The countdown to summer is on. And if you’re trying to decide where to spend your well-deserved time off, we’re about to save you hours of Googling, because the ultimate summer vacation is waiting for you, here, in the Great White North.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on flights, apply for a visa, or exchange any currency to visit Canada’s capital city, and it’s somewhere you really need to experience as often as possible. The destination is Ottawa, and the road trip is yours to take this summer.
It takes just a few hours to drive to Ottawa, and you can stop off in neighbouring towns along the way. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, your family, or your pals, there’s no denying the amount of fun you’ll have during your time in this beautiful city as you explore the culture, heritage, and of course, the food.
With that in mind, here’s an ultimately Canadian itinerary to follow while you’re there.
Take a boat trip along the Rideau Canal
Stretching over 202 kilometres in length, the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston.
Rent a canoe or kayak and go exploring on your own, or join an eco-friendly Rideau Canal Cruise from downtown Ottawa to Dows Lake and feel as though you’ve been transported back to 1812 when the canal was still in its planning stage. You’ll get to see some historic landmarks along the way and step back onto shore with more local knowledge than you ever expected to have.
Visit Parliament Hill
Marvel at the gothic-style architecture that’s home to the Parliament of Canada. You don’t need to be passionate about politics to visit the site, but if you are, you can join free guided tours of two sites that are temporarily housing Parliamentary Chambers. These tours are being offered while Parliament’s Centre Block is closed to the public during the building’s decade-long rehabilitation.
Enjoy a tour of the House of Commons and stop by the state-of-the-art visitor centre. Later, embark on a tour of the Senate, housed in a Beaux-arts-style building. The front lawns are home to Changing of the Guard ceremonies, Canada’s biggest birthday party, and a free Sound and Light Show projected onto the Peace Tower.
If you’re a passionate yogi or fancy trying yoga, lululemon hosts a free outdoor yoga class here every Wednesday from May through August.
Go shopping in the ByWard Market
When you’re visiting the capital city, don’t miss out on the chance to immerse yourself in the buzz of the ByWard Market neighbourhood. This exciting hub is home to some divine food stores and stalls where you can buy some delicious Canadian maple-infused chocolate and cheese, and it’s surrounded by restaurants, bars, and vendors selling everything from fresh fruits to flowers.
Ottawa has an always-on arts and culture scene and you’ll see a glimpse of this when you immerse yourself in the vibrancy of the Byward Market. Spend an hour or two here and discover your favourite vendors!
Get cultured at a museum
If you were going to Paris, you’d visit the Louvre, so why not check out some of the national museums which call Ottawa home? You don’t need to be a historian to do so, and you’ll be learning more about Canada along the way.
Dine out at Ottawa’s best restaurants
Your visit to Ottawa would not be complete without dining at some of the city’s top restaurants. Go all-out and treat yourself to dinner at Riviera on Sparks Street. The restaurant serves up creative Canadian cuisine and drinks, plus you get to dine in the plush setting of a former bank building.
Located on Elgin Street, El Camino serves up tacos and tequila with must-try favourites like the ox tongue taco. There’s also Play Food & Wine on York Street if you want to share small plates of goodness and sip upon a glass of Canadian wine.
Order lunch in two languages
Ottawa is a bilingual city, and most of the locals here speak both English and French. Why not embrace local culture during your trip and order lunch in two languages when you go out?
If speaking French or English is not your strong point, just give it your best shot. Your waiter will appreciate your efforts, and, if nothing else, you can laugh about your attempt at dual language ordering!
For more information on planning your vacation, and to book accommodation, visit Ottawa Tourism now.