So, you’re coming to Ottawa for Winterlude. Glad to hear it!
Especially if this is your first visit to Ottawa in the winter, we urge you to refer to this packing guide to make sure you enjoy yourselves to the fullest. Because no matter how amazing the ice sculptures, how romantic the outing on the Rideau Canal Skateway, or how slippery the ice slide at Snowflake Kingdom, you won’t have any fun at all if your feet are cold!
Winterlude Packing List
A backpack: It’s great for stashing your boots while you go skating on the Rideau Canal, plus it leaves your hands free to eat a BeaverTail pastry! Pack a plastic bag or two to stick your boots in to help limit wetness and a small hand towel to wipe down the blades of your ice skates to prevent rusting.
Snow pants: For so many reasons: they block the wind and add warmth, they protect your pants from snow and slush and prevent you from getting wet and therefore even colder, and best of all, they help you whizz down the ice and snow slides at Snowflake Kingdom. If you wear jeans, you’ll get stuck and that’s just embarrassing!
Accessories: A warm hat, gloves or mittens, a scarf…these are necessities. And don’t feel self-conscious—the entire city battles hat-head! The more colourful, the better! Portable or disposable hand warmers that can be put in your mittens and boots to keep your fingers and toes warm are also a great idea!
Footwear: Don’t skimp here! Warm socks and boots are a must (stick an extra pair of socks in your backpack). Stiletto heels or designer boots just won’t cut it, either—dress for warmth and you’ll enjoy your time outdoors. In winter, most women in Ottawa arrive at parties with a shoe bag. You wear your warm boots to get to where you’re going, then you slip on your knock-’em-dead pumps once you’re there. Practical and sexy!
Indoor clothing: Bring an extra layer or two of clothing so if it’s warmer or colder than you think, you’re prepared—this is key! Thin sweaters and shirts that whisk away any moisture are the best and they pack well, too.
Outdoor clothing: A warm jacket or parka is a must. Ideally, it would be a fabric that blocks the wind and repels moisture. Borrow one from a friend if you don’t have something appropriate. Don’t think that what keeps you warm when it’s above zero will do the job when the mercury drops! Remember to layer in order to stay warm, throw on a pair of leggings or long johns under your clothing for extra coziness.
Skates and sleighs: If you don’t bring your own pair of ice skates, you can rent some from Capital Skates at either the downtown end of the Canal near the National Arts Centre or half-way along the Canal near Fifth Avenue. Capital Skates also rents sleighs, which are perfect means of transportation for children or non-skaters, and which need to be pushed by skaters. For rates and details, visit www.capitalskates.ca Rentals are also available at the Dows Lake Pavilion at the other end of the Canal, as well as at the Sens rink of Dreams at City Hall during select times Friday through Sunday.
A little cash: You’ll want to indulge in a BeaverTails pastry, hot chocolate or other treat, so keep some small bills or coins in a handy spot.
Snacks: Raisins, chocolate, power bars—you need something to munch on to keep your energy level up while skating, snowshoeing, skiing, or just wandering around town.
Water bottle: Even though it may be cold, you need to stay hydrated! An insulated water bottle is best.
Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm: Think about it—the sun reflects off the snow and ice so it’s extra strong. Plus sunglasses might help you combat hat head once you move inside.
Tissues and wipes: Cold weather often means runny noses, so you’ll appreciate a handy supply of tissues.
Bandaids: If you haven’t skated in years, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to blisters (though modern skates are MUCH more comfortable than they used to be).
Mobile phone, camera, batteries, recharger, and adapter: You want to record and share these moments with your friends and followers, don’t you? Pack your smartphone and/or camera securely—and warmly—in an inside jacket pocket, not in your backpack where it might freeze! Bring extra batteries as the cold sometimes drains them faster than normal usage.
- Use the free OLG Sno-Bus to get around. OC Transpo and the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) provide a free shuttle service linking Winterlude’s official sites: the Rideau Canal Skateway and Confederation Park in Ottawa as well as Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. Look for the red and white OC Transpo buses running between Confederation Park and Dows Lake (along the Rideau Canal)—they usually run every 10-15 minutes from approximately 10am to 8pm on Saturdays and approximately 10am to 5:30pm on Sundays. Passengers travelling to Dow’s Lake will be picked up in front of City Hall. The blue and white STO buses run between the Centre Robert-Guertin park-and-ride, Jacques-Cartier Park and Confederation Park on Saturdays and Sundays from approximately 10am to 5:30pm. IMPORTANT: If you are traveling to/from Gatineau (including Jacques Cartier Park), check for the latest updates on any impact to service due to potential STO labour action.
- If you see one of the Winterlude mascots, the Ice Hog family, be sure to say hi! Mama, Papa, Noumi and Nouma don’t talk but they love to give out hugs. They’re a mythical species of furry animal that is usually found up north but during Winterlude, they visit Canada’s capital region to spread the joy of winter.
- There are 4 chalets (heated places to put on your skates or take a break) along the length of the Rideau Canal Skateway. Some people leave their boots behind, but most people throw them in a backpack and take them along.
- Keep track of your trek down the 7.8 km Skateway with the mileage markers so you can see just how far you’ve come – and how far you have to go back when you turn around!
- There’s nothing more Canadian than standing in your skates with a BeaverTail (a hot pastry treat) in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other, on the Rideau Canal Skateway.
- Watch for the only-in-Ottawa “Skaters Crossing” signs along Colonel By Drive and Queen Elizabeth Drive!
- Take a photo for Twitter, Instagram or your Facebook page or upload a video to YouTube! Follow @NCC_Skateway and @Ottawa_Tourism for up-to-date info on ice conditions and use #CanalMoments or #MyOttawa to share your experiences.
- If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and if the Skateway is not open, don’t despair! The SENS Rink of Dreams offers free skating on a refrigerated rink on the grounds in front of Ottawa City Hall, not far from the Rideau Canal downtown. Skate rentals and sharpening are available here Friday 4 to 9pm, Saturday noon to 9pm and Sundays noon to 6pm. There are also over 250 outdoor skating rinks in City of Ottawa parks throughout the community.
- Also, just south of downtown, at the newly renovated Lansdowne Park, you’ll find the Skating Court. This is Ottawa’s newest refrigerated outdoor skating rink. It opened just last year!