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(2022 - Winter Issue)


Winter is a fabulous time to visit Canada’s capital—even if you hate the cold.

Sure, Ottawa’s winters are nippy. What else would you expect from the capital of a northern country? However, that doesn’t mean winter isn’t also a fantastic time to visit the city. Inside Ottawa’s museums, galleries and theatres, you’ll find so many exhibitions, plays and concerts that you won’t give the falling mercury a second thought. And if you revel in glittering, snowy days, you’ll love the city’s outdoor markets, rinks and trails! Here’s a sampling of what Ottawa is offering visitors this winter.

See Art in a New Way

At the National Gallery of Canada, a thought-provoking exhibition of eight Canadian artists awarded the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts can be viewed until January 29, 2023. Included in the exhibition are works by the New Brunswick jeweller and metalsmith Brigitte Clavette and Toronto-born visual artist Moyra Frances Davey.

The gallery has installed these artworks in locations throughout the permanent collection. See pieces by Inuit sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun in the Michael and Sonja Koerner Family Atrium. This skylit courtyard is already home to bronze sculptures created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Louis-Philippe Hébert and Alfred Laliberté, whose specialties included memorial statues of politicians and religious leaders.

By presenting the exhibition in this way, curators—who worked closely with the winners to develop the show—have put the award-winning works in a dialogue with the gallery’s existing pieces.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

At the Canadian Museum of Nature, the show Planet Ice: Mysteries of the Ice Ages has proven so popular that it has been extended to January 8, 2023. Wander through exhibits that start with the ice age 80,000 years ago and end with present-day climate change concerns. En route, learn how animals and humans have adapted to survive in frigid, inhospitable conditions.

The museum’s newest exhibition, Our Land, Our Art, runs until October 2024. Co-commissioned by the Avataq Cultural Institute, an Inuit organization based in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), it presents five artworks by Indigenous artists that reflect the artists’ strong relationships with the land and their communities.

Relive Your Childhood

At the Canadian Museum of History, prepare to take a nostalgic journey through seven decades of Canadian children’s television programming with the exhibition Pepinot to PAW Patrol: Television of Our Childhoods, running until next September. Pepinot was a Canadian TV puppet show that aired on the Radio-Canada and CBC television networks from the ’50s until it ended in 1972. The popular animated show PAW Patrol, which is about a team of search-and-rescue dogs, has been on the TVOKids and Nickelodeon networks since 2013. The exhibition showcases puppets, costumes, video clips and props from roughly 100 TV programs.

Catch a Performance, Festival or Fair

With trees and buildings illuminated by hundreds of thousands of coloured lights, the Christmas Lights Across Canada festival (December 8–January 8, 2023) truly makes Ottawa a magical place to celebrate the holidays.

Holiday shoppers can browse for unique handmade gifts created by over 150 Canadian artisans at the Signatures Originals Christmas Craft Sale (December 7–11). Outdoor holiday revellers can sip hot chocolate while strolling past festive wooden stalls at the Ottawa Christmas Market, held at Lansdowne Park (December weekends, until December 23).

Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without music! At the National Arts Centre, you can hum along to the Hallelujah Chorus during performances of Handel’s Messiah (December 14–15) or tap your toes to the fiddler dynamic-duo Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy in A Celtic Family Christmas (December 21–22).

Get outside!

If you’ve always wanted to skate on the frozen Rideau Canal, visit in February during the three-weekend Winterlude festival (February 3–20, 2023). During Winterlude, you can also dance under the stars during free evening rock concerts, or watch ice carvers wield picks and chainsaws to transform ice blocks into delicate sculptures. Kids, meanwhile, can speed down ice slides at Jacques Cartier Park in neighbouring Gatineau, which morphs into a winter playground of outdoor fun.

For more winter activities, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, cyclists and walkers can explore over 100 kilometres of groomed winter trails that wind through urban parks, along parkways and into the protected Greenbelt. For instance, the Kìchì Sìbì Winter Trail starts just west of downtown and meanders across 16 kilometres on the south shore of the Ottawa River.

Sip Clever Cocktails

It would be easy to walk right by Stolen Goods if you didn’t know it was there. With just 21 seats, the tiny cocktail bar on Sparks Street has a speakeasy vibe. The inventive drinks menu may have you Googling some obscure ingredients. For instance, pineapple gomme (a syrup from tree resin) and gochujang (a spicy Korean condiment) are some of the surprises in a spirited cocktail called Birds of a Feather.

Insider Tip 

West of Parliament Hill, the nondescript 1967 building of Library and Archives Canada can give passersby little hints of the fascinating page-turners conserved and catalogued inside. For instance, some 3,000 rare Jewish books comprise the Jacob M. Lowy Collection. One of its rarities is an illuminated Latin version of historian Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews, written near the end of the 1st century CE and printed in Germany in 1470. The Lowy Collection can be viewed only by appointment. (Phone 613-995-7960 or email lowy@bac-lac.gc.ca)

See Christmas Movie Locations

With its heritage buildings and abundance of snow, Ottawa is a popular filming location for Hallmark Channel and W Network holiday movies. From cobblestoned courtyards in the ByWard Market to the Savoy Brasserie in Westboro, you can follow in the filmmakers’ footsteps and create your own winter romance in the vein of A Storybook Christmas or Christmas Unwrapped, two holiday-themed movies filmed in Ottawa.

Travel Planner

For more information on visiting the nation’s capital, please visit ottawatourism.ca

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