All Alayna wants for Christmas … is a great day downtown

Alayna (blog/Twitter) is a proud Ottawa native who loves travelling, photography and the wonders of social media. She is a web communications specialist during the day and, in her spare time, she is often found baking, crafting and planning her next trip.

Murray Street Kitchen is located at 110 Murray Street

Ah, the holiday season downtown. The malls are packed, parking is a nightmare, and the cold is (finally) starting to set in. It’s enough to make a person want to curl up on the couch, pull out a good book and spend the day indoors.

But get out there fellow Ottawa dwellers!

There’s a hell of a lot more to see downtown besides the Rideau Centre! After a year living in the heart of downtown, I’ve found there are ton of ways to enjoy a perfect winter weekend, without being trampled by the frantic shoppers in the mall. Here are a few of my favourites …

Start the day off with brunch at the Murray Street Kitchen (110 Murray Street). For just $13, they serve up a delicious mix of flavours and unique twists on the old classics. Cheddar french toast with garlic maple syrup? Yes please! The menu changes often, so it’s impossible to get bored with the options. Be sure to get there early or make reservations, as they fill up quickly.

Alanya Wright high fives the chef at Murray Street Kitchen, which offers a great weekend brunch

If you take part in the Ottawa Foodie Challenge next year, you may even get the chance to high-five the chef!

Next, take a stroll up to the awesome shopping area of Dalhousie North. It’s a bit of a walk, but well worth the trip! Stop by Victorie (246 Dalhousie) to check out their creative and unique selection of clothing. It’s my best bet for a Christmas or NYE party dress like no other! A little further down, Workshop Boutique (242 Dalhousie) offers a great mix of handcrafted gifts — perfect for those last few people to cross off your Christmas list. Finally, pop by to visit the ladies at Luxe Bridal Boutique (206 & 208 Dalhousie). Not only do they have the most gorgeous gowns, they also have fun accessories to finish off your holiday outfit.

On the way back towards Rideau street, be sure to visit the Byward Market. During the summer, this area is packed with tourists checking out the fresh fruit and veggie stands. During the winter, the market is a bit quieter and features vendors selling maple syrup, Christmas trees, and knitted mittens.

Colourful mittens are just one of the great gifts you can find in the Byward Market

Here, you can even watch a fresh evergreen wreath being whipped together before your eyes! $8-10 will get you a handmade wreath that makes your house smell amazing.

Vendors whip up some holiday-scented wreaths in the Market

Another must-do on my list is a stop at the Parliament Buildings. Too often, it seems Ottawa natives (myself included) rarely visit this Canadian landmark. As a bit of a political junkie, I always find it exciting to walk around and see who you can run into on the Hill.

The gazebo behind the Parliament Buildings boasts my favourite view of the Ottawa River, and don’t forget to count the raccoons at the Canadian Parliamentary Cat sanctuary (located to the west of the Centre Block). From now through January, the Christmas Lights Across Canada is lighting up the Parliament Buildings and other locations around town. It’s a great way to see these well-known places in a whole new light (literally).

Christmas Lights Across Canada is a sight to see on Parliament Hill

Finally, it’s time to reward yourself for a great day out in Ottawa with a pint from D’Arcy McGees (44 Sparks Street) This Irish bar was named after Thomas D’Arcy McGee, who was assassinated just steps away from this spot in 1868, but fear no bad vibes! The cozy atmosphere and rockin’ bands always make for a great evening. Warm up in a corner booth, call a few friends, and enjoy some local beer from Beau’s or Kichesippi — both served on tap! 

These are just a few of my favourite things to do. Ottawa is a big city with a ton of great things going on every day. Get out there, find some fun, and share with us your recommendations for the perfect winter weekend in Ottawa!

Looks like Ottawa’s festivity doesn’t go way when winter comes! Thanks for your holiday tour, Alayna. Have suggestions for other great holiday spots in Ottawa’s other neighbourhoods? Leave a comment below.