Named a CNN Travel Top Destination for 2023, Ottawa—Canada’s capital—attracts travelers whose hearts belong to the arts, history, and culture, and to those who are stimulated by heart-pounding outdoor adventure.
Ottawa can rightly claim to be “the city of museums.” The Canadian Museum of History presents the stories of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and those who arrived after them. The National Gallery of Canada displays the country’s most extensive collection of Canadian and world art. Five other national museums in the capital are devoted to nature, science and technology, aviation and space, agriculture and food, and military conflict.
For those whose cultural tastes lean toward live performance, there’s the National Arts Centre, Canada’s lively showcase of the performing arts. Visitors can likewise explore an Indigenous culture and enjoy performances at Mādahòkì Farm, which also hosts four seasonal Indigenous festivals.
Ottawa offers a number of local museums. The Bytown Museum right next to the Rideau Canal locks tells of the story of the canal and early Ottawa. As the capital, Ottawa was also the natural site for the construction of a fallout shelter to house government officials in the event that the Cold War turned hot. Known today as Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, this multi-story, underground facility offers a fascinating subterranean exploration of this bygo
Back above ground, Parliament and its soaring Peace Tower are landmark must-sees for all visitors. It offers guided tours of the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada building, providing insights into the workings of Canada’s political system.
Let’s turn our attention to Ottawa’s adventurous side.
Spring through fall, cycling tours are a favorite and accessible activity for groups of all ages. Nearly 500 miles of recreation pathways crisscross the city and surrounding countryside, many passing national sites and landmarks.
For the more daring, there’s ziplining across the Ottawa River within view of Parliament Hill. On the other side of the river in the Gatineau Hills, there are aerial parks, a mountain coaster, and mountain biking. Not for the faint of heart, Canada’s highest bungee jump is located on cliffs overlooking a flooded rock quarry. For a wet and wild experience, Ottawa offers some of the best white-water rafting east of the Rockies.
In winter, there’s skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, plus cross-country skiing in the city and downhill not far away. And year-round, visitors can take a Canadian safari and get up close to wildlife at Omega Parc in the Outaouais region east of the city.
Whether you’re a curious-minded or a thrill-seeking traveler—or both—Ottawa is the all-Canadian destination for you. View Ottawa itineraries.
Top photo: Champlain Lookout
Photo by James Peltzer