This year’s set to be pivotal for Ottawa, with millions of dollars - and gallons of imagination - being poured into the city’s celebrations to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary as a self-governing federation.
Public spaces will come alive with dance performances, light shows and ‘visual stunts’ before the main events in July, when Alexandra Bridge will be closed for a giant picnic.
A new subway system’s set to open in 2018, but first, as part of the celebrations, the underground space has been transformed into ‘The Time Tunnel’, where visitors will journey into a different era via multimedia installations.
Organisers expect an additional 1.75 million people will visit Ottawa during 2017, but don’t worry if you can’t make it for the celebrations - the hope is that their legacy will live on, giving the city’s artistic and creative sides a chance to shine.
Keen to add Ottawa to your wish-list? Here’s our guide to the capital city with a small-town feel and big promises...
WHERE TO STAY
ARC Hotel in downtown Ottawa is ideally located for anyone hoping to navigate the city by foot or bus, especially if you’re looking for a touch of class and style without breaking the bank. Situated an easy 15-minute stroll away from key hotspots like Parliament Hill and ByWard Market, and many of the city’s top museums, you’ll be well placed for exploring.
Rooms are contemporary and spacious with huge, comfy beds and stylish white bathrooms, plus there’s a gym and cool-yet-cosy bar area, where you can sip Canadian wine and rest those tired feet after a day of sightseeing - or enjoy a cocktail or two before heading out for the night. Complimentary hot drinks in the lounge area are a nice touch; make yourself cosy with a cuppa while you plan the day’s itinerary. Crucially, for a reasonably sized-hotel (there are 112 rooms and suites), the breakfast menu and coffee has a pleasing boutique feel - the food is fresh and tasty and there’s not a single crusty buffet dish in sight!. Rooms from £82 (CAD 139) per night, based on two adults sharing. Visit www.arcthehotel.com
WHERE TO EAT
Ottawa’s big on food and you can’t really go wrong if you head to the ByWard Market region. Choose from an endless menu of pizza toppings at Fiazza Fresh Fired (fiazza.ca) on Murray Street (known as ‘gastronomy alley’ due to the extensive mix of eateries). Then, for dessert, head to dreamy ice-cream parlour Mantovani 1946. The award-winning ‘Kingdom of two Sicilies’ pistachio-based flavour is to die for.
Pili Pili Grilled Chicken (pilipiligrilledchicken.com) on Dalhousie Street might look like any old fast-food joint, but trust us, their Jamaican and African spiced chicken thighs are legendary. Be sure to try a ‘beaver tail’ (a popular Canadian pastry covered in sugar and cinnamon, or maple butter) from one of the red BeaverTails kiosks dotted around too.
For dinner, SIDEDOOR (www.sidedoorrestaurant.com) on York Street lives up to its promise of serving the best tacos in town, while for a fine-dining feel, Riviera (www.dineriviera.com) on Sparks Street, one of the city’s newest and most hyped eateries, lures a stylish crowd with its artfully presented dishes and Art Deco-esque decor. Expect to pay between £18-40 per person for a three-course dinner, not including your drinks bill, though you can easily eat heartily on a budget if you’re willing to explore ByWard.
WHERE TO PARTY
ByWard Market’s where most of the action takes place at night too, with bars and pubs dotted along all the main streets. Craft beer fans should head to Brother’s Beer Bistro (www.brothersbeerbistro.ca) on Dalhousie Street, the first place in Ottawa to go ‘exclusively craft’, where passionate staff will happily talk you through their impressive range. For live music, check out Ottawa’s ‘home of the blues’ Rainbow Bistro (www.therainbow.ca) on Murray Street; a firm favourite with locals. If you’re after something on a bigger, more energetic scale, put Barrymore’s Music Hall (clubzone.com/places/barrymores-music-hall) on Bank Street, a beautiful old theatre that now houses gigs and club nights, on your radar (but plan ahead; gigs will sell out).
WHAT TO DO
Home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles, the Canadian Museum of History (£12 - CAD 20 - for adults and £7 - CAD 12 - for children aged 3-12; www.historymuseum.ca) is a must, and if you’re keen to learn more about the fascinating and often surprising history of Canada’s First Nations Aboriginal communities, book an evening of cultural tours, food and traditional dance shows with Aboriginal Experiences (www.aboriginalexperiences.com). Booking is required, with entry options from 7-34 CAD (£4-£20). Whether for the art or simply to lust at the architecture, the National Gallery of Canada is well worth a visit, and there are free daily tours of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block (though check ahead for times and details at www.lop.parl.gc.ca), which is worth it just for a glimpse of the Hogwarts-worthy library. Make time to head outside the city to visit Gatineau Park too, an epic 363 sq km of protected plant land. Hire bikes or enjoy a forest hike; you might even spot a beaver making a dam.