O Canada! Our home and native land.
Canada is full of must-sees all across the country, after all, it attracts over 20 million tourists every year. A large portion of those tourists are visiting Ottawa, the nation’s capital, and it is easy to see why.
Tourists and Ottawa citizens alike need to check out these top destinations in Ottawa.
1. Parliament Hill>>
As soon as you hear Ottawa, you probably think about the Parliament building, one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Canada. The Peace Tower, which divides the House of Commons and the Senate, will give you a beautiful 360-degree bird’s eye view of the city. Afterwards, you can watch live Senate, or House of Commons debates or visit the Parliament Boutique to grab a unique souvenir. If you are visiting between May and August, you can also join yoga enthusiasts at Parliament Hill every Monday at either lunch, or during sunset.
2. Canada’s Cold War Museum / The Diefenbunker Museum>>
Whether you want to tour around yourself or take part in a guided tour, the Cold War Museum is a must-see. The purpose of the bunker, rightfully named after Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, was to house members of the government and Canadian military in the event of a nuclear attack. Prime Minister Diefenbaker thought it necessary as tensions rose during the Cold War and building began in 1959. With over four levels, there is plenty to explore and important history to read and learn about. They also put on an award-winning escape room through Thursday to Sunday evenings. Tickets sell quickly so make sure to get them well in advance!
3. Canadian War Museum>>
This museum covers all of Canada’s military past with over 3 million artifacts – from rare vehicles, to written documents, to visual and audio recordings. The museum attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year and there is plenty to explore for people of all ages. There is also an in-house cafeteria and a gift shop to grab a souvenir or gift. They also host different exhibitions throughout the year, so make sure to check out their website so you can plan your visit accordingly.
4. Canada Aviation & Space Museum>>
Another great museum to visit in Ottawa is the Canada Aviation & Space Museum. Not only do you get to learn about Canadian achievements, but you can also take a tour of the hanger and see artifacts that will blow you away. Like the Canadian War Museum, there are always different exhibitions put on by the museum. Their permanent ongoing exhibitions include “Engines: The Power to Fly!” where you learn how aircraft can even take flight in the first place, and “Life in Orbit: The International Space Station” where you learn about astronauts’ lives aboard the International Space Station, and “Canada in Space” that talks about Canada’s proudest space achievements, and more.
5. Notre Dame Basilica>>
This is the largest and oldest standing church in Ottawa where you can join in worship or take in the history, beautiful architecture and art. Construction began in 1841 and after many changes and disagreements on how the end-result should look, was completed in 1865. The interior had undergone many changes as well and was completed in 1885. You can learn more about what modern upgrades and historic restoration have been done during a guided tour that run from May to October. Booking is required in advance since tour times are limited as to not disturb worshippers or weddings.
6. The ByWard Market>>
The ByWard Market is not just a spot for locals to buy all their fresh produce. It is a great spot for all to enjoy whether you are looking for a bite to eat or a unique souvenir. It was originally established in 1826 and is one of the largest and oldest markets in Canada. The summer months are the most popular for visitors, but it is a great spot to check out any time of the year. It is home to over 600 businesses, so everyone is sure to find something they will love and enjoy.
7. The Rideau Canal>>
After the War of 1812, a waterway was thought of to secure a supply route from Montréal to Kingston. Original stonework and buildings can still be seen along the canal. Construction was completed in 1827 with almost all of the work being done by hand. Little help came from oxen and horses as most of the men excavated the area with a shovel, pure strength, and willpower. Today, Canadians and tourists enjoy paddling down the canal or skating along the 7.8km route. Locals even use the Skateway to commute to work! It is free to skate on the canal and there are heated change huts along the way to warm up or catch your breath. Not only do locals and tourists appreciate the fun activities the canal has to offer, but they also appreciate the hard work and dedication that went into making it possible to enjoy in the first place.
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8. Canadian Museum of Nature>>
This is another great location to entertain people of all ages. There are many exhibits to walk through that explore our diverse wildlife, from underwater to in the sky. You can also learn about the Ice Age and view dinosaur fossils from over 50 million years ago. The first dinosaur fossil to ever be displayed in Canada amazed visitors even back in 1913 and is still part of the current exhibit. When you get hungry, there is a café to grab food and there is a nature boutique to purchase toys, books, souvenirs and more.
9. Watson’s Mill>>
Watson’s Mill has been around since the 1860s and still produces stone-ground whole wheat flour today. It lies on one of the banks of Rideau River and the original water turbines still provide power to the millstone (used for grinding wheat/grain). The mill hosts many events throughout the year including guided tours, camps for children, bake sales, and more. One of the oldest ghost stories in Ottawa revolves around Watson’s Mill – it is said you can still hear, feel, or see the spirit of Ann Crosby Currier, the wife of one of the original owners of the building in 1860. Shortly after they married, Ann fell on one of the staircases when her dress got caught and she was flung against a wooden pillar and died upon impact. If you are brave enough, you can even purchase tickets to do a paranormal investigation there with a team of professionals!
10. Mer Bleue Conservation Area>>
If you are relaxing for the day and not looking to take any tours, the Mer Bleue Conservation Area is one of the best places to take a walk in Ottawa. No matter the time of year, the conservation area is easily accessible, whether you want to hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski. There is a 1.2km boardwalk that is easy to walk along for people of all ages where you may be able to feed birds right out of your hand! Interesting fact: the bog is 7,700 years old and is actually one of the most studied bogs in the world!
Ottawa is a fun destination for tourists all over the world and even for locals! Whether you feel like learning about Canada’s war history, seeing some fossils, or just want to take a relaxing walk through the trees, Ottawa is a great spot to do so and is perfect for people of all ages.
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