Ottawa on a Budget
Just about every event on Parliament Hill that is open to the public is free of charge. That includes the popular Changing the Guard ceremony on summer mornings, carillon concerts and tours of the buildings year round, and big celebrations like the concerts and fireworks on Canada Day. On summer evenings, the outdoor Mosaika sound and light show projects images of Canada onto the darkened Centre Block.
Hours: Changing the Guard, Mon-Sun 10AM-10:30AM, June 28 to August 27. Carillon concerts, Mon-Fri 11AM, July-August; Mon-Fri (most weeks), 12PM, Sept-June; occasional concerts at other times. Tours, hours vary. Canada Day, July 1, festivities usually start around 9AM and end around 10:30PM. Mosaika, Mon-Sun, July 6-September 11, hours vary depending on sunset; may be canceled in bad weather.
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A9
613-992-4793 (for Mosaika and Canada Day information, call 613-239-5000)
Thursday Night Freebies
Many national museums and galleries, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery of Canada, offer free admission on Thursday nights. Some let people in free on other nights, too, particularly during the summer.
Hours: Usually Thurs 5PM-8PM; check with individual museums.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau, QC K1A 0M8
National Gallery of Canada
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4
Take the Bus, Gus
If you're getting around town on the municipal OC Transpo bus system and you plan to take more than three trips in one day, buy a DayPass from the driver. Currently $7.50, it's cheaper than tickets and much cheaper than the cash fare. On weekends and statutory holidays, a family-up to two adults and four children under 12-can travel together on one DayPass.
Have you worked up an appetite walking around the Byward Market? Pop into the old-school Budapest Deli for enormous sandwiches at budget prices (many are less than $5). If you're feeling adventurous, order the "mega" version for an extra dollar. The cheerful East European ladies behind the counter are not stingy with the cold cuts. You can buy a "mega" sandwich for lunch one day and put half of it in the fridge for the next day-that's how big they are. They're also tasty. Just be prepared to wait in a long line of other hungry bargain hunters. There's no seating area, so take your brown bag to Major's Hill Park, about a 10-minute walk west.
Hours: Mon-Sun, 8AM-5PM.
54 Byward Market Square
Ottawa, ON K1N 7A2
Hit the Ice
If you're in the city between late December and mid-February and there hasn't been a recent thaw, the frozen Rideau Canal will be open for skating. You can rent skates or bring your own. If you're staying downtown, the nearest entry point and skate rental kiosk is on the ice just east of the National Arts Centre (NAC), opposite the Westin Ottawa hotel.
Hours: The canal is open around the clock (although it's unwise to skate alone late at night); the NAC skate rental kiosk is open Mon-Sun 10AM-10PM, weather permitting.
Admission: Skating on the canal is free, but donations are encouraged. Rental skates are $16 a pair for the first two hours and $8 an hour after that.
A Taste of Montreal
In other cities, New York-style crusty bagels have their fans. But in Ottawa, just two hours down the road from Montreal, nothing but chewy, dense, Montreal-style bagels will do. And, for our money, there's no better place in the city to buy them than hot out of the wood-fired oven at Kettleman's in the Glebe. Top them with one of a range of cream cheese spreads, cold cuts or the store's house-made smoked salmon. Added bonus: the place sells beer. Unless you have a couple of beers and dessert, dinner will set you back less than $10.
Hours: Mon-Sun, 24 hours, year round.
Kettleman's Bagel Co.
912 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON K1S 3W6