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Some Attractions in the National Capital Region

Parliament Hill
Rideau Hall
Museum of Civilization
War Museum
Museum of nature
National Gallery
Arts Centre
Gatineau Park
Byward Market
Neatby Building

Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 1 (866) 599-4999; 613-992-4793
Website: www.parl.gc.ca/information/visitors/index-e.asp; www.parl.gc.ca/information/visitors/planning-e.asp
e-Mail: info@parl.gc.ca
Hours: Monday to Thursday: 9:00 am to 12:50 pm; Friday: 9:00 am to 9:50 am, 12:30 pm to 3:20 pm Weekends: 9:00 am to 3:20 pm (may change without notice; also depends whether parliament is in session or not)
Prices: free
Frommer's Information

Guided indoor tours of the Centre Block are offered on a daily schedule that varies throughout the year, while guided tours of the East Block are offered daily in July and August. Make reservations at the Info-Tent on Parliament Hill lawn behind the West Block. It's open from mid-May to Labour Day and distributes Discover the Hill, a free outdoor self-guiding booklet. Also check out www.parliamenthill.gc.ca.

With their steeply pitched copper roofs, dormers, and towers, the several buildings of Parliament are quite impressive, especially on first sighting from river or road. In 1860, Prince Edward (later Edward VII) laid the cornerstone for the structures, which were finished in time to host the inaugural session of the first Parliament of the new Dominion of Canada in 1867. Entering through the south gate off Wellington Street, pass the Centennial Flame, lit by Lester Pearson on New Year's Eve 1966 to mark the passing of 100 years since that historic event. On September 14, 2001, over 100,000 people gathered on this broad lawn in a day of remembrance after the terrorist attacks against the United States 3 days earlier.

The Buildings -- Parliament is composed of three expansive structures -- the Centre Block, straight ahead, and the flanking West Block and East Block. They're at the heart of Canadian political life, containing the House of Commons and the Senate. Sessions of the House of Commons can be observed, the 295 elected members debating in their handsome green chamber with tall stained-glass windows. Parliament is usually in recess from late June to early September and occasionally between September and June, including the Easter and Christmas holidays. Otherwise, the House usually sits on Monday from 11am to 6:30pm, Tuesday and Thursday 10am to 6:30pm, Wednesday 2 to 8pm, and Friday 10am to 4pm. The 104 appointed members of the Senate sit in an opulent red chamber with murals depicting Canadians fighting in World War I.

The imposing 92m (302-ft.) campanile dominating the Centre Block's facade is the Peace Tower. It houses a 53-bell carillon, a huge clock, an observation deck, and the Memorial Chamber, commemorating Canada's war dead, most notably the 66,650 who lost their lives in World War I. Stones from the deadliest battlefields are lodged in the chamber's walls and floors. Atop the tower is an 11m (35-ft.) bronze mast flying a Canadian flag. When Parliament is in session, the tower is lit. Going up the tower, most visitors notice something strange about the elevator. For the first 30m (98 ft.) of the journey it travels at a 10-degree angle.

A 1916 fire destroyed the original Centre Block; only the Library at the rear was saved. A glorious 16-sided dome, supported outside by flying buttresses and paneled inside with Canadian white pine, features a marble statue of the young Queen Victoria and splendid carvings -- gorgons, crests, masks, and hundreds of rosettes. The West Block, containing parliamentary offices, is closed to the public, but the East Block can be visited, housing offices of prime ministers, governors-general, and the Privy Council. Four historic rooms are on view: the original governor-general's office, restored to the period of Lord Dufferin (1872-78); the offices of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Georges-Etienne Cartier (the principal Fathers of Confederation); and the Privy Council Chamber, with anteroom.

The grounds around the Centre Block are dotted with statues honoring such prominent figures as Queen Victoria, Sir Georges-Etienne Cartier, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Behind the building is a promenade with sweeping views of the river. Here, too, is the old Centre Block's bell, which crashed to the ground shortly after tolling midnight on the eve of the 1916 fire. At the bottom of the cliff behind Parliament (accessible from the entrance locks on the Rideau Canal), a pleasant path leads along the Ottawa River.


Rideau Hall

Address: 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-991-4422; 1-866-842-4422
Website: www.gg.ca/visitus/index_e.asp
e-Mail: guide@gg.ca
Hours: Grounds: 9am-dusk daily; Residence: September 4 to October 28: Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m

Thomas MacKay built the stone villa, which forms the main part of the present official residence, in 1838, as a home for his family. MacKay was a stonemason and contractor who built the entrance locks of the Rideau Canal and the mills at Rideau Falls. Rideau Hall is named for these landmarks and has been home to every governor general since Confederation. Period photographs show it as a rectangular, three-storey stone villa with a semi-circular facade on the garden.

Over the years, various changes have been made to the stately old building to meet the demands of modern times, including media and security requirements. The grounds, the building and its interiors have also evolved to better reflect and reinforce Rideau Hall's identity as Canada's national home. Over the years, an increasing emphasis on showcasing fine Canadian art, furniture, food and wine have contributed to a truly Canadian environment where Canadians are honoured, dignitaries are welcomed and affairs of State are conducted.

The Queen, other royal visitors and foreign heads of State stay at Rideau Hall when they visit Ottawa. Many have planted trees on the 32-hectare (79-acre) grounds, which include other historic outbuildings, gardens, greenhouses, woods, tennis courts and a cricket pitch.

Rideau Hall is the historic home and workplace of the governor general. It is open to the public year round and offers various activities such as guided tours of the residence and the grounds. As many as 200 000 people come to Rideau Hall every year to tour the grounds and the residence or to take part in official events.

Rideau Hall is a 3.5 kilometre walk from Parliament Hill along scenic Sussex Drive, or a short bus ride (www.octranspo.com or call 613-741-4390 for information on bus schedules).


Canadian Museum of Civilization

Address: 100 Laurier Street, Secteur Hull, Gatineau, QC
Phone: 819/776-7000
Web site: www.civilization.ca
Hours: Sept to mid-Oct Fri-Wed 9am-6pm, Thurs 9am-9pm;
rest of year Fri-Sun and Tues-Wed 9am-5pm, Thurs 9am-9pm
Prices: Admission C$10 (US$8) adults, C$7 (US$5.60) seniors, C$6 (US$4.80) students, C$4 (US$3.20) children 3-12, C$22 (US$18) families. Free to all Thurs 4-9pm, half-price Sun. Tickets to CINEPLUS extra; combination museum and CINEPLUS tickets available
Frommer's Review

Canadian Native architect Douglas Cardinal designed this visually arresting museum rising from the banks of the Ottawa River as though its curvilinear forms had been sculpted by wind, water, and glacier. The exhibits within tell the history of Canada, starting with the Grand Hall, the high windows of which provide fine views of the skyline. Devoted to the "First Nations" -- in this case, Native-Canadian bands of the west coast -- the hall features a ranked collection of huge totem poles and facades representing lodges. Behind these are small galleries of utensils, tools, weavings, and other artifacts. From there, take escalators to the third floor and its Canada Hall. Laid out in chronological order is the history of the country, starting with the arrival of the Vikings. There are highly effective tableaux of shipboard life through the whaling period, with human-size models, moving images, and recorded shrieks of gulls and creaks of hawsers.

Replications of fortified settlements of 18th-century New France follow, on through the military past to the rise of cities, including a walk along an early-1900s street. On the second floor are a Children's Museum and a Postal Museum, but the principal attraction is the CINEPLUS theater, containing an IMAX screen and an OMNIMAX (dome-shaped) screen that propel the viewer giddily into the film's action. There are also a cafeteria and a restaurant, Les Muses (tel. 819/776-7009).


National Gallery of Canada

Address: 380 Sussex Drive, at St. Patrick Street, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-990-1985
Web site: national.gallery.ca
Hours: Oct-Apr Wed-Sun 10am-5pm (to 8pm Thurs). Guided tours Wed-Sun at 2pm; register at the information desk.
Prices: Permanent collection C$6 (US$4.80) adults, C$5 (US$4) seniors and students, C$3 (US$2.40) ages 12-19, free under 12. Admission to special exhibitions is extra and varies, but approximately C$12 (US$9.60) adults, C$10 (US$8) seniors and students, C$5 (US$4) ages 12-19. Advance purchase recommended, since tickets are for specific times and dates.
Frommer's Review

Architect Moshe Safdie, famed for his Habitat apartment block and Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montréal, designed this rose-granite crystal palace that gleams from a promontory overlooking the Ottawa River. A dramatic long glass concourse leads to the Grand Hall, commanding glorious views of Parliament Hill. Natural light also fills the galleries, thanks to ingeniously designed shafts with reflective panels.

The museum displays about 800 examples of Canadian art, part of the 10,000 works in the permanent collection. A good way to take it all in is to go to the second floor and proceed down counterclockwise. Among the highlights are Benjamin West's famous 1770 history painting of General Wolfe's death at Québec; the fabulous Rideau Convent Chapel (1888), a rhapsody of wooden fan vaulting, cast-iron columns, and intricate carving created by architect/priest Georges Bouillon; the works of early Québécois artists such as Antoine Plamondon, Abbé Jean Guyon, and Frère Luc; Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven landscapists; and the Montréal Automatistes Paul-Emile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle. The European masters are also represented, from Corot and Turner to Chagall and Picasso, and contemporary galleries feature pop art and minimalism, plus later abstract works, both Canadian and American.

Pause for a contemplative moment on the balcony of the central atrium looking down on a garden of triangular flower beds and a grove of trees that repeat the lines of the pyramidal glass roof. Each year, three or four major traveling exhibits are displayed, in recent years including works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Van Gogh. Facilities include two restaurants, a gift shop/bookstore, and an auditorium.


Canadian Museum of Nature

Address: Victoria Memorial Museum Building, 240 McLeod Street, at Metcalfe Street, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-566-4700; 1-800-263-4433
Web site: www.nature.ca
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m; Thursday to 8:00 p.m.
Prices: Admission - individuals over the age of 3 $5, families $13; free to all Sat until noon.
Frommer's Review

Seven permanent exhibit halls trace the history of life on Earth from its beginnings 4,200 million years ago. The third-floor dinosaur hall is a popular highlight, with fossils, skulls, and the intact skeleton of a mastodon. In an opposite gallery is a variety of snails, bugs, spiders, and other creepy critters, some of them live. Down one floor are mineral galleries and exhibits of Canadian birds and large mammals preserved by taxidermy and placed in natural settings. Kids enjoy the Discovery Den activity area.


Canadian War Museum

Address: 1 Vimy Place, at the Western Parkway and Chaudiere Bridge, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 819-776-8600
Web site: www.warmuseum.ca
Hours: Sept (after Labour Day) to mid-Oct daily 9am-6pm (to 9pm Thurs); mid-Oct to Apr Tues-Sun 9am-5pm (to 9pm Thurs).
Prices Admission C$10 (US$8) adults, C$7 (US$5.60) seniors, C$6 (US$4.80) students, C$4 (US$3.20) children 3-12.
Frommer's Review

There has been a war museum in the capital since 1880, occupying different structures. This is the newest, most grandly proportioned one, opened in 2005. With intentional irony, it was designed by architect Raymond Moriyama, who was interned along with more than 20,000 Japanese-Canadians during World War II. It occupies a windswept rise to the west of Parliament Hill, a rather bleak setting made more so by the mausoleum-like sobriety of the design. It was built in an atmosphere of controversy, with some questioning the propriety of a monument to war. They needn't have worried. There is little drumbeating or sounding of martial airs. The last version of the museum, on the other side of the city, was a virtual theme park by comparison. Canada's long and often tragic military history is treated with utmost respect, not jingoism or glorification of combat. The country has lost more than 115,000 men and women in 20th-century wars, more than 60,000 killed in World War I alone, and its population is one-tenth that of the United States. On display are examples of uniforms, military equipment, and antique and modern weaponry. Exhibits begin at the beginning, taking note of skirmishes between Canadian Native bands, their battles with the early French settlers and the British, and proceed chronologically through the South African and two World Wars, and on through the Cold War and its conflicts, ending with outlines of the military's more recent role in peacekeeping missions. Noble intentions conceded, this new museum is less engaging for the casual visitor than the version that preceded it.


Canada Science and Technology Museum

Address: 1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-991-3044
Website: www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca/english/index.cfm
e-Mail: cts@technomuses.ca
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 9-5; closed Monday
Price: Adults: $7.50, students and seniors $5.00, children (4-14) $3.50, children under 4 free, family (2 adults and 3 children $18.

The largest of its kind in Canada, this Museum fulfills its mission through its collection, permanent, temporary and travelling exhibits, special events, school programs, workshops and demonstrations, publications, loans, conferences and lectures, expert advice, and joint action with other museums and organizations with similar goals and interests.

A visit to the Museum will allow the visitor to push buttons, turn dials, and pull levers to experience science and technology first-hand, as you discover artifact-rich exhibits featuring marine and land transportation, astronomy, communications, space, domestic technology and computer technology. Science and technology have changed Canada and influenced its people. The transformation of Canada, from the period of early exploration and settlement to the present, has been marked by achievements in science and technology.

The special role of the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation is to help the public to understand the ongoing relationships between science, technology and Canadian society.


National Arts Centre

Address: 53 Elgin Street, at Confederation Square, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-947-7000; toll-Free Number: 1-866-850-ARTS
Website: www.nac-cna.ca/splash.htm
e-Mail: info@nac-cna.ca

The National Arts Centre (NAC) raised its curtains for the first time in 1969. Created by the Parliament of Canada as a Centennial project during the 1960s, the NAC has become Canada's foremost showcase for the performing arts.

Today, the NAC works with countless artists, both emerging and established, from across Canada and around the world, and collaborates with scores of other arts organizations across the country.

The NAC is strongly committed to being a leader and innovator in each of the performing arts fields in which it works - classical music, English theatre, French theatre, dance, variety, and community programming. It is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, supporting programmes for young and emerging artists and programmes for young audiences, and producing resources and study materials for teachers.

The NAC is the only multidisciplinary, bilingual performing arts centre in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

The NAC has its own restaurant - Le Café, 613-594-5127.


Gatineau Park

Address: Visitor's centre: 33 Scott Road, Chelsea, Quebec
Phone: 819-827-2020; 1 800 465-1867
Website: www.canadascapital.gc.ca/gatineau/
e-Mail: info@ncc-ccn.ca

Gatineau Park is a superb nature reserve measuring 36,131 hectares just 15 minutes from Parliament Hill. Gatineau Park is the only federal park that does not belong to Parks Canada. It is managed by the National Capital Commission. Endowed with hundreds of kilometres of trails, forests containing more than 60 species of trees, abundant wildlife and numerous crystal-clear lakes, the park has as its objective the permanent preservation of a vast natural territory for the enjoyment of all Canadians.

Hundreds of Activities - Drive along the scenic parkways and enjoy the view from one of the many lookouts. Enjoy the recreational trails. Seasonal activities such as biking and skiing also entertain thousands of visitors every year.

The park allows for almost every type of outdoor recreation and adventure. There are over 165 km of hiking trails, some of which are shared with cyclists and mountain bikers. A few of the trails are part of the National Trail and the Trans Canada Trail. Mountain bikers have the option of the more extreme trials at the Camp Fortune Ski Hill. Street cyclists take advantage of the parks roads, and share them with inline skaters on Sunday mornings in the summer when the parkways are closed to cars. There are park entry fee at certain park accesses. A map of hiking and biking is available for $5 at the park office and at the Infocentre in Ottawa.

The park is made up of hardwood and mixed forests with bogs, fields, swamps and lakes interspersed amongst the mountains. If you're looking for interesting and unusual plants hike in to the Eardley Escarpment. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park along with over 50 species of mammals. Gatineau park is a worderful place to come a view the autumn colours.

Points of interest: MacKenzie King Estate is the restored 1920s summer home of the former prime minister. Lusk Cave at Lac Philippe will be of interest to amateur speleologists. Beaches are located at Meech Lake and Lac Philippe.

Many special insects have been found at King Mountain because of its south facing drop. The trail is 2.5km one way, intermediate, 500m elevation gain. The trail is short and steep with several observation points and three main lookouts providing splendid views. The trail has a number of interpretation panels on route. The trailhead is accessible from the King Mountain parking lot in the park. The park also has a brochure which describes a longer route which combines the King Mountain Trail and the #30, #1, and #17 trials into a 11km circuit.


ByWard Market

Location: Area bounded by Sussex, Rideau, St. Patrick, and King Edward Streets, Ottawa, ON
Phone: 613-562-3325
Web site: www.byward-market.com
Hours: May-Nov Mon-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm
Frommer's Review

This traditional farmers' market still sells all manner of foods, flowers, plants, and produce around a central building that houses two floors of boutiques displaying a wide variety of wares and crafts. During market season, enjoy a snack at one of more than 70 indoor and outdoor stand-up counters and cafes and watch life surging by over a cold beer or glass of wine.

The surrounding neighborhood is a mix of rehabilitated 19th-century brick buildings and contemporary commercial structures. Street performers and balloon manipulators provide brief diversion (though someone seems to have rounded up the mimes).