Ottawa, Canada's capital city, holds numerous attractions for couples. Like most capitals, Ottawa is home to some of the nation's most outstanding treasures and museums. Ottawa is also literally among the coolest capitals. Consequently, many of its most unique attractions flourish in winter. Whether you two prefer active outdoor pursuits, indoor cultural ones, or a combination of the two, the following attractions will add fun and romance to an Ottawa visit.
1. Ottawa Top Attractions
Rideau Canal A 126-mile long waterway connecting Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario, the Rideau Canal was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007. In warm weather, couples can rent bicycles and ride alongside it. But it is in winter, after the water freezes to ice, when the magic of this Ottawa attraction becomes most apparent. Enter the canal across from Parliament Hill, rent a pair of skates, and glide arm-in-arm on the world's largest skating rink for 4.8 miles. Patterson Creek, a secluded offshoot of the canal, tempts romantics to twirl away from the crowds. Huts along the frozen waterway sell BeaverTails, a local pastry delicacy that's fried, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, savored while warm, and best when shared.
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Fairmont Chateau Laurier Even if you don't overnight at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, the castle-like hotel next door to Parliament Hill, it's still worth stopping by. This landmark has been welcoming celebrities, politicians, and couples in love for close to a century. Pause between your visits to other Ottawa attractions to have a proper afternoon tea in Zoe's lounge or a genuine gourmet meal in Wilfrid's restaurant. Afterwards, linger in the drawing room, where iconic portraits of Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Georgia O'Keeffe, and other twentieth-century giants shot by renowned photographer Yousuf Karsh (a longtime resident of the hotel) hang in gratitude.
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Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute If you appreciate fine fare, reserve a table at Signatures, a CAA/AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant that specializes in classic French cuisine with a modern twist. Couples on a budget in Ottawa can sample the Institute's fare at Bistro Cordon Bleu, run and staffed by students. It's open Thursdays and Fridays for lunch. Visitors who'd like to learn some culinary secrets but have no prior experience can sign up in advance for a one-day course at the school. And those with thoughts of romance spring up the stairs to the Institute's intimate, red-velvet room, a favorite setting for Ottawa proposals.
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National Gallery of Canada Arts lovers will want to include a visit to the National Gallery on their Ottawa itinerary. It's the permanent home of the world's most comprehensive collection of Canadian art, which includes distinctive works by Inuit sculptors. Yet a creation by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois draws the most glances. Positioned on the plaza beside the gallery's front doors, Maman is a bronze spider that stands more than 30 feet tall and holds 26 white marble eggs in a sac beneath her. Astounding art is not the only attraction in this Ottawa landmark. Nepean Point, behind the gallery, provides a breathtaking view of the city -- and a not bad place to kiss.
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Gatineau Park A haven for outdoors lovers in every season, Gatineau Park lies north of Ottawa. It's a place where couples can go biking, hiking, canoeing, and even pitch a tent in warm weather. Come winter, it's a major attraction for skiers. Whether you fancy snowshoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing, there's a trail or slope for the two of you.
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Canadian Tulip Festival Every May Ottawa celebrates a resplendant spring, when hundreds of thousands of tulips bloom. The attraction is a result of a gift from the people of the Netherlands, grateful to Canada for sheltering its royal family during World War II. The 18-day festival, which traditionally ends on Victoria Day, includes an International Pavillion where visitors to the attraction can sample the food, crafts, culture, and entertainment from other countries. "Celebridée" presentations enhance the gathering with talks by intellectuals in a festive environment. And, of course, the tulips themselves draw crowds to Ottawa at this time of year to marvel at nature's annual resurrection.
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Canada Museum of Civilization Canada's largest and most popular museum is a vast repository of the country's natural and cultural history. The structure itself is an impressive piece of undulating architecture. Not only does this prime Ottawa attraction cover a thousand years of the nation's history; it also invites visitors to walk through a diorama to experience it themselves. (Kid alert: go early or late on weekdays to avoid school trippers, and forgo weekend visits.) If, despite careful planning, you end up surrounded by energetic tykes, head to the on-site Japanese Garden for quiet contemplation. But keep your eyes wide open: Some of the best views of the city are seen from here.
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ByWard Market This fun and funky, four-square-block district in the center of Ottawa is one of the city's major visitor attractions. Whether you want to get something fresh to eat, browse unique boutiques (if you want chain stores, the Rideau Centre shopping mall is at the outer edge of ByWard Market), be entertained, or simply stroll the urban tableau, this is a must-see destination. At night, ByWard Market's ethnic restaurants, pubs, clubs, and music venues all have their fans.
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Holtz Spa Across the street from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Holtz Spa is the largest in Ottawa and offers several bridal and romantic packages. If you treasure togetherness, choose a couples treatment that includes a Swedish or hot stone massage in the same room and add on body polishes and pedicures for two.
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Lac-Leamy Casino If you like to be where the action is, head for Casino du Lac-Leamy. It's located over the Ottawa border in nearby Quebec and is connected to the Hilton Lac-Leamy hotel. A destination unto itself, this attraction features live entertainment, a smoking lounge where cigar fanciers can legally puff on Cuban stogie, a variety of bars and restaurants — including CAA/AAA Five-Diamond winning Le Baccara, and gaming tables and slot machines where, win or lose, you'll still have fun.