(Photo Courtesy of Ottawa Tourism)
To call Brandon Presser a professional traveler would be an understatement; Out magazine’s travel editor cut his teeth as the youngest writer to join the ranks of Lonely Planet, the largest travel publisher in the world, which ranked Canada as the #1 spot to visit in 2017.
Although he's traveled extensively, Presser still has a particular fondness for his hometown, Ottawa. He often returns to the capital to spend time with his family and enjoy the city’s unique vibe. Here, Presser fills us in on five of his all-time favorite spots around town.
1. Rideau Canal: “Whenever I think of my childhood, the Rideau Canal is always the first thing that comes to mind. Imagine the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink (true story!) and thousands of skaters gliding through Ottawa’s downtown core, with the city’s classic Neo-Gothic towers in the background. Once you’ve worked up an appetite skating, grab a Beavertail (perfectly fried dough smothered with your choice of toppings, like cinnamon and sugar or chocolate hazelnut spread topped with Reese’s Pieces and peanut butter) at one of the booths stationed on the ice to refuel.”
2. National Gallery of Canada: "The expansive collection of local and international treasures paints a vivid picture of Canada’s eclectic past and present (the aboriginal art exhibit is a personal favorite) and the building itself is a masterpiece. The glass facade mirrors the spires of Parliament Hill nearby and was designed my famed architect Moshe Safdie. It's home to more than 40,000 works of art (by over 6,000 artists) and hosts special exhibits throughout the year that bring light to a specific topic, discipline, or renowned and up-and-coming artist."
3. Westboro & Wellington West: “Separated by Island Park Drive, the neighboring 'hoods' of Westboro and Wellington West are the trendy areas in the city where a flurry of small businesses set up shop each season. Don’t miss Holland’s Cake & Shake, which serves homemade ice cream and fantastic baked goods or hit up Urban Element for top-notch cooking classes and wine courses taught in a refurbished firehouse. If you’re a doughnut fan, be sure to stop by Suzy Q and indulge in a maple bacon or blue vanilla glazed topped with Fruit Loops."
4. ByWard Market: “I love a good market — the perfect antidote to the world’s big-box stores. Although I didn’t appreciate it growing up (since I’d have to follow my mother around from stall to stall as she gathered groceries), the ByWard Market is now one of my favorite places in town. The Market is open year-round, but I really love visiting in the summer when the local businesses spill out onto the streets serving boutique cheeses, homemade pastries and farm-fresh produce from the region. If you really want to experience the market take one of the many culinary tours offered year-round."
5. Senators Hockey Game: “If you’re not Canadian, then catching a hockey game is a must, an anthropological must, to understand the local psyche. Ottawa’s big enough to offer locals and visitors a ton to do (ever heard of the Diefenbunker?), but at its core, it’s a town with a serious case of hockey fever. Until the ‘90s the city was divided (Montreal Canadians vs. Toronto Maple Leafs—my family, being originally from Quebec were serious ‘Habs’ fans), but the return of the Senators franchise finally united everyone.”
For Canada’s 150th anniversary, Ottawa will be the official festivities headquarters, featuring hundreds of events throughout all 12 months of this year. Catch a robotic fire-breathing dragon at La Machine, or check out the multi-sensory underground experience at Kontinuum Underground.
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