Everyone will have fun skating on the iced-over Rideau Canal in view of the Parliament buildings and downtown Ottawa. Each winter a cleared 7.8 km (4.8 mile) section of the Rideau Canal becomes the Rideau Skateway—officially the largest skating rink in the world.
History of the Rideau Canal
Since the 1800s, a series of waterways, rivers, and lakes have been known as the Rideau Canal. Parks Canada retells that Upper Canada first built the canal as a defense system against the United States. The 200 km (124 mile) canal stretches from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario.
Now, only pleasure boats use the canal with its many locks and, in 2007, UNESCO designated the Rideau Canal as a World Heritage Site.
Rideau Skating: Where to Access the Canal and Where to Rent Skates
Those embarking on a Rideau skating adventure can reach the frozen canal from more than two dozen points that include stairs and wheelchair ramps. A map with all entry points to the canal can be downloaded from the National Capital Commission.
For those looking to rent skates, there are three locations with skate rental booths—two of which are downtown.
The Capital Skates location near the Mackenzie King Bridge and across from the National Arts Centre remains the closest to Ottawa’s downtown core. Skaters can rent skates or sleighs here. Call (613) 233-7980 for more information.
At Fifth Avenue, near Landsdowne Park, skaters can find convenient access to the Rideau Skateway as well as sleigh and skate rentals from Capital Skates. Reach them at (613) 233-7980.
South of downtown, Dow’s Lake Pavilion on Queen Elizabeth Drive provides a third access point and source of skate rentals. Call (613) 232-1001 for details.
Tips for Skating on the Rideau Canal
Especially during the Ottawa Winterlude and on sunny weekends, a Rideau skating experience can get a little crowded. Therefore, it is important to remember some simple skating ettiquette:
Go with the flow: As with driving on the roads, skating traffic tends to keep to the right-hand side. Follow the same rules as if you were driving and keep to the far right.
Learning to skate: Those new to skating are advised to keep to the side of the canal and rent a helmet. That way, more advanced skaters can skate freely in the middle sections of the canal.
Beware of advisories: There’s a reason for the popular idiom “skating on thin ice”—it’s extremely dangerous. Before heading out on the Rideau Canal check that the Skateway is open for the season. Those heading out for a Rideau skating adventure can call (613) 239-5234 for current ice conditions.
One of the most exciting times to visit Canada’s capital and skate on the Rideau Canal is during the Ottawa Winterlude Festival. This winter festival spans three weekends and offers visitors the chance to see beautiful ice sculptures, admire snow statues, and take in free concerts. Another popular Ottawa activity in winter or summer is a visit to the Public Galleries of the Canadian Parliament.
When it’s time to head indoors from the chilly canal, visitors will find no shortage of spots to enjoy a winter warm up!
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