Ottawa Tourism

5 Ottawa Winter Activities You Don’t Want to Miss

Coming to Ottawa over the winter months? Don’t be intimidated by the cooler Canadian weather. As Canada’s Capital, Ottawa thrives from January to March!

Wondering what to see and do in this quaint, snow-covered city? We can help with that. Below, you’ll find five fabulous activities that will make you love winter in Ottawa.

Rideau Canal Skateway, WinterRideau Canal Skateway:

The quiet, flowing Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – freezes over the winter months, to become the world’s largest skating rink.

Stretching over 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles), the Rideau Canal Skateway allows skaters of all ages and skill levels to make their way from Ottawa’s downtown core to Dows Lake and back again. Also, all along the way, you’ll find heated change huts, which are the perfect spots to put your skates on or just warm up for a bit. Additionally, vendors along the way offer comforting items such as hot soup, hot chocolate and more.

The Skateway is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from roughly January to late February or early March. During these months, about 19,000 skaters take to the Skateway each day. Admission is free. This is an iconic Ottawa winter activity! Skate rentals are available as well as sled rentals for non-skaters.

WinterludeWinterlude:

This is Ottawa’s annual winter festival! This year, Winterlude will take place from Feb. 3 – 20, 2017.

On Feb. 3, enjoy an official Winterlude Kick-Off Party! A free event, you’ll be invited to participate in an outdoor dance party among the beautiful ice sculptures at Confederation Park. Also, Winterlude’s Snowflake Kingdom is a family favourite as children enjoy the giant snow slides. Throughout the festival, you’ll find great free events taking place on the Rideau Canal Skateway and in Ottawa’s downtown core.

New this year: Don’t miss the Ice Dragon Boat Festival on Feb. 17-18, 2017. For the first time in North America, dragon boats will race down the frozen Skateway. Cheer them on! About 600,000 people take part in Winterlude each year.

Red Bull Crashed in/à Ottawa in/en 2017, Photo courtesy of/courtoisie de Red Bull & Ottawa 2017Red Bull Crashed Ice:

Yes, you have it right. On March 3-4, 2017, Ottawa’s downtown core will be host to the final leg of the Red Bull Ice Cross Downhill World Championship. Red Bull Crashed Ice is the fastest sport on skates!

Be in Ottawa to see athletes reach speeds of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour as they race down an ice track that will go over the Rideau Canal’s famous Ottawa Locks.

There will be various sites to view this event and general admission is free. The Crashed Ice race in Ottawa is the final 2016-2017 season race, following on races in Marseille, France, Jyväskylä, Finland and Saint Paul, U.S.A.

Snowshoeing:

This is a quintessential Canadian winter activity!

Just a 20-minute drive north of Ottawa’s downtown core, you’ll find the luscious and expansive Gatineau Park.

At the park’s Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Quebec, you can rent a pair of snowshoes for an hour, a day or even overnight; as Gatineau Park offers winter camping areas. And if you have your own snowshoes, just purchase a daily snowshoeing pass for $7.50 CDN. Gatineau Park offers 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) of snowshoeing trails that vary in skill level from easy to difficult.

Never been snowshoeing before? No problem. Opt to head out onto the beginner-friendly Sugarbush trail, which is located just beside the Visitor Centre. Take in the beautiful scenery as you go!

Nordik Spa-NatureNordik Spa-Nature:

After all of that winter fun, you’ll no doubt be in the mood to warm up. Just around the corner from Gatineau Park’s Visitor Centre, you’ll find Nordik Spa-Nature.

Known locally as “Nordik,” this is the largest outdoor spa in North America. Here, you can enjoy Nordik’s Thermal Baths and Saunas experience. In this Scandinavian-inspired experience, make your way from hot tubs as well as saunas and steam rooms to cold pools and rest areas. And don’t worry about being outside! Nordik has many great assets to keep you warm such as closed gazebos with wood burning fireplaces, heated porches and even heated hammocks.

If you want to take your spa experience one step further, opt to add a massage or try Nordik’s Källa treatment. Located in a cave-like structure five metres (16 feet) underground, Källa is a salt water floating pool that like the Dead Sea, offers several health benefits. Nordik’s Källa pool is only the second pool of its kind in the world, as the other one is located at a spa in Switzerland.

These activities however, are only a few ideas to get you outside to enjoy winter in Ottawa. As Ottawa will be celebrating 2017 – the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation – all year long, there will be many things to see and do in every season. You can browse Ottawa Tourism’s Ottawa in 2017 website section to learn more about special upcoming events.

Additionally, from Jan. 16 – 22, 2017, TD Place Arena at Lansdowne will host Skate Canada’s 2017 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. Here, 250 top skaters will compete.