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OTTAWA: A DYNAMIC SHOWCASE CITY
 
(2016 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: LAURA BYRN PAQUET



Think a trip to Ottawa is complete once you’ve snapped your photo in front of the Peace Tower?

Then, you’re in for some very pleasant surprises in 2016—whether you’d like to pretend you went to school with Captain Kirk, enjoy one of North America’s largest pop music festivals or marvel at paintings by one of 18th-century Europe’s most famous female artists.

Enterprising Discoveries

Let’s start with space. Until late September, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is hosting the world premiere of Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Visitors will painlessly learn about concepts in fields such as medicine and engineering while carrying out mock Enterprise duties. Admit it: Haven’t you wanted to snap your wrist and bark, “Beam me up, Scotty” ever since you got your first flip phone?

Soundtracks

Speaking of nostalgia, headliners at this year’s massive RBC Ottawa Bluesfest music festival (July 7 to 17) include Duran Duran, Billy Idol and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, there’s plenty on the lineup for those who can’t remember the Reagan years, including the Lumineers, Sam Hunt and Future. 

That’s just one of the capital’s many summer outdoor musical festivals, which range from a neighbourhood shindig called Westfest (June 3 to 5) to the popular TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 22 to July 3) and the recently renamed CityFolk event (September 14 to 18).

Largely indoors, two major events cater to classical music fans: Music and Beyond, which presents more than 85 concerts by ensembles of all sizes (July 4 to 17), followed almost immediately by Ottawa Chamberfest, the world’s largest chamber music festival (July 21 to August 3).

Museums Unlimited

Chamber music was the soundtrack of the opulent royal courts of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and you can immerse yourself in that world at the Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada (June 10 to September 11). Born in 1755, Vigée Le Brun became Marie Antoinette’s official portraitist at age 23. After fleeing France during the revolution, she lived and worked in various European capitals until her death in 1842.

To find out what happened to France after the revolution, head to the Canadian Museum of History, where Napoleon and Paris (June 16, 2016, to January 8, 2017) will examine the famous military leader’s plans for his capital city. The museum also sheds light on a turning point of Canadian history with Gold Rush! El Dorado in British Columbia (until January 15, 2017).

The First World War, meanwhile, is the focus of two exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum: Deadly Skies—Air War, 1914–1918 (June 3, 2016, to January 29, 2017) and Traces of the First World War—Newfoundland and Labrador (June 14, 2016, to January 1, 2017). 

Want to go back much further in time? Then head to the Canadian Museum of Nature, where the featured exhibition this summer is Ultimate Dinosaurs (June 11 to September 5). Even if you think you (and your dino-obsessed kids) have seen every ancient critter imaginable, think again. This exhibition features unique dinosaurs that lived in Gondwana, a prehistoric continent in the Southern Hemisphere. Video walls, skeletons and fossils call up a lost world.

The capital is also home to many smaller museums that are well worth a visit, including the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Bytown Museum. One of the quirkiest is the Diefenbunker, a decommissioned 1960s bunker on the city’s rural western fringe. Its summer exhibition, The Cold War: Causes, History, Impact, runs until August 28.

Several of Ottawa’s museums are currently undergoing extensive renovations. The Bank of Canada Museum (formerly the Currency Museum) and the Canada Science and Technology Museum are both scheduled to reopen in 2017.

Activities Abound

If you’d rather be outside in the fresh air, the region offers plenty of choices. A 600-kilometre network of recreational pathways draws cyclists, walkers, joggers and inline skaters. Gatineau Park, a 361-square-kilometre wilderness enclave, is home to campsites, beaches, hiking trails, bears, moose and more. Near Ottawa, thrill-seekers can test their nerve at Great Canadian Bungee, zip line at Arbraska Laflèche Park or go whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River.

Perhaps you appreciate sports best from the sidelines? Then you can cheer on the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS (June 13 to November 4), the Ottawa Fury of the North American Soccer League (April 30 to October 29) or the Can-Am baseball league’s Ottawa Champions (May 19 to September 5).

And if all that activity makes you hungry, you’re in luck: Ottawa has no shortage of fun for food and drink fans, from cooking classes at spots such as Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa and The Urban Element to food tours of the booming Wellington West/Hintonburg neighbourhood. Festivals include Capital Ribfest (July 28 to 31) and the Ottawa Craft Beer Festival (August 26 to 28).

As you’ve probably figured out by now, the capital has something for just about every interest, from offbeat theatre (Ottawa Fringe Festival, June 15 to 26) and francophone culture (Festival Franco-Ontarien Banque Nationale, June 16 to 18) to hot-air ballooning (Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, September 1 to 5) and fireworks (Sound of Light, August 6 to 20). With all of this, don’t forget to stop by Parliament Hill to see the Changing of the Guard (June 26 to August 20) and the Northern Lights sound-and-light show (July 9 to September 10), and to snap that Peace Tower selfie.

Travel Planner

Plan your Ottawa trip with a visit to ottawatourism.ca.

 
 
 
 
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