What are the five best things to see and do in Ottawa?

Hayley Bosch

As the capital of Canada, there’s tons to see and do in Ottawa. Whether you’re visiting in the frigid winter or during the beautiful summer, here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do in Ottawa.
 
1. Skate on the Rideau Canal. When winter rolls around and the Rideau Canal is frozen over, everyone grabs his or her skates and hits the ice. It’s the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink, stretching more than four miles through Ottawa.
 
2. Explore ByWard Market. A historic farmer’s market and shopping district during the day that moonlights as a dining destination come nightfall, ByWard Market is the epitome of Ottawa and shouldn’t be missed.
 
3. Catch a Senators game. You’re in Canada, after all. You simply can’t visit Ottawa without catching a hockey game. Head to Scotiabank Place and join the Sens Army to cheer on the team.
 
4. Watch the Changing the Guard Ceremony. One great thing to watch in Canada’s capital city is the Changing the Guard Ceremony, held each morning in the summer on Parliament Hill, known for both its beauty and its historic traditions.
 
5. Celebrate Canada Day. The streets are closed and Ottawa becomes one giant party dedicated to all things Canada. You’ll see people decked out in white and red, fireworks and plenty of renditions of O Canada. It’s the equivalent of being in Washington, D.C. for the Fourth of July.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best museums in Ottawa?

    Ottawa has tons to do all year long — from ice-skating on the Rideau Canal to picnicking in Gatineau Park — but sometimes it’s nice to spend some time in museums. And these aren’t just any museums; they’re some of the best in Canada. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks of the five best museums in Ottawa.
     
    1. Canada Science and Technology Museum. Explore more than 400 exhibits with many do-it-yourself experiments. It’s the kind of place that’s very hands-on — from the hair-raising static ball to the space simulator. You’ll see innovative gadgets like a fridge with a TV in it, as well as Canada’s historic role in science and technology like the steam locomotive that pulled the Royal Train during the 1939 royal visit.
     
    2. National Gallery of Canada. As one of Canada’s oldest national cultural institutions (it was created in 1880), this museum is interesting in itself. But the exhibitions are what lure you in — you’ll discover art that ranges from Canadian  to European and American. The museum also has special exhibits like the recent Van Gogh: Up Close that spotlight an artist or time period.
     
    3. Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Home to some of the world’s most historic aircraft, this museum celebrates all things flying. Accented by giant hangar-like walls, Canada Aviation and Space Museum is a great way to get a peek into Canada’s military history. Come spring and summer, you can take a flying tour of Ottawa in a plane with an open cockpit.
     
    4. Canadian Museum of Nature. Its location is intriguing, as it’s set within the castle-like Victoria Memorial Museum Building. This natural museum shows off everything from dinosaurs and fossils to a real skeleton of a blue whale and even living creatures in the Animalium; it’s fun for the whole family.
     
    5. Royal Canadian Mint. As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is home to the Royal Canadian Mint. And while it’s a different kind of museum, it’s always interesting to see where the country’s money was once made (though now the high-volume manufacturing facility is in Winnipeg). You can take a guided tour and see where the tools are created that stamp the coins for both circulation and commemorative coins.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What is the best thing to bring home from Ottawa?

    If there’s one thing you bring home from Ottawa, our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest making it maple syrup. Whether it’s actually maple syrup or maple fudge or even maple lollipops, this is a must. You can actually tour several maple farms like Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm where you can take a sleigh ride and see the extensive process of making maple syrup. Exploring these farms is fun for kids and adults — after all, who doesn’t love maple syrup? Chew on maple taffy or indulge in a pancake brunch with tons and tons of syrup; either way, you’ll want to take home a little souvenir to remember your time in Ottawa.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best Ottawa food experiences?

    Ottawa is filled with diverse cultures, each of which brings its own unique food experiences. From street food to the eclectic ByWard Market, Canada’s capital city is teeming with gastronomic wonders. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ take on the five best Ottawa food experiences.
     
    1. BeaverTails. This popular Canadian pastry is shaped like a beaver tail and comes with a variety of sweet and salty toppings. Visit the original kiosk in the ByWard Market and you’ll get a real taste of what Ottawa is all about. You can top your BeaverTail with everything from chocolate and candy to apples and cinnamon.
     
    2. Yangtze Dining Lounge. This is the place to go for dim sum on the weekends. Located within Ottawa’s eclectic Chinatown — which is actually more than just Chinese — Yangtze serves up all-day dim sum as well as Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine.
     
    3. Street food. With its eclectic population, Ottawa is home to some great street food — though food trucks (minus hotdogs and French fries) are only allowed on private land. From Thai food to shawarma, there are some great offerings.
     
    4. ByWard Market. As one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets, this is definitely one of the best culinary experiences in the city. Whether you’re strolling along the surrounding streets and stop at a sidewalk café or pick up some fresh produce from the local farmers, the ByWard Market has something for everyone.
     
    5. Beckta Dining and Wine. This innovative restaurant is both flavorful and fresh. You’ll find options like pork belly risotto and Nova Scotia lobster on the menu. And if you want to know where your food comes from, check out the last page of the menu, where you’ll find a list of all the farms and producers — many of which are local.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    Where is the best nightlife in Ottawa?

    While there is tons to explore in Ottawa during the day, you’ll also find plenty of nightlife in Canada’s capital city, whether you’re looking for a low-key kind of place or a vibrantly edgy music venue. Restaurants and pubs line Elgin Street with clubs mixed in every now and then. This eclectic strip really comes alive at night, with music seeping through the windows and partiers pouring out on balconies and patios; from D’Arcy McGee’s Irish pub to The Manx, Elgin Street offers a plethora of nightlife options.
     
    Another exciting part of town is ByWard Market, which is a similar sort of mix as Elgin Street. This area has everything from dance clubs like Zaphod Beeblebrox and Barrymore’s Music Hall to dueling piano bars such as Fat Tuesday’s.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What is the best way to see Ottawa in one day?

    The best way to see Ottawa in one day will depend on what time of year you visit. Though Ottawa has exciting things to see and do year-round, being in Canada, you can count on those activities changing depending on the season. Much of the itinerary will remain the same, but subbing in ice-skating on the Rideau Canal is a must in the winter, while kayaking on that same canal is a blast in the summer.
     
    Begin your day with breakfast and a bit of shopping at ByWard Market. As one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets, it’s the epitome of Ottawa. Pick up a pastry from The French Baker on Murray Street and explore the nooks and crannies that ByWard Market has to offer. You’ll find everything from specialty foods and local produce to arts and crafts.
     
    Once you’ve gotten a taste of the market, make your way to the Rideau Canal for skating in the winter. The world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink is hugely popular in Ottawa. You can rent skates at the canal and enjoy the scenery. Pop over to one of the kiosks for a BeaverTail — a pastry stretched to resemble a beavertail and topped with everything from cinnamon and sugar to chocolate and candies. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll head to Dows Lake Pavilion and rent a paddleboat to explore the Rideau Canal; it’s fun and a different way to see Ottawa. And we recommend that you still enjoy a BeaverTail, too.
     
    After you’ve worn yourself out from skating or paddle boating, head to Parliament Hill for some time in the museums. Whether you opt for the National Gallery of Canada and see some intriguing works of art or head for the ever-popular Canada Science and Technology Museum to check out some kooky gadgets, you’ll have a blast.
     
    When it’s time for dinner, make your way back to ByWard Market and stroll along the restaurant-lined streets until something strikes your fancy. Trust us, it won’t take long.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    Where is the best shopping in Ottawa?

    Each of Ottawa’s neighborhoods has a host of shopping options, but Forbes Travel Guide’s editors think the best shopping is definitely in downtown Ottawa. Head to the legendary ByWard Market for local crafts and fresh produce — it’s the epitome of Ottawa, and a must when you’re in the capital city. If you’re looking for high-end fashion, make your way to Rideau Centre just east of Parliament Hill. Here you’ll find Ottawa’s only Apple Store and brand names like Michael Kors and Hugo Boss. Rideau Centre also has a handful of restaurants in addition to its more than 160 stores. Also downtown is Canada’s oldest pedestrian shopping mall, Sparks Street. This charming shopping center has everything from bookstores to jewelry shops.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Ottawa?

    Ottawa is brimming with fun things for kids to do all year long. From museums to ice skating and parades to winter festivals, your children will be thrilled to spend some time in Canada’s capital. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to do with kids in Ottawa.
     
    1. Ice Skating. Home to the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, Rideau Canal, you can’t visit Ottawa in the winter without checking it out. If you forgot your own skates, you can rent them at the rink. On weekends, thousands of people hit the ice, and it’s never a dull time.
     
    2. Dows Lake Pavilion. This manmade lake off the Rideau Canal is where you can rent paddleboats and kayaks during the summer and skates in the winter. The pavilion has restaurants, but the real fun is exploring the canal in a paddleboat.
     
    3. Picnic in Gatineau Park. It’s a short drive from Ottawa, but your kids will love packing a picnic and enjoying the surroundings in Gatineau Park. In the winter you can go cross-country skiing, while summer offers swimming and hiking.
     
    4. Winterlude. Ottawa’s winter festival is a blast for the whole family — from ice-skating to the Taste of Winterlude, the festival’s food and wine portion. Kids can play in the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques Cartier Park, the world’s biggest snow playground.
     
    5. Canada Science and Technology Museum. This is the hands-on kind of museum that kids love. You and your children will discover cool gadgets — think fridges with built-in TVs — and technology that has made history like the locomotive that pulled the Royal Train during the 1939 royal visit.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best things to see and do in Ottawa?

    As the capital of Canada, there’s tons to see and do in Ottawa. Whether you’re visiting in the frigid winter or during the beautiful summer, here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do in Ottawa.
     
    1. Skate on the Rideau Canal. When winter rolls around and the Rideau Canal is frozen over, everyone grabs his or her skates and hits the ice. It’s the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink, stretching more than four miles through Ottawa.
     
    2. Explore ByWard Market. A historic farmer’s market and shopping district during the day that moonlights as a dining destination come nightfall, ByWard Market is the epitome of Ottawa and shouldn’t be missed.
     
    3. Catch a Senators game. You’re in Canada, after all. You simply can’t visit Ottawa without catching a hockey game. Head to Scotiabank Place and join the Sens Army to cheer on the team.
     
    4. Watch the Changing the Guard Ceremony. One great thing to watch in Canada’s capital city is the Changing the Guard Ceremony, held each morning in the summer on Parliament Hill, known for both its beauty and its historic traditions.
     
    5. Celebrate Canada Day. The streets are closed and Ottawa becomes one giant party dedicated to all things Canada. You’ll see people decked out in white and red, fireworks and plenty of renditions of O Canada. It’s the equivalent of being in Washington, D.C. for the Fourth of July.
  • On August 29, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Ottawa?

    While there are plenty of diverse cuisines to explore in Ottawa, the real attraction here is the contemporary cuisine. From fine dining to down home cooking, there are some top-notch restaurants in Canada’s capital. Here are the Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best places to eat in Ottawa.
     
    1. Atelier. Each night, Atelier serves a 12-course tasting menu — and it’s one of the best in the city. With the menu featuring dishes stated simply as “Gatineau pork” and “wagyu,” you’ll have to trust that the kitchen knows what it’s doing — and it does. Expect a meal to last around three hours, but it’s worth it.
     
    2. John Taylor at Domus Café. Under chef John Taylor’s watchful eye, this café whips up innovative dishes using local meats and produce. As a member of the Slow Food movement, John Taylor at Domus Café uses the freshest ingredients to prepare your meal, gathering many of them from ByWard Market. Be sure to indulge in dishes such as crispy Quebec roasted duck magret.
     
    3. Flying Piggy’s Bistro Italiano. This down home Italian cuisine is the epitome of comfort, with all the pasta made in-house by the restaurant’s very own pasta chef. Delicious items like “The Flighty Boar,” fettuccine with prosciutto, mushrooms, white wine and cream, fill the menu.
     
    4. Navarra by René Rodriguez. It’s the epitome of contemporary cuisine and quite an experience. Using many local ingredients, Navarra’s menu is accented by Spanish ingredients like Serrano ham, Iberico ham and delightful olive oils. While the cuisine is contemporary, the preparation is pure.
     
    5. Black Cat Bistro. Consistently churning out some of the best food in Ottawa, Black Cat Bistro is unique and intriguing. The restaurant had some big shoes to fill when Steve Vardy left the kitchen, but Patricia Larkin has stepped up to the plate. You’ll find items like seared Atlantic scallops with popcorn purée, green onion, beets, spaghetti squash and vanilla salt.
  • On August 29, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Ottawa?

    As Canada’s capital, Ottawa attracts all kinds of visitors. Whether you choose to stay in a hotel overlooking Parliament Hill or one attached to a shopping center, there’s something to appeal to everyone’s style. Here’s our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ take on the five best places to stay in Ottawa.
     
    1. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier. This impressive castle will lure you in with its setting overlooking Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. The traditional rooms are decked out in dark wood with a tan, gray and blue palette. Not only is the setting enchanting, but The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is also convenient to just about everything.
     
    2. The Westin Ottawa. Attached to the Rideau Centre and the Ottawa Convention Centre, The Westin Ottawa is just blocks from Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market. The comfortable rooms show off Ottawa’s hustle and bustle through giant picture windows. Blanketed in neutral tones and featuring beds topped with crisp white sheets, the guestrooms are soothing.
     
    3. Arc The Hotel. The city’s first luxury boutique hotel offers 112 sleek guestrooms and the intimacy of a small inn with all the amenities you’d get in a big hotel. Located downtown, this contemporary property is Ottawa’s only design hotel.
     
    4. Brookstreet Hotel. Located in West Ottawa, Brookstreet Hotel is a great place to get away from it all. With a spa, golf course and a handful of dining options, this resort-like hotel offers 276 luxuriously appointed guestrooms. And there’s fun for the whole family with game rooms and swimming pools.
     
    5. Ottawa Marriott Hotel. Sitting in the heart of downtown, Ottawa Marriott is close to must-see attractions like the Rideau Canal, National Gallery of Canada and Parliament Hill. The 480 guestrooms are spread over 29 floors, each decked out with contemporary furnishings and cozy colors.