Places Around the World: A Blogging Community Collaboration
Before we jump in, a disclaimer: I do not recommend or condone inessential travelling at this point. We’re not out of the woods yet and COVID-19 remains a major crisis in many areas, including Ottawa. Please take this article as inspo for future adventures, when it is once again safe to travel.
I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has left me with a serious case of the travel bug.
In the “before days,” I was one of those people who loved travelling, but never actually did much of it. I always felt irresponsible “splurging on myself” when I felt there were more important things to spend my money on. But throughout this hellish year, more than anything else I’ve learned to prioritize myself and make time for the things I enjoy… because all work and no play makes Vic an absolute friggin’ nutcase.
And I’m not the only one whose mind has been buzzing with post-pandemic travel plans. The blogging community has been dreaming about the places we’ll go and the things we’ll do when this is all over. Thus, the Places Around the World collaboration was born. Our goal is to re-ignite that sense of hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and spark an interest in travelling again, by sharing our favourite places in the cities where we live.
I want to say a huge thank you to Bee over at Mind Beauty Simplicity, who took the wheel and did a fantastic job organizing and coordinating this collab. I’ll link the other participants at the bottom of the post so you can check out their great work, too!
Okay, Vic, get to the point already!
They call Ottawa “the city that fun forgot,” but I genuinely don’t think that’s true. Believe it or not, there’s more to Canada’s capital than government buildings and fantastic shawarma! Although I’ve always been a bit of a hermit (even before the pandemic!) I do have a few favourite spots, so it was difficult for me to narrow it down to three. I decided to stay away from the tourist attractions, festivals and other things that tend to draw large crowds, giving you a chance to experience Ottawa from the perspective of someone who actually lives here. My hope is, during your visit, you’ll feel like you’ve truly been woven into the fabric of the city.
Without further ado, here are my top three hidden Ottawa gems, in no particular order:
1. Spend an afternoon exploring Andrew Haydon Park
Including Andrew Haydon Park on this list may seem like small potatoes alongside Ottawa’s more iconic green spaces like the Arboretum, Bruce Pit, Hog’s Back Park, the National Capital Greenbelt and many more. Trust me, I wrestled with including them, too. But Andrew Haydon Park holds a special place in my heart, and not just because that’s where my partner proposed.
Aside from locals, Andrew Haydon Park is usually pretty quiet. It offers gorgeous riverside views, especially at sunset. It’s also clean and well-maintained, and since the onset of the pandemic, in my experience people have always been respectful in maintaining a six-foot distance. Over the past year, Andrew Haydon Park has provided my partner and I a much-needed reprieve when the walls of our apartment feel like they’re closing in.
I could spend hours sitting on a blanket and enjoying nature, so it’s nice to have a quiet spot away from the crowds and hustle of the city. It’s almost hard to believe the park is next to one of Ottawa’s busiest roadways. Andrew Haydon has something for everyone: multiple playgrounds and child-friendly areas, an outdoor bandshell that also serves as a great picnic spot, lots of open green space to toss a football or a frisbee, plus an Instagram-worthy windmill, bridges and walkways that connect to the Trans Canada Trail. There’s also a ton of wildlife including beavers, geese (the goslings are so cute in the spring!) ducks and various other species of birds, chipmunks and more.
If you continue along the waterfront past the sailing club, Andrew Haydon eventually merges into Dick Bell Park, another spot my partner and I frequent. It has a pier with a picturesque lighthouse, which was a popular spot for Pokemon GO players back in the day, but is now usually pretty quiet aside from the odd fisherman. It’s also a popular spot for dog walkers, and that’s never a bad thing, am I right?
2. Grab a treat & a coffee (or a milkshake!) at Little Jo Berry’s
Believe me when I say Little Jo Berry’s isn’t just a bakery, it’s an experience. They are located in the Hintonburg/Westboro area, arguably Ottawa’s cutest and friendliest neighbourhood. Not only is everything vegan (with plenty of gluten-free options, too!) but you’re guaranteed to make a friend when you visit. Jo, Ray and the rest of the staff will make you feel as if you’ve known them your whole life from the moment you walk in the door.
Even my partner, who has a bit of a “pee pee poo poo” attitude toward most vegan foods, can’t resist a pop tart, a square or a scone from Little Jo’s. They also sell adorable sticker sheets and other merch, vegan grocery items through partnerships with other fabulous local small businesses and hot lunches that are to die for. I personally recommend the mac n cheese or the meatball subs. Their coffees and other hot beverages feel like a warm hug, but for me, the star of the show has to be their milkshakes. My dudes, I would sell my soul for a LJB’s milkshake and I am not kidding.
This sounds like an ad, but I swear it’s not – I just really love these fantastic humans. They made me a custom cake for my best friend’s birthday one year (with “Elvira meets Princess Serenity” being the only instructions I offered, which I’m sure was not at all helpful) and it turned out so beautiful, we were hesitant to cut into it! Little Jo’s is also one of Ottawa’s most queer-friendly, body positive spaces and I’m endlessly thankful that they exist.
If you live in Ottawa or plan on visiting, I highly recommend checking them out. Due to COVID restrictions, at the moment they are strictly offering curbside pickup on weekends from 12-3 and delivery within Ottawa on Mondays and Fridays. It’s super important to support our small business pals right now, so get shopping!
3. Catch a Saturday Night Drag Show at The Lookout
If you’re a member of the Ottawa queer scene and you don’t have a blurry photo in front of the rainbow neon lights at The Lookout Bar, are you even a member of the Ottawa queer scene? Most nights, I’d rather stay in with a book, my cats and a cup of tea than go out. But if there’s one thing that is sure to draw me from my cave, it’s drag – and Ottawa has no shortage of talent when it comes to drag.
The Lookout was the first bar I ever went to on this side of the Quebec border, and these days it’s pretty much the only one I’ll bother getting out of my comfies for. They do karaoke on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but their iconic Saturday night drag shows are where it’s at. Attending the show pictured above was the very last time I went out before the first COVID lockdown happened in March 2020. It was my friend’s first time experiencing local drag, and if I had known it would be my last night out for well over a year, I would have had way more drinks that night.
Some crazy talented local drag artists deserving of a shoutout are Devona Coe, Kimmy Couture, Savannah Couture, Fifi Hoo-Kers, Adrianna Exposée, Yaya Torres and many others – honestly, I could sit here all day listing off my favourites. You should definitely check them out on Instagram; many of our local artists have been working hard to keep us entertained virtually throughout the pandemic until the clubs reopen.
Every show I’ve been to at The Lookout has been top-notch; the queens (and kings!) never fail to bring their A-Game, the drinks are affordable, the music is always a vibe and the bathroom lineups move quickly. Even if you’ve never considered hitting up a drag show, I hope you’ll pay them a visit on your next post-pandemic trip to Ottawa. Just remember to bring plenty of tip money, because to quote the great Alaska Thunderfuck: tipping is COMPULSORY!
Wrapping Things Up
All in all, I think my choices provide a little something for anyone looking for something fun to do in Ottawa. Looking back, I noticed they even encapsulate three major parts of my personality: Granola Girl Vic, Snack Sloot Vic and Fun Queer Girl Vic. So, if you thought this wasn’t a “get to know me” post, you were wrong! But honestly, there are so many other wonderful options I could have put on this list. If you’re curious about other places, events and things to do in Ottawa that weren’t included, leave a comment and I’d be happy to chat with you.
As promised, below I have linked the other fabulous bloggers who took part in this collab. Some have already posted, but I do hope you’ll stick around for the rest. It’s a talented group, if I do say so myself:
- Mind Beauty Simplicity
- Enviroline Blog
- The Curly Sunshine
- Diana Inspiring Positively
- Blog Life With Erica
- Faerie Lifestyle
- Examine This Moment
- Headphones Thoughts
- Jessica Lasa
- Korra Shay
- Life Begins At Twenty
- Growing With Spawn
- Riyah Speaks Blogs
- Sophia Patel
- The Yorkshire Dreamer
- Along Came Rosie
- Simply Alex Jean
© Victoria St. Michael 2021