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6 Brutal Mistakes That Tourists Make When They Come To Visit Ottawa

Avoid these on your next visit.

Ottawa Staff Writer
Coffee and breakfast from Tim Hortons. Right: A Byward Market street in Ottawa.

Coffee and breakfast from Tim Hortons. Right: A Byward Market street in Ottawa.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Tourism is picking up across Canada, and the capital city is no exception. While Ottawa has this bad rap as a boring town, there are many fun things to do from epic hikes and waterfront adventures to outdoor festivals and fine dining restaurants. For real, it's worth a visit.

It's usually easy to spot a tourist in the city and there are some major mistakes that are made when people are visiting. If you plan on spending some time here, you should avoid these six mistakes that tourists often make.

Only hangout in the Byward Market

Sure, Ottawa's historic Byward Market is full of shops and restaurants and is a must-visit for a first-timer, but Ottawa has so much more to offer. Don't spend all of your time in one spot.

Many tourists get stuck sticking to the downtown core when there are some great places to eat and explore in other neighbourhoods. On your next visit to Ottawa, check out Hintonburg, Westboro and The Glebe (just to name a few). If you have more time there are also some adorable small towns nearby including Almonte, Perth and Chelsea, Quebec that make a fun day trip.

Buy inauthentic souvenirs 

There are some souvenir shops downtown selling Canada T-shirts, Indigenous artwork and other gifts that are not the best quality and not authentic. Ottawa is full of amazing creators and makers that you can shop from in local boutiques and markets if you're looking for something truly Ottawa to bring home.

If a 613 Flea or Freewheeling Craft market is going on during your weekend stay, those are always full of unique gifts that are Canadian-made. You can also find Indigenous crafts at Beandigen Cafe and Canadian clothing and accessories from stores like JV Studios, Victoire Boutique and Maker House Co., among many others.

Don't dress for the changing weather 

Ottawa's weather is unpredictable, to say the least, and many visitors don't seem to know how to dress. Frankly, neither do we some days.

The summers can get very hot and humid, with mixes of storms and random cool days that seem to come out of nowhere. The winters are very cold and the odd mild day is celebrated. Forget about spring and fall, those seasons barely stick around long enough to be considered a full season.

If you plan on visiting the capital, layers are your best friend. Don't forget a sweater for those cooler summer nights, and in the winter you'll need a toque and gloves no matter what. A raincoat is always a good idea.

Drink Timmies instead of local coffee

Yes, Tim Hortons is a Canadian staple, but you shouldn't just stick to double-doubles and Timbits if you're spending time in Ottawa. We have so many amazing local coffee shops that have quality espresso drinks, handmade treats and cozy atmospheres that are destinations all on their own.

The next time you go for a coffee run, look up the local cafés, there is sure to be one within a similar distance as the coffee chains.

Only come for Canada Day 

Canada Day is a massive celebration in Ottawa, we are the capital after all, but it's not the only reason to visit. Canada Day brings in the crowds, which can be a positive or negative thing depending on how you look at it. It means closed-off streets downtown, higher hotel rates and people everywhere.

If you visit at another time than the nation's birthday, it's easier to explore and get around the city at a quicker pace. There are also a bunch of other festivals in Ottawa throughout the year, where you can see performances, fireworks and other events, without the insane crowds of tourists.

Get confused by transit 

I'll be frank, Ottawa's transit is not the quickest and it's a bit of a local joke whenever the new OC Transpo light rail train has a delay. It's just too classic at this point. If you're thinking the public transit is going to be as frequent as in a city such as Toronto, think again.

Many visitors may not even know that we have a new train system. It's not quite finished, but you can take it from the downtown core to smaller neighbourhoods in Ottawa's west end (like Westboro) typically faster than taking the bus (as long as there aren't those delays I mentioned).

Ottawa is a city of cars though, and it would be a good idea to consider renting a car depending on the length of your stay and what you have planned. If not, prepare to practise your patience. Grabbing an Uber is also relatively easy throughout the city.

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