Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is known for its iconic landmarks and museums. But beyond the tourist hotspots, there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These off-the-beaten-path destinations offer a unique glimpse into the city’s culture, history, and natural beauty. In this article, we’ll explore some of Ottawa’s best-kept secrets that are worth checking out.
The Central Experimental Farm
Located just a few kilometers west of downtown Ottawa, the Central Experimental Farm is a vast agricultural research station that has been in operation since 1886. The farm covers over 4 square kilometers and features various crop fields, gardens, and greenhouses. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the farm, which includes stops at the Arboretum, Ornamental Gardens, and the Agriculture and Food Museum. The farm is an excellent place to learn about Canadian agriculture, horticulture, and plant science. It’s also a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city, perfect for a picnic or a stroll.
Mer Bleue Bog
If you’re looking for a unique natural attraction, the Mer Bleue Bog is a must-visit destination. Located in the east end of Ottawa, this 3,500-hectare wetland is one of the largest bogs in southern Ontario. The bog is home to many rare and endangered plant and animal species, including the eastern timber wolf, the snapping turtle, and the pitcher plant. Visitors can explore the boardwalk trail that winds through the bog, offering stunning views of the wetland and its inhabitants. The trail is accessible year-round, but it’s particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color.
Watson’s Mill is a historic gristmill located in Manotick, a charming village on the Rideau River just south of Ottawa. The mill was built in 1860 and is one of the few remaining operating gristmills in Ontario. Visitors can tour the mill, learn about its history and operations, and even watch as grain is ground into flour using traditional methods. The mill is also home to a museum that features exhibits on local history and culture. After exploring the mill, take a stroll through Manotick’s quaint downtown, which is home to many shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
The Diefenbunker is a fascinating museum located just outside of Ottawa in Carp. The museum is housed in a former government bunker that was built during the Cold War to protect Canada’s government officials in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker is now open to the public and offers a unique glimpse into the country’s history and the realities of the Cold War. Visitors can explore the bunker’s many rooms, including the prime minister’s office, the communication center, and the decontamination room. The museum also hosts various events and programs, such as movie nights, escape rooms, and haunted tours.
The ByWard Market
While the ByWard Market is a popular destination for tourists, it’s also a thriving neighborhood that’s worth exploring. Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the ByWard Market is a historic public market that’s been in operation since 1826. The market is home to over 600 businesses, including restaurants, cafes, shops, and galleries. Visitors can stroll through the outdoor stalls, sample local produce and artisanal products, and take in the lively atmosphere. The market is particularly vibrant on weekends when street performers and musicians entertain crowds.
The Ottawa River Pathway
The Ottawa River Pathway is a scenic trail that follows the banks of the Ottawa River, offering stunning views of the water and the city skyline. The pathway is popular among cyclists, joggers, and walkers, and it’s a great way to explore the city’s natural beauty. The trail stretches over 30 kilometers, from Britannia Beach in the west to Petrie Island in the east, and it passes by many parks, beaches, and attractions. Along the way, visitors can stop at landmarks such as the Canadian War Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Rideau Falls.
The Cumberland Heritage Village Museum
The Cumberland Heritage Village Museum is a living history museum located in the village of Cumberland, just east of Ottawa. The museum features over 20 historic buildings that have been preserved and restored, including a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, and a general store. Visitors can take a guided tour of the village, interact with costumed interpreters, and learn about the daily life of rural Canadians in the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum also hosts various events and workshops throughout the year, such as heritage cooking classes and Christmas craft fairs.
Hog’s Back Falls
Hog’s Back Falls is a scenic waterfall located on the Rideau River, just south of downtown Ottawa. The falls are named after a ridge of land that runs across the river, creating a natural dam. Visitors can access the falls from Colonel By Drive or by taking the Hog’s Back Falls Pathway, which winds through the nearby park. The falls are particularly beautiful in the spring when the snow melts and the water flows more vigorously. It’s also a popular spot for fishing and picnicking.
The National Cemetery of Canada
The National Cemetery of Canada is a solemn but important destination that pays tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers and veterans. Located in the west end of Ottawa, the cemetery covers over 100 acres and features over 50,000 graves. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the cemetery, which includes stops at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Veterans Memorial Wall, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Plot. The cemetery is open year-round and offers a peaceful and reflective space for visitors to pay their respects.
Ottawa has much more to offer than just its famous landmarks and museums. These off-the-beaten-path destinations provide a unique and authentic look at the city’s culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, be sure to explore these hidden gems and discover what makes Ottawa such a special place.