Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, knows how to do Christmas right. The city is positively covered in festive lights and special events abound. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Santa feels right at home here.
That’s right. Santa. Not only does Santa love Ottawa, he actually keeps his aviation skills sharp at the city’s own Rockcliffe Airport, next to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Every December, in conjunction with the team at Ottawa Aviation Adventures, Santa offers 15-minute flights over the city. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, proceeds from this activity (which costs $48 per person for two passengers or $38 per person for three passengers) go to the Ottawa Food Bank.
I was fortunate to meet the team from Ottawa Aviation Adventures, enjoy a flight with Santa, and interview the jolly old elf himself thanks to Ottawa Tourism, who arranged this press activity for me. I loved every moment of the experience and I think you will too. Here’s why.
You See The City In An Entirely New Way
I was stunned by just how different the city looked from above. I was fortunate to fly with Santa the day after it snowed, and the city’s main roads looked like pieces of black ribbon, hugging the river and bisecting snowy white fields. I thought that the winter weather would impede my ability to recognize landmarks, but it was just the opposite. It’s like the entire city unfolded like a map before me.
I asked Santa what some of the highlights of the flight were for him, and he mentioned that Chaudière Falls, the Rideau Falls, and Parliament Hill were some of his favorite sites.
Snow-Covered Museums Are Ethereal
Things look different from great heights, and I found this to be particularly true of the Canadian War Museum. From the air, the museum’s 115,0000-square-foot green roof, planted with tall grass species, looked almost ghostly when covered with snow. The gentle shadows made me think of the sloping landscape of former battlegrounds, holding the scars of war long after the conflicts cease. It was a very poignant moment in the middle of a very exciting experience.
There’s A Touch Of Hallmark Wherever You Look
Ottawa often serves as the generic “big city” for Hallmark holiday movie shoots. And now, having viewed the city from above, I can see why! Stately homes by the river, a bustling downtown filled with tall buildings, lots of dense neighborhoods packed with small shops — the city really is movie-worthy.
It’s A Flight Unlike Any Other
Santa’s vintage Cessna 172 is officially the smallest aircraft I’ve ever been in. But I was surprisingly comfy in the backseat and had a great view. I have a notoriously tricky stomach (definitely an occupational hazard for a travel writer), but the flight was as smooth as could be.
I did ask Santa what it was like to pilot the Cessna 172 compared to his usual sleigh, and he reported that the most significant difference was that the Cessna was much faster. However, it proved to be excellent for training the reindeer so, come Christmas Eve, they’re not worn out.
You Have One-On-One Time With Santa
In addition to enjoying the spectacular views of the city from the vintage airplane, you also have a little valuable one-on-one time with Santa to plead your case when it comes to your Christmas list. While it’s a little too loud in the aircraft for easy conversation, nothing is stopping you from drilling Santa before and after the flight.
I didn’t shy from controversy and asked Santa about inflammatory reports that he’s not Canadian and is actually from Finland. Santa confirmed that he is indeed a Canadian citizen. (Take that, Helsinki!)
I inquired about my editors at TravelAwaits. Was it looking good for them this holiday season? Alas, Santa said he could neither confirm nor deny anyone’s position on the naughty or nice list. (But between you and me, they might be in trouble!)
Finally, I asked Santa what he wanted for Christmas. Ever the aviation fan, he’s hoping to see some airplane parts under his tree!
There are a few little administrative details to be aware of when you take a holiday flight with Santa. You must pay for parking at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. The machines take credit cards and cash. You check in at the museum and fill out wavers and (gulp!) tell the staff your weight in pounds. You should dress warmly (think winter coat and hat) and wear sturdy shoes. I was glad I had my boots on for both walking across the icy runaway and for climbing into the aircraft.
Craving more holiday inspiration? Get your fill of sweet treats and twinkling lights with our holiday travel content here.