The capital region is home to 29 museums, including 12 national museums and institutions that appeal to all interests and age groups. Many of these attractions line Confederation Boulevard, "Canada's Discovery Route," which links Quebec and Ontario and is the site of a variety of events which animate the capital throughout the year. The architecture of Ottawa's museums, the copper roofs and the Gothic towers of Canada's national symbols will provide a long-remembered sight.
Just steps from the By Ward Market, the National Gallery of Canada is located in a beautiful structure of granite and glass which was designed by the celebrated architect, Moshe Safdie, and opened in 1988. (Since the completion of the gallery, Ottawa has become home to another Safdie design - the reworking of Ottawa's City Hall on Green Island.)
Through its vast archaeological, ethnological, folkloric and historical collections, the Canadian Museum of Civilizationtraces Canada's development from the Vikings to the present day. Métis architect Douglas Cardinal designed the building to represent the geological formation of Canada. Its location, on the Ottawa River, is one of the most spectacular in the region offering amazing views of Ottawa's skyline and river shores. As part of its permanent exhibits, the museum houses the recently-expanded Children's Museum, reputedly one of the largest in the world, and the new Postal Museum. It also contains the world's first combined IMAX/OMNIMAX theatre; screenings in this theatre surround the audience and allow the viewer to feel the sensations of flying and movement as no other theatre can.
The Canadian War Museum houses the most comprehensive military collection in Canada, providing a chronicle of Canadian military activities over the past three centuries. The War Museum also holds the second largest publicly owned art collection in the country, with almost 11,000 works. Life-size displays of artifacts and an extensive collection of war medals are just a few of the museum's attractions.
The recently opened Cold War Museum gives visitors an understanding of the chilling fear of a nuclear attack that characterized the early days of the 1950's Cold War. Nicknamed the Diefenbunker - after Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker - it is a four-story deep, 100,000 square-foot bunker. Built underground, its purpose was to withstand a nuclear blast from close proximity and shelter members of the federal government.
From large-scale models of sailing ships to giant steam engines, the National Museum of Science and Technology traces the history of transportation and provides fascinating "hands-on" exhibits, ranging from telecommunications to space travel. It also showcases Canada's remarkable contributions to scientific research and development, especially in the realms of telecommunications, space exploration and high technology.
The Canadian Museum of Nature with its five million specimens, including dinosaurs, exotic animals and precious gems, showcases natural history at its best. Six large exhibit halls plus audio-visual shows, lectures and a children's discovery area provide fascinating glimpses into the world around us. The museum is also home to the Viola MacMillan Mineral Gallery with its breathtaking mineral displays and authentic reconstructed gold mine.
The National Aviation Museum contains a world-class collection of 118 national and international antique aircraft, including the strikingly delicate Silver Dart - the first powered aircraft to fly in Canada back in 1909 - as well as other aviation-related exhibits. Many of the displays are unique to this particular museum. Exhibits provide a wonderful environment for children, and for the adventurous, flights in an open cockpit biplane provide a memorable and spectacular aerial view of the capital.
Visitors interested in historical documents, literature, film and photographs can visit the National Library and the National Archives. The library preserves and promotes Canada's published heritage, while the archives holds over 60 million manuscripts, and a million maps and drawings.
Next to the library and archives is the Supreme Court. Completed in 1946, it is home to Canada's highest court.
The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, sister museum to the National Gallery of Canada, is located in a reconstructed railway tunnel alongside the Rideau Canal locks and houses an impressive collection of over 158,000 photographs, focusing on the work of Canadian contemporary artists.
Of interest to people of all ages is the Royal Canadian Mint, where commemorative coins are minted for Canada and many other countries of the world. Canada's coin currency is now minted in Winnipeg but the mint in Ottawa has gained a world-wide reputation for producing high quality coins for numismatists. The Currency Museum, housed in the Bank of Canada building, traces the history of money over a period of 2,500 years.
The Canadian Ski Museum and the Museum of Canadian Scouting will appeal to ski and scouting buffs and their families.
At the foot of the Rideau locks, and in the oldest stone building in Ottawa, is the Bytown Museum, which explores local history.
Interesting exhibits depicting the history of an Ottawa area family, are found at the Billings Estate, a restored 1827 pioneer homestead. Laurier House, the preserved home of two former prime ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King, displays interesting insights into the political life of these two men and of the nation's capital as a political centre.
In Gatineau Park, just 15 minutes north of Ottawa, visitors will find the charming Mackenzie King Estate (Kingsmere), the summer home of Canada's 10th and longest-serving Prime Minister. The grounds contain a restored cottage, a collection of historical ruins, lovely gardens and a tea room. King bequeathed the estate to the Canadian people and visitors and locals alike have been the lucky beneficiaries; this is the perfect tranquil get-away for a summer's afternoon.