Ottawa's summer smorgasbord lures culture vultures

Ottawa is a most attractive summertime vacation destination for a weekend or longer. Photo: Notre Dame Basilica

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2012 — Washington D.C. isn’t North America’s only national capital with plenty of summertime diversions for visitors. Right now, Canada’s Ottawa has events, sites and exhibitions for guests, including faith travelers and other culture vultures.

Thanks to affordable airfares by Porter Airlines out of Washington Dulles and other cities, Ottawa is a most attractive summertime vacation destination for a weekend or longer. An added bonus is that this picturesque city is bisected by the Rideau Canal.

The Ottawa Chamberfest is one of the world’s largest chamber music festivals with events and musical styles on the city’s calendar from July 26 through August 9, including an array of offerings from string to Creole sounds with many city churches providing the platforms.

Through September 3, the magnificent Canadian Museum of Civilization offers the “God(s) A User’s Guide, an exhibition from Europe that explores the diversity and similarities among contemporary religious practices.

Also in this museum is St. Onuphrius Church, a Ukrainian church originally from Smoky Lake, Alberta, which was constructed 1907 and was in use until the 1930s when many Eastern Europeans immigrated to Canadian prairielands. The church was then donated by the congregation and reassembled by the museum, complete with ritual objects, décor and furnishings.

Rideau Canal lit on a summer night

While you’re in the museum, be sure to see the First Nations totem poles, prehistoric weapons, textiles and tools of 16th-century New France, otherwise known today as Quebec as well as other North American areas the French colonized in the 16th through the 18th centuries.

Ottawa’s don’t-miss stops for faith travelers also include the Rideau Street Convent Chapel inside the National Gallery of Canada . The chapel was part of a teaching convent and was saved in 1972 from demolition to be reconstructed in the gallery. Dating back to 1887, its marbled cast-iron columns, altars, balcony, windows, and soaring fan vaults are unique examples of Canadian ecclesiastical architecture. Through August 26, Janet Cardiff’s 40 voices of recorded choir music in the space sets a spiritual mood.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is Ottawa’s oldest standing and largest church. Located across the street from the National Gallery, its early 19 th century construction took 40 years to complete. The interior was finished later, and though it resembles marble, it’s actually painted wood. This church is one of five in Ottawa, which display the award-winning creativity of stained glass master artist Guido Nicheri, who was honored by Pope Pius XI in 1933 for his work.

Byward Market offers shops and restaurants

Elsewhere on the culture grid, visitors to Ottawa can stroll the grounds of Parliament Hill and watch the morning Changing of the Guard. One of Canada’s oldest food stops is ByWard Market. It’s been a fixture since 1826 and its 260 stalls serve up a variety of meat, seafood, and prepared foods. It is also home to over 80 restaurants, pubs, and dessert stops.

For outdoors activities anytime of year, there’s the Rideau Canal. Summertime brings tour boats with guides who narrate the city’s heritage and features while cyclists cover nearly 100 miles of trail bordering the canal. In the cold months, the frozen canal becomes an ice rink for both recreation and transport.

Read more of Ruth Hill’s travel columns in Contemporary Christian Travel in the Washington Times Communities.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill writes for magazines and newspapers about the business and pleasures of travel. Read more about her views and news of Christian heritage travel around the world at

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