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10 Quick Winter Getaways

9 Ottawa

By Barbara Peck

Though it must be hard for self-deprecating Canadians to accept, their capital has acquired an undeniable sense of style, revealed in some sophisticated new restaurants and an ultrahip boutique hotel. In the historic Byward Market neighborhood, low-rise brick-and-stone buildings have been taken over by trendy shops, pubs, and cafés. Browse upscale housewares at Zone (471 Sussex Dr.; 613/562-2755) and Domus (85 Murray St.; 613/241-6410). Or check out the region's wealth of museums: The Canadian Museum of Civilization (819/776-7000), across the river in Hull, encapsulates the country's history in a stunning, undulating building; the National Gallery of Canada (613/990-1985) houses contemporary art in a soaring glass tower; and the frozen-in-time dioramas at the Canadian Museum of Nature (613/566-4729) are adorable. But the real reason to visit Ottawa now is Winterlude (January 31-February 16; www.canadascapital.gc.ca), a boisterous celebration of the season that's in its 25th year. Instead of whining about the cold, everyone laces up skates and zooms along a five-mile stretch of the Rideau Canal, stopping at the Ice Café (made of, yes, ice) for beavertails (doughnuts shaped like, yes, a beaver's tail). You can also see snow sculptures, take in outdoor jazz, or catch more ice time at a Senators hockey game. They made the playoffs last year, eh?

Don't Miss

Wedging yourself into busy Canal Ritz (375 Queen Elizabeth Driveway; 613/238-8998) for late-night dessert, a Winterlude tradition.

Capital vs. Capital: Continental Divide

OTTAWA
Residents' biggest worry: Canal won't be frozen for Winterlude
Drink of the moment: Hot cider
Average annual snowfall: 87 inches
Fresh face of 2003: Rock chick Avril Lavigne
Civic pride and joy: NHL's Ottawa Senators
Favorite pig by-product: Canadian bacon

WASHINGTON, D.C.
Residents' biggest worry: Finding a parking spot
Drink of the moment: Martini with olives
Average annual snowfall: 17 inches
Fresh face of 2003: Junior senator Liddy Dole
Civic pride and joy: Clean, well-lighted Metro
Favorite pig by-product: Pork barrel projects

The Facts

Ottawa has direct flights from numerous cities on the Eastern Seaboard. A favorable exchange rate means lots of bargains.

WHERE TO STAY

ARC the.hotel A minimalist temple on an unprepossessing downtown street. The 112 rooms are all wood and glass, sleek lines, and muted colors. The dining room has some of the city's best food. Doubles from $97; Dinner for two $55; 140 Slater St.; 800/699-2516; www.arcthehotel.com
Fairmont Château Laurier The traditionalist's choice, at the head of the canal. Doubles from $154; 1 Rideau St.; 800/441-1414 OR 613/241-1414; www.fairmont.com

WHERE TO EAT

E18hteen An airy, stylish space in the Byward Market, with stone walls, leather armchairs, a hip crowd, and an ambitious menu. Dinner for two $40; 18 York St.; 613/244-1188
Social Chef Derek Benitz uses regional ingredients to create nouveau French flavors in a sexy room with arched windows and red velvet walls. Dinner for two $50; 537 Sussex Dr.; 613/789-7355
Black Cat Café A sunny Market storefront serving eclectic dishes with Asian touches—great for lunch. Check out the TV's embedded in the bathroom floors (the guys get more channels). Lunch for two $20; 93 Murray St.; 613/241-2999
Wakefield Mill Inn The best Sunday brunch is a half-hour drive into Quebec's Gatineau Park, at this fastidiously restored 1838 stone mill by a waterfall. The menu includes rustic French-Canadian dishes—baked beans, quiche. Brunch for two $32; 60 Mill Rd., Wakefield; 888/567-1838; www.wakefieldmill.com

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