It’s no secret that Ottawa is notoriously cold during the winter months, but it’s also a well-known fact that Canada’s capital offers plenty of festive cheer during the colder months of the year. While proud Canucks can always hope for a possible selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, there are also plenty of other reasons to visit Ottawa! From ice skating on the world’s largest rink to wandering through one of the country’s oldest markets, the Canadian capital has no shortage of things to do and see during the colder months. Keep reading to discover our top activities to try in Ottawa this holiday season.
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Ice Skate at the Rideau Canal
Each winter, UNESCO World Heritage site the Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s largest skating rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway is a whopping 7.8 kilometres long and runs through downtown Ottawa, so it’s no wonder that many Ottawa inhabitants actually use the rink as way to commute to work! Leisurely skaters can warm up with a hot chocolate or one of Ottawa’s famous BeaverTails pastries from one of the many vendors who are located along the rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway offers skate rentals for visitors and even sleds for adventurous little ones.
Explore Gatineau Park
Gatineau Park offers visitors plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature during the colder months. Go for a hike on one of the park’s three winter-friendly hiking trails, or cross country ski on the 50+ trails designated for the activity. For thrill seekers, try snow biking on the 28 kilometre long bike trail network. If you plan on tackling a number of trails, consider making it an overnight trip. The park offers winter camping, where visitors can rough it in a heated tent or rent a small cabin. Whether you want a relaxing day out in the fresh air or an exciting excursion through rough terrain, Gatineau Park offers visitors a truly unique winter experience.
See the lights at Alight at Night
Located just outside the city centre is Upper Canada Village, one of the largest historical sites in Canada. For the month of December, see the village lit up by almost one million lights. This enchanting experience is enhanced by activities such as horse drawn carriages, life-size toy trains, a snow maze and light shows. The village store also offers a wide selection of Victorian inspired artisanal treats that will surely make unique Christmas presents for loved ones. Be sure to bundle up, as Upper Canada Village is right by the Saint Lawrence River and it can get quite chilly.
Roam the Byward Market Neighborhood
As one of the largest markets in Canada, Ottawa’s Byward Market offers plenty to do all year round. Each day, rain or shine, outdoor vendors open their shops to sell a variety of seasonal goods. In the winter months, the market is filled with Christmas trees and decorations, arts and crafts, baked treats, and the region’s famous maple syrup. The market is also home to horse stables, which are located on York Street. During the winter, you can catch a free carriage ride through the neighbourhood, courtesy of the local merchants’ association.