How to See & Eat in Ottawa Like a Local!


How many people know where to go and eat like a local in Ottawa? When most people think of Ottawa, thoughts of beautiful parks, incredible museums, amazing restaurants and of course the historic Parliament buildings come to mind. Here, we highlight some different places that only locals know about and often go to. Places that I personally love to visit when I am back home. Places that you won’t find in most travel guides.


Let’s start with food. I think Ottawa has some of the best poutine restaurants in the country. And that’s thanks to its close proximity to St. Albert and their amazing cheese curds. Honestly, if you’ve never had poutine made with fresh cheese curds from St. Albert you’ve been missing out. Trust me.

I don’t eat poutine often, but when I do my favourite place in the city to indulge in this yummy treat is Fritomania (map). Don’t be fooled by the humble appearance (it is a little chip wagon located in Ottawa’s east end). It is hands down the best poutine I have ever tried. The mix of homemade fries, the most delicious gravy and St. Albert’s cheese curds is absolutely delicious. It’s definitely worth the trip to the wagon.

Canadian Museum of Nature

Ottawa has so many incredible museums that you could spend a week exploring them all. My go-to is the Canadian Museum of Nature. As children we always referred to it as the “dinosaur museum” because one of their permanent exhibits is all about dinosaurs. I loved it as a child and I still love it as an adult.

A National Historic Site of Canada, the building itself is a 100-year-old awe-inspiring castle (map). On the inside, it’s a perfect mix of historic and modern design. I owned an event planning company for many years and this was one of my favourite places to hold events because it is such a stunning and unique setting. In the last few years they’ve started hosting monthly events between September and May called Nature Nocturne, which has become one of the best dance parties in the city.

Imagine having a drink, eating and dancing in the middle of one of the coolest museums. Definitely an awesome night out in Ottawa!

Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana

I absolutely love bakeries. My favourite in Ottawa is Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana. Locals know it as “Joe’s Place”.

Joe is the Owner and Chef of the bakery. He’s an amazing and extremely talented guy. When I was doing weddings and events full-time, I always recommended him to my clients. His cakes are incredibly creative and delicious!

Located in the heart of Little Italy (map), I always drop by when I am in the city to pick up some pastries for my family and have a cappuccino. If you love bakeries as much as I do, you definitely want to make a stop here while you are in the city.

Strathcona Park

Ottawa has many beautiful parks. One of my favourites is located just minutes from the heart of downtown (map). Strathcona Park is smaller than a lot of the parks in the city (only 15 acres) but it is one of the most serene and beautiful places. I use to love going and spending an hour or two just sitting by the beautiful Rideau River which stretches the length of the park or read a book under one of the many willow trees.

This park features a gorgeous fountain at the top of a hill that was donated by Lord Strathcona in 1909. Great for families, there’s also a play structure that is made to look like ancient ruins, a sandbox and benches throughout. In the summer, Strathcona is home to Theatre Under the Stars by Odyssey Theatre, which is always a magical experience. In the fall, it turns into a colourful oasis.

Nordik Spa-Nature

Want to indulge with an amazing spa experience? You got it.

Located about 10 minutes from downtown you find Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest spa in North America. One of my favourite places, I consider it a personal piece of heaven on earth (map). I can spend an entire day relaxing and unwinding in their outdoor baths and incredible saunas. There’s also an infinity pool with a stunning view and a fantastic restaurant.

What makes this spa so unique is their Thermal Cycle process, which is a practice of alternating between hot and cold. You start with a hot sauna, which helps to release toxins from your body, followed immediately by going into cold water, which helps to close your pores. Then you let your body rest until it comes back to its normal temperature. You just keep repeating this cycle throughout the day and by the end you are so relaxed that your body feels like jello. You will feel like a new person after a day here. It’s definitely worth a visit when in Ottawa.

Canada’s capital and surrounding region is really quite stunning no matter what the season. Take advantage of the beauty in your own backyard. These 5 spots will definitely kick-start your amazing Ottawa experience.

By: Guest Writer Cristie Vito

Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.

Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.

In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
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