8 Ottawa winter activities to keep your spirits high after the holidays.
The Winter Solstice marks the time to let the snowy season commence and make the most of it . . . winter does not have to be bleak! After the holidays have come and gone, there are plenty of events and activities in the capital to keep your spirits high.
Winterlude 2023 (February 3-20)
Winterlude is Ottawa’s favourite annual winter festival. Taking place over three weekends in February, anyone of any age can see ice sculptures by talented sculptors, skate on the famous canal, escape to the enormous snowflake kingdom, and take in the wide variety of mini-events indoors and outdoors highlight Canada’s cultural, artistic and culinary diversity. Most of the festival’s activities are free and spread into Gatineau’s Jacques Cartier Park through the downtown Ottawa region.
Photo: OLM Staff
BeaverTails on the canal
A classic, affordable winter adventure. Ottawa’s world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a distinct symbol of Canadian winter. Start by the beautiful arboretum at Dow’s Lake alone or with friends, and skate the 7.8 kms downtown, ending by the National Arts Centre just minutes from the Rideau Shopping Centre. To maximize the experience, BeaverTails are a must. Take a break by a fire pit, Beavertail in hand to warm up and enjoy a truly Canadian delicacy.
Photo: OLM Staff
Sometimes you want to curl up and hide from the cold, and that is okay.The months of January and February can reach some of central Canada’s chilliest temperatures and yield some of the shortest days. It is completely normal on gloomy days to feel tired and crave a snow day in with your favourite movies and snacks. As long as it is balanced, resting is healthy and comfortable; just make sure to get enough vitamin D and fresh air every day.
Go out for dinner
Sometimes the outdoors is anything but inviting throughout the winter months, but the need for social interaction and getting out of the house is still strong. Thankfully, Ottawa is home to countless restaurants to enjoy delicious food and an uplifting atmosphere.
Zaks Diner: Zaks is an Ottawa classic. With the beloved 60s diner décor, you will be transported to the past while enjoying some reliable, comforting diner food. The portions are generous, the servers are friendly, and the milkshakes are unmatched. Find warmth on a cold day at one of three locations: the ByWard Market, Kanata, or Elgin Street.
Pho Bo Ga L.A.: For a cozy, warming meal, head to Somerset Street West and stop in at Pho Bo Ga L.A. Consistently named the best pho in town, this restaurant offers a wide menu of Vietnamese comfort food. The casual atmosphere in a quaint little house makes guests feel at home.
Joey Restaurants: Joey Rideau and Joey Lansdowne offer a sleek yet approachable dining experience. For a special occasion or an evening out with friends, Joey is comfortable yet energetic with staff who do their best to provide an unforgettable experience. The menu offers a wide variety of regional & international fare.
Photo: Grace Geisbrecht
A benefit to living in the capital is the vast number of museums at your fingertips. Most offer free admission on Thursdays after 5 pm, making a museum exploration the perfect escape from cold weather. Some of Ottawa’s favourite museums for exploration include.
Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG): Tucked behind the Rideau Centre, the OAG promotes the art and artists of the Ottawa-Gatineau region and is always free. Visit the Firestone Gallery on your lunch break to browse the permanent collection, or stop by on the weekend to see the multiple temporary exhibitions.
The National Art Gallery (NAG): Home to the finest collections of Indigenous and Canadian art in the world, the NAG is filled with beauty to discover. Paintings, sculptures, photographs and multimedia installations offer a unique experience for everybody.
The Canadian Museum of Nature: A collection of fossils, mammals, minerals, birds, plate tectonics, Arctic discovery and more await visitors of all ages. The Museum of Nature teaches visitors about Canada’s wildest spaces from coast-to-coast in interactive ways, along with some exhibits from around the world.
The Canadian War Museum: For history buffs, this museum allows you to discover Canada’s rich military history through artifacts, personal accounts, artworks, photographs, and interactive scenes.
Diefenbunker Museum: Canada’s Cold War Museum is incredibly unique. A massive four-story underground bunker, this artifact was built between 1959 and 1961 during the Cold War to protect Canadian government officials such as Prime Minister Diefenbaker. A visit to this museum will transport you back to the past, demonstrating chilling and historically accurate components of life during the cold war.
Photo: OLM Staff
Alight at Night (Until January 7th)
Escape into a postcard at the Alight at Night Festival in Morrisburg. Over one million lights adorn the heritage buildings, trees, and fences of Upper Canada Village creating a one-of-a-kind magical backdrop for its annual Alight at Night Festival – a true winter wonderland.
Photo: Upper Canada Village, Alight at Night via Facebook
Discover an all-Canadian woodland wildlife haven from the comfort of your vehicle. See more than 400 animals as your drive through the 12 km park, and feed caribou from your car window. Winter birds, wolves, deer, bison, mountain goats, and more lovable creatures will help anyone appreciate winter.
Patinage en Foret
Just 45 minutes outside of Ottawa, adjacent to the vast Gatineau Park, is the perfect 3 km ice skating escape for winter sports lovers. Along with opportunities for snowshoeing, this magical open-air landscape is sheltered from the wind and lined with trees. The park is open every day from 9 am until sunset, with options to purchase tickets online or on-site. More information regarding tickets and hours can be found at https://www.patinageenforet.com/en/pricing-and-hours/
Photo: Patinage en foret https://www.tourismeoutaouais.com/attraits/patinage-en-foret/