The Winter Itinerary
Winter is a magical time in Ottawa when the city offers an atmosphere and activities not experienced anywhere else. Don’t be afraid of the colder weather – embrace it, just like Ottawans do! Preparation is everything, so from December through March, when the average daily low temperature is between -6° and -15° Celsius (21° and 5° Fahrenheit), be sure to pack mittens, a hat, a coat and winter boots.
The 7.8 kilometre (4.8 mile) Rideau Canal 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.
Spend some time exploring and having lunch in any of Ottawa’s great Neighbourhoods. The ByWard Market offers great food, shopping and people-watching. Chinatown, on Somerset West, has a plethora of Asian restaurants and grocery stores to discover. Ottawa’s Sparks Street Mall provides blocks of shopping, souvenirs, jewelers and book stores. Little Italy / Preston Street is an up-and-coming area that has all kinds of great restaurants, and is near Dows Lake and the Central Experimental Farm.
Try out ZenKitchen – gourmet cuisine made from unique and flavourful local and organic vegetarian and whole foods. Chef Caroline Ishii trained in New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, but has returned to Ottawa to open this friendly, warmly decorated restaurant.
Youth/family-friendly option: Mamma Grazzi’s Kitchen, in the ByWard Market, is one of Ottawa’s favourite Italian eateries. No wonder, with treats like home-made pasta, hand rolled pizzas and a fresh selection of grilled meats.
Ottawa Little Theatre is Canada's oldest community theatre, and has been presenting comedies, mysteries, and dramas for almost 100 years. Operated almost exclusively by volunteers, the theatre presents up to eight productions every season.
Tip: From early-December through early-January, experience Christmas Lights Across Canada — the adornment of more than 70 landmarks including Parliament Hill, Confederation Boulevard, Confederation Square and Confederation Park, with more than 300,000 multicoloured lights.
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.
Pick the restaurant to suit your mood at the Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau: Le Baccara (the best in five-diamond dining) or the more casual Banco Buffet.
Youth/family-friendly option: The Ferme Rouge Showtime Restaurant is located 20 minutes from Parliament Hill in Gatineau, and offers a unique blend of delicious food and great entertainment. Shows feature the sensational voices and superb choreography of the restaurant’s dynamic servers.
The Casino du Lac-Leamy offers slot machines, blackjack, and a variety of poker games, among many other options. If gaming isn’t for you, there is always great entertainment at the Théâtre du Casino, which now offers dinner and show options.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is Ottawa’s most visited museum. The building itself is spectacular, with its curving forms and breath-taking interiors such as the Grand Hall.
Tip: The museum also houses the Canadian Children’s Museum—one of the most fun places in the region—so there’s plenty to see and do before lunch.
The Lone Star Texas Grill is a great restaurant for families or adults looking for tasty casual fare and friendly service. With four locations in Ottawa (ByWard Market, St-Laurent, in Kanata and on Baseline Road in the western part of the city), you’re sure to find fajitas, margaritas, nachos and other great Tex Mex treats only minutes away.
Travelling with kids or teens? Then the Midway Family Fun Park is the place for you with indoor golf, bumper cars and a climbing wall. All ages of kids will also have a great time at Laser Quest – an interactive adventure game for ages 5 to 85. This high tech combination of tag and hide-and-seek is played in a multi-level arena with specialty lighting, fog and heart-pounding music.
In town from September through April? Then the Ottawa Senators’ season is underway and they might just be in town. Check out the Sens schedule, and visit Capital Tickets website to reserve your Ottawa Senators’ hockey tickets. The Sens play a 41-game schedule and are one of the premier teams in the National Hockey League.
Tip: If the Sens are out of town during your visit, it’s still worth a visit to www.capitaltickets.ca, who also sell tickets to the myriad events held at Scotiabank Place, including music concerts, family shows, monster trucks, basketball, tradeshows, wrestling, skating events and more.