When planning the family vacation, Ottawa, Canada, might not come to mind. My trip with my 11-year-old son was planned by Ottawa Tourism. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were far from disappointed. We flew from Bush Intercontinental to Newark, then on to Ottawa. You’ll need to rent a car if you want to travel any distance, but if you don’t mind walking around this pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly city, a cab to and from the airport, and a few outlying destinations, will do just fine.
We checked in to our room at Les Suites Ottawa Hotel (www.les-suites.com) and went up to our suite, which included a kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom, balcony and even a laundry room. We used that once for my son’s swimsuit because he enjoyed the pool every night that we were there. The room was spacious, the hotel quiet, and the location superb – in the heart of the Byward Market. We did a lot of walking, but it was a nice way to see as much as we could fit into three days. And what better way to work off all of the food we ate? There’s so much to see, taste and do, I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to visit this city, abundant in history and urban adventure.
BYWARD MARKET www.byward-market.com
The bustling and charming Byward Market neighborhood is just steps from Les Suites. We walked to a new destination within the Market every day. This place is shopping heaven, with just about everything you could want, from fresh produce to a new wardrobe, a tasty Beaver’s Tail pastry (corner of George and William; www.beavertailsinc.com to a gourmet dinner. The 175-year-old outdoor farmers’ and craft market is enough to keep you happily occupied all afternoon. Logan found a “really cool” spider handmade from crystal-looking beads … it’s now his “lucky” spider. Don’t miss the courtyards behind the shops on Sussex Drive. We took a rickshaw tour, which is a wonderful way to get a private tour, narrated by a knowledgeable local, often a college student earning some extra money between semesters. There are also horse-drawn carriages and street performers. Logan loved the mime, as did many tipping tourists.
PARLIAMENT HILL www.parl.gc.ca/vis
It is the capital city, so you will want to be sure to visit Parliament Hill. The Hill presides appropriately over other buildings in the city and overlooks the beautiful Ottawa River. Housed within is the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament and offices for parliamentarians and staff. We were lucky to be in the area for the Sound and Light Show, held each summer (800-465-1867). This awesome display of history and light illuminates the Hill and is narrated in both French and English. It’s one of those things you really need to experience in person to get the full appreciation. There’s no charge for the show, or self-guided and group tours. You will need to expect to go through a security check, so allow some extra time.
Maybe it was because he’s 11, and a boy, but Logan’s favorite museum was the Canadian War Museum (www.warmuseum.ca). We looked at pieces of history from numerous war eras, and he topped it off by making a catapult. The museum offers interactive children’s activities regularly. The National Gallery (www.national.gallery.ca) is a spectacle in and of itself. The beautiful glass
-laden structure houses a spectacular art collection, which featured Renoir landscapes while we were there. There is also a boutique, bookstore and several restaurants. This is really a must-see. Other museums include the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Candian Aviation Museum and the Museum of Civilization, as well as several others.MUSEUMS GALORE
This expansive waterway is rich in history and recreational opportunities. The canal was built between 1826 and 1832 by England’s Col. John By of the Royal Engineers, along, of course, with thousands of laborers. The canal, also the oldest continuously operating waterway in North America, celebrated its 175th anniversary last year. Logan and I rented bikes and rode along the canal on the weekend. The paths are also great for walking, jogging and Rollerblading. You can even ice skate in winter.
Located very near the War Museum on Victoria Island awaits another point of interest that the kids won’t want to miss. The culture of the first Canadian people is brought to visitors first-hand at Aboriginal Experiences (www.aboriginalexperiences.com). You can step into a teepee, take a guided tour through an Aboriginal settlement, watch captivating native dancing and take part in so
me yourself, and eat some Aboriginal favorites. I could go on and on about the number of things to see and do in Ottawa, but Logan and I barely scratched the surface. You should really go see for yourself. For complete information about this incredible city, visit www.ottawatourism.ca.