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Canada’s Summer of Sport city guides: Ottawa.

Our special series goes to the home base of Canadian culture, which also revels in the natural wonders of Gatineau Park and locavore delights.

18 February 2015
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Suggested tweet: Our series of city guides for Canada’s Summer of Sport heads to Ottawa http://ow.ly/DKbPD @Ottawa_Tourism #explorecanada

In 2015, Canada will put the sizzle into sports action. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 takes place at six cities across the nation while Toronto is the host for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

That’s just the beginning:  Rogers Cup tennis, F1 Grand Prix racing, RBC Canadian Open golf, Major League Baseball, Canadian Football League games and Major League Soccer will all get pulses racing throughout the summer.

To help visitors make the most of Canada’s Summer of Sport, we’re running a series of brief and occasionally irreverent city guides for the seven host destinations of the World Cup and Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

Up now: Ottawa, ON

Age: 160 years

Appearance: The modern Gothic architecture of Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower and the flowing locks of Rideau Canal are major highlights, but the natural vista from nearby Gatineau Park’s Champlain Lookout is just as impressive.

Ottawa in five words: Parliament, tulips, canals, museums, pantsuits

Is it easy to get around? Canada’s capital encompasses 2,700 sq-km (1,042 sq-mi) of mostly rural land, but the downtown core is a walker’s delight. Attractions are closely clumped together and the city centre boasts 6,000 hotel rooms within a stroll of Parliament Hill.

What’s the city’s hidden gem? City icon Lucky Ron has been performing his old-school country music locally since 1986 and every Saturday at Château Lafayette—“The Laff”—since 1999 (not one show missed).

Where can you catch the sporting action live? The same plot of land that first hosted a soccer match in 1870 is nowadays home to the revamped TD Place at Lansdowne—venue for nine World Cup games as well as the Ottawa Redblacks.

Are there fun bars and pubs to watch the games from, too? A retractable roof and a multitude of 80-in flat-screens make Sens House Bar & Grill a sporty hot spot, though Real Sports Bar & Grill, with its two-storey-tall projection screen and 99 HD TVs, also brings its A-game. Or try The Prescott—Ottawa’s classic sports pub since 1934.

Enough about sport—where are the hot spots to eat and drink in the city? There are 1,100 farms inside Ottawa city limits, making for a robust locavore scene. Savour Ottawa connects discerning diners to farm-to-table eateries. Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute—Canadian headquarters for the famous French chef school—serves set lunches and à la carte dinners at Signatures Restaurant. The Whalesbone Oyster House presents a seasonal menu of sustainable seafood. The Spanish and Mexican cuisine at Navarra by Rene Rodriguez is muy buena. Or head to Big Rig Kitchen & Brewery for award-winning craft beer and comfort food. 

Some visitors like to shop ‘til they drop—where should they go? Start at the boutiques and provisions of Byward Market. Then stroll through The Glebe, a historic neighbourhood with eclectic shopping galore. Bike-friendly Wellington West is known for vintage shops and artisan collections, while Westboro Village is where locals buy their outdoor apparel. The six-hectare Rideau Centre, currently undergoing a $360-million expansion, is Ottawa’s biggest mall.

What’s the nightlife like? Musical! The Rainbow Bistro is Bytown’s classic blues venue, where live shows are on stage seven nights a week (Ottawa-born actor and Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd sometimes stops by). Fat Tuesdays is a Mardi Gras-themed booze hall that features Ottawa’s only duelling piano show every Saturday. Start your evening with a beer tour from Brew Donkey and let the harmonies keep you out late.

Life isn’t just fun and games—where can visitors feed their minds? Ottawa is home base for Canuck culture. The National Gallery of Canada’s impressive Canadian and indigenous collections complement its ever-changing themed exhibitions. The Canadian War Museum explores the trials that forged a nation. The Royal Canadian Mint puts guests hands-on with a gold bar worth $750,000 and the National Arts Centre is centre stage for the country’s performing artists. That’s just a sample—10 more national museums and cultural centres will satisfy all intellectual appetites.

One of Canada’s attractions is its amazing nature—what are some nearby outdoor delights? Gatineau Park is O-Town’s outdoor epicentre, featuring six beaches, 165 km (103 mi) of hiking trails, 33 km (21 mi) of paved cycling paths, sports-fishing lakes and onsite accommodation ranging from tent camps and yurts to a luxury inn. There are even 64 rock-climbing routes. Incredibly, this 360 sq-km (139 sq-mi) park is just 15 minutes from downtown.

Make local friends in Ottawa: During summer, “cottage” is both a subject and a verb. Use liberally.

Make local foes in Ottawa: If you won’t wear red on Canada Day in Ottawa, you may as well leave town.

Looking for more visual inspiration from Ottawa and Ontario? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.

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