Ottawa: Life Of The Party

The verdant, bustling centre on the banks of the Rideau River has been hard at work transforming itself from a staid bureaucratic backwater into a vibrant, cosmopolitan and altogether pleasant destination. Ottawa now boasts over 600 kilometres (370 miles) of paved bike trails, an impressive assortment of restaurants, breweries and bakeries, and more than its share of world-class cultural institutions. It’s official: Fun has arrived in Ottawa!

For more Ottawa travel inspiration, check out:

Eat

Paradise Poke
134 Bank St.; paradisepoke.ca

A go-to for Bank Street office workers, this Hawaiian-themed lunch spot specializes in fresh fish and vegan bowls served with rice, veggies and flavourful, Japanese-inspired dressings. Grab a seat at the counter, or take your bowl to go and have a picnic nearby on Parliament Hill.

Tavern On The Hill
1223 Alexandra Bridge; tavernonthehillottawa.com

One of the city’s best patios, this seasonal bistro overlooks the Parliament Buildings and the Ottawa River. Cap off a day of sightseeing with a glass from the Ontario-centric wine list.

Suzy Q Doughnuts
969 Wellington St. W.; suzyqdoughnuts.ca

Susan Hamer’s colleagues at Canada Post loved her homemade Finnish doughnuts so much that she quit her day job and started a bakery. Now these delightful confections, in such flavours as salty caramel and cookies and cream, sell by the thousands to a loyal fan base of hungry Ottawans.

Photo cred: Chris Roussakis

Play

Nordik Spa
16, chemin Nordik, Chelsea, Que.; chelsea.lenordik.com

Nestled in the forest, a short drive from downtown, North America’s largest spa boasts 10 pools of varying temperatures, nine saunas, four bars and restaurants and a full range of services. Don’t miss the Aufguss, a combination aromatherapy treatment and modern towel dance performed by the sauna master; and Källa, a subterranean float pool containing 10 tonnes of Epsom salts.

Le Boat
1 Jasper Ave., Smiths Falls, Ont.; leboat.ca

Be the captain of your own luxury yacht, thanks to this European cruise company that offers three to seven-day self- guided trips along the Rideau Canal. No boating experience is required, and a range of vessels sleeps up to 12 guests. Anchors aweigh!

Love

Maker House
987 Wellington St. W.; makerhouse.com

A one-stop shop for locally crafted souvenirs, this boutique specializes in wares by Canadian artisans. Recent finds include hand-turned wooden bowls, maple leaf pins made out of copper salvaged from the roofs of the Parliament Buildings, and a cheeky Ottawa vs Itself T-shirt.

Lucky Ron
42 York St.; thelaff.ca

Snag a table at Château Lafayette on a Saturday afternoon to catch this local country music legend who’s been entertaining crowds of regulars at this Byward Market landmark for nearly two decades. Order a plate of Skwik Skwik (deep-fried cheese curds) and get ready to sing along.

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Stay

Hotel Le Germain
30 Daly Ave.; legermainhotels.com/en/ottawa

An easy walk from the National Gallery and Parliament Hill, Ottawa’s newest luxury hotel embraces its Canadian identity at every opportunity. The tastefully appointed rooms display artworks by Montréal photographer Julie Couture, and the lobby showcases a rotating exhibit from the Ottawa Art Gallery next door. Norca, one of the city’s best new restaurants, excels with a menu of creatively prepared seasonal and local ingredients, such as seaweed-fed Gaspésie lamb, and cocktails made with foraged sea buckthorn berries. The in-room mini-bars are stocked with Canadian treats, too, including P.E.I. potato chips, and Top Shelf spirits from Perth, Ont. It’s patriotism without the plaid.