Planning a Tourist Weekend in Ottawa

Diane Allingham

Planning a Tourist Weekend in Ottawa

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As many of us Ottawa residents do, I often have out-of-town guests coming to visit. For those who have never been here, I’m always proud to show off our great city! The places I choose are dictated by the age of my visitor, obviously, but there are many things for everyone, so its easy to fill a few days. Weather is the other variable, of course. While Ottawa is full of outdoor activity, it’s also easy to find indoor things on hot or freezing cold days. Here are a few of my favourites!

Ottawa boat cruise
Whether you choose the Ottawa River with it’s spectacular view of Parliament or the Rideau Canal to wind your way through our wonderful central neighbourhoods, a boat cruise on a nice day is a restful and interesting experience. It is a great way to break up a busy touring day when your feet need a rest, too!

Museums, museums and more museums!
Ottawa is blessed with a wide variety of boredom-busting musuems, one for every age group and interest. The new Museum of Science & Technology is a great one for kids and science geeks, but there are also ones for nature lovers, history buffs, art lovers and war-time history fanatics, as well as those keen on photography and new-age and local art scene at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Paddle (or skate) the canal
Whether by kayak, canoe, peddle boat or paddle board, the canal and rivers offers the perfect place for being on calm water. Rentals are available at several locations along the waterway, including Dow’s Lake, Ottawa SUP in Old Ottawa South, and various canoe clubs and rental shops throughout the city. But Dow’s Lake is one of my favourites for simplicity with guests and the surroundings are so beautiful. If whitewater rafting is more your thing, that’s a fun day, too, on the Ottawa River. There’s even a hidden one right in Lebreton Flats! Have a brave visitor who arrives in January/February? Skating on the canal for sure, starting at one of the stylish huts to park your boots and lace up.

Cycle the bike paths
Renting a bike is easier than ever with the VeloGo bike stands situated throughout the city, and bike rentals are only a Google search away. With my guests, we typically stay on the bike paths that circle the canal or traverse the Arboretum, but the options are endless for more diehard cyclists!

Parliament Hill
A trip to Ottawa would not be complete without a visit to Parliament. I sometimes find my visitors with shorter attention spans enjoy a stop by the eternal flame and a trip through the halls and into the library. The changing of the guard was appealing to some, too.

Gatineau Park
This beautiful and hilly park has something for everyone. Hiking trails, especially the shorter one around Pink Lake, are great with kids. Le Nordik offers an escape for the pampered or health-conscious visitor. In winter, cross country skiing is the thing to do here, with trails that lead to huts heated with warm fires.

Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Laurier
Like high tea in London, this one reminds us all that Canada is, after all, a member of the British Commonwealth.

Canal Locks
The concept of canal locks is pretty foreign to most people, so never take them for granted with visitors. You can cover those off with the boat cruise or bicycle tour, or of course on your walk from the Byward Market to Parliament.

The Markets
The Byward Market is the tourist spot, for sure, but it isn’t the only one to visit. A quick tour of the area for a bit of shopping or eating is fun, especially if combined with the National Gallery, But I like to take visitors to the Parkdale Market or any of the local community markets that run during the spring, summer and fall months. We have some great neighbourhoods to show off and it often works out that we need ingredients for dinner anyway.

And The Festivals!
From Tulip Festival that kicks off spring to jazz, blues and folk music festivals, there is always an excuse to invite guests. And for the winter visitors, Winterlude, of course. Catch the ice sculptures and canal skate way between February thaws. For your visiting sports fans, we have an incredibly wide range of games to enjoy, from NHL hockey to the 67’s, the Fury soccer and CFL football at Lansdowne and the odd special sports events, too. Always an excuse for a visit!

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