Orleans: beauty and nature in the east end of Ottawa

When my husband was exploring the idea of moving to Ottawa, various neighborhoods came to mind. They were Nepean, Kanata and Orleans, all basically residential, family-oriented neighborhoods.

I didn’t have any part in choosing the neighborhood. I didn’t know the city and he was the Canadian one, so I let him make the decision, After thinking a lot, and taking into account various factors, he chose Orleans in the east end.

He evaluated schools for our daughters, both elementary and middle schools; and the proximity to a bus station and to a mall, because he thought that I’d be happier and more entertained if I was able to go shopping any time I wanted to. (How considerate of him, ha!)

We ended up living in a very nice neighborhood in a cul-de-sac, close to the Place d’Orleans mall and to the bus station that also had a park and ride area. It was a very good location.

I loved Orleans. We lived in Orleans until last September when our lease finished and we had to look for another place to live. And we changed neighborhoods because we wanted our eldest to go to a certain high school in another area.

Sometimes I miss Orleans because I had the feeling of living in the middle of nature. It was like being surrounded by forests, while the Ottawa river seemed to be so close. When the pandemic started my husband and I used to take strolls to the river. It was just a 30 minute walk and we were immersed in nature.

In this post I’ll tell you everything about Orleans, from the good to the not so good. Let’s start.

Schools

There are lots of schools in Orleans. Actually it surprised me to see the number of Catholic schools in the neighborhood. There are some 10 English Catholic elementary schools and 11 French Catholic ones.

There are also three English catholic high schools The Orléans Star (orleansonline.ca) and three French ones. The Orléans Star (orleansonline.ca)

As for the public schools, there are 14 English elementary schools The Orléans Star (orleansonline.ca) and 4 French ones; and two English high schools and one French one. The Orléans Star (orleansonline.ca)

Orleans happens to have one school that is among the top 10 elementary schools in Ottawa. That is Convent Glen Catholic Elementary. School. https://ottawaisnotboring.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/the-10-best-elementary-schools-in-ottawa/

Trails and bike paths

Orleans has lots of trails and bike paths, some of which cross the Greenbelt. You can see woodpeckers, little snakes, wild turkeys, and frogs while feeling that you’re in the middle of a dense forest. No sign of any urban setting. It’s amazing.

Bike path in Orleans

Some of the most well-known trails in Orleans are: Mer Bleu Conservation Area, Pine Grove Trail, Green’s Creek, but as I said before, there are a lot of them.

Many of these trails turn into nice ski trails during the winter.

Malls and commercial areas

Orleans has a large mall, known as Place d’Orleans, with more than 130 stores, among them The Bay, H&M, AUB44, Forever21, Sport Chek, Garage, and Children Place. The parking area is ample. It also has a passenger bridge that connects the mall with the OC Transpo Place d’Orleans station and with the park and ride area.

Place d’Orleans

Another big and active commercial area is located on Innes Road, where you can find Walmart, Marshalls, Winners, Toys R Us, Lowe’s, as well as many restaurants, and the Landmark Cinemas.

Recreation

The are three recreation complexes in Orleans: Bob MacQuarrie, Ray Friel and the Millenium Sports Park.

The Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex houses the Elizabeth Manley Figure Skating Arena, used for training practices by the Gloucester Skating Club and the Canadian Academy of Skating Arts. Many other recreation programs are offered like yoga, swimming, fitness, gymnastics, ballet and more.

The Ray Friel Recreation Complex is the largest in Orleans and houses three National Hockey League (NHL) size arenas, the Ron Racette Arena. The complex also has a fitness center and offers dozens of programs such as fitness classes, summer camps, indoor cycling, aqua fitness, swimming lessons and others.

Millenium Sports Park consists of 15 soccer and football fields and is home to some youth sporting clubs.

Highway exits

The main highway that connects Orleans with downtown Ottawa and the West end is the Ottawa Regional Road 174 which has four exits: Jeanne d’Arc Blvd, Champlain St/Place d’Orleans, Tenth Line Road, and Trim Road.

Petrie Island

I said that in Orleans you breathe nature and as if that wasn’t enough, you have Petrie Island, a designated conservation area, which features the largest beach in Ottawa.

In the summer Petrie Island beach attracts a large number of beachgoers. Boat owners hold their private parties near the shoreline and everywhere there is an atmosphere of fun.

When I lived in Orleans it was a privilege to have such a beautiful beach just 10 minutes away by car. My family and I spent so many amazing beach days at Petrie Island!

There’s also a picnic area and trails to explore the surroundings while enjoying seeing the wild fauna like families of Canada geese, ducks and turtles. When looking for the perfect sunset or sunrise, many people go to Petrie Island. I love it.

Some of my readers have asked me if there is a sort of downtown in Orleans, a center where people gather, but the answer is no. Another one asked me if it’s a problem not to speak French in Orleans, which is known for having a certain presence of people from francophone background, and the answer is also no.

It’s true that you can hear some French when walking in the supermarket, or being in a restaurant. But everybody speaks English everywhere and it’s the main language people use to communicate. One of my neighbors was a francophone family but they spoke perfect English. The rest of the neighbors in the block spoke English.

The good things about Orleans are that it’s a safe neighborhood, family oriented, quiet, beautiful, and so close to natural areas.

The bad thing is that it feels like far away from the action, even though it’s just 14 to 16 kilometers from downtown which means less than a 30 minute drive. When I moved to Ottawa it made me laugh that some people considered Orleans to be so far away.

A 30 minute drive was nothing to me, who came from Lima where you can spend one hour or more to drive to work. But when I got used to Ottawa standards, I started to feel like indeed Orleans was far from downtown.

The other bad thing is that everything closes too early. On Sundays, the Place d’Orleans mall closes at 5 pm, even in the summer! In those moments I wished I could have been at Major’s Hill park in bustling downtown Ottawa.

But I didn’t feel like driving all the way to downtown, so many times I resigned myself to very quiet summer nights.

I hope that you now have a detailed picture of Orleans and what it has to offer. It’s a great neighborhood, for sure, even if nothing is totally perfect. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in comments. I’d be glad to answer them. Take care.

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