Winterlude Visitors Guide in Ottawa

Winterlude, Ottawa
jvetterli/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Winterlude is an annual winter celebration in Canada's capital city of Ottawa, Ontario, held over the first three weekends of February.

Winterlude is free to attend and particularly suited to families. Note that most activities are outdoors and include ice skating, snow sculpture contests, ice slides, tubing, dog sledding, concerts, and more.

When Is It?

Weekends, February 2 – February 19, including Family Day

Where Is It?

Winterlude is hosted by Ottawa, Canada's national capital, which is about a 5-hour drive northeast of Toronto or 2 hours west of Montreal, Quebec. 

The many Winterlude activity venues are at various locations, including Confederation Park, Jacques Cartier Park, and the Rideau Canal Skateway and downtown Ottawa.


  • The Rideau Canal Skateway: Every winter, Ottawa's Rideau Canal becomes The Rideau Canal Skateway and at 7.8 km (just under 5 miles) the world's largest skating rink. Locals and visitors make the most of this frozen roadway in winter, using it both as a means of transportation and form of recreation. In addition to skating, the Rideau Canal Skateway is the site for many other Winterlude events. For example, the American Express Snowball, an outdoor concert venue on the Rideau Skateway, hosts live music and other entertainment.
  • Live music and entertainment at indoor and outdoor venues
  • The Ice sculptures created at Confederation Park is one of the festival's biggest draws. 
  • Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques Cartier Park is a winter playground that offers horse-drawn sleigh rides, a snow maze, and tobogganing.
  • Igloo building workshop.

Tips for Visiting 

Ottawa is cold. Like, brain freeze, numbing cold with a wind that will brutalize any patch of skin that dares reveal itself to the elements. Dress accordingly and don't fool around about it. Wear water- and wind- resistant layers, proper boots, mitts, hat, etc. Here's how to dress so you don't wind up cold and miserable.

Take advantage of the free shuttle that transports people around the different locations. Activities are spread out over the city and not necessarily walkable. 

Don't miss trying a BeaverTail, an only-in-Canada pastry sensation, available at various stands around the city. 

Rideau Canal Skateway Fast Facts

  • The skateway generally opens in January/February when the canal is sufficiently frozen and safe for skaters. Check Rideau Canal ice conditions.
  • Skate rental and sharpening and boot check are available.
  • Also available for rent are sleighs in which children can sit and adults can push along the canal.
  • Snack stands are located along the canal.
  • The skateway has wheelchair and stroller access points.
  • Check the Rideau Canal Skateway website for details.

Places to Stay

  • Ramada Hotel & Suites Ottawa is centrally located in a quiet neighborhood and offers nice, clean, unfussy accommodation for Cdn $90 - 120.
  • Address: 111 Cooper St. Tel: (613) 238-1331
  • The Business Inn is central - about a 15-minute walk to The Market / Parliament Hill or the Rideau Canal. The hotel used to be an apartment building so each room is equipped with a kitchen and eating area. The Business Inn has few frills but is especially convenient and affordable for families.

Places to Eat