This year of 2017 marks the 150th birthday of my birth country of Canada!
Although Canada’s birthday is July 1st, just like we like to celebrate our own birth weeks, or birth months, we can and should celebrate Canada’s special 150th birthday all year. And what better way to celebrate our glorious country then by travelling through it and marveling at it’s gorgeousness?
I admit, I have so much to see still of our country. I have yet to travel to our furthest west and east coasts, as well as to so many provinces in-between. So while I haven’t seen the rest of Canada, currently our capital city of Ottawa holds the number one spot on my list of favourite Canadian places to visit.
So….what awaits you in Ottawa? Well, it definitely makes for a family-friendly trip, and I think it’s an important visit for any Canadian, whether you were born in Canada or not. Spending time in our capital city and touring the glorious buildings and monuments really brings out your Canadian pride, and it’s a great history lesson for young and old.
Now, where to start? I recommend spending at least 2 to 3 days in the city or area of Ottawa/Gatineau, as there are so many superb sites to see, you don’t want to be rushed through your visit. If you plan your visit for during the summer months, there are more events happening on Parliament Hill and surrounding area. But if you go outside of the summer, Ottawa still has lots of other fun things to offer as well!
For our visits, we wanted to stay as close as possible to the centre of the action, and without too much of a walk (for my spouse’s and parents’ knees!)….and on a budget! However, Ottawa is best seen by parking your car and walking around. We chose to stay at Capital Hill Hotel & Suites as it had the best location without being extremely pricey. It definitely wasn’t the fanciest hotel, and was quite dated, but it suited our needs. There was plenty nearby for breakfast options (Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, etc.) and the best part was the central location on Albert Street, just 3 short blocks from Parliament Hill.
When we arrived into Ottawa, we chose to first visit the museums that were not within walking distance from the hotel, so that once we checked into our hotel we could just park the car and leave it until our departure. The first museum we went to was the Canadian War Museum.
This museum is a treasure and is filled with the military history of our nation. It was definitely poignant, thought-provoking and reflective. It wasn’t a “fun” museum for play, but still really resonated with our family as it gave us time to reflect on our country, our armed forces, the role we played in major events in the world, and how that affected our people and our freedom. The exhibits were for all people, young and old, to remind us of the sacrifices our veterans and current serving personnel made and are making.
This photo below shows a segment of the Berlin Wall which is on display at the Canadian War Museum.
It was emotional just wandering through at our own pace, reading and reflecting on the pieces on display as well as the thought-provoking messages, such as the one below…
By far, one of my all-time favourite museums is the Canadian Museum of History (previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization). This museum is found a very short distance away on the Gatineau, Québec side of the Ottawa River. If you go to the War Museum first, then all you have to do is just cross the Portage Bridge over the river and take a right on rue Laurier.
The magnificent and stunning grand hall has spectacular views, and hosts many events. If you’re visiting on a weekend, don’t be surprised to see a few brides and their wedding parties around and inside the museum as it is a fantastic place for wedding photos!
And for the children, there is even a Children’s Museum right inside the Museum of History… The kids can have lots of fun travelling the world, wandering through pyramids…
…running a bookstore….
…or working in a tailor shop!
Wander out behind the museum and you’ll see the beautiful views of parliament across the river!
Another tip if you are visiting during the week: every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm, both of these amazing museums offer free admission!
Back on the Ottawa side of the river…. you can’t go visit our capital city and not go for a free tour of our Parliament Buildings. During the summer months, the tickets can get swooped up pretty quickly first thing in the morning, so your best bet is to be at the ticketing office right before they open. This way you can get tickets for the tour which are for a specific time of day, and then you can go visit other attractions and come back to Parliament in time for your tour.
The ticketing centre is located directly across the street from Parliament Hill at 90 Wellington Street, and they open at 9:00am. Be sure to visit their website here to plan your visit, and get your Centre Block and Peace Tower tour tickets!
Here is “the House”! (aka The House of Commons):
And the most beautiful Library we’ve ever seen… the Library of Parliament:
Make sure to go up the Peace Tower for spectacular views of Ottawa & Gatineau!
If you’re lucky enough, you may spot the flag master going through a secret door in the Peace Tower to go up and change the Canadian Flag on the tower! Did you know that the Peace Tower flag is changed every day from Monday to Friday???? Did you also know that you can put your name on a very long waiting list to one day be the recipient of a flag that flew atop the Parliament Buildings? Click here to get more information on the flags and on adding your name to the list (FYI: the Peace Tower flag waiting period is currently 73 years!! Order one now for your babies!)
All around Parliament Hill are bronze statues of historical figures… take the time to explore the Hill and see them up close.
This statue below is of Queen Elizabeth II on her horse Centenial. One of the newer statues on the Hill, this one was unveiled in 1992, during Canada’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister:
William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister:
The West Block was under construction during our last few visits, and so was not open for tours.
The East Block was open for tours however, only during the summer months. The Changing of the Guard ceremony happens every day on the Hill in July and August at 10:00am!
And also during the summer months, right up until mid-September, the Sound and Light Show is not to be missed. Bring a blanket and the family, and take a seat on the Hill to experience this truly amazing show of Canada’s history.
I’ll be back shortly with ideas of what to do on Day 2 in our Nation’s capital…
Happy 150 Canada!