OTTAWA – A Cultural Oasis
This 3-day Culture itinerary is all about discovering Ottawa’s cultural attractions, including museums, theatres, and galleries, punctuated by uniquely Canadian experiences.
Day 1 - A CIVILIZED AFFAIR
10:00 am: Begin this tour with a broad cultural overview of Canada at the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization), the most visited museum in the country. The building itself is spectacular, with its curving forms and breathtaking interiors such as in the Grand Hall.
FUN TIP: The museum also houses the Canadian Children’s Museum — one of the most fun places in the region — so there’s plenty for your little ones to see and do!
1:00 pm: Take a break and have lunch at the museum’s Bistro Boréal or the more casual Voyageurs Cafeteria.
2:00 pm: Catch the latest IMAX flick. Sit back in a reclining seat to get the full effect of the seven-storey screen and curved dome.
3:30 pm: Discover the Capital with a Gray Line City Tour. Experience Ottawa’s original and most comprehensive Hop-On Hop-Off tour. Choose from Parliament Hill, museums, parks, embassies and more on this fun, historical, educational, and bilingual city tour.
6:00 pm: Spend your evening at the National Arts Centre, and discover the true flavours of Canada with a global twist offered by Le Café, the NAC’s fabulous restaurant (reservations required).
Youth/family-friendly option: Stop in for an Italian treat at The Grand Pizzeria, a great hotspot with authentic Neapolitain pizza.
8:00 pm: Theatre? Dance? Broadway? The symphony? The National Arts Centre is home to the NAC Orchestra (under the musical direction of Pinchas Zukerman) as well as English and French theatre presenting the best artistry from across the country.
Day 2 - OUT AND ABOUT
10:00 am: You can’t leave town without a tour through the largest visual arts museum in Canada, the National Gallery of Canada. Its giant bronze spider, Maman, greets you on the plaza entranceway providing a taste of what to expect inside. The Gallery boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian (including Inuit) art, plus permanent exhibits include major works from European, American, and Canadian masters among many others.
3:00 pm: Spend the afternoon at the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. Roam around the romantic gardens and picturesque ruins, or take one of the many trails through the woods before stopping for tea at the Mackenzie King Tearoom. Travel time is approx. 20 min.
6:30 pm: For dinner, indulge at the Courtyard Restaurant. A favourite destination for relaxed fine dining, the restaurant specializes in Canadian cuisine using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.
Youth/family-friendly option: Always popular with a younger crowd, stop in for supper where the Lone Star Texas Grill first opened its doors. Great food and a playful rodeo atmosphere make for a fun evening.
8:30 pm: No need to wait for Halloween to enjoy a really good scare. Take a lantern-guided walking tour of the city’s ‘dark side’ with the Haunted Walks of Ottawa.
Day 3 – HISTORY LESSON
9:45am: Begin your day on Parliament Hill for the Changing the Guard Ceremony (late June-late August), a Canadian tradition at its most colourful! Watch in awe as the Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Forces brings stirring military drill and music to Parliament Hill.
11:00 am: After the ceremony make your way to the Bytown Museum, with its wealth of photographs and artifacts about Ottawa’s early days before it became the capital. Located at the entrance to Ontario’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rideau Canal, you’ll view those first locks with fresh eyes once you learn about the monumental challenges of their creation.
Adventurous groups will love paddling a voyageur canoe to Aboriginal Experiences (groups only), the world’s only urban-based Aboriginal cultural attraction. Aboriginal Experiences, set in a native village, allows you to experience Aboriginal life by way of live dance performances, guided tours, craft workshops, authentic meals, and more.
2:30 pm: Stay in the neighbourhood and head over to the Royal Canadian Mint, home of the purest gold in the world and producer of the 2010 Olympic medals. Pick up unique collectables and gifts at the boutique, such as a hockey or a dinosaur coin.
4:00 pm: Paul’s Boat Lines is the ideal sightseeing venue on the water. Choose to travel along the Rideau Canal or the Ottawa River and see the natural beauty of the region that captured the imagination of the first European explorer Samuel de Champlain (400 years ago). Operating from May to October, evening cruises end on Labour Day.
5:30 pm: Patterned after the great steak houses of North America, Prime 360 – The Ultimate Steakhouse is one of Ottawa's best choices for steak and seafood.
8:00 pm: Jazz, blues, and folk are just a few of Ottawa’s fantastic music festivals in the summer months. From the avant-garde to big band and swing, the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest or the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival are two festivals that offer musical styles to suit any music lover. (see the Calendar of Events for dates).
Or if you need a winter sports fix, the Ottawa Senators, Ottawa’s National Hockey League (NHL) team, are the hottest ticket in town! You can catch a game at Canadian Tire Centre.