Spent a week of holidays holidays touring Ottawa. I think I’ve visited there 3 times in my life, mostly as a bored teenager, and lived there briefly – almost too young to remember. So this visit as an adult was significantly different from anytime I had been there before.

But, I can make a few comparisons from the 1980’s version of Ottawa. The most obvious is the massive improvement in the national museums around the capital. The Museum of Civilization, War Museum, National Gallery, and Aviation Museum were formerly located in older buildings that were not designed for the purpose of a museum. Now all of these are in purpose built space that provide enough room to really show what these institutions have and with the interactive and information tools that you expect from a major museum.

The large spaces for vehicles at the War Museum, the open colonnade that leads to the National Gallery, and the open gallery for the six houses of the First People’s exhibit at the Museum of Civilization are all examples of what purpose built space can do over the ‘make do’ kind of spaces that existed before.

Travel Tip:
Used the Museum Passport to get to most of the attractions in Ottawa, not a bad deal if you get to at least 4 of the 9 that are part of the package. ($30/person – $75 for a family of 5)

The Museum Passport includes:

  • Canada Agriculture Museum
  • Canada Aviation Museum
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Canadian Museum of Nature
  • Canadian War Museum
  • Laurier House National Historic Site of Canada
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mint
  • National Arts Centre

The addition of the big museums are going to be a big draw but there is still the obigitory trip to parliament hill. The tours there are free and tickets are given out first come first serve starting at 9AM each day.

Travel Tip:
Visits to Parliament are best on weekends or days when the House of Commons and Senate aren’t sitting. Those parts of the building are not availble for tours while in use.

I love the unique and free, so the Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum is a winner on two counts. I really thought they did a great job with it. The vault with examples of currency from all over the world as well as just about every variation of money ever used in Canada was very interesting. They also do some good presentations on recognizing fake bills.

While the Royal Canadian Mint was an interesting tour, the Ottawa location only does specialty and commemorative work, if you want to see where the pennies come from you need to go to Winnipeg. The Mint was decked out in Olympic decorations to celebrate their work on the medals for the games in Vancouver.

While the big events of visiting a city and its sites can be easily listed. The real experience I got was the little things that happened at or between the ‘big’ things.

  • I saw a swordat the War Museum that matches the family sword that has been handed down to me.
  • I saw a section of the de Havilland Buffalo shot down in Syria in 1974 at the War Museum, then when I went to the Peace tower, the book of remembrance was open to that page
  • At the museum of Civilization, they had a display about Francis Rattenbury including examples of his work from Victoria – little irony there
  • Museum of Civilization had a mock up of Vancouver airport with some vintage CP Air memorabilia, recognized a photoshop-ed background as they show the airport runway that was built long after the airplanes they show on it.

Trip Photos at Flickr

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