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Ottawa coming alive ahead of the summertime tourist season

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While the Canadian Tulip Festival currently stands as the leading draw to the capital region, many visitors are out looking for new ways to explore the city.

Rugby player Wiley Karpinski and his team gathered outside Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals Sunday morning. They flew from Edmonton for a tournament the day before, and after a long night of celebration, it was time for some leisurely tourism on two wheels.

"I’m feeling good about it - I've been here once before already and it's a very nice town," Karpinski said.

Karpinski peeled out of Sparks Street with his crew, leading the charge on a tandem bike. After a few close calls and plenty of screaming, they got the hang of things and were on their way to cycle the Rideau Canal.

Getting around on bike is a popular choice for visitors. Robbie Sanders was visiting from New York with a friend – the two signing up for a guided tour.

"You're up close and you see everything and it's a little slower and you can talk to people - it was great," Sanders said. "There were tulips all along the canal, and our guide was wonderful."

For tourists needing some direction, Escape owner Maria Rasouli is more than willing to point them towards some impressive sights.

She has a positive outlook for the warm months to come.

"We've seen people from the U.S., people from Europe and our own Canada," said Rasouli. "I think it's going to be a nice season - we are seeing a good mix of different nations coming in."

For those who prefer to see the sights by the water, Ottawa Boat Cruise kiosks around the city opened this weekend.

International student Gururaj Nagendre has only lived in the region for a few months – he and his family signed up for a cruise along the Ottawa River.

"Ottawa is very beautiful," said Nagendre. "I've been to a lot of places like Dow’s Lake - it feels very amazing for me to be in Ottawa."

Ottawa welcomes more than 11 million tourists every year, bringing in billions of dollars to the local economy. That economic boost could be felt in the ByWard Market, which was packed with tourists throughout the afternoon on Sunday.

For first-time market vendor Letasha Dejene of Letasha’s Goodies, the rush of visitors is a boon for business.

"There's always tourists in the market, so I feel really lucky to be here."

She says tourism in the capital region is finally making a comeback.

"I feel like Ottawa Tourism is trying to really revamp itself and they're doing a good job at finding different events," Dejene said. "I think we're getting there - Ottawa is not boring!"

The summer tourism season looks to ramp up in June as outdoor concerts and festivals make their returns. The Franco-Ontarian music festival kicks off on June 14 and the Ottawa Jazz Festival returns on June 21st.

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