1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Plan Your Visit to Canada’s Capital Region: Ottawa and Gatineau

by Suzanne Fluhr on September 4, 2017 · 24 comments

The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, with Maman

Canada’s former marketing slogan in the United States was, “Canada: Friendly, Familiar, Foreign and Near”. All are true. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your visit to Canada’s Capital Region.

A wedding invitation prompted our visit to Canada’s Capital Region, spanning two cities (and their surrounding areas) in separate provinces. Canada’s federal capital city is Ottawa in the province of Ontario. Immediately across the Ottawa River is Gatineau in the French speaking province of Quebec.

Ottawa's Parliament Hill across the Alexandra Bridge from Gatineau, Quebec

We enjoyed this view of Ottawa across the Alexandra Bridge from Gatineau, Quebec. The glass tower of the Canada’s National Gallery is visible to the left.

Based on proximity to the wedding we attended, we stayed in Gatineau. Our Best Western Plus hotel was immediately across the Alexandra Bridge from Ottawa. Our room afforded us a postcard worthy view of Parliament Hill.

The wedding was held at the bride and groom’s apartment, a block up Rue Laurier from our hotel, and boasted the same view. The bride timed the wedding to coincide with the finale of a fireworks competition over Parliament Hill, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation as a British dominion. (After visiting the Canadian Museum of History, I’ll venture a guess that probably not all Quebecers (Québécois) were joyously celebrating the event.)

Fireworks above the Alexandra Bridge, ottawa for Canada150

Fireworks over the Alexandra Bridge in Ottawa, Canada, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s confederation and Sonja and Stefan’s wedding of Montecristo Travels .

In addition to being able to enjoy the fireworks which were some of the best we’ve seen, we had the good fortune to be in Gatineau for MosaiÏCanada150.


MosaiïCanada150 was a quite extraordinary outdoor exhibition of 32 large plant and flower constructions in Gatineau’s Parc Jacques-Cartier on the Ottawa River, right next to the Alexandra Bridge. The exhibition will be in place until October 15, 2017, an excellent reason to plan an early fall visit to Canada’s Capital Region this year. Most likely, colorful fall foliage will be a bonus.

Mother Earth, MosaiiCanada150, Gatineau, Canada

This is a flower and plant construction of Mother Earth, one of the 32 such displays at MosaiiCanada150, in the Parc Jacques Cartier, along the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec.

We easily filled two days of sightseeing by visiting venues to which we could walk from our hotel. They included the following:

Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History is in a striking building in Gatineau, across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

Totem poles in the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Some of the totem poles on exhibit in the Canadian Museum of History.

We started our visit with a 20 minute film in the IMAX type Ciné which was included in the $20 (Canadian) admission fee. The inspirational film we saw was a celebration of Canadian life from the Atlantic to the Pacific set to music.

We easily spent two hours in the brand new Canadian History Hall which occupies the top two floors of the museum. This expansive exhibit covers 15,000 years of human history in Canada.

As Americans (United Statesers?), we learned there are familiar themes in Canadian history such as the often fraught relationship between European settlers and the indigenous tribes (referred to as “the First Nations” in Canada), the evolving relationship with Great Britain, and westward expansion.

The exhibits also chronicle and explain the still often tense relationship between English and French speakers, and Canada’s 20th and 21st century participation in the world community of nations, including both World Wars.

The Morning Star ceiling mural in the Canadian Museum of History

The intriguing ceiling mural by First Nations artist, Alex Javier, in the Canadian Museum of History.

The ground floor of the Museum, one floor below the entrance area, has what is billed as the largest museum display of totem poles. In addition to enjoying the “forest” of totem poles, find the staircase with the interesting ceiling mural, Morning Star, by First Nations artist Alex Javier. Tip: Don’t fall backwards down the stairs as you try to take a photo of it.

Since we had no little ones in tow, we did not visit the Children’s Museum section, but judging by the number of visiting children, it is a popular interactive, hands on venue. We also skipped the special exhibits. We just aren’t that interested in hockey. (Shhh. Please don’t tell any Canadians I said that. Eh?)

There are four food venues in the museum, including a cafe and a sit down restaurant that received good reviews.

Tip: Tickets good for 90 days can be purchased online. At various times during our visit, there was a queue for tickets, so this is potentially a good idea.

Walk Across the Alexandra Bridge Between Gatineau and Ottawa

Our hotel in Gatineau, the Best Western Plus, proved to be conveniently located for visiting the main sites in both Gatineau and Ottawa without relying on a car or public transportation. Based only on my personal observation, neither taxis nor Uber rides seemed to be readily available. Even a pre-ordered taxi showed up 15 minutes late.

Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada from the Alexandra Bridge

The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec viewed from the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River.

The bridges near our hotel over the Ottawa River into Ottawa (the Alexandra and Portage) had dedicated pedestrian pathways. There are excellent views of Parliament Hill from the Alexandra Bridge and also viewing platforms with interpretive placards.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa

One regret was not being able to secure a ticket for a tour of Parliament buildings. Free “day of” tickets are available across the street from the main Parliament buildings at 90 Wellington Street. Not surprisingly, on a busy summer Saturday, none were available by the time we arrived in the afternoon. Reservations can and must be made for groups.

You can enjoy this online virtual tour and I can resolve to plan better next time.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The back of the Parliament complex from the Alexandra Bridge. (Photo credit: Mr. Excitement)

We also missed the nightly evening sound and light show of Parliament Hill, but again, better advance planning will keep you from making the same mistake.

Even without being able to enter the Parliament buildings, we enjoyed walking around the park-like circumference of the Parliament grounds which is sprinkled with statues commemorating Canadian historical figures and has beautiful river views.

Ottawa’s ByWard Market

Produce in Ottawa's Byward Market

Produce displayed in Ottawa’s Byward Market.

A few blocks from the Ottawa end of the Alexandra Bridge and close to Parliament Hill is the historic ByWard Market where we enjoyed pub lunches on both days of our visit. The historic, pedestrian friendly, open air market stall area has artfully displayed produce. Around the periphery of the produce area are stores offering cheese, wine and baked goods. You can also browse the market for tee shirts, souvenirs, and artisan clothing and jewelry.

The Rideau Canal Locks 

Walk down Rideau Street to the Plaza Bridge to get a (low-flying) bird’s eye view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site flight of eight working locks. These locks raise and lower boats 79 feet between the 126 mile (202 km) Rideau Canal Waterway, and the Ottawa River. An engineering marvel in its day, construction of this inland waterway started in 1826.

Flight of 8 locks lifting or lowering boats from the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River.

Flight of 8 locks lifting or lowering boats from the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River.

Tip: The Rideau flight of locks situated between Parliament Hill and the majestic, historic Chateau Laurier Hotel provide a good photo opportunity.

Notre Dame Cathedral 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Ottawa, Canada

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa with its striking tin clad steeples.

nterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Ottawa, Canada

The beautiful interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

The striking tin clad steeples of Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral are visible from many vantage points in Ottawa and Gatineau. Construction of the Cathedral started in 1841.
We have visited many cathedrals throughout Europe and the world. In my opinion this Cathedral has one of the most beautiful interiors. There was no charge to enter the cathedral. If you would like to attend a service, check the schedule on the Cathedral of Notre Dame website.

The Cathedral is located on Sussex Drive, across from the National Gallery of Canada.

The National Gallery of Canada 

The National Gallery of Canada is in a building with a unique glass “tower”, right across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral. However, from the outside, its most memorable feature is Maman, a 33 foot high spider by sculptor Louise Bourgeois acquired by the National Gallery in 2005.

The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, with Maman

The famous Maman “guarding” the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

The National Gallery of Canada features Canadian and international art. Unfortunately, because of our time constraints, we had to choose between visiting the Gallery or walking to the Canadian War Museum. History geekness won out.

Canadian War Museum

The website of the Canadian War Museum touts itself as the Ottawa museum ranked #1 on TripAdvisor. (Indeed it is. I checked).

This environmentally sound, stark concrete museum is walking distance from Parliament Hill, but is set off by itself on land finally reclaimed after having lain desolate following a devastating 1900 fire. The current building opened to the public in 2005, but the museum itself had its genesis in 1880 and also houses a robust military history research center centre.

Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada

The 2005 Canadian War Museum is constructed of textured concrete. To me, it was fittingly evocative of a bunker. (Photo credit: Creative Commons Lic. 3.0 Wikimedia User: Balcer )

The museum’s galleries cover Canadian military history from the First Nations, and through the colonial era, including the military conflict with France which still echoes in modern day Canada. Well curated exhibits also chronicle Canada’s participation in the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), in the two 20th century world-wide cataclysms, in the Cold War, and as a leader in establishing a U.N. peacekeeping force.

In addition to 2017 marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, it also marks the 100th anniversary of the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge. This fierce battle and Canadian victory in France is considered by many to be the moment when Canada earned world respect as a military power in her own right. The museum exhibit conveys the particular brutality and military tactics that resulted in 10,602 Canadian casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded in the three day battle.

The museum succeeds in presenting both a factual version of historic events and the human face of war. We easily spent an hour and a half walking through the galleries before collapsing for a smoothie in the Museum’s cafe.

Additional Resources for Planning Your Visit to Canada’s National Capital Region

In addition to the individual venue websites to which I have linked above, the official Ottawa Tourism website is very helpful in planning a visit to Ottawa and the Canadian Capital Region. Gatineau, Quebec, also has a special 2017 guide.

We drove on this trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Ottawa-Gatineau, but Ottawa also has an International Airport and can be reached by train and by bus.

Have you been to Canada’s National Capital Region? If so, are there other places you would add to the list of places to visit in the Region?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Haralee September 5, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I want to go. I love your post! It has been 40 years since I have been to East coast of Canada.Certainly time to go again.


Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski September 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I have yet to explore that part of Canada but your pictures are making me want to go. I’m going to Quebec City next year for a conference and can’t wait. I will pin some of your pics.


Nan September 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm

My eyes didn’t glaze over but my heart said, “OK time to get a Nexus card and plan many trips to Canada!” I love your take on things and I am a history buff but I would have had a hard time deciding between the National Gallery and the war museum. I’d have to do both. You bring it all so alive!


Suzanne Fluhr September 6, 2017 at 5:14 pm

If we had had an extra half a day, we would definitely have done both.


Travel with Kevin and Ruth September 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm

So glad that you enjoyed your visit to our beautiful capital city. Many people tend to overlook it and plan their trips to Toronto, Niagara Falls or Montreal. Ottawa has been my home up until just recently but it will always be considered my home as our family all still live there.

We are looking forward to seeing the MosaiCanada at the end of this month or very early next month when we will be back in the city to visit family.

The War Museum is excellent and really needs several visits to see all the exhibits properly. Just a tad in info on the fin of the building on the outside, there are a number of small windows and they have been made to spell out “Lest we Forget” in morse code in English and the equivalent in French.



Suzanne Fluhr September 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for that extra bit of information about the Canadian War Museum. I really hope you make it back in time to see MosaīCanada. It is beautiful and quite an accomplishment.


Donna Janke September 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

How great to incorporate the 150th celebration fireworks into the wedding celebration! (By the way, it is not only some of the Québécois not celebrating the 150th anniversary – many indigenous groups have called it “150 years of colonization.”)

Ottawa is a great city to visit. It has been many years since my last visit and I’d love to go back. I’ve not yet seen the Canadian Museum of History. I’m sorry I will not be able to see MosaiïCanada150 this year – it sounds and looks so cool!


Doreen Pendgracs September 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Ottawa is one of my favourite Canadian cities, Suzanne. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to visit it and Gatineau. I love the National Gallery and the Canadian Museum of Hustory, as well as Byward Market. Unfortunately, have not seen the MosaiiCanada150


Anne Woodyard (@MusicandMarkets) September 6, 2017 at 8:30 pm

What a fabulous visit! Have stayed with family several times in Ottawa, but all these marvelous sights make me want to return!


Sue Reddel September 7, 2017 at 10:39 am

We’ve never visited this region of Canada. All that history and art I know we’d love it.


Suzanne Fluhr September 11, 2017 at 9:18 pm

And you could eat poutine!


Karen Warren September 7, 2017 at 12:03 pm

I really need to spend some time in Canada. I knew there were lots of interesting things in Ottawa but I hadn’t heard of Gatineau before. I’d love to see the MosaiïCanada150 exhibition.


Suzanne Fluhr September 11, 2017 at 9:17 pm

You have to get to Ottawa (Gatineau) by October 15, 2017 to see the MoasaiiCanada150 exhibition, but it really is a sight to behold. I can’t bear the thought that they have to remove it, but it would never make it through a snowy, freezing Capital Region winter.


Janice Chung September 7, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Most of my relatives are in Ottawa and we’d go every summer! To see the city as a tourist however, is usually more fun! Glad you were able to visit during our country’s 150th with so much going on. You really packed in a lot…plus a wedding! Glad you had a great time.


Jo Castro September 8, 2017 at 12:33 am

I would love to visit Ottawa. We spent only one very quick day in Canada on the world cruise last year – Cape Breton Island – which was gorgeous … but so much still to discover. Thank you for some awesome inspiration and tips for the future.


Agness of Fit Travelling September 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Ottawa and Gatineau seem like a must visit places! Thanks for the suggestions! Is Canada a good destination for a road trip?


Suzanne Fluhr September 11, 2017 at 9:16 pm

It depends on where you start from. 😉 We made it into a road trip from Philadelphia by stopping overnight half way on the trip up and back. If you have the time, I think it’s fun to be able to explore a little “on the way”.


Patti Morrow September 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Regrettably, I haven’t explored much of Canada — probably because I avoid cold weather. However, I can see that I’ve missed out by not seeing Ottawa in the summer. There appears to be a TON of sights there that I would love. That Mother Earth plant construction is amazing! The totems, the canal, the Maman….yes, yes, and yes. Great photos — I’ve got to go!


Roz Warren September 10, 2017 at 9:42 pm

i love the idea of timing a wedding to coincide with a fireworks contest. Brilliant!


Suzanne Fluhr September 14, 2017 at 1:23 am

If we ever renew our vows, we’ve decided we’re having a handfasting ceremony. I’m not sure we could pull off the fireworks though—-unless we do it in Brigantine on July 4th.


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