As close as Ottawa is to Toronto, I’d only been there once for a friend’s wedding and it was a quick in and out trip. So I was thrilled when the same couple invited us to come visit with the Little Monkey! What a perfect excuse to soak in the culture and vibe of Ottawa with a baby! I find that Ottawa reminds me a lot of Europe, the quaint streets, the older buildings and general landscape quickly transports this city girl to vacation mode in no time! Ottawa is a walkable city which made it very enjoyable with the little one and don’t be surprised if all of a sudden you find yourself in Quebec! It happened to us quite a few times and we used the opportunity to sample the delicious eats and brews that Gatineau has to offer. Definitely an additional perk of visiting Ottawa, is the ability to hit up two provinces with ease! One thing that did surprise me was how many people spoke French in Ottawa, nearly 90% of the conversations I overheard in the downtown core were in French… no wonder I thought I was in Europe! Loved it! I was also surprised by how healthy a city Ottawa is, so many runners/joggers out during the weekday afternoon, staying fit.
The easiest way for us to get to Ottawa was through VIA Rail (click here for a full recap of our VIA Rail experience!) and we spent a night in the downtown core before spending the weekend with our friends. Ottawa has so much to see and do that we could have easily spent another two or three days exploring but we did manage to find some fabulous joints during our short visit! As always the videos are there if you’re too lazy to read through!
Where to Stay
Our night in downtown was spent at the Ottawa Marriott on Kent Street, we loved the central location (we walked everywhere!) and the services on offer for families (Marriott isn’t just for business trips – who knew!). Our room offered us a great view of the water and the city and I’m just sad that I wasn’t able to watch the sunset from there as we were out for dinner. We managed to scope out the kids rooms which is a great way to entertain kids of all ages. From babies to toddlers and teens there’s play areas, toys, video games, air hockey, basketball, hockey nets and more to keep them occupied. Adult supervision is required though, so no sneaking in a massage whilst the toddler is playing away! It’s been frustrating that in this day and age so many hotels don’t offer good wifi and so it was a pleasant surprise to see Marriott’s motto “WIFI should be like air : Free and everywhere”. I loved it and as you can see from the Instagram pics I’ve included in the videos, that I was one socially active gal during our stay at the Marriott. They have a very responsive and engaging Twitter account as well so be sure to give them a follow! Oh and get this…. every room has a fridge! You know how valuable that is when travelling with a milk guzzling toddler! Our server at the buffet breakfast kept encouraging us to take fruits, milk and croissants for the Little Monkey’s snacks. Very sweet!
Disclaimer : The Ottawa Tourism Board offered us a complimentary hotel stay during our visit but as always the opinions are mine!
Where to Dine and Drink
We discovered some great spots to dine at during our Ottawa visit but I’m not going to lie, the highlight were the beer finds for the hubby! Gatineau is so close to downtown Ottawa that there was no excuse for not popping by some highly recommended beer spots and that’s just what we did.
The Shore Club : A trusted favourite, this is a fabulous spot in downtown Ottawa for some steaks, seafood and cocktails. You can see our full review here. If you’re looking for something upscale with a baby friendly touch, this is your spot!
Beaver Tails : You know you can’t come to Ottawa and not have some of these Canadian awesomeness right? We stopped by for a chocolate hazelnut pick me up during our visit to Byward Market.
The Senate : Being ravenously hungry and in need of a quick lunch in the Byward market area we stumbled upon this spot and enjoyed their burgers and tequila pulled pork sandwich. Nothing fancy, but a good old pub. Mind you the beer selection was limited though we did get a Granville Island Pale Ale.
Black Tomato : Stop here for a few beers! They have a varied selection and a great sampling paddle that’s good for beer discovery. We did not eat her and have since heard that this is more of a drinking than eating spot. No highchairs and we didn’t pop into the washroom but on a Friday afternoon they weren’t busy and didn’t mind having a toddler walking around.
Brasseurs Du Temps : This is on the Gatineau side and we spent a leisurely afternoon here whilst everyone sampled the beer wheel and I devoured the best Baked Brie I’ve ever had! It had bacon and pecans and oh my… I will dream of that for months to come. The beer list is extensive and they have a large patio, though we did notice that on a Saturday afternoon they were quite busy and turned people away, though half the patio was empty. We did stay indoors as we had been out all day and it was a scorcher. Best part is that they have a kids menu with the usual fare and a change table in the washrooms! Beer, food and baby? OH YEAH! Our server even filled up the Little Monkey’s milk bottle for free! I missed out on their poutine but I hear it’s REALLY good! Plus they have a store so you can stock up on beers to take home.
Bistro D’Lautre Oeil : Beer aficionados this is your spot. A never ending beer list makes this a perfect spot to not just enjoy pints but a way to explore hard to find beers with a group of friends. The group shared the bottles and essentially made their own beer club on the go. Check out the video for the various beers sampled that evening. Food selection is limited but we did have some charcuterie nibbles and good nachos (oh Quebec cheese and pate how I love thee!!). The actual spot is quaint and tiny, a house set up but I hear it’s very cozy in the winter and the patio is totally chill for the summer, complete with grass for the little ones to run around. Mind you since you are now in Quebec they kick kids out at 8:30 p.m
Fresco Bistro : Our friends recommended this spot for brunch and it was a perfect suggestion for our large group with two toddlers. This isn’t a crazy busy brunch spot which made a walk in for Sunday brunch easy. They have one high chair and one booster seat but plenty of booth space. The food here is really good, with a fusion of breakfast options in addition to the regular eggs and bacon. I heard good reviews of their smoothies and caesars too!
Where to Play
As I mentioned there’s plenty to see and do in Ottawa, the challenge in any city is finding a balance that suits your family’s desires. For us it was a mix of kids play with adults play and we had only one day to tour around.
Canadian Museum of Civilization: We timed a perfect visit during a nap and explored the Museum of Civilization. The Vodou exhibit may have been a bit scary if she were awake but for us it was fascinating to see the history and evolution of the practice. The highlight was Canada Hall which reminded me of the Canadian history I had to study not only for my AP class in high school but also for the citizenship test when I became a citizen! So there’s a tip new immigrants, visit Canada Hall if you like a visual experience alongside the notes from your study booklet!
Children’s Museum : This was our first visit to a kids focused museum and oh my did the Little Monkey love it! The place was relatively busy on a Friday afternoon which was nice since she got to interact with some kids (always enjoy seeing her make new friends on our travels!). A tour around the world through the various displays and activities is what you’ll find here. Since it was in the same building as the Museum of Civilization we were able to pop by quickly and spend an hour exploring the place. The washroom here is the best for diaper changes. Check out the video to see the displays from a night market to the pyramids and Pakistani style buses.
Mosaika Light and Sound Show on Parliament Hill : I had stumbled upon the lightshow on our previous visit three years ago and had loved it! So I made it a point to drag our group of friends to see the show despite the on and off sprinkling of rain. I was told that the show changes each year but we caught the same awesome show and was still just as impressed with the narration of Canada through the eyes of the people. Something to be said about watching a spectacular light show projected onto the Parliament building under the starry sky with a mass of tourists and locals. Check out their site if you’d like to see the show online!
One thing I wish we did was catch the Sunset cruise on the Rideau Canal. I think that would have been absolutely gorgeous! Guess we need to save some stuff for our next visit! Be sure to check out the Ottawa Tourism site for a full list of activities!
Have you been? What’s your favourite thing to do or see in Ottawa?