AN INTRODUCTION TO OTTAWA
Since being named Canada’s capital by Queen Victoria in 1857, Ottawa (formerly bytown) has grown into a city for all seasons. from Winterlude in february to the Tulip festival in spring and the summer months that reverberate with Jazz, blues, Chamber music and folk festivals, the national capital is alive with activity every day of the year.
Situated on the Ottawa river, a common border shared by the provinces of Ontario and Québec, Ottawa uniquely represents the nation, reflecting our two founding cultures in day-to-day life.
Canada’s Capital region (CCr) is comprised of the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton on the Ontario side, and the Community of Outaouais (Aylmer, Gatineau and hull) on its Québec side, and has the fifth largest population in Canada. Based on 2005 numbers from statistics Canada, the population of the City of Ottawa is estimated at 877,000 people, and the Ottawa region is estimated at 1,146,790 people.
Canada’s Capital region is located at the meet- ing of the Ottawa river, the rideau river (flow- ing between Kingston on Lake Ontario and the Ottawa) and the Gatineau river (flowing from northern Québec). It is approximately 200 km from montréal and 400 km from Toronto, Canada’s two largest cities.
The centre of the region is the area known as par- liament hill, where neo-gothic stone buildings and the spire of the peace Tower rise from the cliffs overlooking the Ottawa river. The Centre block of parliament is the heart of Canadian political life, housing the senate, house of Commons and the impressive Library of parliament. The central tower, the peace Tower, houses a 53-bell carillon, a huge clock and the memorial chamber commem- orating Canada’s war dead.
Spring takes on special significance with the Canadian Tulip festival, the largest festival of its kind. As protectors of the Dutch royal family during World War II, Ottawa holds a special place in the hearts of the Dutch nation. Acknowledg- ing the warmth and welcome received in Canada during the war, the Dutch royal family has made an annual gift to Ottawa of thousands of tulips. In the spring, city streets are lined with beds of tulips which number in the millions.
As the nation’s capital, Ottawa is the seat of federal government which is one of the largest employers in the region accounting for approxi- mately 20 per cent of the total workforce.
In winter, Canada’s Capital region plays host to one of the nation’s largest and most famous fes- tivals, Winterlude. staged over three consecutive weekends in february, it consists of more than 120 fun-filled in-and-outdoor activities which attract over 1.5 million visitors. Events include musical shows, professional figure skating, snow sculpting and ice carving competitions, the world’s largest skate-a-thon, and a bed race that draws crowds from miles around. In Gatineau, Jacques Cartier park is transformed into a winter wonderland, the biggest playground on the continent.
The rideau Canal, a UNEsCO World heritage site, which bisects the downtown and stretches from downtown Ottawa to Dow’s Lake, celebrated it’s 40th skating season in 2010. In 2005, the rideau Canal skateway, which is maintained by the National Capital Commission (NCC), received the Guinness World record for the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink (equal to 90 Olympic sized rinks or 165,621 square metres). The 7.8 km (4.8 miles) rideau Canal skateway usually opens at the end of December and closes in early march. Each year, there are over one million visits to the skateway. It also becomes one of the official sites for North America’s unique winter celebration, Winterlude, which takes place each february.
Downhill and cross-country skiers are well accom- modated, too. There are easily accessible hills and park plays host to Canada’s biggest cross-country ski event, Gatineau Loppet. for more cross-coun- trying activity, take part in the Canadian ski mara- thon, the world’s longest cross-country ski tour, covering 160km of ski trails from Lachute, Québec to Gatineau park.
for those who prefer indoor interests, the region offers more than fifty galleries. And while Doug- las Cardinal’s innovative design of the Canadian museum of Civilization is a definite must-see, so is the children’s museum housed within. This won- derland encourages a hands-on approach to culture and art.
The acclaimed Canadian museum of Civilization, Canadian War museum, National Gallery of Can- ada, Canadian museum of Nature, Canada Avia- tion museum and Canada science and Technology museum merit a spot on any “things to do” list. The museums share the billing with a host of other sources of entertainment and recreation, including the royal Canadian mounted police stables, home of Canada’s world-famous musical ride. free tours are available.