The Winterlude Festival occurs annually in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, and took place between February 4 and February 21. It takes place every year during these dates. Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC) created the Winterlude in 1979 to celebrate the country’s unique northern culture and extreme cold climate. Inspired by their ancestors, the organisers would gather around to enjoy each other’s company during the winter months. It is now considered the flagship event of the winter tourist season in the country’s capital region. It has been named ‘Among the Prestigious Ontario Signature Experiences’ and also ranks among the ‘Top 100 Events in the United States and Canada 2021’ on the BizBash report. On average, over 600,000 visitors take part in the festivities.

Collaborating with numerous partners, the event offers a rich and varied programme, including must-do winter pleasures like skating, tube sliding, and admiring snow and ice sculptures, which share the spotlight with the cultural programme. Christmas in Ottawa and Gatineau, the neighbouring Quebec city, are celebrated with Winterlude. Famous venues for the event are the Rideau Canal, Sparks Street, ByWard Market, and Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau.

Getting Around Ottawa for Winterlude Festival

Getting Around Ottawa for Winterlude

Uber is the best option in Ottawa because it is affordable, convenient, and reliable. However, Uber does not operate in Quebec, so when travelling in Gatineau, you will need to hail a taxi. You will also have access to the free Sno-Bus shuttle that takes visitors to Gatineau from Ottawa (and back), making transport very convenient. Fortunately, Ottawa is a very walkable city; thus, travelling on foot won’t be a major issue, and you can walk to numerous Winterlude attractions. However, it should be noted that the weather at that time is bitterly cold, so be prepared to bundle up! Many Winterlude 2024 activities happened in the ByWard Market; this is precisely where the ice sculpture competitions are held and where the winners are displayed.

What to Wear to Winterlude Canada

Wear to Winterlude Canada

The average temperature in Canada during February ranges from -4°C to -13°C. These temperatures will automatically compel you to wear your warmest outfits! You must dress appropriately to enjoy the Winterlude activities in the Home of Winter. Packing in your layers will help you enjoy the carnival well. Add layers to your outfit. For base layers, go for Merino wool leggings and a shirt—they wick moisture away and keep you warm if you plan to skate or hike.

Wear fleece-lined pants and jackets for your mid-layers while you indulge in any Winterlude activities. It will insulate you from the cold and keep you toasty and warm. Wear a nice parka and snow pants to keep the cold away. A few other things to carry that will help keep you warm are hats, balaclavas, leg and toe warmers, warm socks, and warm boots.

How Many Days Would You Need for Winterlude Canada?

Days Need for visit

We suggest you spend your long weekend at Winterlude Canada, as it is the perfect duration to explore as many events as you can. Two or three days would give you plenty of time to explore all the venues and enjoy the Winterlude activities, like fun at the parliament buildings or shopping in the ByWard Market.

How Was the Winterlude Festival 2023 in Canada?

Winterlude 2022

At Winterlude 2023, Ottawa had so many awesome things that there wasn’t much scope to be bored. With everything being family-friendly, letting the children choose what they wanted to do wouldn’t have been a problem!

  • Ice Skating on the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal is Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, making skating on the 7.8km (4.8 miles) stretch incredibly special. The ice rink is open 24/7 and has universally accessible facilities like ramps, heated washrooms, and change rooms. It is a family-friendly place. It should also be noted that, along with the skating rink, you’ll be able to find food and beverage kiosks, warming huts, and rentals for skates and accessories. As one of the country’s most iconic skating rinks, skating at Rideau Canal should be on your family’s ice skating experience bucket list!

Ice skating at the rink from late January to early March (weather permitting) is completely free. Still, the area got busy during Winterlude 2024, especially in the first few metres of the stretch. Right along the skateway, you can also rent a pair of skates for $15-$20 CAD if you forget to bring yours.

  • Try a Beaver Tail

Your next stop should be Beaver Tails if you want to sample some iconic Canadian treats. The delectable smells wafting from the food kiosk will surely pull you in! Created in 1978, Beaver Tails are flat, large, deep-fried pastries that take you directly to food heaven. Usually served hot and lightly dusted with cinnamon sugar, Beaver Tails are treats you wouldn’t want to miss! Nowadays, approximately 120 varying flavour combinations with chocolate hazelnut spread are the most loved! You can expect to pay anywhere between $7 and $10 CAD for one Beaver Tail, which you can easily share with others, as the portion sizes are massive! Provided you’d want to share!

Stop by the ByWard Market

The ByWard Market is a huge outdoor marketplace in downtown Ottawa and only a few blocks from Confederation Park. With more than 600 amazing and distinct businesses in the market, one can find anything and everything, from shopping to dining, museums, arts, and entertainment, to professional services like hair and nail salons. ByWard has everything that you’re looking for.

Enjoy the Dragon Boat Races on Dow Lake

Dragon boat racing is an exciting thing that can brighten up your day. However, boat racing on a frozen lake is quite a spectacle! Dragon boat racing attracts teams from all over Canada. Participants trade in traditional paddles with sticks with spikes and race across the white, frozen Dow Lake.

Race a Bed

The Bed Races at Winterlude in Canada are undoubtedly one of the most entertaining events to watch! A tradition of over 35 teams of a rider and four runners, race beds across Dow Lake! If you’re confused, let us clear it up for you! Yes, the very beds you sleep on. The beds are modified, wheels are added to the bed legs, and the beds are decorated beautifully. The beds are then dragged along the ice rink. The team with the best-decorated bed and the fastest time wins the race! The best part of the event is that all funds raised go to a great cause. This fun event benefits both the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa and the Queensway-Carleton Hospital Foundation.

Be Prepared to be Amazed by the Ice Sculptures

Visit Crystal Gardens to marvel at exquisite ice sculptures. An annual ice sculpture competition is held at the gardens, and you can see some of the greatest ice sculptures working their magic on you. The sculptors are created from cold blocks of ice. They are displayed throughout the park and serve as incredible works of art. The ice sculptures are beautifully lit at night by colourful lights. The end product is a sight that you’d not want to miss!

Create A Colourful Piece of Ice Art

Apart from beautiful ice sculptures, Crystal Gardens is also a place where children can explore their creativity and create their own pieces of art. It awe-inspiringly displays art pieces made by experienced sculptors. The place inspires young minds to express themselves and draw inspiration from experienced artists.

Search for a Treasure in a Block of Ice

In a separate area of the same Crystal Gardens, children are shown how to mine for treasures in a big block of ice! Each child gets a small hammer and a chisel and gets the opportunity to hammer and chip away at the ice block until their little treasure is released. If you have children, make sure that you do this activity. It has been a huge success for the little curious minds.

The Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park

Situated across the river from Ottawa in Jacques-Cartier Park, Gatineau, Quebec, the Snowflake Kingdom is the biggest Winterlude venue and was the most family-friendly area in Winterlude 2022. The venue buzzed with different activities and events, and everyone found their perfect match!

Where to Stay While Visiting Winterlude in Canada?

What to Visit

The Fairmont Château Laurier is one of the best places to stay when visiting Winterlude. Not only is it affiliated with Winterlude, but it is situated right amidst the downtown area and within a few minutes of walking through several venues. You’ll be able to enjoy all the Winterlude activities much more if you live close to the venue!

Where to Eat When Visiting Winterlude in Canada?

what to eat

Ottawa is a great city for all gourmands. Whether you’re in for a quick take-out or a lavish meal in a fancy restaurant, downtown is the place to be. A few restaurants to visit in Ottawa during Winterlude would be Beckta Dining & Wine, Grill 41 Restaurant, Shinka Sushi Bar, Nando’s, Browns SocialHouse Centretown, and The Scone Witch; these restaurants are absolute fan favourites! The province offers an absolute variety of foods, from savoury foods to desserts and everything in between.

Experience Winterlude in Canada

Winterlude in Canada is a celebration of winter. For all lovers of the cold and the chill, Winterlude is the place to be. Buzzing with family-friendly activities, the carnival is for people looking for fun. With free activities and stunning sights, Winterlude should be next on your bucket list!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some activities in Winterlude?

There are various activities that you can do in Winterlude. Several visitors opted for ice skating on the Rideau Canal, Beaver Tail, visited the ByWard Market, watched the Dragon Boat Races on Dow Lake, Raced a Bed and much more at Winterlude 2022.

What is there to eat at Winterlude?

Ensure eating some of the best foods of Winterlude. Try the maple taffy, maple lollipops, french fries, hot dogs, hot chocolate, and hot soup from the food trucks at the festival.

Where does Winterlude take place? What city is Winterlude?

The Winterlude takes place in Ottawa, Canada.

How long is the Winterlude festival?

Winterlude usually lasts for three weekends, mostly the first three weekends of February.

How many people visit Winterlude every year?

An estimated 500,000 visitors attend Winterlude every year.