Here's how to mix business with pleasure in Canada's capital city.
Millions of people travel to Ottawa each year on business. Politics, law, high tech, conferences, universities - some trips last just a few hours, while others go on for a week or more. But even if you're on a tight schedule, Ottawa offers plenty of attractions and amenities for business travelers to enjoy. So whether you have a day or even just an hour to spare, make sure to visit some of the city's best attractions before you leave - and check out our insider tips that will have you getting around town like a true local!
1.) Practical information for making the most of your time.
If you're on the tightest of schedules and flying into town, the Ottawa International Airport has boardroom services for meeting with clients as soon as you step off the plane. After landing (and maybe after meetings) you can book a room at one of the nearby hotels in the surrounding area. Depending on which hotel you choose, it may also have a conference room available for added convenience.
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.
Sometimes you just need to get out of the office. Ottawa doesn't have as many "coffice" (coffee shop-turned-office) environments as Toronto or Montreal but there's still a number of great alternatives to sitting in a boardroom. They're perfect for solo work, a conference breakout session, or a casual meeting to brainstorm how to build a travel marketplace.
3.) After hours arts and culture
Like many capital cities, Ottawa is home to some amazing museums and art galleries. If you're short on time, it can be a bit overwhelming to chose what to visit and I'm hoping our suggestions might help. PS: If you visit on a Thursday night, most museums are free!
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.
If you love drama: Ryan and I have a subscription to the National Arts Center and it's not the only act in town. The Great Canadian Theatre Company, The Little Theatre, and The Company of Fools (for summertime Shakespeare in the Park) offer fantastic productions - great evening fun!
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
My feathers always get a bit ruffled when I hear people say that Ottawa doesn't have a food scene. You just have to search a bit! Here is a tiny sampling of some of our favourite places to eat, at all price points.
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.
Arturo's: Arturo's is a great Italian restaurant in New Edinburgh that is quiet and private without being romantic. All the classics, done simple and done right, in the true Sault Ste Marie Italian style.
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.
Bonus! There's no shame: everyone orders in take out when they travel on business! The secret is to order from an independent business so you still get a genuine taste of the city. Our favourite deliveries comes from Willies for great Chinese food (I strongly recommend the orange Szechuan chicken) and Isabella Pizza.
5.) Surviving winter in style
Ottawa is the coldest capital city in the world and when the snow starts flying and the temperature drops - well, nothing changes. Nothing around here stops when it -30 degrees, not even work! Here are our best tips for surviving winter with style (or at least just surviving!)
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!
What do you think are the best kept secrets in Ottawa that more travelers need to discover?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
Ottawa's Best Sandwich Shops
Buttery Bliss on Ottawa's Croissant Trail
A Perfect Day at Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada.
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