Ottawa: A Tale of Two Seasons

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After years of traveling in all sorts of climates, I have come to a conclusion: the weather — whether hot, cold, or in-between — can have a huge impact on your impressions of a city or region.

On my first trip to Ottawa in January 2012, the weather was frigid and snowy. The city was covered in slush and ice and massive icicles. It was so cold that my nose and fingers would go numb after being outside for about 5 minutes.

Ottawa Winter
Brrr, look at that frozen river.

I still had a great time on my first trip to Canada's capital, don't get me wrong, but I left wondering what the city would look and feel like during the warmer months. I wondered what it would be like to explore while wearing less layers.

RELATED: The Best Things to Do in Ottawa in Winter

My question was answered last month when I returned to Ottawa for a second time. This time, it was balmy and green in Canada, and the city was filled with people — much different than the first time I visited.

In short, Ottawa had transformed.

Ottawa Spring

To illustrate this transformation, I thought I would do something fun and try to take some of the same photos in May that I had taken the year before in January. Here's the result:

The Rideau Canal

In the winter, the Rideau Canal freezes over and becomes one of the longest skating rinks in the world. In the spring, however, the canal is traversed by boats and the bike paths along its banks are always busy.

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring
Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

Parliament Hill

In the winter, the hill is usually snow-covered and sparsely populated with tourists. Once the weather gets nice, however, the green lawn becomes the perfect spot for a picnic or a game of frisbee.

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring
Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring
Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring
Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

National War Memorial

When I visited in the winter, the War Memorial was surrounded by twinkle lights and covered in a light dusting of snow. The trees sure look different in the spring!

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

Outside the National Gallery

What a difference snow and lack of green leaves makes!

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

Byward Market

In the winter, the neighborhood is slushy and rather quiet except on weekend nights. In the spring, though, the restaurants and markets spill out onto lively sidewalks.

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

And one more

Lastly, I didn't even mean to re-take this shot, but the fact that I did (while walking to Nepean Point behind the National Gallery) must mean it's a pretty good one!

Ottawa Winter
Winter
Ottawa Spring
Spring

It almost looks like a completely different city in the span of just one season, doesn't it?

Which season would YOU want to visit Ottawa during?

 

*Note: My most recent visit to Ottawa was sponsored by Ottawa Tourism and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. As always, though, all opinions are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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32 Comments on “Ottawa: A Tale of Two Seasons

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  1. So agree with you, Amanda, on the “weather vs impression” statement. This is so true, especially, in northern countries where you can see all four seasons.
    Love the top photo!
    And it is so great to see the spring vs winter differences in the sets at the bottom of your post.

      Yes, a place can look and feel SO different, depending on which season you experience there.

    What a difference! I’ve always wanted to visit a heavily visited place in its winter months, just to see and feel the difference between high season and low season (especially in places like Western Europe). I feel like it would be really fascinating.

      I agree, Megan! Really popular places completely change in the winter months.

    Fun post! I’m impressed by how close you captured some of the shots. It really is interesting how the seasons change here in Canada… and Ohio! 😉

      Some of the shots were easy to re-capture. Others I just had to guess at – but I think the results are pretty cool!

      And yes, I’m definitely no stranger to changing seasons being from Ohio. 😉

    great comparison between the seasons. I personally like the snow photos better – but winter is my favorite time a year 🙂

      Snow can sometimes be just as pretty as green leaves.

    I lucky to experience Ottawa in July. Winter is a must if your photos are anything to go by.

      I’ll have to go back in the summer and autumn, too!

    I love my capital. I can’t believe I only spent a few hours there (getting my UK visa so I could leave Canada haha). Looking forward to visiting this summer.

      I can’t believe that either! I hope you enjoy it when you spend a bit more time there.

    You should see it in the fall! A trip up through the Gatineaus in their autumn colour is a must. The only time I’d say *not* to visit is July/August. It’s VERY hot and muggy, not pleasant at all.

      Sounds like my home state of Ohio in the summer months… ick! But yes, I’m sure the fall is also gorgeous!

    Ottawa is our home town, and we still go back there once a year to see family and friends. It’s a beautiful city to visit…during the summer and fall. September and early October are probably the best months overall. We have no ambition to ever go there again during the winter!

      Haha, yes, the winter there is pretty harsh! Sounds like I really should go back in the fall though…

    Great concept for a post! I don’t care much for cold weather, but found myself more drawn to your winter photos. Snow makes everything look so pristine!

      Funny how a lot of people are saying they prefer the winter photos!

    such a great post! I more and more regret I didn’t make it to Ottawa, it looks like a really interesting city judging on your pictures! I think I’d prefer to visit it in winter. It looks beautiful with all the colors but snow makes it kind of magical!

      Snow does indeed make it a bit magical… but also SO COLD. Haha. I would recommend the city in all seasons, though.

    I’ve had the same experience when visiting Berlin in winter and summer. In winter we rushed from one ‘must-see’ to the other, eager to get inside, out of the cold.
    In summer we just hanged around. Had a drink, rode our bikes…
    SUCH a difference.

    Quick question: isn’t that spider statue the exact same as the one at Guggenheim Bilbao?

      Crazy how a simple thing like weather can change everything!

      And the spider statue is called “Maman,” and I know there are something like 8 or 10 of them around the world. So chances are, yes, it’s the same as the one in Bilbao!

    I’ve visited Ottawa in November and February. Neither times were really the best. When I went in November, all the fall leaves had falled, and when I went in February, because the weather had been so mild they’d closed the Canal for skating which really disappointed me.

    However, given both times I travelled the weather was still mild, walking around out in the cold wasn’t too bad at all. I’d want to go back either in the height of summer to enjoy the festivals, or in the winter when it’s cold enough to skate on the Rideau and check that off my bucket list.

      Sorry the weather didn’t quite cooperate on any of your trips to Ottawa! When I went last January, it had also been pretty mild, and the canal wasn’t quite frozen yet. I was also bummed that I couldn’t skate!

      I highly recommend going in May for the Canadian Tulip Festival – the city is beautiful!

    I really liked your take on this post. The different seasons make everything so beautiful in completely different ways. Ottawa has never been a place I’ve considered visiting before, but it definitely looks interesting. Maybe I’ll take a visit someday.

      I would definitely suggest considering it, if only for a long weekend (assuming you live close enough!). It’s very different in different seasons, but there’s always plenty to do and see.

    I love how you did this! I used to hate traveling in the winter but I’ve found winter travel more appealing and beautiful these days. Love the contrast in winter and spring scenes. Either way, Ottawa is beautiful.

      Thanks, Jeremy! This was a fun post to put together.

      I’m with you on winter travel – it’s definitely not all bad!

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