This year’s Winterlude (an everything winter celebration) in Ottawa, Ontario runs from February 3 to 20, 2017.
Winterlude has seen upwards of 600,000 people in previous years and as Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, this year’s winter celebration will most likely draw larger crowds due to more events and activities related to this special anniversary.
If you’re planning to make a trip to the nation’s capital for Winterlude this year, here are 8 tips to ensure the entire family has fun in Ottawa.
1. Bring Your Snow Pants
If you are planning on just skating on the Canal and looking at ice and snow sculptures the entire time, you can do without them.
If you plan on taking part in the activities at Snowflake Kingdom (the world’s biggest snow playground) in Jacques Cartier Park – ice slides, kicksledding, winter obstacle course etc. you will definitely need a pair of snow pants. I’d recommend putting them on before you head out to Snowflake Kingdom as the wait for the bathroom / change room area can be fairly long.
Who cares if they make you feel like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters – you’ll blend in with everyone else. Well, except for those that miss this post! 😉
2. Pack Helmets
Skates are available for rent at Rideau canal (the world’s largest skating rink!) but helmets are not so if your children are planning on skating, you should consider bringing their helmets with you.
3. Choose a Centrally Located Hotel
If you want to be close to all the action, choose one of the Winterlude partner hotels located in downtown Ottawa.
The majority of them are walking distance to the major attractions like the Rideau Canal or the Crystal Garden (ice sculptures) in Confederation Park.
You can see the entire list of Winterlude hotels here. Most partner hotels will have a bus stop out front or a few steps away for those who prefer to save their energy for Winterlude activities. Which brings us to our next tip…
4. Skip the Car Rental
If you are planning on only doing Winterlude activities then a car rental may not be necessary if staying in the downtown area.
There is a free shuttle that runs on weekends (called the Sno-Bus) that takes Winterlude goers to each of the activity areas.
We rented a car for the weekend and didn’t end up using it until it was time to head back to the airport. $100 for a 40 minutes of driving from and to the airport. #TravelPlanningFail
5. Stay Warm with the Right Footwear and Clothing
Along with snowpants, Winterlude visitors should wear boots that are insulated and waterproof. Although it wasn’t too cold last weekend, the snow was up to our ankles most of the time.
We also had neckwarmers, winter hats, longjohns (husband and son) and leggings (daughter and I) keeping us warm too.
6. Bring Cash
Food vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards so if Beavertails or maple taffy (you ABSOLUTELY must!) are part of your Winterlude plans, you’ll have to pay for them with cash.
Skate and sleigh rentals ($20 per sleigh – accommodates 2 adults or 3 children) on the Rideau Canal can be paid for with credit card but all other vendors accept cash only.
7. Take a Backpack
If you’re skating on the canal and don’t want to leave your shoes at the side of the canal, bring a backpack so you can store your boots in them.
It’s easier to skate on the ice too instead of having a messenger style bag constantly hitting the side of your leg. A plastic bag works well for keeping your boots separate from everything else. We forgot to do this the first day and ended up with a pool of melted snow, wet maps and brochures sitting at the bottom of our backpack by mid-afternoon.
8. Pack Water Bottles with Straws or Sippy Cups
Most food vendors we came across didn’t have straws available so it made juice breaks very frustrating and messy for our 2 year old. Thank goodness we had snow to clean up the juice spills on his jacket and mitts!
Winterlude is a family friendly and wallet friendly celebration. Many activities are free at Jacques Cartier Park, Confederation Park and the Rideau Canal and we’d highly recommend visiting if you get a chance this February.
For more information on Winterlude, head on over to the official Winterlude website.