Travel Guide to Canada
OTTAWA-GATINEAU: REGION ON THE RISE
If you haven’t been to Ottawa-Gatineau lately, you might not recognize the place. In the last few years, Canada’s capital region has utterly remade itself.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
The National Arts Centre has a grand new glass entrance, offering superb views of Confederation Square and Parliament Hill (www.nac-cna.ca).
On the other side of the Rideau Canal, the airy new home of the Ottawa Art Gallery (www.oaggao.ca) has won acclaim for its architecture, its collection of works by local artists and its light-filled café.
A sleek building at 50 Sussex Drive, overlooking Rideau Falls, has been transformed into the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s new Centre for Geography and Exploration (www.rcgs.org/50sussex). There, visitors can see free exhibitions on topics such as Arctic research.
On top of these changes, the single largest infrastructure project in Ottawa’s history is due to open late this year: the first phase of a new light rail transit (LRT) route, which will stretch 12.5 km (7.8 mi.) from west to east (www.octranspo.com). When it is up and running, visitors and locals alike will be able to travel by train to popular local attractions such as the Canadian War Museum, CF Rideau Centre and Parliament Hill.
Ah, yes, Parliament Hill. Ottawa’s bestknown site will be changing significantly, and it will be open to visitors in a whole new way.
NEW ON THE HILL
At the beginning of the year, the Centre Block on Parliament Hill—home to the House of Commons and the Senate—closed for what is expected to be a decade of extensive renovations. Of course, Canada’s government hasn’t shut down. Parliamentarians have simply moved to temporary digs.
Via a new visitors’ centre (visit.parl.ca), people can tour the House of Commons in the West Block on the Hill and the Senate in a heritage former train station across the street. The latter was formerly closed to the general public for many years, so the chance to peek behind its grand columns is a nice side benefit of the Parliament Hill restoration.
A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
By mid-year, Ottawa’s inventory of hotel rooms is expected to jump by about 10 percent from 2017 levels, an increase of about 1,000 rooms. That means visitors now have an even wider range of places to stay.
Attached to the new Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa’s first Le Germain Hotel (www.leger mainhotels.com/en/ottawa) opened last June. That same year, the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton (www.hilton. com) opened downtown, off the Sparks Street Mall, and a second Homewood Suites by Hilton opened near the Ottawa International Airport. In west-end Kanata, Canada’s first GLo hotel opened last November, part of a new boutique brand from Best Western (glo.bestwestern.com). It offers guests easy access to concerts, hockey games and other events at the nearby Canadian Tire Centre.
Hotel construction doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. In the ByWard Market area alone, a new Holiday Inn Express (www.ihg.com) is slated to open at King Edward Avenue and St. Patrick Street in August, and developers have proposed to build a new Hampton Inn by Hilton and to expand the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market hotel (www.hyatt.com).
ARRIVE IN STYLE
Ottawa International Airport (www.yow.ca) is in the midst of a renovation and expansion project that will include new restaurants and shops, a relocated security screening area and a hotel. Plans are also in the works to extend the LRT system to the airport by 2023.
DINING, SHOPPING AND SPORTS
The historic ByWard Market area, in the shadow of Parliament Hill, is one of the
city’s best-known shopping and restaurant districts (www.byward-market.com/en/ home). It’s a stone’s throw from the CF Rideau Centre, home to upscale retailers such as Nordstrom, Michael Kors, and Tiffany and Co. (www.cfshops.com/ rideau-centre.html).
Beyond downtown, vibrant neighbourhoods packed with independent restaurants and boutiques include Wellington West, Westboro and the Glebe. The latter is also home to TD Place (www.tdplace.ca), a recently redeveloped site featuring everything from shops, restaurants and cinemas to a lively farmers’ market, the home stadium of both the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa REDBLACKS (www.ottawaredblacks.com) and the professional Ottawa Fury FC soccer team (www.ottawafuryfc.com), and the arena where the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s (www.ottawa67s.com) play. Speaking of hockey, the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators (www.nhl.com/ senators) play their home games at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata.
CULTURE AND HISTORY
Ottawa and its sister City of Gatineau, on the opposite shore of the Ottawa River, are home to numerous national museums and historic sites. For art lovers, the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries at the National Gallery of Canada show how creators from many artistic traditions have influenced each other (www.gallery.ca). The gallery’s big show this summer will be Gauguin: Portraits, the world’s first show devoted solely to the French artist’s pictures of people.
The Canadian Museum of Nature (www. nature.ca) is a magnet for animal lovers and families. One highlight is the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, where visitors can learn about the ecology, geography and Indigenous peoples of Canada’s polar regions through multimedia installations, rare artefacts and interactive games.
Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal designed the sinuous curves of the Canadian Museum of History (www.historymuseum. ca), on the shore of the Ottawa River. This summer, in its exhibition Neanderthals, the museum will highlight the history of some of humankind’s closest forebears. The heart of the museum is the Grand Hall, where sunshine from six-storey windows illuminates a permanent display of totem poles and other artworks created by Indigenous peoples of Canada’s West Coast.
History lovers should also leave time for two other Ottawa sites. The Canadian
War Museum (www.warmuseum.ca) shines a light on Canada’s military and peacekeeping activities, in conflicts ranging from the days before European colonization to recent operations in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. Beginning on July 26, the museum will host a temporary exhibition focusing on Canada’s involvement in the Korean War.
On Ottawa’s western edge, the Diefenbunker (www.diefenbunker.ca) is a restored Cold War-era underground installation that was designed to shelter Canada’s government in the event of a nuclear attack. Completed in 1961 and decommissioned in 1994, it is now a fascinating time capsule of its time and place, complete with vintage maps, furniture and more.
The Ottawa area offers an abundance of easily accessible opportunities for outdoor fun. Depending on the season, visitors can skate or paddle along the 19th century
Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site that winds through the heart of the city. Multi-use recreational paths along the canal are part of a network stretching over 600 km (373 mi.) throughout the region. Some of these paths lead through Gatineau Park, a 361-sq. km (139 sq. mi.) wilderness on the Québec side of the Ottawa River (www. ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/gatineau-park).
Speaking of the river, it offers superb whitewater rafting. Visitors can try a short day trip within the city limits with Ottawa City Rafting (www.ottawacityrafting.com). They can also tackle wilder waters northwest of the capital with companies, such as OWL Rafting (www.owlrafting.com), that offer a variety of day and weekend packages for everyone from young families to serious thrill seekers.
Ottawa is home to countless festivals throughout the year, including events focused on everything from chili to jazz. Some of the largest include Winterlude on the first three weekends of February (www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/ campaigns/winterlude.html), the Canadian Tulip Festival from May 10 to 20 (www. tulipfestival.ca) and a massive rock festival, RBC Bluesfest, from July 4 to 14 (www.ottawabluesfest.ca).
For more information, visit www. ottawatourism.ca.