Known for its interesting political personalities, Ottawa, Canada, is also a tourist hub that offers memorable experiences. Discover four of the most interesting things to do and see here during your visit.

Outdoor Attractions

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Image via Flickr by Bob Linsdell

For the outdoors types, the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a natural place for boaters from spring through fall. During the winter, this placid water becomes the world’s largest natural skating rink. Winding through the heart of the city, it connects with the Ottawa River through locks next to Parliament Hill.

Gatineau Park is another outdoor option offering activities such as cross-country skiing during the winter on more than 50 well-maintained trails. When skiers become weary, they can find day shelters for rest areas. Trail conditions are updated frequently on an online map. Exciting sports such as snowshoeing are popular activities for the active visitor.

The Arts in Ottawa

Ottawa offers visitors year-round festivals and special events. Visitors can experience music festivities such as the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa Chamberfest for lovers of classical music, and the RBC Bluesfest Ottawa for soulful tunes.

Music festivals are among the events to enjoy in Ottawa, but the city offers other performing arts attractions. The performing arts include the Great Canadian Theatre Company, the Ottawa Little Theatre, and the Gladstone Theatre. The National Arts Centre offers music, dance, and theater as well as touring acts and shows.

Parliament Hill

No trip to Ottawa would be complete without a visit to Parliament Hill. This area is the seat of Canada’s federal government and an attraction that reflects its historic role in Canadian life.

During summer mornings from late June to late August, visitors can see the Changing of the Guard ceremony. The Ceremonial Guard is composed of Canada’s finest military personnel and has two regiments, the Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards. Created from Canada’s elite reservists, the ceremony features a regimental band and pipers who provide lively music for the ceremony.

Summer months also bring an evening Northern Lights show with stunning lighting effects of large image projections on the Parliament Buildings accompanied with words and stirring music.

Culture and Shopping

In addition to Parliament Hill, Ottawa has many museums and galleries. The National Gallery of Canada features works of art such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Iris” and El Greco’s “St. Francis and Brother Leo Meditating on Death.” Other interesting museums are the Canadian War Museum, chronicling the nation’s military history; the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, celebrating Canada’s contributions to air and space knowledge; and the Canada Science and Technology Museum, promoting scientific and technological innovation.

Museums are not the only attractions in Ottawa. Shopping and outdoor pursuits are close to downtown Ottawa hotels for easy access to attractions. The ByWard Market, for example, is a shopping district, and a historic farmers market creates a gathering place for tourists and food lovers. Ottawa’s Chinatown and Little Italy are areas of the city that offer dining, sightseeing, and shopping experiences.

Planning your trip around the above attractions and events can make Ottawa a memorable destination for your next vacation.