The Big O: Rediscovering Ottawa This Fall

We’re back! Now that Canadians are travelling again, it’s time for some daycationing, and our first stop is to our nation’s lovely capital. Hub of Canadian politics and goldmine of Canuck history, Ottawa’s got plenty to keep you going within walking (or scooting) distance. Great restaurants galore, some of the most beautiful public spaces in Canada, and, of course, museums. Here’s what you need to know when visiting, and now that we’ve increased the number of daily train departures to and from Ottawa, getting in and out is easier than ever.

Let’s Get Moving Again

We’ve been sitting around for—literally—months. It’s time to change that up a bit, don’t cha think? Arriving at our fully accessible Ottawa station, hop on the O-Train right next door for a 10-minute ride into the heart of the city. From there, a number of mobility options await. You can rent a bike for the day at Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals or RentABike (download the free #MyOttawaPass for a complimentary tour of the city with the purchase of a rental at the latter).

The best way of getting around the city? By electric scooter, of course! Introduced to Ottawa on a trial basis in June, they might not be around forever, so take advantage. You can find a Bird or Lime scooter almost anywhere downtown, and if you’re into covering a lot of ground in a short time, they’re a fun way to explore different neighborhoods. Plan ahead and bring a helmet! That being said, Ottawa is wonderfully walkable, and many key places around the city are accessible on foot.

ByWard Market

Ah yes, the venerable ByWard Market, beating heart of Canada’s Capital Region. We begin our day here, in one of Canada’s oldest and largest markets. Open 7 days a week, year-round, you can always count on its vibrancy and liveliness. Though not to worry, there’ll always be room for physical distancing, no matter how busy it becomes.

Traveling with a four-legged friend? Until September 20, the Market is the place for your pooch, too. The ByWard BARKET is back for the 5th straight year to welcoming dog owners and their canine companions to explore 40 dog-friendly businesses and patios. Check out the interactive map showing all participating businesses. Woof!

Terrace or Picnic: You Decide!

A trip to the ByWard Market will always include eating and–of course–drinking. With a gorgeous, spacious stone terrace, Social makes it easy to, wait for it, social distance. Yeah, just did that. Lounge out with one of their signature cocktails in hand while you peruse a menu featuring such mouth-watering options as mariposa duck confit with frisée and crispy kale, or seared scallops with wild boar belly and a green pea purée. Need we say more?

If you’re in a mood to enjoy the sublime outdoor green spaces Ottawa brings to the table, may we suggest a picnic in the park? This is THE city to dine outdoors, and if there’s one positive that’s come out of all this, it’s that most restaurants offer everything on their menu for takeout, too.

Tingz rocks Caribbean fare with a modern twist. Try their oxtail poutine out for size, or their famous jerk chicken, grilled to absolute perfection and served with pimento beans. For authentic Mexican fare, look no further than Corazon de Maiz. Simple, fresh, delicious. For a Korean-style corn dog (whaaat?!), drop into Seoul Dog. It’s a corn dog with Eastern influence.

Feeling like a ‘zza will do the trick? Pick up a wood-fired pie at Casa di Moni—the classic margherita being my go-to. Although, we really can’t promise you won’t be coming back later for dessert. Their uber-tempting gelatos are a local favourite.

If you weren’t already full enough, pick up a half-dozen cupcakes at The Cupcake Lounge in the Market. Order in advance, cause these babies are made fresh. Pre-ordering cupcakes? In another city?! We know, it sounds crazy, but when you try them it’ll all make sense. Now, we’ve got the food options sorted out, here’s where to go to scarf it all down…

Lunch With a View

Ottawa offers some truly incredible parks and public spaces. And now, a world of physical-distancing, those green spaces have become more appreciated than ever before. For your ideal picnic, Major’s Hill Park is a no-brainer. A 5-minute stroll from the Market, this park features magnificent panoramic views of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.

As the Capital’s first park, history nerds like myself will appreciate the on-site remains of the house where Colonel By—Ottawa’s founder—lived during the building of the Rideau Canal. You can discover all of the National Capital’s park’s in this interactive map.

Canadian Museum of History

Ottawa is like one big museum. And what better place to dive into our past than at the Canadian Museum of History? They’ve adapted to the times and are now welcoming guests in a safe environment.

Among exhibits and shows currently on offer is the one-of-a-kind Indigenous Experiences performance—traditional Pow Wow dances by Indigenous dancers from around the country. There’s also the self-guided architectural tour and the family friendly Museum Quest. Click here for details on all current activities. Book ahead of time though, spaces are limited!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Ottawa has enough things to do and see that we could stay there for days.

Also Not to Miss…

Take The Loop: Walk, bike or scooter your way around this path that circles much of the city. You’ll witness gorgeous views of the Ottawa River on portion that runs along it, known as the Ottawa River Pathway. Towards its end you might even spot some white-water kayakers getting soaked at The Pumphouse white-water course. Gnarly!

In my world, bubble tea can be classified as an addictive substance. The Alley, who make some of the best bubble tea this side of China, recently opened up a brand-new store in ByWard Market.


Top image: Sunset seen from Major’s Hill Park. Photo: @nicole.simon.photography

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