Ottawa’s Not Boring - You’re Just Lazy.
I can already feel the digital mob ready to pounce. But first a recap:
“The City That Fun Forgot”
I’ve lived in Ottawa pretty much my entire life. So I’ve heard every moniker, nickname and epithet: Coma City, Government Town, Dead After Dark, Bland, Not-Connected, Blah, Blah, Blah. Just another day, just another unoriginal comment on the capital. The “Ottawa=Boring” is such a worn out trope, someone made a documentary on the subject.
Look. I won’t make excuses for NOT having the things/attractions/architecture/brunch spots that others deem proper. Ottawa is not Amsterdam, the same way Toronto is not Barcelona and Vancouver is not Buenos Aires.
Instead I’m going to focus on what Ottawa DOES have and why I am constantly gobsmacked when people decree, “There’s, like, nothing to do in Ottawa”.
THIS IS OTTAWA?
This is one of my favourite things in the 613, House of Paint:
HOP happens every year under a giant bridge, along the Rideau River. It’s a gathering of street artists, spoken-word artists, hip-hop artists and crazy-good talents from North America, South America and Europe. And btw, that was Ottawa’s own Soul Jazz Orchestra supplying the live soundtrack.
Read the caption in the photo. That phrase, “This is Ottawa!?” plays like a broken record around these parts.
Yes. This IS Ottawa.
And there’s more. A LOT MORE.
A NEVER ENDING LIST
House of Paint isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I get that. Well guess what, Ottawa has more than 180 festivals (avg of three per week). Here’s a hot take:
Bluesfest: One of the largest music festivals in North America.
Arboretum: Incredible Food, Art Installations & Music.
International Animation Festival: Fun Fact -Biggest in North America.
Glow Fair: An enormous block party in the heart of downtown.
Winterlude: Because cold weather ain’t no reason to stop enjoying life.
The Great Glebe Garage Sale: It’s big. Real Big.
Hope Volleyball Tournament: 10,000 Beach goers and fun in the sun.
Maker Faire Ottawa: Biggest one in Canada for tinkerers and techno-geeks.
Canada Day: Not really a festival but best party in the country.
And this is just scratching the surface. There are majors festivals and events for theater aficionados, hackers, marathoners, film buffs, craft beer lovers, foodies…it really doesn’t end. And if for some reason you are struggling to find something to do, load up Couch Assassin or Ottawa Start for a myriad of options and no excuses.
A WIDE OPEN PLAYGROUND
If you like the outdoors, Canada’s capital is a proverbial paradise. The city is home to over 850 parks, surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful forests. If you need the tranquility of water, Ottawa has two major rivers running right through it (as well as the Rideau Canal — a UNESCO World Heritage site), five beaches and hundreds of lakes in the area.
Looking for a more active lifestyle? Ottawa has over 800km (or 500 miles) of bike paths, 430 km of cross country ski trails and is one of the top white water rafting spots in the world.
Seven sailing clubs, the country's longest (private) motor-sports track, a crazy amount of golf courses, over a dozen ski/snowboard hills, countless baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, curling clubs and hockey rinks. There’s even hang gliding, skydiving, disc golf, limitless hiking trails, and so on and so on.
So, whether you keep your Fitbit set to Ironman, just want a leisurely stroll with the fam or prefer cheering from the sidelines, Ottawa has a cornucopia of options.
Being a G7 capital affords you lots of privileges, most notably, all the national arts facilities are in your backyard. Ottawa is home to over fourteen National Museums and nearly three dozen art galleries.
There’s a spot for Photography, Military, Canadian History, Nature, Science and Tech, Aerospace, etc. We even have a giant WWII bunker that houses hordes of zombies, tests the escape skills of your friends and even host your wedding!
Worked up an appetite? Ottawa has you covered with some of the finest culinary experiences around.
After conquering tacos and asian fusion, local culinary veteran Matthew Carmichael has now transformed an 1920’s art deco with 50' ceilings (a former bank) into Riviera — a classy and unique dinning out experience.
Or take Stephen Beckta, one of the most well known restaurateurs in town. He spent a small fortune reinvigorating the old Friday’s Roast Beef House (supposedly haunted by this guy!) into one of the premiere resto’s in the capital.
Or walk through the doors of Atelier, owned by Chef Marc Lepine, the only two-time Gold Medal Plates winner in the country. Why the accolades? Because Marc thinks about how food is crafted at the molecular level. The most common phrase heard in his establishment. “This is the best meal of my life”.
Not looking for a mind-bending food experience? Try the world’s best donuts, or fresh tacos in a used car lot or a “secret” dumpling park in a backyard. And it doesn’t end there. There’s great pub fare, Ramen, Pho, Indian, Oyster Bars, great burger joints and if you haven’t had Shawarma or Beavertails, you just haven’t lived. And this doesn’t even touch on all the food festivals, farmers markets and food trucks.
And if you are pinching your pennies; here’s a list of things you can do in the 613 on $0.
A PARTY 150 YEARS IN THE MAKING
Next year Canada is a century and half old. So obviously the biggest and best party will be happening here:
A quick list of all the things:
- 2017 Grey Cup
- 2017 Junos
- Red Bull Crashed Ice
- Canadian Video-game Awards
- An Immersive Multimedia Event Underground
- GIANT ROBOTS ROAMING THE STREETS!
And remember what I said about Canada Day parties in the capital. Just imagine what’s in store for next year.
Listen. I know you aren’t truly lazy. You all have responsibilities, assignments, duties, bills to pay, mouths to feed.
I’m speaking in the context of leisure, recreation, fun, good times. So let’s just say you STILL think Ottawa is “the city the fun forgot”, then here is my recommendation. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
If you have an idea that’s been percolating in your imagination…then put it in motion! Create your own space/event/festival/shop/hangout. Maybe others are thinking the same thing (They probably are!). I’ll even help you spread the word by sharing it with others in the digital realm. I’m serious. I will help where I can.
I just want people to stop expecting their definition of fun to be handed over on a silver platter. Stop expecting good times to knock on your door. Stop being “lazy”.
And join us out in the playground that is Canada’s capital.