OTTAWA: THE CAPITAL OF EXCITEMENT
If you’ve never visited Ottawa before—and even if you have—this is the year to put Canada’s capital on your “must see” calendar. Not only will the city be throwing a year-long party to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, but it will also see the opening of a $110.5-million expansion of the National Arts Centre (NAC) and a new home for the Ottawa Art Gallery.
In addition, Ottawa will host both the Juno Awards for music and the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup championship. And, of course, you can still enjoy activities ranging from the Changing of the Guard ceremony to skating on the Rideau Canal. Here’s just a taste of what you can expect in Canada’s sixth-largest city in 2017.
Whether you’re a fan of theatre, music, dance, photography or painting, you’ll be able to enjoy your favourite cultural treats in stylish new surroundings.
The NAC recently renovated its largest theatre, Southam Hall, but that’s just the beginning of the big news at the city’s flagship home of theatre, music and dance. On Canada Day (July 1), the NAC is set to unveil a multi-storey glass atrium overlooking the National War Memorial, Confederation Square and Parliament Hill.
In fall, the Ottawa Art Gallery will move into a new five-storey building of over 7,432 sq. m (80,000 sq. ft.), which includes a screening space that will be home to the Canadian Film Institute. The new gallery is centrally located between the University of Ottawa and the Rideau Centre.
In summer, the private School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO) plans to move into stylish new quarters in Little Italy that will include a public gallery featuring students’ work.
Photographers visiting Ottawa can also draw inspiration from the Canadian Photography Institute—one of the continent’s largest public photography institutes—whose dedicated exhibition space opened within the National Gallery of Canada last October. It focuses on Canadian works created between 1960 and 2000.
Speaking of the National Gallery, it is currently transforming its Canadian Galleries and some of the Contemporary Galleries, which will reopen mid-year as the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries. The new space will present Native Canadian and Western-style art together, helping visitors understand Canada’s art history from a new perspective.
Ottawa offers lots of chances to clamber aboard your choice of watercraft. Rideau Canal Cruises is set to launch its second electric-powered boat this year, providing environmentally friendly tours of the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of the city. Visitors can also
enjoy the canal by houseboat, kayak or canoe—or cycle, walk or jog on paths along its banks. In winter, the groomed ice surface becomes the world’s largest skating rink.
In nearby Gatineau, the airboat tours offered by Bayou-Outaouais give visitors the chance to spot a variety of wildlife including great blue herons, painted turtles, ospreys, beavers and rare water plants.
Thrill-seekers can take a short road trip west of the city to test their mettle against Class III to Class V whitewater rapids on the Ottawa River. Whitewater rafting companies, such as OWL Rafting near Foresters Falls, provide trips to suit a wide range of ages and abilities—no previous paddling experience required!
Ottawa welcomed two sleek new hotels in 2016. The Andaz Ottawa Byward Market— the first Canadian location for Hyatt’s Andaz brand—features a farm-to-table restaurant, a sensational rooftop bar and terrace, and rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. The Alt Hotel Ottawa in Centretown offers 148 rooms with Keurig coffee makers, Italian-designed armchairs and spa-style showers. In 2018, the Alt’s sister property, Le Germain Hotel Ottawa, is slated to open as part of the new Ottawa Art Gallery complex.
New Year’s Eve celebrations and Winterlude kick off the Capital’s busy festival schedule, which later in the year features such events as the Canadian Tulip Festival, the Ottawa Children’s Festival, the Festival franco-ontarien Banque Nationale, the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa Chamberfest, the Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light, City Folk music festival, the Ottawa International Animation Festival, the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival, and Christmas Lights Across Canada (www.ottawatourism.ca/en/visitors/what-to-do/festival-and-events).
The Canadian Museum of Nature will open the 743-sq.-m (8,000-sq.-ft.) Canada Goose Arctic Gallery on June 21. The new permanent gallery will allow people to virtually “visit” the hard-to-reach region, which comprises roughly 40 percent of Canada’s area. Interactive games, two aquaria, videos by northerners and artefacts will illuminate four themes: climate, ecosystems, sustainability and geography.
Less than two weeks later, on July 1, the Canadian Museum of History will open the Canadian History Hall, a 3,716-sq.-m (40,000-sq.-ft.) space which includes three galleries, 1,500 artefacts, 100 digital productions and 75 maps. This permanent exhibition will tell the story of Canada from the first human habitation to the present day. The museum’s major temporary exhibition for the year will be Hockey in Canada: More Than Just a Game (March 10 to October 9).
At the Royal Canadian Mint, a permanent guided tour gives visitors a peek into how Canadian coins are made. Nearby, the Bytown Museum, which focuses on the city’s history, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with a special exhibition called Bytown Museum: A Century of Community (February 3, 2017 to February 18, 2018).
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is launching a new interactive audio guide, while the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum has a spring exhibition about farmers’ use of satellite data and a summer show about canola.
The Canadian War Museum’s major show is Vimy – Battle, Memorial, Icon
(April 6, 2017, to January 7, 2018). Not built by the museum, but located nearby, the new National Holocaust Monument is scheduled to be unveiled late in the year. Also in late 2017, the Canada Science and Technology Museum plans to reopen after an $80.5-million renovation.
Ottawa’s quirkiest museum may be the Diefenbunker—once an unused Cold War-era underground hideout for politicians. Filled with 1960s furniture and technology, it offers intriguing activities, such as Halloween zombie adventures and a huge “escape room” where teams of up to 12 have an hour to foil some “spies” and work their way out of the facility.
Opportunities to dine well abound in Ottawa. Neighbourhoods such as the Byward Market, West Wellington,
Westboro, Little Italy and the Glebe are home to a wide range of restaurants, while the number of destination bistros in areas such as New Edinburgh and Hintonburg continues to grow. In Chinatown, the Yangtze Dining Hall has been renowned for its dim sum for more than three decades. In Sandy Hill, Signatures—a Le Cordon Bleu restaurant housed in an elegant Victorian mansion—serves classic French cuisine prepared by chefs training at the prestigious school.
BE A SPORT
In 2016, the Ottawa REDBLACKS were the first Ottawa team in four decades to bring home the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup, and this year the city will host the next championship. Sports fans can also cheer on the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, the Ottawa Fury of the North American Soccer League, and several other sports teams.
Clearly, this year, Ottawa will have enough happening to amuse just about every visitor. To find out more, see the Ottawa Tourism website at www.ottawatourism.ca.
RIDEAU CANAL SKATEWAY • OTTAWA TOURISM
BYWARD MARKET • OTTAWA TOURISM