While the opening of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto means that the summer is unfortunately drawing to a close, Ottawa’s 35th edition of Winterlude means that the cold season might finally be behind us.
Held from February 8th to 18th in the nation’s capital, Winterlude features many different activities featuring both outdoors and winter sports, two things that Canada is best-known for.
Things officially kick off on February 1 at Winterlude’s newest site, Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa’s City Hall. The opening ceremony includes musical performances, aerial dancers, a public art illumination display, pyrotechnic effects and a DJ Dance Party. Attendees are also invited to bring their ice skates with them and try out the “Rink Of Dreams” (let’s just hope they don’t have any nightmares about falling).
February 1st also marks the opening of the American Express Winterlude Food and Fashion Evening. Owner of Atelier restaurant and master chef Marc Lepine will present a five-course menu that will be followed by a showcase of Toronto designer Lucian Matis’ 2012-13 Black Label collection.
Winterlude activities take place on the Rideau Canal Skateway at Crystal Garden in Confederation Park, at Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park and the aforementioned new Marian Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall.
Here’s the rundown:
Rideau Canal Skateway
This year marks the 43rd season of skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway. The largest skating rink in the world plays host to a number of signature Winterlude activities including a triathalon, a bed race featuring 50 teams racing modified beds in heats down a 50 metre course, and the 5th Annual Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Festival.
Crystal Garden in Confederation Park
Witness a fusion of art and ice during the day with the spectacular ice sculptures that are on display. Lights are turned on at night to add an even further intricacy to objects that are already stunning.
New this year is an outdoor Garden of Lanterns display that symbolizes the spirit of international friendships and relationships beyond borders. The National Capital Commission is working with the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival in Junju, South Korea to create a 35-metre tunnel comprised of 1300 lanterns.
The first weekend of the activities also include the 26th International Ice-Carving Competitions attracting the best ice artists from around the world. The theme for this year is “The Imaginary Garden.”
Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park
Home of Winterlude’s favorite mascots, the Ice Hog family, visitors can enjoy “the biggest snow playground on the continent,” celebrates Canadian history. Parks Canada helps celebrate the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the French colony of Ile Royale (Capre Breton Island). Attendees can try games from the 18th century and look for artifacts as well.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s passage through Ottawa, a fireside story session educates visitors about the daily lives of the Algonquin peoples.
Winterblast Weekend – February 15th to 17th
If you’re not sure which weekend you should spend at Winterlude, pairing it with the Family Day long weekend is a great idea. Winterlude’s “Winterblast Weekend” from February 15-17 is earmarked for the younger crowd (ages 13-24). Most of its events are planned by kids and teens in this age group. The kick-off event on Friday includes a DJ battle between local area high-schools. You can also dance under the stars” and slide after dark at Snowflake Kingdom. On Family Day, everything remains open as the Winterlude Festival draws to a close.
For more information about things to do in Ontario and Winterlude, you can contact the NCC at 613-239-5000, 613-239-5090 (TTY), 1-800-465-1867 (toll-free) or 1-866-661-3530 (toll-free TTY), or visit the winterlude.gc.ca