Ottawa is a true 4-season city. In the summer the temperature regularly rises above 30 degrees Celsius (85 F) and in the winter the temperature plummets to -40 C (also -40F). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a great time in Ottawa during its colder months. Locals have developed many fun, unique activities to make the most of Ottawa’s winter wonderland. Here are a few.
Article by André LaFlamme from Ottawa Free Tours
For three weeks every year in February, Ottawa hosts a big festival celebrating the winter. The Winterlude festival is spread across various sites in the city, including the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques Cartier Park, and the Crystal Garden in Confederation Park. Winterlude activities include ice sculpture competitions, live shows, art installations, and a giant snow park for kids. Millions of visitors flock to the city each year during some of the coldest, darkest days to take part in the fun!
One of Ottawa’s most prominent features is the Rideau Canal. This UNESCO World Heritage site freezes over every winter and becomes the world’s largest skating rink! Nothing compares to the experience of skating nearly 8 KM through a large city along a giant ice surface. Not only is it a pleasant leisure activity, but it also serves a practical purpose for locals as a transportation network. If you happen to be out on the Canal in the morning or early evening, you’ll see a number of locals skating to and from work!
Ottawa is home to Canada’s national treat, the Beavertail. This deep-fried pastry, usually topped with cinnamon sugar and lemon, first went on sale in Ottawa’s Byward Market in the 1970’s and has since spread across the country, and even around the world. Many tourists gather at the stand in the summer months, but locals will be the first to tell you that the proper way to eat a Beavertail is on a fun-filled winter day!
Just outside of Ottawa is the small town of Chelsea, Quebec, which is the site of Spa Nordik, the largest and most beautiful spa in North America. The site includes 10 outdoor bath, 9 distinct saunas, restaurants, bars, meditation rooms, and relaxation spots. There’s something extra special about unwinding in a warm, calming pool while the air outside is below freezing. The experience is a treat for the mind and body, and should not be missed!
On the outskirts of Ottawa visitors will find many ice rinks, ski hills, snowshoeing path, forest trails and cross country skiing routes. Outdoor winter activities are some of the most thrilling, peaceful and rewarding experiences out there and Ottawa’s a great jump-off point to explore the great outdoors!
On our tours, we often get asked how locals deal with Ottawa’s frigid winters. This question always comes across odd since winter is arguably the best times to be in Ottawa. We challenge you to come see for yourself and you’ll leave wanting more!
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