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What to Do, Where to Stay in Ottawa

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Escape Keys

GETTING THERE: Air Canada and United operate 90-minute nonstop flights between Washington's Reagan National and Dulles, and Ottawa, Ontario, starting at about $325 round trip.

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WHERE TO STAY: As a major city, Ottawa offers a wide array of accommodations. The city's historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier (1 Rideau St., 613-241-1414 or 866-540-4410, http://www.fairmont.com/laurier) stands at the head of the Rideau Canal and offers commanding views. Rooms start at about $185 per night. The Westin Hotel (11 Colonel By Dr., 613-560-7000, http://www.westin.com/ottawa) also borders the canal. Rooms start at about $218.

WHERE TO EAT: Look for special Winterlude prix-fixe menus in Ottawa's top restaurants (check out http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/winterlude). Ottawa's 19th-century old-town district, the ByWard Market (http://www.byward-market.com), a 10-minute walk from the canal's downtown end, is a good choice for food, entertainment and shopping. The market area is bounded roughly by St. Patrick, Dalhousie and George streets and Sussex Avenue.

ABOUT THE CANAL: Access to the Rideau Canal Skateway is free. It is generally open from late December to early March. Skate rentals (about $13.50 for the first two hours, $6.75 per hour afterward) are available every day at both ends of the skateway (Capital Skates, on the skateway near Mackenzie King Bridge, and near Fifth Avenue, 613-232-8049). Five rest stops along the ice offer food concessions and restrooms. Call 613-239-5234 for regularly updated information on ice conditions.

WHAT TO DO: Winterlude, Feb. 6-22, showcases Canada's unique winter culture, with activities in and around Ottawa. Families with children shouldn't miss the Snowflake Kingdom in nearby Gatineau, a fairy-tale-like playground.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Ottawa Tourism (613-237-5150 or 800-363-4465, http://www.ottawatourism.ca).

-- G.L.

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