As much as I loved the Mosaï Canada 150 horticultural exhibit across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, a nagging voice inside my head kept questioning my timing. “You picked July 2 to come here?” it asked incredulously. “What’s wrong with you?”
It had a point: Like much of the National Capital Region, Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park was distractingly jammed with Canada Day revellers snapping selfies amid the 33 sculptures covered in more than 80 plant varieties. The enchanting walk-through was worth the wait in line – it cost nothing, after all – but that didn’t stop the voice from adding, “You should have come in the fall!”
Indeed, many popular destinations can be hot, hectic and hideously overpriced between late June and Labour Day. The fall, however, is another story: Crowds dissipate, temperatures moderate and prices drop on everything from hotels and tours to meals and flights. Combine this seasonal detente with new digs, dining options and diversions, and these five places are primed for crisper temperatures.
Good things may well come to those who have waited to celebrate the sesquicentennial in the country’s capital city. Along with the usual suspects – Parliament Hill tours, museum-hopping, Rideau Canal cruises and so on – most Canada 150-inspired happenings are still going strong. MosaïCanada, for instance, may become even more enchanting when its carex grasses turn from green to gold before the show ends on Oct. 15.
At the National Gallery, the 4,180- square-metre Canadian and Indigenous Galleries display nearly 800 paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and decorative objects from across the country, while the Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature is home to more than 200 specimens and artifacts. Then there’s the Canadian Museum of History’s new Canadian History Hall, which is billed as “the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Canadian history ever created.”
In fact, summer visitors arrived too early for two of the most compelling diversions. Starting in early October, when the fall colours of nearby Gatineau Park are typically at their peak, the Ottawa River’s Chaudière Falls will be adorned with ambient lighting and sound effects that aim to evoke the region’s Algonquin heritage. Then, on Nov. 17, the Canada Science and Technology Museum will mark its 50th anniversary by reopening after $80.5-million in repairs and upgrades.
Eat: If summer weather lingers, Ola Cocina’s street-corner patio is ideal for dining on hand-pressed tortilla-wrapped duck confit and delicate dulce de leche-dippedchurros.
Stay: Ottawa’s hotel scene was not immune to the Canada 150 effect, with downtown’s stylish and inexpensive Alt Hotel opening last year, and the upscale Andaz Ottawa Byward Market doing likewise in its namesake ‘hood.
Tip: Free tickets for daily guided tours of the Centre Block are available across from Parliament Hill at 90 Wellington St. Visitors can choose to take the elevator up the Peace Tower to see the Memorial Chamber on their own, but they still require a ticket to do so.