When you think of Canada, you might think of a polite moose wearing a Mountie’s hat, nodding his hellos as he passes your lake fishing trip next to a beaver dam. Or you might think of ice hockey. Or maple syrup. Or Celine Dion. Whatever you think, you’re probably more drawn towards thinking about Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver or Quebec than you are ever likely to think of the capital city, Ottawa. And that is a shame, because although Ottawa may have less than half the population of Toronto, it’s just as thriving, with plenty to see and do. Yet, somehow, Ottawa never seems to grab the destination headlines it deserves. Let’s redress that problem right now, with a couple of top tips on visiting Ottawa.

Skate on the largest outdoor ice rink in the world

Although the Rideau Canal wasn’t necessarily built with winter sports in mind, the waterway nevertheless doubles up as a handy 8km long skating rink every winter. Naturally, access is free and 24-hours a day. This jewel in the crown of Ottawa’s social scene is known for being a place for couples to take their first dates, and where families go to spend an afternoon in the open air away from tablets and phones and apps. The canal’s popularity drives up visitor numbers, which can mean accidents – see PI lawyer (from Ottawa) if you have been affected. Even if you choose to head to the frozen canal on a solo trip, you won’t be short of people to meet and share a deep-fried beaver tail with. Don’t worry, no beavers are harmed in the making of beaver tails – they are dough-like sugary treats, baked to roughly resemble a beaver’s tail (truth be told, not many beaver tails on sale along the banks of the Rideau actually look anything like their namesake, and could just as easily be called flat-rugby-balls or fried-egg-looking-doughnuts, but beaver tails has a certain ring to it).

Visit the beach

Winter in Canada lasts about six months. That’s half the year spent in thick socks and arriving everywhere with hat hair because of, well, all the hats you’ll be wearing. BUT. Canada has a summer, too. And Ottawa, unknown to many, has a beach. Two, in fact. Proper real beaches, with sand and people doing beach things. There are even lifeguards for added ‘certified beach’ authenticity. Granted, you can’t just pop down to the beach on the highstreet. You’ll need to visit Petrie Island in the Ottawa River (and remember that you can only visit between late May and early September).

**Post contributed by peer adventurer and travel writer, Julia Evans.**