Ottawa During the Holidays – A Capital Idea
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Ottawa During the Holidays – A Capital Idea


Ottawa During the Holidays – A Capital Idea

If you are thinking about a holiday escape, make sure to read this. Written by a guest contributor to John Eric Home, Derek Nzeribe will have you packing your bags post-haste!

The seat of government for the country of Canada, the City of Ottawa, is in the southern portion of the province of Ontario where the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers meet. Ottawa’s population is well over 1 million, making it Canada’s fourth-largest city. It is also one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations, drawing millions of visitors each year. Primary employers in Ottawa include the public service of Canada and the high-tech industry. The city is often referred to as “Silicone Valley North.” Other major employers include the City of Ottawa and the health sector. It also has the largest rural economy of the major cities across the country. With ample opportunities to live, work and play within its borders, Ottawa boasts a hot real estate market, offering everything from compact condominiums to sprawling estate homes.

Traveling to Ottawa this holiday season? Bring a warm coat!

Known for unpredictable weather, you can count on Ottawa being appropriately chilly during the vibrant holiday season, when the city comes to life through festivals, concerts, decorated shopping venues and an extravaganza of light displays. One of Canada’s most multicultural cities, Ottawa is characterized by a kaleidoscope of ethnic celebrations including Christmas. And you can keep warm while you travel around the city in one of the new winter hop-on/hop-off bus tours, thanks to the vintage heated trolleys of Cobblestone Tours.  

What to do, what to do, what to do?

Tourism is critical to Ottawa’s economy, and it’s easy to understand why, as the city boasts numerous national attractions. Shopping is an exciting adventure in everything from boutiques to major malls and big-box stores. History buffs appreciate the incredible architectural gems including 25 National Historic Sites of Canada. Foodies go wild over Ottawa’s cuisine. Yes, you’ll find Canadian favourites such as poutine, but the city is home to more shawarma shops than anywhere in the world outside the middle east! You’ll also want to sample “Ottawa-style” pizza with its doughy crust and toppings baked under a blanket of cheese.

Did you know?

  • Downtown Ottawa is on the south bank of the Ottawa River, across that waterway from Gatineau, Quebec.
  • Several Christmas movies were filmed in and around Ottawa, including: “Boyfriends of Christmas Past,” “A Christmas Carousel,” “A Cheerful Christmas,” “A Christmas Scavenger Hunt,” “A Storybook Christmas,” “Winter Castle,” “Christmas Unwrapped,” “Midnight at the Magnolia” and “Christmas Jars.”
  • Ottawa is home to the most educated population in Canada.
  • Declared a Heritage Site by the City of Ottawa and a National Historic Site by the Canadian Government, Notre-Dame Cathedral is the largest and oldest standing church in the city.
  • The Rideau Canal is 202 km (126 miles) long and during part of the winter season forms the world’s largest skating rink. The canal has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • In central Ottawa, the well-established culinary arts institute, Le Cordon Bleu, is the only Cordon Bleu campus in North America.
  • There are several museums in Ottawa: The Canadian Museum of History (which contains the Canadian Children’s Museum), the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum among them.

Visit Ottawa this holiday season to experience the magic this city evokes …

There is a noticeable excitement in the air as winter descends on Ottawa and people from all over come together to celebrate the holiday spirit. The business of Parliament winds down as the Capital Region transforms with the Pathway of Lights brightening Confederation Boulevard, Canada’s ceremonial route. And on Parliament Hill every year, a spectacular multimedia projection show adds to the exhilarating mood.

Even the housing market becomes more relaxed as the shift in people’s attention is to family events and celebrations across the city’s various neighbourhoods. As the holidays roll around each year, Ottawa sparkles, twinkles and dazzles every evening with light shows, decorated Christmas trees and more.

(For dates and more information on the upcoming events, check out

  • The Vintage Village of Lights in an enchanted setting with more than 30,000 lights on display. This celebration of yesteryear features a soundtrack with music from the interwar years.
  • The Magic of Lights is a two-kilometre route at Wesley Clover Parks Campground illuminated by nearly 1 million lights!
  • Taffy Lane in Orléans is known for having holiday light displays that rival any others in Canada.
  • The free-admission Ottawa Christmas Market returns to Aberdeen Square in Lansdowne Park on weekends between November 25 and December 18 and from December 20 to 23.
  • ByWard Market is Ottawa’s #1 tourist attraction. This prime destination for shopping, the arts, dining, entertainment and professional services is a designated tourist zone, so will be open during the holidays with festive decorations, trees, lights and even a window-decorating program among vendors.
  • Check out the BeaverTails hut, where you can purchase these mouth-watering flat sugared pastries. Maple syrup, poutine … discover other delectable Canadian edibles.
  • The Salvation Army will bring the largest Christmas kettle in the world to the market. Talk about big!
  • Spark Street will feature live-scale, interactive LIT art (3D lighting displays that invite you to be a part of them and strike a pose).
  • You can catch a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Cantata Singers of Ottawa with the NAC Orchestra on December 14-15.
  • On December 12, attend a performance of the Chamberfest Concert Series, featuring Canadian and international artists.
  • During December, there are several NHL games to attend at the Canadian Tire Arena in Kanata. Watch the Ottawa Senators (The Sens) play against NHL rivals!
  • From December 1 to 4, Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens will perform the Nutcracker at the National Arts Centre – a beloved spectacle.
  • And remember to hop on for a free horse-and-carriage ride on weekends! For more than 100 years, Cundell Stables has offered horse-drawn tours, hay and sleigh rides around town.
  • Fairmont Château Laurier is the scene of a fundraising event called Trees of Hope for Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
  • If you happen to make it to Ottawa in November, you can enjoy the annual Santa Claus Parade, on the 19th this year. Organized by the Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association, the event is held primarily to collect gifts for children.
  • On December 19, the Sultans of Swing Christmas Caravan features the three-time JUNO Award nominees and Billboard charting band with a musical trip around the world. Algonquin Theatre.
  • On December 8, the JUNO Award-winning Ennis Sisters will perform a captivating mix of songs and storytelling, with a little Irish step-dancing thrown in for good measure.
  • How about A Country Christmas at Saunders Farm in the Munster area of Ottawa? Find hedge mazes, wagon rides and a drive-through light display.
  • The Log Farm in Nepean holds a holiday celebration of what a family farm would have been like in the late 1800s, as well as today, complete with Santa’s workshop.
  • For holiday gift shopping, stop by Ottawa Art Gallery for the Art & Parcel Holiday Sale, where you can pick up everything from original artworks to books, jewelry and more.
  • Holiday décor will festoon Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, just 20 minutes east of downtown, featuring hundreds of retailers and ample free parking.
  • And speaking of Orléans, the area’s Christmas Bazaar on December 3rd and 4th is a well-loved venue for finding unique gifts created by local vendors.

Got the post-holiday blues?

Ottawa has the perfect prescription for that. Usually by late January or early February, temperatures have been cold enough for the Rideau Canal to freeze over for skating. And during the firsts three weekends in February, if you happen to be in Ottawa or Gatineau, which together form the National Capital Region, treat yourself to Winterlude, the annual festival that attracts thousands of snow-lovers and has been recognized as one of the top 100 annual attractions in North America. Enjoy snow sculptures, skate-changing shacks, and food catering kiosks along this icy trail.

Original feature published in John Eric Home. Click here to read about other great places to take for a holiday trip.