• eat
  • shop
  • see
  • go
  • stay
  • daytrip
  • map
  • calendar
  • transport
  • weather
  • currency
  • tofrom


Winter Wonderland: Winterlude


The 38th edition of Winterlude, Ottawa's celebration of ice and snow, runs from January 29 to February 15. (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

The 38th edition of Winterlude, Ottawa’s celebration of ice and snow, runs from January 29 to February 15. (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

In many cities across North America, winter is a time when people stay indoors, but not so in Ottawa. Winterlude is the city’s annual homage to all things ice and snow. This year, it runs from January 29 to February 15.


Winterlude 2014 Transforms Ottawa from Jan. 31 to Feb. 17


Confederation Park is turned into a beautiful Crystal Garden during Winterlude 2014 (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

Winterlude 2014 will transform Ottawa into the liveliest city in the country from Jan. 31 to Feb. 17. As you explore Ottawa during the festival you’ll probably end up at one of these three official Winterlude sites. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing — they return each year for a reason.

WHERE: Confederation Park. Within walking distance of Parliament Hill, Rideau Centre, and the National Arts Centre.
WHEN: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. | Feb. 17, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHAT: This is where world-class ice-carving masters turn blocks of ice into works of art. See them in action during the 27th International Ice-Carving Competition, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. And definitely plan on walking through the park during the evening — special lighting enhances the sculptures and other artwork displayed during the duration of Winterlude.
MORE: This is also Opening Ceremony central! Festivities kick-off on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. And the park also hosts Sub-Zero DJ Nights every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. throughout Winterlude.

WHERE: Jacques-Cartier Park. A couple minutes over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge in Gatineau, down the street from the Canadian Museum of History.
WHEN: Open Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
WHAT: The largest snow playground in the world! Your kids will fall in love with the variety of snow slides — a tube slide, one built for groups to speed down together, and another for the littlest of kiddies. And there will be special winter sports and games so your kids can join in on the Olympic fever.
MORE: The XTREME Zone opens on weekends, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for thrill seekers and boundary pushers. The area includes a zip line, pedal go-carts on snow, a bungee trampoline, and a giant maze.


Skate along the Rideau Canal during Winterlude 2014, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

WHERE: Throughout Ottawa. Major entrance points include Mackenzie King East and West, across from Confederation Park; Somerset East and West, by the University of Ottawa; and Fifth Avenue in the Glebe neighbourhood
WHEN: Chalets open Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
WHAT: The world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink is one of the centrepieces of Winterlude 2014. Glide along the 7.8 km Skateway, grab a delicious BeaverTail (sold on the Canal!), and grab a seat in one of the chalets to catch your breath and people watch. Didn’t bring your skates? Well, there are rental spots right on the Canal!
MORE: The Giant Tiger Interactive Hockey Zone, every Saturday and Sunday by the Fifth Avenue entrance, lets you test your skills at the hardest shot, most accurate shot, obstacle course, and more.

WINTERLUDE Family Day: Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park


A rowdy reveler at Jacques-Cartier Park during Winterlude. (Photo: Kimberley Johnson)

The last weekend of Winterlude is a few days away. And in case you haven’t already experienced it, we recommend heading over the border into Gatineau, QC for a wildly fun time at Jacques-Cartier Park.

Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier is an absolute winter wonderland for kids — of all ages — and one of the best ways to spend an afternoon this family day weekend.

So, what can you expect? Well, once you cross the Alexandra Bridge and make your way into Jacques-Cartier Park you’ll find snow. Not just regular, ordinary, kick-it-around snow. But, rather, amazing, “you built that?!” snow constructions.

Snow slides. Snow mazes. Snow statues.

A snow statute towers over two Snowflake Kingdom goers at Jacques-Cartier Park. (Photo: Kimberley Johnson)

And snow’s rougher, tougher cousin Ice also makes an appearance in Jacques-Cartier Park. Perhaps the biggest draw is the big Iceberg slide. It’s so long that your whole family can head down together! And there are tube slides for a faster, slipperier ride downhill.

One area that you must check out this family day weekend: the Native exhibit. It features drumming music and a tent for kids to climb into and experience it up close.

Now that you’re all jazzed up and ready to take the family to Snowflake Kingdom this weekend, we have a few handy tips to help you along the way.

  • You’ll need some transportation for this one, as it is on the other side of the bridge. You can drive, but, really, that is a major planning headache since there isn’t a ton of parking there. Take advantage of the FREE Sno-Bus. It picks you up from, and takes you to, all of the major Winterlude sites. Again, this is free!
  • There aren’t many spots to stash your stuff, so only bring the essentials.
  • This is pretty straightforward, but we saw a few people who didn’t get the memo so we’re going to lay it out: dress warmly and come to play! You’ll need snow pants, mitts, and a hat to get the most out of your time there.
  • All that said, Winterlude certainly knows what a family needs! There are lots of food choices (we saw many eating a Canadian favourite: poutine!) and a warm rest area with picnic tables.

    Cost: Free entry!

    What next? Get one last view of the ice sculptures in Confederation Park. The Sno-Bus will take you there!

    WINTERLUDE Roundup: Your guide to Winterlude’s Second Weekend



    Skating on the Rideau Canal

    This Winterlude learn to skate on the Rideau Canal with professional instructors. (Photo: NCC)

    Winterlude Weekend: Friday, February 8
    Ready for a fun, and free (!), Winterlude activity to delight snow lovers of all ages? Head over to Jacques Cartier Park for a day of kicksledding.What the heck is a kicksled? Well, its name pretty much gives it away — a sled, with a chair on it, that you kick to get moving. It’s a thrill for the child perched up top and for the one doing the kicking!

    See what else is happening during Winterlude this weekend »


    WINTERLUDE: Free Pancake Breakfast!

    On Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. stop in at Marion Dewar Plaza for a free pancake breakfast, as part of this year’s Winterlude festivities! (Photo: NCC)

    Free food. Yes, free food! The best way to stay warm and energized during all your winter fun is to eat a hearty breakfast. For the ninth year in a row, show up at Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. for a free pancake and hot chocolate breakfast. The early bird gets the pancake, though, because it’s only while supplies last! This is a great way to start your day before heading across to see the ice sculptures in Confederation Park or go for a skate on the Rideau Canal.

    WINTERLUDE: Spectacular Ice Sculptures on Display at Confederation Park


    Confederation Park transforms during Winterlude, as spectacular ice sculptures take over during the two-week festival. (Photo: National Capital Commission)

    Get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” as professional and amateur ice carvers create fantastical creatures out of blocks of ice. The theme for Winterlude’s ice-carving challenge in Confederation Park is “Imaginary Garden,” which is just what the park will turn into once these chainsaw-wielding artists have completed their masterpieces. Show up at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1 to watch the award ceremony. There will be plenty more ice carving during Winterlude, too, including the 26th International Ice-Carving Competition (Feb. 1 to Feb. 3); the Ice-Carving Championship (in three rounds on Feb. 9: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.); a Public Ice-Carving Challenge where amateurs can register to take part (Feb. 16, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m.); and one for the kids: Young Sculptors at Work (Feb. 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.). And be sure to walk through the park at night to see these beautiful ice sculptures in their best light!

    WINTERLUDE: Norway and the Northern Lights


    Hunting Aurora is on display at Confederation Park during Winterlude (Photo: Fredrick Broms)

    Canada isn’t the only country celebrating Ottawa’s Winterlude with great gusto: our fellow northerners and friends at the Royal Norwegian Embassy are offering up a variety of events during the festival. Head over to Confederation Park from Feb. 1 to 18 for their exhibit on one of nature’s wonders, The Northern Lights. The exhibit Hunting Aurora: Northern Lights, Nature’s Own Magical Lantern showcases Fredrick Broms’ spectacular images, while astrophysicist Pål Brekke provides advice on the best way to track them down.

    On Winterlude weekends (Feb. 2-3; 9-10; 16-17) at Confederation Park you will also find live Folklore and Storytelling in a lavvo, or Norwegian tent; you’re invited to contribute to the magical atmosphere by making snow-lanterns. For some grown-up fun, head over to the Ottawa Art Gallery on Friday, Feb. 8 for On the Rocks. The $20 ticket ($17 if you buy online in advance) includes a mug of mulled wine, or gløgg, a shot of traditional flavoured spirits, or aquavit, and Norwegian treats like cheeses and smoked salmon. Don’t forget to say “skål” as you toast!

    WINTERLUDE Roundup: Best Bets during Winterlude’s opening weekend


    Skating along the Rideau Canal Skateway is one of the most popular events during Winterlude.

    Ottawa’s been in a deep freeze lately, but the next three weeks make it all worth it. February 1 to 18 marks the 35th anniversary of Winterlude, Ottawa’s celebration of frosty fun. From concerts, special exhibits, outdoor activities, and food and drink events, you’ll find something for everyone. We highlight just a few of the happenings taking place during opening weekend.

    Friday, February 1
    Opening ceremony! This year the kick-off is at the Marion Dewar Plaza outside City Hall. The free event will feature incredible aerial dancers, interactive projections, and pyrotechnic effects. Afterwards, A Tribe Called Red’s Electric Powwow will get you moving. DJs NDN, Bear Witness and Shub are the Ottawa locals who started the powwow step movement, combining electronica with traditional powwow vocals and drumming.

    Sarah Slean plays at Centrepointe Theatre, on the first night of Winterlude.

    Winterlude wouldn’t be Winterlude without ice-skating on the Rideau Canal. Every year the canal and Dows Lake are transformed into the world’s largest skating rink. Check out the Skateway’s website for ice conditions and directions to one of their three skate and sleigh rental centres, then head on over for skating, hot chocolate, and yummy treats.

    If you want to enjoy the spirit of Winterlude without having to brave the elements, you’ll be pleased to know that Ontario’s own Sarah Slean has an opening-night concert at the Centrepointe Theatre. Her voice will give you chills.

    Saturday, February 2
    Get your body moving at Jacques-Cartier Park! Starting at 10 a.m. the Snowflake Stage will be bumping music so you can get your Zumba moves on.

    After your morning workout, head to Confederation Park where the Ottawa Art Gallery will be on hand to help artists of all ages to take part in building ice sculptures and ice mosaics.

    The Darcy’s perform at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, part of the Winterlude festivities.

    The Wee Trio, the John Escreet Trio, Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola Duo, Pawa Up First, and The Darcys arrive in town to perform at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

    Sunday, February 3
    Make sure you have enough energy for the day’s activities by dining at the Red Apron’s Winterlude Brunch. It’s lumberjack-themed, so wear your plaid, toques, and sport a moustache. Expect apple cinnamon waffles, tourtière, and maple-whisky baked beans. Mmm!



    WINTERLUDE: New and Returning Events During the 35th Winterlude Festival


    Confederation Park will become the brightest spot in the city with a beautiful outdoor lantern tunnel, similar to this one from the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Lantern Festival, in South Korea.

    Ottawa knows how to embrace winter. Instead of retreating indoors, the city throws a massive outdoor party — one of the best you’ll find nationwide. Celebrating its 35th year, Winterlude, which takes place Feb. 1 to 18, transforms Ottawa into a literal winter wonderland with activities for all ages. Taken from WHERE Ottawa’s January/February issue, we highlight some of this year’s new must-see additions, as well as a few well-known favourites that can’t be missed. Enjoy!


    Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for February 17 to 19

    Friday, Feb. 17
    Add some class to your Friday at On the Rocks, a Russian-inspired art party hosted by the Ottawa Art Gallery and the Avant-Garde Bar and Gallery in partnership with Winterlude. Along with music and dancing, there will be a special showcase of Paraskeva Clark’s painting “Homage to a Soviet Film, Baltic Deputy” (1968) from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, and a screening of the film that inspired it. Caviar, vodka samplings, and other Russian appetizers will be on offer. (more…)

    Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for February 3 to 5

    Quinsin Nachoff is just one of the performers taking the stage at the Ottawa Winter Jazzfest.

    Friday, Feb. 3
    Jazz up your weekend by taking in the international and local talent at the first annual Ottawa Winter Jazzfest. Whether you’re a seasoned jazz enthusiast or looking to diversify your musical tastes, this festival promises to thaw that winter chill. Hop all over downtown Ottawa, from the National Arts Centre to Club SAW to the Mercury Lounge to catch the smooth sounds of artists such as Megan Jerome, Quinsin Nachoff, Remi Bolduc, and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble of Chicago.

    Experience Ottawa’s diverse architecture and examine the relationship between architecture, the arts, and politics through music with Polytectures. This sound walk was created by Montreal’s Antoine Bédard and 10 local musicians. Through a variety of musical styles, Polytectures allows visitors and locals alike to experience Ottawa’s architecture in new ways by pairing songs with local landmarks. Although the entire walk is an hour long, it has been divided into sections with warm-up breaks for Winterlude.

    If you’re a film buff with a soft spot for independent cinema, then you’re going to want to Get Iced this weekend. The Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa is presenting 10 new Super 8 short films made by local filmmakers in cooperation with Winterlude. Afterwards, unwind with drinks at the Soviet-style reception hosted by Avant-Garde Bar and Gift Shop. The party continues at the bar after 9:30pm with live music and no cover charge.

    This Friday, Yamantaka //Sonic Titan and Boyhood bring the party to Babylon. Yamantaka //Sonic Titan are a psychedelic opera group that fuses noise, metal, folk, and pop music to create an east-meets-west culture clash extravaganza. Boyhood is new on the Ottawa scene, bringing catchy songs with haunting melodies. (more…)

    Winterlude: A Canadian Tradition

    Skating on the Rideau Canal is an essential Ottawa experience. Photo credit: NCC.

    From Feb. 3 to 20, Ottawa transforms into a winter wonderland. This annual festival offers an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities, so we’ve rounded up some of the highlights from this classic Canadian event. By Misa Kobayashi. (more…)