Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby
If you’re looking for a family vacation that will allow you to ditch the car for a few days, try Ottawa. The downtown core of our Nation’s Capital is both pedestrian and bike-friendly, so getting around isn’t a problem. In no time at all you’ll see your carbon footprint become smaller while your wallet gets thicker with all the cash you’ll be saving on gas and parking.
Although it is comprised of only four street blocks, the historical ByWard Market area, also known as the birthplace of Ottawa, is jam-packed with things to see and do. There are restaurants, specialty shops, and of course, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada where home-grown flowers, vegetables and delicacies can be found.
If you have a sweet tooth there are two must experiences to put on your ByWard Market list. The first one is to have a piping hot BeaverTail, the perfect indulgence to eat while listening to live music in the market.
As well, if you are curious about the Canadian Obama cookie, stop by the Le Moulin de Provence bakery to check them out. President Obama purchased these maple leaf sugar cookies last February while in Canada for a visit and the rest, as they say, is history. The bakery has a lot more to offer than cookies, and with an outdoor patio, it’s a great place to have a coffee in the market.
A Day at the Museum
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Quebec, just across from downtown Ottawa, but it is a definite must see for families visiting the area.
It is considered Canada’s largest cultural institution with over 25,000 square metres of display space all housed in an award-winning building designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal. Its permanent exhibit, the Grand Hall, is absolutely stunning with over 40 authentic totem poles in a vast gallery that also doubles as a theatre where performances take place.
Inside you will also find the Canadian Children’s Museum, a place where a child’s imagination can run freely while they explore the world, literally. This children’s museum is divided into different international experiences so kids can experience driving a Pakistani bus, playing in a Nigerian home or watching short, animated movies in a Canadian cinema. In all there are over 25 areas of interactive fun in this one place.
Getting to the Canadian Museum of Civilization is an easy 20-minute walk from downtown Ottawa by simply crossing over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.
Who’s Afraid of the Dark?
There’s no need to wait until Halloween to hear a good ghost story. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa is a good way to find out about the city’s ghoulish side while learning some history as you tour all over the downtown.
You can learn all about the scary antics going on at City Hall that don’t involve any politicians. It turns out that part of City Hall used to be a Teacher’s College, and unfortunately a ghostly school marm still thinks she’s teaching in the empty rooms. As well, there’s a frightening story involving a historical building with an eerie attic where too many people have seen strange things. That story might just leave you looking over your shoulder.
Before going on this walk, make sure your kids are up for it. It’s recommended for children six and up who are prepared to walk for 90 minutes and aren’t too sensitive to scary stories.
For more info: ottawatourism.ca / 800-363-4465
Where to Stay
Since a lot of Ottawa’s main attractions lie in its downtown core, the perfect place to stay at is the Westin Ottawa, located a stone’s throw from Ottawa’s jewel in the crown, the Rideau Canal. The Westin is offering a Family Escape package starting at $179 for a family of four. This package includes coupons for BeaverTails Pastries, an in-room movie, but even better, kids under the age of 12 will eat for free for each paying adult at the Westin’s restaurant, Daly’s. To book: westin.com/Ottawa / 866-716-8101
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