As the Holiday season draws near there’s shopping to be done. There are friends to reconnect with. And it’s important to make time to enjoy the traditions and activities that make the Holidays so special. And where better to take a break and enter into the Festive spirit than Ottawa! It’s close to home, it embraces the season with Christmas Lights and Holiday events and Ottawa offers you shopping options so you can tick off your present list with unique gifts as well!
Christmas Lights across Canada began nearly three decades ago and became such a hit that cities across Canada now participate in what’s become a national tradition. 400,000 dazzling Christmas lights glow throughout downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill is a must-see stop on any tour of the lights. It is particularly spectacular as tens of thousands of bulbs light its historic buildings.
The switch will be flipped at an official illumination ceremony open to the public on December 7, 2016. As well as carols and on-site performances there will be free Beavertails and hot chocolate on Parliament Hill. And new for 2016 is an evening sound and light show that will be projected onto Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. This 13-minute show will run each night from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Another really authentic Holiday experience is “Alight at Night” at Upper Canada Village, just an hour outside Ottawa. Almost a million lights will adorn this historic site between Dec 2-31 and you can enjoy an “old fashioned Christmas” with horse-drawn wagon rides, shopping at the Village store and dining at the Harvest Barn.
You can combine a trip to Ottawa with a chance to snag some great Holiday gifts. Ottawa is a fabulous city for shopping and you are sure to find unusual gifts and a huge selection to help you find something for everyone. Here are a few highlights for retail therapy in Ottawa:
The Signatures Show is the National Capital’s premier holiday shopping event. It’s a gathering of the finest talents of the Canadian Handmade community in a landmark destination – the Shaw Centre. Visit over 170 of Canada’s best artists, artisans and designers between November 9-13, 2016
The ByWard Market a perfect place to browse unique boutiques selling holiday gift giving ideas - as well as to sample yummy hot chocolate and gourmet treats. In the winter months, you’ll find Christmas trees and decorations, cut flowers, maple syrup, and arts and crafts.
The CF Rideau Centre’s expansion is now open! A newly opened wing is home to 21 new stores that are spread out across four floors, including Simon’s department store, H&M Flagship Store, Zara Flagship Store, Anthropologie, Massimo Dutti and more.
Ottawa’s eclectic neighbourhoods offer an exciting and vibrant range of neat stores, smaller boutiques, ethnic variety, pubs, coffee shops and nice restaurants.
With Christmas around the corner, consider shopping at the Museum gift shops for some fabulous one-of-a-kind gift ideas. For instance the National Gallery of Canada has some unique and special gifts: membership, home décor, books and exhibition catalogues, jewellery, and much more. It is fun to shop in person at the Gallery when you visit Ottawa – but you can also shop online via www.gallery.ca.
Another “different” gift idea is a Le Cordon Bleu gift card which can be used in either Signatures Restaurant or for one of the amazing one day Saturday short courses - which make a great holiday gift for foodies!
And after the Christmas celebrations are over, New Year’s Eve is going to be extra special this year. There are many great places to have a delicious New Year’s Eve meal, sip champagne and dance the night away. But it will also herald the official start to the Ottawa 2017 celebrations.
To kick off Ottawa 2017 on December 31, 2016, there will be an early-evening, family-friendly celebration that will include the lighting of a spectacular cauldron at Ottawa City Hall. The tri-sided installation – an artistic adaption of the Ottawa 2017 logo measuring approximately 5 metres high (16 feet) and 4 metres wide (13 feet) – will be located in the garden bed that lines the memorial fountain next to Laurier Avenue.
The sparking of this special landmark will cue hundreds of Ottawa-area students to form a human chain, connecting young people from diverse backgrounds and weaving a line of youthful optimism through downtown Ottawa streets.
There will also be spectacular fireworks off Parliament Hill, Nepean Point, and the Alexandra Bridge (primarily from Nepean Point and the bridge). Fireworks start at 8:17pm (to mark the beginning of 2017).
Of course Ottawa is an easy getaway from both Toronto and Montreal. It’s not far by car - and VIA Rail is a great option as well.
From Toronto you also have the option of Air Canada’s award-winning service to Ottawa, with the most flights to the nation’s capital. The best place to find the lowest fares is at www.aircanada.com or ask your travel agent..
To plan a trip to Ottawa visit www.OttawaTourism.ca or phone 1–888–OTTAWA–8 for some great short break ideas.
Create your own unique Ottawa getaway as you book hotel stays and a range of discounted attraction admission tickets right on the website. Book in advance for museum admissions, spas like Holtz Spa and Nordik-Spa Nature, sports such as Ottawa REDBLACKS CFL tickets, Ottawa Senators NHL tickets and culinary delights such as C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures gourmet walking tours.
There’s always something going on in Ottawa, no matter what time you visit. You can always check out the events calendar at www.ottawatourism.ca for up to date information.
Whether you are looking for the Christmas favourite “The Nutcracker" or a New Year’s Eve Party to last long into the night - Ottawa has activities to keep the whole family busy.
Holiday favourites coming up include:
Alberta Ballet, The Nutcracker
(Nov 30 - Dec 4, 2016)
This sumptuous Alberta Ballet production pulls out all the stops with brilliant costumes, extravagant sets and the charming, original choreography of Edmund Stripe. It’s a festive treat for the whole family, back by popular demand.
Find yourself transported to a dazzling fairytale world where Klara and her beloved Nutcracker battle the Rat King, and where a sleigh ride through a land of glistening snowflakes leads to the realm of the benevolent Sugar Plum Fairy.
To add some excitement to your Holiday visit to Ottawa, after a day spent shopping or at the museums - treat yourself to an evening at the Casino du Lac-Leamy for resort like facilities including the casino, great entertainment and fine dining.
Of course we associate Ottawa with skating on the Rideau Canal in winter – but you don’t have to wait until the canal freezes. However, you will want to bring your own skates to enjoy these outdoor rinks in Ottawa.
Sens Rink of Dreams
The Skating court
Don't miss the national museums of Ottawa during your visit. They amaze, amuse, fascinate - and they always make you think
If you want to get General Admission to several museums at a great price - consider a Canada's Capital Museums Passport. For $30 plus applicable taxes you can visit 6 uniquely Canadian museums in Ottawa–Gatineau at your own pace. Each accompanying child receives 30% discount off children/student admission at each Museum.
All of the national museums located in Ottawa–Gatineau, are part of Canada’s Capital Museums Passport:
Here is a list of exhibitions over the Holiday period:
Alex Janvier (until April 17, 2017)
Alex Janvier is a senior aboriginal artist who has been at the forefront of the field of contemporary aboriginal art in Canada. Janvier was one of ten children born to Mary and Alex Janvier on the Le Goff Reserve of the Cold Lake First Nations, in northern Alberta. He is one of Canada’s most acclaimed contemporary painters.
This major retrospective celebrates Alex Janvier’s lifetime of creativity, knowledge and perspective, gained through his love of the land, art and Dene culture. Visitors will have an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate Janvier’s unique style. He combines Dene and Western art styles and techniques. His paintings on paper, canvas and linen reference Indigenous culture and history and have universal appeal.
Deadly Skies– Air War, 1914-1918 (until January 29 2017)
Go beyond the dogfights and immerse yourself in the lives of nine people, from both sides of the conflict, who experienced the first air war between 1914 - 18
Join them as they train to fly, gather intelligence, fight aerial battles and drop bombs. Their stories — told with more than 80 authentic artifacts woven into an innovative graphic novel presentation — provide insight into the history and consequences of the first air war.
Exhibits include a tiny silver cup that was a souvenir of victory for the famous “Red Baron”. You can see the tiny bombs dropped by hand during the early days of the war, to the comparatively huge 12-foot bombs that were in use by the end of the war. And a full-sized recreation of a Sopwith Pup biplane.
Napoleon and Paris (until Jan 8, 2017)
Napoleon’s extraordinary life is inextricably linked to Paris. From his rise to power to his fall from grace, Paris was the theatre for some of the key moments in his career. A man of war, Napoleon made Paris the capital of an empire. A man of ambition, he revived Paris’ glittering court life. A man of vision, he reshaped the city and filled it with enduring institutions.
Fascinating artefacts include Napoleon’s camp bed where he slept when encamped with his army. There is also a snare drum from the Battle of Waterloo and his iconic bicorne hat.
Reptiles (until April 2, 2017)
Get eyeball to eyeball with colourful lizards, deadly snakes, bizarre turtles and an alligator. In total, 30 live animals that represent 19 different species are waiting for you as you meet an amazing variety of live reptiles from around the world! You'll discover cool facts and get a new appreciation for these misunderstood creatures. The exhibition’s science and conservation messages aim to dispel common myths and demonstrate how reptiles fit into the animal kingdom and their native environments.
The show is produced by Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allentown, Pennsylvania, creators of the popular Frogs exhibition hosted by the museum in 2013.
The culinary scene in Ottawa has come alive in recent years, with a thriving community of Ottawa chefs and Ottawa restaurants making names for themselves both at home and abroad.
Located in the historic Sandy Hill neighbourhood in downtown Ottawa, Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute has been a driving force behind this culinary resurgence. It is the only Canadian campus of this world renowned culinary training school – and includes Signatures Restaurant where anyone can sample the delights of exceptional French cuisine.
Click here for restaurant sugestions covering a number of Ottawa's lively neighbourhoods.
As well as Ottawa’s restaurants – here are two rather different ways to enjoy the foodie scene in Ottawa. Both of these activities can be booked at weekends so you can plan them as part of a short break in the Capital.
C’est Bon Gourmet Food Tours allow you to explore Ottawa’s neighbourhood food markets, discover local produce and dishes, and meet area chefs and food artisans. Find the hidden treasures with the help of expert and insightful guides.- current tours explore Ottawa’s ByWard Market, Preston Street, Chinatown, Wellington West and the Glebe neighbourhoods, as well as Eddy Street in old Gatineau. These delightful epicurean outings last an hour and a half to two and a half hours each. They’re casual walking tours, so be sure to dress comfortably and allow for the weather.
Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute offers short cooking courses to the public ranging from half day to four days in length. Some are offered at the weekend – so this is something that a visitor to Ottawa could easily fit in as part of their stay. Though the courses are taught by the same teachers who educate the budding chefs at the Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute - everyday cooks should not be intimidated. These really are courses for everyone. Course topics include Cake decorating, Healthy Cuisine, Knife Skills, Potatoes and Oh Chocolat amongst many others.
In 2017 Canada will mark 150 years since Confederation – and where better to celebrate this moment of national pride than in our Nation’s Capital? Canadians will gather in Ottawa to join local residents in a year of celebration. Throughout the year, branded as “Ottawa 2017”, there will be big Signature Events that will animate the entire city as well as community celebrations enlivening Ottawa’s neighbourhoods.
Some events that will be happening all year long – so you can catch them no matter what time you visit. “Ignite 150” is a series of EPIC stunts, gatherings and happenings that will be presented in surprising locations. And “Ottawa Welcomes the World” as Embassies mark their country’s national celebration at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park with food, music and more.
Of course – there will only be one Canada Day like the one in 2017! Ottawa 2017 and CIBC are celebrating in style, at the Shaw Centre – Canada’s Meeting Place. You will be able to enjoy some incredible Canadian cuisine prepared by some of our nation’s top chefs while experiencing a surprising and eclectic array of live musical and theatrical performances.And everyone will be looking forward to the splendor of the Canada Day fireworks.
The day after Canada Day an Interprovincial Picnic will take place on Ottawa’s well-known Alexandra Bridge, which links the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The bridge will be converted to a park with actual grass, inviting families and small groups to enjoy a picnic above the Ottawa River.
There are also some fantastic events scheduled over the course of the year that celebreate sports, music and the arts, and many of them are free. For all the details check out www.ottawatourism.ca.
Red Bull Crashed Ice (March 3 – 4, 2017)
This event will make its Ottawa debut when the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship crashes and glides its way into the capital. It will take place on the iconic locks of the Rideau Canal, overlooking Parliament Hill and the famous Chateau Laurier.
The Stanley Cup 125th Tribute (March 15 – 18, 2017)
A four-day celebration of a Canadian emblem and the most revered trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup.
Grey Cup: November 2017
The 105th CFL Grey Cup will be preceded by the Grey Cup Festival - a week of celebrations prior to the game. This is Canada’s largest annual sporting event and the annual championship game of the Canadian Football League!
JUNO Awards & JUNO Week (March 27 – April 2, 2017)
Juno Week will be unprecedented week of musical festivities culminating in the 46th Annual JUNO Awards at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Inspiration Village (May 20 – September 4, 2017)
On York Street in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, this public gathering space built out of sea containers will showcase special exhibitions and performing arts featuring Canadian provinces and territories.
La Machine (July 26 – 30, 2017)
For the first time in North America, La Machine will bring its monumental motion theatre to the streets of downtown Ottawa. Prepare to be mesmerized by these fascinating creatures.
Underground Multimedia Experience (End of June – Mid-September, 2017)
Experience the ultimate underground extravaganza with this world first immersive multimedia production, projected in one of Ottawa’s city’s future Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations.
At the same time as these special events are enlivening Ottawa - transformative legacy projects will come to fruition and launch the Capital into the future. The new Confederation Line Light Rail is just one of the exciting projects that will bring so much to the city. In addition there will be community gardens created, new galleries and museum enhancements completed, a renewal of Main Street, the redevelopment of the National Arts Centre and Ottawa Art Gallery - plus two new initiatives opening with the Ottawa Innovation Centre and The Global Centre for Pluralism.
2017 Legacy Projects will particularly focus on enhancing the already World Class Cultural Attractions in Ottawa:
To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, the National Gallery of Canada is embarking on a major transformation. The Canadian Galleries will close as of 2 August 2016 and will reopen 17 May 2017 as the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries as a wonderful backdrop to this section of the Gallery’s extensive permanent collection.
The National Arts Centre is the home of the NAC Orchestra, French and English Theatre as well as dance. Renovation is underway and when the 2016-2017 season begins, the National Arts Centre will have a beautifully updated Southam Hall with better seats, better sound and better access.
The largest and most ambitious exhibition project ever undertaken by the Canadian Museum of History - the Canadian History Hall - is a gift to the people of Canada as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Opening July 1 with 40,000 sq ft in 3 galleries containing 18 chapters and 1,500 artifacts – the Canadian History Hall will tell the story of 15,000 years of Canadian history
The Canadian Museum of Nature is also being enhanced. The Arctic’s rich natural diversity and its important connections to humans are the focus of a new permanent gallery to open June 21, 2017. The goal of the New Canada Goose Arctic Gallery is to enhance and transform people’s understanding of the Arctic and its importance to Canada in the 21st century. Visitors will immerse themselves in the Arctic’s natural history and human connections through four broad themes: climate, geography, sustainability and ecosystems.
The Canada Science and Technology Museum will reopen in Fall 2017 after a complete refurbishment. The Museum’s exhibitions space will be upgraded to enhance the visitor experience and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and innovators. There will be five main galleries, including a special Children's Gallery, and four other themed spaces; Creating and Using Knowledge;Moving and Connecting, which will include the beloved locomotives; Technology in our Lives; Transforming Resources.