Ottawa has been described as one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. Less than an hour's drive from the American border, Ottawa enjoys the attributes of a major center for the visual and performing arts, as well as other big city attractions. Yet, it still maintains the accessibility, atmosphere and charm of a smaller city, in addition to access to spectacular park and wilderness areas located within and around the city.
From humble beginnings, Ottawa has evolved into Canada's cultural capital. The most difficult problem visitors have when visiting Ottawa is choosing what to do first. There are over 50 galleries and theatres in the region, showcasing the best of Canadian and international art, theatre, music, and dance performances. The city's museums, heritage buildings, parks, and monuments paint an exciting picture of its colorful past, while also allowing a glimpse of its future.
Canada's Capital Region is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Canada, with a population of just over one million people. The Capital Region is an area comprising two provinces (Ontario and Quebec) and two main cities (Ottawa and Hull), creating a region much like Washington, DC in the United States. The region comprises 27 municipalities (11 on the Ontario side) and covers an area of 1,800 square miles.
Because of its position as the capital of Canada and seat of the federal government, Ottawa has traditionally enjoyed a stable economy and measured growth. In turn, this has provided a supportive business environment for its commercial, industrial, retail, hospitality and government-related industries.
The region is the headquarters of many national corporations. Termed "Silicon Valley North," Ottawa is home to more than 800 companies specializing in high technology. It is also a center for advanced research and development, especially in the fields of space science, telecommunications and environmental technology
There are three universities in the area, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and Université de Québec à Hull and two community colleges, Algonquin College and La Cité Collegiale
As it is situated on the border of Quebec and Ontario, Ottawa blends English and French cultures; almost half of the residents are bilingual. Added to this mix is a growing ethnic diversity inspired by the city's German, Lebanese, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese and Asian populations, among others. The result is a truly cosmopolitan city that celebrates its heritage in many colorful, multicultural festivals and events throughout the year.
Ottawa's status as an international capital and its ethnic diversity have created an exciting dining scene. Food to suit just about any taste can be found : from African to Afghani, Canadian to French, German to Greek, from Lebanese to Mexican, Spanish to Sri Lankan, Thai to Turkish, vegetarian to Vietnamese and many others.
Ottawa boasts one of the most modern public transit systems in North America.
Visitors who like to shop will find that Ottawa is their kind of city. Whether they are looking for major department stores, discount warehouses or individual boutiques, Ottawa has them all. The capital region is home to 70 large shopping centers. and also smaller shopping centers and boutiques in the downtown core.
If it is entertainment visitors are looking for, the city has offerings to suit every taste. The ByWard Market and Elgin Street are well-known for their night clubs, pubs, dance clubs, and live music halls. Ottawa has five theaters staging plays, musicals, operas and classical concerts. The Corel Center, an 18,500 seat sports and entertainment facility, offers NHL hockey, music's biggest stars, figure skating, and many family events.
Ottawa is a meticulously maintained city. The grid-planned streets sparkle. Trucks sweep up litter even in pouring rain. Snow is whisked off the pavements as soon as it hits; pollution is almost nonexistent. Ottawa has been accessorized with many beautiful parks and gardens, bicycle and jogging paths.
The National Gallery of Canada, founded in 1880, is home to the world's largest collection of Canadian art (including major works by Inuit artists) as well as excellent European and American collections.
The National Arts Center, opened in 1969, is Canada's premier showcase for the performing arts. It features three stages, where visitors can enjoy the best of English and French theatre, dance - avant garde to classical, music, opera and variety performances year-round. Under the direction of the newly-appointed and world-renowned celebrated conductor, Pinchas Zucherman, the National Arts Center Orchestra has gained a high international reputation, touring at home and abroad. Ottawa's own Opera Lyra brings opera center-stage with its performances at the National Arts Center.
The capital is divided by the Rideau Canal into Upper and Lower Town: to the west, on the steep banks of the Ottawa River, the Gothic-inspired Parliament Buildings are the high point of Upper Town, while in Lower Town the focal point is the boulevard of Sussex Drive, which curves along the river to the mansions of Rockcliffe in the northeast, passing the National Gallery and several other smaller museums on the way. To the south, beyond the Lower Town, the National Museum of Science and Technology.
Originally constructed for defense and trading purposes, the 125.5 mile Rideau Canal is today used for leisure and pleasure. This system of natural lakes and rivers is made navigable by locks, dams and canal cuts. During the winter, the Ottawa portion of the canal is transformed into a 4.5 mile long skating rink which is utilized also by many people on their way to and from their offices. During the summer, the canal provides a haven for hundreds of boating enthusiasts and, for those on shore, a constantly changing panorama of boats of all shapes, sizes and vintages.
The Québécois town of Hull, just across the Ottawa River, is linked to Ottawa by five bridges and is fast becoming an integrated part of the city, though Hull is still very proud and protective of its French heritage.
On the Hull side of the river is Gatineau Park, where residents and visitors alike enjoy swimming, fishing, biking, spelunking and skiing. From May until October, train buffs can experience a half day trip along the beautiful Gatineau River on one of Canada's last authentic steam-powered trains.
Canada's Capital Region provides the perfect setting for a family vacation with its magnificent setting, historic sites and numerous family attractions.