Right from the start I saw how intense and active outdoor life can be in Canada’s capital. No matter if it is summer or winter, there are always lots of interesting activities.
They say, with reason, that Ottawa is a paradise for active people who enjoy the outdoors and nature and who like to involve their children in those outdoor adventures. In Ottawa, nature and the wilderness are never too far away. It’s truly a privilege!
So, what can you do with your kids in winter?
Ottawa is a city of skaters! People love to skate here. Not for nothing does Canada’s capital hosts the largest skating rink in the world: the Rideau Canal. So if you want to go with the flow, you have to learn how to skate on ice. It’d be a little scary at the beginning but it’s worth it.
And where to skate? Obviously on the Rideau Canal. It’s 7.8 kilometers of ice that crosses downtown Ottawa and other neighborhoods like Old Ottawa East and the Glebe. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. To check ice conditions: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/skateway-ice-conditions
You won’t want to miss the rink of Dreams, in front of the City Hall, which is open Monday through Sunday from 9am to 11pm. You have to book a time in advance, Reserve a spot at City Hall Rink of Dreams because there’s a limit of 25 people on the rink because of the pandemic.
There’s another nice rink at Lansdowne, which is beautifully illuminated in the evenings. You have to book in advance to reserve a spot during peak times. Reserve a spot at Lansdowne Park Skating Court during peak times
Check out the community center of your neighborhood. Most public parks in Ottawa also have outdoor skating rinks, well maintained by volunteer neighbors.
Another interesting skating option is a private property in the southeast of Ottawa, where you can skate a 3 kilometers trail under a canopy of trees in an apple orchard. Part of the trail is lit with lights for night skaters, which adds a special and unique ambiance.
Fees goes from $9 to $13.50 per person. You have to book for weekends. Tickets to RiverOak Skating Trail
If you want to have a blast with your kids, you have to go sledding, without a doubt! I think this is the funniest winter activity of all! Parents and kids will love to jump down a snowy hill at high speeds, like being on a roller coaster.
There are more than 50 hills in Ottawa to go sledding, from small ones to larger ones for the most intrepid sledders. Be prepare for tons of fun and laughter!
Check out this post to know where the best sledding hills are. https://ottawaisnotboring.com/2021/02/02/__trashed-8/
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Cross-country skiing is one of the most popular winters sports in Ottawa, due to the large number of ski trails. The vast network of bike paths used by bikers in the summer turn into ski trails in the winter.
Surrounding the city, you have the Greenbelt, which has more than 150 kilometers of cross-country ski trails open to the public. They are free. Some of the best ski trails are in Pine Grove, Mer Bleu, Green’s Creek, Stony Swamp, and Pinhey Forest. Cross-country Skiing – National Capital Commission (ncc-ccn.gc.ca)
Another ski trail that is very popular in the city is the SJAM winter trail on the Sir John A. Macdonald Avenue, which runs along the Ottawa River. It has two separate tracks, one for cross-country skiers, and one for snowshoers and walkers.
Mooney’s Bay Ski Centre offers 5 kilometers of groomed and lit trails for night skiing. It also offers ski lessons for children, youth and adults, but they are temporarily on hold because of the pandemic. https://ottawa.ca/en/recreation-and-parks/sports#mooneys-bay-ski-centre
Britannia Winter Trail is an 8 kilometer trail in and around Britannia Park in the west end of the city. It welcomes cross-country skiers, snowshoers, walkers and fat-bikers.
And if that isn’t too much, you have the Gatineau Park, just a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It is considered one of the best network of winter trails in North America with over 200 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails.
A bonus is the amazing wilderness, lookouts, and scenic views of lakes and pristine forests. Gatineau Park: Cross-Country Ski Routes – National Capital Commission (ncc-ccn.gc.ca)
There is a fee to use the cross-country ski trails. The Adult day pass is $20, Youth (13 to 17 years-old); Students, and Seniors $15, and the Family day pass (maximum 2 adults and 3 youths) $45.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
Only a few days after moving to Ottawa, my middle daughter’s school told us that they were taking the kids outdoors to practice skiing and snowboarding. I felt nervous about skiing, so I enrolled my then 10-year-old in snowboarding, thinking that it was easier.
According to her, it was the opposite, but that didn’t matter to her. She became very fond of snowboarding, a sport that she continues to practice twice a week or at least every single weekend.
And my youngest, who is 7, started downhill skiing last year and she loves it. She always tells me that she sees little kids, way younger than her, like two-years-old, starting to ski.
The closest ski and snowboard center to Ottawa is Camp Fortune in Gatineau. It offers some 20 different downhill runs from beginners to expert level. It also draws skiers at night because it has 12 illuminated runs.
Other ski centers are Ski Vorlage, in Wakefield, half an hour from downtown Ottawa, which features 18 different runs; Sommet Ederweiss, also in Wakefield, which offers 20 runs; and Mont Cascades Ski Resort, located in Cantley, Quebec, about half an hour from Ottawa, which offers 20 runs, 15 of which are lit for night skiing.
The first time I tried snow tubing was at Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau during the Winterlude festival. They had huge toboggans runs for the people to slide on big tubes. It was awesome! It was the funniest thing I ever tried related to snow.
You can go snow tubing at Domaine de l’Ange Gardien, which offers 8 different slides, a tow lift to take the sliders up the hill, tubes of different sizes. It has illuminated slides on Saturdays for night fun.
Going for a hike and being able to feed chickadees in the palm of your hand is something that kids will adore!
You can find these friendly birds at Jack Pine Trail in the Stony Swamp Conservation Area in the west end of Ottawa, at the Mer Bleu Bog in the east, and at Mud Lake Conservation Area in Britannia neighborhood. In the later one, I also saw ducks, Canada geese, rabbits and lots of squirrels.
For a unique experience take your kids to Parc Omega, about one hour east from Ottawa. You’ll see wolves, bears, bison, and you’ll be able to feed the deer with carrots right from your car window. Needless to say, your children will enjoy to the max this 12 kilometer safari.
There is also a wolf observatory, winter trails for snowshoeing, farm animals, picnic areas, restaurants, and a skating rink. You have to bring your own snowshoes or skates, though. The park offers also cabins to spend the night. Check its webpage Parc Omega
I wish you lots of fun! Take care.