Ottawa Winter: Skating on the Rideau Canal

Skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
Skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Photo by Ottawa Tourism

In my never-ending quest to come to terms with winter, rather than doing what apparently every other New England resident does (flee to Florida) I went north last year.

That’s right, up to Canada. I wanted to see how Canadians get through the season. After all, the winters in Canada are much longer, and much, much colder than in Boston, where I live. My research may prove that what they do is turn winter into one big party.

Many people probably know about the famous Ice Hotel in Québec City, an elaborate structure the Québécois build each year during their Winter Carnivale. But I decided to go to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital. Home to the world’s longest ice-skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway, I thought it would be a good place to test my newly acquired ice-skating skills.

In February, Ottawa holds Winterlude, when the city turns itself into a winter wonderland for three weeks. Rideau Canal runs through the city and residents eagerly wait for it to freeze deep enough for them to skate. A 4.5-mile-long (7.8 km) stretch becomes one long, free rink, used not only for play, but for residents who want to commute to work by skating.

The canal can stay skateable for more than a month. The record is 46 days! At either end of the canal, skates are available to rent, and every mile or so there are concession stands on the ice, where you can stop and warm up with hot chocolate or a Beaver Tail (a delicious pastry made of fried dough).

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