Ottawa is not exactly exotic but has a nice feel to it. A blend of Toronto and Montreal – many speak French (in addition to English of course) and it is crazy clean like Toronto. As the capital of Canada, there is government galore including Parliament Hill, embassies, diplomats, bureaucrats and other well meaning government employees. The outdoor cafes, the Byward Market, a selection of museums, the canal, etc. A very nice long weekend, especially in summer.
There is lots to see and do in Ottawa. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery of Canada are among 16 museums. There seems to be a festival every other weekend. The biggest annual party by far is for Canada Day on July 1st (as you would expect in the capital of the country). White Water Rafting is big business on the Ottawa River and a whole lot of fun. If you can brave the winter (and sometimes its not so tough), Winterlude (i.e. winter carnival) in February is the time to come, highlighted by skating on the frozen Rideau Canal. At anytime, the coolest spot in Ottawa has to be the Byward Market (located 2 blocks west of the canal and north of Rideau Street). It is in an easily walk-able area (a few square city blocks) filled with restaurants, bars, deli’s, bakeries, shops, fresh produce and flower stands etc. Something for everyone. There’s some funky pubs like the Auld Dubliner, the Blue Cactus, Pub 101 and more. Street performers on many weekends. The famous Canadian “Beaver Tail” (an over-sized flat donut with toppings) can be sampled right in the middle of Byward. But if you have a taste for fine baked goods, don’t miss Le Moulin de Provence (almost across the street). It’s the European style bakery where Barrack Obama stopped for cookies when he was in town. Their baked goods are worth the trip to Ottawa alone!
There is something just very comfortable about Ottawa. Like a pair of slippers or your favourite jeans. Hard to define but it just feels right.