things to do in ottawa in winter

Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, may be small but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of things to do for visitors. Whilst Canadians we’ve met have told us it’s just full of government workers and not much else we found there was plenty to keep us entertained on our trip to Ottawa in winter!

Average temperatures for February in Ottawa are about -9 degrees although it often feels much colder thanks to the icy winds! Locals don’t let that stop them from venturing outside though! Many of the best things to do in Ottawa involve being outside. Wrap up warm and prepare yourself for these adventures!

Check out my video on the new TravelCast.TV player!

Ice Skating the Rideau Canal

Usually full of boats in the warmer seasons, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal freezes over in winter creating the world’s longest ice skating rink.

When the conditions are right you can skate for a whole 8km down the canal and it’s well worth doing!

If you’re tired or need to warm up there are stops roughly every kilometre where you can buy hot chocolates, Beavertails (more to come on that later) or sit inside for a little bit.

The canal gets busy at the weekends so try and skate on a weekday if you can. Skate hire costs $20 for 2 hours and if you have your own ice skates you can hop on and off whenever you please!

Watch an Ottawa Senators ice hockey game

ottawa senators ice hockey

If you’d rather leave the ice skating to the professionals, then make sure to cheer on the local team at an ice hockey game!

The Ottawa Senators play at the Canadian Tire Centre about 30 minutes out of downtown Toronto and when they’re playing special buses are put on to take you there and back (the number 403 bus). You can usually get pretty cheap tickets on StubHub for the games; ours cost about $18.

Party at Winterlude

Winterlude has been celebrated in Ottawa and Gatineau for almost 40 years. It’s a festival that spans three weekends in February and there is plenty to see and do.

The first weekend sees the kick-off party take place with live music and an outdoor dance party that should keep you warm late into the evening! Try and plan you visit over a weekend as this is when most of the events take place including the Ice Dragon Boat Festival and the village bed race.

The best part is that it’s pretty much all free!

Marvel at the ice sculptures in Confederation Park

winterlude ottawa things do to in ottawa in winter

During Winterlude, Confederation Park near Parliament Hill is transformed into an ice sculpture park. The ice sculpture artists are from all over the world and their sculptures are incredible.

The best time to view the sculptures is during the week when there are a lot less people. However, if you want more of an atmosphere then go at the weekends when there’s music and the food stalls are open.

Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing

Ottawa is an ideal city if you’re a fan of cross country skiing. Most people head off to Gatineau Park which is just over the river in Quebec although normally considered to still be a part of Ottawa.

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Here you’ll find over 200km of trails for cross country skiing which includes rolling and hilly terrains too. If you want to make a weekend trip out of it, there are also ready-to-camp units and campsites in the park so you can spend all weekend out in the fresh air.

Gatineau Park also has trails reserved especially for snowshoeing and you can hire the special raquettes at the park. Strap on your snowshoes and go!

Eat Beavertails

beavertails things to do in ottawa in winter

Don’t worry you won’t actually be eating a beaver if you tuck into a Beavertails while in Ottawa in winter! This yummy treat is in fact pastry, in the shape of a beaver’s tail, covered with several tasty toppings.

The original is cinnamon and sugar and it’s super tasty. You could also opt for Nutella, peanut butter or a savoury option.

Even Obama is said to be a fan having stopped off at Beavertails in Ottawa during his first Presidential visit to Canada!

Explore the houses of parliament without the queues

houses of parliament ottawa things to do in winter

We were told that we might have to go to the ticketing office for Canada’s Houses of Parliament early in the morning and not get a tour until the afternoon. That’s the case in summer and the weekends anyway. But we rocked up and got a tour within the next 10 minutes!

There were absolutely no queues to check in our bags either. You could see the queues laid out though with the barriers, so I can only imagine how busy it must get – especially as it’s a free tour!

Have you been to Ottawa in winter?

Thanks to Ottawa Tourism for making this trip possible,
we loved exploring your city!