When it comes to planning a destination meeting, conference or event, Northern Ontario isn’t often top of mind, but it really should be.
According to Destination Northern Ontario, “Having a successful meeting, conference or event requires the perfect backdrop and Northern Ontario has it. Studies show exposure to nature at work boosts productivity, helpfulness and creativity, with no evidence of negative effects. No matter where you are in Northern Ontario, you have nature at your fingertips.”
Northern Ontario boasts thousands of lakes, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as beaches, canoeing, fishing, biking, hiking and watching nature. Visitors can also indulge in cultural experiences through guided tours, visit exceptional museums that showcase the history of the area or explore galleries exhibiting works of talented local artists. After a day of adventure, visitors can sample the region’s delicious local food and drink at one of the many excellent restaurants available.
It’s important to keep in mind that travelling across Northern Ontario can be time-consuming due to its vast size. It may take a considerable amount of time to reach your destination. But will it be worth it? Yes. Here are a few areas that might just be perfect for your next event.
Peak time to visit: Year-round (with summer being most spectacular)
Why is North Bay attractive for meetings, conferences and events? The City of North Bay is the closest northern, urban centre to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) making it a very attractive, yet easily accessible location to drive or fly into for an event, retreat or meeting. One of the major centres on several high-capacity fibre optic networks that link the national service provider across Canada and connects to international carriers, North Bay is an ideal destination that can host events while also providing a robust telecommunications infrastructure for other worldwide markets to connect virtually. Accommodations range from lakeside hotels, motels and cottages to several top hotel brands and conference centres
What does North Bay have in terms of tourism for attendees? Aside from conference venues, North Bay features fun outdoor experiences that can be enjoyed year-round, downtown art gallery hop and cookie crawls, historic museums, carousels and mini trains, ski hill and Nordic trails, and a 1,000-seat performing arts centre in the heart of the city.
Hidden gem: Not well hidden due to its size and widely known, the gem of the city is the Waterfront that spans for dozens of kilometres along Lake Nipissing.
SAULT STE. MARIE
Peak time to visit: all four seasons (with fall being extra beautiful)
Why is Sault Ste. Marie attractive for meetings, conferences and events? Sault Ste Marie has a small-town feel with big-town amenities. There are unique venues to host galas, conferences and meetings; An old paper mill has been transformed into a venue space and there is the Canadian Bush plane Heritage Centre (a 50,000-square-foot hangar) for anyone looking for a unique space. Hosting up to 500 attendees is easy, but if a larger capacity is required, up to 3,000 people can be hosted at GLF Memorial Gardens Arena. Sault Ste. Marie is a quick flight from Toronto (1 hour, 15 minutes), which is shorter than the commute of some people!
What does Sault Ste. Marie have in terms of tourism for attendees? Sault Ste. Marie has extensive outdoor assets, beautiful landscapes, and is an international border city, right on the river (just a stone’s throw away from Michigan), with easy access to the United States. The city is right in the centre of the Great Lakes, with access to Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. With top mountain biking trails, kayaking, canoeing and downhill and cross-country skiing, there is always an outdoor adventure to participate in. There’s never any reason to be bored while you’re in the area.
Hidden gem: The Agawa Canyon Train Tour is a truly Canadian experience in which people from all over the world come to enjoy. The tour books up quickly in the fall, with tourists wanting to partake in the beautiful autumn colours.
Peak time to visit: All four seasons
Why is Sudbury attractive for meetings, conferences and events? The City of Greater Sudbury is the regional hub for northeastern Ontario and is a unique northern experience. This easy-to-access, culturally diverse urban centre offers best-in-class meeting, event and sporting venues as well as professional support services. Greater Sudbury is renowned for environmental stewardship as well as expertise in modern mining practices, health care and research. All told, the City features over 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with more on the way.
What does Sudbury have in terms of tourism for attendees? The parks, conservation areas, and other green spaces surrounding Sudbury are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, home to picturesque lakes, lush forests, sandy beaches, and lookout points with sweeping views. Whether it’s biking and hiking at Kivi Park, fishing from over 330 lakes, a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Wagonwheel Ranch, or skating in open-air locations throughout the city during the winter or paddling in the summer on Ramsey Lake in the middle of the city there are plenty of ways to enjoy Sudbury’s unique natural surroundings.
Food and beverage are important factors for an event’s success. The region’s cultural diversity is reflected in hundreds of dining options – from Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, to Thai, Mexican, Indian and more.
Hidden gems: Take advantage of the architecture, programming, décor, and stunning settings that the Science North venues have to offer, especially in the Vale Cavern – the most iconic space in the city. Where else can you dine, dance, or conduct a meeting inside a cave blasted out of solid rock? Without a doubt, the Vale Cavern is the most extraordinary and sought-after space.
Peak time to visit: All four seasons
Why is Thunder Bay attractive for meetings, conferences and events? Thunder Bay is a centrally located transportation hub offering excellent rates and versatile venues with the capacity to meet the needs of every group. From major conventions, trade shows, high-level business negotiations or team-building retreats, Thunder Bay has outstanding facilities and coordination skills to help fulfill all meeting and convention requirements.
What does Thunder Bay have in terms of tourism for attendees? Thunder Bay offers an inspiring destination that is intimately connected to its natural environment, offering opportunities to get outside the boardroom and experience renowned culinary, attractions and events scene. Thunder Bay is easy to get to, with service from most major national carriers, and offers affordable accommodation options and planning services.
Hidden gems: No trip to Thunder Bay is complete without experiencing the following iconic attractions.
- The Sleeping Giant
- Terry Fox Monument
- Fort William Historical Park
- Kakabeca Falls
Thunder Bay has many banquet halls and large meeting spaces in unique places. These locations offer the chance to conduct a productive meeting in an inspiring space, while also playing golf, seeing amazing artwork, delving into Canadian history or going for a canoe ride.
Peak time to visit: Winter/summer
Why is Timmins attractive for meetings, conferences and events? Timmins has developed a reputation as a first-class host for major, national caliber events and is also known for the various seasonal and cultural festivals held by different groups throughout the city. Timmins is more than capable of hosting events in one of our many facilities; however, it is the outdoor recreation and team building opportunities that will keep people coming back again and again. The Mattagami River runs through the city and provides opportunities for water sports as well as scenic views from the trails that line its shores. Our long winters offer up the chance to play in the snow and take advantage of the beautiful Northern scenery.
What does Timmins have in terms of tourism for attendees? Timmins has a multitude of outdoor networking activities kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, ATVing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, tubing and skating.
Hidden gem: High Falls. The stark beauty of High Falls on the Grassy River will take your breath away. This pristine area appeals to many in search of natural beauty, amazing sights and sounds, or to connect with ancient history. The Grassy River has a long and colorful connection to the First Nations and the fur trade days. Today this area provides exceptional recreational opportunities for bird watchers, photographers, paddlers, youth expeditions, Glamping, hiking, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There is presently a historical move to re-establish an ancient portage that will connect the Arctic with the Atlantic watershed. The Little Hawk Portage has been revived and will be maintained for all paddlers to enjoy and re-live the travels of our forefathers and our First Nation friends.
–By Amy Bielby