Why You Should Spend Your Winter in Ottawa

While some people might baulk at the idea of a Canadian winter, it could also be a highly pleasant holiday for those not afraid of a little winter chill. While you might want to head to some of the prime ski resorts like Whistler or Banff, you might also want to spend time in a city. Why not spend some time in Canada’s beautiful capital city? Here are some of the top reasons why you should visit Ottawa in winter.

winter in Ottawa

The NHL All-Star Weekend

The All-Star Weekend, and Winterlude beyond it, is one of the highlights of the Ottawan calendar. Hockey is a big deal in Canada and the All-Star Game is one of the best matches you will ever see. Even if you cannot manage to grab some elusive tickets to the match (as it might not be in Ottawa), you will be able to curl up in your hotel room or head out to a bar to see it.

These are the games with some of the best players in the NHL of the moment. Captains are chosen by a public vote so it really is a chance to see some of the best ice hockey you will ever see played. Heading out to a bar for the game will allow you to experience it as the native Ottawans do. 


Happening every year, Winterlude is a celebration of all things cold and wintery. It is a fantastic way to see some of the best things Ottawa has to offer. The city is transformed into a winter wonderland with ice sculptures, snow, ice-skating and more. It is a brilliant festival with events happening constantly so you are always able to find something new to do. One of the best is the international ice sculpture competition in Confederation Park. Make sure you stop by to see things worked with ice which you could not expect.

Grab flights to Ottawa with Porter Airlines so you can see all the delights of Winterlude for yourself.

Ice-Skating on a Canal

We love to daydream about a picture-perfect date ice-skating hand-in-hand on a frozen lake. In Ottawa, this can actually happen (although it will be on a canal instead of a lake). The Rideau Canal freezes over from January to early March and forms a skating rink which is 7.8km in length! You can skate all the way from downtown Ottawa to Dows Lake.

The route is open both during the day and at night and is well-lit in the evenings. Worried about feeling cold? Don’t fret, there are plenty of heated huts along the route which you can duck into to warm up a little. You can also stop by one of the snack shacks with treats like poutine, hot chocolate and the iconic BeaversTails pastry.

If you arrive in Ottawa before the Skateway opens then there is no need to worry. There is also the City Hall Rink of Dreams in early winter, where you can strap on a pair of skates and head out onto the ice for a more traditional experience.

Take a Tour of Parliament

You might not think that the parliament would be interesting to visit but it has its merits. You don’t even need to know much about Canadian politics to be able to appreciate the building. In winter, you can get a tour of the House Chamber, the Senate Chamber, and the Library of Parliament so you can see where it all happens. What’s more, if you take the extra moment to take in the view from the top of the Peace Tower, you will get great views all around the City. It might be a bit cold up there during winter but it is still better than nothing!


There is no better time to head into the warmth of a museum that during the cold winter months. As a capital city, Ottawa has some of the best museums you are going to find in Canada and they are waiting to welcome you in.

Head to the beautiful galleries of the National Gallery of Canada for your arty fix. This National Gallery quite rightly focuses on Canadian artwork which provides quite the striking collection. With everything from sculpture, drawings, landscapes and more, there is plenty to see. There is also a collection of indigenous artwork to celebrate these people of Canada and all their culture has to offer.

All That Jazz

The Ottawa Winter Jazz festival is a date in the musical calendar which all enjoy. There is a lively program of events all around the city, especially in the downtown districts, to allow you to visit multiple venues to find something you love.

What could be more pleasant after an afternoon on the ice? The Jazz festival frequently overlaps with Brewfest too. Skate all day and then retire in as the sun sets to grab some excellent beer and an earful of smooth jazz.

More Winter Activities Than You Could Ever Want

In addition to the ice-skating, Ottawa hosts a variety of different winter activities. You can hire skis to indulge in a bit of cross-country skiing; in the streets of Ottawa itself. Whoever said you needed a mountain to go skiing? 

You can also head out to have some fun with our favourite four-legged friends and try dog-sledding! You will learn how to control a team of dogs and the sled. It is easier than it looks and it can be tremendous fun if you let your worries go. Make sure you book early with this as it is obviously very popular. Mush!

All the Food

Canada knows how to do winter food well. You are never going to go hungry here as there is always something warm and hearty to put in your stomach to stave off the winter cold. Everyone in particular needs to try poutine. Often referred to as the national dish of Canada, it hails from Quebec but can be found all over the country. It is made of French fries, cheeses curds, and a thick brown gravy and it is utterly delicious. You are going to love it from the first bite. 

There are many other brilliant places to eat in Ottawa. Whether you want fancy contemporary food with local ingredients, the best burger you could dream of, or some amazing ramen soups, you can find it all here. If you are really struggling to find somewhere to eat then you can always pop into Tim Hortons!

Who says that it needs to be summer to visit Canada? There is plenty for you to do all year round, especially in winter. It may initially seem too cold to do anything but just pack heavy and make sure you always have something to wrap up warm in. Canadian winter should be experienced by everyone at least once. If you are unlikely to find yourself heading off into the mountains for some extreme sports, consider visiting one of the cities in Canada instead. Ottawa is a great place to visit, and you will be able to make memories here which will last you a lifetime. Start planning your winter wonderland of a Canadian trip today!

Want more travel planning tips? Check out 10 Tips for Staying in an All Inclusive Resort!