Far beyond its geo-political designation as Canada’s parliamentary capital, the city of Ottawa is also one of Canada’s consummate hosts for important local, national and international meetings and events. The city is home to the offices of the federal government, as well as approximately 300 national associations representing the region’s high concentration of technology, biotechnology and medical research endeavours.
Raising the bar to new heights in Canada’s meetings market, the brand new Ottawa Convention Centre (OCC) opened its doors in April, 2011, on the site of the former Ottawa Congress Centre. Overlooking the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site, and surrounded by Ottawa’s national sites and cultural treasures, the $180-million convention, conference, meeting and trade-show facility features 200,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.
The state-of-the-art OCC puts delegates in the heart of the city’s compact core, within easy walking distance of 6,000 downtown hotel rooms. The newly branded 411-room Delta Ottawa City Centre will undergo a $25-million renovation in 2011, following enhancements of the Novotel Ottawa and Courtyard by Marriott. Other properties, including The Shore Club at the Westin Ottawa and the Spin Kitchen & Bar, at the Ottawa Marriott, have been upgrading their tantalizing cuisine. Adding to the city’s growing culinary reputation, the Lord Elgin hotel opened Grill 41 in October, 2010, with a menu inspired by consultations with Canadian celebrity chef Michael Smith.
The city can also claim the title of Canada’s national capital of spectacular o -site venues, with an abundance of historic and cultural assets that once again raise the bar on expectations. Options can include catered events among the totem poles of the Grand Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, or among the natural wonders of the newly renovated Canadian Museum of Nature. Cocktail receptions can be held alongside vintage aircraft at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, where a new wing, opened in February, 2011, unveiled a new high-tech, multi-purpose auditorium featuring theatre-style seating for up to 250 people. Gala dinners in the elegant surroundings of the National Gallery of Canada, featuring sweeping views of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River, will be enhanced by the exclusive Vincent van Gogh exhibit in 2012, while the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, has made the War Cabinet Room available for small meetings. Built to house crucial elements of Canadian government in the event of nuclear war, the four-storey bunker is a unique venue for intimate board meetings.
On the wings of a 2010 World Festival and Event City designation from the IFEA, Ottawa’s festival season is in full bloom in May, with the arrival of the Canadian Tulip Festival. The city’s festival calendar includes something for every season, from the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest in July, to Winterlude’s celebration of ice and snow in February. In between, the city hosts events that pay tribute to the city’s multicultural makeup, including festivals celebrating Irish, Italian, Lebanese, Chinese and Turkish heritage.
Beyond the city’s museums and historic sites, Ottawa offers planners a multitude of options for group activities. The ByWard Market—one of Canada’s oldest and largest farmers’ markets—includes a four-square-block neighbourhood featuring more than 120 restaurants and bars, as well as numerous unique shopping outlets. C’est Bon Cooking now offers ByWard Market walking tours that are ideal for groups, allowing delegates to experience local culinary specialties and to meet with local chefs and food artisans. Other group activities include Urban Quest’s Amazing Race-style adventures, providing clues to small groups and culminating in dinner at a local restaurant.
At the heart of it all, Ottawa Tourism’s team of dedicated meeting professionals strive to convert the ordinary into the extraordinary, with personalized services that help take the edge o of the planning process. Meeting planners can now take advantage of a newly launched Discover Ottawa app, which is a free download for convention delegates.