Family fun at Winterlude

by Laura This Friday marks the first day of Winterlude in Ottawa.  It is an excellent festival starring the largest outdoor skating rink (7.8 kms long!), the frozen Rideau Canal.  The Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Estimates of over 700,000 visitors come to Canada’s capital to celebrate winter and unique events and activities.

 If you have never been to Winterlude, this is the year to consider visiting. The conditions are perfect. It is freezing!  Therefore, the canal is nicely frozen and we have plenty of fluffy white snow to make the city a perfect winter wonderland.

Although skating is a wonderful attraction at Winterlude, there are many other activities to enjoy , often free of charge. Some examples include Aboriginal storytelling and dance performances.  Visitors can watch ice carvers from around the world create magnificent sculptures. There are learn to skate lessons or an opportunity to visit a real arctic ice camp and meet with experts in glaciology, climatology and seismology.  A local blog called OttawaStart has an excellent guide to Winterlude for a comprehensive list of events and activities.

My family loves to visit the Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park.  There are giant ice slides, a snow labyrinth, furry mascots, ice sculptures and other fun.  

It would be a gastronomic crime to neglect mentioning Winterlude food.  Skating, sliding and enjoying the outdoors make for good appetites. Last year I wrote about my weakness for BeaverTails.  If you have not experienced this sweet pastry before, I highly recommend sampling one. For those with a real sweet tooth, maple taffy poured over snow is something different to try.  My husband is partial to his once a year steaming bowl of poutine.  Either way, Winterlude  is not the time to count calories.  Trust.

This season the Dows Lake gallery, an outdoor space presents an exciting exhibit of original art from young photographers.  The theme is the environment. This eco-art exhibit sponsered by the National Capital Commission (NCC) runs from January to February 2011.   I am looking forward to checking that out.

If you are looking for a fun weekend getaway this February, consider coming to Winterlude.  I suggest calling your Ottawan friends/family and tell them about your need to spend quality time together.  Earn extra points if you own an air mattress and offer to shovel some snow. (Sorry, we have visitors already booked!)

Some of my advice for Winterlude enjoyment.

  • Don’t ask where Bonhomme is – wrong winter carnival.
  • Put aside all vanity and wear long underwear, snow pants, real winter boots (no heels ladies!), hats, neckwarmers and waterproof mittens.  Dressing for the elements makes it waaay more enjoyable.
  • Knapsacks are an easy way to cart around skates, a camera, drinks etc.
  • If the selection of Beavertails has your head spinning, go for the Killaloe Sunrise.  It is delightful.
  • Try to skate on the canal after sunset.  It is a very different experience…romantic actually.
  • For up-to-date skating conditions, check out this webcam
  • If you have an iphone you can even download a free app to help plan the perfect Winterlude outing.

 Hope to see you out on the canal.

Laura is a wife and Mother to beautiful 8 and 10 year old girls.  She describes herself as an eco-advocate and moderate neat freak with a recessive frugal gene.  Laura provides light-hearted commentary for every day, practical green living on her blog the Mindful Merchant.

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