What to do
Regardless of the season, the Rideau Canal is one of the most popular spots in the capital for locals and tourists alike to get outside and get active. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rideau is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America, a series of lakes and rivers that connect the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. In the winter, the Rideau Canal transforms into the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world. In the warmer months, you can rent paddleboats, canoes or kayaks to take out on the water, or sign up for a guided boat tour for panoramic city views with a side of Canadian history. You can also appreciate the canal on land by strolling or cycling along its banks.
The Diefenbunker is a departure from the city’s big-name national museums. Just outside Ottawa, in Carp, Ont., this Cold War-era bunker scores cool points for its name alone. It was built in 1959 to shelter the Canadian government, including Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, in the event of a nuclear attack. Tours of the 100,000 square-foot subterranean facility visit the living quarters, war room and emergency broadcasting studio, all of which have a restored layout.
What to eat and drink
Fauna checks all the boxes you could want from a dinner spot: An inviting vibe, great food, great wine and cool decor. The restaurant’s small-plates menu focuses on quality, mostly local, seasonal ingredients. The artfully-plated dishes draw influences from around the world with options ranging from lamb tartare with miso aioli to guinea fowl with Parisienne gnocchi. The 50-odd-seat-space is trendily rustic, featuring a zinc-covered bar, eye-catching light installations and exposed brick walls.
It’s easy to see where popular brunch spot Chesterfields gets its name, with its interior decorated with mismatched chesterfields (that unique and unnecessary Canadian term for “couch”) and 1970s-style decorations. Most of the furniture is secondhand, in keeping with the restaurant’s commitment to eco-friendly practices – they’re also powered by hydroelectricity and don’t use styrofoam. Although the menu at Chesterfield’s channels classic diner fare, the restaurant bills itself as “a not-so greasy spoon” thanks to their grease-free cooking methods, which rely on steam induction instead of deep frying.
Where to stay
If you’re after a contemporary vibe, then look no further than Alt Hotel Ottawa. Part of Group Germain Hotels, Alt Hotels offer hip design and boutique-style service for an approachable price. Rooms feature goose down comforters, Keurig coffee machines and bright bathrooms with glass showers. There’s a colourfully decorated 24-hour fitness centre and Altcetera Café is a handy place to grab a light bite. Alt Hotel Ottawa is within easy walking distance of the shops, restaurants and bars of Byward Market, as well as attractions like Parliament Hill and the National Gallery of Canada.