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Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Sheffield
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Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi - I've finally sorted out my itinerary for my trip to Canada in August & am now looking for some ideas for must-see places in each of the relevant cities, as well as ideas about areas to stay.

We will be 2 females travelling without a car and so we will be relying on public transport to get about. With this in mind, what things do you think we should definitely see & where are the best areas we should stay.

During our visit we will have either 1 or 2 full days in Quebec. Is 1 full day (that is 3 nights) enough to see the key parts of the city? I dont know much about Ottawa but as the capital I want to see the major places. I've also read that you can take a short cruise on the Rideau. Can you suggest who does this & whether we would need to book in advance? With only a short amount of time in Ottawa we really want to make the most of the time we have there.

We will be flying from Toronto to Ottawa and then flying on to Quebec. I'd appreciate any advice about transfers to & from the airport as well.

Any help would be much appreciated. :)

Ottawa, Canada
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1. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

Welcome to the OTTAWA (Canada's Capital City Region) TRAVEL FORUM

Would love to help you with your Ottawa Plans... but truly need more information.

How long do you have for your Ottawa visit? (ie Arriving Tuesday a Noon... flying out Thursday at 9 AM)

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

PS... Flying between cities in Ontario & Quebec... is certainly more timely (Toronto to Ottawa is aprox 1 Hour Fight... and Ottawa to Quebec City about the same)... but also A LOT more EXPEN$IVE... most Canadians use the Train or Bus for such treks... also gets you downtown to downtown vs way out the burbs where most airports are located (again more money for transportation)... and hours wasted on Airport Commute - Check-In - Security etc... can easily equal out to the time spent using just ground transportation... and at a significant saving... something to think about if your flights aren't cast in solid stone.

Sheffield
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2. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Thanks for your reply. Our plan at the moment is to get a flight which arrives at lunchtime & to then have a whole day in Ottawa (or perhaps 2 days) before leaving in the morning on the next day. So we will arrive on a Wednesday and leave on the Saturday.

I've been looking at a few hotels and the Lord Elgin sounds good & looks quite reasonable when we divide the costs between us. Would welcome any feedback on the hotel & whether it's location is good.

Also, how long would it take us to get from the airport?

(The flight from Toronto is actually cheaper than the train, hence why we decided to fly. It is also quicker so we thought would be less stressful & give us a little more time in both cities)

Edited: 09 May 2011, 16:39
Ottawa, ON
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3. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

The Lord Elgin has a terrific location. It's been around 70 years and has always had a good reputation, but you can check the recent reviews in the hotel review part of TA.

It's about a half hour from the airport to the city centre. The airport website covers the options well. Interestingly, the city bus - route 97 - is almost as fast as taxis or hotel shuttles because it operates on a dedicated right-of-way (the Transitway) for 90% of the journey and gets you within a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The city buses are on the far right when you exit the terminal. $3.25 cash, $2.50 using tickets.

Ottawa, Canada
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4. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

Thank you for the additional info…

You will want 2 FULL DAYS for Ottawa… so as to take in the sights and get a real feel for the city.

The Lord Elgin is a good choice… it is considered one of the BIG 3 when it comes to the most ideal of locations… sort of at the cross-roads of the Downtown Touristy area. The other 2 BEST Located Hotels would be the Chateau Laurier of The Westin.

But truly staying just about anywhere in the Downtown area… and you’ll have no issues getting around.

As always, I suggest that Visitors to our City use an On-Line Mapping Program (I like GOOGLE MAPS) so as to become more familiar with the Destination before you get here. GOOGLE MAPS has some great features… besides calculating times & distances for vehicles… in the Close-Up Mode it can do the same for Walking – Cycling – and Public Transit options as well. And the Satellite and Street Views are incredible ways to get a real feel for the lay-of-the-land of a City before you ever arrive.

Ottawa is a very walkable city, and the Downtown Touristy area is aprox 15 Blocks x 25 Blocks (Bronson to King Edward x Patrick to Catherine)… and Confederation Square (corner of Wellington & Elgin) is right at the heart of it all…

Getting around on foot for the most part is quite easy… as well OC Transpo (City Buses) do criss-cross the Downtown area as well… (East-West Transitway being Albert & Slater Streets) so getting anywhere else you might want to go, is relatively easy as well (ie Dow’s Lake – Little Italy – Westboro Village, etc)

Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is located at the Southern end of the City… aprox 10 Kms from the Downtown area (aprox 14 Kms by vehicle)… or about a 20 Minute ride.

Your options from the Airport to Downtown will be… Limo, Car Service, YOW Airport Shuttle, Cab, or taking an OC Transpo # 97 Bus (after exiting the Terminal you’ll find Bus # 97 at Post 14 to the right of the Terminal)

Ottawa Airport Authority (Ground Transportation) = ottawa-airport.ca/AirportServices/otherTrans…

As stated by my colleague RONW… Generally speaking the ride on the Bus # 97 will run your just a tad longer than taking a vehicle… say 30 Minutes vs 20 Minutes. But if it Rush Hour… or you don’t have oodles of luggage it is a good easy and cheap option… You will want to exit the Bus at the Albert & Metcalfe Stop and walk the 1 block back to Elgin.

For more info you should take a look at the OC Transpo Website… where you can look at the Route 97 Info or use the Travel Planner = http://www.octranspo1.com/?from=splash

As well OC offers a Discounted Day Pass… good info to have if your plans include travelling farther afield than just the Downtown Core… then having a Day Pass might come in handy = http://www.octranspo1.com/tickets-and-passes

<< The flight from Toronto is actually cheaper than the train, hence why we decided to fly. It is also quicker so we thought would be less stressful & give us a little more time in both cities >>

Hmmm, it is possible that you don’t have all the facts.

Firstly… Prices in Canada are quoted BEFORE Taxes… I took a quick look at Via Rail (Train) and Porter Air* (Plane) Fares for a Wednesday in August (I used August 10, 2011) and found out the following…

*NOTE – Porter is Eastern Canada’s great little regional airline… it flies out of the Toronto Island Airport… and uses STOL (Short Take Off & Landing) Aircraft… and generally is well priced… if there is a disadvantage to using them, it is that they don’t go to a lot of places, and is because Toronto is their “primary hub”… most flights with them will go via Toronto BEFORE going on to the city you may wish to get to ultimately.

Versus say our 2 National Airlines… Air Canada or WestJet that go a lot more Destinations… fly jets direct… BUT sadly their prices are usually quite EXPEN$IVE (Inter-City Transportation in Canada is not cheap).

The cheapest quoted airfare on the Porter Site is $ 69 for one-way to Ottawa from Toronto… BUT with all Taxes and Fees applied the FINAL TOTAL will be $ 133.48

(Porter is also quoting special base fares at $ 89, $ 139, and $ 189 as well as their Regular Fares at substantially more).

Via Rail, quotes their cheapest fare as an Economy (Coach) Special Fare also at $ 69.00 BUT as taxes & fees are much lower for Train Travel… the FINAL TOTAL will be $ 77.97 (or almost half-the-rate of flying). And depending on time of day the train ride will take between 4-1/4 Hours to 5 Hours.

Likewise Via’s Super Saver Fare listed at $ 86.00 becomes $ 97.18 with Taxes… their Discounted Fare listed at $ 109.00 becomes $ 123.17 and even a FULL Regular Fare listed at $ 128.00 is $ 144.64 with Taxes.

With both the Airports in Ottawa and Toronto they are outside of the city centre… and you’ll have to allow yourself considerable time to get to and fro… a drive in both cases of aprox 30 Minutes… so you’ll want to allow up to an hour for that (more if you have to get to an Airport during Rush Hour*)

*NOTE – If you are using Porter out of Toronto, then your buffer time can be considerably less… just a half-hour for transport from Downtown Toronto to Billy Bishop Field at the Toronto Island Airport

PLUS then there is the REQUIRED Two Hour allowance for Check-In prior to a Domestic Flight (again if you using Porter… then the time needed is less)

PLUS the flight itself is about 1 Hour… and then another Hour lost to disembarking, waiting for luggage, and making the commute to Downtown.

So all in all the process from Downtown Toronto to Downtown Ottawa can take some where in the zone of 3-1/2 to 6 Hours if flying… and depending on time of day and which Toronto Airport you’ll be using.

So between cost and time… this is why most Travellers between our two cities, just opt for the train… deciding that if they are looking at chewing up 5 to 6 Hours of their time anyways… then they might as well do so in a far more relaxing way than hustling to and from (and in) an Airport.

For more info see the relative websites…

Via Rail = www.viarail.ca

Porter Air = www.flyporter.com

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

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5. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

You've received some excellent advice above... but I didn't see an answer to your question in your original post regarding Rideau cruises. Just so you know, you definitely do NOT need to book this in advance... there are multiple companies offering various cruises, both on the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. Most originate a stones throw from the Lord Elgin Hotel, and are very well signed and easy to find. They run continually all day long, and you will have no trouble finding one to suit your schedule.

If the above posters haven't convinced you yet, I'll echo their comments and say if you are comfortable with the price at the Lord Elgin... then I would suggest to look no further and book it as soon has you have your dates.. It really is extremely central and couldn't be a more perfect base for exploring both by day and by night!

Sheffield
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6. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Thanks for all your answers, there's loads of information to help.

Thanks for the info about the train v plane issue. I would be perfectly happy to travel by train & that was my 1st choice because I thought it would be easier & cheaper. I will have another look into that. We are planning to do our journey from Quebec to Montreal by train but decided it was better to get to Quebec by plane because the train says it takes 9 hours!!

I'm encouraged by your comments on the Lord Elgin - it certainly looks nice. Do you think it is worth paying for full breakfast in any hotel, or is it easy to get breakfasts elsewhere?

Ottawa, Canada
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7. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Personally I find the breakfast buffets in hotels somewhat overpriced, but do succumb to the "indulgence" occasionally :)

That said... As long as you stay anywhere in the downtown area, I'm comfortable in saying you could find a suitable breakfast option within a 5-10 minute walk. Elgin St and the Byward market are full of restaurants of any variety.

Just an example... this popular place is a 5 minute walk from the Lord Elgin Hotel:

http://www.elginstreetdiner.com/

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8. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

"...from Quebec to Montreal by train but ...the train says it takes 9 hours!!"

Hi SheffieldMoon;

Montreal is only 157 miles / 253 km from Quebec City. The train ride is about 3 hours in duration.

http://www.viarail.ca/en

Best Regards

Sheffield
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9. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Sorry, I meant the train from Ottawa to Quebec takes several hours - that's why we thought it better to fly that part of the journey.

We are planning to do Quebec to Montreal as that was a reasonable amount of time.

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10. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

Great info here again from my colleagues, let me add some more.

TRAIN TRAVEL

Again, I suggest that you look at a map…

Toronto to Quebec City is indeed aprox 9 Hours… the train will run you aprox 6 Hours for the leg Toronto to Montreal, and then another 3 for the Montreal to Quebec leg (Total 9 Hours).

If you were to do it Toronto to Ottawa by train that is aprox 5 Hours… then Ottawa to Montreal 2 Hours… and Montreal to Quebec City another 3… (Total 10 Hours).

*NOTE - No matter which route you would choose… you’d have to change trains in Montreal (so there could be additional lay-over time).

Therefore, flying Ottawa to Quebec City does make a lot of sense… and on the return training back with a stop for say 2 Days in Montreal… before continuing on to Toronto.

For the most part there are a lot of advantages to the Train… Less Expensive, Less Hassle & Hustle and in most cases the Train has very convenient Downtown Locations (or in the worst case scenario just a 10 minute ride by cab or public transit)… whereas in all 4 cities, the Airports are way out in the burbs… so the commute to and from is much longer (bigger headache)

Via Rail in Canada sells out like a plane… the earlier you book the better the rates… walk-up rates are generally the worse… so as I explained in my post (Reply # 4) above they offer Special Fares – Super Saver Fares – Discounted Fares – and Regular Fares. The Special Fares being almost half-off of a Regular Fare.

Likewise in addition to Coach (Economy) they also have Via 1 (Business Class) Fares. These are much more expensive, but also include a meal. And are very popular with Business People making the trek between these major Canadian Cities… Business Class is a good value if you (a) Book Early to get the best pricing… again fare structure is similar to Coach (b) Travel over the Dinner Hour (the pricing is the same whether it is morning, noon or night)… Night time is the best deal, because you’ll have a great meal with the accompanying spirits (Pre-Dinner Cocktail – Wine with Dinner – After Dinner Digestif). I personally, am a BIG FAN of Via 1… and use it whenever I need to be in Toronto, and organize my plans so that I travel back to Ottawa at the end of the day. Via 1 is a very relaxing way to travel… and it has other perks… like the Via 1 Lounge, where you check-in at the Station… (FREE Coffee, Newspapers, Wifi etc) and so you don’t have to line up to board the Train (must say I hate this)… and you are pre-boarded. Overall Via 1 is a very civilized way to travel.

PLANE TRAVEL

Porter Air is Canada’s feisty little upstart Regional Airline… they are another very civilized way to travel… and with good pricing.

With their home-base being Billy Bishop Field at the Toronto Island Airport they offer a convenient spot (just 10 or so minutes from Downtown)… for Visitors to Toronto to catch a flight (and Business People… who make up a lot of their clientele as well).

As Porter is the ONLY Airline at the Toronto Island Airport… and it is an Island, Security is less of a problem… so the whole process is a lot more civilized from the get go… additionally they have built their Airline based on comfort. So nice waiting lounge, leather seating on the aircraft, audio & video comforts on the planes, drinks & snacks on-board etc. Very classy service.

Out of Toronto they fly to a lot of Destinations on the Eastern Seaboard… their mini-hubs are Ottawa – Montreal – Halifax… and additional Destinations include… Sault Ste Marie – Sudbury – Thunder Bay – and Windsor (all in Ontario)… as well as Mont Tremblant, Quebec (Winter Season) – Moncton, New Brunswick – and St. John’s, Newfoundland… to the USA = Chicago – Boston – NY City (Newark) – and Myrtle Beach (Summer Seasonal)

They are hoping to add more Destinations in 2011 and 2012

The downside to Porter is that the majority of their Flights go thru Toronto…. with only a few flights from the mini-hubs going onto another Destination without first going back to Toronto… so not always the most convenient routing.

SIGHTSEEING IN OTTAWA

Like other cities… Ottawa has several companies that provide Sightseeing Tours… because water is such a significant part of our landscape… junction of 3 Rivers… The Ottawa, Rideau & Gatineau as well as the head of the Rideau Canal there are also Sightseeing Cruises.

The Sightseeing Buses tour primarily the Downtown Touristy Core… with a focus on Confederation Blvd… that winds its way between Ottawa and the twinned city of Hull-Gatineau across the Ottawa River in the Province of Quebec. Additionally the Buses take in sights along the Rockcliffe Parkway – Queen Elizabeth Driveway – a wee bit of the Prince Of Wales Drive – and the Ottawa River Parkway

The Sightseeing Bus Tours are a GREAT way to see the City, get a feel for the lay of the land and hear a bit about the City’s History etc.

The Boat Tours run in two places… they happen on the Ottawa River and take in sights from Parliament Hill down river as far as the Prime Minister’s Residence and then return to their point of origin.

While the Rideau Canal Boats do the in-town portion of the Rideau Canal from the back of the National Arts Centre to Dow’s Lake and back. The Rideau Canal cruise is very relaxing and the narration tells the History of the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

BUT if you take a Sightseeing Bus Tour and the Rideau Canal Tour… they do overlap… as the Canal Tour is paralleled by Queen Elizabeth Driveway… so really nothing new to see.

Which is why I tell Travellers that if they want to purchase a Sightseeing Combo that they do the Sightseeing Bus and add-on the River Cruise instead… as you’ll see new things… and get a whole other perspective of the City… and also learn abit about what shaped this city and the history that made it the ideal location for a Capital City when chosen by Queen Victoria in the mid-1800s (sitting right at the Quebec-Ontario Border and so far inland from the US Border). Plus perhaps also hear abit about the mighty Ottawa River and how it was so important to the Fur Trade, the Lumber Industry, and the much sought after search for the Northwest Passage (it was from the Ottawa that French Explorers went on to map Canada’s North all the way to the Hudson Bay and the Arctic Circle).

On the other hand, the Rideau Canal is very accessible… one can walk, jog, bike or rollerblade along side on the paved pathways… OR one can visit the Dow’s Lake Pavilion and rent water craft… canoes, kayaks and peddle boats are all available. Floating on the Rideau Canal is a relaxing past-time.

If one has a car, and plans to be in the National Capital City Region for several days… then I encourage them to further explore the Rideau Canal & Waterway by driving out into the countryside to see what the Canal is like when it leaves the city… a combo of Rivers, Canal, Lakes and Locks… with some of the prettiest little towns along the way (ManotickMerrickvillePortlandWestport) and gorgeous spots to take in the scenic beauty or a short scenic day-cruise on the Rideau (ie Chaffey’s Lock to Jones Falls) or spend even longer on the water by renting a day-boat or houseboat.

As well there are Cruise Lines that operate longer overnight cruises on the Rideau during the Spring-Summer-Fall Season… some making the trek from Kingston to Ottawa (or reverse) while others take in a larger circle route that encompasses such Destinations as Kingston – 1000 Islands – Montreal – Ottawa River – Ottawa – Rideau Canal – Kingston and these can last up to 14 Days.

In all the above cases, there are several companies offering tours… In-town Bus Tours and Cruises Ticketing Locations can be found just off of Confederation Square

TA – OTTAWA – TRAVELLER ARTICLE entitled *Sightseeing Bus Tours* = tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g155004-c115034/Ottawa… (This article hasn’t been double-checked for the 2011 Season… will be done shortly…basic info however should still stand in the meantime)

TA – OTTAWA – TRAVELLER ARTICLE entitled *Sightseeing Cruises* = tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g155004-c115143/Ottawa…

Out-of-Town Marinas in Merrickville – Portland – and Westport are where the other smaller Tour Operators are based… large multi-day Cruises tend to be based in Kingston. For more info on cruising the out-of-town portion of the Rideau Canal see the Rideau Canal Waterway Info Website.

Rideau Canal Waterway Info (Rentals, Cruises & Tours) = www.rideau-info.com/canal/boat_rent.html

Activities on the Historic Rideau Canal & Lakes Waterway are popular with both Tourists & Locals alike… be it a skate in the wintertime (Longest Skating Rink in the world)… or a paddle or cruise in the summertime… farther inland and you’ll discover that the Rideau Lakes are line with cottages and gorgeous homes and day-boats, ski-boats, cruisers, sailboats and houseboats are a plenty. And in the summertime the route is popular with “Loopers”… those sailing the Great Loop from the Southern USA… from Florida via the Intra-Coastal Waterway & Canals up to Canada, along our Magnificent Rivers (St Lawrence & Ottawa) thru our Historic Canals (Rideau & Trent-Severn) to the Great Lakes, and then down the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico… this is one of the most incredible scenic routes in the world for sailing enthusiasts… so no telling while on the Rideau who’ll you meet !!

BREAKFAST

Unlike the USA… Not a large percentage of Hotels in Canada include Breakfast in their overnight rate. And generally speaking purchasing Breakfast in a Hotel is quite expensive. There are certainly a lot of options in the Downtown area for Breakfast… everything from a muffin, donut, danish, or Breakfast Bagel at Tim Hortons… thru to a Hot Breakfast at a local Diner… or a Full Breakfast experience at a place like Eggspectations or Cora’s (it all comes down to what you want and how much you have to spend for time & money… Coffee Shop – Quick Bites – Restaurants).

As you will be Downtown, and there truly is sooo much to choose from… knowing more about your “vision” here would be helpful in making suggestions that fit.

Hope this is helpful… if you need more info… just ask.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2