Historical Places: You may know about Parliament Hill, but did you know it was the site, on Aug. 28, 1971, of Canada’s first-ever public march for gay and lesbian rights? Or that the Kelly McGinnis Library on Bank Street houses one of Canada’s most extensive collections of LGBTTQ+ literature and archival material? Or that the city’s Pink Triangle Services is home to the world’s second-oldest gayline after New York’s? See the Supreme Court of Canada, where judges interpret Canadians’ charter rights. And don’t miss the Canadian War Museum. After the Second World War, the Canadian government paid a researcher to design a device that was supposed to help identify gays and lesbians. A version of the infamous (and notably unreliable) “fruit machine” that ruined many lives is on permanent display at the museum in the Cold War section.
Shopping Places: We’ve got big malls, small neighbourhood shops and specialized stores catering to the community. You can start in the CF Rideau Centre mall and the ByWard Market district downtown and branch out from there. Check out the LGBTTQ+ shops in and around Bank Street in our growing downtown gaybourhood, or the antique district further down Bank Street in Old Ottawa South, or the outdoors stores and specialty shops along Richmond Road in Westboro. In the city’s west end, take in the shops at the Bayshore Shopping Centre. In the east end, there’s St. Laurent Shopping Centre. For clothing and design, there’s high fashion along Sussex Drive, and independent retailers along Dalhousie Street, especially north of Murray Street. In between, you’ll find galleries with interesting artwork for sale. You’ll have fun exploring!
Sporting Places: We take our physical activity seriously in Ottawa. So bring your bicycle: We have over 200 kilometres (124 miles) of bicycle paths—easy paths along the city’s rivers and canals, and more challenging ones in beautiful Gatineau Park, only minutes from downtown. Bring your skates: The Rideau Canal Skateway is the world’s longest outdoor skating rink, right in the heart of the city. Some Ottawans even skate to work! Bring your hiking boots and your skis: Gatineau Park offers downhill and cross-country skiing in winter and hiking the rest of the year. You won’t believe you can get this close to nature this close to a major city! Bring your golf clubs. There are—quite literally—100 golf courses within an hour’s drive of the city. Or bring your enthusiasm and take in a game of NHL hockey at Canadian Tire Centre, featuring the Ottawa Senators.
Day Time Places: There’s plenty to do when the sun is shining—at any time of year. From the Canadian Tulip Festival each spring, to the round of cultural festivals all summer, to Winterlude every February, you’ll find there’s plenty going on. Soak up the atmosphere in the busy ByWard Market district. Explore nearby Gatineau Park with its beaches and trails. Or take a walking tour of the Capital’s national institutions, from Parliament Hill to our superb museums. Sample a BeaverTail—a hot, crispy pastry that is a local delicacy. You can buy them on the frozen Rideau Canal in winter and in the ByWard Market district year-round. For something more elegant, take tea at the Fairmont Château Laurier, the city’s grand old hotel, or at the Moorside Tea Room on the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. Cruise along the Ottawa River or the historic Rideau Canal on one of the many Capital Cruises boat tours. Or take a short hop across the Ottawa River with Au feel de l’eau’s eco-friendly electric water taxi. And for something wild that will especially appeal to children, try a visit to Parc Omega, 45-minutes east of the city near Montebello, Québec, where you can view wildlife as you drive 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) of roadways through a natural preserve.
Night Time Places: Check out the busy bar scenes in the gaybourhood near Bank and Somerset streets. Or take a walk along Elgin Street or through the ByWard Market district to get the flavour of the city. Make an evening of it at the Casino du Lac-Leamy, where you can play as well as dine and take in a show. Or explore Ottawa’s theatre scene—both the National Arts Centre and local productions. For something different, try a haunted walk offered by Haunted Walks Inc. There are tours seven days a week in the warm weather—some in the evening, some during daytime—and weekends in the off-season. Check out our live music scene in the ByWard Market district, and don’t forget the city’s many festivals. The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival and the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival are but two that offer some exciting entertainment choices at night.
Meeting Places: Ottawa is an open, welcoming place—you’ll feel that right away, all over the city. But everything has a centre, and in Ottawa the centre of gay and lesbian life is the area around Bank Street and Somerset in the downtown core. Our growing gaybourhood has shops and bars and is the home base for local institutions serving the LGBTTQ+ community. Explore it by day—or by night. But don’t feel you have to limit yourself to one neighbourhood. There are things happening all over. On Sunday evenings, for example, there’s a lesbian coffee club in suburban Barrhaven and the Rideau Speedaeus swim club works out on Wednesday and Friday evenings. You’ll find gays and lesbians all over the city, doing the active things Ottawans do. Check resources such as Dorothy’s Closet or Xtra! Ottawa for listings and up-to-date information.