There are many open data related events coming to Ottawa in 2015, from May 24 to June 5.
Ottawa is a fairly typical small North American city, transformed in the post-war by "urban renewal", highway infrastructure, removal of streetcars and suburbanization.
Here's some information, partially adapted from my post JCDL 2011 in Ottawa.
Getting Around - Walking
The Convention Centre (Shaw Centre) is on Colonel By. It connects into the Westin and the Rideau Centre. Due to the canal and the bridges, it is a bit of a tangle getting around. There are a few key access points:
- The south side of Rideau Street has entrances into the Rideau Centre. Rideau Street has local buses, eastbound (away from downtown) on the south side and westbound (towards downtown) on the north side. Rideau Street turns into Wellington Street when you go west. Parliament Hill is west on Wellington.
- You can walk north-south on Colonel By. There is also a north-south path along the river.
- The Mackenzie King Bridge can be reached through the Rideau Centre (next to Nordstroms, upper level), or by stairs next to the Convention Centre. The bridge has Transitway buses, which are also local east-west buses through downtown. Westbound (towards downtown) on the north side of the bridge, eastbound (away from downtown) on the south side.
Assuming you are starting from the Convention Centre (the Shaw Centre): the Market is to the north of the convention centre. To get to the downtown core, you have a number of options:
- go north to Rideau Street and walk west
- go south onto the Mackenzie King Bridge, and walk west (but this kind of sucks in terms of scenery)
- go south onto the Mackenzie King Bridge, cross the bridge to the south side, walk west and take the stairs down from the bridge, and then walk south-west on the paths across Confederation Park to Elgin (this is what I do, but it's complicated, see below)
Here's a map showing how to get from the Convention Centre to/from Elgin, across the bridge and the park (on the north side either using the convention centre stairs as shown, or by getting on/off the bridge from Rideau Centre).
If you want a much longer route to go to the downtown core area, you can walk south along the canal to a pedestrian bridge (the Corktown Bridge) across the Rideau Canal at Somerset Street.
Getting Around - Bus
The transit system is OC Transpo.
Thanks to municipal open data, there is a really good app called BusBuddyOttawa. It will tell you when the bus is actually coming.
Its stop times use bus GPS data and are accurate to within a minute, unless there's a major system disruption. (The actual arrival times and the official posted times often differ substantially.)
To get to the downtown core, you have a number of options:
- take any westbound transitway bus on Mackenzie King bridge (e.g. any 90 or 80 series bus from Mackenzie King Station, north side of the bridge) and get off at Metcalfe (for Elgin) or at Bank
- take any westbound local OC Transpo bus from the north side of Rideau Street (across from the Rideau Centre). The 9 and 12 will take you as far as Bank & Slater, the 2 will take you to Bank & Somerset, and the 1, 7 will take you far south along Bank.
NOTE: Don't take the STO buses, unless you want to go to Gatineau. They're from the Quebec transit system.
OC Transpo also has a trip planner.
Getting Around - Bike
The bikeshare is called VeloGo, Twitter @VeloGoCanada. As of this writing I don't know if it will be open by May. The downtown has no protected lanes other than a short east-west bike lane on Laurier Avenue.
There are lots of completely separate recreational pathways along the canal and the river, but they really are for touring around the waterfront, not so much for reaching things in the downtown grid.
(There are some other bikeshare services but I don't know the details.)
Restaurants - Map & Data
Here's a map with some restaurants - mostly ones I have been to (and like a lot), as well as a few others that are highly recommended. Most of these places fill up fast, so you should make reservations. NOTE: As this map is from 2011, some restaurants have closed or moved; I will be making a new map.
All restaurants below will be made into an open data list.
There are restaurants and pubs along Elgin Street and Bank Street. There are also lots in the Byward Market, but I don't know the Market very well.
Restaurants - Quick and Close
The Convention Centre (Shaw Centre) is located right downtown. It's important to understand that the downtown core (Centretown) only has a population of about 20,000. Most people commute to downtown.
There is a restaurant in Nordstroms in the Rideau Centre, one of their Bazille brand. It has a patio. I haven't been.
By far the easiest thing from the Convention Centre is to go to the Market (Byward Market) which has a reasonable selection of restaurants and a nice street experience. It is mainly visited by tourists and the lunchtime crowd, so it (like Sparks Street) it has a bit of an artificial quality.
Some good places to eat in the market are:
- Murray Street Kitchen, 110 Murray Street - has nice interior patio
- Play, 1 York Street
- Mellos (for supper), 290 Dalhousie, @mellos1942
- Brothers Beer Bistro, 366 Dalhousie (I haven't been)
- Navarra, 93 Murray Street (I haven't been)
- Ace Mercado, 121 Clarence Street (I haven't been)
If you want a really quick meal, Shafali Bazaar is a small curry shop. Zak's diner is also fast and reasonably good. Shafali has two other locations in Ottawa. Zak's has one other location and is also part of a local restaurant group.
Please don't go to Milestones or Metropolitain, on Rideau at the edge of the market. They are not good.
There is good shopping and some good eating along Dalhousie at the edge of the market. It's the only Market street I actually go to consistently. It runs up basically to Das Lokal, at Dalhousie and Saint Andrew.
If you want a high-end dining experience, just go to Beckta. It's at 150 Elgin (a new location), a 10 minute walk from the convention centre.
Food Trucks / Food Carts
Yes, Ottawa has food trucks. You can see 2014 vendors and added 2015 vendors. There should be more detailed and updated information after the official launch on May 13. At the time of writing, I haven't tried most of them, but here are a couple suggestions:
- Dosa Inc. (truck), north side of Dundonald Park, @Dosa_Inc
- Stella Luna Gelato Café (cart), west side of Bank Street, south of Sparks Street
Restaurants - Downtown / Centretown
The downtown core is basically the Central Business District (CBD) north of Gloucester, and Centretown, south of Gloucester to the highway (the Queensway). I know this area best.
The good news is there are many excellent places to eat in Centretown. The bad news is there are many terrible places to eat (mostly serving the lunchtime commuter crowd).
I have grouped somewhat arbitrarily into lunch/supper/brunch/takeout just based on when I usually go and what I usually do but obviously your schedule will be different.
Here are a few places I like for lunch:
- Grounded Kitchen, 100 Gloucester, Mon 7am - 4pm, Tue - Fri 7am - 9pm, @groundedottawa
- if you have a large party or want a seat by the window, reservations recommended
- also open for supper
- Bread and Sons, 195 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 6:45 - 18:30, Fri 6:45 - 20:00, Sat 8:30 - 19:30, Sun 9:00 - 4:00
- this is a small bakery so mostly just grab and go
These are good for lunch or supper:
- Clover, 155 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 11am - 2pm, Fri-Sat 11am - 2:30pm and 5:30pm - 10pm, @CloverFoodDrink (I haven't been)
- North and Navy, 226 Nepean Street (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, @northandnavy
- Fauna, 425 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am - 2pm, Sun-Wed 5:30pm - 10pm, Thurs-Sat 5:30pm - 11:30pm (or "till late")
- Whalesbone Oyster House, 430 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am - 2pm, 7 days a week 5pm -
- reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular)
- online reservations for lunch only, otherwise call 613 231-8569
- Ceylonta (fantastic Sri Lankan food), 403 Somerset Street West (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11:30am - 2pm, Mon-Fri 5pm - 9pm, Sat 5pm - 9pm, Sun 12pm - 2pm, Sun 5pm - 9pm
- Town (this is my favourite restaurant), 296 Elgin Street, Wed-Fri 11:30am - 2pm, Sun-Thurs 5pm - 10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm - 11pm, @townlovesyou
- reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular), call 613-695-8696 (613-695-TOWN)
- Union613, 315 Somerset Street West, Mon-Sat 5:30pm - 10pm, Wed-Sat 10:30pm - 2pm, @unionlocal613
- Share Freehouse, 327 Somerset Street West, @sharefreehouse (I haven't been)
- The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Saturday and Sunday 10am
- you will have to line up by 9:50am or so if you want to get in to the 10am first sitting
- Wilf & Ada's, 510 Bank Street, Saturday and Sunday 8am, @wilfandadas (hipster brunch)
- unless you get there by 9am you're pretty much guaranteed to have to wait outside
- Erling's Variety, 225 Strathcona (east of Bank), Saturday and Sunday 10am
- this is in the Glebe (south of the highway), not in Centretown
- can be a good alternative if Wilf & Ada's is full as usual
A short imperfect list by cuisine:
- Indian - Coconut Lagoon, but it's not downtown
- Indian - you can get takeout from Basmati, it's just ok though
- Sri Lankan - Ceylonta, 403 Somerset Street West
- Indonesian / Malaysian - Chahaya Malaysia, but it's not downtown
- Thai - Som Tum, 260 Nepean Street
- Peruvian - Petit Peru, 792 Somerset Street West (I haven't been)
- hipster burgers - Burgers and Fries Forever (BFF), 329 Bank Street, @bffburgers
There's lots of Chinese, Vietnamese (pho) and other cuisines along Somerset Street West starting roughly west of Percy and running to Preston. The Chinatown Gate marks the notional entrance to Chinatown at Bronson and Somerset.
Little Italy runs along Preston.
I don't know anything about coffee. Some popular places I think are
- Bridgehead (everywhere)
- Morning Owl, 139 Bank Street, @MorningOwlBank
- The Ministry of Coffee, 279 Elgin Street, @TheMinOfCoffee
- Planet Coffee, 24 York (it's in a laneway, go into e.g. the alley with the Clarendon sign, on the north side of George Street)
I will post a longer list of restaurants and shopping (including places farther afield) in my Ottawa blog.
There is Calforex Currency Exchange / Bureau de change (it has the best rates) on the 3rd floor of the Rideau Centre shopping mall, there are also other currency exchanges in the downtown core.
Below is probably way more than you need to know about Canadian money, from an OECD blog post I wrote for a conference they had in Ottawa in 2007 (now only available from archive.org). This info will sound pretty basic for anyone who has been to Canada or who is used to using debit and credit cards, but I thought it might be useful.
The currency is the Canadian dollar.
The commonly used currency includes:
- a dollar coin, golden in colour and slightly larger than a quarter, the dollar coin is often called a "loonie" as it has a Loon depicted on the face
- a two dollar coin, bi-metallic with an outer silver ring, slightly larger than the dollar coin, often called a "toonie"
- bills in $5, $10 and $20 denominations
- larger denominations are of course available
Rather than carry large amounts of cash, however, many Canadians use transaction cards, and almost all stores are equipped with card readers.
Canada is in the process of transitioning to chip & PIN technology - most card readers still support magstripe reading, in addition to chip reading.
For a debit card, some stores, commonly large pharmacies and grocery stores, also offer "cash back", which is the equivalent of a bank withdrawal - the maximum is usually $50 to $100.
There is a slight tendency to use debit cards for smaller purchases and credit cards for larger ones, however most stores won't be surprised to see you use a card for a purchase of any amount from tiny to large; many Canadians, including myself, carry little or no cash and use cards for almost all transactions.
All of Canada's major banks provide ATMs (bank machines) throughout Ottawa. ATMs usually charge withdrawal fees. Do be aware that within stores you may also find so called "white label" third-party bank machines. While these are safe to use, they charge even higher withdrawal fees than bank ATMs.
There are TD Bank machines on the ground floor of the Rideau Centre shopping mall, if you enter from Rideau Street, underneath the skyway to the Bay, the machines will be on your left, just past the Shoppers Drug Mart.
Both debit and credit card networks are interlinked with major international networks.
The use of cheques to pay in stores is virtually non-existent; I don't think I have ever seen someone pay by cheque in a store in my entire life. Stored-value card use is also minimal.