A capital time in only a day

Anyone planning a longer visit to Ottawa should investigate the Ottawa Museum Passport. It costs...

Anyone planning a longer visit to Ottawa should investigate the Ottawa Museum Passport. It costs $30 per person -- $75 for a family of up to five with a maximum of two adults -- and is good for seven days. (Ottawa Tourism)

DOUG ENGLISH - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

You can't do Ottawa justice in 24 hours but I made a stab at it.

A flight from London, Ont., got me there in 90 minutes, and by 4 p.m. I was admiring the view of the Parliament Buildings from my hotel.

It was late May. The tulips were finished but Senators flags were everywhere in preparation for the Stanley Cup.

The weather had turned summery, and in a cold-climate city like the nation's capital that appears to be all the excuse folks need to peel off their parkas and start drinking the patio bars dry.

A lot of the action is in Byward Market, a four-square-block neighbourhood with something like 120 places to eat and drink. Located in the heart of downtown, it attracts a big chunk of the after-work crowd and a pile of tourists and convention-goers as well.

A tourism contact offered to guide me to Chez Lucien, on Murray St.

"Best burger in town and a free jukebox,'' she enthused.

En route, she led me through a complex she called The Irish Village, four pubs under one roof, with big-screen TVs and savvy servers, making it a good place to watch Sens games.

At 9 the next morning I was at the building I most wanted to tour, the new Canadian War Museum. The museum is not, as I had assumed, mostly about World War I and II. It spans 5,000 years, and wandering from gallery to gallery you find references to conflicts you probably wouldn't have thought about, such as rare archival film footage of Canadians fighting in the Boer War in South Africa.

You can see Hitler's limousines, the pistol issued to John McCrae, the Guelph surgeon who composed In Flanders Fields at Ypres, and a mockup of a trench in which you can look through a periscope and watch WWI footage.

The museum integrates exhibits, artifacts, videos, art and quotes from Canadians who actually fought. This one, about Vimy, stuck with me: "It's just Hell with the lid off.''

I took a National Capital Commission pathway from the museum part way downtown, then lined up with tourists from Ohio to go to the top of the 92-metre-tall Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

The National Gallery does a free guided tour at 2 p.m. Since I was the only one who signed up, the docent asked if I had any preferences. I mentioned the Group of Seven, and spent the next hour immersed in Canadian art.

Anyone planning a longer visit to Ottawa should investigate the Ottawa Museum Passport. It costs $30 per person -- $75 for a family of up to five with a maximum of two adults -- and is good for seven days.

Tip: Do the Parliament Buildings tour in the evening and to avoid the crowd that tries to do it after watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony in the morning.

If you arrive in Ottawa by air, YOW Airporter does hotel dropoffs for $14 one way, $22 return. Visit yowshuttle.com.

Many of Ottawa's major attractions are within walking distance of downtown hotels. Those that aren't can be reached by OC Transpo, Ottawa's public transit service. Visit octranspo.com.

Ottawa Tourism has loads of brochures. Call 1-800-363-4465 or see ottawatourism.ca.


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