’50s / early ’60s. It’s often used by school groups.
  • Exterior – The exterior is really not that spectacular (as it was a SECRET bunker for decades — they didn’t want to draw attention to it!) — just a metal shed surrounded by fencing but with a helicopter landing pad in the parking lot.
  • Cold War Store – The store has great souvenirs, from model planes to old Cold War posters to gas masks and dosimeters (a device to measure the radioactivity in the air).

Enjoy your visit!

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Changing the Guard ceremony starts June 28!


201006221015262Governor General Michaëlle Jean inspects the Ceremonial GuardToday on Parliament Hill, Governor General Michaëlle Jean inspected the men and women who are members of the Ceremonial Guard.

The Ceremonial Guard performs the Changing the Guard ceremony on the lawn of Parliament Hill each morning at 10:00am between June 28 and August 28, 2010. Best of all, it’s free!

They members of the Guard, including the “new” guard, the “old” guard and the band, march up Elgin Street to Wellington Street, then onto Parliament Hill each morning in a colourful parade. The ritual, modelled on the ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, has played itself out for over 50 years in Canada’s capital.

Members of the Ceremonial Guard can also be found at Rideau Hall, the home and workplace of the Governor General, located just east of downtown on 79 acres of land. There, they perform a much smaller ceremony at the front gates on Sussex Drive, every hour on the hour between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm (June 28-August 28).

TIP: Look carefully at the bearskin hats of the Guards to know what regiment they belong to; those in the Governor General’s Foot Guards wear red plumes while those in the Canadian Grenadier Guards wear white plumes.

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Oscar Peterson statue unveiling


Mark your calendars — you won’t want to miss the unveiling of the Oscar Peterson statue outside the National Arts Centre on June 30. Who’s attending? None other than Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh!

There will also be a musical tribute to Oscar Peterson as part of the celebration, with host Gregory Charles and the Montréal Jubilation Gospel Choir performing with pianist Oliver Jones.

The festivities begin at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, June 30 at the corner of Elgin Street and Albert Street–just outside the NAC.

Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) was a Canadian jazz legend. A native of Montreal, Peterson played all over the world and the statue, designed by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy, shows a life-sized Peterson at his piano, with room for visitors to join him in a duet.

The unveiling comes just a day before Canada Day – one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Ottawa and which the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will also attend — and in the middle of the 30th annual TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival which runs June 24 to July 4.

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Courtyard Restaurant celebrates 30 years!


img 1313Courtyard Restaurant table settingThe Courtyard Restaurant, located in a beautiful cobblestone courtyard in Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighbourhood, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2010.

And they’re planning a series of special dinners to celebrate. On Wednesday, June 9, Chef Michael Hay is planning to revisit the 4 decades in which the Courtyard has operated — plus predict the future — with a five-course menu.

On Thursday, August 12, they’re planning a Summer Celebration Barbecue and on Tuesday, October 12, it’s a Local Harvest ‘Haunted’ Dinner.

The first dinner is $95 plus tax and tip but includes wine pairings, an interactive discussion with the chef and sommelier, and entertainment. Look for more details on the other two dinners soon.

The Courtyard is a great destination not just for romantic dinners for two, but for group events, as they have rooms of different sizes, as well as a large outdoor patio, to accommodate almost any group!

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