So you’ve come to Ottawa, Canada’s beautiful snowy capital to take in all the joy and pleasures of the Canadian winter season. While you’re visiting, why not start your winter experience with a staple Canadian activity and go ice skating? Whether you’re brand new to the sport of skating or you’re a seasoned expert, Ottawa has a charming ice rink that will delight any level of skater. Head out to discover some of these great and in some cases, world famous skating spots!
Canada 150 Skating Rink
Something new for the bucket list: for the first time ever, you can skate in front of Parliament’s Centre Block on the Canada 150 Skating Rink! From Dec. 7, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2018, enjoy free ice time as well as a variety of wintery activities, special guests and events. Canadian Heritage is hosting culinary events, skating shows, Indigenous programming, interactive activities and more. (For the full list of Canadian Heritage events, consult their calendar of events.) The Ottawa Senators are also hosting special events on site, such as the Ottawa Senators Alumni Game on Dec. 15 featuring Team Alfredsson vs Team Phillips! (For more Ottawa Senators-related events, visit the Canada 150 Rink website.) The Canada 150 Rink website contains all the information you need about rink accessibility and how to reserve free skating passes (they are released 48 hours prior to each available date). You can bring your skates or rent some on site. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Rideau Canal Skateway
The 7.8-kilometre (4.8-mile) Rideau Canal Skateway is Ottawa’s most famous skating site, as it is designated by Guinness World Records to be the world’s largest skating rink! Glide along the ice at your own pace from downtown Ottawa all the way to Dows Lake and take in scenic views of the city as you go. And don’t worry about getting chilly along the way! If the weather gets frightful or you need a rest, just pop into one of the Skateway’s heated cabins. Cozy, warm and equipped with washrooms, these cabins are a great place to rest and change into your boots and/or skates. The Skateway is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from roughly January to late February or early March (weather depending). It is completely accessible and admission is free. If you didn’t bring skates with you on your trip, there’s no need to worry. Skate rentals are available on the Skateway itself near the National Arts Centre (NAC), at the Fifth Avenue rest stop and at the Dows Lake Pavilion (hours vary by location – consult the Skateway website for details). Sled rentals are also available for non-skaters. Check the ice conditions before you head out.
Sens Rinks Of Dreams
Located in front of Ottawa City Hall on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa’s downtown core, the Sens Rink of Dreams (named after Ottawa’s beloved NHL hockey team the Ottawa Senators) is great at any time of day, but is magical after dark when it is lit up with multi-colored LED lights. Glide along the smooth surface and if you need a break, sit down in the rink’s cozy changing cabin or at one of its picnic tables. The rink is open seven days a week in the winter from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and admission is free. Also, due to its refrigerated surface, the rink offers a longer skating season that stretches roughly from mid-November to mid-March. The Sens Rink of Dreams is a great option if ever the Rideau Canal Skateway is closed due to weather. This rink is also a great place to warm up with a hot chocolate and a BeaverTails pastry. Ottawa is where this delicious, deep fried delicacy was born in 1978! These whole wheat pastries are available in Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighbourhood year-round, but there is nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on a pair of skates in the winter. BeaverTails pastries can also be found on the Skateway. Skate rentals and skate sharpening is available at the Rink of Dreams on weeknights and weekends (for detailed skate service hours, click here).
Lansdowne Skating Court
Located at Lansdowne, just south of Ottawa’s downtown core, the outdoor Skating Court is also refrigerated and offers a skating season that stretches from roughly mid-November to mid-March. Free open skating sessions are available daily or you can learn how to skate through one of its skating programs. Skate rentals are not available at this site. And if you need a break, visit the rink’s BeaverTails concession stand for a delicious pastry and a hot chocolate.
If you have your own skates, visit the historic 1870s skating rink at the Governor General of Canada’s residence, located on Sussex Drive. Established in 1872, Rideau Hall’s charming refrigerated outdoor skating rink offers free public skating sessions on Saturdays and Sundays from roughly December through March. Skate to your heart’s content to the sound of traditional music, then rest and warm up in the cozy Winter Pavilion – a heritage building where you can change into your skating attire and also see a small exhibit about the history of winter sports at Rideau Hall. During the mandate of Canada’s third governor general, the Earl of Dufferin in 1872, many skating parties were held at Rideau Hall by the governor general himself and his wife, Lady Dufferin!
Museum Ice Rink
The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, with its farm animals and interactive learning opportunities, is a popular attraction for families. But did you know this working farm within the city also has its own outdoor skating rink? Combine a fun visit to the museum when the rink is open: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday (weather dependent).
Brewery Creek Skating Rink
Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, in the lovely Outaouais region of Quebec, you’ll find the Brewery Creek Skating Rink (Patinoire du ruisseau de la Brasserie). At about 400 metres long (0.25 mile), it’s like a miniature version of the Rideau Canal Skateway that winds its way through a historic portion of downtown Gatineau. This outdoor rink is open from January through March (weather permitting). There’s a shelter as well as skate and helmet rentals on site.
Skating Trails Through the Forest
The bucolic rural regions around Ottawa are fully embracing the hottest skating trend of the season: skating trails through the forest! Make your way to the following locations between mid-December to early March (weather depending) to try this enchanting experience:
- About one hour south of Ottawa in the lovely community of Perth, Perth Outfitters offers a 400-metre (0.2 mile) skating trail through the woods (including lantern skate events on Friday and Saturday evenings). There’s also a shinny hockey rink, log cabin and warm treats. A few communal skates are available on a first-come first-serve basis, so it’s best to bring your own.
- For a longer skating trail experience, try Countryside Adventures in Moose Creek, a 45-minute drive east of Ottawa (or 1.5 hours from Montreal). Their 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) trail twists through a woodsy natural setting. They also have snowshoeing, a food truck and heated changing rooms. Skate and snowshoe rentals are available.
- Another option is the Skating Through the Forest attraction in the area of Lac des Loups, Quebec, about 45 minutes north of downtown Ottawa. Glide along the 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) open-air ice loop which winds through a scenery of tall trees. Non-skaters can also enjoy the pristine atmosphere by snowshoeing or walking on designated paths. To warm up, just head inside the chalet. A very limited number of skate rentals is available, therefore bringing your own is highly recommended.
- Another 3 km skating trail awaits just 30 minutes south-east of downtown Ottawa at RiverOak Estates. Glide through apple orchards, meadows and forests and take a break in the cozy heritage barn. The hockey-loving owners even allow skaters to bring their gear and play on the trail! Skate and helmets are available for rent.
Admission fees and hours of operation differ for each site. Since weather conditions vary widely in the rural areas of Ottawa, it is recommended that you contact the businesses directly to confirm they are open and to inquire about ice conditions.
Indoor Ice Skating
You can also experience ice skating in Ottawa at any time of the year, as the city is home to several indoor arenas that offer affordable public skating sessions, skating lesson programs and skate rentals. Visit the City of Ottawa website for more information or to find an arena near you.
Looking for more outdoor fun this winter? Check out our other winter activity suggestions!