Pet Friendly Boat Ride On The Rideau Canal
There is nothing better than out of town guests to make you try some touristy “stuff” in your own city and see your home turf with fresh eyes. I discovered this when Brad visited, when Suzanne visited and again more recently when Marlene, Stewart, Cocopuff and Dusty came for a visit all the way up from Texas (more on that later).
I will never understand why Ottawa is so often overlooked by tourists. This city is truly beautiful and has so much to offer. I realized this again, as I heard our guests talk about the parliament building they had strolled around and upon seeing their reaction when they entered Notre Dame Cathedral and saw all that extraordinary craftsmanship and the gorgeous stained glass windows.
The National Art Gallery was its usual crowd pleaser with the “Maman” photo op and there is the Byward Market and all its vendors, small coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and more. You could also spend hours at the Museum of Civilization or the Museum of Nature.
And of course you have Ottawa’s very own World Heritage site, the Rideau Canal. Known mostly as a highlight of winter in our fair city most locals refer to the Ottawa Canal simply as “The Skateway”. It is after all the world’s largest, naturally frozen ice surface. And although the Winter Trail in Winnipeg is longer, the Guinness people looked at three criteria before declaring the Rideau Canal the winner… still.
- Length: Beginning just steps from Canada’s Parliament Buildings at the National Art Centre it is 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) long reaching Dows Lake.
- Width: Skating surface is about 165,621 square metres, which is about the same as 90 Olympic size hockey rinks.
- Skating experience: There is no experience like skating through the capital on a world icon – a World heritage Site as recognized by UNESCO. And the facilities are stellar. All along the 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) of skating surface you can warm up at rest areas by toasty fires, enjoy a hot drink or snack. Beaver Tails (a pastry!) are a favorite. There are often ice sculptures, art exhibits and more. The snow is removed by specially built plows and the ice surface cleaned up for nicks. There is even a separate “lane” for speed skaters.
But there is something the bipeds had always wanted to try out — in the warmer weather! The Rideau Canal Boat Tour are a great way to get a feel for the city and its history. It’s also particularly good on days when it might be too cold or rainy to be traipsing about. The boat is under a glass dome and thus allows you to visit without getting wet.
If you have a person that has mobility issues visiting; this slow moving boat is a nice reprieve from all the walking normally involved in sightseeing.
We chose Paul’s Boat Cruises because it is small dog friendly. The only thing they ask is to ensure your pet does not do its business on the boat. So make sure your tiny canine is well walked and has taken care of all its needs before boarding. Oh… although not mandatory, it is a good idea to let them know ahead of time if possible. We got an email confirmation and brought it with us. Better safe than sorry right?
This is how, on a cold and rainy September day my guests from Texas joined the Bipeds and me for a boat ride on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal. We had a fantastic guide, his live commentary was priceless. Mom and Dad really enjoyed his edgy humour, especially since the jokes were not the same in English and French. It made things interesting!
Other than the canal proper, here are the top 5 “major” sites we saw and learned about along the way.
National Art Centre: Situated next to the Rideau Canal in Confederation Square, a short walk from both Parliament Hill and Rideau Centre, this performing arts facility is the premier place in the city for an evening show. The bilingual centre presents an array of performances throughout the year. The National Arts Centre Orchestra, led by the Grammy Award-winning Pinchas Zuckerman, routinely teams up with some of the world’s best musicians for special concerts. And the Centre hosts a number of world-class bands, dance troupes, and theatre companies.
University of Ottawa: During its 160 years, the University of Ottawa has been intimately associated with Canada’s evolution. It has witnessed Confederation, the creation of a National Capital and the onset of the industrial revolution in Canada. During the first half of the 20th century, it twice lent its support to Canada’s national war effort and then reaped the benefits of the postwar boom which provided the means for a major expansion that made it possible for the University to become one of Canada’s leading institutions of higher learning.
Lansdowne Park: A 40-acre (16 ha) historic sports, exhibition and entertainment facility owned by the City of Ottawa. Lansdowne Park contains Frank Clair Stadium, the Ottawa Civic Centre arena, the beautiful Aberdeen Pavilion hall, Coliseum and other exhibition buildings. Until 2010, the Park was the site of the annual Central Canada Exhibition (Ottawa SuperEX).
Experimental Farm: Canada is the only country to have a working farm in the heart of its capital: the Central Experimental Farm, established in 1886 as the central research station for the federal Department of Agriculture. More than an active research center and home to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada headquarters, the Central Experimental Farm is a 400-hectare National Historic Site and a taste of rural Canada. The Farm and some of its attractions are open to the public throughout the year.
Dow’s Lake: The man-made lake is named after Abram Dow who owned land in this area in 1816. Before the construction of the Canal, this area was known as Dow’s Great Swamp. The lake was created when a dam was constructed along the north shore (Queen Elizabeth Driveway is now atop the dam) to allow flooding for the canal. Originally, the Rideau Canal was to run north from Dow’s Lake, but land speculation, and Colonel By‘s reluctance to reward such speculation, resulted in the current location of the canal. In May of every year, the surrounding park, Commissioner’s Park, displays tulips planted by the NCC (National Capital Commission) for the annual Canadian Tulip Festival. Over 50 varieties and approximately 300,000 tulips bloom along the Rideau Canal at that time.
There was a lot more (Carlton University and the Congress Centre just to name 2 more) but these were the “major” highlights. The tour lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes and the three boats that Paul’s uses were built specifically for this section of the canal.
We enjoyed a great view of one of the engineering marvels of the 19th century. The Rideau Canal, is a major part of Canadian history and I found that I left having a much better understanding of how the sites led to the development of Ottawa as a city and a seat of government. Just when you think you know a city …
Boats leave daily from the Rideau Canal Dock, located alongside the Government Conference Centre, directly across the street from the Chateau Laurier Hotel or Westin Hotel.
(Sadly as of 2015 this pet friendly boat ride On The Rideau Canal was cancelled and is no longer operational – you can however still rent a bicycle and do the same trip that way.)