We’ve all wound up starved for a vacation with no time to spare to take off down south. The lure of Ontario cottage country has weakened with the chill of the seasons and it’s not quite Quebec skiing season yet. What to do and where to head? We’re thinking of a place so obvious, it’s pretty much unexpected: a weekend getaway to Ottawa.
We would like to introduce you to an Ottawa bubbling with cultural activities and an emerging culinary scene beyond the big lawn in front of Parliament Hill. Mix and match from our fave places to curate your own weekend in the capital.
So, grab our hand and let us show you around the kind of weekend in Ottawa that we would show to our dearest friend.
Drop off your bags
Budget Pick: Best Western Plus Ottawa DowntownCheck prices on trivago!
You’ll be surprised at just how far the Best Western Plus Ottawa Downtown falls under your allocated weekend hotel budget by browsing their list of amenities. From their location across the street from the Canadian Museum of Nature, you’ll enjoy free WiFi and kitchenettes in this all-suite concept. A mighty breakfast is on-the-house and you’ll be able to dive right into eggs however you like them, bagels, fruit, cereal and yoghurts before commencing the day. Book yourselves into one of the whirlpool tub units– your legs will be thanking you following a full day of sightseeing.
Luxury Pick: Swiss HotelCheck prices on trivago!
Located in a historic building dating back to 1862, the Swiss Hotel warmly welcomes Ottawa visitors seeking to unwind in luxury. Onsite, you’ll find a Mediterranean garden that is best enjoyed from the terrace with a bottle of BYO champagne. Indoors, the spacious rooms are detailed with hardwood floors, original art and bold colours, some with working fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs. The hotel offers a fantastic Swiss-style breakfast comprised of homemade organic dishes including the traditional meats, cheeses and Bircher Muesli that you would expect to find in a chalet at the top of the Swiss Alps.
Let’s begin with a history experience
Like the elephant looming in room, the Canadian Museum of History’s gigantic collection cannot be missed on a weekend in Ottawa. The museum complex is truly a jewel of Canadian culture: four floors are packed with exhibits and artefacts that narrate the 20,000 years of human history we’ve uncovered so far.
Canada’s most visited museum is opening a special exhibit about DreamWorks Animation: Journey from sketch to screen on December 7. There’s also the Canadian Children’s Museum, specifically devoted to creating an interactive journey of discovery for the wee ones.
Take that Coffee Break you crave
If you’re in need of a coffee pit stop, the Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar is luring you in. We must ask you: is there any aroma more enticing than the smell of coffee and used books? Depending on your schedule, you can grab one to go or sit down to sift through the used books for sale.
Mindfulness practice at Remic Rapids
Part of the beauty of Ottawa is the abundance of space reserved for enjoying nature. At the Remic Rapids, the natural world collides with the rock sculptures of artist John Felicè Ceprano. The meditative setting has asoothing soundtrack provided by the rushing rapids of the Ottawa River. It’s a lovely stroll, particularly at sunset and makes for a great pre-dinner excursion.
Shop & stroll the Byward Market
Byward Market doesn’t rhyme with Ottawa but the two are synonymous. The city’s beloved market is one of the oldest and biggest in the country. It’s not merely a collection of market stalls selling fresh produce (although you’ll find that too if you’re hankering for a crisp apple or a slab of cheese) but also home to plenty of boutiques, food stalls and bars. No matter what time of year you visit, it’s bustling with locals and visitors and you could easily spend a few hours wandering before you could be sure to have checked everything out.
Finally believe the Rideau Canal hype!
Until you’ve sailed on skates down the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, you’ve probably aimed a smirk at those gushing over the Rideau Canal. Better strap on those skates and get ready to believe the hype of this scenic link of waterways that joins rivers and canals across the city. Skate rental is available. When the canal isn’t frozen over, you can still stroll or bike alongside, or take to the water aboard a canoe.
Who needs the Louvre?
Don’t feel intimidated by the giant spider outside–the multi-faceted sparkling glass and granite building which is home to the National Gallery of Canada is a stronghold of paintings, sculptures and photographs with many names you’d be apt to drop as perennial favourites. Beside Canadian greats like Emily Carr, Alex Coville and the Group of Seven, you’ll find Warhol, Klimt, Mondrian and Picasso among a slew of other legends. The gallery is an Ottawa weekend itinerary addition whose artistic content from far and wide you wouldn’t expect to find on home soil.
Inscript in the Sens Army
Dress in the obligatory red, black, white and gold and dose up on the ginger tea before the big day- you’ll be cheering along with some of the most devoted and raucous NHL fans. There is no better way to get to the soul of the city than coming to show your support for the boys on the ice. Last season they were the last Canadian team vying for the Stanley Cup in the playoffs and we’re sure an extra couple of voices to join the medley might send them back that winning way next year.
Three picks for a Dinner Date
Hidden in the basement of an unassuming Remax building, Table 85 is Ottawa’s best-kept foodie secret. Taking the concept of a speakeasy beyond the cocktails, to generous portions of Asian fusion food, your plates will come piled high with helpings of Korean fried chicken, seafood pancakes and fried rice. Locals rave not only about the food, but the budget-friendly prices and seasonal specials.
Ottawa explorers searching for a cozy and delicious restaurant can park themselves at the Albion Room. This jewel of a restaurant is tucked away inside the Novotel Hotel in Downtown and features squishy sofas and a farm-to-table menu mantra. While we Canadians are used to making the best of the worst weather, who could say no to several hours of feasting on the likes of Butternut Pappardelle, an Elk burger or a charcuterie spread fit for a prime minister.
Serving beautifully plated Middle Eastern delicacies bursting with flavours, after one bite at Fairouz, you’ll undoubtedly understand why the restaurant made the list of Canda’s 100 Best Restaurants in 2017. We recommend the range of sharing plates to start– our favourites are the preserved lemon labneh and the fried cauliflower with tahini and pomegranate, before moving onto the mains just to make sure you get to relish this incredible cuisine.
Saturday night calls for a nightcap or two: Ward 14 is a surprising mix of cocktail bar and consignment shop meaning you can shop their eclectic selection of local crafts and vintage while you sip on your choice of their own beer brew or a custom drink creation. You can also join botany workshops, play trivia or try to contact the dead on an Ouija board.
Did we forget your fave Ottawa spot? Oopsie…
Let us know and maybe we can add it to the schedule!