Explore Ottawa Like A Local: 3 Hidden Gems in Canada’s Capital

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:

© Victoria St. Michael 2021

39 thoughts on “Explore Ottawa Like A Local: 3 Hidden Gems in Canada’s Capital

      1. Diana says:

        Great suggestions Vic! I definitely want to visit and experience all these once I come back to visit the second time around 🙂 love the sunset at Andrew Haydon park and that drink looks bomb 🤩

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Diana says:

        Oh hell yea I’m hitting you up once I come visit! I didn’t get to do much when I was there I just remember this pretty mall 😂 I need to see parliament hill!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Biren says:

    Wow, what an amazing place to visit. Thank you so much Vic for the tour and guiding me towards such a lovely places. I really like the sunset at the park mentioned by you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bloglifewitherica says:

    I always wanted to travel to Canada. Thank you for sharing these hidden gems! I would love a nice doughnut and coffee right about now! One other thing that I know I would enjoy is all of the scenery.

    Thank you for sharing with us a little about you and the places you love.

    xo Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Victoria St. Michael says:

      There’s a TON of awesome scenery in Ottawa, the views are spectacular! Especially down by the Parliament buildings, I considered putting that in but I figured plenty of people have written about that. Thanks for your comment, Erica! ❤

      Like

  3. briannalbbh says:

    I LOVE THIS! I appreciate that you included the first bit, advising against travel that is not necessary right now. I am dying to travel, but it is still way too soon. Nevertheless, there are people who are still taking that risk and it makes me sad. I will definitely bookmark your suggestions for future travels. I have always wanted to visit Canada. I cannot wait to head up there one day and meet you. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Victoria St. Michael says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed! Yeah I’m in exactly the same boat, as much as I wish I could travel right now it’s definitely not safe, especially in my area! But it’s nice to spread a little hope for the future. 😊 Girl I seriously can’t WAIT for you to come up and visit! We are going to have the best time! Thanks for giving it a read 🖤

      Like

  4. Pastor Natalie says:

    Thank you for sharing some of your favorite places. I especially would love to visit Andrew Haydon Park. I really enjoy taking walks outdoors and enjoying the sunsets. I also would really enjoy Little Jo Berry’s especially because they have vegan options with gluten and dairy free… yum. Hopefully I can visit one day. I really enjoyed this collaboration with everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Faërie Lifestyle says:

    Ottawa is definitely on my travel bucket list. I follow a Youtuber that lives in Ottawa and I always fall in love with the places she visits and the wonderful sights.
    It was so fun being a part of this collab. It was such a delightful experience and interacting with a lovely community filled with wonderful people is so inspiring. I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts!
    Have a lovely rest of the week.
    Estée

    Liked by 1 person

  6. theyorkshiredreamer says:

    I can’t wait to travel when it is safe again. I can relate to not wanting to spend money on myself, as I always wanted to travel more but couldn’t justify it; now I’m ready to travel due to the past year!

    It is nice to get a unique perspective from someone who lives in Ottawa. The photo of Andrew Haydon Park looks peaceful! I can imagine sitting on that bench as the sun goes down is incredible. It is lovely that your partner proposed there; it is nice to have a special place in your heart.

    That treat from Little Jo Berry’s looks amazing! 😍 It sounds like such a friendly place. The Saturday Night Drag Show would draw me out, too, as it sounds like fun.

    I would love to visit all the places you have mentioned! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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