If you haven't been to Montebello in a while, it's time to give this charming village, just an hour's drive from Ottawa, another look. During a recent press trip to the area, I saw first-hand the many exciting new recreational and leisure opportunities now available in the Montebello area and I came away with a whole new appreciation for all Le Petite-Nation (as this part of Quebec is called) has to offer.
The Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello itself remains as charming as ever. Built 85 years ago, the hotel - the largest log structure in the world - has a quaint, cozy atmosphere while also offering plenty of amenities. World class dining is complemented by top notch service. The hotel boasts indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a tranquil spa, beautifully maintained gardens and grounds, children's play areas and newer features such as a remote controlled car race course. Dog lovers can even take Monte - the hotel's furry golden retriever mascot - for a little stroll and bike rentals are another great summertime option. While the Fairmont Chateau Montebello offers numerous getaway packages, I'm particularly excited about the new Chef's Farm Experience. The experience includes a visit - escorted by Executive Chef Jean-François Fortin - to two regional farms, lunch at a local market, and a gourmet dinner back at the hotel featuring produce gathered that day.
With a 65,000 acre playground on its doorstep, the additional adventures, which are available at or near the Chateau Montebello, include tennis, a championship golf course, horseback riding and the unique Land Rover Off-Road Driving Experience, where you'll learn the technical skills to navigate challenging woodland tracks.
Another fun new offering is called Camp Explora, where one to four participants climb aboard an electric ATV and use an iPad and GPS to complete an intriguing scavenger hunt. Dubbed ‘a silent explosion of fun', it has been ranked on TripAdvisor as the number one activity for families in the entire Outaouais region.
History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Manoir Papineau, a national treasure just a few steps from the Chateau Montebello. This carefully restored mansion from the 1850s brings history alive in a vivid way, including a series of hands-on activities to keep kids engaged. On July 12, the Manoir will host a lavish garden party open the public.
The nearby Kenauk Nature area, now operated in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, offers secluded chalets on private lakes as well as fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, skeet shooting and nature trails - it's the ultimate unplugged wilderness experience.
Parc Omega, long known as a great spot to watch and feed wildlife, has also beefed up its offerings with the opening of its new "Talking Trees" trail, representing 10 aboriginal nations of Quebec through a series of locally-carved totems. Also new are three styles of rustic lodgings within the Parc, including Prospectors Tents, Wi-Tents (similar to teepees) and a stunning house on stilts.
Round out your visit to the area with a trip to sample craft beer at the new Brasseurs de Montebello, or sample some delicious edibles at Chocomotive, a member of the Economusée network (featured in a Comfort Food story last year in Ottawa At Home). I know I can't wait to go back and stay a little longer.