Skating on Rideau Canal

Skating on Rideau Canal

I know what you’re thinking, skating on the Ottawa Canal?  Can she get anymore cliche? Nothing says Ottawa quite like skating on the amazing Rideau Canal. It really feels as though you are transiting through the very heart of Ottawa. The beautiful bridges and architecture surrounding the canal take you back in time to what the city might have been like when the canal was first built.  I find there is always an amazing sense of community on the canal, something that is sometimes lacking in Ottawa.  Locals mingle with tourists, everyone smiles, and, I think everyone feels truly fortunate to be outside, embracing winter rather than waiting for the tulips to grow. The Canal is Ottawa at its finest, and is a complete must do and see.

Love it or Leave it: Love it. This is a not to be missed Ottawa highlight. The Rideau Skateway is only open for a few weeks and is weather dependant. Don’t miss your window of winter opportunity.

Frugality Index:  Free. If you have your own skates that is.  Otherwise, gear can be rented by the Mackenzie King Bridge at Fifth Avenue, and at Dows Lake. Its $16 to rent skates for two hours, and $20 for a sleigh if you have a non-skater who wants to take in the canal. There are lots of side streets that have free parking, if you don’t mind a little walk. Don’t feel like paying canal side prices? Why not pack yourself a thermos full of hot-chocolate and a little snack and stop at the many benches or rest spots along the way.

Family Fun:  This is potentially fun for the whole family!  Its easier than you might think to push a stroller on the ice, and brave little ones can put their balance to the test and try skating themselves.  Just make sure they aree well bundled! For the none skaters, sleighs can be rented – for adults too!

Hours: You can skate all day and all night! If the ice is ok, the canal is open 24 hours!

Five Favourite Facts: 

  • At 7.8 km long, the Rideau Canal skateway is the largest skating rink in the world…note that I say largest and not longest. In January 2008, Winnipeg achieved the record of the longest skating rink at 8.54 km, but at only 2 -3 meters wide, Ottawa still gets the prize as the largest.
  • The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America; It opened in 1832.
  • The Rideau Canal was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
  • In the 1970s the municipal government considered paving over the canal to make an expressway, luckily they didn’t get what they wanted; The Canal opened officially for skating in January 1971 and 50 000 people skated on it that first weekend.
  • If you’re hungry, grab yourself a beavertail.  Fried dough with lots of different toppings.  An Ottawa classic. There are lots of food stands, rest-stops and warming huts along the canal. 

Bonus Round: What’s that?  You say you burned way too many calories and you’re looking for something to stop your tummy from rumbling?  Welcome to the greasiest, fattiest meal that might possibly ever have been invented.    For those readers abroad, let me introduce you to poutine.  Now once upon a time in Quebec (legend has it it was the 1950s), someone decided that french-fries just weren’t fatty enough, so they added yummy, fresh cheese curds, that have the consistency, of dare I say, rubber?, that simply wouldn’t do, because in these cold Canadian winters, the fries would get cold, and let me tell you, there is nothing worse than frozen fries, actually, maybe there is,  I can attest, that actually frozen cheese may be worse than frozen fries (as I sadly learned when I tried to chow down on a babybel in -27 weather skiing the other week). So, how do you keep cheese curds, and french fries warm? You drown them in hot, greasy, delicious gravy.  I promise you the final result is well….pure gravy.


Smoke Poutinerie is a franchise that Rob and I first came across following a hike in Mount Tremblant (I can only even begin to contemplate a poutine when I’ve burned  at least 2000 excess calories).  In Ottawa, Smokes is located in the Market area, on Dalhousie, just north of Rideau Street. Not only does Smokes  top their delicious potatoes with gravy.and curds (and blare great 80’s rock  (enter Bon Jovi obsession here)  but you can choose from a dozen greasy-licious toppings like pulled pork….oh ohoh and pulled pork and bacon.  Nope we didn’t let Max have any of it.  Not a bite. Nope he didn’t cry when we tried to take away his fry. There was no gravy dripping down his chin (because he licked it all off a-hem)  We simply aren’t those types of parents.  We would never feed our kid poutine…ever.  Ok…maybe just a warm, gooey cheese curded fry, or two,  just this once.

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–Nicole Lunstead, Canada

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