Here is your ACN-Approved Healthy City Guide to the best vibrant living Ottawa has to offer!
Ottawa, Ontario is one of Canada’s most picturesque cities, with historic architecture, wonderful waterways and an abundance of greenspaces, parklands and trails. The nation’s capital boasts world class amenities while managing to retain the warmth and charm of a European city.
Make sure to plan your trip carefully because temperatures in Ottawa can range from 33 degrees Celsius in the summer to -40 degrees Celsius in the winter. This wide range in temperature is also one of the city’s best assets because it provides the right conditions for a variety of year-round activities, from swimming in Gatineau Park in the summer to skating on the world’s longest skating rink in the winter.
Ottawa is also a great city for active and health-conscious individuals with an abundance of activities and healthy restaurants to choose from. Here are some of Ottawa’s healthiest options:
Where to Eat
Pure Kitchen. Ottawa’s newest vegan and vegetarian restaurant is having no problem attracting health-conscious clientele. With beautifully plated vegan and vegetarian meals made of fresh, local and organic ingredients and a full service juice bar, Pure Kitchen offers gluten-free options that are clearly identified on the menu.
Café My House. With a plant-based, sustainable and seasonal menu and with gluten-free waffles that are to die for, Café My House may just be Ottawa’s best kept secret. With dishes like the chipotle BLT with BBQ coconut bacon, tempeh cheeseburgers and fennel sausage sandwiches, even meat-lovers are sure to feel at home at this restaurant. The entire menu is vegan and gluten-free.
The Green Door. Ottawa’s oldest and best known buffet-style vegetarian restaurant. There is no set menu and dishes are prepared based on what is in plentiful and in season. The restaurant has great labeling practices and gluten-free, vegan, and organic dishes are clearly marked, as are items that contain the key allergens like eggs, soy, sesame, nuts, wheat, and dairy, making this a great place for individuals with various dietary restrictions.
Simply Raw Express. For those looking for on-the-go raw food options or interested in embarking on a juice cleanse, Simply Raw Express is the place for you. With a focus on take-out dishes (their dine-in area is quite small) and juice boxes, this vegan, gluten-free and mostly raw restaurant is the brain-child of author and tedX speaker Natasha Kyssa.
The Cupcake Lounge. Who doesn’t love cupcakes – especially when they are baked fresh daily, taste absolutely divine and are made with no artificial flavours, preservatives or trans-fats? For those who are gluten-sensitive, there are also five gluten-free flavours, just make sure to get there early or call ahead, as they often sell out before the end of the day.
Bridgehead. Coffee and tea lovers alike will love this local, fair-trade coffeehouse which supports small scale farmers. With over 15 locations in Ottawa, comfortable couch seating, WIFI, delicious coffee and a wide selection of baked goods, which includes gluten-free and vegan options, this is sure to become one of your favourite local haunts.
Ottawa Farmer’s Market. The Ottawa Farmers Market includes three locations around the city – Lansdowne Park, Byron Park (Westborough) and Orleans. With over 100 vendors selling locally grown produce, wild game, grass-fed beef, maple syrup, honey, eggs, local baking, preserves and arts and crafts, this is your best bet for local, seasonal, organic food.
Whole Foods. Known as America’s healthiest grocery store, this newcomer to Ottawa has the largest selection of natural health foods in the area. Spend over $25 and get 90 minutes of free parking.
Rainbow Foods. This independent health and natural retailer has been operating in Ottawa since 1978. With over 25,000 different products, including organic and natural food, supplements, vitamins and other natural health products, a focus on customer service and local family ownership, this store is a favourite among local health enthusiasts.
Natural Food Pantry. With four convenient locations, this health food store has been a staple in Ottawa since 1981. With well-informed staff, organic and gluten-free foods, bulk foods, natural supplements and body care products, 15 nutritionists, a rewards program, and a price match guarantee, finding the right products to support your health just became so much easier.
Kardish. This chain of local health food stores set themselves apart by hiring experienced health experts like nutritionists, personal trainers and culinary experts. With its generous rewards program, member appreciation days, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee, these family owned stores are sure to meet your natural health and nutrition needs.
Yoga and Fitness
Health and Fitness Clubs. Ottawa boasts an array of fitness clubs, from large, all-inclusive clubs to smaller boutique style and specialty clubs. Check out Movati Athletic, Goodlife Fitness, Free Form Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Greco Fitness or the local YMCA.
Yoga studios. Ottawa locals love their yoga classes, which is evidenced by the many yoga studios in town. Favourites include Pure Yoga, Rama Lotus Yoga, Upward Dog Yoga and Santosha Yoga. The Movati Fitness clubs are also known for their exceptional hot yoga classes.
Specialty Fitness Studios. Whether it’s pole dancing at Ottawa Pole Fitness or Cherry Blossom Studios, at barre classes, or crossfit (www.crossfitncr.ca, www.crossfitbytown.com or crossfitwolvish.com), fitness enthusiasts are sure to find something in Ottawa that suits their athletic style.
Oresta Spa. With three hip locations in Ottawa (the Glebe, Hintonburg and New Edinburgh) each expressing a unique look and feel, Oresta is the place to go for pampering and relaxation. Oresta offers all organic spa services and beauty care as well as an extensive line of products which cater to those with nut, gluten and fragrance sensitivities. They also carry several vegan lines.
Le Nordik Spa. If you feel the need to get away and escape from it all for the day, Le Nordik is the place to go. Located next to Gatineau Park, only minutes from downtown Ottawa, Le Nordik’s 7 varying temperature baths, 8 unique saunas and numerous relaxation areas are perfect for unwinding and re-energizing. Buy a day pass for $60, stay for lunch and maybe even get a massage…it doesn’t get any better than that!
Peppermint Organic Spa. Located 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa in historic Manotick, this holistic spa is well worth the drive. Peppermint organic spa takes its commitment to using 100% natural, low toxicity ingredients seriously by only carrying products listed as being lower than a two on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. Services include esthetics, facials, body treatments, nail care, Reiki energy healing, reflexology and meditation therapy, among others.
Bike, jog, rollerblade or walk along the paths that cut through the heart of the city. The Rideau River, Ottawa River and Rideau Canal offer fantastic views of all the major tourist attractions in Ottawa. On Sunday mornings from Victoria Day until Labour Day weekend you can enjoy cycling along car-free roads.
Hiking, cycling or swimming in Gatineau Park’s 35,000 hectares of unspoiled land. There are six public beaches in the park where you can sunbathe and swim to your heart’s desire.
Take a yoga class on the lawn in front of Parliament. Every Wednesday at noon, starting in May and weather permitting, join hundreds of fellow yogis in saluting the sun. Make sure to bring your own mat!
Watch the Parliament Building light up!. Throughout the summer, from July to September the NCC puts on the Sounds and Light Show with Parliament Hill as its backdrop. Bring a blanket and some wine and enjoy the show from the lawn on Parliament Hill.
Skate or walk on the world’s longest ice rink. The world famous Rideau Canal Skateway is 7.8 km (4.8 miles) long and runs from the locks at Carlton University right up to the locks near Chateau Laurier. To enjoy a truly Canadian experience, complete your skate by indulging in a beavertail (a sweet fried dough) and a hot chocolate.
Cross-country ski or snowshoe in Gatineau Park. Enjoy the beauty of Gatineau Park by exploring over 200 km of trails located just 10 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Spend a morning skiing and end the day with a warm drink in one of Old Chelsea’s many quaint restaurants.
Go tobogganing down one of the city’s many sledding hills. Check out Carlington Park, Bruce Pit, Mooney’s Bay Park, Apollo Crater Park, the Arboretum, Half Moon Bay Park or Greens Creek Park. Be forewarned that some of these hills are quite steep and because they require a long walk back up, they may not be appropriate for really young children.
Where To Stay
Westin Ottawa. Located in the heart of Ottawa, with superb accommodations, incredible views of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and the Byward Market and one of the best fitness centers around, this is one of the best hotels in Ottawa. Being located directly next to the Rideau Centre provides visitors with access to world-class shopping on rainy days.
Chateau Laurier. Located next door to the Parliament buildings, this gorgeous hotel is reminiscent of a European castle. Traditionally decorated rooms give the hotel a luxurious feel but modern amenities – including a top-of-the-line fitness center, massage therapy and a swimming pool – provide guests with everything they need to stay healthy and fit.
Are you from Ottawa? Taken your own healthy adventures here? What did we miss? What are your favourite health spots?