People are familiar Montreal and Toronto, but fewer know that Ottawa is the capital of Canada, located in the province of Ontario in the southern region. It is a picturesque city, located on the banks of the Ottawa River, beaconing visitors to enjoy its many treasures. Not to miss are many historic buildings and landmarks as well as the exciting city center. It is easy to spend a day taking in the local culture, fine eateries, and the scenic beauty of Victoria Island.
Tops on any tourist list is Parliament Hill, the seat of the federal government. The reconstructed Gothic structures (built after the fire of 1916), including the Peace Tower, dominate the city and reflect the solidity of the country’s democratic principles. The grounds feature Canadian art and the famed Changing of the Guard ceremony. The evening Sound and Light show is any visitor’s entrée into the splendor of this heart of the city.
For another important government building, the Supreme Court of Canada is the next stop, just west of the Parliament. Architecture lovers will enjoy the Grand Hall, part of the design by Ernest Cormier. It is loaded with gracious marble and two elegant candelabra-style metal lamps. Lavish, exotic woods adorn the courtrooms. Along with the outdoor fountain and terrace, it is a feast for the eye and the mind.
While landmark buildings attest to Canada’s rich political life, other venues speak of local heritage and historic lore. The MacKenzie King Estate, a one-time refuge for a long-time Prime Minister, is a romantic paean to the historic resident. Rideau Hall, the governor’s official home, is open to the public. If you like Victorian, the Laurier House is a perfect example, located in the downtown area of Sandy Hill.
For scenic tours, the Rideau Canal that travels to Lake Ontario dates back to 1832 and is still an engineering tour de force today. Numerous parks and trails along its edges are home to hikers, picnic enthusiasts, and cyclists. Outdoor attractions also include Upper Canada Village, Ottawa Gardens, the Ottawa River rapids, and the Algonquin site called Aboriginal Experiences on Victoria Island. Here you can imagine their venerable ancestors trading, celebrating rites with dancing and powwows, and sharing story-telling with the tribe.
Of course, you can’t do it all in one day and also expect to taste the culinary delights and unique shopping of the region. There are special events galore, gallery and museum exhibits, a casino, and more. Choosing what to do is never a problem in this engaging city. In addition to the waterways and greenery, sports opportunities abound. You can swim in Gatineau Park or spend an afternoon at one of the many fine beaches, not to mention golf, a water park, and bungee jumping.
It is clear that Ottawa is a singular city with ample attractions and festive festivals. If you have never visited, your first experience will be one to remember. You will want to return again by train, car, or air, and explore more of what the best of Canada has to offer.