Ottawa is the best place to be for Canada’s 150th Birthday. Stop asking yourself the age old question, “Is it worth stopping by Ottawa while travelling between Toronto and Montreal?”! The answer is definitely yes. All you need is 12 hours to fully explore Ottawa and you will quickly realize that there is much more to Ottawa than just Parliament Hill.
Waking up might be hard but don’t worry Ottawa can help fulfill all your breakfast cravings! Wilf and Ada, a popular brunch scratch diner, and Baker’s Street Café are local favourites that serve Canadian/American traditional breakfast with gluten free options. It is best to beat the crowd and stop by before 11 AM – they do not take reservations!
If brunch isn’t your thing, you can always find Starbucks and Tim Hortons scattered throughout Ottawa (of course we recommend Tim Hortons, 😉 ). If you are looking to get into Ottawa’s local coffee scene, check out Bridgehead, Arlington Five, The Ministry of Coffee, or Blue Bird Coffee. My personal recommendation is Bridgehead, a local fair-trade organic coffee chain.
After breakfast, you can explore one of Ottawa’s many neighbourhoods. The Glebe, Westboro, and Hintonburg are affectionately known for their low key, Hipster vibe but are also a proud showcase for local Ottawa talent and artisans. Be sure to check out Mrs. Tiggly Winkles, JV Studios, and Maker House Co. for your not so stereotypical Ottawa souvenirs.
You will quickly realize that getting around Ottawa is no easy task. You are going to need to depend on their bus system while they build the light rail. There is a day pass available (under $10) as well as Uber.
Dow’s Lake is the place to go during any season. You can skate on the Rideau Canal all the way downtown in the winter or rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat in the spring and summer. All equipment is available for rent for a nominal fee. If the Canal is not frozen over yet, you can skate over at the Rink of Dreams.
For the arts and culture buffs, I highly recommend visiting one of Ottawa’s museums. We highly recommend The Canadian War Museum or the National Art Gallery. If you are in the city on a Thursday evening, all museums are free after 4 PM.
If you are feeling hungry, stop by Chinatown – otherwise known as Vietnamese Street. You will soon realize why as you walk through! Head down to Co Cham and you can enjoy a rice or vermicelli dish for under $10 CDN. The portion is large enough to share unless you are super hungry!
Save the Parliament Hill for the late afternoon/early evening. After your elevator ride up the Peace Tower, Alexandra Bridge is a short 10-minute walk away. Remember to bring your camera! You will be able to leisurely walk over the Ottawa River and capture the sun setting over the Hill.
After you find yourself back in Ottawa, it’s time for dinner at the Byward Market. Shawarma Palace is a local favourite. It is hard to find but a trip to Ottawa would not be complete without it.
After dinner, go grab a BeaverTail, or an Obama Cookie from Le Moulin de Provence (famous for Barack Obama’s visit in 2012) and head back to Parliament – yes, you read that right! During the Holiday season and the summer, there is a free daily light show that starts at sundown.
After a day full of selfies and breathtaking views, it is time to say goodbye to Ottawa. We hope that you were able to experience Ottawa through the eyes of a local!