Winterlude in Ottawa

February 9 2010 by Bryson Forbes

skates-winterlude-wr.jpgMinutes after submitting my last blog about how mild the winter has been throughout Canada, Mother Nature smirked and changed her tune. Although we've still had very little snow, the temperature has dropped significantly and it feels much more like winter than it did last week.

As I initially pondered this week's topic about Winterlude in Ottawa, I assumed I'd be discussing what organizers were planning without "skateable" ice. Au contraire! In the last week, conditions have become perfect to build a rink! I mean perfectly imperfect--bitterly cold with very little snow.

Every February since 1979, Canada's Capital Region has gotten ready to host Winterlude, Canada's winter celebration. For three weeks, the region transforms to a winter playground. With these ideal conditions, it's expected that the current attendance record of 1.6 million visitors (set in 2007) may be exceeded.

Having grown up in the area, I can attest first-hand to just how much fun you can have outside when it's -10 degrees at Winterlude. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure to pack your skates! (Don't have skates? No worries--you can rent them.) The entire event is centred around the world's largest skating rink on the Rideau Canal, right in the heart of Ottawa. While skating, you need to toggle between keeping your eyes both up and down. Up, so you don't run anyone over or get run over by the bad but fast skater (trust me he'll be there). Down, because they flood (or re-freeze the rink) by streaming water under the ice. They do this by creating holes in the ice about the width of a skate. They mark them with red spray paint, but be careful--if your head is up admiring the Parliament buildings, your eyes and entire body will be down soon enough. To check ice conditions prior to the event, visit
  • Dress properly. A toque, gloves and snow pants should all make the cut. I also recommend "long johns" aka long underwear. Yes you'll waddle and look like the "Michelin Man," but puffy and happy is way better than sleek and freezing!
  • Eat a beaver tail! Don't worry, it's actually a fried dough pastry that's individually hand-stretched to resemble a beaver's tail. They taste way better than they sound. You can buy them at "chip wagons" located along the canal. Are they calorie killers? Yes, but you are already puffy and happy. The beaver tail should enhance both states!
  • Book your hotel soon if you're coming in from out of town. Best Western has four properties in the downtown area. Check Ottawa Area Best Westerns for more information and to check availability.

I hope you enjoy Winterlude as it truly is an amazing winter festival. If you go, be sure to check out the ice carvings at Dow's Lake - a great place to start and end the day. You won't be disappointed.

Anyone have any great Winterlude memories or tips to share?

Categories : Are We There Yet?

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