Ottawa is one of those cities that never stops being new and exciting; it’s packed full of culture, art, sports, and amazing food. After living in this city for a year now, a place that used to be one of my favourite destinations as a tourist, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 things you need to do if you are visiting Ottawa for the first time!
1. Release your inner Betty or Veronica and have a milkshake at Zak’s
This retro-themed diner has been going strong since the 80’s for a reason. Zak’s is open 24 hours so you’ll no-doubt be able to find time for one of their famous milkshakes and a burger in between all your sightseeing.
2. Catch some live music and a game of pinball at House of Targ
With a low fee of $5 per show at house of Targ you can’t go wrong and they always book great bands! The venue is open to all ages before 9 pm. Before they start IDing it doubles as a family friendly arcade-restaurant combo. As if arcade games and good live music isn’t enough to convince you, Targ’s perogie kitchen should do it.
3. De-stress with some morning yoga on parliament hill or finish off your night at the light show
Parliament is a on the top of the list of must-see things you need to do if you are visiting Ottawa for the first time! The northern lights show on the hill runs July through September and is an amazing light display with and interesting history of Canada in the voice-over. If you’re looking to spend some time on the hill in the morning join in on some free yoga!
4. Catch up on your Canadian cinema at the Bytown or the Mayfair and finish off the night with Shawarma
Ottawa’s two classic movie theatres are totally unique places to see a movie (and cuter than Cineplex). The Bytown has been open since ’47 and the Mayfair since the 30’s so take advantage of the chance to see either a new release or a Canadian film at one of these pieces of history. Finish off your night with a meal at one of many Shawarma spots—Ottawa’s specialty!
5. Grab an infamous Trudeau cookie and watch the talented street performers in the ByWard Market
Can you really say you were in Ottawa if you didn’t try a Trudeau cookie? The Moulin de Provence bakery in the Byward Market got so much attention when Obama visited and tried their Obama cookie that they now offer a Trudeau cookie (yes it tastes as good as Trudeau looks).
6. Window shop around the Glebe and stop in at the Landsdowne Farmers market
The Glebe is one of Ottawa’s most charming neighbourhoods full of unique shops and restaurants. From vinyl and music shops to a cat boutique to a classic papery, you’re sure to find something. Finish your walk through the Glebe in Lansdowne park and grab some fresh local produce at the farmer’s market.
7. Wander the art gallery and snap an Instagram with the spider
A whole day could easily be spent wandering the different exhibits in the National Art Gallery of Canada, there’s so much to see. Enjoy the amazing view of Parliament Hill from the Gallery’s cafeteria with a healthy (and affordable) meal. On your way out don’t forget to take a photo with the giant spider sculpture “Maman” and don’t forget to add your museum pass sticker to the collection on the traffic light pole.
8. Get one of the best views of the city—from the sky or the water
Breakaway Experiences offers helicopter rides over the city and the Gatineau hills if you want to splurge a little or book a tour with Lady Dive: a bus tour through Ottawa that finishes on the Ottawa River when the bus transforms into a boat. Both options are a great way to see Ottawa and Gatineau in a new way.
9. Show off your capital pride and cheer on the Sens or the Redblacks
If you’re a sports fan (or stuck travelling with one) don’t miss out on the capital’s sports scene while you visit. Both the Redblacks and Senators guarantee a fun game to watch and the atmosphere makes it a memorable experience. Don’t forget to try a Redblacks burger from Gate 1BBQ!
10. Rent a bike or bring your rollerblades and explore the Rideau Canal and downtown area at your own pace
Spend some time roller blading around the canal or rent a bike and explore downtown at your own pace. You’re sure to stumble on some hidden gems of the city and the bike rentals are inexpensive, so a great option for students.
Do you have any other suggestions for things you need to do if you are visiting ottawa for the first time?! Share in the comments below!
Featured Image: Instagram
Travelling every chance I get, coffee-ing every cafe I pass, and studying journalism everywhere in between.