Thursday, August 15, 2013


Top 5 Things to do in Ottawa

This Summer, I have asked several friends to tell us the Top 5 Things to do in their cities.  Join us each week as we learn about a new city!  This week let's head up to Canada.

One of my absolute favourite cities in Canada is our nation's capital, Ottawa. The city, which is located on the banks of the Ottawa River bordering the province of Québec, is not only one of the most picturesque in the country but it's also one of the most family-friendly destinations that you can find. It's a city that my family returns to again and again and I don't think that I will ever get tired of it. In fact, I love Ottawa so much that it's one of a handful of cities that I can imagine myself living in one day.
Mountie at Parliament Hill in Ottawa
A Mountie on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Ottawa is a lovely city with historic architecture and great natural beauty thanks to its location on the banks of the Ottawa River. One of my favourite places to go for a walk in the city is Parliament HillThe gothic-style Parliament Buildings and The Hill itself have both been named National Historic Sites of Canada and the Peace Tower of the Centre Block is both an important symbol of Canada and a great vantage point to look out over the city. 
Parliament Buildings - Peace Tower - Ottawa
The Peace Tower - Canada's Parliament building
 Ottawa is a city of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy being outside year round and visitors would be well-advised to follow their lead and take advantage of all the wonderful outdoor spaces and activities. There are many parks and green spaces in the city and cycling, kayaking, and hiking are popular summer activities while cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating on the Rideau Canal are fun cold weather activities. It simply doesn't matter what season you find yourself in Ottawa, rest assured that there will be plenty to do outdoors.
Emma by the Ottawa River
Enjoying a walk by the Ottawa River
The Canadian Capital Region is also home to world-class museums and galleries. The Canadian Museum of Civilization which also includes the Canadian Children's Museum is one of my favourite museums in the world. The museum's focus on Canadian culture and history makes a visit both fun and educational. We also enjoy visiting the National Gallery of Canada and taking pictures with the 30 foot high bronze sculpture of a spider called 'Maman' in the courtyard outside. The gallery has an extensive program of hands-on activities for kids which makes it a great choice for families that would like to expose their kids to art.
Cdn. Museum of Civilization - Grand Hall totems
Totems in the Grand Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

Emma outside National Gallery
'Maman" sculpture outside the National Gallery of Canada
The historic ByWard Market may very well be my favourite neighbourhood in Ottawa as it's the perfect place to just hang out. The market, which was established in 1826, is one of Canada's largest and oldest and visitors today will find a farmer's market, cafés, restaurants, galleries and unique shops. The market is also home to the original BeaverTails outlet and I'm fairly certain that eating one of these pastries at least once is required of all visitors. If the weather is hot and steamy and a refreshing treat is needed then I recommend Piccolo Grande for gelato. My younger daughter insists that the gelato here is as good as any that she tasted in Italy.
By Ward Market in Ottawa
Ottawa's ByWard Market

A BeaverTail snack
A BeaverTail snack in ByWard Market
Ottawa also has several popular festivals that attract droves of visitors to the city. Winterlude is held in the Capital Region for three weeks each February to celebrate winter and it doesn't matter how cold the weather it is still so much fun to skate on the Canal, check out the ice sculptures and enjoy the outdoor festivities. Spring is welcomed in Ottawa by the Canadian Tulip Festival which celebrates the special relationship between Canada and the Netherlands that developed when Canada provided a safe haven for the Dutch royal family during WWII. Probably the biggest party of them all though is the Canada Day celebration that takes place each July 1st in honour of our nation's birth and culminates in a fireworks show over Parliament Hill.  
Emma in front of tulip bed - Major's Hill Park
Ottawa during the Canadian Tulip Festival
Ottawa is such a cool city and there is so much for families to do that I guarantee it will only take one visit to be hooked and that first visit will just be one of many.

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer living near Toronto, Canada who left the corporate world to stay home with her two daughters, Katie and Emma (now aged 16 and 9). As well as writing about her family's travel adventures on her blog Gone With The FamilyLisa has written for a number of travel websites and is a regular contributor at Travel Mamas as The Spunky Travel Mama. You can also follow her on Facebook, on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily and on Google+.


Steve said...

Lisa forgot to mention that Ottawa is my birthplace, and I'm sure that the place I was born has been designated some sort of historic heritage site by now. Maybe that's what the 30ft spider is there to commemorate?

Lisa Goodmurphy said...

I had forgotten that you were born in Ottawa, Steve. Next time that I visit I'll keep my eyes open for the historic site marker commemorating your birth! ;)