Travel Guide to Canada
OTTAWA: IT’S POSSIBLE HERE
Once pegged as a “government town,” Ottawa has broken out of its shell and is garnering a reputation as a happening place. From outdoor activities to cultural experiences, from museums to festivals, Ottawa is showing the world that almost anything is possible.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
For visitors who like to get their feet wet, Ottawa delivers. Sitting on the south shoreline of the Ottawa River—renowned for its whitewater rafting and kayaking— the city is also the northern point of the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Rideau Canal, an historic waterway connecting Ottawa and Kingston via a series of 47 locks, is a watery playground for paddlers and pleasure boaters. Rideau Tours in Elgin offers a guided voyageur canoe experience along the new Route Champlain. The brand new tourist route stretches 1,500 km (932 mi.) across the province of Ontario, tracing the journey taken by the great explorer Samuel de Champlain (www.rideautours.ca).
This year, between May and October, Le Boat makes its North American debut on the waters of the Rideau Canal. These luxury self-drive boats are based halfway along the canal in the town of Smiths Falls and offer options of two, three or four cabins. Visitors will be able to explore the length of the canal at their own pace, taking time to explore rural Ontario towns, stop in at shops and markets and drop anchor for a swim along the way (www.leboat.ca).
Those craving the thrill of whitewater can sign on for one of OWL Rafting’s single-day or multi-day expeditions along the Ottawa River. Early in the season when the river is swollen by meltwaters is peak time for sport and adventure outings, while summertime is perfect for the gentle introduction of a family float. The OWL Rafting base at Foresters Falls offers camping, rustic cabins and new upscale cabañas (www.owlrafting.com).
For the first time in more than a century, Chaudière Falls, a set of waterfalls located on the Ottawa River just north of the Canadian War Museum, opened to the public as part of Ottawa 2017’s tribute to local Indigenous people. A new viewing platform offers an unobstructed view of the dramatic falls and is a way to celebrate the natural beauty of the waterway. Plans are to open the site again this spring, making it accessible to the public and connected to recreational bike paths.
REST AND REFUEL
Ottawa’s “castle,” the Fairmont Château Laurier, has just completed a multi-million dollar renovation of the luxury level Fairmont Gold, including an expansion to 69 rooms and suites, all completely updated with contemporary touches and technology. The hotel’s signature Zoé’s Lounge—known for Afternoon Tea—has been reimagined and revitalized with a classically elegant new look (www.fairmont.com).
Early in the year, the upscale Le Germain Hotel Ottawa opened in a mixed-use complex combining condominiums, a theatre and the completely redone Ottawa Art Gallery, in the heart of downtown and just minutes away from attractions like the Parliament Buildings and the ByWard Market. The luxury property boasts bold, artful designs in the rooms. A Lexus courtesy car can be arranged for guest use (www.legermainhotels.com).
A CITY OF MUSEUMS AND THE ARTS
The Canada Science and Technology Museum recently reopened its doors after $80.5 million of building repairs and upgrades. In the newly-upgraded space, through stories, artefacts and interactive exhibits, visitors can discover and experience Canada’s history of science, technology and innovation (www.ingeniumcanada.org).
Just west of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker— Canada’s Cold War Museum—is a four-storey underground bunker, built between 1959 and 1961 to house Canadian government officials
and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. The national historic site preserves the history of the Cold War era, one of the most critical times in world history (www. diefenbunker.ca).
In mid-2017, to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Canadian Museum of
Nature opened its new permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, a new way to look at one of the harshest environments in the world. Learn about Arctic geography, ecosystems and sustainability, as well as the impact of climate change through artefacts, first-hand perspectives and learning activities. The new space also presents temporary exhibitions in the Northern Voices Gallery, providing an opportunity for Northern communities to share their own perspectives about the
Arctic and their relationship with the land (www.nature.ca/en/home).
Last summer, the National Gallery of Canada, one of the country’s finest art museums, unveiled its new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries. Through art, these galleries convey the remarkable stories that have shaped the nation. The Indigenous Art collection—First Nations, Métis and Inuit artworks—showcase works by some of the best-known Aboriginal artists in Canada (www.gallery.ca).
The National Arts Centre is the platform for Canada’s best music, dance and theatre. Now in the midst of a major renovation, the NAC is adding improved performance spaces, public areas for education and events, full accessibility for people with mobility challenges and a magnificent glass atrium entrance on Elgin Street (www.nac-can.ca).
The Canadian History Hall was unveiled on Canada Day 2017 in the Canadian Museum of History. This new signature exhibit presents the history of Canada and its people from the dawn of human habitation to the present day, covering a span of approximately 15,000 years. The collection is the largest exhibition of Canadian history ever developed and includes authentic artefacts, national historical treasures and compelling stories that bring to life the events, personalities and historical currents that have shaped the nation (www.historymuseum.ca).
The striking architecture of the Canadian War Museum is designed to emerge out of the riverside landscape, stressing the theme of regeneration; how the land can be ravaged by war but is still able to accommodate the devastation
wrought by human conflict. The enormous building preserves half a million historical artefacts as well as interactive displays that detail Canada’s history of armed conflict (www.warmuseum.ca).
The new National Holocaust Monument, titled Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival, serves to honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and the important lessons it so painfully taught. There is a walkthrough portion of the monument that includes a large gathering space, 13 plaques, six murals, a small room for quiet reflection and a terrace with views of Canada’s Capital Region (www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca).
The Bank of Canada Museum (formerly the Currency Museum) recently opened in a completely renovated new building. Entertaining, hands-on and interactive exhibits use high-tech and informative videos, multimedia stations and old-school displays to help bring the economy front and centre in a way that visitors can see it, touch it, walk through it and experience it as never before (www.bankofcanada museum.ca).
Beginning in fall, the Parliament of Canada’s Centre Block will be closed to tours in preparation for a decade-long rehabilitation. Guided tours of Parliament will be offered at two new sites: The West Block—the interim home of the House of Commons, and the Government
Conference Centre—the interim home of the Senate. Visitors will still be able to take a tour of the East Block (visit.parl.ca).
Each winter, Ottawa celebrates Winterlude, a unique festival featuring snow and ice sculpture competitions, snow playgrounds, sporting events and skating on the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink, the Rideau Canal (www.canada.pch.gc.ca).
Springtime is ushered in with the annual Canadian Tulip Festival, where gardens are splashed with the colour of more than a million tulips in bloom (www. tulipfestival.ca ).
June 21 to 24 marks the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival. Recognized as North America’s largest dragon boat festival, the four-day celebration offers world-class entertainment and concerts, amusement attractions, sports demonstrations, artisans, exhibitors and culinary treats, a beach-side bar, children’s area and non-stop racing (www.dragonboat.net).
For more information, look on-line at www.ottawatourism.ca .