Savvy Canadian travellers know that fall is the perfect time to travel. High season is slowly passing and the sweltering heat of summer has dissipated. The cool, crisp autumn air and turning leaves invites visitors to discover Ottawa comfortably on foot. Unique neighbourhoods, each with their own charm, are begging to be explored. If you're the type to eat your way through a city there are plenty of options from gourmet to comfort to artisan fast food. If you want to do so in the company of a crowd, September sees Marvest (that's a musical harvest) and CityFolk. Lastly, fall marks the last few weeks of the region's white-water rafting. Yes - you heard us correctly. Work up an appetite battling against some of the best rapids our country has to ride.
Address: Lansdowne Park. 1015 Bank Street, Ottawa, K1S 3W7 (near the intersection of Bank Street and Exhibition Way)
Dates: September 16-20
Gates open: 5 p.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday
Admission cost: Day passes $40-60, full festival passport: $129, any 3 day pass $99 and VIP pass $249.
Notes: Headlining bands wrap by 10 p.m. and late night programming by 1 a.m. Bike valet and ATMs on site. The Great Lawn is general admission and visitors are welcome to bring blankets and collapsible chairs.
CityFolk is a five-day affair, celebrating music, dance and the visual arts. In true folk fashion, there’s a diverse representation of genres and focus on community. Creativity, imagination and personal expression are central to the festival, and you’ll find everything from the traditional to the eclectic.
What's New 2015
Every September the Ottawa Folk Festival fills the nation's capital with music. Two decades in, it’s a longstanding favourite. 2015 however, marks not only a new name, CityFolk, but a new location in the heart of the city. (The festival’s popularity and record attendance demanded a larger space to accommodate festival-goers.) Going forward, you’ll find the fun on the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park. Despite a rebranding, the mission of the folk festival remains unchanged.
To celebrate its new name and venue in 2015, CityFolk has stocked the schedule with the biggest names in folk and indie. Performers include The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Sun Kil Moon, Passenger, Lord Huron, Van Morrison and many more!
Marvest. What's Marvest you ask? It's the combination of music and harvest; a musical harvest. While the micro-festival exists within CityFolk, it stands on its own with a focus on hyper-local. All performing talent, food and drink are sourced from within 100 miles of the region. Savour samples from Ottawa Farmers' Market vendors and choose from the brews of 15 craft breweries while tapping your toe to live music. Note that Marvest runs September 18-20.
Cost: Most shows are free
Location: Aberdeen Pavilion
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Food and micro-brews will be sold at the Aberdeen Pavilion. Families are welcome to enjoy the activities at the designated KidzZone. Festival attendees can participate in free workshop sessions and programming, or peruse the artisan craft market.
C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures
C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures
About: Chef Andrée Riffou has a passion for sharing food experiences. Under the banner of simple, homegrown and hands on, C’est Bon threw open its kitchen doors in 2008. Celebrating local flavour isn't just limited to Riffou's kitchen though. C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures also runs gourmet walking tours, marrying food and sightseeing. Guides tour peckish visitors through food markets, to off-the-beat gems and can’t-miss dining hotspots in some of Ottawa’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. Meet the chefs and food artisans behind the buzz. Intriguing epicurean adventures currently include Tastes of the Byway Market, Taste of Chinatown and the Chocolate Lover's Tour.
We love exploring a city neighbourhood by neighbourhood, even more so when it's a place we've never visited before. Well-defined neighbourhoods can transform a city from overwhelming into more easily consumed experiences. Not to mention, they provide good starting points when planning a trip itinerary. When you get right down to it, neighbourhoods are the lifeblood of a community and when we travel, we want to live as the locals do. We love that Ottawa has well-established and vibrant neighbourhoods to explore. Here are a handful of Ottawa's unmissable pockets.
ByWard Market, just east of Parliament Hill, is one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods. And we know when it comes to cities, what comes with age is charm. The ByWard Market was originally inhabited by Irish and French-Canadian immigrants employed in the construction of the Rideau Canal. Now home to the Canada's oldest operating farmer's market, this historic venue supplies produce to some of the best restaurants and gourmet shops in the city. Visitors will also find Ottawa’s oldest and most famous street in this neighbourhood: Rideau Street. It runs through Rideau Centre, Ottawa’s popular and premiere shopping destination. From casual to haute couture, electronics to cosmetics, and salons to facials, Rideau Centre will satisfy every shopper in the family.
When you’re ready to escape the pedestrian hubbub for a hidden courtyard, wet your whistle at Social. It offers a fun and communal dining experience that lives up to its name. With a tantalizing small plate menu it’s perfectly suited for sharing. Don’t leave without ordering the scallop with green curry and poached lobster. Alternatively, just a few blocks away, Navarra bucks the small plate trend completely for a five course tasting menu. The restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Rene Rodriguez. If the name sounds familiar it’s because he was the 2014 winner of the reality TV show Top Chef Canada. Navarra serves up decadent Latin cuisine, inspired by Rodriquez's own Mexican heritage and love of Spain's Basque region.
Now's the time to explore the ByWard Market neighbourhood - take advantage of Ottawa Tourism's Shop, Dine & Unwind package. It includes hotel accommodation, a Rideau Centre Savings Directory and discounted admission to a number of attractions, tours and activities.
Bordered on the east by Elgin Street, Centretown is as diverse in its shopping and dining as it is in its people. During the hockey season, on any given night you’ll find die-hard Ottawa Senators fans cheering on their team. (We should clarify for foreign readers – the ‘Sens’ are the capital’s hockey team - with hockey being Canada’s most enthusiastically watched sport.) Centretown is bordered to the west by Ottawa’s vibrant LBGT Village. This six by two block area, officially designated the Village is well enjoyed for its exceptional and buzzing atmosphere.
Dining on Elgin Street offers a wide selection of unique restaurants, lively pubs, street delis, diners, and bakeries. The Whalesbone Oyster House is a pearl of a find. Although oysters are their specialty, the Whalesbone also serves up a variety of sustainably harvested seafood. For those who can pass up the catch of the day, Rangoon further accents the diversity of Centretown with its authentic Burmese cuisine. Make sure to sample the specialty: tea leaf salad.
Like ByWard Market, the Glebe is another of Ottawa's older neighbourhoods. Locals here live in a tight-knit community of family-owned restaurants, historic homes, and independent boutiques. Often described as a village within a city, the Glebe provides small-town respite in an otherwise bustling cosmopolitan centre. Peruse quirky shops, stroll streets with major curb appeal and of course...sample the fare.
Rosie's Southern Kitchen and Raw Bar provides the perfect compromise for diners who just can't decide between comfort food or fresh seafood. With rustic decor and a homestyle menu, visitors don't just get a taste of the South, they are transported there. For visitors who want to be presented with choice, Erling's Variety offers powerful flavours packed into its small plate menu. Choose from dishes like rich smoked tomato broth, decadent gnocchi and creamy potatoes au gratin.
Little Italy & Chinatown
Visitors come to admire the Chinatown Royal Arch and the equally grandiose Corso Italia Portal Archway, but they stay in the neighbourhoods for the flavours. It’s all here, from traditional restaurants and Asian grocers, to family-run specialty shops, gelaterias and small bakeries. Where the smell of cannolis waft down the street, the adventurous foodie will flock.
While the Shanghai Restaurant may be the most unique eatery in Chinatown (hosting provocative events), Yangtze Dining Lounge is a landmark. It’s easily identified by its signature geometric-shaped windows and marble walls. Famous for Dim Sum, visitors will certainly get their fill. Carts stocked with sumptuous Cantonese and spicy Szechuan dishes seem to spring endlessly from the kitchen.
In neighbouring Little Italy, visitors can satisfy their thirst with over 200 different types of beer. Take your pick before the judging eyes of Catholic motifs decorating Pub Italia. For a lavish dining experience, diners should head to Salt. Here, guests enjoy luxe design, characterized by delicate chandeliers, studded leather chairs and plush outdoor seating around outdoor fire pits. Imbibe in a classic Italian menu that is as exquisite as the setting that surrounds it.
Wellington West & Hintonburg
Nestled west of the city's downtown core, Wellington West and Hintonburg service Ottawa's most creative minds. The respective neighbourhoods house numerous art galleries, studios and boutiques. On the walls of local eateries visitors will find the artwork of the community's emerging talent. It’s a perfect marriage of culture and cuisine.
If you have a suffering sweet tooth, the doughnuts served at Suzy Q border on a religious experience. Purists who believe that only so many flavours can be piled on a doughnut before it gets smothered will ache in protest. Loaded creations include the Blue Vanilla Fruit Loop, Maple Bacon, and Raspberry Lemonade. For something a little more substantial, visitors best head down to the Wellie. Formally known as the Wellington Gastropub, the Wellie has been a staple for those who live and play in West Wellington. Not only is it a fine place for a drink with friends, its elevated pub fare (the likes of beer-brined pork loin and cheesy porcini risotto) make for a fine meal.
Late Season White Water Paddling
If your general perception of Ottawa doesn’t include white-water rafting, you’re long overdue to visit. And you’re in luck – there’s time enough to squeeze in some rapids before the rafting season ends. The Ottawa region hosts not one, but three world famous white water rivers. They include the "Rocher Fendu" section of the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the "Rivière Rouge". All three are prized for the quality and challenge presented by their rapids. Operators around Ottawa like Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River, RiverRun Rafting, and Wilderness Tours all lead exciting paddle tours until the second weekend of September.
For an urban kayaking experience - yes, one can kayak in the heart of downtown Ottawa - head to the Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC). The outfitter runs a "MKC in the City" program which leads white-water kayaking instruction in a portion of the Ottawa River called The Pump House.
For those who would like to do some independent freestyle kayaking the Ottawa River is a great route for independent adventure. The Ruins Wave is located just a few kilometres west of the city's downtown core, flowing through the abandoned, cement ruins of an old electrical facility. The result is a rough and thoroughly challenging paddle.
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