If you’ve always suspected there’s more to Ottawa than parliament buildings, you’re right – Canada’s dynamic capital city has come a long way in terms of entertainment. So instead of queuing with hundreds of tourists to do the same old, same old, try these suggestions to experience the city like a true local.
Dance Your Heart Out at the Museum of Nature
Once a month at nightfall, the Museum of Nature comes to life as an adults-only dance club called Nature Nocturne, hosting award-winning live music, locally brewed beer, and interactive art. In this playground for the big kids, you might learn how to make a painting using your own cheek cells, experience multimedia controlled by your brainwaves, or create a cast of a velociraptor’s claw out of modeling clay. And, of course, few things say disco dancing more than a background of illuminated jellyfish.
Go Hiking in a Bog
As part of a boreal ecosystem that formed in the Ice Age, the Mer Bleue Conservation Area is a rare find this far south in Canada. This 7,700-year-old bog, located in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, is home to several rare species and is a treasure trove for photography and bird-watching enthusiasts. You can go hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing on more than 12 miles of trails or take a self-guided tour along a short boardwalk.
Observe Unique Outdoor Art
Along the stunning Ottawa River Parkway, you’ll find the turnoff to the mystical Remic Rapids, where a collection of gravity-defying stone sculptures has been displayed every year since 1986. Local artist John Felice Ceprano painstakingly creates the outdoor display every spring, which is then destroyed by winter weather. For the best photo opportunities, visit at sunset.
Get Your Zen On
If you only have an hour to relax, check out Ottawa’s first salt cave, located in Westgate Mall. Salt Wave uses a generator to grind and spray particles of pharmaceutical-grade salt from Israel’s Dead Sea into the air. Relax on zero-gravity chairs in a softly lit room filled with more than 17,000 pounds of Himalayan salt crystals. Many people come to the cave to revel in the healing benefits of salt.
Mingle With the Quirky Locals
For some raucous fun, attend a karaoke night hosted by a drag queen at the long-standing, family-run Chinatown eatery, Shanghai Restaurant, which transforms into a quirky club every Saturday evening. Activities range from trivia nights and storytelling improv to live music and drag-queen bingo. Keep your eyes open for their much-loved hostess, the infamous China-China Doll.
For convenient access to attractions across the Ottawa-Gatineau region, consider booking your next stay at a Hilton hotel. Choose the Hilton Lac Leamy, DoubleTree by Hilton Gatineau-Ottawa or the Hampton Inn Ottawa if you’re looking for easy access to the downtown core. If you’re coming in for a short stay and need to be close to the airport, there’s always the Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport, while extended visits can be comfortably accommodated at the all-suite Homewood Suites by Hilton Ottawa-Kanata.
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