Rideau Canal#1 in Best Things To Do in Ottawa
Snaking its way through the center of Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is one of the city's most historic attractions. This 125-mile waterway was originally constructed between 1826 and 1832 to create a secure supply and communications route between Montreal, Québec, and Kingston, Ontario – roughly 120 miles southwest of the capital. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the city's most beloved features.
During the summer, you'll find the Rideau Canal filled with boats (both private and commercial) and the paved pathways surrounding it crowded with walkers, runners and bicyclists. If you'd like to tour the canal by boat, consider signing up for a trip with Rideau Canal Cruises. Cruises, which take visitors from Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake (round trip), typically last 90 minutes and take visitors past nearly 30 sights along the canal. You can also borrow a bike from RentABike for CA$10 (around $8) an hour. As the temperatures begin to drop, the canal transforms into the world's largest skating rink, spanning 4.8 miles and featuring a surface area equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks. It's also lined with stands selling hot chocolate and soup, as well as heated huts in case you need a break from the cold.
Recent visitors who signed up for a canal cruise said it was a relaxing trip that offered spectacular views of the city. Others who chose to walk or bike along the paved paths encircling the canal said they appreciated that there were several informative placards detailing the canal's history stationed at several points along the pathway. If you can, try to schedule your visit for sunset (a recommendation from reviewers).
The Rideau Canal is free to enjoy. If you're visiting in the winter and have your own equipment, you don't have to pay to skate either. You can also rent equipment from one of the several rest areas located along the length of the skating area (skates cost CA$18, or $14, for two hours). For more information, check out the Rideau Canal Waterway and the Rideau Canal Skateway websites.
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#2 ByWard Market
Sitting in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the beloved ByWard Market is one of the country's oldest and largest public markets. Throughout the year, you'll find local vendors selling everything from souvenir trinkets to maple sugar candy to handmade cold-weather necessities like hats and mittens. This is the ideal place for fresh produce or a cheap meal on-the-go; during the summer, outdoor stalls sell local favorites like poutine (french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy) and BeaverTails (fried dough covered in everything from chocolate to cheese). Surrounding the main market building – home to the Moulin de Provence Bakery, a favorite snack stop of President Obama – are numerous boutiques, restaurants and nightlife spots. Don't worry if you're visiting in the winter – those same yummy stalls stay open, but they just move indoors.
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