Ottawa is an epic destination for fun winter activities – especially ice skating in the great outdoors. Where else can you glide along the world’s largest skating surface (in the city centre, no less), twirl on a refrigerated ice rink at a historic site, or carve your way along skating trails in the wilderness? We’ve gathered some of the most magical skating experiences you can enjoy in Canada’s capital region, no matter your skill level.
Rideau Canal Skateway
The 7.8-kilometre (4.8-mile) Rideau Canal Skateway is one of the world’s most famous skating sites, since it’s been designated by the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink! Glide along the ice at your own pace from downtown Ottawa all the way to Dows Lake and beyond, taking in scenic urban views as you go. If you’d like to warm up or need a rest along the way, pop into one of the Skateway’s heated cabins which are equipped with washrooms. And make sure to stop at one of the BeaverTails kiosks – eating one of these delicious Ottawa treats on the Skateway is a quintessential Canadian experience!
The Skateway is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from roughly January to late February or early March (weather depending). It’s completely accessible and admission is free. If you don’t have your own skates, head to one of the rental locations on the Skateway: near the National Arts Centre (NAC), at the Fifth Avenue rest stop, and at the Dows Lake Pavilion (hours vary by location – consult the Skateway website for details). If you prefer not to skate, you can ask a friend to push you in a rental sled, or you can also walk on the Skateway. Check the ice conditions before you head out.
Sens Rink of Dreams
Located in front of Ottawa City Hall on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa’s downtown core, the Sens Rink of Dreams (named after Ottawa’s beloved NHL hockey team the Ottawa Senators) is especially magical after dark when it is lit up with multi-colored LED lights. Glide along the smooth surface and if you need a break, sit down in the rink’s cozy changing cabin or at one of its picnic tables. Glide along the smooth surface and take a break in the rink’s cozy changing cabin or at one of its picnic tables. A BeaverTails kiosk is also on-site.
The rink is open seven days a week in the winter from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and admission is free. Also, due to its refrigerated surface, the rink offers a longer skating season that stretches roughly from December to mid-March – a great option if ever the Rideau Canal Skateway is closed due to weather. Skate rental and sharpening services are available on-site on weeknights and weekends.
Lansdowne Skating Court
Another lovely and refrigerated skating rink is located at Lansdowne in the vibrant Glebe neighbourhood, just south of Ottawa’s downtown core. The Skating Court is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. from roughly December to mid-March, and it’s free! Skate rentals are not available here, but you can easily change into your own pair in the heated changing facility which is open 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. When you’ve had enough fresh air, do some shopping or get a bite to eat at one of the many businesses at Lansdowne or along Bank Street!
Follow in the footsteps of 19th century VIPs by skating on the historic 1870s skating rink at the Governor General of Canada’s residence, located on Sussex Drive. Established in 1872, Rideau Hall’s charming refrigerated outdoor skating rink offers free public skating sessions on Saturdays and Sundays from roughly December through March.
Skate to your heart’s content to the sound of traditional music, then rest and warm up in the cozy Winter Pavilion – a heritage building where you can change into your skating attire and also see a small exhibit about the history of winter sports at Rideau Hall. During the mandate of Canada’s third governor general, the Earl of Dufferin in 1872, many skating parties were held at Rideau Hall by the governor general himself and his wife, Lady Dufferin!
Brewery Creek Skating Rink
Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, in the lovely Outaouais region of Quebec, you’ll find the Brewery Creek Skating Rink (Patinoire du ruisseau de la Brasserie). At about 400 metres long (0.25 mile), it’s like a miniature version of the Rideau Canal Skateway that winds its way through a historic portion of downtown Gatineau. This outdoor rink is open from January through March (weather permitting). There’s a shelter as well as skate and helmet rentals on site.
Skating trails through the forest
The bucolic rural regions around Ottawa are fully embracing the hottest skating trend of the season: skating trails through the forest! Make your way to the following locations between mid-December to early March (weather depending) to try this enchanting experience:
- About one hour south of Ottawa in the lovely community of Perth, Perth Outfitters offers a 400-metre (0.2 mile) skating trail through the woods (including lantern skate events on Friday and Saturday evenings). There’s also a shinny hockey rink, log cabin and warm treats. A few communal skates are available on a first-come first-serve basis, so it’s best to bring your own.
- For a longer skating trail experience, try Countryside Adventures in Moose Creek, a 45-minute drive east of Ottawa (or 1.5 hours from Montreal). Their 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) trail twists through a woodsy natural setting. They also have snowshoeing, a food truck and heated changing rooms. Skate and snowshoe rentals are available.
- Another option is the Skating Through the Forest attraction in the area of Lac des Loups, Quebec, about 45 minutes north of downtown Ottawa. Glide along the 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) open-air ice loop which winds through a scenery of tall trees. Non-skaters can also enjoy the pristine atmosphere by snowshoeing or walking on designated paths. To warm up, just head inside the chalet. A very limited number of skate rentals is available, therefore bringing your own is highly recommended.
- Another 3 km skating trail awaits just 30 minutes south-east of downtown Ottawa at RiverOak Estates. Glide through apple orchards, meadows and forests and take a break in the cozy heritage barn. The hockey-loving owners even allow skaters to bring their gear and play on the trail! There are snowshoeing trails as well. Skate and helmets are available for rent.
Admission fees and hours of operation differ for each site. Since weather conditions vary widely in the rural areas of Ottawa, it is recommended that you contact the businesses directly to confirm they are open and to inquire about ice conditions.
Indoor ice skating
You can also experience ice skating in Ottawa at any time of the year, as the city is home to several indoor arenas that offer affordable public skating sessions, skating lesson programs and skate rentals. Visit the City of Ottawa website for more information or to find an arena near you.
Looking for more outdoor fun this winter? Check out our other winter activity suggestions!