When foreign visitors think of visiting Canada, they usually consider the large cities of Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. Maybe they think about the popular Niagara Falls or other popular tourist attractions at the Rocky Mountain National Parks of Jasper and Banff. Situated between Toronto and Montreal is Canada’s capital: the city of Ottawa. And in 2017, Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, so Ottawa will be the center of attention! There’s a lot to see in Ottawa, with different activities throughout the year. Because Ottawa is located in a climate that offers extremes in all four seasons, there is something going on at any time of the year. Here are some of the top places to visit in Ottawa.
Top Places to Visit in Ottawa
The Central Core
Because Ottawa is the capital city, Canada’s federal government buildings are located in the center of the city. The impressive Canadian Parliament Buildings at Parliament Hill offers free guided tours daily. Don’t forget to get your ticket across the street ahead of time.
Don’t miss the elevator to the top of the Peace Tower in order to enjoy magnificent 180-degree views of the city.
Insider Tip: Walk to the rear of the Parliament and visit the Parliament Library and a view of the city of Gatineau on the other side of the Ottawa River.
Next up, wander over to the fabulous Chateau Laurier Hotel and have a look in the lobby. Then walk around the market area north of Rideau Street.
The Canadian War Museum is well worth a visit. Canada’s most recent military history is as a peacekeeping force, however it has an active history dating back to the War of 1812.
The Notre Dam Cathedral Basilica is probably Ottawa’s most eye-catching church. Even if you’re not a church-goer, the architecture of this building is definitely worthwhile to see. Plus, it’s free.
Finish your visit off with a walk alongside the Rideau Canal. Completed in 1832, this UNESCO World Heritage site runs 202 km between Ottawa and lake Ontario to the south. Popular with pleasure boating during the summer, it’s also one of the world’s longest skating rinks during the winter.
East of the City
Set to reopen in November of 2017 in a brand new facility, the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology offers a fascinating look into Canada’s long history of scientific and technological achievements.
The museum is a lot of fun for kids and adults alike and has a lot of interactive hands-on displays. The Crooked Kitchen is a family favorite!
On a hot summer day, you can do a day trip to Calypso Water Park, Canada’s largest water playground. Located only 45 km (28 miles) east of the city, it makes a fun family outing.
West of the City
The Experimental Farm is a favorite attraction for families with younger children who enjoy visiting the farm animals. It’s a working farm, but it’s also Canada’s farm research facility. So while the children can enjoy the farm animals, adults can learn about the various techniques employed in farming to make farms more efficient and Canada’s food chain safe.
And a little further west you can plan a visit to The Diefenbunker. This was Canada’s Cold War hideaway, where important members of the government would be able to carry on business in the event of a nuclear disaster or attack or other serious event. Really interesting to see this underground bunker and how people would have survived 50 years ago. Located only 38 km (23 miles) west of the city center, this is a must-see attraction for visitors to Canada’s capital city.
It’s also recommended to rent a car for a few days and take advantage of the many other day trips that you can make when you use the city of Ottawa as a base. The Lake Ontario waterfront is only an hour-and-a-half drive. And the Gatineau Hills in the border province of Quebec on the other side of the Ottawa River make for a getaway to the countryside offering many hiking trails, beaches, and picnic areas.
Ottawa is a beautiful city in the summertime and is even enjoyable in winter if you’re a lover of cold weather activities. And it will be especially worth a visit this year to help Canada celebrate 150 years of being a country!