Your last visit to Ottawa might have been for Canada Day, or in the winter for a skate on the Rideau Canal. But that delightful stretch of time between late summer and early fall delivers some of the city’s best weather, when there’s ample green space to enjoy. And, the city is making it extra sweet for visitors to explore the country’s capital right now.
With the 3rd Night on Us hotel promotion, visitors who book a stay at a participating hotel between now and Oct. 10, 2022 will get their third consecutive night free (conditions apply). History lovers can’t go wrong with a stay at the Fairmont Château Laurier, which is located in the city’s downtown core right between the ByWard Market and the Rideau Canal.
For design fans, the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market is an ultra-contemporary hotel about 10 minutes from Parliament Hill. And the Westin Ottawa is a family-friendly and dog-friendly spot; there’s a delicious kids’ menu and the hotel welcomes each child with a travel journal, so they can keep track of their adventures.
Day 1: Must-dos with a twist
Check into your hotel, then get your bearings. Start by knocking the city’s must-dos off your list: Rideau Canal, Parliament, Rideau Hall and the ByWard Market. Even if you’ve visited before, there are still plenty of surprises to discover: At Parliament Hill, make sure to check out the Parliament Hill Escarpment Stairway, which connects the Hill to the Ottawa River. It offers spectacular views of the escarpment – and, since it winds through the trees, you’ll get beautiful shots of the changing leaves when the fall season hits.
When at Rideau Hall, make sure to stop by the Tent Room, a ballroom added to the Hall during the tenure of Canada’s third governor general, Lord Dufferin. Until the 1960s, it did double duty as an indoor tennis court by day, before being festooned with red-and-white striped fabric at night to host dinner parties and receptions. These days, the fabric stays up 24/7, so the room feels a little like you’re at the circus, in the most Instagrammable way.
Then, combine sightseeing with dinner and sign up for one of C’est Bon Cooking’s guided food tours of the ByWard Market. The Taste of Lowertown tour focuses on hidden gems on Dalhousie and Murray Streets, which sit on the outskirts of the ByWard Market neighbourhood. The range of flavours you’ll enjoy run from northern Canadian to Southern barbecue, with some sweet stops to top it off.
Day 2: Shop ‘til you drop
In the morning, head back to ByWard Market for brunch (and maybe a haircut!) at Headquarters. The multipurpose space is part café, part restaurant, part cocktail bar and yes, part hair salon. Brunch is served seven days a week and the offerings are decadent: Think, waffles served with spiced rum cherries jubilee or brunch poutine, featuring shoestring fries topped with maple bacon, cheese and a fried egg.
From there, plan to hit some of the coolest shops in the city. Splurge on a new outfit at Victoire, which has been championing independent Canadian fashion designers since 2006. Then, head to The Record Centre. Owner John Thompson has created a space where music lovers can browse his massive collection – he says he has about 100,000 records stored in the basement of the shop – while musicians swing by to connect with one another, and sometimes even play a tune or two. The savviest shoppers will plan their trip to coincide with 613flea, a huge, not-for-profit monthly flea market that features over 200 vendors from the city’s creative community.
Have a leisurely dinner at La Terrasse in the Fairmont Château Laurier. The massive surf and turf Caesar is a must, and can be shared with a friend. The over-the-top garnishes include shrimp and local charcuterie.
Day 3: Thrill rides
One of the best ways to see Ottawa is by bike. Spend your morning on a guided tour with Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals – there’s an option for just about every interest, from a bike and spa tour that includes an hour-long massage, to Bike & Bites, a 3.5-hour long tour of Ottawa’s most delicious spots.
For lunch, return to the ByWard Market to visit Lollo, a chic, European-inspired all-day café where you can munch on a hearty salad and fresh juice while people-watching along vibrant George Street. Then, head to Camp Fortune, about 25 minutes outside of Ottawa and into Quebec, to ride the Mountain Coaster, a gravity-fed mountain pipe coaster that zips down a 1-kilometre monorail track that winds through the forest. You’ll hit speeds of up 40km/h!
Then, back in the city, put on your thinking cap for a visit to one of the city’s three Escape Manor locations, which each offer guests their choice of themed rooms to beat, from spooky to silly. Their Diefenbunker location, which is a decommissioned Cold War-era bunker-turned-military museum, offers puzzle masters the opportunity to save Parliament Hill from a nuclear strike.
End your day at Starling. This recently opened restaurant features plush velvet seating, chevron wood floors and booths adorned with oversized bird cages. But diners aren’t just there for the space’s good looks. The menu features modern twists on classic dishes, including duck confit, steak frites and Cobb salad, while the cocktail menu is inventive and, of course, bird-themed. Goldfinch sour, anyone?
Day 4: Culture club
After breakfast at Oat Couture, a cafe devoted to all things oatmeal, from traditional bowls to overnight oats and baked oatmeal, immerse yourself in art at either Imagine Monet or Van Gogh 360°. In these exhibits, artwork, archival photos and snippets of journal entries are projected on all the surfaces in the room, so that visitors feel like they’re walking through the art itself.
Continue the art experience with lunch at Drip House. Part café, part art gallery, this is the spot to score Instagram-famous Korean Corn Dogs, as well as shakshuka, breakfast bowls and your pick of baked goods, including homemade cinnamon buns.
Before heading home, unwind a little more by relaxing at Nordik Spa-Nature. With 41,500 square feet of indoor space and 80,000 square feet of outdoor space, it’s the largest spa in North America. After doing a couple rounds in the water circuit, enjoy a deep-tissue massage or one of the spa’s indulgent body treatments, which include a Himalayan salt scrub, facial or foot massage. A blissful end to a busy extended long weekend.
Learn more about all that Ottawa has to offer this season at heretoinspire.ca.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Ottawa Tourism. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.