Canada tourist advice please?
April 24, 2006 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm from the UK and I'm going to Canada next week (Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa). I asked earlier, about Montreal but our plans have now expanded to other cities... So, what shouldn't I miss? Of course, there's...

We've got a couple of days in Montreal, a couple of days in Quebec, then a week in Ottawa. In the middle there are some un-planned days - so we might do more of Montreal or Quebec if we want, or we might go off somewhere else. Probably getting about by public transport but we can hire a car if there's something really cool we should see.
posted by handee to Travel & Transportation around Canada (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've stayed in Quebec City for 4 months a few years ago.
I don't know if it's whale season yet, but when you're in Quebec City it's "only" a few hours drive (3? 4?) to Tadoussac, where in summer you can see all kinds of whales. It might be too early for them, though.
Much closer to the city is Montmorency falls (Chute Montmorency).
Downtown is the battlefields park and the lower city.
posted by easternblot at 7:17 AM on April 24, 2006

Well both Ottawa and Montreal are in the NHL (Ice Hockey) playoffs at the moment, what better way to experience a uniquely Canadian cultural atmosphere than a Canadiens game at the Bell Centre or a Sens game in Kanata? It might cost a pretty penny or two though.
posted by loquax at 7:18 AM on April 24, 2006

Also, if you're into casinos, Montreal has a nice-ish one (for Canada) down by the lake on the Expo grounds. Ottawa also has a nice one nearby in Hull. Funny, I lived in both cities for a time and can't for the life of me think of what to suggest. Are you looking for sightseeing/touristy things, or where to eat and drink, that sort of thing too?
posted by loquax at 7:24 AM on April 24, 2006

What are your interests? Art? Music? Beer? Erotic comfort?
posted by Jairus at 7:28 AM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: Loquax - thanks for the advice. The NHL thing sounds way cool. I guess I should have been a bit more specific in my question. I'm after recommendations of food + drink as well as sightseeing things - bars/music/food... you name it. Any cool jazz places, for example?
posted by handee at 7:29 AM on April 24, 2006

Since you'll be mostly in and around Quebec, try and catch some breakfast at a Cora's sometime. They have these huge belgian waffles that are covered with a mountain of whatever sort of fresh fruits you want, and it is possibly the best thing to wake up to, ever. I always go whenever I'm in Ottawa or Montreal.
posted by patr1ck at 7:41 AM on April 24, 2006

Best answer: Check out this horrible page for weekly listings of Jazz events here in Ottawa. We have a pretty talented jazz/blues scene here, all things considered, and one of the main venues (The Vineyard's) is a fantastic restaurant/bar on it's own, with the biggest (and best) beer and wine selection I've seen.

For food, there are a number of bigger restaurants of some fame (Beckta, Wilfrid's), but I prefer smaller places myself. Caribbean Flavours has the best jerk chicken, goat, and kingfish in the known universe. Elgin Street Diner is a 24-hour greasy spoon, famous for their four-cheese poutine. If you have no idea what poutine is, then you need to go, and you need to order it. Having poutine is a legal requirement of visiting the country.

We have a number of very good museums for sightseeing, depending on what subjects interest you. Additionally, parliament offers free tours on a near-daily basis, and if you're interested in architecture or stonework, I highly recommend it.

We also have the usual smattering of small theatre houses, galleries, experimental arts, and so on. Let me know if you're interested in any of this, and you'd like more detail.
posted by Jairus at 7:41 AM on April 24, 2006

Best answer: Oh heck yes, Montreal has good jazz places. I'll let you in on a secret... there's this weekly email list for the best 'avant-garde' jazz shows here, and pretty much every time I go to something they list, it's incredible. Email to subscribe to it, and I assure you you'll turn up a good jazz show to go to while you're here.

In general, places to see interesting jazz:
Casa del Popolo
**Casa Obscura (my personal favourite)
Le va et vient
O Patro Vys

Have fun!
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:54 AM on April 24, 2006

Oh, and if you're in the neighbourhood between the 18th and 22nd of May, there's the Victoriaville festival, which I've heard is always pretty amazing.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:55 AM on April 24, 2006

Ottawa has a wonderful network of bike paths. I recommend renting a bike and riding along the Rideau Canal.
posted by chrisch at 7:59 AM on April 24, 2006

A week in Ottawa and only a couple days in Montreal? I'd swap those if possible (unless of course you're doing the family thing in Ottawa). Ottawa is nice, but it's no Montreal.
posted by Gortuk at 8:24 AM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: Gortuk - well guessed. The family are in Ottawa.
posted by handee at 8:29 AM on April 24, 2006

If you are interested in the hockey games, I would book tickets in advance. If you book tickets to games 4-7, you might be out of luck (with the money refunded) if the games are not played (best of 7 series). The Quebec Ramparts are also playing minor-league playoff games in Quebec City, which should be much cheaper.
posted by loquax at 8:31 AM on April 24, 2006

Don't miss the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. It's really very, very cool. It's the capital city, so there's a ton of stuff to do - the Mint, the National Gallery, Parliament, constant shows and concerts at the National Arts Center, etc. But of all of them, the one I love the most is the Museum of Civilization.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2006

Best answer: Ottawa is relatively speaking a dull government town. That being said there are lots of museums. The top three would be the new War Museum, the Museum of Civilization, and the national Art Gallery, all located close to the downtown core.

Barwise, Ottawa is awash in recreated english and irish pubs, and you can't throw a stick without hitting one. is what I would call "alternative-friendly" rather than truly alternative; it has dancing every night after 11pm (though dead on many weekdays) and live events of varying calibre from 9-11 about half the week. has non-techno dancing and local-national concert events, Go to Surface (no link) for after-hours (2am+) raving, for blues, for blues or jazz, though there are others, and the quality of the show really depends on who's playing.

If you're going to Ottawa, you really need to spend some time outdoors, especially in Gatineau Park. Weather is hit or miss at this time of year, alternating between rainy and sunny, between highs of 5 and 25 degrees Celsius depending on the day, but you're likely to get a good day in some time. Unless you're into a 50+km round-trip bike ride into hills, you'll want a car.

Restaurants depend on how much you want to spend and what your tastes run to. There are fantastic places like and as well as a variety of Italian, thai, chinese, moroccan, ethiopian and sushi places. If you could be more specific I could float a few suggestions.
posted by cardboard at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2006

Definitely seconding the Museum of Civilization. And Ottawa and Montreal are equally nice (as is Quebec City, from what I've heard); each has its virtues.
posted by rmm at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2006

Zaphod Beeblebrox is what I would call "alternative-friendly" rather than truly alternative;

If you show up on a Tuesday, come by the DJ booth and I'll buy you a drink. Tuesday's a very 'alternative' night, however, so be prepared for a very 'alternative' crowd.
posted by Jairus at 9:52 AM on April 24, 2006

Best answer: Some things to do in towns near Ottawa:

In Carp is the Diefenbunker, a Cold War museum built in a huge underground nuclear bunker. It is really quite impressive. Whether you find it hilarious or disturbing, I think it's the most worthwhile and memorable museum in Ottawa. Be sure to call ahead to reserve a tour.

In Munster is Saunders Farm, where they have about a dozen hedge mazes. A fun way to spend an afternoon, but it looks like they don't open till late June.

In Smiths Falls is the Hershey Factory. The production floor and its river of chocolate isn't much like Roald Dahl imagined it, but the important part is the discount bulk chocolate at the end.

As others mentioned, the pathways near the canal and rivers are nice for biking (you can rent bikes near the Chateau Laurier). The Gatineau Hills are nice for hiking (or biking, if you like hills).
posted by blue grama at 10:55 AM on April 24, 2006

Best answer: In Montreal:

Don't miss the Biodome. When I lived in Montreal all of my guests went to the Biodome. On one hand you have monkeys and penguins, and on the other you have a bunch of distinctly Canadian ecosystems. The associated Botanical Gardens won't be in bloom yet, and Old Montreal might be a bit empty this early.

That said, whenever I'm back in Montreal, it's for the food and the shopping more than the sights.

In Ottawa:

I can't figure out the exact dates from what you wrote, but you might be here during the Tulip Festival, when Parliament Hill and the parks are in bloom and there are all sorts of cultural and musical events going on.

There are decent Ottawa restaurant reviews at Restaurant Thing, keeping in mind that the absence of reviews for a restaurant can mean that the owners made the site take the reviews down.

The War Museum is serious, sobering, and excellent. Pace yourself if you go; there's a lot of early-Canada stuff that ended up tiring me out before I got to the 20th-century conflicts. The Aviation Museum is neat if that's your thing, but I find the Museum of Science and Technology to be aimed a bit young.

When you're visiting Parliament Hill, take the tour that goes up the Peace Tower. And visit the cats!

(There's also a casino in both Ottawa and Montreal if that's your thing.)
posted by mendel at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

In Ottawa the Manx Pub is great food and, just north a couple blocks on the same street -- Elgin Street -- you'll want to have some great gelato at Pure Gelato. And Ceylonta restaurant has great Sri Lankan food and a totally affordable and delicious lunch buffet....
posted by rumbles at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: Jairus - unfortunately the Tuesday night is the one night I know the family have plans for us. Otherwise I'd be well up for a trip to zaphod beeblebrox! Oh well...
posted by handee at 12:12 AM on April 28, 2006

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