Rideau Canal in Winter
The Rideau Canal is a unique site and central to life in Ottawa. It is the world's largest naturally frozen skating rink, and perhaps the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on which you can skate! Check out these activity ideas on or near Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Sakteway in winter.
Get right to the good stuff, with a skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway. The 7.8 kilometre (4.8 mile) Skateway is usually open each January and February, depending on weather conditions. If you don’t have your own skates, there are rental facilities (offering both skates and sleds), change huts and refreshment stands located at several main entry points to the Canal. Access to the Rideau Canal Skateway is free, but there are donation boxes along the route if you’d like to make a contribution toward its maintenance.
Tip: Ottawa’s famous Winterlude festival happens the first three weekends of every February. Winterlude features skating on the Canal, snow and ice sculptures, performances in the SnowBowl amphitheatre, family activities and events, and more.
Reward yourself with a BeaverTail pastry and a hot chocolate. These uniquely shaped treats, available with a variety of tasty toppings, are available at several locations right on the Rideau Canal. Did you know that BeaverTails were born in Ottawa, but they are now sold in dozens of locations?
Head over to the ByWard Market and enjoy a casual lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Great music memorabilia can be seen from any vantage point in the restaurant, and the Hard Rock’s classic souvenirs are also for sale on site.
Wander down Sussex Drive, peeking at or stopping in the unique boutiques along the way to your next destination, the National Gallery of Canada. Outside, you can’t miss the unique steel and glass structure or being greeted by a giant bronze spider, Louise Bourgeois’ Maman. Inside, the Gallery offers one of the country’s largest collections of Canadian art, including works by Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven, European and American galleries, an extraordinary Inuit art collection and much more. Special exhibitions from around the world are presented year-round.
Enjoy dinner at the Metropolitain Brasserie. This French-style bistro offers great food in a relaxed and unique setting. Every Monday to Friday, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm, Metropolitain offers ‘Hill Hour’, where patrons feast on oysters, jumbo shrimp and mussels.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, head north only minutes across the Ottawa River into the province of Quebec and Gatineau Park. Gatineau Park provides a network of nearly 200 kilometres (124 miles) of cross country ski trails that are regularly groomed and marked for their level of difficulty, and some offer both skate-skiing and classic cross-country. There are heated shelters in the park and the trails are patrolled for safety. Daily passes are available at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre and at the 16 parking lots with direct access to the trails.
Tip: Prefer downhill skiing or snowboarding? Camp Fortune is located within the boundaries of Gatineau Park and offers 23 trails, 7 lifts, 3 separate ski areas and 1 Terrain Park, as well as equipment rentals, instruction, and more.
The village of Chelsea, Quebec is home to many unique experiences, including Nordik Spa-Nature. First, enjoy a healthy and delicious late lunch, and then on to the relaxation! Enjoy the outdoor hot tubs, Finnish sauna, steam bath, Nordic waterfall, temperate waterfall, cold and temperate baths, along with Swedish, Californian and hot stone massage.
Dinner with beautiful views of the Rideau Canal – what could be better? Daly’s Restaurant, located in the Westin Ottawa, offers contemporary cuisine in a casual, yet elegant atmosphere.
Haunted Walks of Ottawa run year-round, so bundle up and head out into the night for some ghost stories straight out of Ottawa’s history books.
Spend your morning visiting one or more of Ottawa’s national treasures that offer free admission! Library and Archives Canada is a gathering place for everyone interested in Canadian heritage, and provides information about the individuals, issues, and events that have shaped Canada's history by offering exhibitions, geneology resources, reference services, websites, and special events. The Supreme Court of Canada is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However from September through April tours are by pre-arrangement only. The Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada tells the story of money by featuring Canadian notes, coins, and tokens, as well as traditional and unique currency from around the globe.
Stop in for light fare at Phi Bistro and Bar. This casual spot is the restaurant to Hotel Indigo, a boutique hotel inspired by nature and the changing seasons. Fare includes salads, paninis, sandwiches and more.
At the western side of downtown Ottawa you will find the Canadian War Museum. From the outside, you will be struck by the Museum’s jarring lines and copper roof, laden with natural grasses. Inside are exhibitions of war-time art, vehicles, equipment, clothing, and more.
See one of the city’s best views at Merlot Rooftop Grill, Ottawa’s only revolving restaurant perched high atop the Marriott Ottawa Hotel. Apart from the panoramic view, Merlot specializes in beautifully presented steak and seafood, and a carefully selected wine list.