You may have heard more about Ottawa in the last few months than you have heard about Canada’s capital in years as many eyes are turning north. If you want to see what the fuss is all about, you will find a cosmopolitan capital of grand civic buildings and world-class museums, in a friendly city of just over a million residents. It’s all less than a two-hour flight from New York, and easily combined with a visit to Toronto.
Let Cari Gray of Gray & Co. lead you to the timeless charms of Ottawa and nearby Prince Edward County. It’s an area of Canada that Gray, one of AFAR’s travel advisors, knows well and on her five-day itinerary she hits many of the region’s cultural and culinary highlights.
Ottawa’s Rideau Canal and Northern Lights
With direct flights from more than a dozen airports in the United States, and connecting flights from the rest, it’s easy to get to Ottawa. After you arrive and get settled at your home in Ottawa, the Fairmont Château Laurier, head across the street to rent a bike and begin exploring the city on two wheels. You can pedal along the 126 mile-long Rideau Canal—but don’t feel like you need to ride its entire length. In the winter the canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink when temperatures drop low enough, but in the summer the sunny pathways along its banks are popular with cyclists as well as joggers and pedestrians. Make a detour to Nepean Point for its stunning panoramic views over the Ottawa River, before locking up your bike and seeing the remarkable collection at the National Gallery of Canada. Having sated your senses, please your palate with dinner in Ottawa’s vibrant Little Italyneighborhood, concentrated on Preston Street. Pub Italia is a local favorite combining the best of a trattoria and a craft beer pub, with an extensive “Beer Bible” that includes brews from around the world. After dinner, go to Parliament Hill to see the Northern Lights sound and light show, a free dazzling spectacle celebrating Canada’s history and vision for its future (July-September).
Gatineau Park and a Drive to “The County”
Begin the day by exploring Gatineau Park. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, over the border in neighboring Québec, this 139-square-mile park offers a chance to experience a slice of Canadian wilderness on more than 100 miles of walking trails. Have lunch at the tearoom at the Estate of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, a dominant figure in Canadian life in the 1920s to 1940s, located within the park. Back in Ottawa you’ll pick up a rental car and head south to one of Ontario’s wine regions, Prince Edward County. Drive south from Ottawa to historic Kingston to admire its grand 19th-century limestone buildings. Take a scenic drive on the Loyalist Parkway along the shores of the St. Lawrence River for part of your journey to The County. Your hotel for the next two nights will be one of Cari’s favorites in the region, the 13-room Drake Devonshire, located in a lakefront former foundry in Wellington.