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(2018 - Winter Issue)


Skating on the Rideau Canal is one Ottawa experience you shouldn’t miss, but there’s much more to winter in Canada’s capital than the famous frozen waterway.

For starters, several refrigerated outdoor rinks are often open when mild temperatures keep skaters off the canal. The Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall is near many hotels, while the rink at Rideau Hall—which dates back to 1872—offers a glimpse into history. If you choose the rink at Lansdowne Park, you can also shop, eat, see a movie or catch an Ottawa ’67s Ontario Hockey League game on-site.


If you’re super fit and you’d like to combine skating, cross-country skiing and running, all on the same day, the Winterlude Triathlon (February 2, 2019) may be for you. It’s part of the much larger Winterlude festival (February 1–18), which features ice sculptures, concerts, a children’s winter playground and more.

Nordic skiers can also test their skills in the Canadian Ski Marathon (February 8–10) or the Gatineau Loppet (February 15–17); the latter offers eight ski courses ranging from two to 51 kilometres each. For those who would rather just ski at a leisurely pace, Gatineau Park has 200 kilometres of groomed cross-country trails, while the Greenbelt surrounding Ottawa offers another 150 kilometres. Looking for something completely different? Look no further than the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival (February 9), when teams of eight to 10 will “paddle” boats mounted on blades across frozen Dows Lake. You can field a team or just cheer from shore.

Winter sports fans can also root for youth teams from across North America and Europe during the Bell Capital Cup (December 27–31, 2018), or catch the NHL’s Ottawa Senators in action until April 6 at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Of course, many of us would rather cocoon indoors when the mercury drops. If you fall into that camp, Ottawa will easily keep you amused.


The Ottawa Art Gallery’s new light-filled building, which opened in spring 2018, is an attraction in its own right. The gallery now has more than 5,110 square metres in which to display works with an Ottawa connection, such as Karim Rashid: Cultural Shaping, a retrospective of work by the industrial designer and Carleton University alum (until February 10).

If knights, troubadours and castles are your thing, you still have time to catch Medieval Europe—Power and Splendour, an exhibition of more than 200 artifacts from the British Museum, running at the Canadian Museum of History until January 20. More recent history is the subject of Masterpiece in Focus: Halifax Harbour 1918, a show of paintings by Harold Gilman and Arthur Lismer, running at the National Gallery of Canada until March 17.

The chance to see free-flying butterflies on wintry days proved so popular last year that the Canadian Museum of Nature is staging an expanded Butterflies in Flight show this winter (until April 22). Timed tickets are available in advance and strongly recommended.


A 10-year restoration project will displace parliamentarians from the Centre Block, beginning in early 2019. However, tours of Parliament Hill will still be available, via a new online booking system and a new visitor centre on the Hill; both are due to launch as soon as the Centre Block closes. And, as always, Parliament Hill will glow with thousands of festive lights as part of Christmas Lights Across Canada (December 5, 2018 to January 7, 2019).


In winter, the capital’s performing arts scene kicks into high gear. At the National Arts Centre, which will mark its 50th anniversary in 2019, highlights include Handel’s Messiah (December 18 and 19), Beautiful—The Carole King Musical (January 1–6), Patrick Watson with the NAC Orchestra (January 19), and a Shakespearean adaptation, Prince Hamlet (February 27–March 9). Paul Brandt brings his Journey Tour 2019 to the TD Place Arena on February 16. And at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, the season includes the comedy Bed & Breakfast (December 4–22) and a drama about Dr. Martin Luther King called The Mountaintop (January 22–February 10).

Travel Planner

For more information on these and other capital attractions this winter, go to ottawatourism.ca.

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