Each winter, Canada’s capital boasts the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world as designated by Guinness World Records: The Rideau Canal Skateway! From roughly January to late February or early March, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site transforms into an epic urban skating rink which winds its way through downtown Ottawa. Don’t miss this unique bucket list site, especially while it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020!
A magical experience
Nearly one million people – including visitors from around the world – experience the Rideau Canal Skateway each year. Stretching 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles) from Ottawa’s downtown core near the National Arts Centre to spacious Dows Lake, the Skateway’s skating surface totals 165,621 square metres. That’s bigger than 105 National Hockey League rinks or more than 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks!
Locals use the Skateway as a fun way to exercise, as an activity with family and friends, and to commute to school or work. The Skateway also hosts special programming during the popular Winterlude festival which takes place during the first three weekends of February each year.
Free and accessible
When the Skateway is open (weather permitting), it’s free and accessible 7 days a week, 24 hours a day! There’s nothing more romantic on a wintry evening than gliding with a loved one on this magical skating rink.
Anyone can experience the Skateway thanks to its universally accessible facilities like access ramps, heated change rooms and washrooms. People who can’t or don’t want to skate can walk or shuffle along the edges of the Skateway (away from skaters), or on the pathways above the canal.
Skate and sleigh rentals
If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent a pair (as well as helmets and other accessories) on the Skateway. Rentals are available at both Capital Skates kiosks (National Arts Centre and Fifth Avenue) and at Dows Lake Pavilion.
Large sleighs with built-in seats can also be rented. Non-skaters can ride comfortably while someone in their party pushes the sleigh on the ice.
Food and facilities
All along the Skateway, you’ll find various stands offering food like poutine, hot chocolate and the famous BeaverTails pastries. These delicious beaver tail-shaped treats were invented in Ottawa in 1978. There’s nothing more Canadian than enjoying a sweet BeaverTail on the Rideau Canal Skateway in winter!
Heated huts along the ice surface provide warm and comfortable spaces in which you can change in and out of your skates, take a break or even use the washroom.
Before you go
Since the Rideau Canal Skateway is an outdoor skating rink, it’s dependent on weather conditions. Make sure to verify status and ice conditions before you go.
If the Skateway isn’t open, don’t panic! Take a look at our list of Best ice skating experiences in Ottawa for amazing alternatives.