In Depth Take away the bicycle paths, the flower gardens and even the legendary Changing of the Guard ritual, and one would still be left with the heart and soul of Ottawa—the federal government. The city is not only an arena for debate but also a livable place where people skate and bicycle to work, lunch in nearby parks and bask in the regal aura given off by the capital of Canada.

It is hard to believe that cosmopolitan Ottawa was once considered a poor sister of other major Ontario cities. Ottawa is noted for more than 70 municipal parks, tree-lined streets and such noble landmarks as Parliament Hill, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica and the Laurier House. The city's aesthetic inclinations result from the fact that government is the chief employer, leaving Ottawa relatively free of the scars that often accompany industrialization.

Development and beautification is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage. One spectacular project is the conversion of the Rideau Canal into the world's largest ice-skating rink. On any day in January and February, federal workers in gray flannel and Carleton University or Ottawa University students in blue jeans skate off to work or classes, stopping occasionally to chat, sharpen skates or warm up with a cup of coffee from one of the many vendors stationed along the canal.

As soon as the ice melts, bicyclists and joggers emerge to pound the more than 10 kilometres (6 mi.) of pathways bordering the canal, and canoeists replace the skaters on the water. Spring officially arrives when close to a million tulips and daffodils burst into bloom along the canal and around the government buildings. The city welcomes the spectacular blossoms during the Canadian Tulip Festival each May with 10 days of live entertainment, firework, art exhibitions, a tulip market and children's activities.

Indeed, green spaces are celebrated in the city. The Department of Agriculture's 400-hectare (988-acre) Central Experimental Farm is minutes away from historic and impressive government residences and embassies along the Mile of History (Sussex Drive). The 2,000 hectares (942 acres) of farmland and open spaces surrounding the city limits are part of the National Capital Greenbelt, designed to limit urban sprawl. Trees, fresh air and Mother Nature are only a short drive from the center of the city.

The Ottawa area was initially a rendezvous site for fur traders, explorers and lumbermen. Because of its position at the confluence of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers, Samuel de Champlain established a base camp in 1613 for future expeditions from Québec to Lake Huron and other points. For 2 centuries the Ottawa River remained the only means of travel to the interior for many.

The area's first settler was Philemon Wright, a New England Puritan who in 1796 moved his family into what is now Gatineau, Québec, a part of metropolitan Ottawa. He was joined in the 1800s by Nicholas Sparks, who cleared a farm in what is presently downtown Ottawa. These pioneers were followed in 1815 by veterans of the Napoleonic Wars and by British Loyalists fleeing the results of the American Revolutionary War.

Lt. Col. John By, accompanied by the Royal Engineers, arrived in 1826 to carve the Rideau Canal out of the rugged north. Originally intended as a safe passageway for British gunboats facing possible American bombardments along the St. Lawrence River, the canal instead became one of the city's most successful commercial ventures. Pulp and paper mills soon rose and log booms jammed the Ottawa River, creating a prosperous lumbering village eventually called Ottawa, after the Outaouac First Nations.

When Queen Victoria chose the settlement as the capital in 1857, the decision was met with outrage. But the queen—bored with the petty debates between Toronto, Kingston and Montréal, and inspired by romantic watercolor sketches of the area—insisted that the distinction go to Ottawa. Canadians, with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek, dubbed their new capital “Westminster of the Wilderness.”

Steeped in elegance and grace, Ottawa epitomizes a dignified capital. Residents have the luxury of parks, farms and a non-industrial environment while reaping the benefits of city life. Visitors will find that many Ottawans are natives, for with beauty, boundless recreational facilities, international cultures and a special joie de vivre, who needs anything else?

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Ottawa, ON

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

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The Westin Ottawa

11 Colonel By Dr. Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4

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Members save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points when booking AAA/CAA rates!

Delta Hotels by Marriott Ottawa City Centre

101 Lyon St. Ottawa, ON K1R 5T9

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Hilton Lac-Leamy

3 boul du Casino. Gatineau, QC J8Y 6X4

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Best Western Plus Ottawa City Centre

1274 Carling Ave. Ottawa, ON K1Z 7K8

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Travel Information

City Population



87 m/285 ft.

Sales Tax

Ontario's Harmonized Sales Tax is 13 percent.



Police (non-emergency)

(613) 236-1222

Fire (non-emergency)

(613) 580-2860


(613) 998-3439

Road Conditions

511 or (800) 268-4686.


Montfort Hospital, (613) 746-4621; The Ottawa Hospital-Civic Campus, (613) 722-7000; The Ottawa Hospital-General Campus, (613) 772-7000.

Visitor Information

90 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON K1P 5L1. Phone:(613)237-5150 or (844)878-8333

Air Travel

Ottawa International Airport

Rental Cars

Hertz, (613) 521-3332 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members. For a complete list of rental agencies consult the telephone directory.

Rail Service

Via Rail's terminal, 200 Tremblay Rd. off Queensway (Hwy. 417), can be reached by city buses from Confederation Square. The station at 3347 Fallowfield Rd. can be reached by downtown bus 95; phone (888) 842-7245.


City buses run by OC Transpo operate from Ottawa Central Station, is at 265 Catherine St.; phone (613) 238-6668.


Cabs operate on the meter system, with a minimum charge of $3.85 plus $1.72 for each additional kilometre. In excess of four passengers and asking the driver to load and unload baggage costs extra.

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