Many visitors come to Ottawa and are impressed by the capital city’s historical charm and lush green spaces, which offer a sweet escape from a modern urban jungle landscape. In addition to being home to many national museums, galleries and the bustling entertainment scene of the ByWard Market neighbourhood, Ottawa is also an eco-friendly tourist destination!
In terms of environmental performance, Ottawa ranks #12 out of 27 North American cities on Siemens’ US and Canada Green City Index report. Ottawa is the third Canadian city to be listed in the report after Vancouver, British Columbia, and Toronto, Ontario. Ottawa is a pedestrian-friendly destination, where top tourist attractions are located within a 20-minute walking radius from most downtown area hotels. Once you’ve arrived in the city, just park your car and explore it on foot! In 2013, blog Walk Score placed Ottawa as #5 on its list of Most Walkable Cities in Canada, which compared 300 Canadian cities and 1,200 neighbourhoods.
And if you don’t want to walk, you can also explore the city by bike! Come to Ottawa and take advantage of more than 600 kilometres (373 miles) of scenic bike paths that snake through the city, as well as along the banks of the scenic Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Ottawa River. During the summer months, visitors and locals alike can enjoy NOKIA Sunday Bikedays, which see more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) of parkways in Ottawa and the surrounding Gatineau, Québec, region closed to motorists and reserved for cyclists, in-line skaters, runners and walkers. Ottawa is also home to a segregated cement curb bike lane that runs along Laurier Avenue, between Bronson Avenue and Elgin Street, in the middle of the city’s busy downtown core. The City of Ottawa built the segregated bike lane as part of a pilot project and the lane celebrated its million-ride milestone in May 2014!
On the Ontario side of the Portage Bridge, you can find Ottawa’s Eco-TOTEM Bike Counter. The Eco-TOTEM tool counts and displays the number of cyclists that pass by it in real time. Installed in 2013, Ottawa is one of the first Canadian cities to have such a counter. And there’s no need to travel with your bicycle if you don’t want to. Upon arrival, visitors can opt to stop by local businesses such as RentABike, which offers bike rentals by the hour and by the day. Choose from 300 new bikes that come complete with a helmet and a bike lock. From the downtown core, the scenic Ottawa River bike path stretches along the water past Parliament Hill to the Canadian War Museum. If you bike across one of the many bridges, you can reach the Canadian Museum of History.
Or visitors can also cross the river on the Au feel de l’eau Aqua Taxi, which is an electric eco-friendly water taxi that runs daily between the Ottawa Locks and the Canadian Museum of History. A one way crossing is $5 and a roundtrip is $9. Enjoy this short boat ride that offers scenic views of the Parliament Buildings and the Ottawa River! Au Feel de L’Eau also offers a longer one-hour cruise in the evening, which extends all the way to the Casino du Lac-Leamy. And if you’d like to make your entire stay eco-friendly, Ottawa offers Green Key-rated hotels. Green Key is an eco-rating program in which hoteliers are awarded a “1 to 5 Green key rating” based on sustainable practices such as energy conservation, water conservation and community outreach, among other factors. As part of this program, hoteliers also receive guidance on how to pursue opportunities that could help them reduce their operating costs and their environmental impact.
While in Ottawa, visitors can also take the free, self-guided Ottawa Sustainability Tour. The walking tour, which can be downloaded online or used through a web application, takes visitors to stops such as Richelieu Park, Major’s Hill Park, the Corktown Footbridge and other buildings as well as gardens throughout the capital. Along the way, the tour presents interesting facts about a particular site’s sustainability, history and makes recommendations about what to see and do there. Ottawa is also home to the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict (OCED), a downtown-area neighbourhood where individual property owners, businesses and organizations work together to cut costs and reduce their environmental impacts through common infrastructure or programming. Ottawa’s EcoDistrict starts at Elgin Street, stretching to the west just past Bay Street and includes the iconic Parliament Hill. This neighbourhood is Canada’s first official EcoDistrict!
Being an urban destination characterized by scenic waterways and picturesque green parks, Ottawa offers a perfect balance of modernity and untamed natural beauty.