Ottawa Things to Do Tips by yooperprof
Ottawa Things to Do: 688 reviews and 1,637 photos
temple for the people
As part of our summer study tours, the university students and I had a guided tour the interior of the Parliament buildings, focusing upon the debating chamber of the House of Commons and also the Senate. The corridors of the House of Commons building are also fascinating, as they are as lined with interesting painting of the good and worthy leaders of Canada from past generations. The architecture of the Parliament is a restrained neo-gothicism, still with much interesting detail. But we were told that the original building, constrcuted in the 1870s, was even more elaborate. There was a terribly fire during World War I that destroyed the original Parliamentary Building, and while a new very handsome legislative temple was constructed on the footprint of the original, apparently it was not as "over-the-top" decorated as the earlier version.
The Parliamentary Library survived the 1917 fire, and it is probably most people's favorite section of the building. It shows what the Victorian Canadians were capable of building when they set their minds to it. Our tour gave us a glimpse of the library, but because it is still a working library, we had to be very quiet and circumspect inside, and we were not allowed to take flash photography either.
bagpipes and fuzzy hats!
Canada is a monarchy! We might know that, but what actualy does that mean? Well, for one thing it means that the Canadians can put on their own version of "pomp and circumstance" when they please. Watching the changing of the Guard at Rideau Hall provides an excellent reminded of the importance of ceremony and tradition in Canadian government. Rideau Hall is the home of the Governor-General, who is the representative of Queen Elizabeth as the official "Head of State" of the Canadian Confederation. The Governor-General signs all legislation into law, represents Canada as international gatherings, and also serves all of the ceremonial domestics functions as the representative of the Canadian government and peoples.
A tour of Rideau Hall offers visitors a great way to understand the changing role of the Governor- General over time. There have been Governors-General since 1867, when the Canadian Confederation was officially formed. Originally all of the holders of the office were from Britain itself, usually men of high social standing in the aristocracy, or even members of the Royal Family itself. In the 1930s, it became standard practice for holders of the Governor-Generalship to be Canadians themselves, and more recently, the Governors General have come from a wide variety of the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups in Canada. Portraits of the Governors-General are on display here, along with the public rooms where Canadian officials entertain visiting dignitaries from around the world.
Address: 1 Sussex Dr
symbol of Canada
Canada's Parliament sits in this impressive neo-Gothic structure, crowning the hillside location where all the centrally important government structures are located. The choice of a gothic design (over a neo-classical concept) was not an accident - it served to underline Canada's continuing association with Britain.
The central "spire" - known as the Peace Tower - rises to a height of 302 feet. Inside are the House of Commons, the Senate, the Hall of Honour, and the Library of Parliament. Guided tours are offered, and how much see can depend on how much activity is taking place on Parliament Hill on the day of your visit.
The foundation stone for the Canadian Parliament was lain in 1860 by "Bertie", the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), in 1860. In 1915, a terrible fire destroyed the Centre Block, but even though World War I was ragings, plans were immediately put into place to rebuild, and the foundation stone for the revised "Victoria Tower" (now the Peace Tower) was put into place on September 1, 1916 by Arthur, Duke of Connaught - "Bertie's" younger brother.
The Library of Parliament is another interesting feature. It's "stars" a remarkable 16-sided dome, supported by flying buttresses and constructed with local sandstone.
the Ultimate Court
The Supreme Court of Canada sits in this very impressive Art Deco structure just to the west of the Parliament Buildings on Wellington Avenue.
Tours of the building offer a glimpse into the main chambers of Court - and are quite fascinating.
The cornerstone of the Supreme Court was put in place by Queen Elizabeth - the spouse of King George VI - later the Queen Mother - in 1939. Even in the middle of World War II and its deprivations, construction continued through the early 1940s, and the building was opened in 1946.
The architect was Ernest Cormier. Walter Allward was responsible for the sculptures of Truth and Justice that flank the main entrances.
a home for Canadian stories and histories
The fascinating Canadian Museum of Civilization offers a comprehensive look at the multi-textured stories that have contributed to the making of multi-cultural Canada. Using the best and latest in contemporary museum practices, the Museum gives visitors the opportunity to learn more about the broad range of societies and individuals shaping the Canadian past and present. The structure that houses the Museum - designed by Native/Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal - incorporates broad sweeping curves throughout its design that complements its site on the banks of the Ottawa River. It's worth coming here just to see the building!
Happily, there are many exhibits and displays that relate the experience of the First Nations peoples. Another section of the museum presents life stories (and artefacts) of more than a score of dynamic individuals. Another innovation is the use of professionally trained actor/interpreters who help guide visitors through a rich tableau of "period rooms" and re-created sites.
Also on this site is the Canadian Children's Museum and the Canadian Postal Museum, as well as an IMAX theatre.
Address: 100 Laurier Street (Gatineau)
Directions: If you're staying in Ottawa, it's just an easy walk or drive across the Royal Alexandra Provincial Bridge
The Laurier/McKenzie King House is a Canadian National Historic Site, operated by the informative and helpful Parks Service. Wilfrid Laurier and Wm. Lyon McKenzie King were two of the most important Canadian Prime Ministers, dominant in the affairs of the Liberal Party - and of Canada - from the 1890s to the 1940s. Laurier lived - and entertained - in this house during his premiership, and then, in the 1920s, his widow GAVE the house to his devoted follower and friend McKenzie King.
Of special interest is the "seance room" where the eccentric bachlor King attempted to remain in spirtual contact with devoted friends - and pets - from his past!
Address: 335 Laurier Ave. East
What goes down, must come up
The Rideau Canal that traverses Ottawa on its way to Kingston is both a World Heritage Site and a Canadian National Historic Site. It's also exceptional in being a functional canal - still operated in much the same (manual) way as when it opened 175 years ago. During the summer months, the canal is used by recreational boaters who explore and celebrate Canadian's past while definitely being part of its present.
When I was in Ottawa, I thought it was very interesting to visit the section of the canal adjacent to the Carleton University, to tour a few of the original buildings, and to observe the lock being opened and closed using the same methods as those of the early 19th century.
Directions: several locations throughout the Ottawa region
our group walking up the great hallway
Canada's National Gallery occupies a prominent location, at the foot of Sussex Drive, down the hill from the Chateau Laurier and overlooking the magnificent Ottawa River. Architect Moshe Safdie took full advantage of the site in designing an imaginative yet functional structure that manages to create a sense of celebration, while at the same time displaying the treasures inside to their best advantage.
If you are interested the "Group of Seven" (and friends!) - those early twentieth century Canadian landscape painters who turned their gaze to the magnificent scrublands and forests of the north - the National Gallery may enthrall you as much as it did me.
Address: 380 Sussex Drive
Directions: Located south of the Byward Market
Phone: (613) 990-1985
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