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Get moving on an active tour of Ottawa

Ottawa Resident Andrew Szeto takes a selfie while high above Ottawa in a bi-plane.
Photo by Andrew Szeto

Fall vacations don’t have to mean slowing down with cooling temperatures. The nation’s capital is more than standing to admire the iconic architecture and historic monuments. Ottawa is a place to get moving.

Motivated to be in motion when the leaves start to change? A getaway to Canada’s vibrant capital city surrounds you with green spaces and gorgeous fall colours. Feel energized by the crisp air and inspired by views with unsurpassed beauty.

Ottawa is an active city that takes four-seasons outdoor fun as seriously as its love for lively local arts and culture, excellent restaurants and craft brewing.

Ottawa resident Andrew Szeto is passionate about Ottawa’s sports and recreation scene. It’s just so easy for locals and visitors to be active in the city, he says. In summer, he can often be found canoeing on the waters around Ottawa, using one of the stunning hand-crafted paddles he makes.

While visitors from other cities may have to endure long drives to reach hiking trails and dedicated cycling paths back home, so many things that truly elevate an active getaway can be done either right in walkable Ottawa, or within a short drive.

“I’d say certainly the beautiful thing about our city is within 20 minutes you can be in great wilderness in Gatineau Park. And the fall, with the leaves, it’s pretty incredible,” says Szeto, who has called Ottawa home for 10 years.

Nothing says a Canadian vacation like the sound of a paddle making a small splash. Ottawa, and area, offer plenty of choices to move across still waters. This paddle was made by craftsman Andrew Szeto, who spends even his off-hours using his creations.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Szeto
A hike through Gatineau Park will lower the blood-pressure and raise expectations about what’s around the next bend.
Photo by Ottawa Tourism

His insider tip: Visit Meech Lake, about 40 minutes from downtown. Not only are there two excellent hikes from the parking lot, but it’s also the place to see a truly epic sunset.

“It’s the lake I often frequent and you get the most incredible sunsets there overlooking the Gatineau Hills,” he says.

“It’s just so easy for locals and visitors to be active in the city”
Andrew Szeto, Ottawa resident

Szeto shared some of his ideas for making the most of an Ottawa weekend getaway that’s sure to get your pulse pounding.

City walks

Szeto says downtown Ottawa is made for walkers and joggers, with more than 800 kilometres of pathways. The Capital Pathway network heads outward from downtown and is one of the largest path systems in North America. Head out along the Ottawa River route or the walkway along the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some routes also showcase breathtaking views of the Ottawa River and Canada’s Parliament buildings. Find an interactive map here.

You can also put on some serious kilometres visiting one of Canada’s national museums — Ottawa is home to seven of them. Or lace up for a guided historical stroll with Ottawa Walking Tours. You can also log a few kilometres on a free tour of the Parliament buildings. Be sure to reserve online.

Bike on

Cycle-friendly Ottawa is pretty incredible for anybody who wants to see the city on two wheels, Szeto says. People can bike pretty much anywhere, he explains, owing to the more than 800 kilometres of paved recreational pathways. Ottawa residents are proud that it’s the longest network of any city in North America.

Check out neighbourhoods like the Glebe, or cycle along the Rideau Canal. RentABike or Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals will set you up for self-guided exploration or a group tour.

Get to Gatineau

An incredible natural setting with forests, hills and endless views just a few kilometres from downtown, Gatineau Park has striking biodiversity and “the hiking trails are incredible,” Szeto says. The trails range from challenging to “mellow.” The only constant are the amazing vistas, with lookouts for taking in the stunning fall colours.

Szeto says Wolf Trail and King Mountain, with its views of Ottawa and the Ottawa River Valley, are his favourites. No car? No problem. The Fall Rhapsody festival offers free shuttle runs from downtown to the various locations in the park every weekend in October.

Get climbing

For rock climbing, Szeto heads to Calabogie, about an hour from Ottawa. Gatineau Park has Eardley Escarpment, with dozens of climbing routes. Want to stay closer to the city? Head to Ottawa’s indoor climbing facility, Altitude Gym.

Ottawa offers avid cyclists – or even casual two-wheel tourists – endless paths to explore.
Photo by Dwayne Brown
Located just outside of Ottawa, the Eagle’s Nest, at Calabogie Peaks, looks like a remarkable climb - especially as it looms 120-metres up. But it’s remarkably easy to get to.
Photo courtesy Ottawa Tourism
Fall colours create a moving canvas while moving fast down a zipline.
Photo courtesy Camp Fortune
Nothing gets the blood pumping like safely tossing axes at Ottawa’s Backyard Axe Throwing League.
Photo courtesy Bad Axe Throwing

Something different

Located about 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Camp Fortune’s aerial park and zipline course lets you get up close to beautiful fall foliage in the Gatineau Hills with thrilling passes through the trees.

Or try another way to get your heart rate elevated: throwing axes. BATL, the original Backyard Axe Throwing League has indoor and outdoor axe throwing.

And now the reward

Wind down after an active day and soothe sore muscles at the Nordik Spa-Nature, about 20 minutes from downtown near the entrance to Gatineau Park. North America’s largest spa calls you to relax in 10 outdoor baths and nine stress-banishing saunas at this Scandinavian-inspired spa. Indulge in a massage or chill in the indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and cap off the day in the restaurant or Biërgarden.

When the weather begins to cool down in Canada, some things naturally slow down. But for those who refuse to stay in one spot for long, Ottawa offers up plenty of opportunities to stay in motion.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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