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(2012 - Winter Issue)


When the mercury drops in Ottawa, the locals get out their skates, skis and snowshoes—along with their theatre programs, museum passes and concert tickets—and celebrate winter in style.

And this year, the winter amusements are as diverse as a voodoo exhibition, a massive hockey tournament, two Diana Krall concerts and the ever-popular Winterlude festival.

Festive Highlights

From December 6 to January 7, parks, streets, monuments and Parliament Hill will be brilliantly illuminated as part of the Christmas Lights Across Canada festival. One of the best vantage points to enjoy the lights on both sides of the Ottawa River is from the pedestrian walkway on the Alexandra Bridge, next to the National Gallery of Canada.

If you’d prefer to enjoy your holiday displays indoors, drop by the Canadian Museum of Civilization for Festive Trees (November 30 to January 6) or the Fairmont Château Laurier for Trees of Hope (until January 4, 2013). In both events, teams compete to decorate enormous Christmas trees and the public votes for their favourites.

Across the street from the Château Laurier at the National Arts Centre, festive season highlights include a Christmas concert by Cape Breton star Jimmy Rankin (December 18), two performances of Handel’s Messiah by the NAC Orchestra (December 18 and 19) and a holiday concert by jazz artist Holly Cole (December 20).

If physical comedy is more your style than holiday fare, bring the whole family to the Great Canadian Theatre Company to see The Number 14, a musical comedy set on a Vancouver bus (to December 16).

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, some 500 teams of young hockey players from North America and Europe will test their skills against each other in the Bell Capital Cup (December 28 to January 1). Youngsters will also be the stars of the show when Billy Elliot: The Musical takes to the stage at the NAC (January 1 to 6).

Notable Exhibitions

The week after New Year’s will also be your last chance to catch three fascinating museum exhibitions, all closing on January 6: A Queen and Her Country at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, focusing on Queen Elizabeth’s many royal visits to Canada and her influence on our history; 1812 at the Canadian War Museum, highlighting the events of the War of 1812; and Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition, which has raised a few eyebrows at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Other notable exhibitions this winter include Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters at the Canadian Museum of Nature (to May 5); a show of war-related art called Clash: Conflict and Its Consequences at the National Gallery of Canada (February 1 to May 31); and some 350 Haitian artifacts at Vodou: A Way of Life at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (to February 23, 2014).

The Outdoor Scene

Weather permitting, January is a great time to indulge in one of Ottawa’s favourite winter pastimes: skating outdoors. The Rideau Canal may be the capital’s most famous venue, but you can also test your blades on the Rink of Dreams outside Ottawa City Hall or on the rink outside the governor-general’s residence, Rideau Hall.

The outdoor scene gets even livelier in February, when Winterlude (February 1 to 18) brings a wide range of events to the canal, Confederation Park, Jacques Cartier Park, and other sites on both the Ottawa and Gatineau sides of the Ottawa River. Watch an ice sculptor at work, hurtle down a snow slide, take in a game of pond hockey, or cheer on the competitors who skate, ski and run in the Winterlude Triathlon.

Speaking of outdoor athletics—why not test your skills against some 3,000 competitors from 20 countries in Canada’s largest cross-country skiing event, the Gatineau Loppet in Gatineau Park (February 15 to 17)?

Cabin Fever Antidotes

If your kids are suffering from cabin fever by mid-winter, Ottawa offers up the ideal solution on Family Day weekend: the Funatorium Explorium at the CE Centre (February 17 and 18). Everyone in the family can don inflatable sumo suits, learn the secrets of making balloon animals, tackle a rock-climbing wall, fight with padded jousting sticks, be amazed by a magician and more.

Kids can see their animated favourites come to life during Disney on Ice: Rockin’ Ever After at Scotiabank Place (February 27 to March 3). A few weeks later, they can feast on sweet treats and then burn off the resulting energy at Maple SugarFest in Richelieu Park in the Vanier neighbourhood (March 17 to 24).

Those visiting the region without kids in tow will also find much to entertain them, from fine dining in trendy Westboro and Wellington Village, to gaming action and Broadway-style shows at the Casino du Lac-Leamy. Carmen Aguirre’s life as a Chilean revolutionary is the focus of Blue Box at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (January 15 to February 3). On February 2, famed soprano Sarah Brightman brings her Dreamchaser world tour to Scotiabank Place, and jazz icon Diana Krall takes to the stage at the NAC on February 23 and 24. The following month, Generation Xers can wallow in the music of their youth at Rock of Ages, the popular musical set in 1987 (National Arts Centre, March 5 to 10). 

March also brings two events popular with home decor enthusiasts: the Ottawa Home and Garden Show (CE Centre, March 21 to 24) and the Ottawa Antiques Sale (Carleton University Fieldhouse, March 29 to 31).

So whether your taste runs to gardening and jazz or Disney tunes and rock climbing, the capital has something to offer you this winter.

Travel Planner

For more information on visiting Ottawa, go to ottawatourism.ca or call 1-800-363-4465.

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