In the winter months, Ottawans welcome the opportunity to indulge in fantastic outdoor activities, which in December 2019 started with the New! Ottawa Christmas Market at Lansdowne (watch for it to return in 2020).
The highlight of winter activities is ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway which celebrates its 50th season this year! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal becomes the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world each winter… as big as 90 Olympic-sized ice rinks! Experience true Canadiana while skating 7.8km (4.8 miles) through downtown Ottawa! FREE!
Skate and sleigh rentals are available at three locations along the surface, and don’t forget to enjoy a BeaverTail pastry and hot chocolate along the way!
A must-see event is Winterlude, which takes place between January 31 and February 17, 2020. Canada’s Capital Region transforms into a winter wonderland as the 42nd edition of the festival takes over Jacques Cartier Park (Snowflake Kingdom), the Rideau Canal Skateway, and NEW in 2020! the Sparks Street pedestrian mall. Sparks Street hosts live ice carving demonstrations and competitions during all three weekends, while returning favourites such as the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, ice slides, ByWard Market Stew Cook-Off, and Winterlude Triathlon (skating/running/cross-country skiing) also attract fans.
New! Ottawa plays host to the Canadian Culinary Championships (also known as Canada’s Great Kitchen Party) January 31-February 1, 2020. Twelve regional competitions across the country send their winning chefs to compete for the overall gold medal over two days of high-intensity competition while raising money for food security, music, and athletic programs. This prestigious event will be held in Ottawa during Winterlude for at least the next three years.
And for something completely different, the Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino (which will become the Hard Rock Ottawa Casino in 2021) hosts the 2020 SnowCross Championships February 28-29, 2020. Canada’s best snowmobile and snowbike racers duel it out over giant jumps and moguls! Also on tap: live music, delicious food and drink options, and more!
Of course, Ottawa hosts fun sporting events throughout the year; including 41 home games for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League and 34 home games for the Ontario Hockey League Ottawa 67’s junior hockey team!
More fun winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking in Gatineau Park (downhill skiing is also available), in the National Capital Commission’s Greenbelt that encircles Ottawa’s urban core, and along the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail along the south shore of the Ottawa River heading west from downtown.
And if you want to expand your ice skating options:
- The SENS Rink of Dreams is a refrigerated ice surface located outside Ottawa City Hall, adjacent to the Rideau Canal. Check out the sweet lighting display that makes night skating exciting (until March 31, 2020, weather permitting). FREE! Skate rentals available.
- Skate outside the historic Aberdeen Pavilion on the Lansdowne Park Skating Court. Follow your session on this refrigerated rink with a bite at one of the many restaurants in Lansdowne or in the nearby Glebe neighbourhood (until March 31, 2020, weather permitting). FREE!
- After a tour of Rideau Hall, visit the refrigerated skating rink (originally built in 1872) and Winter Pavilion on the grounds! Public skating is available on weekends (until March 15, 2020, weather permitting). FREE!