Urban getaway meets countryside escape just a few minutes from Ottawa
As First Nations peoples realized thousands of years ago, the Outaouais region is an ideal meeting place. Conveniently located between Montreal and Toronto, minutes from Ottawa, the Outaouais is appealing on many levels, with generous indoor spaces for meetings and vast outdoor spaces for recreation.
Cultural hotspots, regional cuisine and acres of green space, from wildlife reserves to national parks, can be explored on foot or by wheel. Along with hotels, more than 150 meeting rooms, and an impressive convention centre and sports facility, endless activities create buzz for adventurous day-trippers, while bars and nightlife keep the energy moving into the wee hours.
Convenience and diversity are among the many reasons 3.2 million people visit every year. Here are five more:
Location on point
Situated on the north side of the Ottawa River, two hours from Montréal and directly facing Ottawa, the Outaouais boasts several areas to discover, from Gatineau and Fort-Coulonge to Montebello and Maniwaki. First-rate hotels such as Hilton Lac-Leamy and facilities like the Palais des congrès de Gatineau provide the latest technology and amenities to host a successful meeting very close to Ottawa’s downtown core, complete with a moonlit walk in Gatineau Park.
Getting there is simple, too. Delegates often arrive by plane, through Ottawa’s Macdonald Cartier International Airport or the Executive Gatineau-Ottawa Airport. Many prefer a more scenic route and take a bus or train on the Via Rail network, which connects to most major Canadian cities and is 20 minutes away.
Nature lovers and thrill-seekers unite
With thousands of lakes and countless nature trails, downtime in the region comes with spectacular views. Travellers can hike to the summit of Mount Morissette and admire the landscape’s flora and fauna in spring and summer, or warm by a wood stove in the mountaintop shelter during cooler months. One of the oldest forests in eastern North America can be found in the Forêt-la-Blanche Wildlife Reserve, an hour from Ottawa, while Omega Park offers a chance to observe a variety of wild animal species.
For those with less free time on their schedule, the vast and beautiful Gatineau Park is only 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Delegates can picnic at Champlain Lookout or pack a few snacks and hike, bike or cross-country ski along trails that can lead to the edge of a pristine, spring-fed lake, waterfalls or glacier views.
Sightsee along the various bike paths across Gatineau and Ottawa or deeper into the country, past farmland and fields, where delegates are more likely to encounter a deer than another cyclist.
The Outaouais is also home to the Great Canadian Bungee’s colossal 200-foot bungee jump, rated one of the five best bungee jumps in the world. Perched at the peak of a limestone cliff, the jump platform is located 200 feet above the crystalline waters of a 150-foot deep basin. More sporty types can mingle with fellow athletes at the Canadian Ski Marathon or the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau.
Take time for wellbeing
Pre- and post-conference pampering is another thing the Outaouais region does well. Top-quality spas and wellness centres offer massages and body treatments that soothe tired feet and recharge stressed-out minds. Nordik Spa-Nature, North America’s largest spa, is nestled in the woods at the entrance to Gatineau Park. It features a Källa saltwater floating pool, one of only two in the world (the other is in Switzerland). Inner peace can also be found at the Birla Centre for Hast Jyotish, with a range of wellness packages for mind and body.
A serious dose of culture
For many business travellers, culture is a major attraction. From art exhibitions and live music to local food and iconic monuments, people are always looking for new ways to explore the world. The Outaouais region offers something both hip and historic.
Walk among dinosaurs at the Canadian Museum of Nature or marvel at giant military tanks at the Canadian War Museum or aviation artifacts at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, the Canadian Museum of History recently opened the Canadian History Hall, its new, signature exhibition that occupies 40,000 square feet and traces Canada’s history from the dawn of human habitation to the present day. Canada’s Capital Museums Passport, valid for seven days from a first museum visit, allows delegates to visit seven participating national museums in Ottawa–Gatineau at their own pace.
Conference-goers can wander amongst the architectural ruins of the Mackenzie King Estate, home to the former Prime Minister of Canada. Montebello, a little country village on the banks of the Ottawa River, is only a 1½-hour drive from Montréal, and is where to find the Le Château Montebello, the largest log structure ever built.
For nightlife, there are hundreds of bars, clubs and restaurants of all flavours. Casino du Lac-Leamy, just five minutes from Parliament Hill, features a wide selection of slot machines, gaming tables, comedy and theatre productions, and several excellent restaurants, including the elegant Le Baccara, one of only a handful of Five Diamond-rated restaurants in the province. From August 3 to 27, Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, VOLTA, is another popular event that will add magic to an itinerary.
The only regret delegates might have when they leave is not having enough time to see everything. This region is full of unexpected to-dos, from strolling through a brewing heritage museum to exploring a Cold War underground bunker.
Canada Day fireworks dazzled the Ottawa skies on July 1 for the country’s 150th birthday, and the party is scheduled to last all year long. Several events are free, including Mosaïcanada 150, where Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park will host the biggest horticultural event in Canada, welcoming sculptors who will create living artwork with plants.
Throughout the summer, 12 of Canada’s top visual artists will produce a giant work in the oversized space at La Fonderie in Gatineau. Mosaïcanada 150 and La Fonderie are two attractions along Gatineau’s new Culture trail. Inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail, this three-kilometre route links several points of interest, including restaurants and outdoors artworks.
Later in the year, delegates can attend the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival or bite into a BeaverTail pastry at Winterlude and the Snowflake Kingdom. Discover new bands at the Amnesia Rockfest in Montebello or the Festival de l’Outaouais emergent, with three days of performances, visual arts and exhibitions.
With so much to do, corporate travellers will feel enriched when they say au revoir to the Outaouais.
Regional experts can help plan your next meeting or event. They will keep in mind everything the area has to offer and cater to your client’s requests. To learn more about the Outaouais or speak to an expert, please visit https://www.tourismeoutaouais.com/en/business/.