As the leaves began to slip into their autumnal shades in September of 1988, Ottawa’s artists won a years-long battle to secure their city a municipal art gallery of its very own. Built with the hopes of showcasing the unique energy and voices of the local artistic scene, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) has, in the two decades since its founding, upheld its advocacy and celebration of municipal talent with an ever-changing roster of exhibits. An ongoing lineup of interactive programs and events cultivates a community of art lovers and sparks cultural discussions. Meanwhile, kids' art camps bolster the creativity of local youngsters and the egos of any cryogenically defrosted Monets in attendance. The OAG also houses the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, a compendium of upward of 1,600 homegrown masterpieces from the modern period featuring celebrated artists including Emily Carr, Jack Shadbolt, and Paul-Émile Borduas.
The Mud Oven gives amateur artisans the chance to design and paint their own ceramic pieces, with an array of mugs ($19–$25), plates ($18–$32), individual-serving-sized bowls ($18–$26), mixing bowls ($28–$62), and more. Begin your ceramics-styling journey by choosing one of The Mud Oven's earthenware offerings, and then sit down to design and paint the piece. If you're at a loss for inspiration, the studio's staff of pottery whisperers is happy to translate the clay-based concoction's unspoken desires into the realms of colour and form. Go-getter businesspersons may wish to express appreciation for an eventual raise by painting a wine goblet for their CEO, while recently returned-from-orbit astronauts can log their dialogues with the stars on the surface of a salad plate. Once guests have designed and painted their pottery, The Mud Oven staff will glaze and fire it in the studio's onsite kiln, allowing patrons to return for their finished pieces in five days. Rush orders can be met for additional costs.
A fair warning to arachnophobes: to enter The National Gallery of Canada, you must cross paths with a 30-foot-tall egg-carrying spider. But fear not, the giant insect isn't real—it's Louise Bourgeois' bronze sculpture Maman, which arrived at the gallery's front plaza in 2005.
Maman is one of the museum's nearly 64,000 artworks, including 17,000 pieces from the collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (currently housed at the Gallery), which trace the history of visual art from the Middle Ages to today with an emphasis on Canadian artists. Along with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Daphne Odjig, and A.Y. Jackson, the collection includes approximately 9,100 prints, 6,600 drawings, and 19,700 photographs—and not a single one is a cat meme. The gallery also showcases more than 3,000 pieces of contemporary work from Canadian and international artists.
The museum's collection grows by an average of 300 pieces a year, which fill about a quarter of the building's 569,000 square feet. The space features impressive views of the Ottawa River, and houses lush gardens and peaceful courtyards.
Sundance Balloons' vibrant hot-air balloons float adventurous passengers over scenic landscapes at sunrise and sunset. Each one-hour journey commences as sojourners greet their flight crew at a pre-determined location, receive a briefing on what to expect during the excursion, and observe their balloon as it swells to more than 10 storeys in height. Morning flight teams convene 30 minutes before sunrise.
The woven gondolas glide 1,000 feet above the ground but can sometimes gently skim treetops or cornfields when wandering over the countryside. Since balloons drift with prevailing winds, there is no wind chill and travellers feel only a slight sensation of movement. As is tradition for ballooning, explorers of the appropriate age end their flight with a champagne toast to tranquility, beauty, and neighbourhoods that appear as giant smiley faces only visible from the air.
Little Ray's Reptile Zoo is a grand hotel for cold-blooded critters overseen by animal enthusiasts Paul "Little Ray" Goulet and his wife Sheri Goulet. At their new location in Hamilton, they host the largest sanctuary in eastern Ontario for unwanted reptiles. Meanwhile, the renovated Ottawa location features 25 permanent exhibits, a nature centre, and a hands-on room. Born from the joy Little Ray experienced sharing his personal collection of reptiles with school children, the zoo now encompasses a variety of exhibits and daily feeding demonstrations showcasing more than 150 animals. The expert staff—which has trained keepers at other animal facilities on proper husbandry and correct presentation—safely introduces visitors to the animals which include 300-pound alligators, giant snakes, tarantulas, and more. The zoo is open daily for corporate groups, birthday parties, and everyday animal lovers tour the reptile environs and educational displays. The reptile zoo hosts large private-party and function rooms and a jungle spa where pythons receive hydrating wraps to combat scaly skin.