When winter comes to Canada each year, we celebrate! Ottawa is host to one such celebration, a two week festival called Winterlude.
My University tends to hold midterms during the same date range as Winterlude, so I’m grateful to live in Ottawa, only a short bus ride from this winter travel destination.
I visited all 3 Winterlude sites this year, here’s the best of each location!
The Rideau Canal
When the Rideau Canal freezes over each winter, it becomes the longest skate way in the world. This Unesco World Heritage site offers 7.8km of skating. That’s 90 Olympic skating rinks worth of ice!
I’ve lived in Ottawa for 17 years, and have skated on the canal every winter with only one or two exceptions. The best time of day to skate is, in my opinion, sunset. This year I enjoyed an evening experimenting with using a tripod to snap some photos of myself skating.
The canal is open 24 hours a day, and if you’re visiting skates can be rented at one of the many rest stations.
The Crystal Garden
The Crystal Garden pops up in Confederation Park, a couple blocks from Parliament. It’s the best place to see ice sculptures, including masterpieces by ice carvers from around the world.
I walked through the Crystal Garden on 3 occasions this year, to see the sculptures at different times of day. This turned out to be a great idea because the sculptures changed from day to day! An ice polar appeared overnight, and all of the sculptures lining a dry fountain were gone one day, and replaced with new ones the next.
The sculptures are all lit up at night. The contrast makes it easier to see the details and appreciate the craftsman ship that goes in to each piece. This is a great time to go!
Snowflake Kingdom is basically a massive playground made out of snow. There are slides, games, and dog sled rides on the weekends.
There were also, unbeknownst to me, snow sculptures. There is a tree next to the one in my photo below that will give you an appreciation for how large these creations were.
Snowflake Kingdom is where we chose to get our beaver tails! Beaver tails are a winter favourite and a necessary part of the Winterlude experience. This is my other favourite part of winter in Ottawa. Beaver tails are a treat unique to Ottawa and Quebec, so you’ll have to come here to taste one!
The beaver tail stands also sell hot chocolate with marshmallows, so get both. Maple taffy is another great winter treat, and the stands are usually next to each other and close to a shelter where you can warm up!
- It is cold! That will not stop you from enjoying Winterlude as long as you have warm boots, mittens, a toque, coat, and base layers.
- On weekends the OLG Sno-Bus will transport you between venues for free.
- Some beavertail stands only accept cash.
- Winterlude typically begins the first weekend of February, and ends on Family Day, a holiday Monday.
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