What not to miss…

Grand Magazine - - CON­TENTS -

What not to miss in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal

If you are among the masses head­ing to Ot­tawa this sum­mer for what’s be­ing called “Canada’s Big­gest Party Ever,” there are a few at­trac­tions you just won’t want to miss.

Our fam­ily goes ev­ery sum­mer to visit my part­ner’s French-Cana­dian mom, who lives a few blocks from the ByWard Mar­ket neigh­bour­hood. The open-air mar­ket pro­vides enough en­ter­tain­ment (and cheese!) in it­self to fill our few va­ca­tion days, but with Ot­tawa Mayor Jim Wat­son promis­ing a “once in a gen­er­a­tion” ex­pe­ri­ence for Canada’s 150th – ex­pect­ing to draw some 10 mil­lion tourists by year’s end – we thought we had bet­ter do some early plan­ning.

“Big, bold, im­mer­sive and trans­for­ma­tive” is how Ot­tawa is mar­ket­ing the many fes­tiv­i­ties planned through­out the year, far sur­pass­ing the cus­tom­ary fire­works and fan­fare show­cas­ing Par­lia­ment Hill ev­ery July 1. (But, if that’s your predilec­tion, book your ac­com­mo­da­tion early. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the throngs of tourists look­ing for beds, the city has even opened up park­ing lots, are­nas and parks for camp­ing and RVing.)

For our fam­ily, I’m hop­ing to miss a bit of the may­hem by head­ing to Ot­tawa in late Au­gust, when there should still be lots of party-go­ing, but hope­fully fewer party-go­ers.

Here is what we in­tend to hit. (Check out ot­ for a full list of ac­tiv­i­ties.)

ByWard Mar­ket is more than buskers, beer pa­tios and Brie this sum­mer. Forty-one pop-up stages mounted in­side ship­ping con­tain­ers will of­fer spe­cial ex­hibits, such as culi­nary demon­stra­tions and per­for­mances that show­case dif­fer­ent prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries. “In­spi­ra­tion Vil­lage” will be in­stalled on York Street un­til Sept. 4 and its ac­tiv­i­ties are free.

The Cana­dian War Mu­seum (war­mu­seum. ca) was last on my list for our fam­ily visit last year, but turned out to be the most af­fect­ing des­ti­na­tion for all of us.

It wasn’t just the full the­atre of war in the “Ex­pe­ri­ences” gal­leries — in­ter­ac­tive, dig­i­tally an­i­mated rooms with flashes and booms of ar­tillery amidst real mil­i­tary ar­ti­facts — nor was it the smaller per­sonal re­flec­tive spaces, the staged liv­ing rooms of fam­i­lies lis­ten­ing to the news on so­fas in the 1940s, the piles of real sol­diers’ let­ters we sat and read, and some 330 orig­i­nal works of art on dis­play.

It was the man who ap­proached my

12-year-old son when he was nose-to-glass over a dis­play case of old guns.

The tall el­derly man in a blue blazer, shoul­ders stooped, no doubt from the weight of all the dan­gling medals pinned to his chest, was one of about 65 “vol­un­tary in­ter­preters” with per­sonal war ex­pe­ri­ence who wan­der around in­ter­act­ing with mu­seum vis­i­tors. Th­ese in­ter­preters bring to life the things in the glass cases as well as telling sto­ries of their own. My son, for ex­am­ple, learned the Lee-En­field No. 4 was a gun used in Ko­rea and in the Sec­ond World War.

For Canada’s 150th year, the War Mu­seum is mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge with a di­verse range of ex­hi­bi­tions and pro­grams, and we won’t miss it.

Oth­ers may pre­fer the part­ner mu­seum just across the Ot­tawa River in Gatineau: The Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory (his­to­ry­mu­ For­merly the Cana­dian Mu­seum of Civ­i­liza­tion – it was re­named and re­branded in 2013 – it is one of the most vis­ited mu­se­ums in Canada. When our kids were younger, not much could beat the chil­dren’s sec­tion and its in­ter­ac­tive world expo.

The spe­cial ex­hibit this sum­mer is called “Hockey,” and, for some, you can’t get much more Cana­dian than a puck and a stick. Ex­pect a glimpse of Mau­rice “The Rocket” Richard’s fa­mous sweater.

The mu­seum is also re­design­ing its Canada Hall for a grand open­ing on Canada Day. Closed since Sept. 1, 2014, some had crit­i­cized the mu­seum for mainly fo­cus­ing on the ar­rival of Euro­peans in the 11th cen­tury and on­wards. The new hall will span two floors and will cover 13,000 years of Cana­dian his­tory, from the ear­li­est In­dige­nous Peo­ple to the 21st cen­tury.

The Na­tional Gallery of Canada (gallery. ca) is fol­low­ing suit with re­vi­sions of its own: the new Cana­dian and In­dige­nous Gal­leries. Cu­ra­tors have rethought how to present Cana­dian art and cul­ture, in­ter­weav­ing Abo­rig­i­nal and Inuit work. Our Master­pieces, Our Sto­ries will fea­ture close to 1,000 works of Cana­dian art – all un­der one roof.

The Cana­dian Mu­seum of Na­ture (na­ture. ca) is open­ing a new per­ma­nent gallery space called the Canada Goose Arc­tic Gallery. It’s a re­gion in Canada my chil­dren and I are un­likely to visit in per­son, but this ex­po­si­tion prom­ises an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence with the North’s unique land­scape, its plants and an­i­mals, and the voices of the peo­ple who live there.

In the spirit of flash­mobs, Ig­nite 150 presents a se­ries of what’s be­ing called “17 epic stunts and hap­pen­ings that will tur­bocharge ev­ery cor­ner of the cap­i­tal in 2017.” Key el­e­ments of the pro­gram­ming will be re­vealed a few days be­fore each event via the Ot­tawa 2017 app.

It’s hard to imag­ine what Ig­nite 150 will come up with to match the mon­sters from La Ma­chine, on loan from France: a gi­ant, fire-breath­ing dragon and a huge me­chan­i­cal spi­der will roam the streets of down­town Ot­tawa from July 27 to 30. With a cost of $3 mil­lion, this will mark the first time the fire-breath­ing and wa­ter-spray­ing crea­tures in­vade North Amer­ica.

Per­haps the event most an­tic­i­pated by my teen is Kon­tin­uum, a free in­ter­ac­tive sound and light fan­tasy voy­age, 350 me­tres un­der­ground to Lyon Street Sta­tion, a stop on Ot­tawa’s un­fin­ished light rail tran­sit tun­nel. Mon­treal- and Ot­tawa-based creators Mo­ment Fac­tory open Kon­tin­uum to the public un­til mid-Sep­tem­ber.

La Ma­chine hopes to cap­ti­vate au­di­ences with its am­bu­la­tory ur­ban the­atre on the streets of down­town Ot­tawa.

Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory

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