34 interesting facts about Ottawa you will learn on Ottawa Gray Line bus
The Canadian capital, Ottawa has just under 1 million inhabitants which makes it the 4th largest city in Canada. As I had just 3 days to explore the most, I hopped on Ottawa Gray Line bus where I learned many important facts when driving around the Canadian Capital.
Interesting facts about Ottawa you will learn on Ottawa Gray Line bus:
1. There’s free wifi in Ottawa Downtown.
2. King George VI created the War Memorial where I hopped on. On November 11 the Remembrance Day takes place here.
3. Fairmont is the fanciest Ottawa’s hotel. The most expensive room cost $2 back in 1912 and in 2012 you needed to pay $2,000 for the same room. The owner died on Titanic and there is a ghost story connected to his death (I learned it on the Haunted walk of Ottawa.)
4. The neo-Gothic Parliament, the most known building in the city situated on Southern bank of Ottawa River consists of East Block, Central building and Peace Tower, and West Block. In 1916 the original Parliament building burned down. The copper roofs of the new buildings turned green over time due to oxidation. Every day free tours of Parliament Centre Block start at 9am. After the tour, please take the elevator to the Peace Tower for the lovely views of Ottawa city. And if you are visiting on Wednesday in summer, at noon there’s free yoga class on the grass just outside of the Parliament building. Never seen such a thing next to a Government building anywhere else in the world. So loved it! Yoga on Parliament Hill rocked!
5. The Supreme Court just a few metres from the Parliament Hill offers daily tours from May to August where you will learn about the interesting judicial system.
6. In 2005 the newest museum was opened – the War Museum.
7. Breweries with red roof we saw from the bus are the only ones left in town.
8. The Canada Museum of Civilization is the most visited museum in Canada where you can explore human history. There’s lovely views of the river, the Parliament and some other main attractions from the little park next to the museum.
9. Once we crossed one of the 5 bridges in Ottawa to the other side, we spotted the statue of Maurice Richard next to the river. Maurice was a famous hockey player which is one of Ottawa’s well-known icons.
10. We passed along the Jacques-Cartier National Park which is great for festivals and concerts. In winter they bring 2,000 trucks of snow for the sculpting competitions and make snow statues here in February. You can also zipline from one snow tower to another, how cool is that?!
11. Ottawa has a bridge named after me 🙂 And it was built already in 1901. The Alex bridge we crossed on the way back used to be a railway bridge.
12. The Old Town Hall was the first building in Ottawa that had air conditioning.
13. Then we drove through the New Edinburgh District by Scottish Thomas MacKay who was in charge of the canal and had 16 kids. All the houses and streets are named after his family members in this area. Since 1867 the MacKay’s House with 170 rooms, the so called the Rideau Hall has been the residence of the Governor General of Canada.
14. Rockcliffe neighbourhood is where important and rich people live having the best view of Ottawa river. Rockcliffe is also home to some ambassadors and high commissioners (those from the US, Barbados and Denmark for example.)
15. The Ottawa River is over 1,000 km long and back in time it was important for fur trading along the river (ottawa means trade.) Wooden locks sank in the Ottawa river and it is said many can be still found there at the bottom.
16. RCMP Stables is where we can find police on horses. It’s the place where they train black intelligent calm horses (usually 3 to 6-year-old) only for the musical, the show. There is also a museum and free guided tours available.
17. We also saw many planes on the field but they are not part of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. The Museum holds one of the world’s finest aircraft collections, from Pioneer Era, through WWI, WWII, general aviation, jet age, helicopters, naval flying, flight simulators etc.
18. Back in time, Ottawa was called Bytown and many French and Irish were living here. Many so called criminals were in charge of the Rideau Canal. In 1855 it became the city of Ottawa and in 1857 also the capital after Kingston. Ottawa was smaller than Kingston so it was not bombed by the Americans as it did not look attractive.
19. Ottawa lies right between Toronto and Montreal and it is located on the river which is why they chose Ottawa to be the capital, and not Kingston. It’s also far away enough from the Canadian-US border.
20. There are 2 towns called Ottawa in the US.
21. Some famous Canadians come from Ottawa, such as Sandra Oh, Matthew Perry and other writers and actors.
22. Meals with maple syrup and also poutine that are not nutritious at all, yet considered tasty are traditional meals of Ottawa too.
23. Quebec province is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup while Vermont is the largest US producer of maple syrup.
24. From the Ottawa Gray Line bus we also saw the Rideau Waterfalls (Rideau means crudent.)
25. The 4,000 art pieces displayed in the National Gallery of Canada make it the largest gallery in Canada. It houses a Van Gogh painting too and many Canadian artists. The famous spider statue can be found outside of the gallery and it’s sometimes called spider mama (mama means mom in French and also in my mother tongue Slovak.)
26. Notre Dame is the oldest and the largest church in Ottawa. It’s a French Catholic church famous for its silver colour roof. Inside its made of wood but it looks like marble. It can take up to 3 years on the waiting list to get married here. The wedding planners often say: ”Pick your date first, then pick your mate second.” 🙂
27. Lower Town is where we can find the Byward Market now, the oldest still functioning market in North America. One of the Canada’s largest markets was established in 1826 by Colonel By and it became one of the first services provided by the municipality of the City of Ottawa. York and George Streets were made wide enough to let horse carriages pass through and carry food supplies to the market. In the past chickens and other animals were sold at the market, now the main building is surrounded by many restaurants, shops, street stalls with veggies, fruits, flowers and crafts. Byward is definitely one of my favorite parts of Ottawa. You so have to get the Ottawa’s iconic treat – the whole wheat BeaverTails pastry when at the Byward Market. I had to try 3 of them: chocolate, chocolate and banana, and apple and cinnamon. The yummiest ever!
28. La BAIE that started to sell beaver fur 400 years ago is the oldest company in North America.
29. Government Conference Centre used to be a train station before.
30. The oldest continuously operated canal in North America, the famous Rideau Canal built between 1812 to 1832 by Irish, Scottish and French Canadians.. The reason of the building of the canal was to provide the British army with a safe military route in case of a war. The possible Canada vs. US war never happened, thus the canal has been used for recreational purposes only, not the military ones. Rideau Canal locks move boats up and down from one water level to another using 1.3 million litres of water (equivalent to 5.6 millions cups of water). The gates of the locks need to be replaced every 20 years. The Rideau Canal lock chamber is 10.1 m wide and 40.8 m long. The vessel can be maximum 33 m long to enter the locks. It cost 822,000 pounds to build the canal. Nowadays it would cost $500 million to replace it all. The canal extends 202 km from Ottawa to Kingston with 292 islands and 1091 km of shoreline.
31. The canal was made of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. It was designed by the Colonel John By of the British Royal Engineers. The canal is a National Historic Site since 1925, a Canadian Heritage River since 2000 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. The world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink is situated on the Rideau Canal. The 7-km long Rideau Canal Skateway attracts many visitors every winter.
32. Bytown Museum located just next to the Rideau Canal locks is the museum to visit when you are looking for information about Ottawa’s evolution from the first settlements to present day. Very interesting audio tour.
33. Tulip festival takes place at Dow’s lake almost 3 weeks of May every year – in honor for Dutch family because the Princess Margaret was born in Ottawa and then the Dutch sent over 100,000 tulips there expressing as a thank note. It became a tradition now with some 10,000 tulips displayed here every year.
34. The Canadian Museum of Nature was together with the Aviation and Space Museum my favorite museum. Since its completion in 1912 t it became the first national museum in Canada. Situated in a Scottish looking castle designed by David Ewart, it was originally named the Victoria Memorial Museum Building and was the seat of the Senate and the House of Commons for a few years after the fire destroyed the central Parliament building in 1916. The Canadian Museum of Nature is very easy to walk through without even using a map. It holds everything from creepy collections of insects, amphibians, scorpions, tarantulas, banana slugs, to fossil gallery, dinosaurs, mammals (polar bears, grizzlies, bisons, muskox, wolves etc.). The museum is also home to a water gallery with 200 specimen and a skeleton of a blue whale – the largest mammal on Earth, vale earth gallery explaining earthquakes and 1,200 different kinds of stones and minerals, including precious minerals and how they look like when still part of the earth and then also as precious stones. The top floor is bird gallery. The museum is a perfect place for kids with many things to learn from and play with. Also check out the beautiful Queens’ Lanterns at one side of the museum with colorful windows.
I recommend you to hop on Ottawa Gray Line bus to learn the basic information about the Canadian capital and then walk it through as many city attractions are easily accessible by foot. For more information, check out Ottawa Tourism website. You should consider visiting Ottawa in 2017 for the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canada.