After an incredible and hectic eleven months of 2022, my wife and I were looking forward to December. Most offices shut down the last 10 days of December across Canada and USA and people look forward to travelling even though COVID bowled a googly, in other words a curveball the previous 2 years. We were looking forward to this winter break to refresh and rejuvenate. The holiday started with one of the worst winter storms that Canada and the USA had seen. This threw a spanner in the holiday plans of many tourists. Flights, buses and trains were cancelled at the last minute, ours was no exception. The train operator “Via Rail” cancelled our plans a few hours before our scheduled start. But, an ad-hoc plan turned out to be an excellent experience. Here are some places that we visited during this winter that made our holiday season a very good one and might help plan your next trip to the Canadian Capital a pleasant one. Feel free to use this blog to create an itinerary of your own.
Abraska Laflèche: This place is a must-visit in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. This was a 30-minute ride from our Gatineau stay and downtown Ottawa. I would suggest booking the stay at Gatineau or the outskirts of Ottawa to save some dollars and avoid traffic. The staff at the location were very friendly and comfortable in both English and French. The guide (Our guide G.I. Joe, a.k.a Jonathan) knew well about the caves and the locations nearby. The hiking through the caves was about an hour. Hiking is a bit strenuous and involves walking through low ceilings and climbing steep stairs. But the experience is worth it. The guide was very helpful in helping us hike with ease and also shared some interesting insights about the caves and also asked some interesting questions about the cave. The experience of sitting inside the cave in complete darkness was spellbinding. I could sleep there with my eyes open. There is also an experience to camp inside the caves, we have added that to our bucket list. Winter hike through the forests is something we missed during COVID and if you get a chance rent their snowshoes and go for a good hike. Along the way, you also have some interesting riddles to solve along the way. The ziplining experience is reserved for summer and would be a great activity to do along with kids. Booking the ticket online is recommended.
Ottawa Winter Lights: The original plan was to see the Christmas lights in Quebec City but the winter lights in the capital were equally awesome. The streets of the capital were lit with thousands of lights. The dazzling lights are best enjoyed when you cover the streets by walking. Most of the streets that are lit are in and around downtown Ottawa. The icing on the cake is the multimedia projection on the Parliament center building. The multimedia takes us through the journey of luminous smileys that come alive in winter and travel across different landscapes of Canada illuminating the dark evenings. The lighting and the multimedia shows happen only during the holiday season, make sure to check the timings of the winter light show on the capital website before planning your trip. There is no parking in Capital Hill, so use SpotHero or any other app to find the best parking spot. There are many restaurants in and around the parliament building, check out York street. Do not miss out on Zak’s diner’s milkshake and the out-of-the-world moulin de Provence bakery.
Canadian War Museum: I have always found Canada a safe country, never have I heard about Canada’s involvement in any war. Many could even wonder why Canada needs a military. All those questions would be answered when you visit Canadian War Museum as they walk us through the different wars that shaped Canada from pre-contact warfare to the current warfare across the world. If you are a lover of history, you could probably allocate a day to this fascinating display of different eras of war. The Museum is located in Ottawa near parliament hill. Plenty of paid parking space is available. The museum was divided into 4 different zones, the Early wars, the First world war, the Second World war and the Cold war to the present. The artifacts on display like trenches, and war zones must catch your eye for sure. Some other displays like letters from the family, paper ads during wars, Hitler’s car, guns, and artilleries like cannons and tanks take you back in time. Some documentaries on war zones are sure to attract your interest. As a product manager, what I also liked about the museum was it had a mention of the estimated time you will spend in each section of the museum which helps you to plan better. Entry to the war museum can also be booked through Canoo App.
Parc Omega: A complete package for the family and I would call it the ultimate winter experience as we get to see Canadian wild animals in their natural surroundings. The snow-clad rocks, forests and freely roaming deers and other animals almost makes you forget that you are in a zoo. You can feed the animals like deer and boar that are considered safe with carrots. The 12-kilometre car trail lets one visit various types of wild animals like silver foxes, red foxes, wolves, turkeys, boars, deers, bison, elks, moose, mule deer and others. Due to winter, we missed out on the bears as we were told they were hibernating. The park also has some walking trails like the First Nations trail and the land of the pioneers. All along the way you would be treated with the joy of observing a plethora of wildlife. During winter there was also a show on the wolves where you get to know a lot about them and their behaviour. You also have a picnic area, a restaurant for a quick bite, and hot beverages in the middle of the car route. I would recommend packing your lunch for the trail especially if you go on a light day which might give you the entire day to enjoy the splendid beauty of the park. Omega park is located an hour from Ottawa or Montreal. Adding this to your itinerary is totally worth it. I am going back to the park in the summer for sure.
Canadian Parliament: Are you interested in knowing more about the place where important national policies are discussed and decisions that impact the lives of Canadians are made? Book some time to take a guided tour of the Canadian parliament and it is absolutely free. The tours are offered in both French and English. If you are interested in taking this 45-minute tour, book this when you plan your travel and the other activities around this one. Our group loved this experience completely and interestingly you can also attend the live session on a first come first serve basis. All tickets need to be booked online and there is no in-person ticket. Historic paintings adorn the walls of this beautiful Neo-Gothic structure. The tour takes you through the different chambers in the parliament and also guides enrich your knowledge through some fun trivia questions in between the tour. Fun fact: The word parliament came from the French word parler, which means ‘to talk’. Book your tickets through https://rts.parl.ca/en-CA/Home?
Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly places tried
Pacini Gatineau: Italian; Plenty of vegetarian options. Avg: 35-40$ per person
Zak’s Diner: All-day diner, near Parliament hill, Must-try milkshakes $15-20 per person
Tanjai Ottawa: Authentic South Indian Restaurant, Good try, $25-$27 per person. Full Review.
Indian Cafe, Ottawa: Take-outs and short eats, Good channa masala and samosas, avoid their tea. $10-$15 per person. Not a must-try.
If you are wondering where to travel in Fall, check this post- Fall 2022