Parliament Hill, ByWard Market neighbourhood and other Ottawa tourist spots are always worth a visit, but if you’re looking for the hidden gems in and around the nation’s capital this summer Elgin Street, Glowfair and sightseeing on a VeloGO are some favourite places, festivals and activities that locals enjoy.
One of Sarah Banks’ favourite areas is downtown’s Elgin Street, which is currently undergoing a renewal project but open to visitors exploring the neighbourhood by foot. Vancouver may have its West 4th and Toronto its Queen West, but Banks – an Ottawan who has lived in both cities – said Elgin is “smaller than all those streets but it packs a punch.”
During the day, visitors walking south from the National War Memorial will find Elgin filled with civil servants from the nearby courthouse and city hall, tech employees from Shopify and Klipfolio and creatives from ad agencies Cinnamon Toast and McMillan, enjoying the fresh brew and meals from the Happy Goat and Pure Kitchen.
After work hours, they make way for young people and residents from the nearby Golden Triangle neighbourhood who dine or enjoy killer cocktails at restaurants and lounges, such as Citizen, El Camino, Charlotte and The Whalesbone.
Banks – an urban enthusiast who studied at Carleton in the 1990s and settled in the capital in 2012 to raise her family – raved about how much Ottawa has grown up.
The current food scene is “an embarrassment of riches,” she said. “There’s no shortage of deliciousness.”
For other destinations in and around the city, Banks recommends Mer Bleue for the 1.2-kilometre stroll on the bog’s peaceful boardwalk.
And for a day trip, Wakefield, Que., is worth the half-hour drive north of Ottawa, said Banks, who likens it to how Brooklynites decamped to upstate New York.
For many locals, summers in Ottawa are defined by the festival season, according to Taline Jirian, who is active in the city’s arts scene.
If you’ve already done the Bluesfest and CityFolk Festival, consider checking out Glowfair, a two-day light, music, and art festival, taking over 10 blocks of downtown Bank Street – and it’s free! There’s also Westfest, a celebration of Canadian music and art, and House of PainT, the largest four-elements hip hop jam in Canada with graffiti, breakdancing, DJs and MCs.
The Ottawa Beat is a monthly magazine you can check out to learn about the local music scene. Visitors should also peruse Apt613 for listings of dance, music and other performing arts, as well as a rundown of things to see and do in town, Jirian said.
If you haven’t been to Ottawa for a few months, it’s also a good idea to revisit the Ottawa Art Gallery, which reopened in April, and the National Arts Centre, which had a makeover of its Brutalist architecture to feature a dazzling glass tower at the entrance displaying images at night of upcoming productions.
It’s all part of Ottawa’s beautiful architecture, said Jirian, who encourages visitors to spend some time just wandering around the city.
“There’s a lot to appreciate visually,” she said. “You can’t look anywhere especially in downtown and not be happily engaged by what you see.”
Her sentiment is also shared by local Instagrammer Julia Weber, a.k.a. @LittleMissOttawa. Her picks for incredible views include the new Equator Coffee at the National Art Centre (NAC) and the Copper Spirits and Sights rooftop bar at the Andaz hotel.
For some breathtaking architecture inside the National Gallery of Canada, you won’t want to miss the Rideau Chapel (once part of a girls’ boarding school) for its neo-Gothic fan-vaulted ceiling, said the gallery’s marketing officer, Hélène Donaldson. Garden and photography enthusiasts will also enjoy the indoor and outdoor gardens and the Canadian Photography Institute.
Visitors may also enjoy renting a bike from one of the many VeloGO stations, riding to the ByWard Market neighbourhood and along scenic Rideau Canal and then stopping by Moo Shu Ice Cream and Kitchen for one of its unique flavours, said Weber, who was born and raised in Ottawa.
There’s no doubt hanging out like a local in and around Ottawa will quickly make you an insider – and give you memorable experiences you can share with your friends at home and, of course, on social media.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.