In Ottawa there is so much to do that hard decisions have to be made …
Ottawa has always been a favourite Canadian destination of ours. It’s an easy place to get to from Toronto, Montreal or anywhere in between. It has a beautiful, compact downtown that is a joy to walk or bike, not to mention its plethora of museums and galleries where there’s always something new to see. On our latest visit we couldn’t believe all the changes – a new LRT going in, a newly-designed Ottawa Art Gallery, new trails to try and plenty more.
Here’s a recap of our latest 48 hours in Canada’s Capital City:
The Andaz Hotel opened in Byward Market in 2016. Kudos to its Canadian designers! I am a stickler for clear traffic zones anywhere we stay and I loved the feel of this boutique hotel from the moment I set foot in it. No fuss, just well-designed spaces from its ground floor restaurant all the way up to the rooftop lounge with its spectacular city view (The lounge is a bit “Trendy” in the evenings so you might get a flash of recreating celebrity). Our room wasn’t large but still managed to have traffic free zones that included a walk-in closet and large, well-appointed bathroom.
Ordering appetizers and drinks in different restos is a fun way to sample a city’s food scene. Ottawa’s not a big place but you would never know it from its rich culinary offerings. Jantine Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism’s communications director and self-described foodie, told us there’s a strong camaraderie among city chefs that has helped establish Ottawa’s reputation for fine food. We enjoyed it, and recommend the grilled scallops appetizer at Social, one of a number of restaurants you’ll find bordering Byward Market and sharing a large courtyard patio.
At the corner of Rideau and Sussex you’ll find the Brasserie Metropolitain. We slurped fresh oysters (a house specialty), washing them down with sparkling white. If you love to people-watch or you have young kids in tow, try the cold beer on tap and share a pizza at The Grand, a pizzeria at the corner of William and George in the Market. For drinks and appetizers with a view, the Andaz’s rooftop Copper Spirits & Sights lounge has to be one of the best views in town and as we discovered, its Rooftop Crudités has a red hummus dip to die for.
I call Ottawa Canada’s “Participaction City”. I named it years ago after the government sponsored ‘get fit’ program. That’s what the natives do here; they walk, ride, and even practise yoga (by the hundreds) on their lunch hour at Parliament Hill. So when we visit we always explore Ottawa on foot or by bike.
The focus of our trip was the city’s art scene. On our first day we walked downtown, searching out public art along Sussex and the Sparks Street Mall, down Rideau and Wellington streets and Parliament Hill, and along Laurier and Elgin streets before making our way back through Byward Market. Among the city’s collection we saw magnificent war memorials, even coming across one memorializing animals that served. We also spied ‘The Watchmen” which was a bit of synchronicity since we just posted a story about these Haida Gwaii sentries. On our last trip to Ottawa we rented bikes from a place on the east side of the Rideau Canal across from the Chateau Laurier and followed the canal on an off-road trail through the beautiful Glebe neighbourhood to Carleton University and back (see our off-road trails post). If our next trip to Ottawa is in winter, I’d love to ski the city’s new winter trail which runs along the Ottawa River. The National Capital Commission has an information office opposite Parliament Hill where you can get info on all of Ottawa’s off-road trails.
We jammed a lot into our 48 hour visit. At the top of our list…
The new Canadian galleries at the National Gallery of Canada are a must-see! Our Sunday morning tour lasted well past noon and what a WOW factor. The breadth of extraordinary art that Canadians past and present have produced was something to behold. Of particular interest to me was the collection of Indigenous art.
The Ottawa Art Gallery is a local/municipal gallery and may not be as well known as its national cousin, but stay tuned. It’s about to reopen in a brand new building of its own that we are anxious to visit and tell you about.
Rideau Hall is often overlooked by visitors, but the official (and actual) residence of Canada’s Governor General is a worthwhile destination. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the Byward Market along Sussex, a busy street with a wide sidewalk and beautiful Ottawa River views. Rideau Hall is a feast for the eyes and the grounds are peaceful and beautiful. If you’re a fan of Canadian painter William Kurelek, you’ll love the Rideau Hall tour which includes his works along with other Canadian artists.
Our last visit was to the Canadian Museum of Nature. I’m a nature-lover and this museum does a good job of highlighting Canada’s BIG outdoors and natural history. Kids LOVE the interactive exhibits. The new, permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery is very well done. It’s both informative and startling as it explores Canada’s mysterious, vulnerable and unique Arctic environment.
For an insight into the increasing emphasis on Aboriginal Culture and Indigenous Tourism in the capital, see Hans Tammemagi’s Indigenous Tourism in Ottawa.
A warm thank you to @OttawaJantine and Ottawa Tourism for inviting Roadstories.ca to experience its latest & greatest.