official Winterlude logoWinterlude is Ottawa’s winter festival, held in the National Capital region every February. This three week celebration was created in 1979 and has become a way of enjoying the winter season in Ottawa for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Over 600,000 visitors take part in the festival activities, braving the cold and enjoying the culture and climate. Many of the activities are centred around the weekends, but the weekdays are a great time to skate on the canal, or wander through the ice sculpture garden. This year’s celebration will be happening between February 3 – February 20, 2012.

The festival’s three main venues are: Jacques Cartier Park, Confederation Park, and the Rideau Canal Skateway. Winterlude festivities do occur throughout the three weeks at various other locations in and around Ottawa. Check their website (link below) for details.

The Rogers Crystal Garden

The Rogers Crystal Garden, in Confederation Park, is turned into a winter wonderland of beautiful ice sculptures. Ice carvers from around the world participate in turning blocks of ice into works of art. Wander through the park and see if you agree with the judges’ awards. Don’t miss the park at night– outdoor lights turn Rogers Crystal Garden into a colourful art gallery of ice. Confederation Park is located in the centre of downtown Ottawa.

Ice Carver in action at Winterlude At Confederation Park during Winterlude
Ice carver in action at Winterlude

by endlisnis on
One of many ice carvings at Confederation park
Photo by me

The Snowflake Kingdom

Popular with many festival-goers, the Snowflake Kingdom (in Jacques-Cartier Park), is where kids of all ages can play at outdoor fun. Playground features include snow slides, snow sculptures, kicksleds, craft lessons, obstacle courses and more. Many of the activities are inspired by Northern traditions and our Canadian winters.

Old Man Winter Snow Sculpture at Winterlude Ice Hogs: Official Mascot of Winterlude Snow slide at Snowflake Kingdom
A snow sculpture of Old Man Winter

by srboisvert on
Meet the Ice Hogs–official mascot of Winterlude
Photo from Ottawa Citizen, 2008
Snow slide at Snowflake Kingdom

by mathewingram on

The Rideau Canal Skateway

The Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest skating rink, and a World Heritage UNESCO site, is a must-see for tourists. The canal winds through downtown Ottawa, covering a 7.8 kilometre skateway. While our canal is no longer the world’s longest skating rink, it IS the largest in surface skateable area. In addition to public skating, popular activities include the Bedzzz Annual Bed Race, the Winterlude Triathlon, Great Canadian Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Classic, Eco-art exhibition (an outdoor exhibition of forty photos at Dows Gallery), skating demonstrations and more. Vendors right along the skateway offer skate rental, hot drinks and hot treats (beavertails)!!!

fish eye view of Rideau Canal Skateway
View of Rideau Canal Skateway.
Photo by germain6, sxu license

Throughout the three weekends of celebration, you will find hundreds of activities taking place at these three main locations, as well as other locations throughout the National Capital Region. Restaurants offer special deals and taste tours during this festival. Click here to go to the official website at for more details.

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