Spring in the city
Illustration by Tina Wallace
With assignments due like crazy, and exam season on the horizon, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually becoming warmer and more bearable to get outside and explore Ottawa. Here are some great ways to give yourself some fresh air and a study break in the coming weeks.
Major’s Hill Park
Get off campus and take a walk north along the canal. Keep walking past the mall and up to where Rideau turns into Wellington and watch the opening of the locks, framed by the Parliament buildings to the left and the Chateau Laurier to the right. The locks that opened in 1832 are still in use. There is something strangely magical about watching water lift a boat 24 metres to reach its destination. The whole process takes over an hour and a half, so if at any time you get tired of watching century-old engineering, walk along the side of the Chateau Laurier to get to Major’s Hill Park. Sit on the grass and bask in the sun, or bring a Frisbee and make up for the lack of green space on campus. From the park you can see the National Art Gallery of Canada, and if your day off takes place on a Thursday and it is after 5 p.m., treat yourself to a free visit. Afterwards, take a walk around to the back of the gallery and hike up the small hill with the statue of Samuel de Champlain. From there, watch as the sun sets over Ottawa and Gatineau for a truly spectacular view.
Hintonburger (1096 Wellington St. West)
Nothing marks the beginning of spring like an incredible burger and soda pop, and the best burger in the city can be found at Hintonburger. This burger joint is a local legend in the heart of Hintonburg, one of Ottawa’s trendiest neighbourhoods. Give yourself a couple of hours one afternoon to walk around the area and check out some of the cool local shops, but do not leave before trying a mind-blowingly awesome burger. The building itself might not impress you — it’s located inside an old KFC with very few alterations since its new owners took over — but after you sink your teeth into any of Hintonburger’s offerings, you’ll swear you’re in heaven.
Great Glebe Garage Sale
The Great Glebe Garage Sale has been a staple of spring in Ottawa since 1986. Each year, Glebe residents set up tables in their lawns and driveways and display their offerings. Sounds like a regular ol’ yard sale, doesn’t it? It’s not — I promise you, it’s so much more. Not only do residents set up shop, but the actual shops surrounding the area get in on the action too. A massive Bank Street sidewalk sale complements the garage sale, and food vendors are set up at community centres and parking lots throughout the area. Vendors are encouraged to donate part of their proceeds to the Ottawa Food Bank, an effort that has raised as much as $8,566 in past years. You can find vintage clothes, cheap dishware, classic movies, music, books, and so much more. Even if you’re not out to make a good buy, the garage sale still guarantees you a great time.
This year the Great Glebe Garage Sale takes place on Saturday, May 24.
Main St. Farmer’s Market
Beginning on May 4, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2p.m., Saint Paul University gets transformed into a hub for fresh fruits and vegetables, local meats, delicious hot beverages, and many other edible odds and ends. The prices are very reasonable, the sellers are very friendly, and I guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed with free samples within five minutes. The market’s location makes it possible to turn a walk there into a full morning escape, as Saint Paul University backs onto the Ottawa River, making for an incredible walk from Sandy Hill or Lees campus.
Strathcona Park lies on the west bank of the Rideau River, and makes for one of the most beautiful places in Ottawa to witness the bloom of spring. There is a massive archaic fountain, a playground for children, and a winding path along the river to go for morning walks. This park goes unnoticed in the winter because its winding staircases are draped in ice, but once it melts it becomes one of the most tranquil places to enjoy your time, whether it be reading, people watching, or playing Pokémon Yellow on your Game Boy.
Canal trip to Hog’s Back Park
If you have a bike, a few hours to kill, and a longing to get out of the downtown core, look no further than a trip down the canal. Bike across the Somerset footbridge and head south along the west side of the Rideau Canal. On your way you’ll pass Centretown, the Glebe, and Lansdowne as you cut across Old Ottawa South. Suddenly the canal opens up into a beautiful lake, and on the other side you can see the Arboretum. The Arboretum is like a museum of trees. Take a right off the bike path and park your bike so you can climb up the hill. Sit under a tree and read, or walk around and look at the labels on the trees. If you’re exceptionally curious, an employee will be happy to answer any tree-related questions you may have. Once you’re done with the trees, take your bike and continue down the canal. Cross the Carleton Bridge, bike past the locks and follow the path around the head of the island until it takes you to the waterfall. Park your bike and climb down onto the rocks to watch the wonders of nature.
Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank St.)
The warm spring weather inevitably brings rain. Rather than stay at home and call your Saturday afternoon plans a write-off, head down to the Mayfair Theatre in Old Ottawa South. As Ottawa’s oldest active theatre — it opened in 1932 — the Mayfair is a great place to appreciate film culture, and even offers couches for your viewing experience. If you’re down for a little more of an adventurous viewing experience, head down to the theatre on the weekend from March 21–23 to see The Room. Considered by many as the worst movie ever, the Mayfair offers a unique atmosphere to laugh at, yell at, and throw spoons at (you’ll get why pretty quick) the garbage on screen.