Canada’s northern climate may be chilly, but it’s certainly not without its charm. There is no better celebration of this country’s northern culture than the Winterlude festival in Ottawa-Gatineau.
Winterlude is a well-loved Capital Region winter tradition run by the Department of Canadian Heritage that has been held every year since 1979. Now entering its 41st year, Winterlude will be taking place from Friday, February 1st to Monday, February 18th. It is a flagship event of the Capital Region’s winter tourism season and has been named a Signature Experience by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Winterlude 2019 promises to be bigger and brighter than ever, with fun events for the whole family. The Capital Region is transformed into a winter playground that puts the spotlight on seasonal Canadian traditions. Winterlude has three official festival sites – the Rideau Canal Skateway, Jacques-Cartier Park, and Confederation Park – as well as many additional partner sites.
The Rideau Canal Skateway runs for 7.8 km between Mackenzie Avenue to Dows Lake, making it the world’s largest skating rink every winter. There are numerous vendors along the length of the skateway where you can rent skates or purchase snacks. Hundreds of thousands of people come out to skate on the canal during Winterlude every year. While there is plenty of space for everyone, you can avoid the worst of the crowds by visiting on the weekdays.
Also in Ottawa, Confederation Park transforms into Winterlude’s Crystal Garden. The Crystal Garden is so called because it is the site of the festival’s ice sculpting competition. You can come and admire the icy works of art from world-renowned ice carvers as they sparkle in the sun. Once the sun sets, the sculptures continue to dazzle with special lighting. At Crystal Garden, you can also enjoy an ice lounge and musical performances on the main stage.
Meanwhile, in Gatineau, Jacques-Cartier Park plays host to the festival’s Snowflake Kingdom. The Snowflake Kingdom is essentially a giant snow park with beautiful snow sculptures, ice slides, entertaining shows, and a variety of additional snow-themed activities. It is also home to the Ice Hog family, the official Winterlude mascots. Come say “hi” and take some pictures with Mama Hog, Papa Hog, and their children Nouma and Noumi.
Winterlude extends far and wide throughout the Capital Region thanks to a number of festival partners. You’ll have the opportunity to check out special exhibits at different museums, enjoy unique culinary events, take in the local arts, music, theatre, and comedy scene, and attend a variety of indoor and outdoor events. There’s always something for everyone at Winterlude.
Getting around the Capital Region during Winterlude on the weekends is a breeze with the OLG Sno-Bus Shuttle Service that links the official festival sites. Every year, the service is provided by the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais in Gatineau and OCTranspo in Ottawa. The stops are clearly marked.
Remember that all of the Winterlude festival’s venues and sites will be open on Family Day (February 18th), so come out and enjoy the last day of Winterlude with your loved ones if you haven’t already by that time. It’s sure to be an unforgettable season full of new experiences and plenty of old favourites.