In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Ottawa next weekend I have started to accomplish some research and contacted Ottawa Tourism. Ottawa, as Canada’s capital, is one of Canada’s most popular travel destinations and it includes a great variety destinations, activities and events to offer.
I’d an opportunity to talk to Jantine Van Kregten from Ottawa Tourism who had been kind enough to give me a good general breakdown of items to see and do in Ottawa.
1. Please provide us with some general information regarding Ottawa. How big is the town, where is it located, what is the current weather like?
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, and its fourth largest city. With the neighbouring city of Gatineau in the province of Quebec, the region has about 1.2 million people. Ottawa is found in eastern Ontario, about four hours’drive northeast of Toronto; two hours west of Montreal; and one hour north of the border with the state of New York.
Ottawa enjoys four distinct seasons, with warmest temperatures and sometimes high humidity in July and August; a temperate fall with gorgeous fall colours; a cool and snowy winter; and a wet spring.
2. Just how can one reach Ottawa and what is the greatest means of navigating around in Ottawa?
Ottawa is accessible with direct flights from major centres in Canada and several U.S. cities including New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and more. Ottawa is a major stop along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor of VIA Rail and bus service also links the town with other Canadian cities.
By car, major thoroughfares include Highway 416 that links Ottawa with Highway 401. Highway 417 runs through the town, while Autoroutes 5, 50 and 148 would be the major highways on the Quebec side of the river.
3. Ottawa is Canada’s capital and has played a substantial role in the real history with this country. Please inform us more about this and the Canadian Heritage Experiences offered in Ottawa.
The story of Ottawa begins with the building of the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832 by Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers and tens of thousands of mostly Irish labourers. The Canal stretches 202 km (126 miles) through eastern Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and was built to make certain a supply line in the event of American attack (which never came). The Canal was never used for a military purpose and its 49 locks remain operated in the exact same way as when they were built. In fact, the Rideau Canal is Canada’s nominee to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which will be expected in 2007, the 175th anniversary of its construction.
Queen Victoria decreed in 1857 that Ottawa will be the capital of the country that became Canada. The majestic Parliament Buildings were constructed shortly thereafter and remain a “must-see” attraction in the capital. Whilst the capital, Ottawa is also home to 24 Sussex Drive (the prime minister’s residence and not ready to accept the public); Rideau Hall (home of the Governor General, with guided tours of residence and gardens available); and a large number of high commissions and embassies from governments across the world.
Don’t miss Laurier House, home to both Sir Wilfrid Laurier and WIlliam Lyon Mackenzie King, two former prime ministers, or the Mackenzie King Estate, King’s summer home in Gatineau Park.
4. Please inform us about some of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Ottawa area.
The most recent addition to the national museum scene is the impressive Canadian War Musuem, which opened in May 2005 in a sensational location alongside the Ottawa River. Canada’s most-visited museum is Gatineau’s Canadian Museum of Civilization. The National Gallery of Canada offers the greatest assortment of Canadian art, along with European and American masters. Other cultural facilities include the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Canada Aviation Museum; the Canada Science and Technology Museum; the Canada Agriculture Museum; the Royal Canadian Mint; the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada; and the Canadian Museum of Nature, currently in the midst of a massive renovation project, to be completed in 2009. manotick ontario
Other museums include the Bytown Museum, which tells the real history of Ottawa’s early days, including the building of the Rideau Canal; the Billings Estate Museum that traces the real history of a prominent local family; and the funky Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, a four-storey underground bunker that has been constructed between 1959 and 1961 as the positioning to which the Canadian political and military elite would ride out the effects of a nuclear attack.
5. Our readers want to find out about the festivals and special events in Ottawa.
The festival scene in Ottawa is a powerful, year-round affair. The season commences with Winterlude, a massive winter festival held over the first three weekends in February. In March, the Irish community celebrates Irish week, and in March and April, the maple syrup season spawns a number of delicious festivals and events celebrating this tasty treat.
May is one of the Canadian Tulip Festival–three weeks of celebration of Ottawa’s favourite flower. During World War II, the Dutch royal family took refuge in Ottawa and Princess Margriet came to be here, in a hospital room designated Dutch soil for the event. Canadians played a massive role in liberating the Netherlands and when the royal family returned home after the war, as a gesture of friendship, respect and appreciation, they sent tens of thousands of tulip bulbs. The bulbs have followed annually since and now 3,000,000 tulips bloom in Canada’s Capital Region.
Late May brings Canada’s largest marathon included in the Ottawa Race Weekend. Over the summertime months, festivals abound: Doors Open Ottawa showcase heritage buildings; Italian Week; the Ottawa Fringe Festival; the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival; the Nortel Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival; Cisco Systems Ottawa Bluesfest (Canada’s largest); the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (the world’s largest); the Sound of Light fireworks festival; Ottawa Busker Festival; Ottawa GreekFest; CKCU Ottawa Folk Festival; the Central Canada Exhibition; and Pride Week.
On Parliament Hill, two free activities occur daily in the summertime: the 10:00 a.m. Changing the Guard ceremony and the evening Sound and Light Show.
In the fall, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival colours the skies; whilst the La Vendemmia Harvest Festival tempts visitors’palates. The Ottawa International Animation Festival showcases artists from around the world whilst the Ottawa International Writers Festival provides a forum for authors’lively debates. Fall Rhapsody celebrates the splendid autumn colours.
The capital fires up for christmas with the Christmas Lights Across Canada program.
6. What about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Ottawa?
Several neighbourhoods offer entertainment options in Ottawa. The ByWard Market is one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods and also functions as its entertainment district, with over 100 food and drink options in only a four-block-square area. Whether it’s fine dining, an excellent diner, a cosy bistro, or perhaps a romantic cafe, you will find it in “the Market.”
Elgin Street is another popular nightlife area, by having an eclectic choice of bars, restaurants and cafes in just a few blocks. Bank Street offers three or four distinct areas along its length, including a well known area called the Glebe. In the near west end, Westboro is also a nice-looking option for dinner and drinks.
Obviously, you could also elect to explore the many options at the Casino du Lac-Leamy–whether it’s gaming excitement or perhaps a show at its popular theatre or perhaps a dinner at its five-diamond restaurant Le Baccara. The region’s other five-diamond establishment (two of only 11 across Canada) is Signatures at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa.