Hot town, summer in the city…, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa
After what seems like the winter that wouldn’t end, we are finally experiencing some warm weather in Ottawa. In the last few weeks, we have seen a flurry of activity in the garden centres, the cleaning up of dirt and debris left behind by winter and a lighter mood in general. Spring has finally sprung!
Summer in Ottawa is chockful of opportunities to rediscover why so many people choose to visit our beautiful City. Not everyone has the chance to get away during the summer, but Ottawa has enough to offer, that a ‘staycation” can be a great vacation. As of June 16, 2019, Ottawa has a city population of 1,000,000. As the fifth-largest city in Canada and the Nation’s Capital, there is no lack of unique sites to visit and events to attend. Besides the status of a metropolis, “the town that fun forgot” is no longer true. From festivals and parks to cultural institutions, there is something for everyone.
Our city is lucky to have the advantage of not only being a bustling capital but surrounded by natural attractions as well. A quick drive across the river and you can find yourself in Gatineau Park where Nokia Sundays allow you to bike some great and challenging paths while the roads are closed to motorists. Besides cycling, there are many ways to enjoy the Park – hiking, beaches, picnic at the MacKenzie King Estate and even overnight camping. The best part is that the majority of these activities are free.
If you prefer to stay within Ottawa, there is no shortage of nature to enjoy. Of course, we have the Rideau Canal, where you can walk, bike or run. Let yourself stroll to the ByWard Market area and learn about the impressive and simultaneously tragic history of how the canal was built. Alternately, a visit to Dow’s Lake affords you the chance to feed the ducks, and for a small fee take a canoe or kayak out on the river.
If the summer gets too warm, why not choose to visit one of the several beaches in Ottawa. These beaches are monitored for water quality and have lifeguards on duty so families can have a fun and safe time. Free to the public, simply pack a picnic, grab the swim trunks and a ball, and enjoy our very short season of summer.
Amazingly there are plenty of ways to experience nature in our City. With 20,000 hectares of green space, including farms, forests and wetlands within the Greenbelt, there are plenty of walks, hikes and educational opportunities to indulge in. Kids will soon forget their electronic devices when they are challenged to spot the different wildlife or listen carefully and hear the different calls in nature. For example, the Stony Swamp, near Barrhaven, has a network of beaver ponds. It doesn’t get more Canadian than that!
There are plenty of more things to do that will not affect the wallet. Plan a day to visit the Byward Market. Farmer’s stalls filled with fresh produce, flowers are pretty enough to be a site of their own and at any given time you will be entertained by buskers. On Wednesdays, bring a mat and practice yoga for free on Parliament Hill. After warming yourself with a great stretch, walk over to the building and take a tour of Parliament – all while cooling yourself. While there, experience the “whispering wall” (east of Centre Block, behind the Famous Five monument). Have one person stand at the one end of the bench and a second at the opposite end of the bench. Now… with no more than a quiet whisper, face the wall and talk to one another. If you prefer to skip the yoga, you can instead choose to watch the changing of the guard. One does not need to go to London, England to see some ceremony and pomp! If you plan to stay into the evening, don’t forget there’s a free, bilingual Northern Lights, a sound and light show on Parliament Hill every night after dark between early July and early September. Huge images are projected onto the Parliament Buildings, using them as a giant screen. It’s magnificent!
If the weather is too hot or rainy, a visit to any of the numerous museums in Ottawa is in order. The National Gallery, the War Museum, Museum of Nature and more all have evenings where visits are free. Here’s a useful economic tip: “check out” free passes to museums from the Ottawa Public Library. The Access Pass can be checked out with a valid OPL library card. Of course, there are other smaller museums that are worth a visit. The Nepean Museum, for example, brings you through Nepean’s history from its Indigenous roots to modern day. You can even see a picture of one of Ottawa’s most famous natives, Alanis Morrissette.
To list all the events, sites and things to do in Ottawa over the summer would require a tome. There are so many festivals – musical ones such as Bluesfest and the TD Ottawa Jazz festival, different cultural fests, the Capital Fair, free outdoor movies at local parks — there is certainly no shortage of things to do during the summer. And of course, let’s not forget the best party in town – Canada Day! If you live in Barrhaven, our free Canada day event continues at Clarke Fields. Lots of fun, food and fireworks to be had. Our summers are too short to let all these opportunities pass by, so take the family and friends and be a “tourist” in Ottawa this year. However you choose to visit, may it be safe and fun!