Catch the village vibe
Before you know it, the kids will be back in school. Before that happens, take advantage of the last weeks of summer with a few ways to be a tourist in your own town.
This time around, our theme is destinations that have that village vibe, either because they actually are a village, or they live like one. Here are four to be sure to check out.
Carp, 35 km west of downtown
This one is a village, and one with plenty of charm. Established in the 1800s, it’s grown slowly, helping it to maintain its rural roots and feel. Anchored by the agricultural fairgrounds, which still hosts almost weekly horse/dog/livestock shows throughout the summer, there’s a real connection to the earth in Carp. Yet it’s also starting to grow up, with a buzz of new construction, including the soon-to-be-opened Ridge Rock Brewing Co. and an eight-storey retirement residence under construction in the centre of the village.
Be sure to stop by: Alice’s Village Café, which has become a village meeting place; the Diefenbunker museum; yummy deserts at Carp Custom Creamery; and a handful of new curio shops, including Moonstones and the Carp Cabin. If you visit on a Saturday, the popular Carp Farmers’ Market is a must visit.
Chelsea, 22 km north of downtown
So close to downtown, yet a world away, Chelsea offers the best of comfortable rural living, with a wealth of temptations. On the doorstep of Gatineau Park, it’s a favourite haunt of outdoor enthusiasts and makes a great jumping off point for hikes, cycles and more. Like Carp, Chelsea has been slow to grow but has seen much activity in recent years, including the hugely popular Nordik Spa and development of the Hendrick Farm community.
Be sure to stop by: the spa, of course; the Old Chelsea Market, a fun blend of artisans, farmers, musicians and more; Camp Fortune for ziplining; Lusk Cave; Great Canadian Bungee – if you’re brave; and La Cigale ice cream shop.
Merrickville, 80 km south of downtown
Merrickville is a picturesque village on the Rideau Canal favoured by artists and tourists alike. Although it’s the furthest from town on this list, it’s well worth the drive: If you’ve never been, it is a community to visit for sure. Quaint, friendly and with plenty to do, there are shops, restaurants and sites to see galore.
Be sure to stop by: the locks, for sure, along with the restored blockhouse, which has been converted to a museum celebrating the village’s and the canal’s history; the Grotto Artworks, a venue for a collection of artists; the many independent shops, such as Mrs. McGarrigle’s Fine Food or The Merry Christmas Shop; and the Downtown Ice Cream Shoppe for wonderful ice cream and other treats.
The Village, right downtown
Ottawa’s own village is worth a visit, too. The six-block stretch of Bank Street from Nepean to James streets is officially the city’s gay village and it boasts a thriving commercial presence and personality. And it just so happens that the Capital Pride Festival is about to begin, bringing 60 events over eight days from Aug. 19 to 26 and culminating in the Capital Pride Parade at 1:30 on the 26th.
Be sure to stop by: the James Street Pub is always a nourishing spot; for Pride events, check out the Banks Street Fair on Aug. 25, which includes live entertainment, artists and more. Other Pride events can be found at ottawacapitalpride.ca.