DREAMSCAPES Fall/Winter 2017
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A WINTER WONDERLAND
 
(2015 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: MIRIAM PORTER



With a tasty beavertail in his hand, my son Noah skates along the Rideau Canal Skateway laughing and eating his delicious cinnamon and sugar whole-wheat pastry.

I unsuccessfully attempt to skate next to him on my slippery blades of steel. To say I’m a horrible skater is an understatement and he quickly whizzes past me smiling. Luckily Noah, nine, has pity on me and skates back to take my hand and pull me along the icy path.

The Rideau is the world’s largest ice-skating rink. Holes are drilled in the canal ice to pump water onto the surface, which then freezes over creating a glimmering rink. It’s crowded, but since it stretches almost eight kilometres there is plenty of room for everyone to share the canal, which runs through downtown Ottawa. You can rent skates or bring your own. Some athletic locals actually skate to work in the winter!

We flew in from Toronto on Porter Airlines to enjoy Winterlude Festival, a yearly event in Ottawa. The next one is January 29–February 15, 2016. Our capital’s winter celebration, which began in 1979, is the perfect long weekend event for families. The temperature is way below zero, making it perfectly acceptable for adults to fashionably wear snow pants. 

A Crystal Garden

This is the place to be for captivating ice sculptures. We stare in awe at perfectly-carved masterpieces of musical instruments, angels, birds, sports figures and our very own CN Tower. There is an ice-carving competition where professional carvers create original artwork out of a single block of ice. I watch them work magic with their axe and carving tools.

My hockey-loving son poses with replica ice-hockey players and pretends to score a goal. There is ice bowling and Noah pulls a large ball suspended in the air with rope and tries to knock down the frozen pins.

In front of the Pan Am Games ice sculpture I ask a random stranger what he thinks of Winterlude. He smiles and tells me about his favourite festival highlights and even welcomes me to Ottawa. Suddenly a crowd gathers around us including a news and photography crew—a calmer version of Hollywood paparazzi. It turns out my nice random stranger is Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson!

Snowflake Kingdom

The next day we join friends and hop aboard the complimentary Sno-Bus to Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park, one of Winterlude’s official sites in Gatineau. The park features giant snow mazes, sculptures and ice slides. “These are the biggest snowy slides I have ever seen!” Noah exclaims as he runs off to give them a whirl. Noah and his friends slide and glide down the snow laughing while I put extra hand and foot warmers in my gloves and boots. The slides are built in January using snowmaking machines much like those used on ski hills. Noah insists I slide too; it turns out running up the hill is a great way to stay warm. I almost chicken out at the top but after my first slide there is no stopping me and we are all covered in snow laughing.

Indoor Activities

It you want to keep warm, there are plenty of other activities from which to choose. After Snowflake Kingdom, since you are already in Gatineau, head over to the museum for some indoor education. An interactive exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History called Vikings will run from December 3 to April 17, 2016, showcasing almost 500 original artifacts, which help to explain who the Vikings were and where they originated. At the Children’s Museum, kids can travel the world through various exhibits and learn about other cultures and families in a series of international villages.

If you love hockey, attend an Ottawa Senators NHL hockey game at the Canadian Tire Centre. Or if you prefer money, go to the Royal Canadian Mint on Sussex Drive. Founded in 1908, the Mint offers guided tours on which you can see original NHL sets and athlete medals from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. They create handcrafted collector and commemorative coins, medals, medallions and gold bullion coins—including an almost $1-million solid gold bar on display in the gift shop.

And finally, if you crave food, check out the famous ByWard Market. It’s an easy walk from the Mint and, even on the coldest winter days, there is delicious food to sample.  Established in 1826, it’s one of Canada’s oldest and biggest public markets. We attend the annual stew cook-off where more than 20 renowned ByWard Market restaurants compete to produce the best stews in a charity lunch under a big outdoor tent. (Heaters are on-site to keep you warm if the hot stew doesn’t.)

On our last day in Ottawa fluffy snow falls. We head back to the canal for a final skate through the city we have grown to love. This time I manage to glide without falling, proving anything is possible at Winterlude, where you may even bump into the Mayor of Ottawa.

Travel Planner

We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott (marriottresidenceinnottawa.com),

a centrally-located hotel within walking distance of Confederation Park.

For more information on planning your trip to Ottawa, visit:

ByWard Market: byward-market.com

Canadian Museum of History: historymuseum.ca

Canadian Tire Centre: canadiantirecentre.com

Children’s Museum: historymuseum.ca/childrens-museum

Ottawa Tourism: ottawatourism.ca

Porter Airlines: flyporter.com

Royal Canadian Mint: mint.ca

Winterlude: winterlude.gc.ca

 
 
 
 
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