Ottawa Things to Do Tips by mikey_e
Ottawa Things to Do: 676 reviews and 1,574 photos
The Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court is unlikely to be one of the top stops on most tourists' itineraries when they visit Ottawa, but if you're interested in Canadian politics and law, it should be a part of your visit. The building is quite impressive and is a marked contrast from the older and darker structures that form part of the core of Parliament Hill. Set back from Wellington Street, the main structure of the Supreme Court is open for tours, although you do need to contact the tour coordinator ahead of time. The main building contains the Court Room in which the Supreme Court Justices hear cases, as well as a Gallery, several libraries and a conference room. Outside the court stands a statue to Canada's first Francophone Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent.
Booking a tour at the Supreme Court is only necessary when the Court is in session (September to May). During the summmer months (June to August) tours of the buildings are run continually during business hours.
Address: 301 Wellington Street
Directions: When exiting Parliament Hill, turn right on Wellington and walk a few blocks until the building appears on your right
Other Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (613) 995-5361
Centre Block of Parliament Hill
Everyone who visits a national capital should try to make it to see where that nation's politicians and leaders meet to decide important matters and debate the course of the country's future. Luckily, Canada's Parliament combines political and historical significance with beautiful architecture. Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the buildings is the clocktower, which is luckily no longer under construction. The Parliament complex consists of three blocks - East, Centre and West - of which the Centre Block is the most popular and most visited. This is partly because the Centre Block also contains the entrance to the Peace Tower (the clocktower), from which visitors can get a panoramic view of the City of Ottawa and surrounding region. The Peace Tower is a place to commemorate those who have fallen in the name of Canada and Canadian values and provides a much more comfortable surrounding in which to contemplate the sacrifices Canadians have made for their country than the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (especially in winter). The Centre Block also contains the Senate and the House of Commons (visitors have to use the public galleries to witness debates and question period). The East Block has a number of historic rooms, like the Governor-General's office and the office of Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. In the 1980's these rooms were renovated to resemble more accurately what they looked like when the Block was built in 1872. Unfortunately, the West Block is not open to the public.
Address: Wellington Street
Directions: Parliament is pretty impossible NOT to find... just follow the signs
Façade of the National Research Council
The National Research Council is the state body responsible for encouraging scientific research and development in Canada. The NRC, as it is frequently known, plays a large role in the funding of university and private-institute research programs in all different natural and applied science fields. This building, located across the street from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, is currently under renovation, but I believe that it is still functioning (although likely not accessible to the public). The building is fairly typical for many Canadian structures from the beginning and middle of the 20th century, with elements of neo-Classical influence that is not repeated throughout the façade (there are relatively few columns). The design is undoubtedly symbolic of the Enlightenment values relating to intellectual curiosity and the desire for knowledge.
Address: 100 Sussex Drive
Directions: Across from the Department of Foreign Affairs, north-west along Sussex from the Market area.
111 Sussex against the Canal
People often assume that civil service structures will be bland and unimpressive. For the most part, the buildings that are in use in Centretown (to the west of the Canal) are nothing more that standard office towers that might house insurance companies or accounting firms. Some of the more prominent Departments, however, have been endowed with structures that utilize architecture to express their role within the Canadian government and the world. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is one such Department. The main building (125 Sussex) is from those wonderful days in the 60s when ugly was the new pretty and utilitarian on acid seemed to be the catch-phrase of the architectural world. Needless to say, 125 Sussex (also known as the Lester B. Pearson Building) is interesting, with its varying heights and stacked rectangle look. Not far from LBP (which is named after Canada's most famous Foreign Minister, responsible for the diffusion of the Suez Crisis and the creation of Peacekeeping), is the Department's other building, the more modern 111 Sussex structure. In the case of 111, interesting is most definitely not a euphemism for ugly. Rather, the use of simple geometrical shapes in varying proportions helps to create an impressive edifice, especially when viewed against the northern-most edge of the Canal in summer or fall.
Address: 111 & 125 Sussex Drive
Directions: North-east on Sussex from the Market area
RCMP outside the entrance to the PM's house
While Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada's Head of State, is partially open to the public, the Official Residence of the Head of Government, the Prime Minister, is closed. The grounds and house are continuously inhabited by the Prime Minister and his family, except on occasions when he is on official visits to various parts of the country or abroad. Several incidents of security breaches (including one in which then Prime Minister Chrétien beat off an intruder with a soapstone sculpture), as well as heightened fears of terrorism, have led to increased security around the PM's home. Nevertheless, it is still possible for you to peek in from the outside and take a few pictures of the gate (as I did).
Address: 24 Sussex Drive
Directions: Follow Sussex north-east from the Market along Embassy Row
Official Guest House
As the Official Head of State, it is the role of the Governor General to welcome visiting Heads of State (in general the PM takes care of Heads of Government and the appropriate Minister meets his/her counterparts visiting the country). In order to accommodate properly the visiting dignitary, the two guest houses on Sussex Drive are put into use. These structures are of a traditional Canadian architecture and meant to highlight the country's heritage luxury style (so, no modern architectural feats here). The structures are not necessarily high on the list of must-see tourist sites for Ottawa, but they do form a part of the Official Residences complex (that, ironically, is an unofficial term) on Sussex.
Address: 1 Sussex Dr
Directions: At the entrance to Rideau Hall grounds off of Sussex
Boating on the river
Ottawa's geography can be rather confusing, but it is also quite interesting. The city is located at the confluence of two rivers and a man-made canal, which sometimes makes remembering the location of various places and monuments a bit of a challenge. The Rideau Canal divides Centretown from Bytown and the Market, while the Rideau River separates Bytown and Sandy Hill from Vanier. The Ottawa River takes pride of place in the division war, however, as it marks the border between the Provinces of Ontario and Québec. Should the separatists ever win a referendum, it may one day mark an international border as well. The river is much larger than the Rideau River and much more beautiful as well. Parts of it are used for canoeing, kayaking and other watersports thanks, in part, to the placement of nature reserves and parks all along its banks. West along the Parkway that connects Wellington and the Parliament buildings to Kanata there are spectacular bike trails that are quite busy in the winter. Although this is a fairly fast moving river with quite a wide span, it does freeze in the winter (Ottawa winters really are that harsh!) which means that you can get quite a few nice shots of the frozen waters and chutes. I don't believe it freezes enough for skating - you'll have to go to the Rideau Canal for that activity.
Directions: Northern edge of the city
One of the things that is fun to do if you don't live in a capital city (i.e. somewhere where there are not a lot of Embassies), is to travel down Sussex Drive and take in the various, often impressive, Embassy structures. Starting from the American Embassy on Sussex just outside Byward Market, you pass the Kuwaiti Embassy, then the PR Chinese, UAE, Malaysian, Saudi, Ismaili Imamat, French, South African and British representatives as you drive up towards Rockcliffe Park. Some of the buildings are quite impressive, as many of them are modern structures that have been designed by famous architects. The Kuwaiti, Saudi and UAE embassies are among the more modern structures, which the French, British and South African High Commissioners/Embassies are more traditional in style. Naturally, you cannot enter the buildings for tourist purposes, but you are always able to take pictures from the street.
Address: Sussex Drive
Directions: Start in the market and go towards the Prime Minister's House
Monument to the Air Force
Throughout the Second World War, pilots from the various Allied nations required a safe region in which to learn and practice the proper techniques of air combat. Canada provided such a safe region, where fighter pilots from all over the Commonwealth came to learn how to engage and neutralize the enemy, whether in Europe or in the Pacific. Many pilots lost their lives, whether in training accidents or in actual combat, and this monument helps to immortalize the nation's gratitude for their service. The names of those who served and fell are engraved, as is a plaque for those unknown pilots lost in service. The monument itself is quite impressive, despite the fact that it does not have the same sort of placement or engraving as the War Memorial near Parliament. The globe and eagle provide a clear enough symbol, and, on a bright summer or fall day, the contrast of the Ottawa River and serene flora create the perfect environment for reflection.
Address: Sussex Drive
Directions: Beside the National Research Council and across from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Monument to the Fallen
Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War is often overshadowed by the Second World War, despite the fact that the former conflict foreshadowed, in many ways, the brutality and horror of the 1940s. Many individuals who were not Spaniards participated in the war as international volunteers. They were motivated by political views and the desire to assist the Spanish republic in its fight against Fascism. No small number of Canadians joined the ranks of the International Brigades, many of them individuals of immigrant backgrounds. The fact that participation in the Spanish Civil War was not an official matter, and that the League of Nations members had openly supported an arms boycott of the Republican government (only the Soviet Union supplied arms to Madrid), meant that many of these volunteers went unrecognized by their home governments in their valiant efforts to stop the spread of Fascism in Europe. As a sign of posthumous gratitude for their sacrifices, this memorial was erected across from the Department of Foreign Affairs on Sussex Drive. The number of names on it should give an indication of just how many Canadians fought and died in that conflict - many of them doing so for abstract ideals.
Address: Sussex Drive
Directions: Beside the National Research Council, across from Department of Foreign Affairs.
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