Ice sculptures, skates, maple taffy, hot chocolate and Beaver Tails. What do these all have in common? Well, they are all things you’ll find at Winterlude, the outdoor winter festival held every year in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. Every February this world famous festival descends upon the city to celebrate winter and show case the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Each year the canal gets prepared to receive thousands of tourists from around the world, as a 7.8 km section of ice is groomed and prepped to create the Rideau Canal Skateway, the longest skating rink in the world. The skateway begins downtown Ottawa behind the National Arts Center (across from Parliament) and winds its way south to finish at Dow’s Lake. Along the way you’ll find vendors, rest stops and bonfires to warm up, set up right on the ice.
Winterlude takes place during the first 2 weeks of February but the canal itself can be open any time during the winter months, weather dependent. The focus of Winterlude is to showcase the canal, but events can take place in various locations throughout downtown Ottawa and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. There’s a free Sno- bus shuttle service that takes visitors between the various Winterlude sites so you can be sure not to miss anything. Confederation Park, located at the heart of the festival beside the start of the canal, hosts concerts, ice sculpting contests, children’s play areas and vendors selling Canadian treats such as maple taffy, Beaver Tails, hot chocolate and various other treats.
Visitors can rent skates from various locations along the canal and they even have giant sleighs that can be pushed along the ice for those who opt out of skating. This event celebrates Canadian culture and I thoroughly enjoy attending this festival every year. In my family it has become tradition to spend a day wandering the festival and picking out our favorite ice sculptors, skating the canal, munching on Beaver Tails and then heading to the Byward Market for a pint at one of the many fantastic pubs.