Showtime in Canada’s capital

Ottawa’s not merely a city of policy wonks and political junkies. As befits a capital, this summer offers an outstanding selection of blockbuster exhibitions, world-class museums, galleries and festivals.

Be tantalized by the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s exhibit, Maya: Secrets of Their Ancient World, May 18 – Oct. 28, and learn about life in a Mayan city in the Ancient Maya Classic Period (AD 250-900). The exhibit explains mysteries such as the origins of the 2012 end-of-days legend. Get insights into the ritualistic lives of Mayan divine rulers, courtly life, plus daily routine of ordinary folks. With 250 artefacts, many discovered in temples and palaces, the exhibition promises fascinating insights into this legendary culture.

Feeling regal? The Canadian Museum of Civilization commemorates Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee during Queen and Country: Elizabeth II and Canada (July 1 – Nov. 18). Outstanding artifacts include the “Maple Leaf of Canada Dress,” a glittering gown she wore in 1957 during her first Canadian visit as Queen. Later, return to a world of mystery where taboos and rituals of Haiti’s voodoo traditions await in Voudou: A Way of Life (Nov. 15 – Oct. 14, 2013). Discover mirror-conduits to the spirit world and learn about powerful Iwa (spirits) who are crucial elements of this little-understood faith.

Passionate about art? Step inside the National Gallery of Canada’s Canadian exclusive Vincent van Gogh: Up Close exhibition (May 25 – Sept. 3), which feature approximately 50 paintings including works that have rarely been shown publicly.

Gardens link art and nature. Indulge your senses by immersing in spring’s sunshine, fresh air and more than a million blossoms at the 60th annual Canadian Tulip Festival, May 4-21. Admire fragrant flowerbeds while painters capture the moment at their easels; then browse local artisans’ booths.

Talking about history, 2012 marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The Canadian War Museum’s largest-ever exhibit, Four Wars of 1812 (June 15 – Jan. 6, 2013) depicts the causes and conduct of the war from the perspectives of its four major participants: First Nations, British, American and Canadian peoples, and how they all helped to define modern Canada.

Ottawa’s magnificent “castle”, aka the Canadian Museum of Nature showcases natural history. The New Zealand exhibit, Whales Tohorā (until Sept. 3) unveils the underwater world of whales and how Māoris venerate these mammals.

Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization / Musée canadien des civilisations © Ottawa Tourism / Tourisme Ottawa

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.