Here's how to mix business with pleasure in Canada's capital city.
1.) Practical information for making the most of your time.
It takes about 20 minutes by car to drive from the airport to downtown Ottawa and the 97 bus goes from the airport, through the city center touching most major transit points, to downtown, and then to the west end.
2.) Your Ottawa "coffice" alternatives.
- The Hylands Golf Club is located directly beside the airport, giving you a convenient place to golf and talk business on the greens and it's perfect if you're short on time.
- The Hub is a downtown co-working space with a hip, energetic environment. For $30 you get a day pass with access to plenty of coffee, excellent WiFi, and some new 'colleagues'.
- The cafe inside the National Gallery of Canada has the best views in the entire city, a lot of quiet places to sit, and a great choice of hot and cold lunch items, snacks, sweets, and beverages. When you're done working, take the time to see the galleries themselves. Pro tip: There are short, docent-led tours and talks that explain individual pieces of art and sometimes entire gallery sections.
- Bluebird Coffee in the Byward Market is a true coffice environment - you'll stand out here if you DON'T have your laptop out. There's plenty of power strips and plugs available. Perfect for informal business meetings over hot drinks.
- Planet Coffee, also in the Byward market, serves the best vanilla lattes in town (trust me, I've tried A LOT!) and also does lovely simple hot lunches (like panini and soup) and tasty squares and desserts. It's tucked away in a small alley and is a great place to take a client - it will definitely give you city-insider cred! But it does not have Wi-Fi, making it a great place for meetings, studying, and writing but not for internet based research. Note: Planet Coffee is cash only.
3.) After hours arts and culture
If you love movies: Visit the Canadian Museum of History (formerly known as the Museum of Civilization) and the Museum of Nature. As you can imagine, these are phenomenal places to enjoy history and nature, but they also have movie theatres screening nature and science documentaries. (Just beware of watching films about insects at the Museum of History's giant IMAX screen!) We also love the Bytown Theatre and Mayfair Theatres for independent and limited release films (perfect for seeing all the Oscar nominated films!)
If you love history: In addition to the Museum of History (of course!), the Library and Archives of Canada has fantastic temporary exhibits (they once did a feature on Anne of Green Gables, my absolute favourite). The Billings Estate Museum, home of Ottawa's oldest wooden framed home, will make you feel like you've stepped back in time.
Of course, there's an entirely different kind of drama to enjoy in Ottawa - the political kind! During the day, you can tour the Parliament buildings but even early morning or late night visits let you enjoy the magnificent architecture from outside.
Looking for something a bit different? Ottawa Tourism has an amazing website that's full on inspiration!
4.) Anything-but-bland business dinners
Union Local 613. Features good fried chicken, great cornbread, an ever-changing menu of modern Southern food - and easily the best cocktails in town. 613 is also home to the city's best secret - a bespoke speakeasy bar. Ask your server extra nicely for access. Reservations recommended, even for the communal tables.
Nicastro's La Botegga. The debate is fierce, but many locals say the best sandwiches in town are served here. There's a small seating area in the back, perfect for lingering over coffee and catching up with clients.
The Manx: This Elgin Street pub is arty and cozy and perfectly pub-y. Delicious daily specials, solid vegetarian choices, and fantastic brunch (wake up early to avoid epic lines).
The Highlander Pub: This downtown pub and Scotch bar is a surprisingly productive environment. Ryan and I have spent hours here planning our trips and there's plenty of quiet side tables. Lots of Scottish inspired food and also a good selection of gluten free grub.
5.) Surviving winter in style
- Show up to meetings with a tray of hot drinks from Tim Horton's. Seriously.
- Schedule meetings to start after rush hour to make winter driving safer and less stressful.
- Allow extra time to find parking in neighbourhoods that suffer from snow congestion, like the Glebe.
- Don't worry if your business attire slips into business-casual. It's perfectly acceptable to show up in winter boots and shun skirts until spring!
- Check your flight status before leaving for the airport. Ottawa International does a fine job of battling the elements but many flights are late to arrive from other cities.
- If you can't beat it, join it! Celebrate winter with the locals at Winterlude!
Sometimes the best travel experiences come from business travel - it forces you to see the city in a new way, check out non-touristy neighbourhoods, and make the most of your time. No matter what brings you to Ottawa, I hope you have a fantastic trip!
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