Descriptions of Ottawa read like an appealing personal ad: young, vibrant, clean, bilingual, likes kids, long walks on the river. And the attractive capital continues to impress in person.
The postcard-perfect Parliament regally anchors the downtown core at the confluence of three rivers. An inspiring jumble of pulsing districts – each with their own flavor – lies beyond the sleek government offices. In the distance, the rolling Gatineau hills tenderly hug the cloudless valley.
The city's main attraction is the vast assortment of state-of-the-art museums. From the smooth undulating walls of the ubermodern Museum of Civilization (just across the river in Gatineau) to the haunting Gothic arches of the Museum of Nature, each attraction is an inspired architectural gesture with an intriguing exhibition space.
Ottawa's cultural diversity is evident in the mix of local cuisine. Chinatown and Little Italy have been local mainstays for quite some time, but recent years have witnessed an influx of dynamic flavors from Africa, France, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, not to mention a variety of Aboriginal choices.
Don't dismiss a winter visit because of frigid temperatures – the city's longest season is celebrated with myriad outdoor activities. The Rideau Canal turns into the largest skating rink in the world, and the Winterlude festival gets everyone outdoors with a gargantuan village made entirely of ice. When the thick blanket of snow melts away, auspicious tulips cheer the downtown as spring clicks to summer. Vibrant autumn leaves round out the year, as the streets are set ablaze with eye-popping reds and yellows.
Whether it's the stunning museums or the authentic eats, the rainbow of seasons or the outdoor retreats – you should definitely make a date with Ottawa.