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.
Note: Due to COVID-19 and other factors, some of the mentions below may not reflect current offerings. Please confirm details with direct sources and stay informed on the current situation in Ottawa.
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 from downtown Ottawa all the way to Dows Lake and beyond, taking in scenic urban views as you go. Warm up or rest along the way in 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, you can rent some—along with other skating accessories—at one of the rental locations on the Skateway. 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.
Rink of Dreams
When the Rideau Canal Skateway is closed due to weather, Ottawa’s refrigerated—and free—outdoor rinks are a great option. Located near the Skateway in front of Ottawa City Hall in Ottawa’s downtown core, the Rink of Dreams is a convenient spot to skate. Enjoy the sound of music over the speakers, and visit after sundown to see the rink lit up in multiple colours.
Typically, the Rink of Dreams is open roughly December to mid-March, seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. A warming station is available on evenings and weekends, while skate rental and sharpening services, as well as a BeaverTails kiosk, are open on weekends.
Lansdowne Skating Court
Another refrigerated outdoor rink is located at Lansdowne, just south of Ottawa’s downtown core. The Skating Court is located next to the historic Aberdeen Pavilion, which provides a beautiful backdrop for photos, as well as convenient washrooms. The Skating Court is typically 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 trailer (open evenings and weekends).
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 in the vibrant Glebe neighbourhood.
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 just east of downtown. Rideau Hall’s charming outdoor skating rink offers free public skating roughly December through March.
Note: For the 2021-2022 season, reservations are required, and the ice surface will not be refrigerated (which means the rink is susceptible to weather conditions).
Museum Ice Rink
The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, with its farm animals and interactive learning opportunities, is a popular attraction for families. Plus, this working farm within the city also has its own outdoor skating rink! Tickets for a fun visit to the museum includes admission to the rink (bring your own gear). Since this rink is not refrigerated, it opens later in the winter and is especially weather dependent.
Brewery Creek Skating Rink
Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, in the 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).
Skating trails through the forest
The bucolic rural regions around Ottawa are fully embracing the hottest skating trend: 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 and other fun activities. Some even offer magical evening skating events!
- As of January 2022, you can skate through a dense forest in the Ottawa suburb of Stittsville, just south-west of downtown Ottawa! Icelynd Skating Trails, which is co-owned by former Ottawa Senators hockey player Chris Neil, features professionally maintained surfaces including two kilometres (and counting) of skating trails and an outdoor skating rink (ODR) which can be rented. Trails are partially lit after dark, and strollers and skating aids are allowed. Bring your own equipment as rentals are not available.
- Just 30 minutes south-east of downtown Ottawa, RiverOak Estates offers a 3-kilometre (1.8 mile) skate through apple orchards, meadows and forests. Sports-lovers can even bring their hockey and ringette gear to play shinny on some of the rinks! Non-skaters can use the snowshoeing and hiking trails, and anyone can warm up in the cozy heritage barn. Skate and helmets are available for rent. Dogs and strollers are allowed.
- Countryside Adventures in Moose Creek, a 45-minute drive east of Ottawa (1.5 hours from Montreal), also offers a 3-kilometre (1.8 mile) trail that twists through a woodsy natural setting. Other on-site options include snowshoeing, tubing, a food truck and a petting zoo. Skate and snowshoe rentals are available. Dogs and strollers are allowed.
- 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-kilometre (1.8 mile) open-air ice loop which winds through tall trees, or snowshoe or walk on designated paths. To warm up, just head inside the chalet. A limited amount of rental equipment is available.
- You can now skate on the frozen water mazes at Éco-Odyssée, a nature centre located near Wakefield, Québec, about a half hour north of downtown Ottawa. The 5 kilometres (3 miles) of ice paths take you through several ecosystems including marshes, forests and fields. The paths are also lit up in colours in the evening! The site offers snack options, washrooms and also snowshoeing trails. Skate rentals are not available, however there are sharpening services. Pets not allowed.
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.