Located just a stone’s throw from the US border, Ottawa is one of the most popular places to visit in Canada – and for good reason. The country’s capital is built in a prime spot on the Ottawa River, and its attractions extend far beyond the ornate Victorian architecture for which the city is known.
If you’re looking for a break from online casino games like online roulette and more, Ottawa presents an exciting holiday destination with plenty of options for everyone. It features gorgeous scenery, world-class museums, a renowned culinary scene and plenty of unique neighborhoods to explore.
Whether you’re a music buff, a foodie, a history fan or simply someone looking for something new to try, Ottawa has got you covered.
So, what to do in Ottawa? Let’s look at some of our top picks, as well as a little bit of history on the city itself.
Brief History of Ottawa
The name “Ottawa” is derived from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade,” which is fitting for the Algonquin people who used to navigate the waters of the Rideau and Ottawa for centuries before the first settlement was established in the 1800s.
The first permanent settlement was a village established by Philemon Wright on the north shore of the river. The true reason for the city’s rapid initial growth was the construction of the Rideau Canal. It was originally called Bytown, after Lieutenant Colonel John By. He was the engineer in charge of the canal’s plans, which were commissioned in 1826.
The town became one of the country’s prime timber locations. Later, it expanded to include the sawed lumber trade. The town’s growth was so significant that in 1954, it was upgraded to a city and given its present name.
An interesting fact about Canada is that Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the designated capital of Canada, with the building of Parliament Hill commencing soon after. The city has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Top Things To Do in Ottawa
If you’re traveling to Ottawa, things to do include everything from cultural pursuits to exploring the area’s natural wonders. Ottawa is also known as the city of museums, with plenty on offer for those interested in history and art. Read on for some of the best ways to spend time in the city.
Visit Art Galleries
If it’s art and exhibitions that you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the following galleries:
- National Gallery of Canada
- Ottawa Art Gallery
- Cube Gallery
- The Astrolabe Gallery
- Orange Art Gallery
When it comes to history museums, make sure that you take the time to check out:
- The Canadian War Museum
- Canadian Museum of Nature
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum
- Bytown Museum
- Canadian Museum of History
Test Out the Culinary Scene
Ottawa is renowned for its culinary scene, so there are more than a few ways to experience it. Firstly, it’s worth taking a chance on some of the local cuisine the city is famous for. This includes maple bacon donuts, beaver tails (don’t worry, it’s a pastry,) Moo Shu ice cream, poutine and pancake-battered bacon. You can get your hands on these throughout the city, but it’s worth a trip to the local ByWard Market to get these and some of the exceptional local produce.
Once you’ve given the local flavors a go, it’s time to hit the huge variety of world-class restaurants on offer. Some of the best restaurants in the city include (but aren’t limited to):
- Fraser Cafe
- Occo Kitchen
Visit Parliament Hill
Given the political significance of the city, a visit to Parliament Hill is a must. It might not sound that exciting, but it’s actually got some of the most breathtaking architecture in the city. The three neo-gothic structures look over the city and are the best place to take a tour to get to grips with Ottawa’s fascinating history.
Take a guided tour through the hundreds of rooms in the building and look at Canada’s inner political workings. Time it right and you could actually sit in on a debate or committee meeting. Be sure to visit the Centennial Flame while you are here. The fire fountain was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Confederation. It’s truly spectacular.
You’ll also be privy to concerts, exhibitions and seasonal after-hours light and sound shows at different times of the year at Parliament Hill.
Get Into Nature
If you’re really after a break from the city, then head out to the 90,000-acre Gatineau Park, located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa. There are several activities on offer in this picturesque park, from hiking and biking to camping, cross-country skiing, heritage sites and much more.
Be sure to check out the Mackenzie King Estate, constructed by Canada’s 10th prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, in 1903.
If you want the best views across the gorgeous landscape, then be sure to go to the Champlain Lookout, where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the entire Ottawa Valley.
Get Your Bike Out
Ottawa is one of the most cycling-friendly cities in the country. You’re in luck if you’d like to see the city on two wheels rather than four. The city and its surrounds have over 364 miles of cycling paths.
There are numerous bike rental agencies throughout the city, whether you want something simple to take potter around Ottawa on and take in the sites or even if you want to book a guided tour with the whole family.
Gatineau Park offers some exceptional mountain biking conditions for those looking for something a little more adventurous.
The Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is the lifeblood and the heartbeat of Ottawa. It also offers one of the best ways to see some of the city’s top tourist attractions and gorgeous countryside from a unique perspective.
The Canal got its start in the 1800s and was the sole reason that Ottawa turned into the commercial hub that it is today. While it isn’t used for transporting goods today (thanks to the railway,) it has turned its attention to offering visitors a wonderful way to explore the waterways.
From public parks to arboretums, historic architecture, stunning countryside and more, taking a cruise on the Rideau Canal is a must-do for all visitors to Ottawa.
Visit Ottawa’s Rural Communities
Ottawa might be the capital city of Canada, but there’s so much more to the region than the city itself and you’ll find some of the most picturesque sites further out of town. It’s worth taking the time to take a trip out to some of the more rural communities surrounding Ottawa to get a taste of how locals live.
Some small towns worth visiting include West Carleton-March, Rideau-Goulbourn, Osgoode, Metcalfe, Greely and Cumberland.
Watch Ice Hockey
Did you even visit Canada if you didn’t go and watch an ice hockey game? Plenty of games originated in Canada, but ice hockey is undoubtedly the most famous and remains the most popular sport in the country.
The Ottawa Senators, also known as the Sens, are the city’s top team; you can watch their home games at the Canadian Tire Center Arena.
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