As Canada’s Capital, Ottawa is a vibrant city that offers a little bit of everything from great shopping, to fabulous restaurants, fantastic cultural attractions and even, a little bit of outdoor adventure. Add its compact, walkable downtown core to the mix and you’ve got a great getaway destination in any season!
Originally a rowdy lumber town on the unruly banks of the untamed Ottawa River, this now cosmopolitan city offers the perfect balance of city and country aspects. Go hiking in the scenic and luscious Gatineau Park for the day and then, come back into Ottawa’s downtown core for a gourmet meal in the evening. The choice is really yours.
Thinking of visiting Ottawa? We’ve put together a list of five Ottawa gems to help get your trip planning started. Discover a little bit of everything that Ottawa has to offer with these activities that are available almost all year-round.
See what’s new at CF Rideau Centre:
Over the last few years, Ottawa’s downtown shopping mall has undergone a $360-million renovation with a 180,000-square-foot expansion. The bright and airy mall is now home to high-end retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade New York, Stuart Weitzman and high-end department store Nordstrom. It’s easy to find a great Ottawa souvenir here. Buy something you love and it will remind you of Canada’s Capital every time you put in on!
And by August 2016, you’ll have even more retailers to choose from as the completion of the Rideau Centre’s renovations will see the opening of H&M, a Zara flagship store, Massimo Dutti, Ted Baker and Quebec-based department store Simons. One of these new retailers is bound to have what you’re looking for.
Get outside and explore Gatineau Park:
A short, 10-minute drive north of Ottawa’s downtown core, you’ll find the luscious and expansive Gatineau Park, which offers 361-square kilometres (90,000 acres) of green space that can be enjoyed all year long.
Visiting Ottawa in the spring, summer or fall? Opt to hike around the beautiful Pink Lake. This 2.5-kilometre (1.6 mile) trail makes its way around a turquoise, crystal clear lake that rivals the pristine waters of the Caribbean. A 45 to 60-minute hike, this trail is good for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts and is a favourite for visitors and locals alike. Lovely at any time of the year, the Pink Lake trail becomes even more magical in the fall as the green leaves change into vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. But no matter when you visit, be sure to bring a camera with you!
In the winter months, Gatineau Park also offers many scenic snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails as well as Camp Fortune, a downhill skiing centre. You can be sure that this park has something to offer in every season!
Now after all of that fresh air, you might want to relax; just head to Nordik Spa-Nature. Nestled within the natural beauty of Gatineau Park, this is North America’s largest outdoor nature spa. Here, you’ll find a thermal, Scandinavian-inspired experience comprised of hot tubs, cold pools, dry saunas and steam rooms. And with two restaurants on site, it’s easy to spend a whole afternoon or evening here. Massages are also available.
Enjoy a meal at Signatures Restaurant:
Housed in a historic 1877 former lumber baron mansion at the end of Laurier Avenue, which is also home to Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute, Signatures offers a unique dining experience in charming small dining rooms. Enjoy a quiet ambiance and savour delectable French-inspired cuisine by veteran chef Yannick Anton, who’s been running the Signatures kitchen since 2006. Make sure to order a Champs-Élysées; Signatures’ signature cocktail!
Or to take your Cordon Bleu experience one step further, sign up for a culinary demonstration!
Lasting about two to three hours, a demonstration gives you an insider’s look at a Cordon Bleu kitchen. Watch as a seasoned chef demonstrates the art of chocolate or pastry making. Different demonstrations are available and you’ll learn useful tips and tricks as you go. And the best part? You get to taste the chef’s delicious creations at the end!
Visit the National Gallery of Canada:
If you’re looking for a little bit of culture, you’ll find it here. The National Gallery is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian art, including Aboriginal and Inuit art. Stroll through the expansive gallery and take in priceless paintings, sculptures, beautiful indoor gardens and much more.
One National Gallery highlight – in addition to Maman, Louise Bourgeois’ giant bronze spider that stands outside – is the Rideau Street Convent Chapel. These beautiful decorations were designed by the diocesan architect Canon Georges Bouillon in 1887. Saved from the demolition of the Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Ottawa in 1972, these ornate carvings have been reconstructed in the building’s Canadian Galleries. This is a peaceful spot that you don’t want to miss!
Visiting Ottawa in 2017? Discover the National Gallery’s re-envisioned Canadian Galleries. In these new areas, Inuit art, Aboriginal art as well as contemporary art will be presented in a chronological manner leading up to 2017.
Take a Biplane Tour of Ottawa:
Put on a pair of vintage aviator goggles – this is a great selfie opportunity – and get a bird’s eye view of Ottawa!
Operating out of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa Biplane Adventures offers scenic tours of the city in a vintage, WWII WACO UPF-7 open cockpit biplane. Feel the wind whip through your hair as you soar over the Ottawa River and get great views of the iconic Parliament Buildings. This is an Ottawa experience you won’t soon forget! Different flight lengths are available and the biplane can accommodate two passengers per flight. *Biplane flights are not available during the winter months.
After your flight, opt to explore the museum. If you can, catch a guided tour of the museum’s Storage Wing. Here, you’ll see many artifacts that cannot be displayed in the museum’s primary building.
These are only a few ideas to help you plan a well-rounded getaway to Ottawa. With these activities, you can sample a little bit of everything this charming city has to offer. But did you know that Ottawa is also a city of festivals? To learn more, browse Ottawa Tourism’s website.