Off the beaten path: Hidden gems in Ottawa, the must-visit destination of 2019
Tavern on the Hill Ottawa, with Parliament in the background. (Ottawa Tourism)
Looking for an incredible summer holiday destination? Ottawa is a city of national treasures and local hidden gems. Our nation's capital offers world-class museums and galleries, the opportunity to deepen your appreciation of our national history and the chance to partake in a wide range of amazing festivals.
And you may be surprised to discover that Ottawa has recently morphed into the hip urban cousin of Toronto and Montreal offering authentic culinary and cultural experiences you can only find here. Additionally if you need a touch of the great outdoors to make your holiday complete, adventure awaits a mere 20 minutes from Ottawa's front door. Here are some suggestions to get the most out of your summer getaway.
Arts and culture
In this photo, the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries are seen. (National Gallery of Canada)
The city's vibrant art scene includes well-known treasures, such as The National Gallery of Canada, home to a number of important selections by popular Canadian artists and an incredible collection of Indigenous art. If you prefer something a little more organic, hit the streets and check out the public art and murals that are popping up all over the city.
A Company of Fools offers pay-what-you-can Shakespeare performance in various parks around the city from July 2 through to August 17. If you can plan your visit accordingly, the Monday night performance of Romeo and Juliet at Strathcona Park in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood is a great location from which to enjoy the show.
The Canadian Children’s Museum housed within the incredible Canadian Museum of History just across the Ottawa River from Ottawa, is a great spot to spend some family time. Within the museum's walls kids can travel the world; play with shadow puppets from Thailand, try on a kimono from Japan, relax in a Bedouin camp, shop a market in France or drive a brightly-coloured Pakistani bus. Fill up the passport given upon arrival with stamps as a souvenir of your visit. If you can time your visit to coincide with a Thursday evening, admission is free.
With an incredible line-up of festivals throughout the summer, it would be hard to not hit at least one of them while planning a summer time visit to Ottawa.
An eclectic group of summer-time music festivals cover genres from hip-hop to chamber music. For a more ceremonial event, the Changing of the Guard happens every day at 9:45 a.m. throughout the summer and is a great way to add some colour and history to your visit.
Although hardly an unknown, there is something incredible about spending Canada Day in Ottawa – an event every Canadian should do at least once. Apart from the action at the Hill, stroll over to the free concerts put on just five blocks from Parliament Hill in Confederation Park as part of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival.
Although hardly an unknown, there is something incredible about spending Canada Day in Ottawa – an event every Canadian should do at least once. (Ottawa Tourism)
Food and drink
For breakfast, head to Stoneface Dolly's in Little Italy. Try the chicken bobotie, a South African curry dish or spice it up with their eggs Benedict topped with a diablo sauce. If you just want to grab a coffee, Equator in the Westboro area houses its own roaster and is a local favourite. Riviera has a modern vibe and a great menu. Located on Sparks Street, the city's pedestrian-only area, it’s been named one of Canada’s Best Restaurants since its opening.
If you prefer a river view, the Mill Street Brewery is housed in an old stone building overlooking the rapids on the Ottawa River next to the Canadian War Museum. A personal favourite is Das Lokal, a German-themed urban cottage located on the edge of Ottawa's popular ByWard Market area, where the cocktails and schnitzel are delicious.
Speaking of cocktails, two of Ottawa's newest summer patio hot spots are Tavern on the Hill and Tavern on the Falls, offering drinks and a view. For after-dinner drinks, check out Charlotte, a contemporary lounge where you can choose to sip in your living room of choice. House of Targ is an old school arcade and pinball joint that hosts live music events, skewing punk and heavy rock. On Sundays, cover is $6 and includes unlimited free play of the games.
Gatineau Park is Ottawa's outdoor playground. Within 20 minutes from downtown, you can be zip lining through the trees, hiking along the beautiful Wolf Trail or swimming in Meech Lake. On your way back, be sure to treat yourself after a day of activity to the best ice cream cone you will ever have at La Cigale in the charming town of Chelsea.
If you want to stay close to the downtown core, head to the free yoga classes on Parliament Hill. Every Wednesday at noon throughout the summer hundreds of people find their zen en masse. If you prefer zumba, go for the free lesson on Sundays at 4 p.m. The photo makes for a memorable family Instagram post.
Yoga on Parliament Hill. (Ottawa Tourism)
For those who like their thrills, you can find the highest bungee jump in North America (61 metres!) at the Great Canadian Bungee. Or test out the Ottawa River, it has earned a reputation as one of the world's best destinations for whitewater rafting with rapids of all levels available.
If you weren't planning on crossing Ottawa off your travel bucket list this summer, you should be.
Test out the Ottawa River, it has earned a reputation as one of the world's best destinations for whitewater rafting with rapids of all levels available. (OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River)