Ottawa Tourism

Found In Canada

Ottawa, Canada’s Capital, is a dynamic and beautiful destination located in Ontario at the Quebec border. With a variety of short direct flights into Ottawa International Airport from the U.S., it’s closer than you think!

You’ll hear a charming blend of English and French as you stroll between landmarks such as Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and national museums. Enjoy a relaxed urban vibe in lively neighborhoods peppered with unique boutiques, great restaurants and craft breweries. And no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll encounter festivals highlighting music, arts, food and outdoors. Visit Ottawa to enjoy the best of Canada, all in one place!

Though every season in Canada’s Capital offers special experiences, the city is especially magical when it turns into a winter wonderland! We celebrate in true Canadian style from February 2-19, 2018, during the Winterlude festival. Winter is also the time the perfect time of year to grab your skates or rent a pair when you get here and glide through downtown along the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink!

Start planning your trip to Ottawa with these helpful winter ideas!

Top Places to Photograph in Ottawa This Winter

Top Places to Photograph in Ottawa This Winter

Grab your camera this winter season and explore these local Instagram favourite spots to take photos in and around Ottawa.

Gatineau Park

Ottawa’s downtown core is only a short 20-minute drive away from the winter wonderland that is Gatineau Park in Quebec. With over 200 km of cross-country skiing trails and opportunities to snowshoe, hike, snow bike or winter camp, the Instagram opportunities are endless! 

Tip: Spending the night in the wilderness is the best way to get the full winter experience. Gatineau Park has four-season winter tents, yurts and wood cabins available for rent all year-long.

Parliament

No trip to Ottawa is complete without a photo of Canada’s Parliament, and the winter season provides a whole new perspective on this astonishing monument. With wonderful snowy scenes, and sharp blue skies on cold clear days, the city’s most Instagrammed building is more than photogenic in the winter months. The Centennial Flame, a great centerpiece to the iconic Parliament shot, also provides an opportunity to warm up.

Tip: Take a free tour of Parliament’s interior and get some great winter views from the top of the Peace Tower.

Ottawa River

Looking for a perfect view of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa skyline? Then head to the Gatineau side of the Ottawa river, down to the Voyageurs Pathway. Winter provides a unique view with ice and snow flowing freely down the river (depending on weather conditions). One day you’ll find it covered in snow, while the next you might be able to snap a great Parliament reflection shot on a calm winter day. On very cold days you may even be able to catch a glimpse of fog coming off the river – this happens when the air temperature is colder than the river.

Tip: Walk across the Alexandra Bridge for a great view from both the Ottawa and Gatineau sides, or head a bit further west to the Portage Bridge and on to Victoria Island for another great vantage point.

Rideau Canal Skateway

This bucket list must-do is the largest naturally frozen outdoor skating rink in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very uniquely Ottawa. No winter visit is complete without a shot from the Rideau Canal Skateway, day or night. However, keep your eye on the temperature, as the canal is only open for skating when the mercury dips low enough to allow it to freeze solid.

Tip: There are many great vantage points from the Skateway. For a unique, off-the-beaten-path spot, check out Patterson Creek where a cute stone-arched bridge will lead you to quaint offshoot of the Canal. 

Fairmont Château Laurier

It’s our very own winter castle and a great place to snap an iconic winter picture. The Fairmont Château Laurier stands tall beside the famous Rideau Canal Locks and is just steps away from Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market area. With its historic architecture and fairy tale allure, this hotel is the perfect spot for that quintessential winter photograph.

Tip: Head down to the nearby Bytown Museum for a unique view from the bottom of the Locks, or to the Mackenzie King Bridge beside the Shaw Centre for a postcard perfect view.

Rideau Falls

A short walk from Rideau Hall, the official home to Canada’s Governor General, the Rideau Falls are where the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers meet. In the heart of winter, the falls can often completely freeze over creating an amazing sight. However, when the falls are still flowing, the surrounding area is blanketed in a beautiful white frozen glaze – definitely double tap worthy.

Tip: Pair a trip to Rideau Falls with a tour of Rideau Hall, another great Instagrammable place. Tours are upon request during the winter months.

Evidently, Ottawa is very Instagrammable, so share the love and tag your photos with #MyOttawa. Looking forward to see all your beautiful winter pictures!

Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal Skateway

Did you know that Ottawa is home to the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world, as designated by Guinness World Records? It’s true! Each year, from roughly January to late February or early March, the scenic Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – freezes and welcomes nearly one million visitors for winter fun.

People come from around the world to glide along the Rideau Canal Skateway’s 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles), which stretch from Ottawa’s downtown core to Dows Lake, its largest surface. According to the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Skateway hosts a daily average of 20,000 visitors during the winter months. So if you’re coming to Ottawa over the winter season, this is something you don’t want to miss! Access to the Skateway is FREE.

You can bring your own skates or rent a pair at the Skateway’s downtown and Fifth Avenue entrances. Glide along and see how far you can go! According to the NCC, the Skateway’s actual skating surface is 165,621 square metres, which is bigger than 105 National Hockey League rinks or more than 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks.

But don’t worry, you won’t be forsaken in the Canadian wilderness while you skate. All along the way, you’ll find various stands offering hot soup, hot chocolate and other items to keep you cozy and warm. There are also heated change huts, where you can put your skates on or just warm up for a bit. And while you’re on the famous Skateway, make sure to get a BeaverTails pastry! This deep fried, cinnamon and sugar, beaver tail-shaped pastry was invented in Ottawa in 1978. There’s nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on skates on the Skateway in the winter!

Want to know what being on the Skateway is like? Check out this video! Just make sure you check the ice conditions before you head out.

Fast Facts

  • The Rideau Canal Skateway is maintained and operated by the National Capital Commission (NCC). It is open to skaters daily (weather permitting) and is FREE of charge.
  • On cold nights, workers drill holes in the Canal ice and pump water onto the surface. There’s even a special Skateway zamboni that smooths the ice surface!
  • Change huts and snack stations can be found at various locations along the Skateway.
  • If you don’t have skates, you can rent them on the Canal. You can also rent bright red sleighs and push those who can’t skate themselves.
  • On beautiful winter days, skaters by the thousands fill the Skateway. According to the National Capital Commission (NCC), nearly one million people visit this skating rink each year.
  • The first three weekends of February, the Canal is the focal point for Winterlude, the Capital’s annual celebration of winter.
  • Many Ottawans who live near the Canal actually use it to skate to school or to work in the winter.

Related Links

Getting to Ottawa

Traveling to Ottawa from the Northeast US is a breeze! Direct flights of less than two hours are offered daily from Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia airports into Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW). The state-of-the-art Ottawa airport is located a short, 20-minute taxi or bus ride from the city’s scenic downtown core. And it’s a US pre-clearance airport, meaning that US-bound passengers are processed by US Customs prior to their departure. So your return home is as quick and easy as a domestic flight!

Did you know that Air Canada – Canada's national airline – offers daily non-stop flights between New York and Ottawa? It’s true! From Newark, you’ll find three non-stop flights per weekday to Ottawa and up to two flights on Saturday and Sunday.

Also, non-stop flight time from New York is 90 minutes, which makes Canada’s Capital at the perfect traveling distance for a quick weekend getaway or for something a little longer.

If you prefer road trips, Ottawa is easily reachable by car. Its convenient location near the US border, and the fact that it’s situated between other major cities in Ontario and Quebec makes it a great destination. If rail travel is more your speed, VIA Rail Canada offers train service between Canadian destinations, and also connects with Amtrack.

Book your Ottawa Getaway today!

Book your hotel now! Or for more Ottawa getaway ideas, view our online Visitor Guide or order a printed copy today.

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