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12 Things to do in Ottawa in Winter

12 Things to do in Ottawa in Winter

Think Canada’s capital is just frigid weather in the winter? Think again. Though it may drop to well below zero in the winter it certainly isn’t like that the entire season so don’t let the cold temperatures stop you from visiting the winter wonderland of Ottawa this winter.

The city is blanketed with snow every year and creates some gorgeous scenery in the city and outside in National Parks. The snow isn’t just to look pretty, it creates many things to do in Ottawa in winter that aren’t available any other seasons of the year.

If you’re an outdoor fanatic, love pretty scenery or just want an easy city break there are plenty of things to do in Ottawa with kids (or without) even in winter that will make you want to come back again for another season. Find out what to do in Ottawa now from a local, me!

Things to do in Ottawa Outdoors

Skate on the Rideau Canal

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter
Source: The Canal by Vince Alongi – Under Creative Commons License

To start off, skating on the Rideau Canal is the most famous thing to do in winter and in one the main Ottawa attractions in any season. Cold temperatures are needed to make this favourite activity happen though as the water needs to freeze solid so locals and visitors can enjoy skating along the longest skating rink in the world.

Some locals even skate to work once the river is frozen. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the entire rink is 7.8km. That’s the surface area of 90 Olympic ice hockey rinks!

Eat a Beaver Tail

While you’re at the canal there is no better place to grab one of our delicious Canadian delicacies, a beaver tail. No, it is not an actual beaver tail but instead dough that is stretched to resemble a beaver tail.

The dough is then deep fried and topped with your choice of toppings that can be as simple as the classic cinnamon and sugar to Nutella, Oreo or more.

Check Out the Magical Winter Festival Winterlude

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter | Winterlude
Source: Winterlude 17 by Takashi Toyooka – Under Creative Commons License

If you happen to be in Ottawa during Winterlude (or you should try and plan your trip around it) you simply can not miss this incredible winter festival as it is one of the main Ottawa events of the year.

As a child I would soar down the massive ice slides built just for the festival. Now I simply roam around checking out the snow and ice sculptures, catch one of the ice sculpting competitions, drink hot chocolate and eat frozen maple syrup on a stick (yes, that’s a thing). You can find out the locations and more about Winterlude here.

Go Tobogganing at Green’s Creek or Mooney’s Bay

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter

Looking for fun things to do in Ottawa? Then this is it. I don’t care how old you are, tobogganing is always fun and one of the most Canadian things you can do. Grab a sled and some friends and head to Green’s Creek or Mooney’s Bay for some of the best and biggest tobogganing hills in the city.

Bundle Up for Some Winter Hiking

Ottawa is 90% rural which means there is a lot of land that is perfect for hiking, walking and snowshoeing in the winter which are some of the best Ottawa activities.

Some of the best areas to go hiking include Gatineau Park that is filled with trees covered in white powdery snow making you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. You can get some inspiration for winter walks and find more places to get out here.

Cross Country Skiing

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter

Ottawa was practically made for cross-country skiing so there is no shortage of trails available for you to explore. There are over 200km of trails that are groomed for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more. The best places to find trails are in Gatineau Park and the Green Belt. 

Relax at Nordik Spa-Nature

One of the best places to visit in Ottawa is this outdoor spa as it is one place that you’re going to want to be in the winter. And yes, I did say outdoor! Just 10 minutes outside of downtown Ottawa you’ll be able to discover the thermal cycle as you dip yourself into the heated pools, skip to the saunas and then jump into the cold pools.

There are many benefits to thermotherapy and you can experience it all with great views from the pools. Find more information and prices here.

Skate on the Sens Rink of Dreams

If you are not a local or a Canadian then chances are that you are not familiar with the Sens. The Sens is short for the Ottawa Senators, the city’s NHL hockey team and every year the Sens Foundation, Hockey Canada and the City of Ottawa pitch together to fund the Sens Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall.

The rink is open 7 days a week, 6am to 11pm, weather permitting. Check to see if the green flag is up before you skate. Skate sharpening and rentals are available on-site.

Skiing at Camp Fortune

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter

Technically not in Ottawa itself, Camp Fortune is the still go to place in the Ottawa-Gatineau region (Gatineau is Quebec) for people to ski as it is only a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Day and night skiing is available plus there is a terrain park for you fancy skiers and snowboarders.

Pro Tip: Thinking of trying some snow sports? Then travel insurance is a must! Read my guide about how to pick the best travel insurance.

Things to do in Ottawa Indoors

Watch a Hockey Game

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Think I would miss the most Canadian thing of all? Not a chance! One of the top things to see in Ottawa is a hockey game. You can catch a game most of the year but it is obviously a winter sport. Not to worry, the Ottawa Senators play on an indoor rink at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Grab tickets if the Sens will be in town while you’re here as its an experience that even non-hockey lovers will enjoy (that’s coming from a non-hockey lover)!

Take a Look Inside Parliament Hill

Locals often overlook the beauty of Parliament Hill because we live here but it is worth walking past and going inside to see the stunning buildings and learning about the Canadian parliament. There’s even a gorgeous library! Plus to visit inside is totally free.

Ottawa Canada | Ottawa Canada winter | Ottawa Canada things to do | Things to do in Ottawa winter
Ottawa tourist attractions include this spider at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Visit Some of the Many Museums

Ottawa has plenty of museums that you can pop into to get warm between outdoor activities. Some include the Canadian War Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Diefenbunker: Ottawa’a Cold War Musem, the Museum of Nature and more. Many are free to visit on Thursdays after 5pm!

Where to Stay in Ottawa

Best Hotels in Ottawa

ByWard Blue Inn | BOOK NOW:

Novotel Ottawa | BOOK NOW:

Albert at Bay Suite Hotel | BOOK NOW:

Andaz Ottawa Byward Market | BOOK NOW:

Check out more in Ottawa

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