From long, leisurely skates on the canal to romping in the snow at Winterlude or spending family time in the warmth of a museum or theatre, Ottawa has much seasonal fun to offer.
Winter in Ottawa is beautiful. Even as the snow and bone-chilling temperatures set in, it’s a season to be savoured. Whether you’re here for a family vacation, or enjoying a staycation, there are plenty of activities, indoors and out, to make the most of the season in the nation’s capital.
Winterlude, the capital’s ultimate winter celebration, is held in Ottawa and Gatineau every February to celebrate Canada’s unique northern climate and culture. This year, Winterlude runs from Jan. 30 – Feb. 16, 2015.
Festivities take place in three main spots:
δ The Crystal Garden in Confederation Park, where you can see breathtaking ice sculptures;
δ The Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park is a child’s (and winter lover’s) paradise, with thrilling snow slides and plenty of other outdoor activities;
δ The historic and awe-inspiring Rideau Canal Skateway, which winds through downtown Ottawa and is the world’s largest skating rink.
The spectacular Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, is Ottawa’s crown jewel in the winter. The Skateway is 7.8 kilometres long, begins just steps from the Parliament Buildings, and extends to Dows Lake.
*Always check the ice conditions before you head out: www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca
And if canal ice conditions are less than ideal, bring the family to Ottawa City Hall, where the Rink of Dreams, a refrigerated outdoor skating rink, is open from November to March, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., featuring LED lighting, a heated change hut and picnic tables and benches.
Grab your skis and take the family to Ottawa’s trails this winter! The Greenbelt has over 150 kilometres of cross-country ski trails. You can use the trails for free and all are perfect for beginner and family outings.
And Gatineau Park, just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, has one of the largest networks of cross-country ski trails in North America. You’ll find over 50 trails, with various levels of difficulty.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
For the downhill ski enthusiasts and thrill-seekers in the family, the Ottawa area offers many challenging hills within a reasonable driving distance, including:
δ Calabogie Peaks δ Camp Fortune
δ Edelweiss δ Mont Tremblant
δ Mont Cascades δ Mont Ste. Marie
δ Mount Pakenham δ Vorlage
Snowshoeing and hiking
On a crisp Ottawa winter day, bring the family to explore the Greenbelt by snowshoe. While most trails are used for cross-country skiing in the winter, there are some great spots for snowshoeing and walking.
Or enjoy a walk through the lovely Gatineau Park. Featuring 12 trails for snowshoeing, the park offers three groomed trails for winter hiking, ideal for an invigorating walk through the snow-covered forest, an idyllic family winter day outing.
There are many local options for this classic winter family activity, with several tobogganing hills in and around the Ottawa area.
The National Capital Commission has set aside three Greenbelt areas for tobogganing:
δ Bruce Pit (hill is not lit at night).
δ Conroy Pit: In the city’s south, on Conroy Road, south of Hunt Club.
δ Green’s Creek: Just west of Orléans.
And the City of Ottawa has designated 56 local sledding hills. See the full list at www.ottawa.ca.
*Be sure to take a break and enjoy a Beavertail, the mouth-watering Canadian winter staple: whole-wheat pastries served piping hot, topped with butter and your choice of many delectable flavours.
Indoor fun ideas
When you’re ready to take a break from the elements, there are many fantastic Ottawa-area attractions to keep your family entertained and warm and cosy.
Museums and galleries
The variety of museums and galleries in the Ottawa area allow your family to explore everything from Canada’s social and military history to natural wonders and world-class art, an educational and entertaining indoor option for those chilly winter days.
And the Canadian Children’s Museum, located inside the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, is always a major hit with little ones. They can get a feel for other cultures through various exhibitions, props, costumes and hands-on artifacts, with a large variety of toys and games. www.historymuseum.ca/childrens-museum
Watch a show
Take in some family-friendly theatre at one of the city’s venues, including Centrepointe Theatres, Shenkman Arts Centre, the National Arts Centre or Canadian Tire Centre. Some upcoming shows that will delight your youngsters this season include The Little Mermaid, Toopy and Binoo: Fun and Games, Disney Live! and Alice Through The Looking-Glass (the sequel to Alice in Wonderland).
City of Ottawa arenas charge a small fee for public skating (typically between $1.50 and $2.50 per person). Public Skating Information Line: 613-580-2666.