Top 5 Reasons to Visit Ottawa this Winter
The Ottawa Christmas Market
Ottawa’s first ever European style Christmas market! Fill your December with all things festive, including twinkly lights, holiday décor, countless local gifts, tasty treats, toasty bonfires and activities.
*The market as been postponed until 2021, and will not be happening this 2020 year due to Covid related concerns* You can still enjoy the 'Lights at Lansdowne' event, featuring the largest Christmas tree in Ottawa. This opens November 27, 2020 and is free to enjoy.
The Ottawa Farmer’s market will still also be present with local goods and produce, inside the Aberdeen pavilion on Sundays. There are a multitude of local makers that will be present each weekend. For more information, click here.
Magic of Lights
Magic of lights is a nightly interactive drive through light experience in the city of Ottawa! You’ll drive down candy cane lane, through reindeer crossing, the nativity section and other bright festive areas, before ending outside of the enchanted tunnel. A great way to experience the lights in the comfort of your own car.
Find the entrance at Wesley Clover Parks, on Corkstown road. Grab your tickets online ahead of time, or at the gate, one price per vehicle. You save if purchased online! You can enjoy the lights twice for one pass, Tuesdays only until December 10!
Christmas Lights Across Canada
The lighting route circles the heart of Ottawa, including crossing over into Quebec. There are a dozen Christmas light sites, including the war memorial, the supreme court of Canada, and the peace keeping monument. Check out the map of the route, here.
Opening night is December 4, 2019, at Confederation park downtown. The magic begins at 5:30pm, with musical performances and activities. Performers include Kiesza, Damien Robitaille and Tomson Highway. Free Beavertails while supplies last!
The pièce de résistance is the multimedia projection show on Parliament Hill. Nightly from 5:30pm to 11pm, the show is presented in 15 minute loops. The fairy tale show is influenced by Canada’s culture and landscape. It is truly event you will appreciate at any age. Dress warmly!
This lights experience goes on until January 7, 2020.
Skating the Rideau Canal
The largest naturally frozen Christmas rink in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The canal often freezes over in late December, early January, but it’s already been a cold one this 2019, fingers crossed for a long skating season. This 7.8 KM rink goes from Dow’s Lake all the way downtown near the National Arts Centre. You are able to rent skates if you don’t have your own, and warm up with a Beavertail or hot chocolate at the pop up booths on the ice! Open daily, with no closing time!
Visit the National Capital Commission’s website to check on the status of the rink, here.
Looking for something a bit different? Go skating at Rideau Hall, December 7 – March 15. Open on weekends and over the holidays. It is a maintained rink designed for leisure skating only – no hockey please! Sens Rink of Dreams is an alternative option! Located at City Hall, this refrigerated rink is open daily as of December 1.
From January 31 – February 17, 2020 experience festive programming and seasonal events around the downtown area. The specific details for this upcoming Winterlude have not been disclosed yet, but you will find them here, once available.
Skating on The Rideau Canal is always a must-do experience. During Winterlude, there are always events on and near the canal. The Triathlon at Dow’s lake includes cross-country skiing, skating the canal and even running! The Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival have boats racing on special blades down the frozen canal and typically there is a concert at Dow’s Lake.
The Byward Market is full of events each year, including an ice carving competition, outdoor DJ nights on weekends, local treats and cook-offs and festive walking tours.
Jacques Cartier Park, in Gatineau, hosted a winter playground last year. There are generally sledding areas, ski lessons, zip lining and snow sculptures.
Sparks Street was added to the Winterlude festival activities also, which offered ice-cade carnival games, an ice cabaret and burlesque show and a photo exhibition. There are more arts and culture offered Downtown Rideau; at the Art Gallery, National Arts Centre and Bytown Museum. The Glebe also has hosted events such as Snowmania and Brewfest. Stay tuned for more specific 2020 details!
Make sure you dress warmly, bring your skates and some cash!
You can snowshoe in Gatineau park, right near Ottawa! Bring your own or rent them for $28 for adults, $19 for kids, at the Visitor Centre. There are 61 KM of trails, ranging in difficulty level.
Try Snowshoeing 101 on December 2 or 10 from 6-7pm with Bushtukah– free but limited space. Must RSVP!
You can cross country ski in Gatineau park, with 200 KM of trails, in the Greenbelt surrounding us which has 150 KM of trails, or right in the city along the Sir John A Macdonald trail, 16 KM along the Ottawa River.
Camp Fortune Ski Hill is right near the city and their 2019-2020 season has begun! They have 24 various ski runs, 2 lodges to warm up in, and offer lessons. Mont Tremblant also has great skiing and is a fun location for a winter weekend getaway.
Check out the Canadian Ski Marathon, North America’s longest and oldest Nordic ski tour. On February 7, 8 & 9, 2020, it is a two-day event, welcoming skiers of all ages and abilities. The trail goes from Mont-Tremblant to Montebello on the 8th, then from Montebello to Lachute the following day.
Grab your sled and head out to the nearest hill! It does not get much more Canadian than this, no matter where you live.
Some great local hills to visit are; Bruce Pit, Hogs Back Park, Green’s Creek and Conroy Pit. Click HERE for an extensive map of toboggan hills.
* Remember to dress warm, stay hydrated and be safe and mindful! Kids especially, should be wearing a helmet while skiing or tobogganing*