Ice skating seems like something Canadians grow up with. But for those of you who didn’t have that same experience, consider heading to Ottawa’s world famous Rideau Canal in the winter. This canal freezes over and in early January until around late February or early March, millions of people flock to the canal to ice skate on it. Yes, you read that right. Locals and tourists from all over the world go to this canal to ice skate on it, some locals even use it as part of their commute to school or work.
The Rideau Canal holds the Guiness world record of being the biggest naturally frozen skating rink in the world. How big? The Skateway is a whopping 7.8 km (4.8 miles) long and runs through downtown Ottawa all the way to Hartwells Locks. This canal was also recently designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
This may also be responsible for the idea that ice skating is part of the regular commute of Canadians. It’s only somewhat true because there are people who do ice skate to work using the Rideau Canal but only for a month or two.
When the Rideau Canal Skateway is open, it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Do note that even if you can go ice skating until late at night, they do not advise you to do so as this is when they perform maintenance.
You’ll also find stands that offer beverages such as hot chocolate, and food like poutine and BeaverTails along the Skateway. You can treat yourself to something warm after you’ve conquered the rink.
Ice skating is free and you’ll find facilities such as heated change rooms, washrooms, and ramps. If you don’t own a pair of skates, worry not as there are multiple locations where you can rent skates such as Capital Skates and Dows Lake Pavilion. Both will require a deposit, and renting skates will be anywhere from $17-22, depending on where you choose to rent.
As it is an outdoor rink, it is very susceptible to the weather. So be sure to monitor the weather conditions beforehand.
If you’re a first time ice skater, worry not as they also have skating trainers available if you’ll need it. If you’re not into the ice skating idea, no worries. You have the option to walk along the canal or rent snow shoes or a sleigh if you want.
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People of all ages enjoy this short but sweet time on the Rideau Canal during the winter. Families tend to go there before the kids go back to school, friends will hang out and grab a bite to eat, and couples make a romantic date out of it. Whichever way you choose, ice skating on the Rideau Canal may become the highlight of your winter.