Solo Travel to Ottawa Best Things to Do in Canada’s Capital City

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My first solo trip to Ottawa was in August and it’s the perfect time to visit the capital of Canada. I took the train from Montreal and stayed in beautiful Wellington West, a neighborhood just south of the Ottawa River. It was easy to get around on the local buses in Ottawa and I did a lot of walking.

Summertime in Canada means lots of festivals and events outdoors. In the winter there is still plenty to do outdoors but it requires an investment in outdoor clothing and maybe a pair of skates :)

Enjoy these highlights of my five days traveling in Ottawa and you’ll see there’s lots of things to do in Ottawa.

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Pretoria Avenue Bridge over the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

Pretoria Avenue Bridge over the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

 

Parliament Hill tours

At Parliament Hill I took in a tour of Centre Block and the Peace Tower. But in 2019 Centre Block is closed for renovations so no Peace Tower tours are available.

Tours of the Senate of Canada and West Block begin in February 2019. You can reserve your Parliament Hill tour tickets here. All facilities are wheelchair accessible.

 

Ottawa Parliament Building tour, including the Senate of Canada

Ottawa Parliament Building tour, including the Senate of Canada

 

East Block and Chateau Laurier Hotel as viewed from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

East Block and Chateau Laurier Hotel as viewed from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

 

Changing of the Guard at Parliament Hill

The changing of the Guard at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill attracts visitors all summer long and it’s worth a visit. The first changing of the guard ceremony on Parliament Hill took place on July 2, 1959.

Plan ahead so you get a decent vantage point to view the ceremony which begins at 9:50 am almost every morning in the summer months.

The changing of the guard is a free event.

 

Parliament Hill in Ottawa daily at 10 am Changing of the Guard

Ceremonial Guards at Parliament Hill – Changing of the Guard

 

Colorful uniforms of Ceremonial Guard at Ottawa's Parliament Hill Changing of the Guard

Ceremonial Guards at the daily Changing of Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill

 

Ottawa Locks UNESCO World Heritage site

Located between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel, the Ottawa Locks are an interesting attraction.

Ottawa Locks allow boats to travel from the Ottawa River to Kingston via the Rideau Canal. It takes 90 minutes to pass through all 8 locks with a total lift of 79 feet. Read more about visiting the Ottawa Locks.

 

 

The eight locks at the Rideau Canal have a lift of 79 ft and take 1.5 hours

Ottawa locks – Ottawa River to the Rideau Canal – 79 feet and 8 locks in 1.5 hours

 

World Heritage Site Rideau Canal - 8 locks from Ottawa River and lift of 79 feet

Ottawa locks are operated manually just as they have been since operations began in 1832

 

Royal Canadian Mint tour

Stop by the Royal Canadian Mint for a tour and a chance to hold a 28 lb gold bar in your hands. Check out my blog post about touring the Royal Canadian Mint, it is really interesting to learn how they make the coins.

You can buy all sorts of souvenir coins and other items at the gift shop. Don’t miss the Royal Canadian Mint if you are into coin collecting.

 

Pick up a 24K gold bar at Royal Canadian Mint boutique

24K gold bar weighing 28 lbs (12.7 kg) at Royal Canadian Mint boutique

 

National Gallery of Canada

A short walk from the Mint catch up on the Canadian art scene at the National Gallery of Canada. Read my blog post about visiting the National Gallery of Canada.

Address: 380 Sussex Drive

Hours and admission cost

Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm (Thursday open until 8 pm)
Closed on most Mondays. Check the gallery website for details and admission fees.

 

 

Visit local Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada – explore the collection of art

 

Detail of artwork titled Artist and Shaman between Two Worlds by Norval Morrisseau - Copper Thunderbird

Detail of the painting Artist and Shaman between Two Worlds by Norval Morrisseau

 

Rock art on the Ottawa River

My first walk along the Ottawa River I came across the annual rock art exhibit.

 

Ottawa River rock art at Remic Rapids - an annual art exhibit outdoors on the western pathway

Ottawa River rock art at Remic Rapids

 

Public Art in Ottawa - Ottawa River rock art at Remic Rapids - an annual art exhibit outdoors on the western pathway

Rock art exhibit along the Ottawa River

 

Annual Ottawa events

Here are the main attractions going on in Ottawa on an annual basis. Check the websites for more info and to find out costs or ticketing info for these events.

  • Winterlude – Friday February 1st to Monday February 18, 2018. Celebrate winter with a skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway which is the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink. Enjoy the International Ice Carving Competition and the Snowflake Kingdom as well as many other indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family.
  • Canadian Tulip Festival – celebrated since 1953. Friday May 10 to Monday May 20, 2019
  • Ottawa Chamberfest – events through May 2019
  • Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Festival – Thursday June 20 to Sunday June 23, 2019
  • Escapade Music Festival – electronic dance music fest takes place from Saturday June 22 and Sunday June 23, 2019
  • Ottawa Jazz Festival – Thursday June 20 to Monday July 1, 2019
  • Canada Day celebration – Celebrate Canada’s birthday on July 1st.
  • Bluesfest – Thursday July 4 to Sunday July 14, 2019
  • CityFolk Festival – Wednesday September 11 to Sunday September 15, 2019

 

Best of Ottawa Canada - top tourist attractions

 

Places to eat in Ottawa

Breakfast in Ottawa

  • Baker Street Cafe – 385 Richmond Rd.
  • Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner – 1433 Wellington Street W. No reservations on weekends so show up early to get your grub.
  • Gina’s Cafe – 710 Gladstone Avenue
  • The SconeWitch has 2 locations serving sweet and savory scones and coffee: 150 Elgin St. and 35 Beechwood Ave.
  • Wilf and Ada’s – 510 Bank St. Break the fast at this cozy diner with homemade food.

 

ByWard Market shopping and restaurants

ByWard Market is located a few blocks from Parliament Hill and it’s full of shopping, restaurants, and a farmer’s market. If you want to shop for some Canadian maple syrup to bring back home for a gift, or look around for souvenirs then this is your place.

 

ByWard Market in Ottawa Ontario for shopping, restaurants, and farmer's market

Maple syrup on display at ByWard Market – near Parliament Hill

 

Satisfy your sweet tooth at BeaverTails pastry shop in ByWard Market in Ottawa.

 

Get your Beaver Tails in Ottawa Ontario ByWard Market - near Parliament Hill

Beaver Tails available at ByWard Market near Parliament Hill

 

Petit Bill’s Bistro in Wellington West

My first evening I became acquainted with the seafood offerings in Wellington West at Petit Bill’s Bistro.

 

Seafood Charcuterie - cod & lobster mousseline, salmon at Petit Bill's Bistro in Wellington West - Ottawa Ontario Canada

Seafood Charcuterie – cod & lobster mousseline, salmon at Petit Bill’s Bistro

 

Petit Bill's Bistro - seafood chowder is the best! Wellington West in Ottawa Ontario Canada

Delicious seafood chowder at Petit Bill’s Bistro in Ottawa’s Wellington West neighborhood

 

Rideau Canal pathway

Enjoy beautiful scenery walking along the Rideau Canal pathway. This is the perfect place for fitness oriented folks to enjoy a walk, jog, bicycle ride, or inline skating outdoors.

 

Beautiful Rideau Canal walkway in Ottawa Ontario - Canada''s capital

Things to do in Ottawa with kids. Enjoy biking, walking, running, or inline skating along the Rideau Canal

 

Yachts to canoes travel along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa Ontario

Boats on the Rideau Canal

 

Read my blog post about walking from Wellington West to Dows Lake and the Rideau Canal one beautiful day in Ottawa.

 

Dows Lake in Ottawa Ontario - boating, walking, nature enjoyment

Ducks resting along the shoreline of Dows Lake

 

Dows Lake in Ottawa Ontario - popular for canoeing kayaking and boating

Crosby the Wonder Dog leaps into Dows Lake

 

Public art in Ottawa

Public art is plentiful in Ottawa, from spiders to asparagus, you’ll find it on the streets of Ottawa. You can check out the asparagus sculpture here.

Maman is a giant spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.

The enormous spider Maman is located outside of the entrance to the National Gallery of Canada. Maman is one of six such spider sculptures created by Bourgeois. The massive arachnid is 9 meters (30 feet) tall and composed of bronze, stainless steel, and marble.

 

Spider sculpture known as Maman by Louise Bourgeois sits outside of the National Gallery of Canada

Spider sculpture known as Maman by Louise Bourgeois

 

Public art - eyes painted on a building along the Rideau Canal - Ottawa Canada

Eyes are watching from a building along the Rideau Canal

 

People in Ottawa are friendly

Walking to catch the bus to my accommodations in Wellington West, I stopped on the overpass from the Via Rail station and pondered whether my bus would indeed be on the north side of the road.

A woman stopped and asked if I needed assistance. After explaining my query she informed me I was correct and when I asked about the whereabouts of a ticket machine she reached in her wallet and handed me $5. Oh no I couldn’t take your money – I will just go back to the train station and get change for my $20. “No, my daughter is traveling alone now and someone did her a favor so I want to do you a favor” she insisted and turned to leave. I told her I would pay it forward to someone else and she smiled and nodded in agreement as she strode away. Frequently, I am reminded of the kindness of strangers while I am traveling on my own.

At the bus stop another woman searched for change and asked other people if they had change for me when she saw me clutching the $5 bill. Is everyone this nice in Ottawa?! Basically yes. Ottawa has got to be one of the friendliest cities on the planet!

So, if you are anxious about traveling alone to Ottawa, don’t worry, you will be fine. I think pretty much anywhere in Canada is all right for solo travelers. But Ottawa is the friendliest city I have been to in Canada so far.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 5 days of solo travel in Ottawa – a beautiful city with friendly people and plenty to do outdoors in the summer time.

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Best of Ottawa Canada - top tourist attractions

 

Leave a comment with your favorite things to do and see in Ottawa.

 

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

4 Replies

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  1. Charlys Trevino says:

    Beautiful! Love..love your shots. They totally depict the moment. Looks like a wonderful trip.

    • Thank you, glad you enjoyed the photos! I did have a wonderful trip to Ottawa – I spent most of my time outdoors which was refreshing coming from the intense heat of Austin, TX in August!

  2. Patti says:

    Love the rock art. Very unique, I’ve never seen anything like that before, inukshuks yes, but not so many and so creative

    • Yes it was a great surprise when I was walking along the river – I had no idea this existed – evidently it is an annual event. I only saw a few at first and I thought oh that’s cool someone made some inukshuks – then I saw the whole collection and I spent a couple hours wandering around enjoying the place! The fairy dance performance later in the week was wonderful – the children attending were so mesmerized.

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