Changes to the capital’s most recognizable landmark, the opening of several new attractions and major anniversary celebrations by some of the city’s most popular festivals are among the milestones in store for Ottawa’s tourism sector in 2019.
Jantine Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications, says “2019 will be a pivotal year in tourism because we have so many changes ahead.”
Here’s what to watch in 2019:
1. Changes on Parliament Hill
Visiting Parliament Hill is a classic Canadian experience that will change significantly for visitors over the coming years. Renovations to Centre Block are scheduled to start early in 2019 and last a decade, closing the iconic building to the public.
But the Centre Block renovation doesn’t mean Parliament Hill is off limits. On the contrary – a brand-new Visitor Welcome Centre, located between West Block and Centre Block, is scheduled to open when the new tours begin. Tours are already available for booking through the new online reservation system at visit.parl.ca.
Additionally, the long-awaited new temporary House of Commons, located in the West Block courtyard, will open to the public. And, just down Rideau Street, the former Government Conference Centre inside Ottawa’s former train station will reopen as the temporary home of the Senate, marking the first time in a generation that the historic building will be accessible to the public.
“It’s a gorgeous space,” says Van Kregten, noting that it was modelled on New York’s historic Penn Station and was where the country’s political leaders came together to negotiate the Meech Lake Accord. “It’s a great opportunity to go, even if you’ve been to Parliament Hill before.”
2. Light rail opens
The new LRT line is expected to be a boon to the tourism sector. Van Kregten says organizers and attendees of downtown conventions will benefit as the rapid-transit line helps visitors move around the city.
“Neighbourhoods like Wellington West or St. Laurent will be more accessible to tourists,” says Van Kregten. “People are more open to go on a train instead of a bus. A few stops on the train from the Rideau station to different malls and attractions will be a huge improvement.”
3. Festival anniversaries
Some well-known music festivals will be marking major anniversaries in 2019. Ottawa Bluesfest and Chamberfest both turn 25 this year. Chamberfest – the world’s largest chamber music festival – has already started its celebrations with special performances throughout the year. Elsewhere, Music and Beyond, a classical music and arts festival that was named the 2018 Event of the Year by Ottawa Tourism, is marking its 10th anniversary.
The National Arts Centre will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the launch of a new Indigenous theatre program. La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins, home of four different French theatre groups, marks its 20th anniversary.
And, this spring, the Canadian Tulip Festival will devote an exhibit to mark the 20th anniversary of the sister city agreement between Ottawa and Beijing by featuring a floral display dedicated to the friendship between Canada and China.
4. New canal walkway
A new pedestrian bridge will link Old Ottawa East and the Glebe across the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Flora Footbridge is located between Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street and is expected to be completed in late summer. Van Kregten says the bridge will give people different alternatives to getting to Lansdowne Park while improving connectivity between two of the city’s central neighbourhoods.
5. New attractions
The Canada Science and Technology Museum (which opened after renovations just over a year ago) will open its Collection Conservation Centre next door starting in 2019. The centre holds the majority of the museum’s artifacts and will offer guided tours.
Back downtown, the new memorial to the victims of communism is expected to open near Library and Archives Canada on Wellington Street.
When planning your next adventure, check out www.ottawatourism.ca for more information.