So I’m not a huge traveller, clearly! I built this thing on being a tourist in your own city, after all. But I like to explore elsewhere when I can (see – Detours). It’s the time of the year now where I’m getting a little jumpy for a change in scenery, so I thought I would revisit a city that has become a home away from home – Ottawa.
It’s hard to believe my first time there was only in 2015, but with a close friend having relocated there, I knew it would a place I would visit as often as I can. Here are a few favourite discoveries (so far). Do you have some suggestions? Comment at the bottom of the post and let me know!
Mooshu Ice Cream & Kitchen
The JUNO Awards were in town when I visited Moo Shu (I didn’t get into the actual JUNOs that year like I did in Hamilton but gosh darn it, I will again!!), and they were in the spirit with flavours like “You Want It Darker” (smoky sea salt and charcoal à la Leonard Cohen), “Starboy” (juniper berry & white chocolate pop rocks to suit The Weeknd), and “Encore un Soir” (coffee flavour with tarte au sucre for the queen Céline).
My excitement led to an embarrassing incident when I set my sunglasses down on the counter and gestured wildly at a flavour I wanted to sample, knocking the sunglasses in the process and sending them sailing across the counter. Hopefully I will be allowed back.
During trips to Ottawa you’ll learn that Bridgehead is a coffeeshop staple. With almost 20 locations, you’ll spot one whenever you need that bolt of caffeine. The location on Anderson St. is their homebase – the roastery and coffeehouse (where the magic happens). You can watch the coffee-making process in their open concept space. Like a craft brewery, but allllll the coffee!
Canadian Museum of Nature
It can be so peaceful to wander museums and galleries and take in the vastness of it it all. The Canadian Museum of Nature is a stunning building that’s a joy to walk through in itself, before even getting to the exhibits! We saw all the museum classics – dinosaurs, animals, rocks and crystals. Visiting museums and galleries in our nation’s capital must be on your checklist.
Orange Art Gallery
We did a ton of walking the day we stumbled upon Orange Art Gallery. It was like a little oasis and so inviting. It’s a family-run gallery that opened in 2010 and represents 25 local contemporary artists. The space is super unique, being the historic CN Railroad Bank. Orange also hosts music nights, art classes, and more events.
No visit is complete without getting touristy at Parliament Hill. During my first two trips I enjoyed the walk up to it and taking in the sights of Canada’s capital. When I visited again in 2017 it was during Canada 150 celebrations, and I knew an official tour was in order. I was lucky to have a friend with the hookups and knowledge and he took us on a personal walk around. My favourite room is the library, which is the only original structure left that was not damaged by a devastating fire. It’s one of the most gorgeous rooms I’ve ever seen! Also be sure to take a ride up the elevator.
During Canada 150, we also caught a light show on Parliament Hill that took place every night that summer – an impressive spectacle that chronicled some of Canada’s history – watch a clip below!
Laurier House National Historic Site
This was another historical gem that I wouldn’t have discovered if not for my friend Mathieu’s coworker Sandra, who works for Parks Canada at Laurier House. But first, a little fun. Mathieu and Sandra work for fashion institution Fluevog (I’ll always remember getting my first ever pair at the Ottawa location!) and they always re-enact pop culture images in the shop every week. Follow #thursdayvog on Instagram for the magic. This week they had the brilliant idea to re-create a classic image of John Fluevog, himself. I was happy to take the photo for this one!
From there, Sandra took us on a tour! Like Dundurn Castle and Whitehern in Hamilton, it’s always a riveting experience being in these types of historical spaces and feeling the energy of all that came before us. The Victorian-era building was once home to two Canadian Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. If only I’d had the Haunted Hamilton crew with me to help suss out the space! But Mathieu and I could definitely feel the energy in certain rooms in particular. My favourite was the breakfast nook, pictured below. I want a room dedicated to just breakfast!
From Parks Canada: Laurier lived here from 1897 until his death in 1919. Two years later William Lyon Mackenzie King moved in and remained until 1948 when he bequeathed the residence to the government and people of Canada. Exploring Laurier House’s elegantly furnished rooms packed with their treasured possessions and mementos offers a fascinating glimpse into Canadian political history. Don’t miss the third storey, which King had renovated to create a library and offices. Here, among the thousands of personal items and works of art, is the crystal ball that the famously eccentric King reputedly used to communicate with his deceased mother during séances.
More highlights to come as a I prep for my next trek to Ottawa – send me your suggestions in the comments below or tweet me @ihearthamilton!