Weekend Destination: Ottawa

weekend destination Ottawa composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: It's the capital of Canada!

How far: About 5 hours.

Often overshadowed by the two major cities that sandwich it to the east and west, Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa is worthy of a road trip all its own.

Getting there

Ottawa is just about five hours from Albany by car if you head west on I-90 and then go north on I-81.

History and Architecture

Ottawa_parliament3.jpg

Parliament Hill
Centre Block -- the main parliament building -- is one of the most stunning structures in Canada. It contains the Senate and House of Commons chambers, Library of Parliament, and the Peace Tower. The Gothic Revival design draws visitors to look and snap pictures, but even better is the fact that you can tour the beautiful building and learn the history of the country, for free. Same-day tickets are available at 90 Wellington Street, first come first serve.

Ottawa_locks_of_rideau_canal.jpg

Rideau Canal
Ottawa is connected to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston by the 125-mile Rideau Canal. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On land, right in downtown Ottawa, you can visit locks 1-8. (Most of the 45 locks are still hand operated.) In winter, the canal becomes the world's largest natural ice rink -- five miles long and free to skate!

Bytown Museum
The Bytown Museum is located right beside the canal locks. It is the oldest stone building in the city. Bytown was the original name of Ottawa, and the museum talks about the growth and development of the city. 1 Canal Ln, Ottawa, ON K1P 5P6, Canada

Ottawa_Nepean_Point.jpg

Nepean Point
Nepean Point is a hill overlooking the city. Samuel de Champlain -- touted as the "Father of New France" -- is memorialized in statue form at the top. To find this outstanding panoramic view climb up the path behind the National Gallery of Canada.

Art and Culture

Ottawa_National_Gallery_of_Canada.jpg

National Museums
A large cluster of national museums are located in the Ottawa area, including the Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Museum of History, and Canada War Museum. The National Gallery of Canada is very noticeable due to Maman, a giant spider that sits outside its walls. (Try and count the 26 marble eggs in its abdomen or plan your route to steer clear if you have arachnophobia.) There are also other interesting sculptures around the museum grounds.

Freebies
If you are on a budget there are many free museums, or times of the day that museums have free admission. The Bank of Canada Museum is always free and has surprisingly high-tech and interactive exhibits. Both the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and Canada Agriculture and Food Museum are free daily between 4-5 pm.

Ottawa_remic_rapids.jpg

John Ceprano Rock Sculptures
On the shores of Remic Rapids Park every summer through fall since 1986, a unique balancing act pops up. Using only rocks from the river the sculptor comes back daily to create impressive scenes that defy gravity, and are open for your interpretation. Free to visit and a walk, jog, or bike ride on the adjoining Ottawa River Pathway.

Nature

Ottawa_mer_blueu_bog.jpg

Mer Bleue Boardwalk
French for blue sea and named for its appearance when covered in morning fog, Mer Bleue wetland is quite a curiosity. The environment of the bog is more like something in the Arctic than in Ottawa. A boardwalk of less than a mile loops around the scenic area, and there are a dozen more miles of trails in the conservation area.

Ottawa_hogback_falls.jpg

Hog's Back Falls
A short walk reveals an exciting waterfall at the point where the Rideau River and canal part ways. Hogs Back Falls is an artificial waterfall and also referred to as Prince of Wales Falls. Restrooms, picnic area, seasonal concession stand, and free parking.

Food and drink

Ottawa_fritomania.jpg

Fritomania
Fritomania is the perfect roadside dive: a little shack, cash only, fast and friendly service. It's on the outskirts of the city, so parking is as easy as can be. The poutine here is simply the best thing on earth. It is served hot and a lot, come hungry. 2442 St Joseph Blvd, Orléans, ON K1C 1E9, Canada

Ottawa_beaver_tails.jpg

BeaverTails
Embrace your inner-tourist and grab one of these deep-fried pastries, also the name of the chain that serves them. The treats are made with whole wheat and stretched right in front of you. Your choice of toppings range from maple spread, to banana chocolate, and my personal favorite, "The Killaloe Sunrise": cinnamon, sugar, and lemon - that bit of acidity makes all the difference! There are multiple locations, but I love the one in the bustling ByWard Market because you get to experience some flavor of the city at the same time. 69 George Street Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1K1

Ottawa_lowertown_brewery.jpg

Lowertown Brewery
Lowertown Brewery is a local brewery also in the heart of the ByWard Market. Come for the beer, but stay for the pinball! 73 York St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5T2, Canada

Gatineau

Just across the river from Ottawa is Gatineau, another city in another province, Quebec.

Ottawa_mosaicanada2.jpg

Mosaicanada
Mosaicanada spectacular display mixing art and horticulture, this topiary extravaganza runs through October 15. Forty arrangements reflect 150 years of Canada's history, values, culture, and arts. Admission is free. Jacques-Cartier Park, south end 164, Laurier street, Gatineau (Quebec) J8X 3V8

Ottawa_gatineau_park.jpg

Gatineau Park
A mere 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa-Gatineau is a Gatineau Park, a 139 square-mile natural playground with 103 miles of hiking trails, 56 miles of mountain biking routes, lakes for swimming and kayaking, and quite a bit of history. Highlights include the 1.5-mile Pink Lake loop, a meromictic lake that is very green due to algae. Champlain Lookout is an excellent view of the Ottawa Valley. The one-mile King Mountain trail loops around the highest peak in the park. Visit the Mackenzie King Estate and admire the summer home of the tenth Prime Minister of Canada.

Ottawa_The_Odyssey.jpg

The Odyssey
Stop by a bizarre larger-than-life sculpture on the side of the road by artist duo Cooke-Sasseville. What do you make of these three pigeons taking on a can of Campbell's soup? 7 Rue Montcalm, Gatineau, QC J8X 4B4, Canada

Ottawa_Soif_Bar_a_vin.jpg

Soif Bar à vin
Soif Bar à vin is a wine bar complete with cork walls, maps of wine regions adorning the walls, and sommeliers who will pair your libation with a dinner selection. You can even order half glasses, which makes sampling more varieties easier. The food menu is composed of small plates, local and seasonal. Dishes are as delicious as they are lovely. 88 Rue Montcalm, Gatineau, QC J8X 2L7, Canada

On your way home

Need to stretch your legs on the long drive home? Why not explore another region that is right along the route:
+ Thousand Islands
+ Syracuse
+ Utica and Rome

Julie has got the travel-bug. Whether it's day trips, weekend getaways, or wandering around the world -- she's always up to something. Read more about her adventures at juliejourneys.com.

Earlier: Weekend Destination: Montreal

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Today's moment of autumn

It's actually starting to feel like autumn. From a tweet today by the Oxford English Dictionary: As Autumn draws on: 'feuillemorte' (or 'filemot') is a... (more)

The Lifestyle Farming Conference day of DIY classes is returning to SUNY Cobleskill

SUNY Cobleskill is bringing back the Lifestyle Farming Conference Saturday, November 11. The event is a full day of classes on all sorts of topics... (more)

"The business is just not what it used to be"

The Ryan's Farmer's Market property on Railroad Ave in Colonie is for sale, and Brian Nearing reports this could be the end of the 107-year-old... (more)

Stewart's is selling dough boys from Esperanto

Updated There is no doubt an alternate universe where this has already happened because it makes sense: Stewart's is now offering dough boys from Esperanto... (more)

PechaKucha is back at Opalka Gallery this week

The Opalka Gallery on the Sage Albany campus is hosting another PechaKucha night this Friday. The announced lineup: + Doug Bartow, designer, "Craft x Beer... (more)

Recent Comments

Hopefully these projects will all be built. It's crazy how anti-development and NIMBYist some people are around here, and then they wonder why so many people leave. It's fine if they build a house or move in, but then they want to close the door to everyone else.

Here are a few bits for the new bar planned for the space next to The Spectrum

...has 16 comments, most recently from ron

New look for the Playdium redev! 5-story building for Central Ave! Apartment project pushback! And more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

...has 11 comments, most recently from Greg

How I ended up riding a bike as one of my primary ways of getting around town -- and how that's gone

...has 21 comments, most recently from Greg

The week ahead

...has 1 comment, most recently from Songsandbanter

A snapshot of the Capital Region pitch to Amazon

...has 26 comments, most recently from Cathy