Ottawa – Local

Photo credit: © Destination Ontario

Ottawa – Local

December 1, 2021

The nation’s capital is known for its impressive “big-ticket” possibilities: Parliament Hill, international festivals, nationally significant museums. Ottawa residents are proud to lay claim to the world’s longest skating rink and largest Tulip Festival. But they also love to just walk, shop, and enjoy their city — and so can you.


Day One


DAY 1

THE EXPERIMENTAL FARM — 10:30 AM


Photo courtesy of Friends of the Central Experimental Farm.

TAKE A WALK ON A WORKING FARM… IN THE CITY

It’s not often you’ll find a farm in a city. But the Central Experimental Farm (locals just call it the Experimental Farm) is only a few kilometres from downtown. It’s no hobby farm, not at 426 hectares. Established in 1886, the farm has made significant contributions to Canadian agriculture, including developing the world-famous frost-resistant Marquis wheat. Take a deep dive into Canada’s agricultural heritage at the Canadian Agricultural and Food Museum. Or, just talk to the animals. The museum is home to cows, alpacas, pigs, horses, goats and more.

Next, wend your way along winding paths through a landscape reminiscent of a British country estate: swathes of lawn, ornamental gardens, an arboretum with some trees planted back in 1889. Along the way, catch the distinctly Canadian sight of the Rideau Canal and Dow’s Lake. An Experimental Farm visit is a unique experience — literally. It’s the world’s only working farm in the heart of a capital city.

DAY 1

HAPPENING HINTONBURG — 12:30 PM


QUIRKY AND CUTE: WELLINGTON WEST’S HINTONBURG

Bustling, artsy, trendy, eclectic, cool: just some of the descriptors of Wellington West, a ten-minute drive from the Experimental Farm but a world apart. Or two worlds apart, since the Wellington Street West corridor is home to two communities. East of Holland Avenue, it’s Hintonburg, with great specialty stores — a far cry from the rail yards, lumber and paper mills of its 19th century days. So is the neighborhood’s designation as the QUAD (Quartier des artistes/Arts District), making Hintonburg home to galleries, studios, and art-friendly restaurants.

As to those specialty stores: local and sustainable are the words of the day. Terra20 sells cruelty-free, non-toxic and ethically sourced products. At Nu Grocery, Ottawa’s first zero-waste grocery store, you’ll find everything from cereals to toothpaste. Drop by the Maker House Co. for handmade homewares created by Ottawa artisans. Don’t forget music: The Record Centre, purveyors of new and used vinyl (and turntables) has also been known for local band performances. Need a sip and snack break? Try one of the wonderfully named local chains: the Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs, or Happy Goat Coffee.

DAY 1

FASHION AND FOOD — 2:30 PM


Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism

GO WEST TO WELLINGTON VILLAGE

Go west (of Holland Ave.) to Wellington Village for a myriad of possibilities from Canadian independent designers. It’s all about boutiques. Kindred Shop and Studio’s ethically made clothing and made-in-Ottawa gifts; Flock’s handmade, local, sustainable wares;  JV Studios & Boutique’s emerging Ottawa brands; Victoire Boutique’s “smitten with Canadian design” approach and more. For a break from shopping, head to the NAK Gallery, opened in 2020 to showcase contemporary visual art.

 

The Village is also a great spot for a leisurely dinner, with its nearly two dozen restaurants. Just a few possibilities include contemporary Canadian cuisine at Stofa; locally sourced fare at Supply and Demand; or upscale pub food at Wellington Gastropub. (Locals call it The Wellie.) Speaking of pubs, Ottawa craft beer is a growing concern. If it’s of concern to you, consider a Brew Donkey “curated regional adult field trip” to local breweries.

DAY 1

TAKE IN A SHOW — 8:00 PM


Photo courtesy of Great Canadian Theatre Company.

IT’S GREAT, IT’S CANADIAN, IT’S THEATRE

The Great Canadian Theatre Company, or GCTC, as Ottawans call it, is located almost in the centre of Wellington West. It’s also at the centre of the local theatre scene. The city’s largest professional, independent theatre was born in 1975 when Carleton University profs and grad students decided to produce Canadian plays. After two decades of treading the boards in a renovated truck garage the GCTC moved to Wellington West. Now they showcase plays and theatre events at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, with its 262-seat mainstage space. Bonus: Spacious lobbies and a studio theatre make GCTC a hub for community events.


Day Two


DAY 2

A NEIGHBOURHOOD WANDER — 10:30 AM


STROLL THE STREETS OF HISTORIC SANDY HILL

The sandy soil of this slightly-off-the-beaten-track residential neighborhood means you won’t see many tall buildings. But you will see dignified embassies and gracious apartment buildings (circa 1860 to the 1920s). Two of Canada’s most important prime ministers (Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King) lived in Sandy Hill. At some times of year you can visit their former home of Laurier House, a Second Empire mansion. Today, Sandy Hill is where affluence meets student living, with bars, brewpubs and coffee shops around the U. of O. For a river walk, stroll Strathcona park along the Rideau, where in summertime you can enjoy theatre under the stars.

DAY 2

SAW GALLERY — 12:00 PM


Photo credit: Justin Wonnacott

VISIT ONE OF CANADA’S LEADING ARTIST-RUN CENTRES

Stop at the SAW Gallery on your way to the market. The artist-run centre is famed for politically and socially engaged artwork and performances. Lured by the North? Check out SAW’s recently opened Nordic Lab with the Annie Pootoogook Studio, named for the celebrated Inuit artist. Take in a community event (from screenings to concerts to artist talks) at Club SAW, complete with bar and state-of-the-art sound system.

DAY 2

GO TO MARKET — 2:00 PM


A thriving marketplace is critical to the success of any city; the ByWard Market has served Ottawa well since 1826. Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

MAKE BYWARD MARKET YOUR ART WALK

ByWard Market is just a stone’s throw from SAW and a perfect place for a café lunch. And, of course, for the sweet stuff, a.k.a. Beavertails. (Deep fried pastry and sugar. Say no more.) Lieutenant-Colonel John By drained a cedar bog and made a market here in 1827 so the families of workers building the Rideau Canal had a place to shop. Almost two centuries later the market still draws locals for great foodstuffs. But it’s also a cultural draw. Follow the ByWard Market Art Walk map for stunning murals. Or, drop by the Ottawa School of Art for contemporary art exhibits and to browse the boutique for paintings, jewelry and sculpture. All of it Canadian; much of it local.

DAY 2

BYWARD BY NIGHT — 7:00 PM


THE MARKET BY NIGHT: DRINKS, DINNER AND BEATS

There’s no shortage of nightlife in the market. Try the storied Chateau Lafayette, a.k.a. The Laff, Ottawa’s oldest tavern since 1849. Or go upscale with Copper Spirits and Sights Rooftop Lounge, for Canadian-inspired cuisine and craft cocktails. (It’s a great sunset spot with a prime view of Parliament Hill.) For late nights drop by the Mercury Lounge, the “twenty-first century soul club” where beats-meets-jazz. The intimate Mercury has brought music, poetry readings and dance performances to Ottawans for over twenty years.

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This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

The Ottawa Arts Council provided information and assistance for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.


Ottawa – Gatineau

Ottawa – Gatineau

As far as capital cities go, Ottawa is reasonably walkable. Whether you’re exploring its many heritage sites, browsing its galleries, or taking scenic strolls along the river, you can do it all with a good pair of shoes or a trusty bicycle.

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism Website

Day One


DAY 1

EXPLORE NEW EDINBURGH – 9:00 AM

The Tent Room at Rideau Hall. Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

DAY 1 – 9:00 AM: START YOUR MORNING IN HISTORIC NEW EDINBURGH

New Edinburgh is an upscale neighbourhood by the Rideau River. Once an industrial centre, many of the area’s early residents were mill workers. Locals are eager to share their neighbourhood’s charm with visitors and have put together a self-guided walking tour that sheds light on its storied streets.

This neighbourhood is home to multiple embassies and Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General. This stately building used to be the home of Thomas McKay, a stonemason and entrepreneur who founded New Edinburgh back in 1832 and helped build the Rideau Canal. The grounds of Rideau Hall are a horticulturalist’s dream—carefully landscaped rose gardens, greenhouses, and lawns blur the line between order and the wilderness. If you visit in the colder months, try skating at the winter pavilion.

DAY 1

VISIT THE OTTAWA ART GALLERY – 3:00 PM

DAY 1 – 3:00 PM: THIS GALLERY’S ARCHITECTURE IS SIMPLICITY DONE WELL

The Ottawa Art Gallery’s new building has an almost ethereal quality to it; the perforated metal mesh of its facade creates soft transitions from the sharp lines of the cube toward the sky. Originally established by local collectors O.J. and Isobel Firestone, the gallery’s Firestone collection focuses on 20th-century Canadian art. It has a significant number of works from the Group of Seven, especially A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris.

DAY 1

THE NATIONAL GALLERY– 4:00 PM

This friendly neighbourhood spider has sisters at major galleries across the world, including the Guggenheim Bilbao, and the Mori Art Museum in Japan. Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Day 1 – 4:00 PM: Meet Maman at the National Gallery of Canada

There’s another gallery not too far away from the Ottawa Art Gallery, and it’s right near the place to take in one of the best views in the city. Keep an eye out for the giant, metallic arachnid, Maman, by Louise Bourgeois, who greets everyone who walks up to the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery has one of the most substantial collections of Canadian and Indigenous artwork and also hosts a significant collection of works representing artistic traditions from all over the world.

A short walk from the gallery is the Alexandra Bridge Lookout, which gives a sweeping view of the Ottawa River and the city of Gatineau on the opposite shore.

Food tip: For a filling snack nearby, try The Tavern on the Hill. If you are crossing over to Gatineau, there’s an assortment of French, Italian, and Thai restaurants just a stone’s throw from the bridge.


Day Two


DAY 2

STROLL THROUGH OTTAWA’S CIVIC CENTRE – 9:00 AM

The National Arts Centre offers a stage to some of Canada's most talented performers and productions. Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism.

DAY 2 – 9:00 AM: START THE DAY WITH A LEISURELY STROLL THROUGH CONFEDERATION PARK & OTTAWA’S CIVIC CENTRE

Opened in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial anniversary, Confederation Park boasts several public art pieces and monuments, including the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument by Noel Loyd Pinay.

Take a short walk to Ottawa’s city centre to admire the geometry of the courthouse, check out the modern City Hall designed by Canada’s Raymond Moriyama, and explore a few museums along the way. Learn about Canadian military history at the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regimental Museum. You may also pass by the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights, by sculptor Melvin Charney, which stands at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin.

The National Arts Centre is on the other side of Confederation Park. The brutalist building recently opened its new wing, courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects. The most striking addition to the centre is the Kipnes Lantern, a hexagonal tower wrapped in transparent LEDs. At night the tower comes alive with intense, colourful displays by Canada’s leading artists.

DAY 2

VISIT PARLIAMENT HILL – 11:30 AM

DAY 2 – 11:30 AM: EXPLORE CANADA’S PARLIAMENTARY PRECINCT

Start at the bronze statue of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and walk past the buildings of the East Block. This imposing structure, done in the Gothic-Revival style, once held the offices of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Now, it houses the offices of the Senate.

Next up, you’ll arrive at the Centennial Flame. This fountain, and its not-quite-eternal flame, started out as a temporary monument to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. Prime Minister Lester P. Pearson lit the flame on New Year’s Eve in 1966; the monument was so beloved by the public that it became a permanent fixture.

The Parliament of Canada, with its iconic Peace Tower rising skyward, is just up the way. Its style is typical of 19th-century Gothic Revival, featuring medieval embellishments like pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and gargoyles. Further along is the Confederation Building, which currently houses the offices of several serving MPs.  Opened in 1931, it’s a more recent addition to the Parliamentary Precinct.

You’ll soon arrive at the Supreme Court of Canada, where two allegorical “Truth” and “Justice” sculptures stand beside the main steps leading into the Grand Entrance Hall. The Canadian War Museum is just up the road from here. Military history buffs should consider this one a must-see; it has a massive collection of military vehicles.

DAY 2

CROSS OVER TO QUEBEC – 3:00 PM

Photo: © Destination Ontario

DAY 2 – 3:00 PM: CROSS OVER TO GATINEAU

Crossing the Ottawa River into Quebec is a simple affair, with two bridges nearby and a water taxi available in the warmer months. On the way to your destination, you’ll pass by the Palais de Justice de Gatineau and the Maison due Citoyen.

The Canadian Museum of History sits at the opposite shore of the Ottawa River across from Parliament Hill. Learn about 15,000 years of history, beginning with the earliest human settlements in North America all the way to the present day. The building, designed by Douglas Cardinal, is an architectural gem, defined by the undulating forms of its two main wings, which emulate the winding riverbank below.

Wrap up the day with a stroll through Jacques Cartier Park, enjoying its sculpture, gardens, and historic structures, or just wander about and see what the streets of Gatineau have to offer.

DISCOVER A GEM IN GATINEAU: THE MACKENZIE KING ESTATE

Take a side jaunt in Gatineau to the summer home of Canada’s longest serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. King bequeathed the estate to the people of Canada, and visitors are luckier for it. In the heart of beautiful Gatineau Park, the estate’s English and French flower gardens are stunning, and nearby wooded trails link up with the broader trail network of the park. Learn more about the famously colourful King (among other things he turned to séances in hopes of speaking with his late mother and dogs). Enjoy the beauty of ruins King salvaged and reconstructed on the grounds, using stones from the fire that destroyed the Parliament Buildings in 1916, among other historic sources. In summer take an ice cream or cool drink break at the cute Café Pat. It’s named after the PM’s beloved Irish Terriers — Pat l, Pat ll, and Pat lll.

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Area Gallery


This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

Ottawa Tourism provided information and assistance for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Esther Lee.