Presenting: Ottawa – Canada’s Capital and An Exciting Travel Destination

In anticipation of my upcoming visit to Ottawa next weekend I have started to complete some research and contacted Ottawa Tourism. Ottawa, as Canada’s capital, is one of Canada’s hottest travel destinations and it includes a great variety destinations, activities and events to offer.

I had a way to speak with Jantine Van Kregten from Ottawa Tourism who was kind enough to offer me a great general overview of things to see and do in Ottawa.

1. Please provide us with some general information about Ottawa. How large is the town, where’s it located, what’s the elements like?

Ottawa may be the capital of Canada, and its fourth largest city. With the neighbouring city of Gatineau in the province of Quebec, the region has about 1.2 million people. Ottawa is found in eastern Ontario, about four hours’drive northeast of Toronto; two hours west of Montreal; and one hour north of the border with the state of New York.

Ottawa enjoys four distinct seasons, with warmest temperatures and sometimes high humidity in July and August; a temperate fall with gorgeous fall colours; a cool and snowy winter; and a damp spring.

2. How can one get to Ottawa and what is the better way of getting around in Ottawa?

Ottawa is available with direct flights from major centres in Canada and several U.S. cities including New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and more. Ottawa is just a major stop along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor of VIA Rail and bus service also links the town with other Canadian cities. ottawa canada

By car, major thoroughfares include Highway 416 that links Ottawa with Highway 401. Highway 417 runs through the town, while Autoroutes 5, 50 and 148 are the major highways on the Quebec side of the river.

3. Ottawa is Canada’s capital and has played an important role in the annals with this country. Please inform us more about that and the Canadian Heritage Experiences offered in Ottawa.

The story of Ottawa begins with the building of the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832 by Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers and 1000s of mostly Irish labourers. The Canal stretches 202 km (126 miles) through eastern Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and was built to make certain a supply line in case of American attack (which never came). The Canal was never useful for a military purpose and its 49 locks are still operated in exactly the same way as when they certainly were built. In fact, the Rideau Canal is Canada’s nominee to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that will be expected in 2007, the 175th anniversary of its construction.

Queen Victoria decreed in 1857 that Ottawa would be the capital of the nation that became Canada. The majestic Parliament Buildings were constructed shortly thereafter and remain a “must-see” attraction in the capital. While the capital, Ottawa can also be home to 24 Sussex Drive (the prime minister’s residence and not available to the public); Rideau Hall (home of the Governor General, with guided tours of residence and gardens available); and lots of high commissions and embassies from governments across the world.

Don’t miss Laurier House, home to both Sir Wilfrid Laurier and WIlliam Lyon Mackenzie King, two former prime ministers, or the Mackenzie King Estate, King’s summer home in Gatineau Park.

4. Please inform us about a few of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Ottawa area.

The newest addition to the national museum scene may be the impressive Canadian War Musuem, which opened in May 2005 in a stunning location alongside the Ottawa River. Canada’s most-visited museum is Gatineau’s Canadian Museum of Civilization. The National Gallery of Canada offers the greatest number of Canadian art, along side European and American masters. Other cultural facilities are the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Canada Aviation Museum; the Canada Science and Technology Museum; the Canada Agriculture Museum; the Royal Canadian Mint; the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada; and the Canadian Museum of Nature, currently in the midst of an enormous renovation project, to be completed in 2009.

Other museums are the Bytown Museum, which tells the annals of Ottawa’s early days, such as the building of the Rideau Canal; the Billings Estate Museum that traces the annals of a prominent local family; and the funky Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, a four-storey underground bunker which was constructed between 1959 and 1961 as the place to that the Canadian political and military elite would ride out the results of a nuclear attack.

5. Our readers want to find out in regards to the festivals and special events in Ottawa.

The festival scene in Ottawa is a strong, year-round affair. The entire year kicks off with Winterlude, a huge winter festival held over the very first three weekends in February. In March, the Irish community celebrates Irish week, and in March and April, the maple syrup season spawns numerous delicious festivals and events celebrating this tasty treat.

May is one of the Canadian Tulip Festival–three weeks of celebration of Ottawa’s favourite flower. During World War II, the Dutch royal family took refuge in Ottawa and Princess Margriet was born here, in a hospital room designated Dutch soil for the event. Canadians played a huge role in liberating the Netherlands and when the royal family returned home following the war, as a gesture of friendship, respect and appreciation, they sent 1000s of tulip bulbs. The bulbs have followed annually since and now 3,000,000 tulips bloom in Canada’s Capital Region.

Late May brings Canada’s largest marathon within the Ottawa Race Weekend. Over the summertime months, festivals abound: Doors Open Ottawa showcase heritage buildings; Italian Week; the Ottawa Fringe Festival; the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival; the Nortel Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival; Cisco Systems Ottawa Bluesfest (Canada’s largest); the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (the world’s largest); the Sound of Light fireworks festival; Ottawa Busker Festival; Ottawa GreekFest; CKCU Ottawa Folk Festival; the Central Canada Exhibition; and Pride Week.

On Parliament Hill, two free activities occur daily in the summertime: the 10:00 a.m. Changing the Guard ceremony and the evening Sound and Light Show.

In the fall, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival colours the skies; as the La Vendemmia Harvest Festival tempts visitors’palates. The Ottawa International Animation Festival showcases artists from around the world as the Ottawa International Writers Festival provides a forum for authors’lively debates. Fall Rhapsody celebrates the splendid autumn colours.

The capital fires up for the holiday season with the Christmas Lights Across Canada program.

6. Think about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Ottawa?

Several neighbourhoods offer entertainment options in Ottawa. The ByWard Market is one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods and also functions as its entertainment district, with over 100 food and drink options in just a four-block-square area. Whether it’s fine dining, a good diner, a cosy bistro, or perhaps a romantic cafe, you’ll find it in “the Market.”

Elgin Street is another popular nightlife area, by having an eclectic collection of bars, restaurants and cafes in just a few blocks. Bank Street offers three to four distinct areas along its length, including a popular area known as the Glebe. In the near west end, Westboro can also be a stylish choice for dinner and drinks.

Obviously, you could also choose to explore the many options at the Casino du Lac-Leamy–whether it’s gaming excitement or perhaps a show at its popular theatre or perhaps a dinner at its five-diamond restaurant Le Baccara. The region’s other five-diamond establishment (two of only 11 across Canada) is Signatures at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa.

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