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While Ottawa may be the capital of Canada, many people, especially those outside the country, don’t know much about it. Whether you live there now, are thinking about making a move, or just plan to visit, these are some awesome facts about Ottawa you might want to be familiar with.
It’s Home to the World’s Largest Naturally Frozen Skating Rink
The Rideau Canal is a 125-mile-long waterway connecting the city to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston, Ontario. One of Ottawa’s most popular and historic attractions, constructed in the early 19th-century, it’s central to life here. In the summer, it’s filled with boats of all kinds, but as soon as temperatures drop, it becomes the longest naturally frozen skating rink in the world, providing the ideal way for locals to skate to school or work while offering visitors a fun way to explore. You can glide across the entire frozen canal while stopping at snack stands along the way selling “beaver tails” (pastries topped with sugar and cinnamon) and hot cocoa.
It’s a City of Festivals
Ottawa hosts nearly three dozen festivals every year, including the Canadian Tulip Festival in May and the famous 18-day Winterlude Festival that starts in early February, with a focus around the frozen Rideau Canal. The festivities not only include lots of skating on the ice, but live music, a parade, and ice sculpture competition.
It’s a Great Place for Employment and Start-Up Companies
Canada’s capital is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the North. It’s home to more engineers, scientists, and PhDs per capita than any other city in the country. It also hosts more than 1,800 tech companies that employ over 76,000 people though many also find employment through the federal government, the city’s largest employer.
Winters are Cold
There’s no denying that the winters are cold in Ottawa. On December 28, 2017, the overnight temperature dropped to 20.2 degrees below Fahrenheit, colder than one of the world’s typically chilliest cities on average, Ulan Bator, Mongolia which experienced -14.8 Fahrenheit temperatures. But the cold just offers the perfect excuse to cozy up with the one you love, perhaps next to the warmth of a roaring fire, sipping hot chocolate and watching the flakes gently fall out your window. You can always bundle up and get out there and take advantage of the snow and ice, from ice skating and hockey to snowshoeing, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding and more.
Ottawa was Once Known as Bytown
You might hear some refer to Ottawa as Bytown, as that was its original name. It started out as a staging area for the construction of Rideau Canal in 1826 and within a year it had grown and was called Bytown after John By, the leader of the Royal Engineers who constructed the canal. Less than 30 years later, it was incorporated and changed to Ottawa – soon after Queen Victoria named it the capital of the province of Canada.
Now that you know these awesome facts about Ottawa, this city should not be missed on your travels through Canada. The historical buildings are amazing while the city is constantly evolving and modernizing. The people are as warm in winter as in summer, so don’t hesitate to see it, no matter what the time of year.
Annick, The Common Traveler