This year’s politics have you considering a move to Canada? Capital city Ottawa has it all: top-notch museums, a heavyweight cultural scene, mouth-watering dining, and outdoor options galore. Don’t dismiss a winter visit. Residents embrace the frigid weather and downright celebrate it during their fabulous February festival, Winterlude.
Bilingual Ottawa is just over the border from upstate New York, so it’s closer than you might think. Thanks to a favorable exchange rate, it is also cheaper than you might think. Get ready for a fine weekend-or lifetime- getaway any time of the year.
Things To Do In Ottawa: Get Outdoors
Canadians don’t let winter weather get in their way of enjoying the great outdoors. Rent skates and make a beeline for the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink. Sip hot chocolate or nibble a deep-fried, sugar-dusted beavertail pastry as you join the crowd in a graceful glide.
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Gatineau Park is a winter wonderland just minutes from downtown. The 50 cross-country trails are snow-capped delights, with cozy wooden shelters sprinkled throughout that are just right for a respite. If you feel the need for speed, they have 20 groomed downhill trails for skiing and snowboarding, plus lessons and rentals.
With over 600 kilometers of bike-friendly pathways, Ottawa offers a range of rides. The Capital Pathway network takes you by some of the city’s most iconic scenery, connecting museums, the Rideau Canal, parks, gardens and other key attractions. VeloGo is the official bike share program. You can’t miss the eye-catching apple green bikes around town.
Get your downward-facing dog on with a yoga class in the shadow of Canada’s Parliament each Wednesday at noon in warmer months. The spacious lawn is a glorious backdrop as you relax in child’s pose. This free event attracts everyone from students to politicos, so enjoy the egalitarian atmosphere.
Bet you didn’t know that the Ottawa River is one of the top five whitewater rafting rivers in the world. With rapids that range from bathtub gentle to daring descents, there’s a thrill for every seeker. Ottawa City Rafting features a low-intensity urban ride and stunning views of Parliament.
Eats + Drinks
Riviera is a sleek new dining spot that embraces bold flavors. Bona fide foodies will admire the view of the bustling open kitchen while trend seekers will enjoy the chic clientele. The inventive menu is flush with freshly made pasta and earthy charcuterie plus a wine list that includes some of Ontario’s finest vintages.
When you crave a visit to the sugar fairy, Ottawa doesn’t disappoint. In the revitalized Wellington West neighborhood, Holland’s Cake and Shake is a shrine to whimsical desserts. Miniature layer cakes are Instagram-ready diminutive delights.
If you thought New York was the only place to get a good bagel, Ottawa Bagelshop is a family-owned ode to the chewy circular roll. You’ll savor Montreal-style delights, brushed with honey water for a touch of sweetness before being baked in a wood-burning oven. Sesame is the most popular variety but you can’t go wrong with whatever is fresh from the oven.
ByWard Market may be Ottawa’s oldest neighborhood, but it’s home to the city’s newest hotel, the sleek Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market. Guest rooms and public areas reflect a sense of place, showcasing Canadian design and materials.
In-room noshing is encouraged: you’ll find complimentary locally made bar snacks, including irresistible Hummingbird Chocolate, recently awarded the best bean-to-bar chocolate in the world. Locavore details continue right down to toiletries made by the Ottawa’s favorite soap maker, Purple Urchin.
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The rooftop bar at Andaz is where you will find photogenic views, craft cocktails and a party scene that lasts late into the night. ByWard Market’s maze of side streets are chock-full of boutiques and eateries. The weatherproof market itself is brimming with eye-catching displays of fresh regional produce and locally sourced goodies, 363 days of the year (closed Christmas and New Year’s Day).
This city is a cultural capital par excellence. With seven national museums, there’s plenty to soak in. The National Gallery of Canada includes works from the Group of Seven, Canada’s most iconic painters. The world’s largest collection of Inuit and Indigenous art also makes its home here.
The Canadian Museum of History is the country’s most visited museum. The display of totem poles is the largest indoor collection in the world and The First Peoples Hall is a gem. The interactive Children’s Museum is housed within this giant complex, so it’s a must if you’re traveling en famille.
Air Canada from LGA takes about an hour.
For more information, visit www.ottawatourism.ca
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Photo credits: Ottawa Tourism, Vineeth Sampath
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.