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Boasting a picturesque setting on the south bank of the Ottawa River, Ottawa serves as capital city of Canada. It’s the fourth largest city in the country, with a metro population exceeding 1.2 million, highly regarded as one of the best places to live in Canada. The Ontario city is easily accessed by 15 airlines which provide transportation to and from Ottawa International Airport (YOW). Public transportation includes a system of buses and trains which utilize the Transitway which is open only to its vehicles, eliminating normal traffic delays; five O-Train stations are available to integrate travel. The Trans-Canada Highway also leads to Ottawa.
Ottawa is unique in many ways, offering English and French as co-official languages. Downtown Ottawa is bounded by the Ottawa River and historic Rideau Canal, with many Ottawa hotels, shops and restaurants located here. Parliament Hill is found in downtown, and visitors enjoy visiting its Parliament buildings and watching the traditional Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Be sure to snap a photo from Peace Tower! Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the site of the annual Winterlude festival held in February and offers the opportunity for wintertime ice skating. The Capital Pathway is part of the recreational multi-use trails linking parks, gardens and national sites along the Ottawa River as well as the Rideau Canal. The Ottawa River is a wonderful outdoor recreational site, offering river rafting, kayaking and even bungee jumping. Gatineau Park, just 15 minutes from Capital Hill, offers over 90 km of trails open for mountain biking from mid-May through the end of November. Fishing, skiing, rock climbing, camping, spelunking and simply relaxing are all popular activities at this park.
As you are probably aware, hockey is king of sports in Canada. Visitors and residents fill the seats at Scotiabank Place to cheer on the NHL Ottawa Senators, as well as for the big-name concerts and events which are held here. Collegiate sports action is also popular, with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees participating in hockey, soccer, football, basketball and other major sports.
Since Ottawa is the nation’s capital, it is populated with several outstanding museums available for your perusal. Visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the most visited museum in Canada, to learn about First Peoples culture and to explore an exciting Children’s Museum. The history of Canada’s military is on display at the Canadian War Museum – be sure to see the headstone of the Unknown Soldier. Then it’s on to the Canadian Museum of Nature to educate yourself about the environment and nature, and why not spend some time counting money at the Royal Canadian Mint – the time you spend there is invaluable! There are even more museums in Ottawa, so do your research ahead of time so you can explore those which interest you most.
For ballet, theater, dance, classical music and Broadway plays, it’s the National Arts Centre for performing arts presentations. You can attend performances by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa.
Take an afternoon and shop at Rideau Centre’s 150 stores; ByWard Market is also an outstanding destination for fashionable shopping, and it offers more than a hundred restaurants as well as a seasonal outdoor marketplace. The National Gallery of Canada is located here, featuring a wonderful collection of contemporary photographs, and you should pop into the Notre Dame Basilica to view its incredible architecture and stained glass windows.
Summer is beautiful in Ottawa, so you would expect there to be outdoor festivals – and there are! Try an outdoor concert at Confederation Park during Ottawa Jazz Festival, held in June, or Bluesfest, held in July at LeBreton Flats Park. It is considered one of the finest music festivals in the world! Other popular summertime activities include playing a round of golf at The Marshes Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., boating on Dow’s Lake and having a drink on the terrace at iconic hotel Fairmont Chateau Laurier. If you are up for an overnight trip, check out Algonquin Provincial Park, about 300 km to the west. The park offers a stunning canyon, incredible vistas, sparkling clear lakes, bicycle trails, dog sledding trails and a ton of wildlife.
Ottawa is more than just a bustling city which is the governmental center of the country; it is also a city offering museums, cultural opportunities, sporting events, higher education centers and year-round outdoor recreation. Take a look at Ottawa – your visit is bound to be unforgettable!