I’ve mentioned that we decided to paint our main floor — I thought we could live through it but that is proving very difficult with two small kids, especially since we had to fix some walls which required taping and lots of dust. Although there is still a lot of work to do, our sanity takes priority so we decided to take a short little road trip to Ottawa to escape the mess. We also wanted to do more Canadian road trips this year, anyway, since it’s Canada’s big birthday, 150 years!
We decided to escape at the last minute, and it happened to be Winterlude in Ottawa, so there were hardly any options for stay. I went to Air B&B first but the only decent apartment left came with a cat house guest. We’re pretty easy going about things but I wasn’t too excited about inheriting a cat for the weekend. Since there were activities happening all over the city, we chose to stay at the Embassy across from City Hall. They just renovated their suites and there was even a really decent kitchenette in the unit!
The main reason I wanted to go to Ottawa in the first place was to skate on the Rideau Canal with the family. Every time I’ve gone in the past, there hasn’t been an opportunity. It has been a very cold winter in Ontario and the canal was open for 25 straight days. The day we got to Ottawa it was unseasonably mild. We were scheduled to skate on the canal the following day. We packed up our gear and we asked around for the best entry point and we got the crumby news – after 25 straight days of being open, the Rideau Canal was closed. We sucked it up and skated at city hall instead – which has a pretty decent outdoor rink.
Our Nation’s Capital
My five-year-old wanted to see where the Prime Minister works so badly, also known as Parliament Hill, so on the day we decided to leave, we decided to do a quick pop-in. We got tour tickets at the office across from Parliament Hill where you can choose your half hour time slot. We originally wanted to do the Centre Block tour but the next available tour wasn’t until the late afternoon so we grabbed tickets for a 30 minute tour of the Peace Tower (the large bell tower right in the centre of Parliament Hill). This was enough for the kids since they’re still too young for the intense Centre Block tour.
We walked right to the front doors, went through security, and then took the long elevator up. Here, we had the best view of Ottawa. The kids were fascinated by how high up we were and by the 52 large bells housed in the tower (which are visible on the elevator ride up the tower). You can even explore a few of the other rooms that house historical exhibits. It was a short tour but just enough that my son’s curiosity was satisfied and he walked away with some new knowledge about Canada and our Parliament.
What We Ate
I asked some friends and locals for some suggestions but other than that, the ByWard market is my go-to for a fun time and great food in Ottawa. I spent many summer nights in the ByWard market, but this was my first time visiting in the winter with kids.
Our first dinner was at Wasabi Sushi Bar in ByWard Market. We ordered so many plates but the few that really left an impression were the short ribs, the gyoza pork dumplings and the Yakisoba Sampler – Izky (There were pickles on top that were not too tart — the perfect contrast to the noodles that were perfectly smoky. We wanted to order the noodles twice.)
On our second night, we headed to Ace Mercado in ByWard Market because we have been craving Mexican food and I was craving a great margarita. We got the guacamole, black bean dip and a few tacos – all very good. And, most importantly, the margarita hit the spot!
Our hotel was in walking distance from Scone Witch – The place to get scones according to a few friends. I woke up early and dragged the kids in their pajamas and winter coats. I picked up a few savoury and sweet scones. These scones were next level– I wished I had bought a bag to take home and freeze – next time I will do that for sure. They also serve really great coffee – which I also took with me to start my day.
We popped into Nando’s for lunch on the day that we were running around the city checking out Winterlude activities. It was fantastic – the chicken, fries, wraps, everything was delicious and it warmed us up and filled us for the rest of the afternoon. We really enjoyed it there.
On the way home, we stopped by Art is In Boulangerie. Since it’s located outside of the main city centre, we decided to grab two Americano’s, a loaf of their artisan olive bread (that was so fluffy and spectacular I refused to share it) and a few pastries for the long car ride home. It is located in somewhat of an industrial area, so don’t be concerned if your GPS is leading you to a strange location – It is worth it. I waited in line for a while but we were so happy to have a really high quality coffee and great pastries for the car ride home – it made everyone generally happier – which is a nice change from the usual-grumpy car ride home.
A few other recommendations I received from friends, but we didn’t get a chance to visit, are: Wilf & Ada for brunch, Chez Edgar, La Bottega Nicastro fro lunch, Suzy Q’s Doughnuts, and Allium Restaurant for dinner. There’s always our next visit!
We visited on the last weekend of Winterlude and it also happened to be Family Day weekend so Ottawa was buzzing. It was a fun time to visit.
There was a lot going on right by City Hall like outdoor skating, activities and food vendors. We also went to Jacques Cartier Park where they had most of the Winterlude events happening and lots to see (a kiddie zone, performances, dog sled rides, zip lines, and even an intro to downhill skiing for kids).
I’ve been to Ottawa so many times for work so this visit was definitely different, but very memorable. We are looking forward to returning when it’s warmer.
Growing up in my Italian family, sandwiches were our go-to lunch on the weekends. They are quick and hearty and the options