Wow Canada

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"Ottawa Shows Off For 150"

Canadians have a lot to be proud of with a rich history of patience and persistence and a great way to really appreciate the breadth of the country’s story is to take in the free light show in Ottawa. Each night from July to September, the show – entitled Northern Lights – dynamically portrays Canada’s history using lights, lasers, sound and music projected on Parliament’s Centre Block. Times vary by month so check out the website to confirm:

Come back the next day and stroll Parliament Hill to see all the flowers while taking in the majestic beauty of its buildings. Guided tours are also offered at no cost to visitors but with many touring Ottawa this summer to celebrate Canada’s 150 it’s expected to be busy, so plan accordingly.

Several of the national museums have 150 displays planned. Two of these are the National Art Gallery and the Canadian Museum of History. Both have rooms being updated to showcase accomplishments over the past century and a half.

Walking across the Alexandra Bridge to access the history museum provides a great photo opp of the Ottawa River and gives you a panoramic view of the city of Ottawa.

To get a feel for the city, take a double decker tour bus (Lady Dive Tours). Sitting on the upper deck allows you to see all of the sites and the knowledgeable guide relays all pertinent info about places on the tour. It’s a hop-on/hop-off tour so start early in the day and get off at some of the places that fascinate you, such as the Canadian War Museum or the stables where the RCMP horses for the musical ride are housed and trained.

Take a pleasurable 90-minute cruise on the Rideau Canal tour to see the city from water level. You’ll learn the story of the canal’s beginnings as a route between Kingston and Ottawa after the War of 1812 and Colonel John By’s navigation of the many construction challenges.

"Go for the schnitzel..."

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By is also remembered at the Byward Market, named for him. This eclectic mix of restaurants and retailers culminates as an open air market cum entertainment district. To get a feel for the depth of talent, visit some of the small but inspiriting galleries, like Alpha Art Gallery. Food stalls, open air eateries and sleek upscale restaurants, like Mezzanote Bistro Italiano, will satisfy your hunger no matter what you crave.

At the west end of Byward Market is Inspiration Village with its interactive displays showcasing each province and territory as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

Visit Sparks Street when your feet are worn out from wandering Parliament Hill. Just a block over, this closed-to-traffic street entertainment district has a plethora of eateries, including the Bier Markt.Stop in to try flights of six Ontario craft beers or try something from further afield. They have 150 beers available from 30 countries so the choice might be difficult but choosing food isn’t. Go for the schnitzel; hands down the best yet.

Another Sparks Street favourite is 3 Brasseurs. Enjoying a beer and a bite (try the hot pretzel) seated on the expansive patio or on its glassed-in second floor give great views of this busy downtown walkway.

For those who want to see Ottawa but feel more comfortable outdoors, there are 150 kilometres of bike and walking trails around the city in the National Capital Greenbelt. Bring your own or rent bikes to do your exploring.

When you’ve absorbed all the history, culture and information about Canada and explored Ottawa so much that you’re feet and back are beginning to complain, it’s definitely time to take a short drive across the river to Quebec’s Nordik Spa to relax in style. North America’s largest spa, this sprawling property is set among the Gatineau Hills and takes full advantage of its beautiful surroundings. A quiet and relaxing venue, there are three areas encouraging different levels of interaction (one for complete quiet, one for whispering and one for socializing). The salt water flotation pool provides complete relaxation in a totally quiet underground atmosphere. The pool in the Panorama area offers an amazing view of the hills, allowing you to enjoy a beer and sit in the sun. There are aroma therapy steam rooms and several dry saunas to enjoy.

The restaurants are worth the trip in themselves. Try the Reso, a full-service bistro where you can dine in your bathing suit (please wear a cover and shoes). When in Quebec, why not sample some of the famous local cheeses? The warm artichoke dip is a flavourful start to the meal, as well. For a main, the smoked steelhead trout is a must-try. The menu covers all taste preferences, there’s an extensive wine selection and the service is unparalleled.

There are so many water features to try and nooks to read a book or lie in the sun that this is a full-day destination. Stay until into the evening and see the forest come alive with lights in the trees and bask in the reflected light of the pools.

Staying near the action – Parliament Hill, Byward Market and Sparks Street – only makes sense and the Marriot Downtown is a great choice. It has a pool and saunas to relax in after a long day of walking. Upgrading to the concierge lounge and enjoying not only the spectacular views but also hot breakfasts and appetizers before you head out for the day or evening will enhance your visit.

During Canada Day Weekend, it may be difficult to get accommodations (though hotels indicate they are not full as of yet), so the city is opening up some city parks and parking lots to campers. Go to for details.

Ottawa is on the must-see list for many Canadians and visiting now, while the capital city is in celebration mode is a truly inspiring experience.