Let’s face it. Most of Canada is darn chilly this time of year, but few places capitalize (no pun intended) on that more than our country’s own capital.

How cool is it to skate down the longest rink in the world, with Parliament Hill as a backdrop? And…it’s free! Since the early 1970s, the Rideau Canal is transformed every year into an eight-kilometre long skateway that winds through downtown.

What could be more Canadian than lacing up the old blades and whizzing down the equivalent of 100 rinks, while wearing a maple leaf-pattern tuque? The only thing missing is our national symbol, the beaver, and even he isn’t too far away. After a hard skate in the nippy air, take a break to devour a uniquely Ottawa pastry treat called the “beavertail” available at kiosks along the canal.


I don’t think I’ve ever consumed that much dough, cinnamon and sugar in one sitting, but if you can keep it down, it’s worth it, just for that carnival-like sugar high. I could already feel my arteries hardening from that sugary treat, but I have to admit it was tasty, and hey – I could always burn it off with another skate.

The Rideau Canal skateway is open from around Christmas to early March every day, weather permitting. It’s a true great white north experience not to be missed.

Other Cool Things to Do in Ottawa

Take a free tour of Parliament Hill
Whether or not you’re a fan of the government, it’s worth the visit to the Gothic style buildings on a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River. Tours are free daily, unless there is special government business.

Try snowshoeing in Gatineau Park
Located only 15 minutes north of downtown, the park offers miles of trails especially for snowshoers. The trails are compacted weekly for ideal winter hiking. Admission is free, and you can rent shoes for a measly five bucks an hour.