Winterlude in Ottawa – Celebrating Winter Canadian Style

Winterlude in Ottawa takes place annually in Canada's nation’s capital.

Our weekend at Winterlude was the perfect getaway to beat the February blues. After a jam packed day one, we decided to take a relaxing stroll through the charming city of Ottawa, Canada. Ottawa is a walking city and it is easy to navigate. With the temperature being above normal for this time of the year, it was the perfect day to take in the sites.

Ice sculture at winterlude ottawa

The winning Winterlude Ice Sculpture

There are so many events going on during Winterfest that it is difficult to choose what to do. It is the perfect family event and we saw moms and dads hauling their giddy kids around from attraction to attraction.

If you have little ones, you don't have to worry about walking too much as the city has supplied a Sno-Bus to shuttle everyone between events spread out all over the city. It's an amazing perk to the festival.

Ottawa's Winterlude

We stopped by the national gallery where the magnificent screening of “The Clock” was showing. As movie buffs this is right up our alley. The Clock is as a 24-hour film that weaves together snippets of films throughout the history of cinema. I have no idea how he managed to find these movies and sort out their close ups of clocks to run in real time.

winterlude visit to national gallery

The Ottawa National Gallery

The National Gallery is one of the best art museums in the country, but naturally Dave only wanted to photograph the spider out front. It took us 1 hour to get a shot and Dave got an amazing shot that he isn't putting up until this afternoon for his Photo of the Day.

winterlude photographing parliament buildings

Dave photographing Parliament Buildings

We walked around the city taking photographs all afternoon and no trip to Ottawa would be complete without a stop at our parliament buildings. This is where the Canadian government works and I find it as grand and beautiful as any government building or palace in Europe. They really are very impressive.


Our Pre Winterlude Warm up

We were lucky to meet Jantine of Ottawa tourism in Toronto for the big announcement that Ottawa and Roots Canada were partnering and working together.

winterlude travel gear

Getting geared up for Winterlude

So when we got back from Antarctica we hopped in our car dressed in our newly sponsored Roots Gear and drove to Ottawa. Marketingkonferenz brought Roots and Ottawa together again in our own little way.

Ottawa is a beautiful city. Be it Spring, summer, winter or fall, Ottawa is one of the most picturesque cities in the country and we enjoy visiting it whenever we can.

Winterlude in Ottawa

deb at winterlude ottawa

The start of the race

Before even heading to Ottawa, we stopped at the Gatineau Loppet in the province of Quebec right across the river to watch the largest cross country ski event in Canada.

Winterlude Takes Place in Gatineau too!

If you are looking for a reason to get in shape, start training for this now and get yourself entered in next year's event. There are events for all levels and ages and it is a great addition to your weekend at Winterlude. We were itching to get out on the course, but alas, we weren't participating so we were content to stand at the sidelines and cheer everyone in after their accomplishment.

winterlude ski race

The racers at the start line

If cross country skiing isn't your thing, there is also the Winterman Marathon that happens on the same weekend. So what you waiting for? Stop making excuses and start training today. You have just about 365 days to get in shape!

Hotels for Winterlude

After the event, we checked into the stylish boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo located right by Confederation Park where the crystal garden exhibit takes place during the festival.

where to stay at Winterlude

Hotel Indigo Ottawa

We wanted to relax a little bit after our 5 hour drive through a snow storm, so being in one of Canada's most European cities, we opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed a glass before heading out for a walk.

hotel room for winterlude

Our room

Fairmont Chateau Laurier

The next time we went to Winterlude we stayed in Style at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. If you have the budget, this is the best place to stay in Ottawa as it's very central and located right on the Rideau Canal.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Almost too perfect. Even though we drove through a winter storm to get here, the skies opened up in Ottawa and a warm front passed through.

One of the biggest attractions of Winterlude is the ice skating on the Rideau Canal. The skateway stretches 7.8 km through the downtown core. We were so looking forward to strapping on a pair of skates and taking a spin on that famous route.

Skating on the Rideau Canal at Winterlude

Oh to skate on the Rideau Canal, it’s many a Canadian’s dream and after decades of wanting to do it ourselves, we finally had the chance!

enjoying a beavertail at winterlude

Dave and Deb enjoying a beavertail on the Rideau Canal

The weekend felt like a fairy tale. We love exploring Canada and nothing is more Canadian than attending an outdoor festival while staying in one of our most historic hotels located directly on the canal facing our beautiful parliament buildings.

fairmont Chateau Laurier and rideau canal

Fairmont Chateau Laurier looks over the Rideau Canal

Winterlude runs to February 18th and you still have plenty of time to take a drive to Ottawa and enjoy all things Canada. With dozens of displays, grand outdoor performances and the Snowflake Kingdom, the biggest snow playground on the continent there’s something to do for the entire family at Winterlude.

dave and deb skating on rideau canal

Skating on the Rideau Canal and saying hi to our friends at AMEX

The weather turned cold just in time and at 2:00 pm on Friday, they opened the entire canal for everyone’s enjoyment. It was just in time for Winterlude to kick off.

winterlude sign

We rented our skates right on the canal and took off down the 7.8 km stretch of ice. The American Express lounge can be found at kilometre marker 3.2 and we took full advantage of the free hot chocolate, photo booth and wooden benches under the covered tent to protect us from the cold.

skating on the rideau canal winterlude

Skating on the Rideau Canal

Never fear though, the balmy weather made for perfect walking conditions and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the ice gardens before heading out to dinner at the uber trendy Stella Osteria in the entertainment district of ByWard Market. A bustling neighbourhood filled with bistros and boutiques.

Where to Eat when celebrating Winterlude

Stella Osteria was packed and as we took our seat in a corner booth, we knew we were in for a treat. It was perfect for people watching as we shared a bottle of fine Argentinian Malbec when our dinner arrived reminding us of our recent trip to Antarctica where we caught a ship out of the Argentinian town of Ushuaia.

winterlude celebrations

The atmosphere at Stella Osteria is the perfect setting for Dave and I. Romantic and quiet yet not too stuffy where your afraid to talk and have a good time. Our server was perky and fun and we found out that she was hoping to head to Nunavut next year to teach. What an amazing experience that would be!

The service was a little slow, but that didn't bother us, it gave us more time to enjoy another pre dinner cocktail as we waited for the food to arrive. And when it arrived, it was well worth the wait. Tonight was all about the beef. We started off with a mouth carpaccio and antipasto platter followed by a filet minion for me and rib steak for Dave. Both were cooked to perfection.

stello osteria ottawa

We couldn't eat another bite and feeling perfectly content and a little groggy from all that beef and wine we took a long stroll back to the hotel.

The lights were still on in the crystal garden and the ice sculptures looked magical glistening under the colourful beams. We took a quick snapshot and went to bed. The lights will be on again tomorrow, we'll catch them then.

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

A lot of the action at Winterlude takes place at the Crystal Garden.

winterlude ice hut

Dave chilling on the ice couch

There are ice sculptures on display and artists working on their latest masterpiece. They run workshops and kids can take a stab at carving themselves. The display here is interactive and a whole lot of fun.

ice sculpture winterlude

Food stalls are set up outside at the Crystal Garden and I said to myself “Only in Canada will people sit on a picnic table to enjoy a meal in the middle of winter” I love it!

winterlude crystal gardens

Enjoying the Outdoors Crystal Gardens

We ordered our staple food of the event, the ever popular Beaver Tail. Yes, Canadians eat Beaver Tails! But it's not what you think. They may be in the shape of a beaver's tail, but this is a warm and delicious doughy treat. There's no meat in this desert, it's deep fried sweet bread covered in cinnamon and sugar. It's is soooo delicious.

deb with beavertails at winterlude

More Beavertails

After indulging in the mega calorie treat and vowing to start our diet on Monday, we walked over to ByWard Market where we did some window shopping and people watching. What I loved were all the fun hats on sale. Our guide in Antarctica had the cutest grover hat and these were on sale here. I love hats!

ottawa byward market during winterlude

The Byward Market is the place to be

It was then coffee time. Nothing better than enjoying coffee on a sunny winter's day.

Ottawa is a happening place this time of year and it is so much fun to walk around and people watch. It is even more fun to sit down and take a break. We strolled the markets, took in the atmosphere sat at cafés and enjoyed each others company.

beautiful day for Winterlude in Ottawa

On the canal

Lunch ended up on the shores of the Rideau Canal at Le Café. We definitely need to start our diet next week because for now, we enjoyed a decadent meal of buttery scallops in cream sauce with fava beans, mouth watering sushi, grilled steak salad and green tea infused salmon. We loved the Internationally infused dishes and once again, our server was awesome.

Ice Garden at Night

There was plenty more ice to enjoy though as we later took a stroll through the Crystal Garden at Confederation Park to watch the ice sculpture artists at work at night. They are truly a talented bunch and to see the craftsmanship that goes into their work is astounding. How does one turn giant blocks of ice into intricate works of art?

winterlude ice sculpture competition

An Ice Sculpture Competition takes place every year

After an afternoon of food and fun, we walked the short distance back to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier where we enjoyed the coziness of the historic building dating back to 1912.

We’ve been to Ottawa on several occasions and have always taken a stroll through this legendary building that has seen the likes of Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan and Benny Goodman grace it’s hallways.

Now it was our turn to stay at this grand palace adorned with Tiffany stained glass windows.

winterlude ottawa festival

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

The Fashion Show

Feeling like movie stars, we waltzed into the Ottawa Convention centre for our pre dinner cocktails of sparking wine while we showed off our new duds bought specially for the event. Being full time travelers’ makes for a sparse wardrobe, so whenever we have the opportunity, we love to dress up.

winterlude annual fashion show

Once the reception wound down, it was up the escalators to the dining room where we had premium seats right beside the runway. While we enjoyed the fine cuisine by Chef Marc Lepine we were treated to a fashion show featuring Lucian Matis’ 2012-2013 Black Label Collection. As avid watchers of America’s next top model, we scanned the models faces to see if they took Tyra’s advice to be ‘fierce’ while they strutted the runway.

Winterlude is an annual event that happens every year from around Feb 3 -20. Most activities are free and most are held on the weekends. Most of the action takes place on the Rideau Canal which is normally open for skating on the worlds largest ice rink as well as varios sites around the capital like Confederation Park, The National Gallery and across the river in the city of Gatineau. Snowflake Kingdom in downtown Gatineau is a winter playground for the kids.

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