Winters in Toronto can be quite boring, especially when it feels as though you’ve done it all. Skating in front of Nathan Phillips Square? Check. Renting a chalet with your friends? Check. Check. Check. I mean really, the best way to truly enjoy this season is to plan an epic road trip with your friends to the nation's capital!
Ottawa is proudly Canadian and tells the story of our fine country. It's a wonderland of cool activities to motivate you to actually leave the house, jump in the car, and road trip with your besties for a weekend of fun and free activities.
From Feb. 2-19, Ottawa hosts the 40th edition of Winterlude, an annual celebration of winter. Yes, winter! It may seem cold and unappealing right now as the deep chill sets in, but winter is chill af. There’s so much to do and plenty to keep you entertained.
Winterlude is a free festival that kicks off and lights up the capital starting Feb. 2, with including ice sculptures, live music, art installations and skating.
This magical festival takes place along the world’s largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway, and other sites across Ottawa. Who doesn’t want to leave their worries behind, escape the daily grind and play in a winter playground? Getting lost in the wonders of Winterlude includes the Snowflake Kingdom maze, a staple at Jacques-Cartier Park.
And while you're there, make sure to say hello to the smiling Winterlude mascots - the Ice Hogs. Word on the street is that they give really warm hugs.
From cross-country skiing to the enchanting ice sculptures, our country’s capital offers a variety of experiences to make you love winter. Plus, bundling up is fun. Drinking hot chocolate is satisfying, and skating along the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink is the best.
And this year marks the festival's 40th anniversary making it an even bigger reason to visit Ottawa this winter! I mean, it really is only a 4hr drive so why not escape the winter blues with some enviable fun!? There’s plenty to do to keep you entertained and outdoors for the winter. Because snow is to be celebrated. We are Canadian after all!
So while you're in town checking out Winterlude, here are some activities to do while you're in Ottawa:
Try your hand at some Ice Carving
Where: Confederation Park
When: February 2-19
Dazzling ice sculptures light up Ottawa as blocks of ice are transformed into beautiful works of art at Confederation Park’s Crystal Garden. At night, the park's sculptures light up which makes the entire thing look like it's straight out of a fairy tale.
Hike, snowshoe and even cross-country ski through the magical trails of Gatineau Park
Gatineau Park, just north of the Ottawa River, has some of the most beautiful and tranquil trails in Ottawa. Explore several spots like the King Mountain Trail, the highest hill with a breathtaking view. Sugar Bush Trail and Pioneers Trail also provide a full day of inspiration and magic. Bring your camera, you'll definitely want to take pictures for this one.
Relax outdoors at North America’s largest Spa, the Nordik Spa-Nature
A spa is the best indulgence. Especially when it's as cool as this one. The Nordik Spa-Nature is a giant relaxation space that uses Thermotherapy. The idea is to transition from a hot sauna to a dip in a cold pool and end with a total relaxation for 15 minutes in one of the designated relaxation areas. It's a foolproof way to get in some self-care.
Glide along the largest skating rink in the world
Whether you’re a novice or total pro, lace up your skates and glide along the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink.
Try out some cross-country skiing or snow biking
Where: Gatineau Park
When: until March 18th
With over 200 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and another 55 kilometres of snowshoeing-only trails, Gatineau Park is the place to be for the winter. Perfect for a romantic stroll (or ski) around the block.
Visit the magnificent Ottawa Dragon Boat Fest
Where: Rideau Canal Skateway
When: February 10th
Did you know, Ottawa's Ice Dragon Boat Festival is the largest one in the world? Teams use ice-sticks to move their dragon boats on skates across the Rideau Canal. Cool, right? If you love a challenge, then get your team ready to race. Or simply watch from the sidelines as people race against opponents and the elements.
Enjoy a pint or two at the Gatineau Winter Beerfest
Where: Canadian Museum of History
When: February 2-3
It's all about the cold beer and warm vibes at Gatineau's Winter Beerfest. Spanning two days, over 150 beers and 35 breweries, you'll definitely leave with a smile on your face, and a little more heat in your body.
Bring a little jazz into your life with TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival
Where: La Nouvelle Scène
When: February 8-10
There’s nothing quite like getting serenaded by live music while you skate. The TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival is a celebration of unique Canadian talent and Ottawa’s vibrant music scene.
Warm up this season at the Winter Brewfest
Where: Lansdowne Park
When: February 16-17
Now in its fourth year, Ottawa’s Brewfest will definitely warm you up with its selection of 100 craft beers from across Ontario and Quebec. There’s even a bonfire and live DJ to keep the party going throughout the night!
Catch some fun outdoors at the 38th Annual Accora Village Bed Race
When: February 17th
A fun and quirky Winterlude tradition where 50 teams race decorated hospital beds across a 50-metre course of frozen ice. Bet you’ve never done that before. The funds raised during the race support the Kiwanis Aktion Club.
Jam out to some music at an outdoor concert
Where: Confederation Park.
Looking for new music? And proudly Canadian artists? The Sub-Zero concerts liven up the music scene on Friday and Saturday evenings with a variety of talented Canadian performers. Oh, and there’s also a light show added to the entertainment.
Don't miss the Interactive Art Installations
Where: Confederation Park
Face it, art is cool. And so is this art installation Face, a light show with portraits mixed with bold animations shown on a face sculpture. The sculpture is meant to signify the ‘face of everyone.’
Experience the Canada 150 Rink on Parliament Hill
When: until the end of February.
The NHL-sized skating rink on the lawn of Parliament Hill is ready for visitors. Lace up your skates and give it a try.
So what are you waiting for? Make the most out of this winter and start planning your getaway to Ottawa now!
Check out the Ottawa Tourism website, Instagram and Facebook page for more info.
This is Ottawa. Known for our historic sites, national museums and Parliament Hill, we’re more than just the nations capital you visit on a class trip. Ottawa is overflowing with urban vibrancy and surrounded by natural beauty and waterways running through our core. Don’t believe us, just get outside and see.