As Canada’s capital and its fourth largest city, Ottawa offers a uniquely Canadian experience to visitors from around the world.

A traditional meeting place for the First Nations communities in the area - Ottawa comes from the Algonquin word Odawa, meaning “to trade” - the settlement began in earnest in 1826 when Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers came to town to build the Rideau Canal.

With the War of 1812 fresh in their minds, the British - who controlled much of present-day Canada - wanted to build an alternate supply route that avoided the St. Lawrence River, which could potentially be blockaded by the Americans. Colonel By and his English sappers, Scottish stonemasons, and Irish, French Canadian and Aboriginal labourers, completed the impressive engineering feat, stretching 202km (126 miles), in six years.

The Rideau Canal is Ontario’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and though built for a military purpose, has only been used for trade and recreation. In winter, 7.8km (4.8 miles) of its length through downtown Ottawa freezes and becomes the world’s largest naturally frozen outdoor skating rink.

After the Rideau Canal construction, forestry became a major employer, and the small settlement known as Bytown was a lumber town. In 1855, Bytown incorporated as the city of Ottawa and just two years later, it was chosen as the capital of Canada, in part because of its English and French heritage and its relative distance from the USA border.

Since the 1850s, Ottawa has evolved as a G8 capital, offering impressive cultural amenities expected by the diplomatic crowd, while maintaining the friendliness and ease of access of a much smaller centre. You’ll still hear English and French spoken on the streets and you’ll also find a thriving high technology and entrepreneurial community that is bolstered by two major universities and three community colleges.

As the capital, Ottawa is home to institutions like Parliament Hill (the meeting place for elected representatives), the Supreme Court of Canada, Rideau Hall (the home of the Governor General), the Royal Canadian Mint and the major national museums, which have evolved to offer a more hands-on and immersive experience than ever before. They all offer impressive family-oriented programming as well, meaning children interact with the exhibits in unique ways - such as creating artworks at the National Gallery of Canada, naming the newborn animals each spring at the Canada Agriculture Museum, or examining the “creepy critters” like beetles and snakes at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

For adults, there are immersive experiences as well. Imagine taking an open-cockpit biplane ride at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum or walking through a recreated World War I trench at the Canadian War Museum. You can stroll through 1000 years of Canadian history - starting from the Vikings’ arrival on the east coast in 1000AD - in the Canada Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization or explore the science behind everyday life at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Lovers of the outdoors will find easy access, even from downtown Ottawa—whether it’s cycling along the Rideau Canal or myriad other pathways, or hiking or camping in nearby Gatineau Park. Golfers will enjoy dozens and dozens of courses within an easy drive of downtown. Meanwhile, just 90 minutes’ drive west of Ottawa, you’ll find some of the best whitewater rafting and paddling opportunities anywhere on the planet along the mighty Ottawa River.

The culinary scene has exploded in recent years, due in no small part to Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute. Their graduates have filled local kitchens and raised the level of quality to impressive new heights. Chef-owned restaurants are the norm, many of which belong to Savour Ottawa, a movement to encourage and promote locally grown and raised foods. The year-round ByWard Market is a particular hotspot - not just the name of one of Canada’s oldest and largest farmers’ markets but also the name of the surrounding neighbourhood. You’ll find 120 places to eat and drink within a four-block radius - a foodies’ paradise.

The festival scene is also of note, with music festivals like the RBC Royal Bank Ottawa Bluesfest attracting hundreds of thousands for fun in the summer sun each July. The TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival leads into the biggest and best Canada Day (1 July) party in the country. The Ottawa Chamberfest fills downtown churches and concert halls with beautiful chamber music while the Ottawa Folk Festival allows everyone an end-of-summer breather. The Writers Festival, Animation Festival, Winterlude (winter activities), Canadian Tulip Festival and dozens more animate almost every weekend throughout the year.

• Parliament of Canada
• Canadian Museum of Civilization
• National Gallery of Canada
• ByWard Market neighbourhood
• National Arts Centre

Football is the number one participatory sport in Ottawa with nearly 60,000 of its residents participating as players in the game. Outside Ottawa, the Eastern Ontario District Soccer Association is home to another 15,000 player registrants. This makes the EODSA the second largest District in Ontario.

Our city boasts the Ottawa Fury, a development league team, Capital City FC, part of the Canadian Soccer League, and in 2014 will welcome a new North American Soccer League franchise.

Founded in 2000, the Ottawa Fury Soccer Club has evolved from a single women’s team to adding a PDL team, a Professional Development Academy (U17-U20), a Youth Development Academy (U13-U16), a Prospects Program (U8-U12) along with numerous skill development, grassroots and community programs. The Fury believe that their success is measured by the success of their players and the list of achievements is impressive.

More than 80 youth players have earned NCAA scholarships and more than 100 youth players have gone on to play at the varsity level at Canadian Colleges and Universities. To date, more than 30 players have progressed from the Fury onto professional opportunities across North America, Europe and Australia. An achievement that the Fury is most proud of is the players that have been asked to represent their country. More than 15 players have appeared on the international stage, for countries including Turkey, Jamaica, Portugal and Canada.

The mission of Capital City FC is to bring a high calibre of professional soccer along with a traditional soccer experience that appeals to the diverse population of Ottawa. The club hopes to build upon soccer's strong roots in the nation's capital and is committed to putting an exciting team on the field.

In 2011, Ottawa was awarded a North American Soccer League (NASL) franchise that will commence play in 2014. This will be the highest calibre of soccer seen in Ottawa since the FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in 2007, and it will be played in the vibrant, family-friendly atmosphere of the city’s beautiful new stadium at Lansdowne. The NASL is North America’s only certified Division Two professional men’s soccer league with teams in Canada, USA and Puerto Rico. The Ottawa team will also compete against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and FC Edmonton for the Canadian Professional Soccer Championship.