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For many Ottawa locals, winter is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. Despite the frigidly cold temperatures and the overabundance of snow (most years, that is), we’ve adapted our lifestyles to suit our northern climate and make the most of our coldest season.
However, few cities across Ontario welcome winter as openly as we do here in Ottawa, and we believe among the biggest reasons why is because we have some of the best winter-based hobbies, events, and pastimes right in our backyards.
So naturally, when it comes to thinking of things to do during winter, we’re always full of ideas. If you want to learn about how to enjoy winter like an Ottawa local, here are a few of the activities we look forward to doing every year.
Skate Along The Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is undeniably one of Ottawa’s most recognizable and celebrated landmarks. Winding directly through the centre of the city and down towards Lake Ontario, this enormous waterway stretches over 202 kilometres long in total and is one of Ottawa’s most popular trademark tourist attractions all year round.
In the winter months, however, when the Rideau Canal freezes over, downtown Ottawa’s 7.8 kilometres stretch of the river turns into the world’s largest skating rink. Open to all skaters of every skill level due to the Rideau Canal Skateway’s many accessibility ramps and facilities, and operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Whether you’re an avid skater, new to the sport, or just want to stand out on the ice and shuffle around at your own pace, this is a must-do each year for every Ottawa local. Just make sure you stop by when the Skateway is operational between the months of January through to late February or sometimes early March, depending on the outdoor temperatures.
No matter which time of year it is, Ottawa is always full of fun and exciting things to do. Learn a little bit more about what it’s like to live here year-round in our Greater Ottawa Area Community Guide here.
Stop By ByWard Market
Just like the Rideau Canal, Ottawa’s ByWard Market is one of the city’s most visited attractions year-round, with both tourists and Ottawa locals frequenting this massive public market since its official opening back in 1826.
Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, this retail and entertainment hub is home to several designated market buildings and, in the warmer months, a vast array of open-air kiosks and stalls selling fresh local produce, baked goods, and flowers, among other things.
In the winter, however, the ByWard Market’s open-air section is closed and the market moves exclusively indoors, where many of the perennial shops, restaurants, and eateries remain open for business. If you’re in the ByWard Market area this winter and want to take a break from the cold, this is where you’ll find a truly authentic Ottawa local food experience.
And one of the best parts? The market is open every day from 9 a.m. through to 5 p.m. and provides the perfect comforting respite from the cold winter air.
Ottawa is an amazing place to live in any season, not just in winter. If you’ve been considering a move to Canada’s capital city, we can help you make the process as easy as possible. To help you get started, read through our local neighbourhood and real estate guides below to find out which part of the city suits your lifestyle best.
Watch The Christmas Lights Across Canada
If you aren’t an Ottawa local, we’d forgive you for not knowing much about the annual Christmas Lights Across Canada event, though if you personally lived here, this highly luminous tradition would be pretty hard to miss.
In celebration of the holiday season between early December through to early January each year, the Christmas Lights Across Canada initiative — organized by the Canadian government — lights hundreds of thousands of festively-themed lights throughout downtown Ottawa at night.
Placed across various landmark buildings, parks, and streets throughout downtown Ottawa, these bright and cheery holiday lights shine from 5:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. each evening in the spirit of the festive season.
Recognizable Ottawa landmarks including Confederation Boulevard, Canada’s ceremonial route, Laurier Street in Gatineau, as well as the Alexandra Bridge will play host to the Christmas Lights Across Canada celebration this year. If you’re going to be in downtown Ottawa this holiday season, then make sure you keep an eye out for the dazzling light displays!
Toboggan Down Bruce Pit
Nothing screams ‘snow day’ quite like a speedy run on a toboggan down a snowy hill, and among the best places to do that in Ottawa is Bruce Pit.
Located at 175 Cedarview Road in the neighbourhood of Nepean just south of downtown Ottawa, Bruce Pit is part of the Stony Swamp section of the local Greenbelt. The naturally hilly topography of this stretch of Ottawa Greenbelt offers the perfect environment for sledders of all ages and makes for the perfect day out for the entire family.
In fact, Bruce Pit is classified as an official National Capital Commission (NCC) toboggan hill and is definitely a favourite among Ottawa locals. The only drawback about Bruce Pit is that the area isn’t lit during the nighttime, so riders are safest when tobogganing during the day.
You’ll be well versed on how to enjoy winter like an Ottawa local after this blog post, but we want to ensure your home is prepared to take on winter too. To help you with exactly that, we’ve put together Your Winter-Ready Home Checklist to make sure you don’t miss out on anything important.
Cross-Country Ski The Kichi Sibi Winter Trail
The Kichi Sibi Winter Trail is a multi-use winter trail that runs directly along the southern shores of the Ottawa River — more specifically, along the Sir John A. Macdonald Multi-Use Path (MUP) — that is open to the public for a variety of different winter-based activities.
The Kichi Sibi Winter Trail stretches across a total distance of about 15 km between Victoria Island and the neighbourhood of Westboro along downtown Ottawa’s northern shores and is suitable for a variety of different uses during the winter months.
Whether they’re walking, snowshoeing, snow biking, or cross-country skiing, Ottawa locals take full advantage of the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail when there’s snow on the ground in downtown Ottawa. Two separate sets of groomed and maintained snow tracks complete the winter trail, including one for snowshoers, walkers, and bikers, and the track exclusively designated for cross-country skiers.
While both tracks are beautiful to explore, we find that the cross-country ski track is extremely popular among avid enthusiasts. No matter how you’d like to experience the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail, however, onsite equipment rentals make it easy to get active outside on the wintery pathways for all.
Each year, this highly popular winter festival draws giant crowds (within the hundreds of thousands) made up of tourists and Ottawa locals and takes place during the first three weekends of February each year.
Winter-themed attractions based in both Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec, traditionally include ice carving competitions, artistic performances and displays, live concerts, and, of course, ice skating along the Rideau Canal Skateway.
With many different attractions and events based both indoors and outdoors, there’s always lots to see and do during this extravagant winter festival, and even includes an expansive snow playground, Snowflake Kingdom. More information about Winterlude 2022 programming is scheduled to be announced in December 2021. Stay tuned to find out how you can experience this favourite annual event!
Plus, most of Winterlude’s attractions and activities are free admission and are easily accessible within the downtown Ottawa and urban Gatineau area. If you’re looking for something to lift your spirits this February to help you deal with winter like an Ottawa local, Winterlude 2022 is a must-do.
Does living like an Ottawa local sound like too much fun to pass up on? Let us help make your next stay in Ottawa more of a permanent one by learning about our approach to helping our clients buy their perfect homes here, then have a look through our latest listings to see if your next Ottawa home is already on the market.