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(2017 - Winter Issue)


There’s no other experience in Canada quite like skating around the last corner on the Rideau Canal and seeing the Gothic roofs of Parliament Hill on the horizon.

Skating on the world’s largest rink is one of Ottawa’s most famous winter attractions. Bring or rent skates, buy a BeaverTail (fried dough slathered with sugar and cinnamon) and glide down the ice, pretending you’re Tessa Virtue or Scott Moir.


The canal is the focus of many activities during the capital’s popular Winterlude festival (February 2 to 19), which also includes off-ice fun ranging from ice-sculpting demonstrations and concerts to culinary events. However, the canal is far from the only game in town when it comes to winter sports in the region.

Cross-country skiers have all sorts of choices, from the 16-kilometre Sir John A. Macdonald trail, which opened along the Ottawa River in the city’s west end in 2016, to more than 200 kilometres of trails in Gatineau Park, just across the river in Québec. Gatineau Park is also home to the Gatineau Loppet, a three-day series of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-bike races celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018 (February 16 to 18).

If you would rather watch winter athletes than participate, you have a special treat in store this year, as the Ottawa Senators are taking on the Montréal Canadiens in an outdoor game at Lansdowne Park on December 16 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NHL’s first game, which also took place in Ottawa. TD Place at Lansdowne Park is also home to the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League, while the Senators normally play at the Canadian Tire Centre.


Of course, not all of Ottawa’s winter amusements take place outdoors or in frosty arenas. For instance, you can stay warm and toasty while checking out the exhibitions in the city’s national museums and galleries.

The Ottawa Art Gallery recently moved into spacious new quarters—five times the size of its old building—near the University of Ottawa and the Rideau Centre shopping mall in the city’s core. The gallery is home to both historical and contemporary pieces by local and Canadian artists. In early 2018, the Le Germain Ottawa hotel is scheduled to open in the same complex.

At the National Gallery of Canada, the current major exhibition is James Wilson Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation (until March 18). Collector and philanthropist A.K. Prakash recently donated these 45 paintings and four watercolours to the gallery. The collection covers much of the Canadian modernist artist’s career. Visitors can also see a wide range of the gallery’s recent contemporary art acquisitions during the fourth Canadian Biennial (also until March 18).

In 2017, the Canadian War Museum updated its gallery focusing on recent history to include artifacts related to Canada’s involvement in the Gulf War and in conflicts in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The museum is also hosting an exhibition called She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers From Iran and the Arab World (until March 4).

Unveiled in June 2017, the permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature gives visitors a vivid peek into the ecosystems, geography and people of Canada’s North. The entrance to the 743-square-metre gallery opens with a multimedia installation called Beyond Ice evoking the region through audio recordings, video projections and real ice. Visitors will also see notebooks kept by Arctic explorers, video interviews with Arctic residents, a sealskin kayak, and wildlife specimens ranging from small birds to a polar bear, among many other items. The gallery was created in close cooperation with Indigenous peoples and features a striking mural by Inuk artist Nancy Saunders.

The Arctic is also the focus of two temporary exhibitions at the Canadian Museum of History: Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964, a collection of 50 artworks by Inuit artists from Nunavut (February 16 to September 3); and The Franklin Exhibition, focusing on the famously doomed search for the Northwest Passage (March 2 to September 30).

On November 17, the all-new Canada Science and Technology Museum opened its doors with dazzling, interactive exhibits and some long-time favourites, including the Crazy Kitchen and giant steam locomotives.

When the mercury drops, Ottawa’s performing arts scene kicks into high gear. This winter at the National Arts Centre (NAC), highlights include 887, Robert Lepage’s play about growing up in Québec in the 1960s (January 10–27), as well as concerts by Randy Bachman (March 3) and Branford Marsalis with the NAC Orchestra (March 1 and 2). Music fans can also head to the Shenkman Arts Centre for shows by the Cowboy Junkies (February 3) and the Arrogant Worms (February 17).

Productions at the Great Canadian Theatre Company include What a Young Wife Ought to Know, Hannah Moscovitch’s Ottawa-set play about the limitations on women’s freedom in the 1920s (January 16 to February 4). On a lighter note, Centrepointe Theatre will be hosting the CBC comedy program The Debaters (February 6 and 7) and presenting Little Women: The Musical (February 1–11).

After all that exercise and culture, you’ll probably be hungry. The ByWard Market, Centretown, Westboro, Wellington West, Little Italy and the Glebe are among the neighbourhoods where you’ll find innovative restaurants. If unique culinary experiences are your thing, try the 12-course molecular gastronomy tasting menu at Atelier, which regularly makes the lists of Canada's top restaurants. Or you could just go back to the canal for anotehr Beaver Tail. You've earned it. 

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 Plan your Ottawa trip with a visit to ottawatourism.ca.

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