Ottawa, like most cosmopolitan world capitals, is a great travel destination because of its abundant collection of impressive and accessible government buildings, embassies and monuments. But beyond its status as the capital of Canada, this inviting city of about 900,000 is also a must-see for simply smart travelers because of its great museums, natural beauty, diverse neighborhoods, culinary prowess, diverse shopping and abundant year-round recreational opportunities.
Located on the Quebec-Ontario border, Ottawa and its sister city Gatineau, Quebec is bisected east-west by the Ottawa River and the impressively beautiful Rideau Canal flows into the Ottawa between the Parliament and downtown.
The city is bi-lingual and English is spoken widely.
Before You Go
Ottawa can be easily reached by highway, air or train.
- Ottawa International Airport (YOW) is only about 8 miles from Parliament Hill. It offers frequent major airline service to Canadian and U.S. destinations.
- By train, Ottawa’s VIA station is 3.5 miles from Parliament Hill and several daily trains are available to Toronto, Montreal and other Canadian cities.
- By car, is on the TransCanada Highway, 125 from Montreal, 280 miles from Toronto and 440 miles from Boston via good highways.
When You Are There
- Take a free guided tour of the Canadian Parliament’s Centre Block. http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Visitors/index-e.html
- Check out the downtown CF Rideau Center downtown mall
- Stroll along the Rideau Canal Locks between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier,
Must-sees for a short stay are:
- Exploring Byward Market and its plethora of eateries, shops and local color.
- Wandering around Parliament Hill’s impressive Victorian architecture and extensive statuary.
- Visiting The Canadian Museum of Civilization, War Museum and National Arts Centre.
If You Have Several Days, enjoy:
- Eating at one of the many highly-rated restaurants run by chefs who studied at the justly famous Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute (Canada’s only campus for Le Cordon Bleu) or, better yet, eat at the Cordon Bleu itself. Reservations required.
- Exploring the Rideau Canal’s abundant recreational opportunities.
- Walking the Arboretum, a green oasis with 2,400 varieties of trees.
- Taking a city walking tour (weather permitting) or other guided tour.
Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Ottawa.
Dress for the weather and your intended activities. In general, because Ottawa is a national capital with a downtown Nordstrom and other chic shops, many embassies and their stylish events and is frequented by Members of Parliament and lobbyists, it is a town where you can dress up and not look out of place. Dressing to the nines is not required for tourists and a casual look is O.K. but sloppiness will look out of place. ‘Nuf said?
This Destination At A Glance
Mobility Level: Low. While there are some hills and steps, most are easily navigable and accessible public transportation abounds.
When To Go: Anytime, especially in 2017 when Canada turns 150 years old. Winters can be very cold but ice skating on the Rideau Canal and other winter activities appeal to many Canadians and tourists alike. Late spring, summer and early fall are usually wonderful. The Ottawa Jazz Festival is a big June attraction.
Canada Day (July 1) is a citywide party with concerts, great food and fireworks. In 2017, it will be the culmination of Canada’s sesquicentennial and should be the biggest Canada Day celebration ever. Events and commemorations run year-round. Check out www.ottawatourism.ca/ottawa2017/
Where To Stay: The magnificent and luxurious Fairmont Chateau Laurier is right on the Rideau canal, adjacent to Parliament Hill and close to downtown attractions. Many other downtown hotels are close by.
Special Travel Interests: Canadian government, culture and history.
Editor’s Notes: Orenstein is a syndicated travel writer from Florida’s West Coast. He and his wife Virginia enjoy simply smart travel and writing about it. They can be reached at jorenstein@SimplySmartTravel.com. Check out their travel tips, photos, articles and blog at www.SimplySmartTravel.com and like them at www.facebook.com/SimplySmartTravel/