Visiting Ottawa in Winter

Ammara Younas2023-12-12

Table of Contents


Welcome to the enchanting winter wonderland of Ottawa, Canada's capital city! As temperatures drop, the city transforms into a snowy haven, offering a plethora of activities for every winter enthusiast. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the magic of Ottawa in winter, addressing common questions and providing you with a detailed roadmap for an unforgettable winter getaway.

From Rideau Canal Cruise to Notre Dame, Experience the Best of Ottawa

Is Ottawa worth visiting in the winter?

Absolutely! Ottawa embraces the winter season like no other, turning the cold season into a magical experience. With its semi-continental climate, the city offers a warm invitation to explore the beauty of snow-covered landscapes and vibrant urban areas. Whether you're a fan of outdoor adventures or prefer cozy attractions, Ottawa's winter charm is bound to captivate you.


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A Snapshot of Your Visit


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As you plan your winter escape to Ottawa, consider exploring the Parliament Buildings, skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, and indulging in the city's vibrant cultural offerings. Discover the beauty of Gatineau Park's winter trails, witness the magic of the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, and savor the culinary delights of Byward Market. Whether you're a history enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, or culinary connoisseur, Ottawa's winter has something extraordinary for everyone from indoor to outdoor activities!

Immerse Yourself in the Best of Ottawa featuring a Boat Cruise!

Things to do in Ottawa in winter

Skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal being a UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts tourists from all over the world for its historical importance. But in winter it truly shines for its skateway! Don't miss the opportunity to glide across the world's largest naturally frozen skating rink, the iconic Rideau Canal Skateway. Open from late December to late February, weather permitting, it offers an 8 km journey of pure winter bliss. Check the ice conditions before you go and experience the joy of skating against the backdrop of Ottawa's picturesque surroundings.


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Explore Gatineau Park

Just a short drive from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park becomes a haven for winter enthusiasts. With over 200 km of cross-country skiing trails, this picturesque park offers a serene escape into the snowy wilderness. Embrace the tranquility of the groomed trails and heated shelters, making it an ideal destination for cross-country skiing enthusiasts.

Discover the Ice Dragon Boat Festival

Experience the unique thrill of the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, a highlight of Ottawa's winter events. This vibrant festival, held on the frozen waters, showcases the fusion of tradition and winter fun. Witness dragon boats gliding gracefully on ice, adding a touch of excitement to your winter itinerary.

Get Cultured at Ottawa's Many Museums

Ottawa is brimming with museums—so one does not simply visit Ottawa without visiting some of its museums! From the Canadian Museum of History and Science and Technology Museum to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa can teach you a thing or two about how the city is fortified with science, arts, technology, and its appreciation of culture & history! There are free access times so make sure to check those beforehand for each museum.

Immerse yourself in Ottawa's rich cultural tapestry by visiting seven of Canada's nine national museums. From history to art, these museums offer a comprehensive journey into Canada's heritage. Uncover the diverse facets of Canadian culture through captivating exhibits and interactive displays.

More Winter Events & Adventures in Ottawa

Winter Wonderland at Byward Market

Byward Market, a historic market in the heart of Ottawa, beckons with its vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings. From delicious treats to unique souvenirs, the market provides a perfect blend of shopping and dining. Discover the local culture and warmth within the bustling streets of Byward Market.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of ByWard Market, transformed into a winter wonderland during the colder months. Stroll through the historic market's cobblestone streets adorned with festive lights and decorations. Explore local boutiques, and artisan shops, and indulge in seasonal treats. ByWard Market has become a hub of winter activities, offering a unique blend of shopping, dining, and holiday cheer.

Explore ByWard Market, Cruise the Ottawa River, & More

Relax at Nordik Spa-Nature

Indulge in ultimate relaxation at Nordik Spa-Nature, located just 10 minutes outside downtown Ottawa. Soak in heated pools and saunas, then plunge into cold pools for a refreshing experience. This outdoor spa is a haven for those seeking tranquility amidst the winter chill, making it a must-visit destination.

Winter Hiking Trails

Explore Ottawa's vast rural landscape by venturing into winter hiking trails. Gatineau Park, with its rolling terrains and snow-covered forests, offers a romantic setting for a peaceful winter stroll. Bundle up, grab a hot chocolate, and traverse the serene trails, discovering the beauty of Ottawa's natural surroundings.

Winter Camping and Cabins

For the adventurous spirits, Gatineau Park provides campsites, cabins, yurts, and four-season tents accessible via ski and snowshoe trails. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the winter night, surrounded by the snowy beauty of the park. Parc Omega also offers unique overnight experiences in cozy cabins overlooking the wolf den.

Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, and Tubing

For those seeking a thrill, Ottawa's urban resorts present challenging hills within easy driving distance. Camp Fortune and Mont Cascades offer opportunities for downhill skiing and snowboarding, while downhill tubing adds an extra element of fun. Gather your courage and experience the exhilaration of speeding down snowy slopes.

Winter Photography Hotspots

Capture the mesmerizing winter scenes by exploring the top outdoor places to photograph in Ottawa. From snowy landscapes to iconic landmarks, Ottawa offers a plethora of photogenic spots. Grab your camera, embrace the winter light, and create stunning visual memories against the backdrop of the city's winter charm.

Winter Biking

For cycling enthusiasts, winter biking is a unique way to explore Ottawa's scenic beauty. Some trails in Gatineau Park allow winter biking, providing an adventurous alternative to traditional winter activities. Ride on multi-use pathways throughout the region, discovering winter's beauty while enjoying the invigorating cold air.

Aviation and Space Exploration

Delve into the realms of aviation and space exploration by visiting Ottawa's Aviation and Space Museum. Uncover the fascinating history of flight, from vintage aircraft to space exploration artifacts. Engage in interactive exhibits, offering an educational and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages.

Winter Festivities at Parliament Buildings


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Experience the enchanting winter festivities around the Parliament Buildings, an iconic symbol of Canada's capital. Marvel at the beautifully illuminated architecture as it becomes a stunning backdrop for seasonal celebrations. Join in the festivities, including outdoor concerts, light displays, and special events held on Parliament Hill. Capture the magic of winter nights while enjoying the festive spirit at the heart of Ottawa's political and cultural landscape.

See Parliament Hill, Notre Dame, & More on this Private Tour with a River Cruise!

Immerse in Ottawa's Culinary Scene

Take a culinary journey through Ottawa's best food and drink experiences. Award-winning restaurants, tours, and events await, providing a delightful blend of flavors. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate after exploring the winter wonders, making your culinary adventure an integral part of your Ottawa winter experience.

Winter Outdoor Activities in Ottawa

Marvel at Winterlude

Winterlude, spanning three weekends in February, is a celebration that encapsulates the essence of Ottawa's winter spirit. Kick off the festivities with a lively outdoor dance party and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere. Plan your visit to coincide with events like the Ice Dragon Boat Festival and the village bed race for a memorable winter experience.

Admire Ice Sculptures in Confederation Park

Confederation Park, near Parliament Hill, undergoes a stunning transformation during Winterlude. International ice carving artists showcase their talents, creating awe-inspiring frozen masterpieces. Visit during the week for a more intimate viewing or on weekends for a lively atmosphere with music and open food stalls.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park offers a winter paradise for both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts. With over 200 km of groomed trails, it caters to various skill levels. Rent snowshoes at the park and explore the dedicated snowshoeing trails, immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the snowy landscape.

Indoor Activities to Escape the Chill

As you plan your extended winter itinerary in Ottawa, consider the diverse range of activities that cater to every interest. Whether you're an adventure seeker, a cultural explorer, or someone who enjoys indoor comforts, Ottawa's winter offerings promise a well-rounded and delightful experience. Embrace the winter wonderland and create lasting memories in Canada's charming capital city.

Canadian Museum of Nature

Escape the winter chill by immersing yourself in the wonders of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Discover diverse exhibits showcasing Canada's rich natural heritage. From fossils to wildlife dioramas, the museum offers a captivating journey through the country's ecosystems, making it an ideal indoor destination.

Nordik Spa for Wellness

Indulge in ultimate relaxation at Nordik Spa-Nature, experiencing a perfect blend of indoor and outdoor thermal therapy. From soothing saunas to unique treatments, this wellness oasis provides an escape from winter's cold. Unwind in the serene settings and rejuvenate your senses amidst the snowy landscape.

National Gallery of Canada

Explore the world of art at the National Gallery of Canada. Warm up inside this cultural gem and marvel at an extensive collection of Canadian and international masterpieces. From paintings to sculptures, the gallery offers a rich tapestry of artistic expression, providing a cultural respite from the winter weather.

Indoor Culinary Delights

Embark on a culinary journey through Ottawa's indoor delights. Discover award-winning restaurants, culinary tours, and events that showcase the city's diverse food scene. From hearty winter soups to gourmet delights, Ottawa's indoor culinary experiences add a flavorful touch to your winter escape.

Ottawa Winter Weather

Understanding Ottawa's winter weather is crucial for planning your visit. The city experiences severe winters, with temperatures often below freezing. The cold season lasts for about 3.3 months, from December to March, and snow depths exceed 1 cm on approximately 120 days each year. January, the coldest month, sees average low temperatures of 7°F and highs of 23°F.


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Where to Stay in Ottawa?

Explore Ottawa's diverse accommodation options and vibrant neighborhoods. Regardless of your choice, you'll find a welcoming hotel awaiting your visit. From the family-style Old Ottawa South to the Young Adults’ dream spot the Glebe, you'll find guest suites, Airbnb’s, hotels, and more! Whether you prefer the heart of downtown or a quieter retreat, Ottawa's lodging options cater to every traveler's needs.


In conclusion, Ottawa in winter is a captivating journey into a snowy paradise. From skating on the Rideau Canal to exploring cultural gems, every moment promises a unique and unforgettable experience. So why not visit Ottawa and embrace the magic of winter events like Winterlude and the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, creating cherished memories against the backdrop of Ottawa's picturesque landscapes?

As you embark on your winter adventure, let us guide you to hidden gems and popular attractions. Ottawa's winter wonderland awaits, promising a perfect blend of outdoor escapades, cultural immersion, and cozy retreats. Make the most of your winter getaway, and let the enchantment of Ottawa create lasting memories.