Winterlude 2024 – The Ultimate Guide to Ottawa

Written By: The Planet D

Winterlude is an annual winter festival in Ottawa, spanning three weekends in February. We’ve been lucky to attend three celebrations in Canada’s capital and we always find something new to do. Our nation’s capital always seeks unique ways to celebrate winter in the great white north.

A weekend in Ottawa is the perfect getaway for everyone to beat the February blues. This Winterlude itinerary breaks down three days in Ottawa, enjoying the celebrations. Winterlude takes place from February 2, 2024, to February 19, 2024.

Winterlude 2024 Closures and Cancelations: The Rideau Canal Skateway is currently closed due to the mild weather Canada has been seeing over the years. Check the Winterlude website for more information and when it will open.

All About Winterlude in Ottawa 2024

winterlud in ottawa

Winterlude is an annual event that takes place every February for three weeks. 2024 marks the 46th Winterlude celebration, one of the most incredible things to do in Ontario. It is spread throughout the city and the neighboring city of Gatineau in Quebec. Popular venues for Winterlude are on the Rideau Canal, in the ByWard Market, Sparks Street, Confederation Park and Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau.

1. Rideau Canal Skateway

rideau canal skateway

The Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, becomes the world’s largest skating rink in Ottawa during winter. Fingers crossed that it will open soon, as it is our favorite thing to do in Ottawa during winter.

Stretching over 7.8 kilometers through the heart of Ottawa, the Skateway is a must-visit for anyone attending Winterlude. There are warming huts and eateries on the canal and skate rentals are available on the skateway and at the venues around town.

2. Other Places to Skate in Ottawa

winterlude ottawa sens rink of dreams

The Canal isn’t the only place to skate in Ottawa. So even if the canal isn’t open, ice skating rinks will be. The Sens Rink of Dreams by City Hall is a popular arena. And yes, there’s hot chocolate and Beavertails rinkside.

Rideau Hall is a historic arena was built in 1872 and is located on the site of the residence of Canada’s Governor-General.

3. Ice Sculpture Competition

Winterlude in Ottawa Ice Sculptures

Winterlude’s ice sculpture competitions are a festival highlight, drawing artists from around the globe to transform blocks of ice into works of art. This year, the ice sculptures will be displayed on Sparks Street from February 2 to Feb 19.

Ice sculting at Byward Market Winterlude

Ice sculpting demonstrations and competitions go on regularly. There are demonstrations and you may even be able to try your hand at carving. Due to mild weather, ice sculptures are in danger of melting this year.

4. Sparks Street

Winterlude in Ottawa on Sparks Street

Sparks Street is where the entertainment happens with street artists and street parties taking place. Ottawa Winter Pride happens at this time of year, and brave burlesque dancers strip down to their pasties in 20 below, putting on a fun and festive show on the stage.

Pride at Winterlude in Ottawa

DJs keep the party going between acts, food stalls, and outdoor bars keep your bellies full and your blood warm. If you have kids, the Sparks Street Ice-Cade has winter carnival games like ice ring toss, ice air hockey, and ice benches.

Everyone is out on the streets with neon lights. You can easily spend the night here and go bar hopping along the street or look for other parties happening all around town.

5. Jacques Cartier Park – Snowflake Kingdom

Jacques Cartier Park Ottawa Gatineau

Jacques Cartier Park’s Snowflake Kingdom is the place to be for families. With outdoor events, mini igloos, an introduction to downhill skiing and fun special events, you must cross the river.

This is the place to go if you have kids. (or if you are like us and are a kid at heart) The park is filled with outdoor winter events. Snowflake Kingdom turns into a winter playground from February 2 – 22, 2024.

6. Snowtubing

Winterlude Tubing in Ottawa

Snowtubing also takes place at Jacques Cartier Park. We arrived early to beat the line for the snow tube park and whizzed down the gates. Dave and I have often called snow tubing the ultimate couch potato thrill ride. You don’t have to do much, but sit on an inner tube and let gravity do the work. These are all temporary tubing lanes, though, so you will have to walk up carrying the tube yourself.

It’s a great way to tire the kids out for the day. Two snow tubing sections, each with about six lanes, were built up for Winterlude, so the lines are never too long.

7. Winter Ziplining

Jacques Cartier Park Snowflake Kingdom zipline

You can spend an entire day at Jacques Cartier Park. Snowflake Kingdom has a zip line over the park that nearly goes to the river. Climbing up the high scaffolding, we put on our harnesses and sipped over the park.

See more at the Canadian Heritage Website for Snowflake Kingdom events.

  • It’s $10 per ride or $20 for the day unlimited.
  • If I had kids, I’d choose the $20.

8. Winterlude Mascots

The Ice Hogs family are friendly, mythical creatures that serve as the official mascots of Winterlude that hail from the North, bringing winter’s magic to Ottawa. According to the fun lore, these mascots love the cold and celebrate everything about winter, making them perfect ambassadors.

The Ice Hogs Family symbolizes the warmth and friendliness of the festival and the city of Ottawa during the winter season. So make sure to snap a photo of them!

9. the Canadian Museum of History

polar bear mom and cub in churchill manitoba on the shores of the Hudson Bay

Our Frozen Planet is an immersive multimedia experience currently running at the Canadian Museum of History in Canada’s capital.

Go on a breathtaking expedition that is an immersive experience taking you across three continents. Not many people get the chance to experience the icy landscapes of the polar regions to life, and this is your chance. See the Northern Lights and Polar bears, narwhals and ice flows.

Taking place at the Canadian Museum of History, this is a fantastic exhibition that is not to be missed. Plus, it is our favourite museum in Ottawa. While visiting this museum, you will also learn about Canadian history and indigenous cultures.

10. Dow’s Lake Dragon Boat Races

Dragonboat Racing winterlude ottawa

Unfortunately, the Dragon Boat Festival is canceled this year as Dows Lake did not freeze.

11. ByWard Market

things to do in Ottawa Byward Market

People are always looking for places to warm up when walking outdoors in winter. The ByWard Market is mostly outdoors, but the main building has shops and eateries inside and is a great place to escape the cold. This part of town is a great place to hang out for the afternoon.

There are several outdoor restaurants and bars and lots of shopping and festivities. There are ice sculptures and street performers throughout the ByWard.

Winter Patios at Winterlude

Play Food and Wine is a great place for lunch with its shareable small plates. Located on the corner of York and Sussex Drive, it’s centrally located at the entrance to the ByWard Market.

12. Glebe Snowman Building Competition

winterlude ottawa

The Snowman Building Competition has become a beloved part of Ottawa’s Winterlude festivities in the Glebe neighborhood located just south of downtown Ottawa. During the competition, participants of all ages gather to build snowmen and snow sculptures in one of the city’s most picturesque settings making it one of the best family friendly activities in Ottawa.

Participants often go beyond traditional snowmen with judges giving awards for categories such as “Most Creative,” “Largest Snow Sculpture,” “Best Team Effort,” or “Kids’ Choice.” Winners receive a Glebe themed prize.

13. Where to Warm up in Ottawa – Ottawa Museums

winterlude visit to national gallery
The Ottawa National Gallery

There are several museums downtown Ottawa that you can pop into during Winterlude. We have a full list of Ottawa museums here.

The National Gallery is just a short walk from the ByWard Market and we went inside to check out some of its iconic art. The building is a work of art, with the iconic spider out front. Maman is a famous sculpture designed by  Louise Bourgeois. It was first unveiled at the Tate Modern Art Museum in London, England, and it has been reproduced worldwide, including Ottawa.

We’ve been to many museums and galleries in Ottawa, but if you are looking for other ideas, the Canadian Museum of Nature is our favorite museum.

The Canadian Museum of Science and Technology is fun for the whole family, and the ByWard Museum down by the Rideau Locks is a great way to learn of the history of the ByWard Market.

14. Notre Dame Cathedral

Nore Dame Ottawa Winter Attraction

Another good place to warm up for Winterlude is inside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

There seems to be a Notre Dame in every French city. There’s one in Paris, one in Montreal and yes, Ottawa has one too! Check out its beautiful interior located directly across the road from the National Gallery.

15. Andaz For Sunset

Sunset from the Andaz Hotel Winterlude

After exploring Ottawa for the afternoon, we were ready for cocktails at the top of the Andaz Ottawa in the ByWard Market. This is the best place in Ottawa to watch the sun go down. Andaz is one of the premier spots in Ottawa to watch the sunset over the city.

16. Pop into Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Fairmont Chateau nLaurier for Winterlude

Another great warm-up spot for Winterlude is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. We’ve stayed here a couple of times and love this place. It is inviting to walk inside and browse its history. If you walk to the back of the hotel, there are boutiques and shops to browse. And you can check out the photography display showcasing history dating back to the early 20th century.

17. Where to Eat at Winterlude

Mexican Food at the Byward MArket Ottawa

You would think that with all that food, we’d be ready for a nap, but by the time we walked back to the hotel, it was time to eat!

  • Joey Landsdowne – This was a great location near the Westin. We could walk nearly all the way indoors through the mall. We both went for pasta and enjoyed the ambiance of a packed place on Rideau Street.
  • The Brig Pub – Located in the Byward Market, it’s a good place for lunch or grabbing a beer.
  • Riviera Restaurant – Voted as one of the best restaurants in Canada by EnRoute Magazine, the Riviera Restaurant is the place to eat! It’s located right on Spark’s Street near all the Winterlude activities.
  • Zoes – Elegant and delicious, it’s a great eatery located in the Chateau Laurier.
  • The Grand Pizzeria – Located right across from Beavertails in the Byward Market, the Grand Pizzeria was the original Grand Hotel, dating back to 1812. There’s an outdoor ice bar with fire pits, and they have fabulous pizza and pasta.
  • Corazon de Maiz – A tiny eatery in the Byward Market that has fantastic tacos and burritos.
  • Play Food and Wine – Wonderful setting serving small shared plates. It had fantastic service.

Where to Stay in Ottawa

Westin Hotel for Winterlude in Ottawa

When choosing accommodation, we recommend staying in the downtown core so you can walk to most events. Here are four hotels that we have stayed at and highly recommend.

Westin is the best location for Winterlude. Located across the road from the canal, it’s just a short walk to the entrance to the skateway and is connected to the Rideau Centre shopping mall. The Westin has a skate lounge where you can warm up in your gear. See rates and availability here.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier – Ottawa’s most famous hotel- dates back to 1912. Located directly across from the Westin, it is also an excellent place to stay during Winterlude. Check rates and availability here.

The Andaz Hotel a popular hotel in the ByWard Market known for its rooftop patio for sunset. It feels like a business boutique hotel. There is a gym. (no pool or sauna) The rooftop bar is its best feature. See rates and availability

If we had to choose, we’d stay at the Westin for Winterlude and the Fairmont for all other trips to Ottawa.

How to Dress for Winterlude

How to Dress for Winterlude in ottawa

A winter carnival can easily be enjoyed outdoors if you dress for it. So, before we get started check out these must have winter items to pack in your suitcase.

Base Layers: Merino wool leggings and a base layer shirt – it wicks away moisture to keep you warm.

Mid-layer: a midlayer fleece or wool sweater is great when wearing a lightweight, windproof, yet breathable outer layer.

Parka and Snow Pants – You are going to be outside for hours on end. Bring a good parka and lined snow pants to keep the cold out.

Hats: A good wool hat always does the trick. We also packed balaclavas, which kept our heads and necks warm.

Boots – lined, breathable, and waterproof boots are a must. Make sure they are not too tight so you can wear extra socks and put in toe warmers. Read our winter layering tips to avoid the deep freeze. 

Skating on the Rideau Canal for Winterlude

Thanks to the National Capital Commission Winterlude has grown into one of Canada’s most beloved winter festivals, attracting visitors from across the country and around the world. The NCC’s efforts ensure that the festival celebrates the season and serves as a showcase for Canadian culture, heritage, and the natural beauty of the national capital region.

So, there you have it, your Winterlude itinerary from February 2 to February 19. If you are looking for something to do this weekend, make your way to Ottawa to celebrate the winter in February, do some skating and enjoy a weekend outdoors with friends and family.

Plus celebrate Canadian Heritage, Indigenous Culture, Canadian diversity, and significant anniversaries such as the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Eiffel Tower. Indoor and outdoor activities take place for the whole family, and we will share them all with you today! Check the Canadian Heritage website for the complete list of events here.

Read More Ottawa Travel Tips

Our trip to Ottawa is in partnership with Tourism Ottawa. All opinions are our own. Visit their website for more information on travel to Ottawa.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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6 thoughts on “Winterlude 2024 – The Ultimate Guide to Ottawa”

  1. Trying to plan a trip out east for the winter. Still on our list is to skate down Rideau Cana…. must be the Canadian pride in me that just wants to check this off my list. Thanks for all the tips on what to do as I plan it out.

  2. Its very Helpful and Informative Guide for spending time in Ottawa. It’s a really good idea for Fun. Please keep it up, and keep sharing more ideas and Tips with Us, Thanks.

  3. I miss walking on Spark Street while sipping a hot chocolate during Winterlude. I miss also the touch of the sunrise on my face while skating. Take me back to Ottawa 🙁