What to Know Before Skating the Rideau Canal

Skating the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa Ontario, World's Largest Outdoor Skating Rink, Access to the Canal, Dow's Lake

The world’s largest outdoor skating rink and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal, is a must visit for locals and visitors alike. The entire length of the skateway is 7.8 KM, beginning at Dow’s Lake toward the National Arts Centre downtown. Check out this interactive map for a detailed view.
The rink typically freezes in early to mid-January, and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each season until late February/early March. It is free to visit, and open 24 hours a day – caution is warned especially if skating at night. Here are some things you should know before heading out to skate the canal.

Update as of February 1, 2021: The Rideau Canal Skateway will open for the 2021 season, during lockdown, with health guidelines in place. Concession stands, rentals and fire pits will be CLOSED. All users are asked to wear a face mask while on the Skateway. There will be sanitization stands, and bi-directional staircases where possible. Remember to stay home if you feel any symptoms, and maintain a 2-metre distance from others. 

The Queen Elizabeth Parkway is closed to traffic between Somerset St and Fifth Ave from 9:00-5:00 daily. This allows an opportunity for walking and exercise space near the canal.

Note, the National Capital Commission is asking residents not to travel to skate on the canal. Stay close to home this winter and use amenities nearest you. 

The full length of the Rideau Canal has officially closed for the 2021 season.

Skating the Full Length of the Rideau Canal Skateway, Downtown Ottawa, Pretoria Bridge on the Rideau Canal


Ice Quality Report 

The National Capital Commission keeps daily updates online regarding the ice conditions of the canal. They have split the canal into 13 sections, with ice ratings ranging from closed to good condition. You can also call the number (613) 239 – 5234 for a prerecorded message of the ice conditions.

Always check this before skating! Some areas of the ice may be in fair conditions while others are poor. Find the details HERE.


Skate Rentals

There are three locations along the canal where you can rent skates; Rideau (Rideau St & Colonel By Dr), Fifth (Fifth Avenue & Queen Elizabeth Dr) and Dows (Dows lake off Preston St). Ice skate rentals are available through Capital Skates as well as the Dow’s Lake Pavilion. Skate sharpening and rentals of sleighs and safety equipment are also offered. Hours of operation differ slightly, but typically there are no rentals after 8:00 or 9:00pm. CLICK HERE for more information regarding hours and rates.

These three rental locations also have heated rest areas, along with a fourth at Bronson Avenue. (Keep in mind the 2021 skating season will have new guidelines and restrictions due to Covid-19). Washrooms are also located at these stops, along with a Patterson Creek washroom on land, and one at Dow's lake.



Ottawa Beavertails - Where to Eat when Skating the Rideau Canal - Treats and Hot Chocolate

A Canadian treat and tradition that originated in Ottawa, Beavertails are a must have snack when visiting the canal. Enjoy hot drinks and treats from Beavertails at the rest areas Rideau, Fifth and Bronson. There are typically other food vendors at the Fifth rest area, or you can visit restaurants at Dow’s Lake pavilion.


Ice Entrances and Nearby Parking


Note: Most 'Entrance' names correspond to the cross street name. 

To gain a clearer visual of entrances, parking lots and nearby streets, zoom in on the NCC’s Interactive Map.

Entrances (Streets)

Parking (Lots)

Other Information


Carleton University 5A-B & P6

O-train Carleton Station

Dows | Kippewa

Dow’s Lake
** Norman & Booth
Preston Street (2 Hr limit)

O-train Carling Station
Rest area at Dows

Bronson | Bronson Bridge

Bronson Avenue
Carleton University P6 & P7

Rest area at Bronson


** Side street parking (1 Hr limit)


Bank South

Bank Street (2 Hr Limit)
** Side street parking (3 Hr Limit)


Bank North

Lansdowne Park
Bank Street (2 Hr Limit)



** Side street parking (3 Hr limit)



Lansdowne Park


Holmwood | Fifth

Lansdowne Park

Rest area at Fifth

Clegg | Herridge | Hazel

** Side street parking (2 Hr limit)


Second | Patterson

O’Connor & Pretoria



** Side street parking (3 Hr limit)


Pretoria | Argyle

O’Connor & Pretoria


Delaware | Waverley

** Side street parking (1 Hr limit)


Somerset East

University of Ottawa Mann

O-train UOttawa Station

Somerset West | Lisgar

Cartier & Cooper
University of Ottawa (K)
Ottawa City Hall


Mackenzie King E | Rideau

Byward Market
Rideau Centre
Universtiy of Ottawa (K)

O-train Rideau Station
Rest area at Rideau

Mackenzie King W |Queen

Byward Market
Ottawa City Hall

National Arts Centre
World Exchange Plaza

O-train Rideau Station

O- train Parliament Station


** Free parking

Many nearby areas and neighbourhoods have free street parking. If you choose this option, always be respectful to residents and cautious of driveways and parking signs, including time limits. Be mindful of any parking restrictions and laws.

Dow's lake pavilion entrance to Rideau Canal, Where to Access the Rideau Canal SKateway, Downtown Ottawa Skating the Rideau Canal


Always be mindful of ice conditions and of those around you on the ice. The Rideau Canal has a flag system – green means open, red means closed. Dress warmly, stay with a buddy, and have children wear helmets.

There is a first aid trailer located on the ice at the Fifth Avenue rest area and skate patrollers midday on the ice. If you are skating in the early morning or at night, there are no ice patrollers, another reason to be extra careful.

Visit the National Capital Commission website for more safety tips.





If you are looking for other Ottawa activities, check out these blogs:
5 Reasons to Visit Ottawa in Winter
A Winter Weekend in Ottawa
Where to Feed Chickadees in Ottawa
Outdoor Adventure Guide





1 comment

  • Looking to come February 8 or 9 for my husbands birthday 2022. Any information will be helpful. He has his own skates and I would rent for one day. Happy 70th Birthday

    Gail Genovese

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