This year is Canada’s 150th anniversary and all year long we are celebrating the birth of our nation. The epicenter of the festivities is, of course, our nation’s capital – Ottawa. Here our wonderful artists are being showcased, our amazing history and culture are being celebrated, talented chefs are cooking up a storm - and our National Museums are opening fabulous new galleries and running outstanding exhibitions. So this year is a great year to visit Ottawa.
Ottawa is a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and springtime is a wonderful season to enjoy them. You really can experience the great outdoors right in the heart of the city. There are some lovely gardens to discover – including the gardens at Rideau Hall, which is the Governor General’s residence, and the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. Right downtown, Major's Hill Park offers a welcomed respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. It overlooks the Rideau Canal as it empties into the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill is mere steps away from this lush, quiet park.
Ottawa is a very walkable city with several distinct and fascinating neighbourhoods. From the ByWard Market area to the Glebe and beyond you can find boutique stores, antique shops and fabulous chef owned and operated restaurants. A terrific way to explore the city is on a gourmet walking tour with C'est Bon Epicurean Adventures. Casual, informative and with lots of chances to taste and shop along the way – these tours are a real treat. Or combine history with walking and a visit to be one of Canada’s “most haunted buildings” (The old Ottawa jail now a hostel) on a “Haunted Walk of Ottawa”.
There are plenty of hiking and cycling opportunities in Canada’s Capital Region with over 300 kms of recreational paths. Ottawa has many natural areas – from urban paved pathways to rugged untamed terrain. There are scenic paths and trails to satisfy the beginner to the expert hiker! The Ottawa River and Rideau Canal flow through the heart of Canada’s Capital Region, and there are walking trails along the shorelines that provide a unique perspective on the city.
With the arrival of warm spring weather comes the promise of beautiful flowers during the Canadian Tulip Festival – and Easter and Mother’s Day are both great times to take a weekend break in Ottawa. Visit www.OttawaTourism.ca for some great short break ideas. Plan your vacation and book your experiences in advance with an Attractions Package.
2017 marks the 65th edition of the Canadian Tulip Festival and the theme of the festival is “One Tulip, One Canada” in honour of our nation's 150th birthday. Ottawa's tulip heritage is the result of a 1945 gift to Ottawa from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands in thanks for the safe haven the city provided the Dutch Royal Family during the Second World and the role Canadian troops played in liberating Holland during that conflict.
The tulip beds in Ottawa such as Commissioners Park are under the care of the National Capital Commission (NCC). The NCC also manages the tulip displays at Parliament Hill, along Confederation Boulevard, the historic Rideau Canal, the Capital’s scenic parkways, the recreational pathway network, and at national museums and institutions. And the NCC looks after the design and maintenance of the gardens at Canada’s Official Residences, including Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex Drive.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is a celebration of the return of spring, with over a million tulips in 50 varieties blooming in public spaces across the National Capital Region. The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in the flower beds of Commissioners Park, on the banks of Dow’s Lake, where 250,000 flowers bloom.
The skilled gardeners who plant the bulbs are creating works of art with “messages in flowers”. So for instance the choice of colour of the blooms is very important. Watch for the "Canada 150" tulip this spring, specially bred for the occasion and featuring red “flames” on a white flower, mimicking the Canadian flag. The gardeners of the NCC plan the tulip display to last as long as possible, and they plant a number of different varieties of tulip bulbs. Early flowering tulips usually bloom around the end of April and late flowering blooms are still creating a beautiful display until the end of May.
This year the festival extends over 4 official sites:
Here are some ideas for tours to help you enjoy the Tulip beds in Ottawa:
During the Canadian Tulip Festival, May 12 – 22, 2017, you’ll encounter pageantry, music and art throughout Ottawa’s great neighbourhoods and you won’t want to miss the fireworks on Victoria Day Weekend! The closing fireworks will take place at Lansdowne on Sunday, May 21 with music and animation on site with admission fee.
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 the up to date information.
There are a number of exciting exhibitions that you can take in during your trip to Ottawa this spring. In addition, as part of the legacy of the Ottawa 2017 celebrations, several cultural attractions have undergone renovations or are opening new Galleries this year.
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 History Hall presents Canada’s story as you’ve never seen it before. Explore Canada’s history through the diverse experiences and perspectives of the real people who lived it. Discover our collective story of conflict, struggle and loss, as well as success, achievement and hope.
At the museum you can also take in these great exhibitions:
Hockey (until October 9, 2017)
Share our magnificent obsession with our national sport of Hockey with one-of-a-kind artifacts (including Jacques Plante’s famous hockey mask), video clips of historic highlights, and personal memorabilia. Explore Canada’s historic love of the sport of hockey, and its impact on Canadian identity.
Horse Power (until Jan 7, 2018)
Exquisite craftsmanship combines with the romance of bygone days in this sumptuous exhibition of 18 horse-drawn sleighs and carriages. Handcrafted between 1770 and 1950, these elegant conveyances once transported Catholic cardinals, Montréal millionaires and Governors General.
Today, the artistry of the carriage makers lives on in the graceful lines of these lovingly restored antiques. Phaeton, coach, hansom cab or brougham sleigh, each one showcases a different regional style and demonstrates how climate and geography influenced design in the era of horse-powered transportation.
Canadian Museum of Nature
The Arctic’s rich natural diversity and its important connections to humans are the focus of the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery set to open June 21, 2017 at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
The Arctic comprises 40% of our country, with an amazing history and a future of uncertainties and possibilities.
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.
Visit in 2017 as the Bytown Museum celebrates its 100th anniversary in conjunction with Canada’s 150th. This museum features Ottawa’s early history, including the building of the Rideau Canal. It is also housed in the old Commissariat Building (1827), originally a storehouse for supplies while the Canal was being built.
This year the museum will showcase objects from its permanent collection in “A Century of Community”.
National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery is also opening a new gallery this year! The Canadian Galleries will reopen 15 June 2017 as the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries - a wonderful backdrop to this section of the Gallery’s extensive permanent collection.
The new Canadian and Indigenous Gallery, for the first time, will present a holistic and compete vision of the artistic production in Canada. The reinvented space will create a visual, intellectual and historical dialogue between collections that belonged to the same land and were produced at the same time, but until now, have been presented in separate spaces.
The Contemporary galleries at the National Gallery will also reopen this spring, on May 3, featuring Canadian and indigenous art from 1968 to the present.
The National Gallery currently also has a Canadian themed exhibition:
Photography in Canada: 1960–2000 (until September 17, 2017)
The variety, width and breadth of photographic culture in Canada is extraordinary, and Canadian photographers are among the most prominent and influential in the world today.
This exhibition brings together more than 100 works by 71 artists around themes such as conceptual, documentary, urban landscape and portrait and it covers classic street photography, documentary images and landscape imagery, to experimental abstractions and conceptual work.
Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum has a special exhibition that celebrates the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge – a defining moment in Canadian History.
Vimy – Beyond the Battle (until January 7, 2018)
Remembered as a victory, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9–12, 1917) in France was also one of Canada’s costliest engagements during the First World War. Over the past century, Canadians have remembered and commemorated this battle in many different ways and for many different reasons. Vimy – Beyond the Battle sheds light on how and why we commemorate by exploring private and collective memories of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the First World War and more recent conflicts. The exhibition is a potent reminder that acts of commemoration help us construct our past and shape our present.
In 2017, the War Museum will present a multi-faceted exhibition and programming schedule exploring the Battle of Vimy Ridge and its meaning, 100 years later. The special exhibition focused on commemoration and memory, upgrades to the presentation of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the Museum and highly interactive programming will enable visitors to understand how this iconic event has shaped our perception of history.
Two museums that have been closed for a while will reopen in 2017 after being completely renovated.
The Canada Space and Technology Museum is set to reopen in November this year and will include a special Children’s Gallery.
And the Bank of Canada Museum is set to open in the Summer. The museum will feature the largest, most complete collection of Canadian bank notes, coins, and money-related artifacts in the world.
There’s a year round schedule of festivals in Ottawa, bringing you music of all genres, street celebrations, multi cultural events and more! So no matter what time you visit - there is sure to be something going on. You can always check out the events calendar at www.ottawatourism.ca for the up to date information.
Ottawa also has a packed season of festivals to celebrate theh arrival of spring and to get you outdoors:
The culinary scene in Ottawa has come alive in recent years, with a thriving community of Ottawa chefs and 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.
Signatures Restaurant has a tasty, locally inspired, menu with French flare - bringing you unique culinary creations by Chef Yannick that you won't find anywhere else in Ottawa! A meal at Signatures Restaurant is a great gastronomic experience, enhanced by its setting in an historic building – what a great venue to host private groups for special occassions!
Click here for restaurant suggestions covering a number of Ottawa's lively neighbourhoods.
Click here for suggestions covering a number of Ottawa's best patios to see and be seen
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 celebrate sports, music and the arts, and many of them are free. For all the details check out www.ottawatourism.ca.
Here are just a few of the upcoming events:
Grey Cup: November 21-26, 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!
Ottawa Welcomes the World
Embassies will mark their country’s national celebration with 45 events over the year – including in May alone:
May 03, 2017 Poland
May 5-7, 2017 Mexico
May 12, 2017 United Arab Emirates
May 17, 2017 Haiti
May 19, 2017 Cuba
May 21, 2017 Guyana
May 22, 2017 Serbia
May 28, 2017 Ethiopia
Ignite 150 will be a series of EPIC stunts and happenings including more than 12 events such as:
July 7-22, 2017 (EXCLUDING July 10): Sky Lounge, a gourmet experience 50m in the air with Chef Stephen La Salle of feast + revel
August 27, 2017: Canada’s Table, an outdoor dining experience featuring all-Canadian dishes served by Canadian top chefs to 1,000 guests, with Parliament Hill’s Sound and Light Show as a backdrop
Inspiration Village (May 20 – September 4, 2017)
Inspiration Village, located on York Street in Ottawa’s historic ByWard Market, will house a succession of special exhibits and performing arts events, each one showcasing Canada’s provinces and territories. In an unusual twist, Inspiration Village will be built out of sea containers - a sustainable, cost-effective and flexible building material that is gaining interest around the world.
Kontinuum (End of June – Mid-September, 2017)
Kontinuum, will be the ultimate underground experience with a futuristic and immersive multimedia production created by none other than Moment Factory. It will be a free interactive sound and light fantasy voyage into an unfinished underground light rail transit tunnel—a world first!
Kontinuum will be projected in one of Ottawa’s future Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations. The Confederation Line of Ottawa’s new LRT service is scheduled to launch in 2018. To showcase this innovative mode of travel and to build anticipation for this new era of transportation in the nation’s capital, the Lyon Station will be open to the public for a free, momentum-building multi-media journey from late June to early September.
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.
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.