Finding art and culture in Ottawa

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Posted December 21, 2015 by Rod Charles in Canadian Festivals
Ottawa-West-Lobby

The Comfort Inn Ottawa West property is a good location for seeing attractions such as the Diefenbunker. (Photo courtesy of Choice Hotels Canada)

Vacay.ca has teamed with Choice Hotels Canada to create a series of articles highlighting the best hotel travel deals and experiences in the country this winter. In this installment of the series, Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles takes a look at our nation’s capital.

Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — A few years ago, a Korean travel journalist I was on the road with asked which city best represented Canada from a purely cultural standpoint. Without hesitation, I said Ottawa.

Not that you can’t get a good dose of Canadian culture in Halifax, Calgary or Windsor but there’s just something about our capital that oozes Canuckism in a way no other city can.

There are three outstanding Comfort Inn Hotels where you can start your journey of Ottawa’s magnificent arts and culture scene. Econo Lodge Downtown East (112 Montreal Rd) and Comfort Inn, Ottawa East (1252 Michael St) are wonderful places to stay. Comfort Inn Ottawa West (222 Hearst Way) is outside of the city on Highway 417 just west of Highway 416.

Begin Your Journey At Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, located on Wellington Street, is where the government of Canada sits and is one of the most important landmarks in the country. Even if you aren’t a big fan of politics, it’s difficult not to admire the historic buildings where Canada’s democratically elected officials work. Nothing in my mind is a bigger tribute to Canadian art and culture in Ottawa than the famous Peace Tower, which overlooks the Ottawa River. The Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada are also in the area.

Just east of Parliament Hill is one of my favourite places on the planet. Ottawa’s ByWard Market, which I believe to be one of the best in the world, is loaded with great eateries and stores to buy trinkets, clothing and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ottawa canals

The Rideau Canal connects to the Ottawa River and is steps from the ByWard Market and Parliament Hill in the city’s downtown. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The market itself is outstanding, but the surrounding bars, pubs, department stores and restaurants guarantee there is always action and adventure. The President of the United States also made a quick stop there during his first visit to Canada, and made the Obama cookie famous in the process.

Read about the Obama Cookie on Vacay.ca

Art Galleries And Museums

There are far too many museums, attractions and art galleries in this city to list but some of the heavy hitters that deserve a visit are the Royal Canadian Mint, the Bank of Canada Currency Museum, The National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Another Vacay.ca favourite is the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum which is just a short 20 km drive from Comfort Inn Ottawa West. Diefenbunker Cold War Museum is an awesome place to go back in time and discover your inner spy.

To read more about Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum on Vacay.ca, Read The spy who loved Canada.
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The views of Parliament Hill are sublime, no matter where in Ottawa you can catch a glimpse of them. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

For a strong taste of Canadian culture my favourite is the Canadian War Museum, which offers a deep, meaningful no-nonsense look at Canada’s role in different wars going all the way back to aboriginal conflicts before the country even existed. I love how this museum talks about how war has touched Canadians from different backgrounds and communities. There are several artifacts and exhibits – including military equipment – that will keep you occupied for hours. In my opinion, every young Canadian should visit this museum.

While located just outside Ottawa, I have to mention The Canadian Museum of History (formerly Canadian Museum of Civilization). With over 1.2 million visitors a year, The Canadian Museum of History is the country’s most-visited museum and one of Canada’s oldest public institutions stretching back to 1856. Not only is this a place to learn, but it’s also kid friendlyMy sister takes her kids there all the time.

Festivals And Sporting Events You Will Love

Ottawa has tons of festivals and sporting events taking place in the city each year. One of the most popular and longest running being the Canadian Tulip Festival, which is celebrated every spring.

The city features one of the best music festivals in the country, including RBC Ottawa Bluesfest (one of the top 10 outdoor music festivals in the world).

Other outstanding festivals are Festival franco-ontarien, Ottawa International Children’s Festival, the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, CityFolk Festival, and Fall Rhapsody – a celebration of fall colours in Gatineau Park. There’s also Little Italy’s Grapefest and Winterlude – a celebration of winter activities spanning three weekends in February.

All awesome festivals that will give you a large dose of Canadian culture, art and food, but if you’re truly looking for the grandaddy of all festivals look no further than the Canada Day celebration, which takes place every year on Parliament Hill on July 1st, Canada’s birthday.

Of course, this holiday is celebrated coast to coast but nowhere is that celebration more special than in Ottawa, where the entire city is a sea of red and white and people from across Canada pour in to be a part of it. If you can be in Ottawa at least once in your life on July 1st, try and make it happen.

Sports A Big Hit In The Capital Region

Sports is a big part of Ottawa’s culture, and every year the city hosts a major sporting event of some kind. Curling is truly a part of Canadian culture and if you love the sport, then you’ll be happy to know that the Tim Horton’s Brier March will be taking place in Ottawa in March.

ottawa-senators-gladiators-superfans-marc-dupont-jesse-jodoin

Marc Dupont, left, and Jesse Jodoin are among the passionate Ottawa Senators fans you might run into at Scotiabank Place. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

You simply can’t talk about Canadian culture — in any city — without talking about hockey and in these parts the Sens are king. If you’re staying at Comfort Inn Ottawa West, you are just a few minutes drive from the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League.

Another team that captivated the city just a few short weeks ago was the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, who came up just short in their bid to be Grey Cup Champions.

Whether your idea of culture is historic buildings, outstanding food, jaw-dropping festivals or sporting events that will leave you screaming so loud your ears will ring, Ottawa is one city where you’ll have no problem discovering the best Canada has to offer.

Ottawa-East-Lobby

The lobby at the Comfort Inn, Ottawa East is stylish and comfortable, an enjoyable spot to relax during your tours of the city’s attractions. (Photo courtesy of Choice Hotels Canada)

Comfort Inn, Ottawa East
1252 Michael St

Comfort Inn Ottawa West
222 Hearst Way

Econo Lodge Downtown East
112 Montreal Rd

Click here to sign up for Choice Privileges Loyalty program for free nights!


About the Author

Rod Charles
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Rod has previously worked for Canoe.ca and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.

 
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