Visit One Of The Largest Ice Skating Rinks In The World At This Popular Canadian Destination

If you're thinking about jumping in the car and road-trippin' north of the border to our friendly neighbors, Canada, it might be a good idea to first know what is the capital city of the country that loves all things maple syrup, hockey, and Tim Horton's. Despite what many people on the street think (thanks to this hilarious YouTube short), the capital isn't Toronto, Montreal, or the provinces of Ontario or Alberta. The capital of Canada just a few hours' drive from both Toronto and Montreal, lies within the province of Ontario, and is mostly in the news these days because it houses the HQ of controversial dating website Ashley Madison. Still scratching your head? The capital city is Ottawa. You're welcome!

Much like America's capital city that lies along the Potomac, Ottawa sits on a body of water called the Rideau Canal that becomes a skating rink in the winter open to the public. This wouldn't be Canada if you couldn't strap some blades to your feet!  This isn't just some small rink either, it's considered the globe's largest outdoor skating rink! Plus, it offers some seriously fun activities and festivals every season. Here's why you should consider skating along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa this winter.

The Rideau Canal Skateway is the world's largest outdoor ice rink

Canada is the second largest in the world after Russia, and has a whopping 20% of the world's freshwater within its borders. So it stands to reason that Ottawa's Rideau Canal would also make the history books, with The Guinness Book of World Records citing it as the largest naturally frozen ice rink on the planet, spanning 4.8 miles.

Ottawa Tourism advises that the Rideau Canal skateway is open and free to the public from December to late February every winter, with the specific dates depending on when the ice maintains a 12-inch thickness. However, there have been some snags recently. The skateway didn't open in the 2022/23 winter season due to higher-than-normal temperatures, making the ice unsuitable for skating. So always check weather conditions before you strap on your foot blades.

If you're lucky to be there when it's open, the skateway passes by the iconic Chateau Laurier and offers great amenities like firepits and heated change rooms. You can even chow down on a famous Canadian BeaverTail or sip on a piping hot mug of hot chocolate while skating the canal. If you don't own a pair of skates, you can rent them on-site, but if you're not particularly skilled on two blades, there are also sleighs for rent. And if you just want to shuffle along in your boots, there's a zone for you too, conveniently separated from the zooming figure skaters around you.

Getting to Ottawa is easy by land or by air

The Ottawa area offers some fantastic festivals and outdoor winter activities for nature lovers. Winterlude is the region's signature fest occurring annually every February and is free to enjoy! It's suitable for the whole family to enjoy, with ice sculptures and even a snow playground called Snowflake Kingdom. Most activities take place along the Rideau Canal, Confederation Park, and Jacques-Cartier Park. 

If you don't want to lace up your skates, why not strap on some snowshoes and head to Gatineau Park, Quebec (literally just over the Portage bridge from Ottawa) to enjoy over 55 miles of snowshoe trails. For a true Canadian experience, go tobogganing down one of the 55 hills in the region approved for the slippery sport, like the popular Carlington Park which even offers a chairlift.

If you're driving into Ottawa, it's easily reachable from both New York State and Vermont, with the journey taking under five hours from Rochester, Albany, and Burlington. If you're already in Canada and visiting Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Quebec City, and other towns, then you can drive along a section of the famous Trans Canada Highway (the world's longest national road, which spans from coast to coast) for most of the drive before you take the exit at Prescott, Ontario on your way to Ottawa. If you're flying in, you can fly directly to Ottawa's International Airport.