A few weeks ago, I attended a talk on the downtown Concordia campus and afterwards I decided to stick around and mingle to meet some new people, when I was asked where I’m from. I guess Montreal, being the great city that it is, attracts a lot of people from all over the country and the world, so being asked this question is normal. Except this time when asked the question, after answering, “I’m from Ottawa,” another student a few feet away booed me. Actually booed me. Loudly.
Aside from being a little hurt, I was immediately kind of annoyed as the student explained that she had lived in Ottawa for 17 years before starting her first year at Concordia, so she apparently has some kind of authority on the matter. Unfortunately, this is something of a common opinion; Ottawa is often accused of being a boring city. But it really irks me when people say this because it makes me think that the people who say this haven’t really tried or had a chance to enjoy themselves in Ottawa, and are likely to knock things before giving them a shot.
Now, having recently moved away from my hometown, it may look as though I fall into the hater camp. But I also happen to have been born and raised in Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood, and later spent about seven years of my adult life working in Ottawa’s Tourism & Hospitality and Heritage & Culture sectors. This puts me in the perfect position to not only bust this “Ottawa is boring” myth, but to blow it straight out of the currently-frozen-and-totally-skate-worthy Rideau Canal waters. At least more so than, say, the student who grew up in Nepean and then peaced out of Ottawa before she was even of legal age.
So with all my love for and my experience in my humble hometown, here are some reasons why Ottawa is actually a lovely, little city.
The Crowds Yes, Ottawa may be small, but it’s not that small. Most people would say it’s small enough that you could easily run into old friends unexpectedly, in that “small town charm” kind of way. It’s small enough that when things get crowded—concerts, clubs, and lining up for good eats—you’re not left out in the cold for extreme lengths of time, nor is the crowd so packed that it becomes a killjoy. Despite this, Ottawa is a big enough city that all these fun events and places still exist for us to take advantage of on a Friday night out.
Ottawa 2017 This past year, if you know anyone living in Ottawa, you may have noticed your Instagram feed was taken over by pictures and videos of all the #Ottawa2017 events that went down. The year marked a ton of spectacular outdoor fun, like the MosaïCanada horticultural sculptures in Gatineau; La Machine, a mythological battle of epic proportions that took place throughout the streets of Ottawa; Kontinuum, the mysterious and futuristic underground light show; and a few too many more to name here. Hot tip: the MosaïCanada magic continues on throughout the winter!
The Neighbourhoods Literally every neighbourhood in central Ottawa is known for its variety of businesses. From microbreweries, restaurants, shopping (big brands and locally owned), farmer’s markets, bars, clubs, theatres (both cinema and stage). If you’re passionate about any of these things, there are always new ones to discover and great events happening at each one, pretty much every night of the week.
Festivals on Festivals on Festivals Le Festibière, Winterlude, Tulip Festival, Jazz Fest, Carnival of Cultures, Bluesfest, Westfest, Dragon Boat, CityFolk, Centretown Movies Outdoor Film, Nuit Blanche, Latin Sparks…you get the idea. There’s always something to look out for in Ottawa’s schedule of events.
Across the River Let’s not forget that Gatineau, QC makes up part of what we call the National Capital Region. Connected to Ottawa by the six bridges, or a quick canoe trip across the rivière des Outaouais, you’ll find that museums, local galleries, beautiful lakes, hiking, camping and cottage life await those who love a little adventure!
Museums and Galleries Sometimes museums have a reputation of their own for being boring, but not in Ottawa. Let yourself be surprised by history, find your art double (and maybe even make some art!). Where else could you learn to milk a cow, make velvety smooth, old-fashioned ice cream, witness the innovations of Canadian minds, and then party it up in a castle, under a blue whale (or giant jellyfish)?
Really, I could go on and on.
But if I could mention just one more thing besides all the events and businesses that you could ever hope to enjoy in our town: Ottawa is a natural beauty. Built on traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin nation, one of the things Ottawa is known for is tons of lush, open space where you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor sports, a day on the water, or a low-key picnic under the setting sun.
So the next time someone tries to put down Ottawa, now you know better!