If you’re looking to get away to enjoy the last of the warm weather before winter settles in, why not head to the National Capital Region? Crisp blue skies, fresh air alive with the scent of fallen leaves, and vivid colours make Ottawa an excellent autumn destination.
Here are three highlights to consider if you’re visiting Ottawa this fall:
Enjoy a BeaverTail – a Canadian whole wheat pastry, served hot, with your choice of a variety of scrumptious toppings – and the fun shops at the ByWard Market, a must-visit stop when in Ottawa. Open year-round, the ByWard Market is Ottawa’s number one tourist attraction, home to a local farmers’ market and the city’s premier destination for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment. Restaurants, cafes and bars are all open according to COVID-19 safety protocols.
2. Catch the Fall Colours
The Fall Rhapsody festival takes place at the peak of the fall colours and goes from September 26 – October 25, 2020. “Rhapsody celebrates the beautiful fall colours in Ottawa. With so many trees that change colours, it’s just gorgeous,” says Ottawa Tourism corporate communications specialist, Julia Thomson. Leaf Peepers can see the fall colours throughout the capital region. You can enjoy the blazing colours of autumn by foot, on a bike, or while out for a picnic. Major’s Hill Park, situated between Parliament Hill and the National Gallery of Canada, is a popular destination in the fall.
“Ottawa is a great bike-friendly city, with 800 km of interconnecting bike paths in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Biking along the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal is so pretty at this time of year.” Bike rentals – including e-bikes and e-scooters – are available downtown, at Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals and Rent A Bike.
Gatineau Park, the National Capital Region’s conservation park, is an approximately 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It’s a very popular spot to view the changing colours. Visitors should expect plenty of traffic and some road closures at Gatineau Park, so people are encouraged to take a free shuttle bus from downtown to get to the park, or consider visiting during the week rather than on the weekend. The Gatineau Hills offer plenty of great hiking trails, including Pink Lake.
In the heart of Gatineau Park, there are also trails at Mackenzie King Estate, the historic country summer home of Canada’s 10th and longest-serving Prime Minister.
While Gatineau Park is charming, “there is so much more around the city to see in terms of fall colours to explore,” Thomson adds. For example, Mer Bleue is a forested conservation area located 20 minutes east of downtown Ottawa. “It’s very pretty,” Thomson says. At Mer Bleue, the largest bog and natural area in Canada’s Capital Region, you can walk along a wooden boardwalk and read the information panels to learn about Mer Bleue’s northern boreal ecosystem, home to many species of significant plants, birds and other wildlife. “It’s a really interesting spot.”
Hog’s Back Park: A highlight of Hog’s Back Park is a set of waterfalls situated south of downtown Ottawa, where the Rideau Canal splits from the Rideau River (if you’re sightseeing by bike it’s a 10-minute ride along the Rideau Canal from downtown).
3. National Museums
“We are so lucky, as the capital, to have so many great national museums,” Thomson says. “There is something for everyone in terms of museums in Ottawa.” Downtown, within walking distance of any centrally located hotel, you’ll find the Canadian Museum of History, Canadian Museum of Nature, National Gallery of Canada, and Canadian War Museum. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, museums are asking visitors to book tickets ahead of time online.
A little farther out from the city centre (an approximately 15-minute drive from downtown, easily accessible by car, public transit or Uber), there is the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
Ottawa Tourism welcomes visitors to come and enjoy the capital region. This fall, when you book your hotel room through the Ottawa Tourism website, you will receive $100 off (offer available until December 31, 2020). Visit www.ottawatourism.ca for more information.