The Rideau Canal is a unique site and central to life in Ottawa. Whether boating on the Canal, or walking, jogging or roller-blading beside it, its mere existence influences the landscape and lifestyle of all of those that live and visit our capital city of Ottawa.
9:00 a.m.: Stroll down to the east arch of the Plaza Bridge over the Rideau Canal (adjacent to the Government Conference Centre and across from the Fairmont Château Laurier) and be fitted with a bicycle from RentaBike. Not only will they offer you wheels, but a helmet, lock and maps.
10:30 a.m.: Walk across Wellington Street and down to the Bytown Museum. This museum features Ottawa’s early history, including the building of the Rideau Canal. It is also housed in the old Commissariat Building (1827), originally a storehouse for supplies while the Canal was being built. Be sure to also take a good look at the majestic eight locks that connect the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River.
12:00 p.m.: Stop for lunch at D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub — home of the beer cocktail and a terrific seasonal menu.
1:30 p.m.: Take a tour of the city with Lady Dive or Gray Line. Both of these companies offer Hop-On, Hop-Off services to major tourist attractions and their pick-up points are only steps away from D’Arcy McGee’s on Elgin Street.
6:00 p.m.: Enjoy a fabulous dinner at 1 Elgin restaurant (formerly Le Café), located inside the National Arts Centre. Chef Kenton Leier features the best in contemporary Canadian cuisine and internationally-inspired dishes, as well as a varied selection of Canadian wines. The restaurant also features a beautiful view of – you guessed it – the Rideau Canal.
8:00 p.m.: The National Arts Centre hosts over 600 musical, theatrical or dance performances on four stages every year. Reservations are recommended.
9:00 a.m.: Head to Dows Lake. Here you can rent paddleboats, canoes, kayaks and more to explore the Rideau Canal and surrounding area. Nature lovers will enjoy a walk in the adjacent Arboretum of the Central Experimental Farm, which features many unique species of trees.
Tip: Visitors in the city in May will enjoy the many tulips at and near this location, including at nearby Commissionner’s Park – part of the Tulip Route of the Canadian Tulip Festival, which offers more than 250,000 tulips in bloom.
12:00 noon: Head to the Royal Oak Pub (Canal) where you can watch the workings of the Pretoria Lift Bridge in the summer months.
2:00 p.m.: Head back to central downtown for a little retail therapy. The CF Rideau Centre is Ottawa’s premier downtown shopping centre and boasts almost 200 stores on three levels, and is open seven days a week, including most holidays.
4:00 p.m.: Stop in for afternoon tea at Zoé’s Lounge in the venerable Fairmont Château Laurier hotel.
5:30 p.m.: Parliament Hill is just west on Wellington Street, and offers evening tours from mid-May through early September. Tours are free of charge and last from 20 to 60 minutes depending on Parliamentary activities. Note that security screening, similar to at an airport, is conducted on all visitors entering Parliament.
Evening: Take in the Northern Lights Sound and Light Show on Parliament. Northern Lights is a free bilingual show presented nightly from early July through early September. Show times: in July at 10:00 p.m., in August at 9:30 p.m., and in September at 9:00 p.m.
10:00 a.m.: Start your day by making a stop in the ByWard Market. In this vibrant area, you can enjoy all kinds of eats (including your morning coffee and some great pastries or bagels), stroll through Ottawa’s largest Farmers’ Market, shop at any number of unique boutiques, delis or specialty stores, and generally soak in the atmosphere of the city.
Tip: There are a number of historic cobblestone courtyards in the ByWard Market district as well as unique public art and retail art galleries.
12:00 noon: There are more than 50 great ByWard Market dining options sure to please every palate and every budget, ranging from pubs, to 4 diamond restaurants, to creative chef-owned establishments.
2:00 p.m.: Head to the water for a boat cruise at the base of the Rideau Canal locks on the Ottawa River with World Famous Paul’s Boat Line. The cruise provides commentary on highlights and history in at least two languages. It’s a beautiful way to see the city and learn more about Ottawa.
Alternatively: The Rideau Canal extends 202 kilometres to Kingston, Ontario. Those with access to a car may want to explore the Rideau Heritage Route including its many unique experiences, small towns and other features.
Evening: Finish your three-day tour with a Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Lantern light illuminates the way for your tour guide (complete with black robe) to reveal Ottawa’s darker past and include visits with ghosts, graveyards, hangings, and haunts.