Northern Lights A panoramic view of Parliament Hill and downtown shows the cosmopolitan sweep of Canada’s capital city.
ith the charm of a European village and the big-name amenities of a metropolis, it’s no surprise that Ottawa has earned
the superlative of Canada’s best all-around tourist destination. The capital city is home to an impres- sive collection of historic sites such as the Rideau Canal, the neo-gothic architecture of Parliament Hill, and a diverse collection of museums dotting downtown. Visitors can peruse them all while brushing up on their French (more than a quarter of Ottawa’s residents are fluent) or riding the Capital Pathway network of bike paths, which start downtown and stretch in every direction and along rivers and canals. Meeting planners will find themselves charmed
as well. Ottawa’s compact yet verdant downtown is anchored by the new, 192,000-square-foot Ottawa Convention Centre, which hosted more than 2,000 attendees this past July for Evolution Ottawa, the first joint congress on evolutionary biology. Within downtown are 6,000 hotel rooms from well-known brands like Fairmont, Westin, Marriott, and Novotel. And the ByWard Market district — the city’s top tourist attraction — offers dozens of local restaurants and bars within just a few steps of the convention center.
Blues ’n’ Grooves RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest (ottawabluesfest.ca) makes its home on the western edge of downtown, in the revitalized LeBreton Flats neighborhood — on the lush grounds along the Ottawa River and around the Canadian War Museum — for 11 days every July. One of Canada’s largest outdoor music festivals, Bluesfest attracts around 300,000 fans and some of the biggest names in music entertainment, from James Brown to the White Stripes.
Overlooking the Ottawa River downtown, Parliament Hill is the seat of Canada’s federal legislature.
The complex is also a popular setting for events throughout the year, from outdoor concerts to light shows and festive holiday celebrations. Visitors can take complimentary tours of public galleries seven days a week, watch a lively debate on the Senate floor, or enjoy the pomp and circumstance of a Changing the Guard ceremony during the summer months.