Lifestyle

Never A Dull Moment
Read on for a mere sampling of the endless ways in which Canadians wile away their leisure time.


Theatre and Dance

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What to see

The National Arts Centre, in the heart of downtown, is a definitive Canadian venue for visiting artists and troupes, as well as the city’s two orchestras, and English and French theatre programs. Check out schedules at nac-cna.ca or call 1-866-850-1787. And there is more live entertainment elsewhere, from groups such as The Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa Little Theatre, Ottawa Choral Society, Orpheus Musical Theatre Society and Opera Lyra Ottawa. There are even stand-up comedy clubs and dinner theatres that solve murder mysteries around you while you eat.

Museums and Galleries

-Elizabeth Howell


Where to go

Ottawa is a natural destination for museumsof every size and theme, and residents usually find a favourite. You may be surprised at what you find, too. The most recent addition has been the Canadian War Museum, an architecturally daring space to present the sometimes-controversial military matters shaping the country’s past and present. Similarly, the dramatic glass steeple of the National Gallery of Canada is a downtown landmark, with a permanent collection of more than 25,000 pieces, including some by the Group of Seven. Equally impressive is the First Peoples’ Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which was designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal. In addition to such well-known stops as the Canada Science and Technology Museum and the Canada Aviation Museum, some less obvious ports of call are the Bytown Museum, next to the canal locks, and the Billings Estate, a reconstruction of one of the area’s pioneer homes.

Sports & Recreation
Sporting Events

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Sports in Ottawa

Ottawa residents eagerly follow the fortunes of the city’s NHL franchise, the Ottawa Senators, as well as their Ontario Hockey League counterparts, the Ottawa 67s. In fact, few of the spats that take place on Parliament Hill can compare with the provincial political rivalry embodied in the regular grudge matches that take place between the Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nor is this action a strictly professional affair. At the beginning of the year the city hosts an international hockey festival that set a world record in 2007 by having more than 500 teams from North America, Europe and Asia compete for the Bell Canada Cup. The city also hosted the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships to great success in early 2009.

Besides hockey, sports fans also keep a close eye on various teams mounted by two local universities, particularly the multi-championship Carleton University Ravens men’s basketball team.

Restaurants
Restaurants

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Food for thought

Ottawa is well served for everyone from casual noshers to serious gourmets. The city boasts Signatures, a restaurant belonging to Paris’s famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, and others in the definitive guide Where to Eat in Canada. Meanwhile, you can fi nd specialized fare ranging from African, Asian and traditional to downright experimental in venues ranging from relaxed to traditional to raucous. Fun did not forget this town, nor does it skip any meals here.

Attractions
Quitting Time!

-Elizabeth Howell


Where to go and what to do when the day's business is done.

Government employees downtown typically pack up every day around 5 p.m., as well as the tech employees across town in Kanata. But with the end of the “normal” workday comes the beginning of night life. Ottawa is hardly a spot that goes to sleep when the sun goes down. In many ways, in fact, it comes alive.

Anyone strolling down the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall during summer’s annual Busker Festival, for example, knows Ottawa is a great place to play. Buskers from all over the world come to showcase their craft, with the biggest crowds coming to watch the “fire-eaters.”

Elgin Street’s variety of restaurants – and the late hours many of them keep – are reminiscent of the eclectic neighbourhoods of Toronto. It’s easy here to grab a 1 a.m. bite of pizza or drop into one of many clubs for a little midnight dancing.

For those who want to go a little further afield, the Gatineau Hills beckon just north of downtown. Their trails are a popular cross-country skiing destination in wintertime, and can ready you for even more ambitious ski events. Two of Ottawa’s most prominent competitions are the Canadian Ski Marathon, the world’s longest cross-country ski tour, and the Gatineau (Keskinada) Loppet, which features races long and short.

Nor does the winter fun end there. The Gatineau trail system has dedicated snowshoe routes, and the highest hills in the area have downhill ski and snowboarding facilities. You can take up dog sledding and skijoring, a unique exercise that has a dog pulling you on your skis. And it’s not hard to fi nd hills for tobogganing and snow tubing.

Besides such trails, Gatineau Park offers abundant hiking, camping or canoeing possibilities. Not far away, you can try rock climbing, white-water rafting, and other forms of outdoor entertainment. For an overview, check Ottawa Outdoors magazine: ottawaoutdoors.ca. Its updated calendar will ensure you spend no more time at home than is absolutely necessary.

The Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink for more thana month every year. And for three weekends in February, the canal is the centerpiece of the Winterlude festival, which features ice carvings, snow sculptures, outdoor concerts, and a giant children’s playground full of snow slides. The event draws hundreds of thousands of people for such unique experiences as a skater’s-eye view of Canada’s capital, manic bed races down the ice, and the taste of beavertail, the local bread-and sugar dessert specialty served from huts on the canal.

The warmer seasons are even more packed with outdoor options. Bicycles proliferate for business and pleasure, and no wonder – 170 kilometres of pathways run through beautiful greenbelt and parkland. Major commuter routes have designated bicycle lanes, and despite occasional complaints from both drivers and cyclists, the two manage to show a great deal of respect for one another on the road.

Each May, during the Canadian Tulip Festival, more than two million of these flowers blossom throughout the city, accompanied by a series of outdoor concerts by major talent from across Canada. Find out more online at tulipfestival.ca.

By June the city is buzzing with the Dragon Boat Races on the canal, the Carnival of Cultures folklore celebration, and the Ottawa Fringe Festival, an eclectic assortment of stage works lasting more than a week. Music fills the summer months, as the city hosts major Jazz and Blues festivals and the world’s largest collection of chamber music concerts – annually, well over 100 concerts in just 15 days.

In autumn, tourists throng to catch a glimpse of the spectacular fall colours that fi ll the hills overlooking the Ottawa River. The National Capital Commission provides workshops, guided tours and outdoor activities as part of Fall Rhapsody. And just as fall begins, the skies over Ottawa are fi lled with lighter-than air craft from around the world for the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Later in the season, the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival showcasesliterary talent from Canada and beyond. When December sets in, Parliament Hill, Confederation Boulevard, and other signature points in Ottawa set off Christmas Lights Across Canada.

Each of these events has its own website, but two of the best online sources for dining and entertainment options are ottawakiosk.com and ottawa-festivals.com. There you can also fi nd out about the many institutions that make Ottawa’s cultural life truly distinctive.