Images of children skating on the famous Rideau Canal while onlookers satisfy their cravings with a 'beaver tail,' the National Capital's familiar snack, and a cup of hot cocoa is always a pleasant and heartwarming representation of Ottawa. Yet, there is so much more to this beautiful city than taking part in its timeless winter activities.
Being an Ottawa native, I am spoiled by the city's captivating and multifaceted beauty that can be witnessed all year long. Tourists from far and wide travel to Ottawa to experience the various activities and many sites that the capital offers its guests throughout the four seasons.
Embracing the season
The National Capital Region’s splendour is not limited to just one season. Ottawa rewards locals and tourists alike during the warm summer months with its abundant scenic bike paths and walking trails, many of which are along the tranquil and picturesque Rideau River. Ottawa has always been known as a city that places importance on its green space and its conservation. And, if you are lucky enough, you may be able to observe some of its precious wildlife enjoying their bounty while on the trails.
To add some historical flair, the majestic and gothic-like federal government buildings set on the impressive Parliament Hill is the site of the legendary Changing of the Guard ceremony performed every morning throughout the summer months. If you have never witnessed it before, then this is a must-see event. This large-scale production is like no other, as spectators feel the intensity of the colourful drills while enjoying the well-choreographed regimental band and bagpipers. To see reservists in the Canadian Forces serve their country dressed head to toe in uniform is something else!
The fall and winter months are deemed to be some of the most spectacular months in the Nation's capital. In autumn, visitors are elated by the colourful tapestry offered by Gatineau Park’s Fall Rhapsody. The park and its spectacular changing foliage, which is typically observed from well-positioned lookouts or from any of the park’s countless hiking trails, is a short ten minute jaunt from downtown Ottawa.
Winter in Ottawa has its romantic charm and is one of my favourite times of the year. Ottawa streets and parks are illuminated by thousands of glowing Christmas lights as part of the magical Christmas Lights Across Canada tradition. Lights that embrace and highlight the winter landscape can be seen everywhere in the National Capital Region. All is that is needed is a thermos full of hot cocoa to set the mood.
Canada's 150th Anniversary
If you were looking for a convincing reason to visit Ottawa, Canada’s 150th birthday is definitely it. And 2017 is the year to do it!
July 1st 2017, will mark Canada’s 150th anniversary and what a birthday celebration it will be! Festivities of epic proportions are in the works and not just for the day nor for the month, but for the entire year.
The Ottawa 2017 task force has made sure that Ottawa is being noticed on the international stage as a city that represents excitement by offering unique and entertaining experiences in the Nation’s capital. Ottawa 2017's mission is to "allow all residents and visitors, from Canada and abroad, to celebrate our past and our identity while getting local residents and businesses to be inspired in building our future."
"Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations will offer Canadians and visitors from around the world an exceptional and memorable year of high-caliber experiences while bringing a record number of visitors to Ottawa in 2017 to mark this important milestone for our country.” - Ottawa 2017
RED BULL CRASHED ICE: (March 3 & 4, 2017)
For those who seek adrenaline, imagine the world’s best athletes competing for the ultimate title during the final showdown on the iconic locks of the Rideau Canal, overlooking Parliament Hill and the famous Chateau Laurier. Competition will take place in cities across the northern hemisphere leading up to the thrilling conclusion and crowning of the world champions in Ottawa.
HOCKEY: CELEBRATING THE STANLEY CUP’S 125TH ANNIVERSARY (March 15 to 18, 2017)
Celebrating Ottawa wouldn't be complete without celebrating hockey. This four-day event will celebrate the integral role hockey has played in shaping our country’s identity and the longstanding love and admiration Canadians have for our national treasure, the Stanley Cup. It will be the signature event to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, where the tradition started. Hockey fans will have the opportunity to meet their favourite NHL alumni and have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup inside the Aberdeen Pavilion.
OTTAWA WELCOMES THE WORLD (All Year)
“As the capital of Canada and host of so many foreign embassies and high commissions, our city has the unique opportunity to engage the international community in Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations,” says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. The historic Horticulture Building and Aberdeen Pavilion will be the setting for international showcases that highlight trade, tourism, education, food, music, dance and more. Ottawa celebrates and embraces the diverse cultures that make our city whole.
LA MACHINE (July 26 to 30, 2017)
For a spectacular sensory overload, this is one of the most unique events happening in Ottawa. Whether it be the immensely towering fire-breathing dragon or the gargantuan spider crawling across the city, La Machine will no doubt captivate audiences with its moving urban theatre on the streets of downtown Ottawa. A North American first, the production company, based in Nantes, France, is world-renowned for its extraordinary, large-scale machines.
Ottawa's food scene
Over the last five years, the Ottawa food scene has emerged to be one that Ottawa has been striving for. With the empowering movement of 'farm to fork' concepts, we see more and more chefs and local producers working side-by-side to provide dining patrons with exquisite products that are predominantly locally sourced.
Ottawa's culinary scene is fortunate to have talented men and women at the helm of such amazing eateries creating tantalizing dishes. Acclaimed restaurants can be found everywhere in the Ottawa region. From the revitalized Westboro neighbourhood and the famous Elgin Street with its surrounding area to the historical downtown ByWard market, food purveyors cater to all tastes and cravings. Whether you’re in search of a fine dining establishment, a 'Mom and Pop' diner or even an award-winning molecular gastronomy restaurant - all can be found in our beautiful city.
New additions to Ottawa's food scene are the delectable Riviera and feast + revel restaurants. Riviera, located on the pedestrian Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, occupies an old bank building and has brought back the 'old school' appeal to dining. The ambiance, aided by the grandeur look and feel of marble and leather, is amplified by the mouth-watering dishes created by Chefs Matthew Carmichael and Jordan Holley.
With their awe-inspiring 70-foot-long bar where you will find a master mixologist concocting your favourite cocktails and their open-concept kitchen, Riviera provides a new meaning to a 'culinary experience.' Whether you crave a succulent steak, rich homemade pasta or a remarkable seafood dish, Riviera has brought back the feel of a casual yet elegant dining experience that Ottawa needed.
Feast + revel, Ottawa's latest culinary venture having celebrated their grand opening only a few months ago, is already making quite the name for itself. Located in the new Andaz hotel in the heart of downtown Ottawa, feast + revel pays homage to all things Canadian. Led by Executive Chef Stephen La Salle, the restaurant combines "old world traditional methods and flavours from France and England with wildlife from Canada’s rugged landscapes."
Guests of the restaurant are spoiled by the Canadian inspired dishes whose flavours are fresh and supremely palatable. Dishes such as the arctic char cured in an arctic Canadian gin or the wild boar rillette are great examples of gastronomy incorporating a Canadian twist. And for foodies like myself, guests can literally get up-close and personal and see all the culinary action by sitting just a mere foot away from feast + revel's open concept kitchen. Now that's a dining experience!
“I’m very excited to be able to explore and push the boundaries of what we know to be Canadian food. By applying sophisticated techniques to familiar flavours, we are able to showcase a completely new dining experience here at the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market,” said Chef La Salle.
Ottawa doesn't discriminate when it comes to the love of food. With its plethora of various eateries and different styles of dining, Ottawa caters to all palates!
Where to stay
Ottawa has many options as to where to stay overnight as you enjoy your Ottawa experience. However, it is only fitting that I mention the newly opened Andaz hotel as the hospitality and services offered are spot on! This charming 200 room boutique hotel oozes chic without being pretentious. Guests at the hotel will be immersed in Canadian culture and history as every floor of the 16-storey pet-friendly hotel characterises a Canadian province or territory.
Much like their signature restaurant feast + revel, the hotel not only embraces but also incorporates all things Canadian…from the mini-bar items to the bathroom amenities, nothing is overlooked.
And if it wasn't enough to capture the Canadian spirit in Ottawa, the hotel also hosts the tallest rooftop bar in the city, Copper Spirits & Sights. Located on the 16th floor, this sophisticated lounge and bar offers guests both an open-air and an enclosed area. This provides patrons with the opportunity to fully enjoy Ottawa's beautiful city view with its copper-topped buildings all the while imbibing an intoxicating libation regardless of the season.
Ottawa, with its rich culture and remarkable history, will no doubt suit everyone’s wishes as there are numerous activities and events waiting to be discovered. Whether you are taking part in Canada's 150th anniversary or you are just coming down for the weekend, Ottawa will embrace you and make you appreciate true Canadian culture.
Enjoy the full gallery below: