A friend asked, so here are some Greatest Hits of Ottawa (According to Amanda) in the form of a partial and evolving list of thing to do / see / eat for future visitors and / or residents and other interested parties:
- Byward Market is touristy, but fun to poke around, especially if you like to eat Beaver Tails or Obama Cookies and drink exciting teas.
- If you are looking for French books to supplement your meagre collection, Librairie Du Soleil is a lovely shop to check out. There are other great independent and / or used book shops in Ottawa, as well as two comic book shops on Bank that may interest the nerd-minded.
- Volunteer at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, or one of the many volunteer agencies in Ottawa. (This is more useful for those of you who may be living in or relocating to the area.)
- Question Period is just delightfully hilarious. The Members of Parliament are constantly trying to find work arounds to the “no swearing” rules and it’s just democracy (in)action, folks.
- Mooney’s Bay has a pirate ship sometimes for no reason that I can ascertain.
- Walking the locks is pretty nice. The canal is beautiful, summer or winter (kayaking or ice skating!).
- The Peace Tower has some pretty nice views of the city, if you are into looking at things. The tour of Parliament is generally delightful for aficionados of Canadian history. Don’t bring scissors, though, because you have to go through a metal detector.
- When someone else is paying, I like to go to Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar on Bank Street.
- The Mayfair Theatre, also on Bank, has a pretty varied assortment of indie films and fun events.
- Performances at the National Arts Centre are excellent, in my experience, and you can get reduced rate Live Rush tickets if you or someone you know is a student. (Students can generally purchase two tickets at the reduced rate.) They have music, theatre, talks, all sorts of great goings ons. There are also other performances around the city – improv, live bands, community theatre productions. Basically haters gonna hate is what I’m saying, but Ottawa has lots going on!
- Ottawa is lousy with museums. Do you like nature? Stamps? Civilization? War? History? Pick any topic you like and check out some of the exhibits all over town. Sometimes there are free days and / or student discounts. The Canadian Museum of Civilization (rename or no rename!) is pretty awesome, architecturally and otherwise.
- Aww, nuts, I was going to recommend Ada’s Diner on Bank Street, but Yelp informs me that it is closed. Instead, I will suggest Kettleman’s for a cheap bagel fix, and Wild Oat Bakery Cafe for a more expensive (but delicious) bagel fix.
- Ottawa is also lousy with shwarma places. I love all of them. Enjoy!
- There is a fancy cupcake shop (or possibly a proliferation of cupcake shops) on Bank, if you are feeling festive.
- Setting aside Tim Hortons for just a moment, Bridgehead is a bit more local / fair-trade / generally more glamourous, and a nice place to hang out.
- The bar I am most familiar with in Ottawa is Mike’s Place at Carleton University, but there are trivia nights and happy hours all over the place.
- Ottawa apparently has a farmer’s market (probably more than one!). I’ve never made it to any, but if you let me know how they are, then I can update accordingly.
- Parc Gatineau Park isn’t too far away (if you have a car! It’s like 2 hours on the bus). It is fun to climb on the ruins at Moorside that William Lyon Mackenzie King collected. (His weirdness benefits future generations of Canadians other other visitors.) Plus, Meech Lake! How historical! (Warning: Explaining Meech Lake to everyone in the car who doesn’t care about Canadian political history might get you left at one of the parking lots along the way.) According to Wikipedia, there’s a nude beach in Gatineau, too! Amazing
- The Black Sheep in Wakefield has concerts. I’ve heard good things about the place, but never made it that far (as I am generally sans car in Ottawa).
- Venus Envy is possibly Not Safe For Grandmas (depending on the grandma), but has lots of interesting talks, books, and activities (among other things).
- Montreal isn’t too far away! ;-) (It’s been said that the best thing about Ottawa is the two-hour train ride to Montreal, but hatters gonna hat.)
This list is a bit short because I spend most of my time in Ottawa on campus, crying that Ada’s is closed, walking (check out the annual Jane’s Walks for free guided tours of different neighbourhoods!), or visiting with all my besties that live in Ottawa as we scheme for ways that I can move there and be their neighbour. That being said, I’d welcome additions to this list from other locals and visitors!
More suggestions culled from Ye Olde Facebook Comments:
- Ottawa on Canada Day is amazing. (DM)
- Remembrance Day in Ottawa at the War Memorial is always very emotional. (DM)
- I’ve heard great things about El Camino (tacos!) and people line up everyday before it opens at 5:30pm. (DM)
- The Green Door, vegetarian restaurant on Main Street across from St. Paul’s University, is a make-everything-from-scratch kind of place that is usually packed and not just by vegetarians. The food is local, mainly organic (I think) and the ingredients clearly stated for each item. Wonderful. Food is sold by weight and can be pricey if you insist upon buying the heavier items. (CO/JH)
- The Seminary attached to St. Paul’s takes in roomers, I believe, so you may be able to stay there. (CO/JH)
Disambiguation: Not to be confused with Ottawa in Illinois. “Ottawa” is derived from an Algonquin word meaning “trade,” “traders,” or possibly “trading place.” So that should tell you something about Illinois (a French-ificiation of the name of the Illinois) and Ontario (derived from the Iroquois word for “sparkling water”).