Discovering Ottawa

During the Summer I escorted five product managers on a fam to the city of Ottawa. It was my first trip to the Canadian capital and I along with the rest of the group were looking forward to an itinerary that would showcase Ottawa’s cultural attractions, eclectic gastronomy scene, nightlife and outdoor experiences.

The Air Canada flight departed Heathrow late morning and took less than seven hours, having us arrive in Ottawa mid-afternoon. Ottawa’s airport is conveniently compact and located just a few miles from the city. From touch down to arriving at our city centre hotel took less than 45 minutes.

We stayed at the luxurious and contemporary Westin Ottawa, which is ideally located near the historic Parliament Buildings and is just a stone’s throw away from the bustling ByWard Market district.

That first evening we ate at the fashionable Social Restaurant, about a five minute walk from our hotel. The décor oozed cool and sophistication, while the food was a delicious mix of European and traditional Canadian fare. Washed down with several helpings of locally brewed craft beer, by the end of the meal I felt the group had gotten to know each other and I could tell they would be great travelling companions!

The first full day was spent exploring the beautiful Parliament Hill and nearby Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learnt about the founding of modern Canada and found out how Ottawa was chosen as the capital city. The architecture is truly stunning and the British colonial influence is clearly visible in the gothic structures. My favourite part of our guided tour was a visit to the Library of Parliament. The impressive chamber is only part of the Parliament Buildings that survived a catastrophic fire in 1916 thanks to a quick thinking librarian. Later that day we enjoyed a fascinating ‘Aboriginal Experience’ on nearby Victoria Island. Here we learnt about First Nations customs and cultures through imaginative story telling.


The next day we took part in a cultural tour that included some of Canada’s finest national institutions. As the capital city, Ottawa is home to countless would class museums and galleries, to rival those of London or Paris (but without the huge crowds!). We visited the impressive Canadian Museum of Nature, The National Gallery and my favourite, The Canadian War Museum. Then that night the group met back at Parliament Hill to watch the impressive ‘Northern Lights’ laser and light show, which runs nightly during the summer months.

We spent the next couple of days exploring Ottawa’s outlying neighbourhoods, markets and restaurants. I was really impressed with Wellington West, a cool and quirky district that reminded me of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury or London’s Hoxton. Peppered with boutique shops selling antiques, vintage clothes and second hand records, it was a real contrast to downtown Ottawa.

On our last day we went white water rafting. The whole group embraced it and were up for traversing all the white knuckle twists and turns. The thing that I really loved about it was the stunning scenery, just a few miles out of Ottawa’s city centre and it felt like we were in picture perfect wilderness!


Before flying home we had a chance to check out a local football game, as Ottawa Fury took on Edmonton at nearby TD Place. It was an impressive stadium, and unlike back home, rival fans were enjoying the game together. It created a great atmosphere and real party like buzz. Despite leading 2-0 at half time, sadly Ottawa Fury ending up drawing the game!

The whole group fell in love with Ottawa, as did I. Beyond the stunning museums, galleries and beautiful architecture, we realised that there is a whole other side to this diverse and welcoming city just waiting to be discovered.

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Ottawa to ring in 2017 with style

In 2017 Canada marks its 150th birthday, with holidaymakers invited to join in the countywide, year-long celebrations. The main focus for national events will be the capital city Ottawa, where 12 epic months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences will be on offer. 2017 is set to kick off in style with city organisers planning a huge New Year’s Eve party that will light up Ottawa on a scale to surpass all previous years.

Events on 31 December will begin in the early evening with a vast family-friendly New Year’s Eve party that will see the lighting of a symbolic and spectacular gas-powered cauldron in Marion Dewar Plaza in downtown Ottawa. The cauldron, which runs on clean energy, is approximately 16 feet high and 13 feet wide and will burn continuously throughout 2017. The tri-sided installation – an artistic adaption of the Ottawa 2017 logo, will be located in a garden bed that lines the city’s memorial fountain next to the historic Laurier Avenue. Ahead of the lighting, students will form a human chain through Ottawa’s downtown core to symbolise youthful optimism.

Later that evening, official proceedings will move to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, where a series of special events to welcome in the New Year will take place. ‘Canada 150 Kick Off’ will see crowds gather on the Hill for live music and entertainment that will be broadcast live across Canada. Then at precisely 8.17pm; or on a 24 hour clock 2017, a 20 minute long a pyromusical fireworks display will light up both sides of the Ottawa River.

Canada Day fireworks at Parliament Hill

Also planned is a free Scottish themed New Year’s Eve Hogmanay party, set to take place at Ottawa’s Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion. It will feature traditional and modern Scottish music, Highland dancing, Scotch tasting sessions, outdoor skating and a fireworks display at midnight. Or for those in search of a black tie event, the Ottawa New Year’s Charity Ball at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre will offer dancing and an elegant four course meal.

 Plan your trip to Ottawa:


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Ottawa diners to reach for the sky in 2017

Next year Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday in style with a vast programme of events taking place across the country. As the capital city, Ottawa is set to be the main focus with 12 full months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences that will complement national celebrations and annual events and festivals. The latest addition to the programme is a thrilling ‘Dinner in the Sky’ experience that will see diners hoisted 150 feet above the Ottawa skyline.

The sky high dining concept was launched in Brussels in 2006 and has since been featured in 55 other destinations including Paris, Las Vegas and Dubai. It works using amusement park technology that pulls a long 22-seat table into the air by crane, then guests are served dinner in the clouds by fearless waiters. Diners are strapped safely and firmly into their seats throughout and the entire contraption is covered by a canopy to protect against rain and even birds.


Ottawa’s Sky Lounge will be located in the city’s downtown core and will be operated by the Québec-based company Dîner Entre Ciel et Terre. Guests will get to enjoy unparalleled views of the capital, including stunning vistas of the Ottawa River, Parliament Buildings and historic Rideau Canal.  There will be multiple sittings on offer over the course of a week in August 2017, with five dinners and six tapas-cocktail events every day.

The Ottawa 2017 organising committee has invited local restaurants to take part in the high flying, fine dining project, with more than 30 establishments having registered an interest. Location details and ticket information will be announced shortly with tickets expected to go on sale next month. For more information about Ottawa 2017 and the programme of events scheduled please visit .

To plan your trip to Ottawa visit


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Ottawa Tourism Set to Make WTM Debut

Ottawa Tourism is delighted to announce that it will be exhibiting for the first time at the World Travel Market (WTM) at London’s ExCel Centre 7 – 9 November. Their presence at the UK’s largest travel trade show comes ahead of a momentous anniversary year in 2017, when the capital city will play centre stage for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Founded in 1971, Ottawa Tourism has been bringing visitors, media and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region for 45 years. The not-for-profit, membership-based organisation, works together with more than 370 tourism-related member businesses to showcase the city’s superb cultural offering, world class accommodation and cutting edge dining and entertainment options.


Now in its 37th year, WTM attracts more than 50,000 travel professionals from 182 countries spanning 38 sectors. At the show, Ottawa Tourism will have a dedicated section on the Destination Canada stand (Canada’s national tourist board) and will be promoting the capital’s diverse visitor offering to UK media and travel trade. In addition Ottawa Tourism will look to capitalise on the huge programme of events set to take place in the city next year as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary celebrations.

Jantine Van Kregten will be Ottawa Tourism’s lead delegate during WTM, where she will conduct a series of high-profile journalist interviews and tour operator meetings.  Van Kregten has lived and worked in Ottawa for more than 25 years and has served as the Director of Communications for Ottawa Tourism since November 2003. For the last three years she has played a crucial role as a member of the ‘Ottawa 2017’ planning team.

Created by Ottawa Tourism and supported by a number of community partners, the Ottawa 2017 Bureau is planning 12 full months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences that will complement national celebrations and annual events and festivals.  Van Kregten will be on hand at WTM to provide all the latest news about this special anniversary year and Ottawa’s extensive programme of events.

To request a WTM on stand interview with Ottawa Tourism, please contact Tim Blostone on or call +44 (0)208 6862300

This year Ottawa Tourism makes its WTM debut. Visit us on the Destination Canada Stand: NA400

For more information about Ottawa visit:

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The Great Tee Off vs Cook Off

I recently attended the Travel 2 & Gold Medal ‘Great Tee off vs Cook Off’ day in Cheshire on behalf of the Axis client Florida Keys and Key West. Held at the Carden Park luxury golf resort on 21 July, the annual event has become a highlight on the UK travel trade calendar. Set in more than 1,000 acres of rolling countryside and overlooking Welsh hills in the distance, the hotel was the perfect setting for the some 200 guests. This was the first time that I had attended the event, and given Travel 2’s and Gold Medal’s reputation for throwing a party, I knew I was in for a great day.


Around two thirds of attendees opted to play golf while the other guests had signed up to take part in what was billed as a ‘Cook Off’. Thankfully it was forecast to be a beautiful day with warm temperatures, little change of rain and a light wind….the perfect weather for a round! The day kicked off early with the first golfers out on the course before 8am. Every hole was sponsored by an airline, hotel group or tourist board; each of which provided golfers with a different drink and snack. Players had to pace themselves with wines, cocktails, beers and shots as they made their way round the stunning 18 hole course. What’s more there were some pretty incredible prizes on offer for the best golfers, ranging from champagne, hampers, flights, vouchers and even a holiday.


The Florida Keys and Key West were sponsors of the Cook Off. Situated in a large marque in the resort grounds, about 60 attendees took part in a fast pace cooking competition. Each team was made up four or five participants and were set a series of canopy making challenges. Thankfully my team mates included Karan Hopkins and Marie Vaughan, two travel agents that were not only very skilful cooks but also very forgiving of my abysmal sushi rolling attempts! Rushing against the clock (but still finding time to enjoy a few ice cold ciders) we raced to prepare five different canopy types before arranging our food in the most innovative and presentable way possible. It was a really fun experience but sadly my team were not declared the overall winners on the day. However, while our food may have lost marks for presentation; we could not be faulted for our effort!


After the Cook Off we enjoyed a fantastic BBQ out on the golf course courtesy of the lovely people at Etihad Airways. And when I say ‘on the golf course’ I literally mean tables and chairs set up on the green! During the lunch I took the opportunity to speak with attendees about the fantastic tourism product on offer in the Florida Keys and Key West. It was a great chance to provide information about the tropical destination’s world-class accommodation, shopping, cultural attractions and buzzing dinning and nightlife scenes.

That evening all of the guests attended a wonderful gala dinner at the hotel where prizes were presented to participants for either their golfing prowess or for their cooking ability. Organisers also took the opportunity to thank attendees for a great day and for all the support they give to Travel 2 & Gold Medal throughout the year. After a delicious three course meal, entrainment was laid on, with a DJ and dancing well in to the early hours!


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Selena Gomez is the latest act to rock Ottawa

Chart topper Selena Gomez is the latest in a series of world class acts to perform in Canada’s capital city Ottawa. It has been announced that Gomez will play to a packed crowd at the 20,000-seat Canadian Tire Centre on 25 May as part of her 2016 Revival Tour. Fans can expect the 23-year-old to perform her most popular tracks including A Year Without Rain, Who Says, and Naturally.

Gomez, who ended her fiery relationship with Justin Bieber last year, is embarking on a 50-date arena tour with nine dates planned for Canada. Visiting fans from the UK can expect to pay as little as $50 CAD (£25) for a ticket to the Ottawa show, and with no tour dates yet planned for Europe, it will make for a truly memorable evening.

Ottawa’s live music scene is as eclectic as it is entertaining. To date this year, Ottawa has welcomed Kanye West, Deep Purple, Van Morrison, UB40 and Shania Twain, to name but a few stars. Big festivals have drawn global acts and hundreds of thousands of revellers to the city with the likes of the annual Royal Bank Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival and the CityFolk Festival. 2016 is already shaping up to be another dazzling year for music with Pearl Jam amongst those being rumoured to play the capital.

For those less interested in big-name pop acts there is plenty more live music to be enjoyed on a holiday to Ottawa. Be sure to head to the city’s bohemian ByWard Market district. Littered with independent shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants, the area is a mecca for buskers and unsigned acts. Expect to find singer-songwriters and cover bands playing to holidaymakers and locals alike at any number of the ByWard Market bars each evening. Or, for those is search of something a little more refined, outstanding orchestra, dance and theatre performances are regularly held at the city’s National Arts Centre between Elgin Street and the Rideau Canal.

However you like to be entertained on your holiday, Ottawa truly offers something for everyone.

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Ottawa turns red and white for Canada Day

For all three of us it was our first trip to Canada, and what better introduction to this beautiful country than a visit to the capital city Ottawa. I would be travelling with Rachael and Mike, two seasoned travel journalists that I clicked with from the off. Rachael was writing a piece for the consumer lifestyle magazine Woman, while Mike was representing the regional giant Trinity Mirror. What excited us most was that we were set to be in Ottawa for Canada Day.

After a swift check in at Heathrow’s recently refurbed terminal 2, we took to the skies with Air Canada at the very manageable time of 12.35pm. A pleasant lunch, the latest sci-fi flick and an afternoon tea later, and we touched down at 3.15pm local time. The team at Ottawa Tourism had advised me that they expected us to disembark the plane, clear passport control, collect our luggage, catch a cab and make the transfer to our city centre hotel all within 45 minutes. I seriously doubted that this would be possible, and I was right. We in fact did all of this in just 40 minutes, if only all airport arrivals could be that easy!

Our accommodation during the five night stay would be the 429 room Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Built at the turn of the century in a French neo-gothic style, the hotel dominates the Ottawa skyline. The building is truly stunning and we could have been forgiven for thinking we had just arrived on the set of an elaborate fantasy film. My room was luxurious and comfortable and kitted out with the latest state of the art facilities. However, like the building throughout out it maintained a sense of Edwardian charm and elegance, as though we could have been aboard the first class decks of the Titanic. The sad irony is that Charles Melville Hays, who commissioned the original hotel, never got to see the finished hotel because he was one of unfortunate souls to go down with the Titanic.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier

For dinner that night we headed to the Courtyard restaurant where we met our fantastic host Jantine from Ottawa Tourism. The Courtyard restaurant was a stone’s throw from our hotel and tucked away in a lovely nineteenth century cobbled square surrounded by delightful pubs and restaurants. Over a delicious French meal we discussed our plans with Jantine for the big day ahead; with so much happening on Canada Day it seemed that our biggest challenge would be deciding what not to do!

The next morning I was up early and headed straight downstairs to Wilfred’s restaurant where I met Rachael and Mike for a hearty breakfast of fried eggs, toast, waffles and maple syrup.  All three of us were dressed from head to toe in red and white and were sporting temporary maple leaf tattoos. To my relief the first thing I noticed when we left our hotel was that everyone else was dressed like us, and I mean everyone! Even at 9am the streets of Ottawa were buzzing with crowds of good natured revellers out to have a good time. We, along with what seemed like everyone else in Canada were making the short walk to Parliament Hill for the start of the official proceedings.

Parliament Hill is home to Ottawa’s impressive Parliament buildings. In the large space that occupies the area directly in front of them a huge stage had been put up complete with enormous screens. It was here that we were treated to a stirring and address by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper before watching a live concert involving some of Canada’s best known rock, pop and country artists. Next we made the short walk to Confederation Park to soak up some of the family friendly atmosphere and to catch a couple of acts that were performing at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Mike, Tim & Rachael on Parliament Hill

Despite only having met Jantine the night before she invited us to her house for her traditional Canada Day BBQ. Over mountains of delicious food and refreshing local craft beer we were introduced to her friends and family who were undoubtedly some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. After lunch we made the short walk across the Ottawa River into Quebec and headed for Jacques-Cartier Park. Here there was a great atmosphere with another music stage, huge inflatables and stalls selling every kind of sweet treats imaginable. Everywhere people would wish us Happy Canada Day and complete strangers seemed genuinely interested in speaking to us. Very quickly I was getting a sense that it wasn’t just Jantine’s friends that were super friendly; it was everyone in Ottawa.

After returning to Parliament Hill for more live music and a fantastic flyby by the Canadian RAF Snowbirds, we headed back to our hotel to watch the Canada Day fireworks. We were lucky enough to have privileged access to the roof of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier which provided one of the best vantage points in the city. The firework show didn’t disappoint, it was a real spectacle to see the whole of downtown Ottawa lit-up, choreographed perfectly to classical and rock music. As we had a final drink in Zoe’s (the hotel lounge and bar) we looked out the window to watch the crowds of red and white flow past into the night. It was clear that the atmosphere was still buzzing with partying set carry on until the early hours.

Fireworks as seen from the roof of our hotel

In the days that followed Rachael, Mike and I loved exploring Ottawa and the outskirts of the city. Mike’s highlights included the fascinating Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History National and a self-guided craft beer tour of the lively Byward Market. Rachael meanwhile enjoyed a scenic cycling tour of the city with Escape Bicycle Tours, a gastronomic walking tour of Little Italy with C’est Bon Epicurean Adventure and visit to the very impressive National Gallery. Some of my favourite activities included a stroll through the beautiful Gatineau Park, a spooky ghost walk with company Haunted Walk and a captivating tour of the historic Parliament buildings. However we all loved the Nordik Spa, which is North America’s largest spa. After all that celebrating and site seeing it provided the perfect opportunity to unwind.

Totem Pole at the Canadian Museum of History

All three of us were blown away with the food on offer throughout. From local street food such as sweet ‘BeaverTails’ to high end dinning, Ottawa caters for every taste. Play Food and Wine was one of our favourite restaurants, it serves a huge variety of excellent tapas style dishes each paired with a recommended wine. Another fantastic meal was had at The Albion Rooms in downtown Ottawa. We had rustic yet contemporary dishes washed down with delicious signature cocktails.

Tim tucks into a BeaverTail

All too soon our time in Ottawa was up. We had only just touched the surface of the attractions and activities on offer in this vibrant city. What we all agreed that Ottawa is one of the most welcoming places that we had ever been to. It isn’t just the fantastic museums, galleries, architecture, food and nightlife that make Ottawa great, above all it is its people.

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