From rock climbing to outdoor skiing and skating, there are so many ways to enjoy winter in Canada’s Capital region!
From Feb. 2-19, 2018, Ottawa will enjoy the 40th edition of Winterlude, an annual celebration of winter. A special highlight for children of all ages is the Snowflake Kingdom located in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau with its collection of huge snow slides. Not to be missed either is the International Ice Carving competition where carvers from around the world descend on Confederation Park in downtown Ottawa to transform blocks of ice into spectacular works of art. For two different perspectives, visit the sculptures during the day and again at night when they will be lit up.
Don’t miss the second annual Ice Dragon Boat Festival on Feb. 10, 2018, where dragon boats race down the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway. Be there to cheer them on!
Don’t miss the chance of a lifetime to skate on the first ever skating rink in front of Parliament Hill! From Dec. 7, 2017 to Feb. 25, 2018, the site will be bustling with skating, special guests, as well as a variety of exciting events. For instance, on Dec. 9-10, you can enjoy free samples of northern cuisine prepared by top chefs. On Dec. 10, there will also be fun programming for Canada 150 Skating Day. And on Dec. 15, you can watch Team Alfredsson and Team Phillips play in the Ottawa Senators Alumni Game. For the full list of events, visit the Canadian Heritage event calendar as well as 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 will be released 48 hours prior to each available date). You can bring your skates or rent some on site.
If you book a skating time on Parliament Hill on an evening from Dec. 7, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, you could enjoy a magical backdrop: the beautiful Christmas Lights Across Canada winter lightscapes multimedia show projected onto Centre Block (the show runs in 15-minute loops from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). You’ll also see hundreds of thousands of holiday lights throughout downtown Ottawa. Enjoy the festive atmosphere!
Skating on the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world is a ‘must-do’ on many visitors’ bucket lists. The Rideau Canal Skateway is open to skaters daily from roughly late December to late February, weather permitting, at no charge. There are change huts, skate rental shacks and snack stations all along its 7.8 km (4.8 miles) length. Check the ice conditions before you head out.
If ice conditions don’t allow for skating on the canal, you can head to Ottawa City Hall where the SENS Rink of Dreams, a refrigerated outdoor skating rink, is open from November to March from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. This 12,500-square-foot ice rink features LED lighting, a heated change hut, picnic tables and benches. Skate rentals and skate sharpening are available at the Rink of Dreams on weeknights and weekends (for detailed skate service hours, click here). The Lansdowne Park Skating Court also offers a longer 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).
Ottawa offers cross-country trails right in the heart of the city, including the popular Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail (known locally as the SJAM Trail). Enjoy groomed tracks for snowshoeing, walking and fat biking for 16 km (10 miles) along the Ottawa River running westward from the Canadian War Museum, near downtown. There are also over 150 km (93 miles) of cross-country ski trails in the Greenbelt area encircling Ottawa. You can use the trails for free and all are suitable for beginner and family outings.
Just across the Ottawa River from downtown, Gatineau Park is a mecca for cross-country skiing enthusiasts, with over 200 km (124 miles) of groomed trails and heated shelters. Pick up a ski pass (daily or seasonal) at the Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Quebec. The Gatineau Loppet, Canada’s largest cross-country skiing event, takes place Feb. 16-18, 2018 , bringing some of the very best distance racers from Canada and the world to the Ottawa-Gatineau area. There are a variety of distance races in the classic and freestyle categories open for registration in addition to the Gatineau Loppet Challenge.
For super endurance, consider the Canadian Ski Marathon from Feb. 9-11, 2018. This annual three-day, 160 km (99 miles) ski event is open to skier participants of all ages. The trail for this marathon is only groomed once per year between Lachute and Gatineau, Quebec.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
For downhill enthusiasts, Ottawa is like an urban resort, with challenging hills within easy driving distance of downtown, including Camp Fortune and Mount Pakenham.
Gatineau Park has trails reserved especially for snowshoeing so strap on your snowshoes and go! Snowshoe rentals as well as trail passes (daily or seasonal) are available at the Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Quebec.
Come enjoy a memorable dog sledding experience at Escapade Eskimo in the scenic Outaouais region only 75 minutes from Ottawa.
Gatineau Park offers three groomed trails for winter hiking and is a lovely place for a walk in a snow covered forest.
Winter Camping and Cabins
Gatineau Park also provides adventurers with campsites, cabins, yurts and four-season tents accessible via ski and snowshoe trails. Reservations are required, so be sure to book ahead!
Indoor Rock Climbing
Altitude Gym brings the world of indoor rock climbing to another level and to a one-of-a-kind location.
Looking for more wintry ideas? Take a look at our list of Top Places to Photograph in Ottawa this Winter.
Don’t forget to tag your photos and videos of your incredible winter activities with #MyOttawa.