Steppin’ out

This season, take advantage of living in the 613 – be a tourist in your own city

The days are getting longer and the temperature is rising, making it the perfect time to get out of the house and explore everything there is to do in the Nation’s Capital.

Jantine Van Kregten, director of communications for Ottawa Tourism, says one of the best ways to do that is to become tourists in our own hometown.

“We top the lists of Most Liveable Cities, Best Place to Live in Canada and the MoneySense rankings and there’s a reason for that – we have a very healthy quality of life. We have options that are not that expensive, that are easily accessible,” she explains. 

“The beauty of being a capital, as well, is that we’re surrounded by multiculturalism. We’ve got people from every country on Earth in town, representing their countries in neighbourhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy.”

Van Kregten says one of the easiest ways to get to know the city a bit better is to get out of the car and spend some time in your local neighbourhoods.

“Explore – on foot rather than driving through – what each neighbourhood has to offer and you’ll be surprised. Neighbourhoods are reinventing themselves and they’re really worth spending some time on the sidewalk rather than zipping along in your car,” says Van Kregten.

You can also check out some of Ottawa’s trendiest neighbourhoods from the water. Coast through the Glebe and past the National Arts Centre downtown on an electric boat tour along the Rideau Canal. This brand new, environmentally friendly boat is 100 per cent electric and features live, bilingual commentary.

“It’s a really pretty way to spend a spring or summer day and you see the Glebe, Lansdowne, Dow’s Lake and the Arboretum from a different perspective,” Van Kregten says.

For a quicker – but equally beautiful – trip, jump on the Aqua-Taxi, an eco-friendly water shuttle service between Ottawa and Gatineau. The water taxi starts at the Bytown Museum behind Parliament Hill and takes riders across the Ottawa River to the Canadian Museum of History. The water taxi runs every day from mid-May to mid-October and offers pet-friendly spaces with room for wheelchairs, bikes and strollers.

If you and your family are looking for more of an adventure on the water, Rideau Canal Cruises offers sightseeing cruises on the popular Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Families can discover the canal, and its rich history while travelling on board a brand new electric vessel. Do some research, and take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids something new.

Of course, it wouldn’t be spring in Ottawa without cycling. But rather than hopping on the bike in your own neighbourhood, Van Kregten suggests you head downtown, rent a bike and join a tour. 

If you want to take your fun indoors, Ottawa is home to a number of national and local galleries featuring priceless and world-class art (popular destinations among tourists and locals-alike), all offering great programming for children and families.

The Capital Region is rich with choice when it comes to our museums and every single one offers something unique – everything from dinosaur fossils to history of local areas, like Nepean, Osgoode, Manotick and Pinhey’s Point to a working farm in the heart of the city.

“When you visit the Agriculture Museum, for example, it’s a different experience every time,” says Van Kregten. “It’s kind of unique to have a working farm in the heart of a G7 Capital City. You don’t see that in many other places.”

Of course, there is also the newly reopened National Arts Centre, which has undergone $110 million in upgrades over the last couple of years.

Across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, inside the Canadian Museum of History, is a do-not-miss stop for any family – the Children’s Museum, and the newly renovated Moore Farm Estate on 35-hectares of city land, complete with agricultural digs for families and more.

And if you drive a little further, you can visit the Symmes Inn Museum, built in 1831 as a local inn, now featuring the history of the Aylmer area. While you’re there, take a walk and enjoy the local marina area.

In Ottawa, for children who are a bit older, there’s the Bank of Canada Museum, formerly the Currency Museum, which opened last July after moving and changing names. The best part is, admission is free, and contains history of Canadian and world currencies as well as interactive displays to engage kids of all ages.