The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Ottawa's Vibrant Lifestyle

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Ottawa’s Vibrant Lifestyle

Having lived in Canada’s capital city for most of my life, I’m already quite familiar with the lifestyle that Ottawa has to offer. I’ve gone to the beautiful parks and nature preserves near the city, attended cultural events, learned French, and more. 

Despite these things, I will never stop falling in love over and over again with the amazing lifestyle that this lovely city offers. 

As a proud local, allow me to show you exactly what it’s like to live the Ottawan lifestyle. 

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The Ottawan Lifestyle

The Ottawan lifestyle is defined by active living, cultural events, and bilingualism.  Education, government, politics, and a sense of community spirit also contribute to the lifestyle.  

Besides that, Ottawa possesses a distinctive combination of urban conveniences and natural beauty. These things, combined with the city’s status as Canada’s capital, influence the way of life there and make life more enjoyable. 

Here’s what you can expect from the lifestyle of Ottawa’s locals: 

Active Living

When you look around the city, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find people either walking, jogging, or riding bikes around Ottawa’s streets.

The residents love to stay active and take advantage of the city’s many parks, trails, and recreational opportunities. It not only gives us plenty of exercise, but it also helps us appreciate the beauty of the city and nature itself! 

Whether it’s jogging along the Rideau Canal, or cycling along the Ottawa River, there are plenty of ways to stay active and enjoy the great outdoors.

Cultural Events

One of the things that I enjoy the most about Ottawa is its many events. The city is home to a number of cultural events held throughout the year, such as music festivals and theatrical performances. 

These events not only give Ottawans a fun time, but they also serve as one of the city’s main selling points for potential visitors. 

If you’re in Ottawa, I can guarantee that the showcase of the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene is an experience you will never forget.


We Ottawans are known to be proudly bilingual. As you tour the streets, it’s very likely that you will find some people conversing in French. 

Both English and French are widely spoken here, and this has given Ottawa the reputation of being one of Canada’s most bilingual cities. This is a very fitting reflection of the country’s bilingualism. 


One of Otawa’s major draws for many families and young professionals is its strong education system. 

You can find top universities and colleges here like the University of Ottawa. There are also plenty of great public and private schools on the premises of the city.

Government and Politics

As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is home to many government and political institutions. These include Parliament Hill, the Prime Minister’s Office, and other notable buildings. 

This gives the city a unique character and attracts people interested in politics and public policy.

Community Spirit

Ottawa is known for its strong sense of community and volunteerism. I myself get involved in local charities, non-profits, and community organizations. 

Combine this with cooperation with other locals, and it creates a strong sense of belonging and civic pride.

What are the must-visit cultural sites in Ottawa?

Being a city rich in cultural heritage, Ottawa naturally has many attractions worth exploring. Check out some of the capital city’s must-see sites. 

Parliament HillWellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4, Canada
National Gallery of Canada380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4, Canada
Canadian Museum of History100 Laurier St, Gatineau, QC K1A 0M8, Canada
Canadian War Museum1 Vimy Pl, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8, Canada
Rideau Hall1 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1, Canada
National Arts Centre1 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1, Canada

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4, Canada

This landmark is the heart of Canada’s political life, and it is home to the iconic Parliament Buildings. These same buildings are also considered to be one of Ottawa’s architectural marvels. 

When you get to Parliament Hill, you have several options when it comes to touring the place. The one I would recommend is a guided tour of the buildings.

Additionally, you can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place daily during the summer months. 

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada

Address: 380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4, Canada

Art aficionados everywhere will love the National Gallery of Canada. Here, you can find an extensive collection of Canadian and international art from artists like Emily Carr and Tom Thomson.

Another thing worth noting is the temporary exhibitions that take place each year. You can find displays that feature unique themes that are definitely worth taking a look at. 

Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

Address: 100 Laurier St, Gatineau, QC K1A 0M8, Canada

Canada’s largest and most popular museum is located just across the Ottawa River. You can expect to find an extensive collection of important artifacts once you enter.

The Canadian Museum of History will teach you more about the country’s history, culture, and achievements. You can also find several permanent exhibitions here, including the Canadian History Hall.

Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum

Address: 1 Vimy Pl, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8, Canada

As its name suggests, the Canadian War Museum is dedicated to the military history of Canada. It features a large collection of artifacts, weapons, and military vehicles that were used during different eras of Canada’s military service. 

Another notable thing about the museum is its temporary exhibitions throughout the year. You can expect to find different themes being showcased for everyone to see. 

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall

Address: 1 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1, Canada

As the official residence of the Governor General of Canada, Rideau Hall is considered to be one of the most iconic buildings in Ottawa. 

You can take a guided tour of the grounds or explore the public areas of the building, including the State Dining Room.

Where are the best places to shop in Ottawa?

Canada’s capital offers an impressive variety of shopping destinations. From malls and shopping centers to local boutiques and markets, there’s definitely something for you. 

I’ve listed some of the best places to shop in Ottawa along with their addresses in the table below. 

Rideau Center50 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9J7, Canada
ByWard Market55 ByWard Market Square, Ottawa, ON K1N 9C3, Canada
Westboro VillageRichmond Rd & Golden Ave, Ottawa, ON K2A 0G2, Canada
Sparks Street MallSparks St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5C1, Canada
Tanger Outlets8555 Campeau Dr, Ottawa, ON K2T 0K5, Canada
St. Laurent Centre1200 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1K 3B8, Canada

Rideau Center

Rideau Center

Address: 50 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9J7, Canada

Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Rideau Center is the city’s largest shopping mall, with over 180 stores and restaurants. 

It offers a mix of high-end and mid-range stores, including Sephora, Zara, and Nordstrom, which makes it perfect for everyone.

ByWard Market

ByWard Market

Address: 55 ByWard Market Square, Ottawa, ON K1N 9C3, Canada

This historic market is one of Ottawa’s top tourist attractions. It features over 600 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. 

I always shop here for just about anything I need, from ingredients to household items. 

To add to that, it’s also home to several boutiques and galleries, which makes it a great destination for shopping and browsing.

Westboro Village

Westboro Village

Address: Richmond Rd & Golden Ave, Ottawa, ON K2A 0G2, Canada

Westboro Village is quite a trendy neighborhood among Ottawans. We know it for its boutique shops, artisanal food stores, and independent retailers.  

It’s a great destination for finding unique gifts and one-of-a-kind items for both locals and tourists.

Sparks Street Mall

Sparks Street Mall

Address: Sparks St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5C1, Canada

This pedestrianized street in downtown Ottawa is home to several stores and restaurants. You can find souvenir shops, clothing stores, and specialty food stores here.

Another one of Sparks Street’s (Shopping guide in sparks street downtown ottawa) main highlights is the exciting festivals that take place here. Events like the Ottawa Ribfest, Jazzfest, and Poutine Fest are simply exciting. 

Tanger Outlets

Tanger Outlets

Address: 8555 Campeau Dr, Ottawa, ON K2T 0K5, Canada

If you’re looking for outlet shopping, try this popular shopping location. With over 70 high-end stores, you can pretty much get a lot of high-quality items. 

But that’s not the best thing about this location. The main reason why people go here is because of the discounted prices. 

Brands such as Coach, Michael Kors, and Calvin Klein offer plenty of great discounts, and this gives you a good chance of getting your dream brand! 

If you’re a fan of high-end brands, this is a must-visit location for you! 

St. Laurent Centre

St. Laurent Centre

Address: 1200 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1K 3B8, Canada

This shopping mall is located in the east end of Ottawa and features over 180 stores, including H&M, Forever 21, and Hudson’s Bay. 

Without a doubt, it is a great destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

What are the top performing arts venues in Ottawa?

Ottawa is home to a vibrant arts scene, one you definitely want to see regardless if you’re an art aficionado or not. Below are some of the most popular art venues in Ottawa. 

National Arts Centre1 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1, Canada
Shenkman Arts Centre245 Centrum Blvd, Orléans, ON K1E 0A1, Canada
Centrepointe Theatres101 Centrepointe Dr, Nepean, ON K2G 5K7, Canada
Ottawa Little Theatre400 King Edward Ave, Ottawa, ON K1N 7M7, Canada
Gladstone Theatre910 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6Y4, Canada
Great Canadian Theatre Company1233 Wellington St W, Ottawa, ON K1Y 0G7, Canada

National Arts Centre (NAC)

National Arts Centre (NAC)

Address: 1 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1, Canada

One of Ottawa’s world-renowned attractions, the National Arts Center is a performing arts venue located in the heart of downtown Ottawa. It is one of the largest and most prestigious performing arts centers in Canada.  

It hosts a variety of performances, ranging from theater and dance to music and spoken word. 

Shenkman Arts Center

Shenkman Arts Center

Address: 245 Centrum Blvd, Orléans, ON K1E 0A1, Canada

This venue hosts a diverse range of programs throughout the year, including theater, dance, music, visual arts, and family-friendly performances. 

Shenkman Arts Center also serves as a community gathering space, offering workshops and classes in a variety of arts disciplines. 

The facility also includes a gallery space for visual arts exhibitions, a bistro, and outdoor spaces for events and performances.

Centrepointe Theaters

Centrepointe Theaters

Address: 101 Centrepointe Dr, Nepean, ON K2G 5K7, Canada

Located in the Nepean district of Ottawa, Centrepointe Theatres is a performing arts complex that hosts several programs such as theater, music, dance, comedy, and family-friendly performances. 

In terms of size, the main stage of the theater is the largest proscenium arch theater in Ottawa and is equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.

Ottawa Little Theater

Ottawa Little Theater

Address: 400 King Edward Ave, Ottawa, ON K1N 7M7, Canada

Founded in 1913, the Ottawa Little Theater is one of the oldest community theaters in Canada and has a long history of producing quality theatrical productions. 

The venue produces a wide variety of plays throughout the year, including classics, contemporary works, and original plays by Canadian playwrights. 

True to its name, OLT is also committed to fostering young talent and runs a youth program that provides training and performance opportunities for aspiring young actors.

Gladstone Theatre

Gladstone Theatre

Address: 910 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6Y4, Canada

The Gladstone Theatre is a historic theater located in the Little Italy neighborhood of Ottawa. Built in 1919 as a movie theater, the Gladstone has since been restored and converted into a performing arts venue. 

Similar to other theaters, Gladstone Theatre features shows such as theater, music, dance, comedy, and film screenings. It also serves as a community gathering space, hosting a variety of events and workshops. 

A non-profit organization runs the place, and local artists and community organizations are largely responsible for its programs.

Great Canadian Theatre Company

Great Canadian Theatre Company

Address: 1233 Wellington St. W, Ottawa, ON K1Y 0G7, Canada

The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) is a professional theater company that was founded in 1975. It is committed to producing Canadian works and promoting Canadian artists, with a focus on contemporary theater. 

The GCTC stands out compared to other theaters for having a much more diverse selection of shows. These include world premieres, classic plays, and experimental works. 

It is committed to engaging with its audience and often hosts post-show discussions and events to facilitate dialogue and community building. 

The theater also offers a range of educational programs, including workshops, master classes, and internships for emerging artists. 

Now that we’ve talked about Ottawa’s incredible theaters, allow me to give you a taste of Ottawa’s nightlife. 

What is the nightlife like in Ottawa?

Ottawa has a lively nightlife scene, with plenty of options for entertainment after dark. Bars, clubs, live music, comedy clubs, casinos, late-night eats, and evening cultural events are the main highlights that you can expect in the city. 

Bars and Clubs

Bars and Clubs

Ottawa has many bars and clubs that cater to different tastes in music, ambiance, and crowds. The Byward Market area is a popular destination for nightlife, with numerous bars and nightclubs within walking distance of each other. 

Other areas that are known for their nightlife scene include Elgin Street, Bank Street, and the Glebe.

Live Music

Live Music

Ottawa has a thriving live music scene, with many venues hosting performances by local and international artists. Some popular music venues in Ottawa include the National Arts Centre, Bluesfest, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the Rainbow Bistro.

Comedy Clubs 

Comedy Clubs

Ottawa has several comedy clubs, including Absolute Comedy and Yuk Yuk’s, where you can catch stand-up comedy performances. If you want to get a good laugh, make sure to book tickets to some shows!



If you’re feeling lucky, you can visit the Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino to see if you can win it big. The casino offers slot machines, table games, and live entertainment.

As a friendly reminder, do remember to gamble with money that you are willing to lose.

Late-Night Eats

Late-Night Eats

After a night out, you may want to grab a bite to eat. Ottawa has many late-night dining options, including shawarma restaurants, poutine stands, and all-night diners.

Evening Cultural Events 

Evening Cultural Events

Ottawa hosts many cultural events throughout the year, including the Ottawa International Animation Festival, the Ottawa International Film Festival, and the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, among others. 

These events often have evening programs that can add to the city’s nightlife scene.

Overall, Ottawa’s nightlife has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a night of dancing, live music, or a laid-back evening with friends.

Next, let’s talk about some of Ottawa’s best outdoor activities. 

What are the best outdoor activities to do in Ottawa?

Ottawa is a city with many opportunities for outdoor activities like biking, hiking, boating, winter sports, golfing, and picnicking. 


With an extensive network of bike paths, Ottawa definitely qualifies as a great city for biking. This is personally one of my favorite ways of getting around the city when I want to save on gas and get some exercise.

If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry! You can rent one and explore the city on your own, or join a guided bike tour along with other tourists.


Another one of my favorite activities here in Ottawa is hiking. The reason why I love it so much is because of the surrounding scenery offered by the beautiful parks and conservation areas. 

There are over 165 kilometers of hiking trails that you can choose from with varying degrees of difficulty. Several trails can be found within the city, including the Rideau Trail, which runs through Ottawa.


It’s no secret that locals consider the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal to be some of the most breathtaking views in the city. For that reason, you should explore it yourself! 

It offers opportunities for boating, kayaking, and more. If you decide that you want to tour the rivers, you can rent a kayak or canoe and explore the waterways on your own, or join a guided tour.

Winter Sports

In the winter, Ottawa is transformed into a winter wonderland, with opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. The Rideau Canal Skateway is the world’s largest skating rink, offering over 7 kilometers of ice skating.


Want a relaxing sport that also allows plenty of opportunity for you to just chat with friends and family? Give Ottawa’s golfing scene a try. 

It has several excellent golf courses, including the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, which has hosted several Canadian Opens.


Ottawa has many beautiful parks and green spaces, including Major’s Hill Park and Confederation Park. These parks are perfect for picnicking and relaxing in the sun.

What is the food scene like in Ottawa?

Ottawa has a diverse and exciting food scene that reflects the city’s multicultural population and a strong focus on local and sustainable ingredients. Here are some of the highlights of Ottawa’s food scene.

Local and Seasonal Ingredients

Ottawa chefs and restaurateurs have a strong focus on using local and seasonal ingredients in their dishes, which helps to support local farmers and producers and ensures that diners can enjoy fresh and flavorful meals.


Many restaurants in Ottawa follow the farm-to-table approach, sourcing their ingredients directly from local farms and markets. This approach ensures that diners can enjoy meals that are both delicious and sustainable.

Multicultural Cuisine

Ottawa’s diverse population is reflected in its culinary scene, with a wide range of international cuisines represented. You can find everything from Lebanese shawarma to Vietnamese pho to Jamaican jerk chicken in Ottawa’s restaurants.

Craft Beer and Wine

Ottawa has a thriving craft beer and wine scene, with many local breweries and wineries producing high-quality beverages. You can find everything from hoppy IPAs to rich red wines in the city’s bars and restaurants.

Food Festivals

Ottawa hosts several food festivals throughout the year, including the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival, the Ottawa Greek Festival, and the Ottawa Ribfest. 

These festivals showcase the city’s culinary diversity and provide opportunities to sample a wide range of dishes.

Cafes and Bakeries

Ottawa is also home to many cozy cafes and bakeries serving up delicious coffee and pastries. These spots are perfect for a quick breakfast or lunch, or for enjoying a leisurely afternoon with friends.

What is Ottawa’s local cuisine known for?

Ottawa’s local cuisine is known for its diverse influences, reflecting the city’s multicultural population and history. Some of Ottawa’s most known food items are its BeaverTails, Poutine, Shawarma, Maple Syrup, and Game Meat.



No, it’s not the chopped tail of a beaver, despite what its name might suggest. BeaverTails are a famous Ottawa treat that comes in the form of a sweet pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail, hence its name. 

It is topped with a variety of toppings like cinnamon sugar, Nutella, or maple butter. This is a certified favorite treat of Ottawan locals everywhere! 



A Quebec specialty, poutine is a dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It has become popular across Canada, and Ottawa is no exception. 

There are several restaurants in the city that specialize in this classic dish. Make sure to give these crunch and cheesy fries a try! 



Ottawa has a large Middle Eastern population, and as a result, shawarma has become a popular street food in the city. It is a sandwich made with grilled meat, vegetables, and sauces, served in a pita or wrap.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Canada is known for its maple syrup, and Ottawa is no exception. Many local farms produce maple syrup, and it is a popular ingredient in local dishes, like maple-glazed salmon or maple sugar pie.

Game Meat

Game Meat

Because of the forests and wilderness areas that surround Ottawa, it is a great place for hunting and fishing. Game meats like venison, elk, and wild boar are commonly used in local dishes like game meat stew or grilled venison.

What are the top festivals and events to attend in Ottawa?

In Ottawa, you will want to attend the Winterlude, Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Canada Day, Ottawa International Animation Festival, and the Christmas Light Across Canada. 



Where: Downtown Ottawa

When: February

Winterlude is a winter festival that takes place over three weekends in February. Though the exact dates tend to vary from year to year. 

The festival is typically held in the downtown area. These areas include Ottawa’s Confederation Park, the Rideau Canal Skateway, and other nearby locations.

During Winterlude, visitors can enjoy a wide range of winter activities. You can skate on the Rideau Canal, North America’s longest skating rink, as well as snow sculptures, ice slides, and other winter sports. 

There are also food vendors, live music performances, and cultural activities celebrating Ottawa’s diverse communities.

Canadian Tulip Festival

Canadian Tulip Festival

Where: Commissioners Park

When: May

The Canadian Tulip Festival takes place in May and celebrates the city’s Dutch heritage. Come and join thousands of people as they admire the beauty of Ottawa’s signature flower. 

Besides the tulip displays, the festival features a variety of cultural activities. You can find music performances and art exhibitions, and traditional Dutch food and crafts. 

You can also take part in guided tours of the tulip beds, as well as special events for children and families.

Ottawa International Jazz Festival

Ottawa International Jazz Festival

Where: Different venues across the city (Confederation Centre, National Arts Centre, etc.)

When: Late June to early July

The Ottawa International Jazz Festival is a must-attend event for music lovers. It is a 10-day event that takes place in June and features some of the world’s best jazz musicians, as well as other genres such as blues, funk, and world music. 

Performances take place at several venues throughout the city, including Confederation Park. Other locations such as the National Arts Centre and local clubs are included here too.

In addition to musical performances, the festival also features workshops, masterclasses, and other educational events for musicians and music fans. 

There are also food and drink vendors, as well as a merchandise market featuring jazz-related items.

Canada Day

Canada Day

Where: Parliament Hill

When: July 1

During the 1st of July, you can take part in the country’s national holiday along with thousands of Ottawans. The festivities in Ottawa typically last all day and into the evening. 

The main events are centered around Parliament Hill, where you can find outdoor concerts and food vendors.

Major’s Hill Park, Confederation Park, and the Canadian Museum of History are also venues for celebration. These areas typically feature live music, cultural performances, and fireworks displays.

Ottawa International Animation Festival

Ottawa International Animation Festival

Where: ByTowne Cinema (Other venues are added for specific events and screenings)

When: Between September and October

The Ottawa Animation Festival is one of the largest animation festivals in North America. and it attracts animators, filmmakers, and animation fans from around the world. 

The festival features a wide range of animated shorts, features, and series. There are also special events such as workshops, panel discussions, and masterclasses here.

The festival also functions as an industry marketplace for opportunities. If you are an attendee that wants to network, pitch projects, and showcase your work, this is the place. for you! 

The festival’s mission is to celebrate the art of animation and promote it as a medium for storytelling, creativity, and innovation.

Christmas Lights Across Canada

Christmas Lights Across Canada

Where: Parliament Hill and Confederation Boulevard

When: December to early January

The Christmas Lights Across Canada is a festive event that takes place from early December to early January. The city is illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights, and there are a number of outdoor activities and events to enjoy.

The main locations for Christmas Lights Across Canada in Ottawa are Parliament Hill and Confederation Boulevard, which include several key landmarks in the city. 

The lights are usually turned on each evening at around dusk and remain on until 11:00 p.m.

In addition to the lights, Christmas Lights Across Canada also features a variety of other activities and events that you don’t want to miss. 

These may include live music performances, outdoor markets, and special winter activities such as ice skating on the Rideau Canal.

These are just a few of the many festivals and events that take place in Ottawa throughout the year. No matter what time of year you visit, there is always something exciting happening in Canada’s capital city.

Insider Tips for Experiencing the Best of Ottawa

Ottawa is a vibrant and welcoming city that offers a wide range of experiences for visitors and locals alike. Here are some ways to experience the best of Ottawa’s lifestyle:

1. Explore the city’s museums and galleries.

Ottawa is home to a variety of museums and galleries that showcase the city’s rich history and culture. The Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Nature are just a few of the must-visit destinations.

2. Enjoy the outdoors.

Ottawa is surrounded by natural beauty, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Take a stroll along the Rideau Canal, go for a bike ride in Gatineau Park, or paddle the Ottawa River.

3. Attend a festival or event.

Ottawa hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, ranging from Winterlude in February to the Ottawa International Animation Festival in September. 

These events showcase the city’s cultural diversity and provide a chance to connect with the local community.

4. Try the local cuisine.

Ottawa’s food scene is diverse and delicious, with a range of local and international cuisines to choose from. Be sure to try the city’s famous BeaverTails, poutine, and shawarma.

5. Shop at the local stores.

Ottawa has a variety of unique boutiques, markets, and shops that offer one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. Check out the ByWard Market, the Glebe neighborhood, or the Parkdale Market for some of the best local shopping experiences.

6. Attend a sporting event.

Ottawa is home to several professional sports teams, including the Ottawa Senators (NHL), the Ottawa Redblacks (CFL), and the Ottawa Fury (USL). Catching a game is a great way to experience the city’s passion for sports.

These are some of my personal experiences making the most of Ottawa’s lifestyle. With its mix of cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, and local flavors, I am sure you will enjoy this city as I do.