Later, it occurred to me that there is a place where I have lots of time to check out a huge range of galleries, museums, restaurants, concerts and shows: my own backyard.
I recalled a recent conversation with a Toronto friend who was visiting Ottawa. She was picking my brain for tips on things to do during her trip. Like any travel writer worth her salt, I had the basics on the top of my head: the "Whales Tohora" exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature, a show I'd read about at the NAC, some new restaurants that were getting good buzz.
"Have you been to any of them?" she asked.
Well, um, no.
Why do I eagerly explore other cities on vacation but rarely step outside my well-worn circuit in Ottawa? One answer is that there's always a to-do list at home: work, dishes, errands, cleaning the lint trap in the dryer. On a weekend getaway, there's no laundry to do or bills to pay (those come later).
But taking a home-based vacation - I refuse to call it a "staycation," just on general linguistic principles - has its advantages. No airports to negotiate. No jet lag to recover from. And no need to pay $5 for a tiny package of hotel peanuts.
A quick peek into any Ottawa calendar of events usually reveals an embarrassment of riches. Take this spring, for instance.
Along with the aforementioned whales show - an interactive exhibition on loan from the Te Papa Tongarewa museum in New Zealand - there's also the intriguing-sounding "God(s): A User's Guide" show at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which delves into the history of world religions.
As I could sorely use some new tunes, I could also check out all the major talent heading to the capital. From the more than 100 acts at JUNOfest at the end of March and the Junos themselves on April 1, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at Scotiabank Place on April 30, the opportunities abound to shake up my music collection.
What about theatre, comedy and dance? Again, I'm spoiled for choice. In April alone, I could choose from Sandra Shamas and the National Ballet at the NAC, His Girl Friday at the GCTC, and The Communication Cord at the Gladstone Theatre.
Then there are the restaurants. While I was researching an article about the renaissance of Hintonburg recently, people gave me countless dining recommendations, from pizza joints to upscale bistros. I didn't have time to try them all, but I put them on my mental "sometime" list.
The older I get, the more I realize that "sometime" rarely comes. I shouldn't have to get out of town to get out of my rut. So if you're taking in the city's fun this spring, keep your eye out for me. I'll be the one wandering around Hintonburg wearing a whale-themed sweatshirt and humming a new Canadian tune, looking like a happy tourist.