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Nordik Spa-Nature, winter

Winter wonderland: an Ottawa itinerary

Winter in Ottawa is a magical season full of invigorating outdoor activities and unforgettable indoor fun. The first three weekends of February are especially eventful during the Winterlude festival, but you can enjoy incredible experiences all season long. Use this three-day itinerary to plan your memorable weekend getaway to Ottawa during the winter months.

DAY 1 – Skating, eating and touring

Arrive in Canada’s capital and check into the hotel of your choice. Most of our accommodation members are located downtown near many of the city’s main attractions—most of which are within walking distance of each other.

Start with a quintessential Canadian past time: ice skating. The mecca is the Rideau Canal Skateway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which transforms into the world’s largest—and free—outdoor skating rink in winter (weather depending).

Other amazing ice skating experiences abound in the Ottawa area, including refrigerated outdoor rinks and magical skating trails in the countryside!

When hunger sets in, visit the ByWard Market area. For a quick bite, head inside the ByWard Market Building to browse the food stalls that serve a variety of international dishes.

The culinary scene in Ottawa’s vibrant neighbourhoods is best discovered with a local guide. Join C’est Bon cooking’s gourmet food tours to explore some of the best local foodie shops, farmers’ markets and restaurants in the city.

Warm up inside Parliament Hill, an iconic Canadian historic site. While the Centre Block undergoes a decade-long rehabilitation, you can enjoy two new (free!) guided tours of other interior spaces: The House of Commons in Parliament Hill’s West Block, and the Senate in the Senate of Canada Building (Ottawa’s original train station). You can reserve your tickets online.

During your stay, consider dining at some of Ottawa’s best restaurants which serve everything from tacos to molecular gastronomy.

In the evening, take a Haunted Walk tour of Ottawa’s spooky historic sites including a jail (now a hostel) and a former Prime Minister’s residence.

DAY 2 – Animals, neighbourhoods and beer

Fill up at one of Ottawa’s hot brunch spots which range from greasy diners to rooftop lounges.

Take a short road trip to Parc Omega, a huge natural and historical reserve located less than an hour’s drive from downtown Ottawa in Montebello, Quebec. During your self-drive winter safari, you’ll roll through diverse habitats and get up close and personal with Canadian wildlife—some of which you can feed! The park also features walking and snowshoeing trails, Indigenous programming and overnight lodging (including cabins overlooking the wolf den).

Back in the city, explore various neighbourhoods by browsing local or Canadian-made fashion and goods at independent shops and boutiques, and keep an eye out for colourful urban art.

Along the way, stop into the many craft breweries, restaurants and pubs to soak up Ottawa’s hopping craft beer scene. For the ultimate experience, join a Brew Donkey bus tour which takes you to multiple breweries in the region.

In the evening, attend a music, dance or theatre performance at venues like the National Arts Centre, La Nouvelle Scène and Centrepointe Theatre. Choose among programming presented in English, French or Indigenous languages.

DAY 3 – Museums, outdoors and spas

Start the day with a jolt of caffeine and breakfast treats at one of Ottawa’s great coffee roasters.

Visit some of Ottawa’s seven national museums and other fascinating cultural attractions. Whether you’re into art, history, war, nature or underground bunkers, you’ll find it in Canada’s capital. And don’t miss your chance to see current special exhibitions including a warm, tropical greenhouse full of live butterflies!

Take your pick of fun winter activities such as skiing (cross-country and downhill), snowshoeing and hiking. Within the city, you’ll find options like the Sir John A. Macdonald (SJAM) Winter Trail which winds along the Ottawa River. The nearby countryside offers many outdoor spaces, including vast parkland throughout the Ottawa Greenbelt.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Gatineau Park, an all-season wonderland located just 10 minutes north of downtown Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec. This snow lover’s dream offers over 200 kilometres (124 miles) of groomed multi-use trails and heated huts. Winter accommodations are also available.

Wind up your getaway by winding down at a spa. The largest one in North America, Nordik Spa-Nature, is a Scandinavian-inspired oasis just outside Gatineau Park. Try the indoor and outdoor warm and hot pools, saunas and specialty treatments. Unique wellness options are also available within the city, such as the maple-themed treatments at Holtz Spa.

For ways to save while visiting Canada’s capital in the colder months, check out our list of Free or nearly free Ottawa in winter.

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