4 Reasons to Fall in Love With Ottawa This Winter

Looking for things to do in Ottawa this winter? We’re counting down four outdoor attractions that will make it well worth braving the cold!

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Skating the Rink of Dreams
Photo: Ottawa Tourism

1. Skating the Rink of Dreams

Ask any Canadian to recommend things to do in Ottawa in the winter, and chances are, “Skating the Rideau Canal” will most likely be the first response. Nevertheless, visitors to Ottawa are often disappointed to find that—due to unseasonably warm temperatures—the canal is only partially open (or worse, closed) during their winter visit. Although skating on the canal requires just-right weather conditions, the open-air, refrigerated Ottawa City Hall Sens Rink of Dreams (shown here), on the banks of the waterway, is usually good to go. Admission is free, but it’s strictly BYOS (bring your own skates).

Check out the 10 Best Ice Rinks Around the World!

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Building a toboggan

2. Tobogganing in Ottawa’s Dominion Arboretum

Dominion Arboretum is one of Ottawa’s lesser-known cold-weather tourist stops. Flanking the west side of Dow’s Lake on the Rideau Canal, it has prime slopes—great for all ages and degrees of yellow-belly—once the snow falls. Admission and parking are free, and if you don’t have a toboggan (but you do have a few free nights and approximately $400), you can sign up to make your own at the Ottawa City Woodshop, located a short drive away in Little Italy. Now that’s a souvenir!

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Wally the ice fishing hut
Photo: Dave Chan

3. Ice Fishing on the Ottawa River

You can’t miss Wally, even if you try. The seven-metre-long walleye-shaped ice-fishing hut on the Ottawa River can be spotted from Highway 174, near Petrie Island, a 25-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Pony up for one of the rental huts nearby and bring the family along; there’s shinny and an on-ice arcade for the kids.

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Photo: Ottawa Tourism

4. Cross-Country Skiing in Gatineau Park

The ever-popular Gatineau Park is 20 minutes from Ottawa proper, but for free-of-charge ski trails in the city, try the Central Experimental Farm (where you can also admire acrobatic snowkiters) or along the Ottawa River.

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