If you’re coming into downtown Ottawa for CAN-CON, our local convention on speculative fiction, in early October, navigating downtown Ottawa can be a challenge. Even for its residents, what’s a bustling central core during on weekdays becomes abandoned and closed over the weekend. Here’s an attempt to let you know where you can find services in downtown Ottawa.
Understanding downtown Ottawa
- The streets are laid out in a grid, but in reality they run northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast. But if someone gives you “Go north” directions, remember that Parliament Hill is considered north.
- The downtown core is built around public servants, so some places might not be open on the weekends.
- Like everyplace else, we are undergoing construction—closed lanes, blocked sidewalks, etc.
- Like most downtowns, there are one-way streets, no turns at certain intersections, and other traffic rules that make no sense.
The Sheraton is right downtown at the corner of Albert and O’Connor. (On Google Maps.) It looks like there are always taxis out front. When I went by their was a sign for valet parking only in the hotel’s underground garage.
Across Albert Street is the World Exchange Plaza, which takes up an entire city block. There is a food court inside, but I do not know if it will be open over the weekend. But there is a Shopper’s Drug Mart right across the street for your con-crud needs. (Friday until 9PM, Saturday 9AM-6PM, closed Sunday).
If you are driving in for the day, parking at the World Exchange Plaza is free on the weekends. Get off the Queensway (Highway 417) at the Metcalfe exit and go north toward downtown. You will want to get into the left-hand lane as you approch downtown. Go straight across Albert and down the ramp into the underground parking garage. There is also an entrance off Queen Street between Metcalfe and O’Connor. (Hat tip to Natasha E Bertrand!)
You are also only three blocks south of Parliament Hill. We take it for granted in Ottawa, but if you’ve never seen it it’s worth the walk.
Restaurants & bars
There’s a bar and restaurant right in the lobby with seemingly sane hours. Hopefully we won’t need to go to far afield for a drink.
If you feel like going out, there are usually food trucks and stands all over downtown. But, on a weekend and with fall coming on I don’t know how many you’ll find.
Two blocks north is Sparks Street, a pedestrian mall that has number of shops and restaurants. There are too many to list here, so check out the Sparks Street website to get an idea.
If you are meeting a prospective agent, see if they will take you to Hy’s Steakhouse, one of the swankiest joints in the city. It’s on Queen between Bank and O’Connor (one block north, half a block west).
At Sparks and Bank (two blocks north, one block west) you’ll find 3 Brewers, a huge place that brews its own beer. Not great, but very good.
There are also Subways, McDonalds, shwarma, sushi and other places to get a quick bite, but too many to list here (though I can’t promise what will be open).
LCBO and Beer Store
There is an LCBO across Albert Street and at the east end of the block.
- Friday: Open until 8PM
- Saturday: 10AM–6PM
- Sunday: 12PM–4PM
Unfortunately, there is not a Beer Store in the downtown core and you’ll need to cab it or drive to The Beer Store at Rideau and Waller.
There is no shortage of coffee places. Just pick a direction!
Metcalfe and Slater (one block east, one block south)
- Tim Hortons (6AM-7PM daily)
- Starbucks (Friday until 8PM, Saturday 6:30AM-7PM, Sunday 7AM-7PM)
- Second Cup (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 7AM-7PM)
Bank and Albert (one block west)
- Bridgehead (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 8AM-8PM)
Bank and Slater (one block south, one block west)
- Starbucks (Friday until 8:30, Saturday 7:30AM-8PM, Sunday 7:30AM-8PM)
- Second Cup (Friday until 7PM, Saturday 8AM-5PM, closed Sunday)
O’Connor and Laurier (two blocks south)
- Starbucks (Friday until 7PM, Saturday and Sunday 7:30AM-6PM)
Most major banks have locations within a block or two, so if you don’t mind a quick walk you can save a buck or two at the ATM.
Like I said above, if I missed something feel free to let me know if in the comments! See you all in a few weeks.