Ottawa Tourism

Ottawa’s Resilient Tourism Community

Updated May 20, 2020

While COVID-19 has drastically affected the tourism industry in Ottawa, leading to the temporary closure of most businesses, the industry continues to show its resiliency through acts of “caremongering,” good faith, and by taking their experiences online. Examples include:

Local Initiatives

  • The Keep Ottawa Awesome initiative sees Ottawa Tourism members banding together to promote their services and generate income through the sale of gift certificates. Participating members include Haunted Walk, Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals, Brew Donkey, C’est Bon Cooking, Pirate Life, Escape Manor and À La Carte Shuttle & Tours.
  • The City of Ottawa launched the campaign Buy Local, aimed at supporting local businesses by encouraging residents to buy items and gift cards online, ordering take-out, supporting social media activity, and more.
  • Similarly, Together Apart has compiled a list of businesses still operating in some capacity (delivery, gift cards, etc.), searchable by Ottawa neighbourhood.
  • Vendors from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market have teamed up on a new initiative called The Vendors Project which allows locals to buy their favourite goods from the market and have them delivered to their door. 
  • Ottawa Markets has launched a new tool to allow online purchasing of farmers’ market goods with scheduled pick-up times from the ByWard Market and the Parkdale Market.
  • Capital Taxi offers assistance with order pick-ups through their app, with drivers able to facilitate pick up and drop offs.
  • The Royal Canadian Mint have shifted their regular operations from making Canadian currency (coins) to making hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
  • Local sign company Miller McConnell Signs have pivoted their production to switch to making personal protective equipment.
  • Ottawa Boat Cruise has organized a delivery system for the elderly, high-risk individuals, and others in need to help deliver food, medicine, and other essentials.
  • Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), like the Bank Street BIA, ByWard Market BIA, Chinatown BIA, Downtown Rideau BIA, Glebe BIA, Preston Street BIA, Sparks Street BIA, Vanier BIA, Wellington West BIA, and Westboro Village BIA, have special campaigns, new sites, and lists online of businesses in their neighbourhoods offering online shopping and food delivery/takeout.   
  • In an effort to provide residents the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise, the National Capital Commission opens the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway for non-vehicular public use on weekends until Sunday, May 31. Queen Elizabeth Drive is also closed to vehicles daily until Sunday, May 24.
  • In April, hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan made a donation to the Ottawa Foodbank which garnered media attention and inspired others to follow suit. As a result, a campaign called A Better Tomorrow has emerged with clothing and lifestyle brand 36 Chambers, run by members of the music group, to raise funds for the Ottawa Food Bank, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and the Ottawa Mission Foundation and other homeless shelters in Canada. Items for sale include an Ottawa-branded Wu-Tang t-shirt, “Protect Ya Hands” hand sanitizer, and a “Saga Continues Bowl” at Pure Kitchen.

Festivals and Events

  • The iconic Canadian Tulip Festival, originally set to wrap up on May 18, 2020, has been extended! The annual festival celebrates virtually this year by moving all of its performances, programming, and public participation elements online to their website, TulipTVTulipe Youtube channel, and official Canadian Tulip Festival social media. Enjoy virtual garden tours, innovative online history tools, reimagined Dutch fairy tales, contests, and more… even a special Ottawa Tourism Tulip Webcam to check on the status of the blooms from your home!
  • The Ottawa Writers Festival hosts virtual events this spring.
  • The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has cancelled their annual event scheduled for May 23-24, 2020 and will be going virtual this year with a virtual race. Run Ottawa is working with Sportstats to create a shareable virtual finish line to allow participants to run or walk on their own between May 15 and September 7 while respecting and promoting all public health physical distancing guidelines. 
  • The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival (June 18-21, 2020) will move to online programming June 1-30, 2020 in celebration of National Indigenous History Month.  
  • The annual Festibière de Gatineau will host a virtual event on June 13 with an online beer tasting component! (sample boxes are sold out).
  • Capital Pride will move their annual celebration of the city’s 2SLGBTQ+ community online, August 21-30, 2020.
  • The following festivals have been rescheduled for later dates: Escapade (September 5-6, 2020), the Franco-Ontarian Festival (September 24-26, 2020), Ottawa Poutinefest (October 29-November 1, 2020), and the inaugural CRAVE Food and Wine Festival (November 20-22, 2020).

Performances

  • The National Arts Centre, Canada’s home for performing arts located in downtown Ottawa, brings the arts online in a new way with their #CanadaPerforms series, highlighting Canadian artists during livestream concerts offered most days. 
  • Ottawa’s oldest tavern—the Château Lafayette—dates back to 1849 and normally offers some great live music options. On Facebook, catch Bluesman John Carroll Wednesdays starting at 9:00pm Eastern time and Lucky Ron continues his weekly-since-1986 Saturday afternoon country-tinged shows starting at 5:00pm Eastern time.
  • Support Ontario artists by watching living room concerts at Music Together, presented by Ontario Live.  

Restaurants, Food and Drink

  • C’est Bon Cooking now offers virtual classes, either privately or in a group, focusing on various ingredients like seafood, poultry, vegetables, and more.
  • Local honey farm Gees Bees offers fun way to pick up prepaid purchases: customers drive through beehive stations (no bees are inside)! Check out their Facebook Live posts for kids too. 
  • Local restaurants and the Food For Thought Meals Fund are helping those in need by providing hundreds of warm meals for those in need. Chef Joe Thottungal of Thali is working on this initiative with the help of other prominent local chefs like Patrick Garland of Absinthe, Tim Stock of Thyme & Again, and Adam Vettorel of North & Navy.  
  • Local breweries and distilleries are stepping up to switch their production to hand sanitizer, including Big Rig Brewery, Cassel Brewery, North of 7 Distillery, Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company in partnership with Dunrobin Distillery, and Dairy Distillery (who have introduced a program where each bottle purchased gives a bottle of hand sanitizer to those fighting COVID-19).
  • Ottawa restaurant The Waverley started a worthwhile project called Operation Ramzieh, aimed at helping the community and feeding seniors in need. 
  • A number of Ottawa restaurants have joined an initiative called Love Local Delivery to help get their food to customers during COVID-19. Contactless delivery and over the phone payment are used to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Other restaurants providing innovative services for their customers include: Soca and Gooney’s, CRAFT Beer Market, Pure Kitchen, Beckta Dining + Wine, and OCCO Kitchen.
  • Brew Donkey, a craft brewery tour company in Ottawa, goes virtual to showcase local breweries and promote them during closures with their Virtual Brewery Tour Trips. They’ve also launched a directory of local breweries with information about delivery to help locals get craft beer while breweries are closed and a fun new Virtual Beer Hall.
  • allsaints event space offers fun themed food boxes for delivery and pick-up with themes like Morning Buzz or Wine & Charcuterie.

Other

  • Ontario launched Stage 1 of its reopening program on May 16 for certain businesses, including golf courses such as The Marshes Golf Club at Brookstreet and Manderley on the Green.
  • Saunders Farm now offers an Essentials Shop, complete with food boxes, gift cards… even Campfire Nights where families or couples can enjoy a private campfire at Saunders Farm, complete with food and drink – and a staff member to get the fire ready for you!
  • Local escape room company Escape Manor launched a new online escape experience called Taken: The Swiss Account for small groups to be played over online video conference software.
  • Party bike Thursty Pedaler takes their experience online, facilitating fun games and trivia as a new way to hang out and connect.
  • Local food initiative Just Food offers ways to garden during COVID-19 by offering online gardening workshops and providing access to the Ottawa Seed Library.
  • The now iconic OTTAWA sign in the ByWard Market neighbourhood is lit up in rainbow lights as a sign of solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the Kipnes Lantern at the National Arts Centre is alternating between blue lights and rainbow animation to thank health care workers and as a sign of solidarity.
  • Ottawa museums, hotels, and attractions like the Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Museum of History, Canadian War Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, National Gallery of Canada, and the Shaw Centre light up their buildings with blue lights to honour health care workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Delta Ottawa City Centre, Fairmont Château Laurier and the Hilton Lac-Leamy send messages of solidarity by illuminating windows of their hotels to create hearts.
  • Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals, a bike rental company located in downtown Ottawa, are promoting long term bike rentals so residents can have access to bikes to get out of the house but still comply with physical distancing restrictions.
  • The Canadian Museum of Nature changed their signage for the recent Me and my Microbes exhibition to promote handwashing, with help from the Ottawa Hospital.
  • Ruckify and the United Way East Ontario have joined together in a relief initiative to provide technical equipment for social service providers (such as doctors and counselors) to help them continue to offer services during mandated closures and physical distancing.
  • The Ottawa Senators present a live Sens Power Hour, three mornings a week until Saturday, June 6. This virtual boot camp aimed at helping fans stay fit and learn about exercises that can help them improve their hockey game and personal fitness goals.

Virtual tours

  • Ottawa is home to most of Canada’s national museums and countless other historic sites and attractions, many of which offer virtual tours. Here are a few highlights:
    • Parliament of Canada’s House of Commons to learn about Canada’s government while Centre Block undergoes several years of renovations;
    • Rideau Hall, the official residence and workplace of the governor general of Canada;
    • Take a video tour through the gardens and grounds of the National Gallery of Canada;
    • Canadian History Hall at the Canadian Museum of History, to learn about Canadian history and experience from coast to coast to coast;
    • Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, the underground-bunker-turned-museum which was built to house senior members of government during the Cold War;
    • Bytown Museum, which tells the history of Ottawa from rough and tumble lumber town to the country’s modern capital;
    • The Canadian Museum of Nature released guided walkthrough tours on their YouTube channel to bring viewers to explore the museum, the Butterflies in Flight exhibition and permanent galleries;
    • Take a virtual trip down the Rideau Canal with TVO’s program TRIPPING the Rideau Canal! This four hour, immersive “real-time” trip down the UNESCO World Heritage Site explores the beauty and history of the Rideau Canal as if you were sailing yourself;
    • Just south of Ottawa, Watson’s Mill in Manotick brings visitors back to the 1860’s. Check out their virtual tour to learn about flour production and the start of the town.
    • See important works and objects from AY Jackson’s career in the Firestone Collection at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s virtual 3D tour.

Online exhibitions and activities