Located about two hours west of Montreal QC, and next to the border between Quebec and Ontario, the Outaouais region is ideal for winter getaways. Stretching from Gatineau, opposite Ottawa, the capital of Canada, to Montebello, Maniwaki and Grand-Remous, on the eastern side, to Fort-Coulonge, on the western side, Outaouais offers both city and country winter fun.
Where to eat
Fuel your winter getaway with brunch. Chateau Montebello serves Sunday brunch inside the largest round log building in the world. At Hilton Lac-Leamy, a Brunch & Pool package combines brunch at the Arome Seafood & Grill restaurant with free access to heated pools indoors and outdoors.
In Wakefield, Quebec, La Maison Earle serves Sunday brunch in a 100-year-old house beside the Gatineau River. Near Gatineau Park, in Chelsea, Quebec, Les Fougeres serves a brunch made with regional Quebec foods and cheeses. At Café du Musée, in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the city of Gatineau, diners enjoy brunch while overlooking Parliament Hill.
If you prefer indoor activities for your winter getaway, Chef Therese Croteau, at Domaine aux Crocollines, offers culinary classes where you can learn to cook. The inn has five cottages beside Lac Simon in Outaouais.
Shoppers will find Quebec cheeses, apple cider, game meats, foie gras, wild salmon and maple-smoked seafood at Chelsea Smokehouse, in Chelsea QC, as well as ice cider-flavored gravlax.
Few things are as comforting as a whirlpool bath on a cold winter day, especially if it's preceded by invigorating dips under cold water falls and two cold water baths, and followed by soaking in a hot stream and lounging in front of an outdoor fireplace. Besides these natural stone Nordic baths, the 23-room Le Viceroy Inn & Spa, in Montpellier, Quebec, has a full-service spa.
Le Nordik - Nature Spa, located in Old Chelsea, Quebec, less than 10 minutes from the city of Gatineau, offers lodging for 12, a meeting room, restaurant and bar. The Nordic baths include a Finnish sauna, cold, temperate and hot pools. Le Nordik also offers massages, ranging from California massages to hot stone therapies.
The spa at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello offers made-in-Quebec spa treatments, like the maple sugar body scrub and the green blanket body wrap with maple body butter.
For nature-lovers, winter in Outaouais offers many opportunities to put on your snowshoes and observe the wildlife and snowy scenery. On winter evenings, Gatineau Park has guided snowshoe excursions, with port wine and dark chocolate served on the mountaintop.
Snowshoers can observe deer, buffalo and other wildlife on three kilometers of snowshoe trails in Parc Omega in Montebello. Lafleche Adventure offers 10 kilometers of snowshoeing trails in the Laurentian forest, with eight bonfire locations and eight observation lookouts.
Les Randonnées chez Marcel offers dog sled tours with experienced mushers just one hour from Gatineau. In Val-des Monts, Quebec, also near the city of Gatineau, visitors can take full-day and overnight dog sled trips with Nordik Adventures.
Mushers from Timberland Tours bring visitors dog-sledding on groomed nature trails near Bristol, Quebec. Afterward, dog sledders warm up beside bonfires and drink hot chocolate in a log cabin.
Escapade Eskimo, at Otter Lake in Pontiac County, offers half-day, full-day, two-day and moonlight dog sled packages at Otter Lake and Foret de l'Aigle. Huskies bring visitors on day and night dogsled trips with Canhusk Expeditions in Kazabazua, 45 minutes north of the city of Gatineau.
There are many other things to do in Outaouais in winter. Visitors can watch the Gatineau Loppet, an annual international crosscountry ski race, in Gatineau Park. The special cross country ski event is part of Worldloppet, a series of 14 international cross-country ski races.
If you're looking for a snowmobile vacation in Quebec, Outaouais region has more than 2,527 kilometers of snowmobile trails. Visitors can request a free Outaouais-Laurentians snowmobile trail map.
Winter is the best time to view stalagmites and stalactites in Lafleche Cave. Located in Val-des-Monts, Quebec, Lafleche is the largest natural cave in the Canadian Shield.
The Gatineau/Ottawa area offers many winter activities. Winterlude, held on three weekends in February, features winter activities for family fun, like snow sculptures, fireworks, a snow playground and the Winterlude Sound and Light Show.
Popular throughout the winter, is skating on the Rideau Canal. With a length of 7.8 kilometers, it is the longest skating rink in the world. Visitors can rent skates and sleighs and buy hot chocolate and beaver tails (flat donuts covered with cinnamon sugar and other toppings).
In Gatineau QC, (formerly Hull), Casino du Lac Leamy offers gaming, show packages and dining at the Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant, Le Baccara.
Hilton Lac-Leamy packages include dining, performances at the Theatre du Casino and spa treatments at Amerispa. A Hilton Lac-Leamy bath butler can arrange relaxing and romantic bath packages.
Museum of Civilization
Visitors wanting indoor attractions in the Gatineau-Ottawa region should visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which has more than 3 million artifacts, a 500-seat theatre and a 295-seat IMAX theatre. Costumed interpreters bring history to life with interactive presentations about lumberjacks and other characters in the history of Canada.
At the Canadian War Museum, visitors learn about Canadian military history and the personal stories of soldiers. Among the military artifacts are uniforms, medals and medical equipment used on battlefields.
Outaouais Tourism: www.outaouaistourism.com