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10 things you need to know about…cool and funky Gatineau.

Ottawa’s twin city in Quebec has festivals, bike trails, culture and more to delight travellers.

17 September 2014

Suggested tweet: Discover the festivals, cuisine, culture + more of Gatineau, Ottawa’s twin city #explorecanada

Gatineau is in Quebec’s Outaouais region, on the north shore of the Ottawa River and opposite Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. Locals love their town’s spectacular natural setting for biking, skiing, picnicking, as well as its thriving cultural scene.

Here are 10 ideas to kick-start your adventure: happy exploring!

1) Bicycle Gatineau’s trails: After biking from Jacques Cartier Park to Leamy Lake Park, reward yourself with a swim. From there, connect to the Trans-Canada Trail into Gatineau Park’s 90 km (56 mi) of forested trails. Or, cycle 40 km (25 mi) along the Ottawa River to Aylmer (western Gatineau). In winter, those bike paths become cross-country skiing trails.

2) Join the race: Ski cross-country either an easy 2-km (1.2-mi) or a challenging 51-km (32-mi) races during the Gatineau Loppet, part of the Worldloppet cross-country ski race circuit.

3) Feast on festivals: Gatineau hosts vibrant festivals throughout the year. Winterlude is Canada’s National Capital Region’s premier winter festival; Jacques Cartier Park transforms into the family-friendly Snowflake Kingdom. Sup up at Festibière, a craft-beer festival in January and May. In the fall, the Hot Air Balloon Festival features dragons, castles, and cows, plus traditional montgolfières drifting through the sky.

4) A river runs through it: Insiders love the art at Parc des Portageurs, at the intersection of Boulevard Alexandre-Taché and rue Montcalm, which overlooks the Ottawa River. Here, French explorer Samuel de Champlain and his First Nations’ guides portaged past the boiling Chaudière Rapids in 1613.

5) Delight in nature: Go bird and wildlife watching on foot or bicycle along Brewery Creek (Ruisseau de la Brasserie). Watch for great blue herons, yellow warblers, wood ducks and more, plus muskrat, mink and other mammals. Celebrate the name of the creek at Brasseurs du temps, a popular microbrewery, restaurant and (free) beer museum.

6) Follow in historical footsteps: Enjoy a historical walk in old Aylmer or historic Hull (old sectors of Gatineau). During 1919-1938 Hull was “Le Petit Chicago.”

7) Eat with relish: Savour the flavours of tapas and more at L’Aubergiste; sample regional cheeses at La Trappe À Fromage, try Quebec’s poutine, its famous indulgence of curds, gravy and French fries, at Routine Poutine.

8) Make a splash: Windsurf and swim at Aylmer Marina Beach.

9) Get artsy: Visit Centre d’exposition L’Imagier, strolling its whimsical gardens and park full of art installations. You’ll find more art at  Galerie Montcalm and Art-Image et Espace Odyssée.

10) Parlez-vous français? Immerse yourself in French by experiencing live theatre at le Théâtre de l’île, a heritage stone building on a picturesque island in the heart of downtown.

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