Winterlude in Ottawa - My Family Travels
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

Pack your bags and head to the capital and shy star of Ontario province — Ottawa, Canada — for a winter wonderland.

Among Canadian cities, Ottawa best straddles the nation’s cultural schisms. It sits at the confluence of three rivers — the Rideau, the Ottawa, and the Gatineau — and right on the lingually-charged Ontario/Québec border. Queen Victoria picked it as the Canadian national capitol in 1867, much to the chagrin of the aggressive Torontonians to the south and the Quebécoise to the North. Some say neither side has yet to forgive the old girl, but contemporary visitors to this quiet and orderly city will find much to treasure.

So Much Winter Fun in the Capital of Canada

There are several major museums worthy of a visit (particularly the Museum of Civilisation), many parks (the Experimental Farm is a working farm museum in the heart of the city), as well as the seat of government in the Parliament complex, with its ever-so-English Changing of the Guard. The By Ward Market area is thick with shops and restaurants. Here’s more…

The Rideau Canal is a 202-km (121-mile) ribbon of water that starts in Kingston, Ontario and finally flows through the heart of Ottawa’s residential neighborhoods into the downtown core. In the summer the canal is a hub of outdoor activity, with bicycling on trails along the shore, boating and dining at waterside restaurants.

However, it is in the dead of winter, during three weekends in late January and February, that Ottawa fully comes into its own. In winter, this canal becomes the world’s longest skating rink, 4.5 miles (7km) of groomed ice, providing skating commuters with a rigorous route to work and kids a long and winding playground.

It is the star of Winterlude, Ottawa’s celebration of its inevitably long and icy winter. You’ll find activities for all the family-from ice sculpting to figure skating to full-size snow mazes. Take beginner classes in snowshoeing and alpine skiing. Organized dog sled races, hockey, skiing, ice-fishing, and numerous special children’s activities are centered around the canal. The Snowflake Kingdom, a child-oriented playpark found across the river in the Québec town of Hull, adds to the impressive list of events, with sled runs and snow slides, horse drawn sleigh rides, as well as periodic dramatic performances.

Trip Planning Details for a Winterlude Family Weekend

Winterlude is truly a winter wonderland, but you can’t just show up. Over 650,000 people visit each year, making for a highly competitive race for rooms and flights. You’ll need to plan several months ahead, but Ottawa’s unique rewards are worth it.

We’d booked ahead at the legendary Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a historic Fairmont hotel said to be inhabited by the ghost of Charles Melville Hays, who commissioned it to launch a chain of luxury hotels across the country. Mr. Melville Hays died on the Titanic just before the hotel’s grand opening in April 1912 and, as the story goes, decided to check in anyway and enjoy the fabulous digs he’d designed.

For general information and assistance in finding other accommodations, contact either the Ottawa Tourism or the National Capital Commission.


Photo: courtesy Ottawa Tourism on Flickr.

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