A winter highlight in the capital region since 1979, Winterlude offers adults and children alike the opportunity to embrace the carnival benefits of living in a snow (and ice) covered landscape. If you have not taken part in Ottawa’s Winterlude activities in 2012, this weekend is your last chance.
Outdoor festivities are held in three main locations, each offering a fun and unique experience. The Rideau Canal Skateway attracts droves of tourists and residents, creating a festive energy despite the likelihood of frigid weather. Learn to skate or perfect existing skills on the world’s longest skating rink. Or, enjoy activities such as Echoes from the Past, which explores old-time lifestyles and the canal’s history. Meanwhile, over the bridge at the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park, children bundled in excessive layers of clothing can forget about their frosted cheeks and chilled toes as they tackle the giant slides, obstacle courses, mazes and hope for a chance to ride in a tethered hot-air balloon. Wrap up this enjoyable outdoor weekend appreciating the magnificent ice sculptures in the Rogers Crystal Garden at Confederation Park, which are arguably the highlight of Winterlude.
If you are not one for the outdoors, you can take advantage of the multitude of indoor activities offered as part of the festival. Fashion buffs can enjoy Ottawa Fashion Week exploring designer clothing and jewellery. Art junkies can view free screenings of award-winning The Clock in its Canadian debut at the National Art Gallery. Finally, foodies can indulge their taste buds with Winter, Wines and Beer, an event offering a selection of ice ciders, wines and winter beers from some fifteen microbreweries, cider mills and wineries. Otherwise, plan a dinner at the newly-renovated Summit (formerly Merlot Rooftop Grill), which rarely opens its doors to the general public nowadays.
How should you get to Winterlude? Make the journey part of the adventure and introduce your young children to public transport, successfully avoiding the hassle of finding an appropriate parking space or having to pay high fees. Once on location, there is no need for a car with free Sno-Bus Shuttle service between sites.
Controversy and services
New this year are the controversial chalets built along the Canal to accommodate visitors, which cost the NCC over $5.25 million for seven of these huts. The heated shelters (four of them change rooms and three washrooms) provide a convenient and comfortable space for people to change into their skates, store their boots and use the washroom. While many residents question the expense of the new facilities, none can deny that replacements were needed given that the previous shelters were in use since the 1970s. In addition to the chalets, visitors benefit from a range of services at their disposal, from skate and sleigh rentals to skate sharpening and a delectable variety of food venders, namely the famous Beavertails.
Winterlude is an excellent reason to make your way downtown or over to Quebec. While you are in the area, take the time to visit Parliament, stroll the Byward Market, see a show at the National Art Centre or take in an IMAX movie. Rebel against the tendency to hibernate indoors and make the most of the last Winterlude weekend instead.