Imagine spending your weekend in a city that's full of culture, beautiful architecture, and loads of winter fun. Well, you don't have to just imagine it; you can actually experience all this in Ottawa!

For explorers looking to take a vacation from one city to another, Ottawa is one of the ultimate places to shake off the winter blues and enjoy one-of-a-kind sights and adventures. The city is always alive, especially during the winter. 

We get it — in the winter, all you want to do is sip your hot cocoa and binge-watch Netflix until the cold passes. But once you hear about these 10 activities and events that you can do in Ottawa, you'll be rushing to pack your bags. So bundle up in your coziest clothes and get ready for some serious fun! 

Experience the world's largest outdoor skating rink

Where: The Rideau Canal Skateway

When: January to late February or early March (weather permitting)

Cost: Free

Why you need to go: The Rideau Canal Skateway is an absolute Canadian staple in Ottawa. When the cold weather hits and the water freezes over, locals and tourists alike break out their skates and go for a spin on the 7.8-km track. This is definitely a unique winter-exclusive event you'll want to experience! This is one of the most popular winter attractions in the city, especially since it's the largest naturally frozen rink in the world. You can walk or skate it and enjoy breaks for coffee, delicious BeaverTails, maple on a stick, and more. Don't forget to take a few Instagram photos while you're out there!

Take in the beauty of the city's architecture

Where: All around the city 

When: All winter long

Cost: Free

Why you need to go: We know you've seen pictures of Parliament, but there are so many more stunning buildings throughout Ottawa, each with their own piece of history just waiting to be discovered. If cathedral-scouting is your thing, you'll want to check out the Notre-Dame Cathedral. As the oldest church in the entire city (literally — it was built in 1841!), there's an undeniable beauty to be found in its high-arches, railways, stained-glass windows, and artwork.

Don't forget to make a few other stops on your journey, like the Former Ottawa Teachers' College, Royal Canadian Mint, Fairmont Château Laurier, Rideau Hall, and Central Chambers. There are plenty of gorgeous snow-capped buildings to behold in the capital!

Visit different art galleries 

Where: All around the city

When: All winter long

Cost: Typically under $20

Why you need to go: When you need a break from the chill, there are many indoor activities you're bound to enjoy. For one, there are tons of galleries you can explore to enrich yourself with the best artwork, history, and culture. Right in Ottawa is the National Gallery of Canada which holds over 90,000 works of art. That's a lot!

Each of the galleries in Ottawa will offer something different. There are ethnic works featuring cultures like Canadian and Indigenous, European, American, or Asian, and styles like contemporary, modern, and so much more. You'll be leaving your trip as a newly cultured person. The brand-new Ottawa Art Gallery boasts an intriguing architecturally minimalist style and is totally free to visit! There's also the SAW Gallery and the Orange Art Gallery, just to name a few interesting ones.

Join in on Canada's biggest winter party during Winterlude 

Where: All around the city

When: Jan. 31 to Feb. 17

Cost: Free

Why you need to go: This may be one of the best reasons you need to visit Ottawa this season. Taking place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 17, Winterlude is an annual festival that's completely free to attend! During this massive festival, there are so many indoor and outdoor activities for people of all ages. You can go tube-sliding or zip-lining in the giant winter playground known as the Snowflake Kingdom, marvel at unique ice sculptures from talented artists (seriously, they're stunning) on Sparks Street, and enjoy live performances and light shows. It's a total winter paradise!

Enrich your cultural knowledge at iconic museums

Where: All around the city

When: All winter long

Cost: Typically under $25

Why you need to go: Culture and history are some of the city's many highlights. As the capital of Canada and one of the oldest cities, Ottawa definitely isn't shy about its history. Luckily, you can transport yourself back in time when you enter one of the many national museums.

Just across the Ottawa River is the Canadian Museum of History, which features the world's largest collection of totem poles and is home to the largest exhibition of Canadian history. There are seasonal exhibits, shows, and events at the museum, so winter is the prime time to see displays that won't be available at any other time. You'll have tons to do outdoors during your trip, so taking a break in a museum is a great way to warm up and gain historical knowledge at the same time!

Break out your cross-country skis for an epic race

Where: Gatineau Park, Gatineau, QC

When: Feb. 14-16

Cost: $34 by Jan. 19 or $39 as of Jan. 20

Why you need to go: You may have heard of Gatineau Loppet before. You know, Canada's biggest cross-country ski event in Gatineau Park? Well, if you haven't, here's the rundown: over 3,000 skiers from 20 different countries take part in a huge race. Don't worry, you don't have to be a professional to join in on the fun. 

If racing isn't really your style, there are lots of other trails where you can go at your own pace while simultaneously taking in amazing sights — for free! So, don't sweat it; there's something for everyone!

If you're into the downhill style, you can ski and snowboard too!

Where: Throughout Ottawa and Gatineau

When: All winter long

Cost: Depends on your pass choice and location

Why you need to go: Maybe you like things more fast-paced than cross-country skiing. Don't worry — there are a bunch of resorts and hills where you can break out your best ski and snowboard moves. Celebrating 100 years of skiing, Camp Fortune even has a terrain park complete with jumps, rails, boxes, and walls; so you can get as wild as you want when skiing this winter in Ottawa! They even offer snowshoeing and fat biking if you're looking to mix things up a bit.  

Join the locals during some of the best winter markets

Where: Throughout the city

When: All winter long

Cost: Free to visit and enjoy 

Why you need to go: That's right, the markets definitely still run all winter, from the ByWard Market to the Parkdale Market and everything in between! Cold weather doesn't stand a chance at scaring away the locals from their foodie adventures. They'll be happy to welcome you, too.

The Ottawa Farmers' Market is one that features local produce directly from farm to family in a 100 km radius. Who doesn't love great products in a market available at all times? The winter market is open from January to April, so stop by soon! If you're looking for something a little more out-of-the-box where you can score vintage gems, be sure to check out 613flea, a free monthly marketplace that pops up in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park on a different Saturday every month. You can snag tons of unique items that you can't find anywhere else, everything from handmade goods to antique pieces. 

Visit your favourite fluffy friends at Omega Park

Where: 399 QC-323, Montebello, QC J0V 1L0

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $30.44 + tax

Why you need to go: No matter if it's winter or summer, the cutest Canadian and Arctic wildlife live in Omega Park. It's a 2200-acre natural habitat, where you can drive through to see and feed animals like the Arctic fox, Arctic wolf, bison, caribou, elk, and more! There are also different trails and attractions every season. Some activities, like snowshoeing, are winter exclusive. Honestly, seeing adorable foxes and wolves seems like the BEST outdoor activity. Who wouldn't visit Ottawa just for that?

Relax from all the adventure with a peaceful spa treatment

Where: 16 Chemin Nordik, Chelsea, QC J9B 2P7

When: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday to Saturday

Cost: $71 for Thermal Experience

Why you need to go: With all the adventure going on in this city, you might need some time for peace and tranquility. One of the best places to do this is at the Nordik Spa-Nature. As the largest spa in North America, there's a lot of room for you to rest. The spa is inspired by Scandinavian traditions, and it features 10 outdoor baths, 9 saunas, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and a restaurant, lounge, and Biërgarden with terraces. The sights alone are relaxing.

Our personal recommendations if you're really wanting to leave the spa completely rejuvenated? A ritual inspired by a 1000-year-old Russian tradition, the Banyä treatment includes four steps to help clear skin, improve circulation, rid toxins, and strengthen the immune system. Equally restorative and full of benefits, the Källa treatment is a saltwater flotation pool that leaves you weightless and mimics the effect of the Dead Sea. Total bliss awaits!

As you can see, Ottawa is overflowing with beauty, fun, culture, and so much more. Just because it's winter, doesn't mean the excitement stops in this city. So pack your fuzzy socks because you're in for a grand time, both indoors and out!

For information on booking a trip to Ottawa, visit the Ottawa Tourism website! You can also check out their Facebook or Instagram.

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