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Things to Do in Ottawa

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

450px-Rideau_canal_in_winterOttawa is a fantastic city to explore on foot.  Its many streets are friendly to pedestrians, and many attractions are close together so its quite easy to walk.  There are several pedestrian areas which offer plenty of entertainment.  Walking allows you to become more intimately acquainted with the city.  There are tons and tons of walking tours available as podcasts, or as properly guided tours.  One fun tour is the Haunted Walk, which exposes some of the more sinister history lurking in Ottawa.

If you don’t like getting around on foot, but don’t fancy paying a taxi to go everywhere, you’ll find that Ottawa has a very navigable public transit system.  Their light rail and bus systems will take you just about anywhere in the city, and are quite affordable.

Whatever way you choose to get about the city, you’ll find plenty to see and do!

An important place to visit is Parliament Hill.  Located in downtown Ottawa, this gorgeous building is not only a very fine example of Gothic revival architecture, its an important part of the Canadian government.  Tours are available daily, in both French and English, throughout the day.  Get views of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament on the Centre Block Tour.  Tickets are free beginning at 9AM on a first-come-first-serve basis.  You can also take a self guided tour of the grounds, using a booklet from the visitors’ center.  You can also go see the Changing of the Guards, which begins at 9AM on the lawns of Parliament.

The Canadian War Museum presents another important aspect of Canada’s history, documenting its involvement in arm conflicts throughout its history.  It begins with early colonial conflicts between the French and British, and continues through the World Wars, and to the country’s involvement in more recent operations. Admission is $12, or is free on Thursdays after 6PM.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada’s most visited museum  and is well worth a visit.  It focuses on preserving and documenting the history of Canada and its people.  It explores 20,000 years of human history, and features a strong program of special exhibitions which continue to explore Canada and its many cultures and civilizations.   It is one of North America’s oldest cultural institutions, and has a strong focus on research, working with leading experts in archaeology, anthropology, folk lore, and other fields.   It is also the site of the Canadian Children’s Museum, Postal Museum, and an IMAX Theater. Admission is $10, or $15 for a joint War Museum and Museum of Civilization ticket.  It is also free on Thursdays after 4PM.

The National Gallery is another fantastic place to visit. It has a large collection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photographs.  Though it focuses mainly on Canadian artists, it has in its collection some work from prominent American and European artists.  Some of Andy Warhol’s most famous works can be found here.  It features one of the most comprehensive collections of Canadian artwork, displaying work from The Group Seven, Emily Carr, Tom Thomson, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Louise-Phillippe Hebert.

For some winter fun, visit the Rideau Canal Skateway.  Every winter the Rideau freezes over and transforms into the world’s largest skating rink! This UNESCO World Heritage site features 7.8km of skateable ice.  Rent skates and skate along this beautiful canal.  Buy refreshments without having to leave the ice! It’s a great place to try a Beavertail (a local specialty, somewhat similar to funnel cake).

The city also has an extensive trail system.  In winter this became a fantastic cross-country ski trail system.  Gatineau Park also has 200km of groomed cross country ski trails.  For downhill skiing, snowboarding, or tubing, there are several options.  Mont Cascades is about 30 minutes north which features 20 runs, 15 of which are lit for night skiing.  Camp Fortune also features 20 runs, but no night skiing and is about 20 minutes from the city.  Edelweiss is also about 20 minutes away and features a snow tubing park which is great for families.

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