Get Out of TownPublished on August 4, 2023


  • Photo by: Darren McGee

  • Kemptville
    Photo by: Laura Byrne Paquet

  • Toronto
    Photo by: Laura Byrne Paquet

  • Laurentians
    Photo by: Laura Byrne Paquet

Whether you’d like to hike, paddle and shop on a day trip, or set off on a longer getaway to unwind in a spa, explore the outdoors, or treat your kids to the big city, there are lots of options within easy reach of Ottawa.

For the spa fan:

The Laurentians

This scenic region north of Montreal is home to several Nordic-style spas, where you can meander around a circuit of saunas, hot tubs, and cold pools, then relax even further with a massage.

One of the largest retreats is the 6,700-square-metre Spa Scandinave, overlooking the Diable River on the edge of the Tremblant resort. Serenity seekers will enjoy this spa’s silence policy, while thrill seekers can swim in the often-nippy river.

Try the more intimate Ofuro Station Zen in Morin Heights for an Asian-themed twist on the spa concept. Pagodas, stone Buddhas, wooden Muskoka chairs, and the surrounding forest give this place a Kyoto‑meets-cottage-country vibe.

For the day-tripper:

Kemptville & Merrickville

These two communities just south of Ottawa offer more than enough to entertain any day tripper. You can start by fuelling up with coffee and pastries from Brewed Awakenings (2868 County Road 43, Kemptville). This cozy coffee shop is close to the Ferguson Forest Centre, where you can hike for free on 22 kilometres of trails or take your pooch to the centre’s dog park.

If canoeing and kayaking are more your style, begin at Bubba & Bugs coffee shop, then head a few blocks northeast to put your watercraft into Kemptville Creek from the boat launch in Curry Park.

After spending the morning in Kemptville, drive about 30 kilometres southeast to Merrickville’s cute village for some retail therapy. Try Pickle & Myrrh for handmade caramels, Mrs. McGarrigle’s for house-made mustards, and the Merrickville Cheese Shop (218 St. Lawrence Street) for traditional and vegan cheeses. Seeking something to spruce up your home? Drop into Gray Art Glass, where you can see glass blowers at work.

For outdoor fun:

The Adirondacks

The Adirondacks first sprang to fame in the late 1800s as a woodsy getaway for stressed‑out Manhattanites.

These days, hikers flock there to tackle some or all of the 46 High Peaks — 46 mountains that are over 1,150 metres above sea level.

To learn about the region’s ecology, head to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake to take a short, guided canoe trip on the Raquette River or see the forest from above on a network of elevated platforms called the Wild Walk.

Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice, in 1932 and 1980, and Olympians still train in the small, mountain‑fringed town. And when athletes aren’t using them, the Olympic training sites offer some unique fun for visitors. For instance, you can hurtle downhill on a bobsled at Mt. Van Hoevenberg or see the landscape from a ski jumper’s sky-high perspective at the Olympic Jumping Complex.

For families:


Surprisingly, office tower-studded downtown Toronto is great for a family getaway. Just choose a hotel with good transit access, so you can avoid driving and paying often‑exorbitant parking fees.

One good choice is the Chelsea Hotel. It’s just off Yonge Street, about halfway between the College and Dundas subway stations. Family-friendly amenities include a heated indoor pool with a 130-foot corkscrew waterslide, a kids’ centre with dress-up costumes and art supplies, and a teen lounge with classic arcade games, a pool table, and foosball.

Amusements within walking distance or a short subway ride of The Chelsea include the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the Scotiabank Arena (home of the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs), and the Rogers Centre (where the Toronto Blue Jays play).

The whole family will likely get a kick out of Little Canada, a collection of miniature, idealized dioramas of Canadian cities and regions. Tiny trains and cars whir around these scenes, and lighting effects simulate dawn, daytime, sunset, and dusk. Watching “fireworks” explode above a tiny, illuminated Centre Block is strangely captivating.

Laura Byrne Paquet

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