Ottawa Tourism

What’s Up in Ottawa – Winter 2020

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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!


Don’t miss the best museum offerings in town!

  • Check out a selection of recent creations by Indigenous artists from around the world at the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibition Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel (until April 5, 2020).
  • At the Canadian War Museum, discover a diverse range of stories with nearly 200 compelling artifacts exploring the human experience of war across Canada and around the world at the Forever Changed – Stories from the Second World War exhibit (May 8, 2020-January 2021). 
  • Visit the FREE! Ottawa Art Gallery to discover how contemporary artists respond to the ground-breaking work of Surrealist artists and genderqueer pioneers at the exhibition Facing Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore (until February 9, 2020). 
  • Learn about the South African (Boer) War at the Bytown Museum’s exhibition, The Gallant Thousand: Ottawa and the South African War, marking the 120th anniversary of the beginning of the war (until February 17, 2020). New! $2 admission to the museum for everyone.  
  • At the Canadian Museum of Nature check out Me and My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You (until March 29, 2020) for a journey through the human body and an in-depth look at health and the human microbiome; while the fun exhibition featuring live butterflies that fly around visitors in a greenhouse, Butterflies in Flight, has been extended until March 31, 2020. This summer, discover how cold and ice have created the waterways and landscapes we know today and explore how a range of species, including humankind, have adapted to their cold environments at the Planet Ice: Mysteries of the Ice Ages exhibition (June 3, 2020-January 3, 2021). 
  • At the Canadian Museum of History, see UNCEDED – Voices of the Land, a breathtaking multimedia installation that brings together the past, present, and future of the Indigenous experience (until March 22, 2020). This summer, take part in an immersive multisensory experience to get an unforgettable glimpse into Egypt 3,500 years ago at the Queens of Egypt exhibition (May 8-October 12, 2020). At the Canadian Children’s Museum inside, see Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit, based on Disney Junior’s award-winning series about a young girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mom, and magically communicates with toys (until May 18, 2020).
  • At the Canada Science and Technology Museum, see the exhibition Iron Willed: Women in STEM, and learn about the historical and contemporary women who have contributed to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields (until January 19, 2020). 
  • At the Âjagemô art space run by the Canada Council for the Arts at 150 Elgin Street, see the exhibition Awakening presenting 21 works from the Art Bank’s collection featuring well-known Canadian, Indigenous, and culturally diverse artists (March 3-May 31, 2020). 
  • At the Bank of Canada Museum, explore the otherworldly uses of money and the surprising roots of some very familiar traditions at the Luck and Lore exhibition (until November 1, 2020). FREE


  • New! The prestigious Canadian Culinary Championships (also known as Canada’s Great Kitchen Party) comes to Ottawa January 31-February 1, 2020! The country’s best chefs compete regionally, with those winners then spending a whirlwind weekend of black-box competitions, wine-pairings, and amazing food in Ottawa! 
  • New! Top Chef Canada winner René Rodriquez has taken the helm at the Lord Elgin hotel’s restaurant, Grill 41
  • New! Ottawa Tasting Tours offers a progressive dinner across Ottawa for up to 8 people (4 courses in 4 separate restaurants) by limousine. 
  • New! If cooking seafood has been a challenge, you might want to attend the School of Fish offered by Pelican Seafood Market and Grill and learn to prepare a variety of fish and seafood. 
  • New! The south end of Ottawa has a new restaurant / attraction called Playback Ottawa that offers like shuffleboard and bocce games along with food and drink. 
  • A fun Canadian-themed dinner theatre show called Oh Canada Eh? debuted in 2019 and will expand its season from May to October 2020 at the RA Centre a bit south of downtown Ottawa. The plan is to expand to a 10-month run starting in 2021. 
  • Ottawa’s zero-waste grocery store, NU Grocery, opened a second location on Main Street to join its original spot on Wellington Street West. Bring your own containers to make shopping a more sustainable activity! 
  • New! A restaurant called Brassica—which refers to the genus name for the mustard family, such as cabbage, broccoli, etc.—opens in January 2020 in the Westboro neighbourhood in Ottawa’s west end.
  • The Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market makes great use of the patio space outside their 16th floor rooftop lounge called Copper Spirits and Sights: on each Winterlude weekend, they offer Copper on Ice, an outdoor ice bar! 
  • New! The restaurant formerly known as Le Café, inside the National Arts Centre, reopened and rebranded itself as 1 Elgin in mid-August 2019. Their dining room overlooks the Rideau Canal Skateway. 
  • New! Popular Zak’s Diner opened a new location on Elgin Street in December 2019—get your milkshakes and all-day breakfast! 


Check out the Ottawa Tourism Media Library, which presents high-resolution photos from all four seasons with no password required to download! The library allows you to download one photo at a time, or to create folders of favourite shots and send them to yourself directly. Bookmark the page for future use and note that credit information is indicated in the file names.

If you’re looking for b-roll, click on VIDEO at the top of the page! 

If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the Media Library, email the Ottawa Tourism Communications team at [email protected] and we would be happy to help!



  • 2020 – 15th anniversary of Nordik Spa Nature, the largest spa in North America, located just a 15-minute drive north of downtown Ottawa. 
  • May-August 2020 – New! Professional basketball comes to Ottawa as the Ottawa BlackJacks join the Canadian Elite Basketball League, the 7th franchise in its second season of operation. There are 10 home games on the schedule, to be played at TD Place at Lansdowne between May 14 and August 1, 2020. 
  • May 8-18, 2020 – The Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the first Gift of Tulips with a special edition Liberation75 Tulip to celebrate the friendship between Canada and the Netherlands. 
  • May 16-October 24, 2020 – New! A seasonal direct flight between Frankfurt, Germany and Ottawa will be offered by Lufthansa (previously, this flight was offered by Air Canada). 
  • May 17-September 16, 2020 (Sundays) – 50th anniversary of Sunday Bikedays, when scenic routes are closed to traffic so cyclists and inline skaters can have free rein! 
  • June 19-July 1, 2020 – The Ottawa International Jazz Festival celebrates its 40th edition in Confederation Park in downtown Ottawa. 
  • Summer 2020 – New! Interzip Rogers will be the world’s first interprovincial zipline when it opens this summer. A new addition to the Zibi development (a planned residential and business community that is located in both Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Québec), the dual-line zipline will soar more than 35 metres (120 feet) above the Ottawa River and stretch 425 metres (1,400 feet). 
  • Summer 2020 – New! Camp Fortune—a four-season recreational resort located in Gatineau Park, just a 15-minute drive north of downtown Ottawa which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020—is introducing a luge in summer 2020 with a vertical drop of about 130 metres (400 feet)
  • July 2-5, 2020A new Cirque du Soleil show called Crystal—performed on ice—comes to the Canadian Tire Centre. 
  • Ongoing – the Ottawa International Airport has begun renovations, including an expanded and relocated pre-board screening area; local vendors contracted for airport concessions (Big Rig Brewery, Bridgehead Coffee, La Bottega Nicastro, and Zak’s Diner); and a New! Alt Hotel Ottawa Airport set to open by the end of 2020. 


A sign spelling out OTTAWA was erected in the ByWard Market neighbourhood in 2017 as part of the major festivities surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation that year. Designed to be a temporary installation, the sign proved wildly popular and was relocated in 2018. But it was showing its age, so a new permanent sign was constructed and installed in December 2019.

Popular with residents and visitors alike, the sign is now able to be illuminated in multiple colours, which will change throughout the year to mark holidays and major events.