Travel Tueday: The Top 7 Reasons Why I Miss Ottawa

Travel Tueday: The Top 7 Reasons Why I Miss Ottawa in Travel Tuesday

Ottawa is special to me because it is home. I grew up in this city and have nostalgic memories embedded at every corner. And, for as long as I can remember, Ottawa has always been considered a boring government city. However, Ottawa has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small logging town when it was chosen as the nation's capital by Queen Victoria in 1857.

Today, it’s a city that’s big enough to be interesting, with culturally diverse neighborhoods, and distinctly unique personalities like the Glebe, Little Italy, ChinaTown, Wellington West, and many more, but at the same time, it also continues to have that “small town” feel. Now that I live across the country, here are the top 7 reasons why I miss Ottawa everyday (aside from my family & friends).

1- It’s a true foodie town!

The culinary scene in Ottawa has come alive in recent years! There are restaurants and cafes everywhere, and many of them participate in the “Savour Ottawa” program. This initiative works to bring together local farmers and producers with local chefs and consumers, which I think is fantastic. If you haven’t already tried some of these awesome places be sure to add these to your itinerary next time you’re in Ottawa.

Looking for a hip and glamorous meal? Sidedoor, operates by the philosophy of, ‘Make Tacos Not War’, and they really do offer some of the best tacos in the city! Also, don’t miss out on the house-made mini donuts, a fan-favourite!

Hintonburg Public House is a low-key, no frills brew pub. The space is an interesting collection of weathered wood, colourful chairs and stools, large-scale wall art, and eclectic objects. The menu focuses on locally sourced food, wine, and craft beer. Be sure to try out the Marinated St. Albert Cheese Curds, they’re the perfect snack food!

If you’re looking for something filling, healthy, quick and easy, Cozmos Souvlaki serves the best authentic Greek food! Even though, they’re located in Nepean (by the IKEA), it’s totally worth the drive to the suburbs — when I lived in Ottawa, I used to eat here at least once a week! Everything is freshly made, and it’s amazingly good value for what you get. The restaurant typically always has a line out the door, but the staff is so friendly and efficient that’s it’s worth the wait! My go-to: Village Greek Salad, with shaved chicken, served with Greek pita and tzatziki.

Poutine (AKA a heart attack on a plate) is actually a Quebec invention. But, with Quebec just across the river from Ottawa, eating poutine here should still be on your list. Fritomania possibly has the best poutine on the planet, and I have eaten a lot of poutine! This traditional poutine chip truck is located in the east end of the city (Orleans), it is open seasonally, and is cash only. But, just one bite into their poutine and you’ll be in total food paradise! The freshly cut fries, made with peanut oil, are absolute perfection — they’re crispy and golden, and smothered in fresh curds and savory gravy. This is how poutine was meant to be made and devoured!

Another must is Art Is In Bakery, located in a strip mall a short drive from downtown. This cool bakery is proof that even the least glamorous places can draw the food crowd, thanks to their terrific bread. While the prices are a bit steep, they are not unreasonable and the quality of the food / coffee makes up for it. It’s best to go for breakfast or lunch on a weekday as wait times can be long on the weekend — the food makes it worth going back to! The best kept secret is probably 2 for 1 bread at the end of the day, although you run the risk of them having run out.

2- Downtown Ottawa is more than suits and government offices

Whether or not you visit Ottawa in the summer or in the winter there’s always something going on. During the summer months, starting at the beginning of May, every Wednesday people from across the city gather on Parliament Hill for an hour yoga session. This is one of my favourite things to do in Ottawa. Admission is free and I recommend going early, as it does get packed quickly.

Ottawa is filled with wintertime activities, and although, temperatures often drop below freezing, you can keep your blood pumping by practicing your figure skating or hockey moves on the Rideau Canal. Over the winter months, a section of the canal transforms into the world’s largest skating rink, spanning approximately 7.8km. It's a good idea to pack lots layers and all the cold-weather essentials like a hat and gloves (FYI: Ottawa is the coldest capital city in the world).

3- There’s an awesome number of brewpubs / craft breweries

The microbrewery scene in Ottawa is outstanding, and obviously I judge a city based on the quality of its beer. On my last visits to Ottawa, while it was about -37 degrees everyday, this made for a good excuse to spend most of my time indoors sampling local brews!

Tooth & Nail came out on top as one of my favourite. This is a good spot for enjoying a few pints with friends any given night of the week. I really like their rustic interior; it's big but still feels cozy. The service and beers are both great!

Just a few blocks away, at Beyond the Pale, you can purchase beer to go or pull up a stool to enjoy a flight of their best beers. Or you can simply sample one or two, like the Aromatherapy, a Vermont-style IPA, or the Pink Fuzz, a wheat ale infused with grapefruit zest.

Also, Stray Dog Brewing Co. was recently named one of the 5 best new breweries in Canada by Sharp Magazine. Located in Orleans, this brewery is making the ‘burbs cool again.

4- Wellington West and Westboro are amazing hipster neighbourhoods

A vibrant and oh-so-hip neighbourhood, about a 10-minute drive from the Parliament buildings. Westboro is by far the cutest, hippest neighbourhood in Ottawa. They have adorable little shops that you can browse, as well as restaurants and cafes that you can find cheap eats at.

Flock Boutique has a wide range of unique handmade goods, clothing, accessories, houseware, and jewellery from up and coming Canadian designers! The staff are all extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fit and other details of their product and obviously pride themselves on customer service that truly goes above and beyond! I have bought many wonderful, quality pieces (including this cute Canadiana t-shirt!) that I truly love!

5- Lots of Green Space and Bike Paths

Ottawa has one of the highest percentages of parks to residents in Canada. They’re scattered around the city with most neighbourhoods being within walking distance of at least a small park with a place for kids to play. For people who like to get their exercise in the great outdoors, there’s lots to choose from. Ottawa has many scenic bike paths, especially along our rivers. If you’re in the mood for a longer hike or ski, the Gatineau Park is 10 minutes away in Québec — where an infinite number of Instagram-able moments await you!

6- Strolling Around the Byward Market

One of the largest and longest running markets in the country, nestled right in the heart of downtown, the Byward Market is open for business 363 days a year. Whether you’re visiting the ByWard Market for some fresh fruit and veggies or looking for some artisanal crafts, be sure to also take the time to explore the area around it! You’ll find many other awesome shopping spots!

One of my favourite spots for shopping in the Byward Market has to be Roadtrip Clothing! They receive great new items everyday, and have a good selection of hip clothing, and lots of really trendy accessories. When I need a new dress for a wedding or an event, they certainly have the best selection!

7- Ottawa is the shawarma capital of the world

Shawarma capital, shawarma city — whatever you want to call us, it applies. You won't find such delicious or as many shawarmas anywhere else in the country and that's about the biggest blessing this city has. The shawarma phenomenon is so big that it’s the real reason why I miss living in Ottawa! Doesn’t matter where you are in Ottawa, there’s a shawarma joint on almost every street corner.


Michelle Auger is Coordinator of the National Affairs team in Ottawa and has been with the CFIB since August 2015. Michelle holds an Honors Baccalaureate in Social Sciences from the University of Ottawa and is fully bilingual. Recently relocated to the west coast of Vancouver Island, Michelle spends much of her time running and hiking throughout different regions of BC.