Anticipating my next trip to Ottawa next weekend, I started doing some research and got in touch with Ottawa Tourism. Ottawa, as Canada's capital, is one of Canada's most popular travel destinations and has a wide variety of destinations, activities and events to offer.
I had the opportunity to chat with Jantine Van Kregten, from Ottawa Tourism, who was kind enough to give me a great overview of what to see and do in Ottawa.
1. Please provide us with some general information about Ottawa. How big is the city, where is it located, how is the weather?
Ottawa is the capital of Canada and its fourth largest city. With the neighboring city of Gatineau, in the province of Quebec, the region has about 1.2 million inhabitants. Ottawa is located in eastern Ontario, about four hours. drive northeast from Toronto; two hours west of Montreal; and an hour north of the New York state border.
Ottawa enjoys four distinct seasons, with warmer temperatures and, sometimes, high humidity in July and August; a fall seasoned with beautiful autumn colors; a cold and snowy winter; and a wet spring.
2. How can you get to Ottawa and what is the best way to get around Ottawa?
Ottawa is accessible with direct flights from Canada's main centers and several US cities, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and more. Ottawa is an important stop along the VIA Rail and Windsor corridor, and the bus service also connects the city to other Canadian cities.
By car, the main routes include Highway 416, which connects Ottawa to Highway 401. Highway 417 runs through the city, while Routes 5, 50 and 148 are the main riverside roads in Quebec.
3. Ottawa is the capital of Canada and has played a significant role in Canada's history. Tell us more about it and the Canadian heritage experiences offered in Ottawa.
Ottawa's history begins with the construction of the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832 by Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers and thousands of mainly Irish workers. The Canal extends 202 km (126 miles) across eastern Ontario to st. Lawrence River and was built to secure a supply line in the event of an American attack (which never came). The Canal was never used for military purposes and its 49 locks are still operated in the same way as when they were built. In fact, the Rideau Canal is Canada's candidate to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is expected in 2007, the 175th anniversary of its construction.
Queen Victoria decreed in 1857 that Ottawa would be the capital of the country that would become Canada. The stately buildings of the Parliament were built shortly afterwards and remain an "unmissable" attraction in the capital. Ottawa is also home to 24 Sussex Drive (Prime Minister's residence and not open to the public); Rideau Hall (home of the Governor General, with guided tours of the residence and gardens available); and dozens of high commissions and government embassies around the world.
Don't miss Laurier House, home to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and WIlliam Lyon Mackenzie King, two former prime ministers, or Mackenzie King Estate, King's summer home in Gatineau Park.
4. Please tell us about some of the main attractions, museums and galleries in the Ottawa area.
The latest addition to the national museum scene is the impressive Canadian War Museum, which opened in May 2005 in a stunning location alongside the Ottawa River. Canada's most visited museum is the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau. The National Gallery of Canada offers the largest collection of Canadian art, along with European and American masters. Other cultural facilities include the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Aviation Museum of Canada; the Canada Science and Technology Museum; the Canadian Agriculture Museum; the Canadian Royal Mint; the Bank of Canada Currency Museum; and the Canadian Museum of Nature, currently in the midst of a major renovation project, to be completed in 2009.
Other museums include the Bytown Museum, which tells the story of Ottawa's early days, including the construction of the Rideau Canal; the Billings Estate Museum, which traces the story of a prominent local family; and the funky Diefenbunker, Canada's Cold War Museum, a four-story underground bunker that was built between 1959 and 1961 as the site for which the Canadian political and military elite would face the effects of a nuclear attack.
5. Our readers would like to know about festivals and special events in Ottawa.
The Ottawa festival scene is a robust subject all year round. The year begins with Winterlude, a huge winter festival held on the first three weekends of February. In March, the Irish community celebrates the Irish week and, in March and April, the maple syrup season generates a series of delicious festivals and events celebrating this tasty treat.
May belongs to the Canadian Tulip Festival – three weeks of celebrating Ottawa's favorite flower. During World War II, the Dutch royal family took refuge in Ottawa and Princess Margriet was born here, in a hospital room designated as Dutch soil for the event. Canadians played a big role in the liberation of the Netherlands, and when the royal family returned home after the war, as a gesture of friendship, respect and appreciation, they sent thousands of tulip bulbs. The lamps have followed every year since then and now 3,000,000 tulips bloom in the Canadian capital region.
The end of May brings Canada's largest marathon as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend. During the summer months, festivals abound: Doors Open Ottawa showcases historic 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 (the largest in Canada); the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (the largest in the world); the Sound of Light fireworks festival; Ottawa Busker Festival; Ottawa GreekFest; CKCU Ottawa Folk Festival; the Central Canada Exhibition; and Pride Week.
At Parliament Hill, two free activities take place daily in the summer: 10:00 am, Changing of the Guard ceremony and the night light and sound show.
In the fall, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival colors the skies; while the La Vendemmia Harvest Festival tempts visitors & # 39; palates. The Ottawa International Animation Festival features artists from around the world, while the Ottawa International Writers Festival offers a forum for authors & # 39; lively debates. Autumn Rhapsody celebrates the splendid colors of autumn.
The capital lights up for the holiday with the Christmas Lights Across Canada program.
6. What about the restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Ottawa?
Several neighborhoods offer entertainment options in Ottawa. ByWard Market is one of Ottawa's oldest neighborhoods and also serves as its entertainment district, with over 100 food and drink options in just a four-block area. Whether it's fine dining, a good snack bar, a cozy restaurant or a romantic cafe, you can find it at the "Mercado".
Elgin Street is another popular nightlife area, with an eclectic selection of bars, restaurants and cafes just a few blocks away. Bank Street offers three or four distinct areas along its length, including a popular area known as the Glebe. In the far west, Westboro is also an attractive option for dinner and drinks.
Of course, you can also choose to explore the various options at Casino du Lac-Leamy – be it the thrill of the games or a show at its popular theater or dinner at the five-diamond restaurant Le Baccara. The region's other five diamond establishment (two of the only 11 across Canada) are subscriptions to Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa.
7. Please provide an overview of the performing arts offered in Ottawa.
The National Arts Center is Canada's premier performing arts center, offering theater performances in English and French, dance and the National Arts Center Orchestra. There are also many smaller theaters, both in English and French, including the Great Canadian Theater Company, La Nouvelle Scene, Ottawa Little Theater, Third Wall Theater Company, Odyssey Theater (offering open-air performances alongside the Rideau River), A Company of Fools, and many productions at the Arts Court, a municipal facility.
From May 18 to June 11, Cirque du Soleil will take its production from Quidam to Ottawa. The Canada Dance Festival takes place every two years (2-10 June 2006) in Ottawa and the Ottawa Fringe Festival (also in June) is one of the best ways to see new productions and innovations. Inside
The Centrepointe Theater, in the far west, offers a variety of performances, as does the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.
Larger events are usually held at Scotiabank Place and Ottawa Civic Center.
8. What are some of the shopping opportunities in Ottawa?
Some major shopping centers exist in Ottawa, including the Bayshore Shopping Center in the far west, the Rideau Center, the St. Laurent Center in the far east, and Place d Orleans in the far east. These centers offer the best of well-known brands.
For more eclectic offerings, the ByWard Market neighborhood offers great fashion and housewares; as well as Glebe, Westboro and some small towns on the Ontario and Quebec side of the Ottawa River – including Merrickville, Manotick, Perth, Chelsea and Wakefield.
9. What are the outdoor, recreational and sporting opportunities in and around Ottawa?
From a professional perspective, Ottawa senators are particularly loved by the Ottomans as they march to victory at the Stanley Cup! Ottawa offers a window to the Ontario Hockey League. The Ottawa Renegades provide excitement in the Canadian Football League, while the Ottawa Lynx is part of the International Baseball League (they are the Baltimore Orioles Triple A farm team).
But sport in Ottawa is much more participatory than that. Home to hundreds of kilometers of leisure routes, Ottomans love cycling, skating and walking. The Ottawa River offers unbelievable rafting, as well as canoe and kayak adventures for adventurers.
Canada's largest bungee freefall is located north of Ottawa, just outside Gatineau Park. Throughout the year, Gatineau Park offers something for outdoor lovers. Be it camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking or swimming in the summer; or snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter, the park is loved by everyone in the region.
As proof of the diversity of destinations in Ottawa, is it the only place where you can skate on the largest skating rink in the world and play in the largest beach volleyball tournament in the world?
10. What kind of accommodation options are there in Ottawa?
There are more than 11,000 hotel rooms in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. The main chains (Hilton, Fairmont, Westin, Marriott, Delta, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Comfort Inn) are represented, in addition to more exclusive offers, such as the ARC the.hotel boutique or Brookstreet Resort.
Downtown locations are within walking distance of many major attractions. Several inn suppliers also offer a cozy alternative to hotels.
A comprehensive list of options can be found at http://www.ottawatourism.ca
11. What are some of the major events and big news coming up in 2006 and beyond in Ottawa?
The Canadian Museum of Civilization celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2006. It began its life in May 1856, as part of Canada's Geological Survey. The young museum grew up in the National Museum of Canada and later in the National Museum of Man. In 1986, it became the Canadian Museum of Civilization, moving into its magnificent Gatineau buildings three years later and continuing to present informative and entertaining exhibitions for a wide range of interests.
Casino du Lac-Leamy celebrates 10 years of uninterrupted excitement in March 2006. Originally opened as the Casino de Hull, it has become one of the main attractions in the Canadian capital region, offering games every day from 9:00 am at 03:00; five diamond dinner at Le Baccara; an adjacent theater offering matinees, musical programming and variety shows of all kinds; anchoring facilities; an adjacent Hilton hotel with spa; and conference facilities. The casino is celebrating with a series of themed activities, including the popular 7-day lucky draw, which offers a different promotion every day of the week.
Emily Carr is on display from June 2 to September 3, 2006 at the National Gallery of Canada. His paintings of First Nations villages and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest coast, including many totem images, help to define Canadian art, especially that of the early 20th century.
In Indiana Jones' third film, the climactic scene took place in a spectacular desert location, carved out of the side of a cliff. This site is part of Petra, located in Jordan, and from April 7, 2006 to January 2, 2007, you can learn more at the exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization PETRA: Stone Town.
The Seven Years' War is the focus of a new exhibition on the newest cultural attraction of the Canadian War Museum, which opened in May 2005. The exhibition Clash of Empires: The War That Made Canada runs from May 18 to 12 from November.
Outdoor activities are a crucial part of Ottawans & # 39; lives. This summer, residents will be able to taste others & # 39; achievements as well, as Ottawa welcomes more than 3,500 athletes and coaches during the Ontario Summer Games 2006, August 9-13, 2006.
Quebec Scene: April / May 2007: The National Arts Center has already received two previous "scenes" – Atlantic Scene in 2003 and Alberta Scene in 2005 – and in 2007, it is Québec's turn to shine, as the best of its kind. theater, music, dance, comedy, culinary arts, literature and cinema, is the basis of this cultural festival.
Beijing Treasures: May 11 to September 30, 2007: At the Canadian Civilization Museum, learn more about the development of Chinese civilization while viewing selected treasures from the National Museum of China. There will also be an attempt to glimpse China's recent history, including economic reforms and the bid for the Olympic Games.
Renoir's Landscapes: June 8 to September 9, 2007: One of the most beloved of all Impressionists, Renoir will be at the front and center of next summer at the National Gallery of Canada.
FIFA World Youth Championship 2007: July 1 – 22, 2007: Ottawa was selected as one of six Canadian cities in this three-week tournament, 24 countries and 52 matches, featuring the best youth football players (under 20) world. the world. It is the second largest event organized by FIFA, after the FIFA World Cup.
Rideau Canal as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Rideau Canal, which extends 202 km from Ottawa to Kingston, is Canada's gateway to being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The designation must be received in time for the 175th anniversary of the completion of the Channel in 2007.
Canada Portrait Gallery: After the opening of the new Canada War Museum last spring, the next major cultural institution planned for Ottawa is the Canada Portrait Gallery, which is due to open across the street from Parliament Hill at the end of 2007.
Thank you, Jantine, for providing a great overview of all that Ottawa has to offer. You gave me great ideas for my trip next week and possible future excursions next year.