Let’s get the winter party started! The 35th edition of Winterlude is ready to roll, with tons of fun activities, events and treats on tap for families. From February 1 to 18—including Family Day—there’s a dazzling seasonal showcase of Canadian culture and tradition.
Winterlude officially opens at 7 p.m. this Friday, February 1, at Marion Dewar Plaza, Ottawa City Hall. The evening celebration will feature live music, aerial dancers, art, pyrotechnics and a dance party with Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red. You can also bring your skates and have some fun on the Rink of Dreams.
Steps away from the plaza—and also this Friday, February 1—there’s a Winterlude Food and Fashion Evening at the Ottawa Convention Centre. Star chef Marc Lépine will present a five-course menu, followed by a fashion show. Toronto designer Lucian Matis will be showcasing his 2012–13 Black Label collection. Tickets are available through Capital Tickets.
And that’s just the start of the Winterlude fun. Throughout the February celebration, there’s a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities in both Ottawa and Gatineau. The main sites are the Rideau Canal Skateway, Crystal Garden in Confederation Park, Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park and Marion Dewar Plaza.
Rideau Canal Skateway (FREE)
The world’s largest skating rink will host a variety of activities, so sharpen your blades and get set to go on ice! Highlights include:
• The Winterlude Triathlon. One of Winterlude’s oldest sporting events, it involves skating eight kilometers on the canal, cross-country skiing five kilometers and running five kilometers. (Are you in?)
• The Accora Village Bed Race. This popular event features 50 teams racing modified beds down a 50-metre course. No sleeping allowed!
• The Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Festival. The Beaver Cup is a great chance to play four-on-four pond hockey on the canal.
• Free Enbridge Learn to Skate lessons are ideal for “newbies.”
TIPS: Get out early for your skate. Not only is that when you’ll typically find the best ice conditions, but it’s also less busy then. For families with young children, it’s a good idea to rent one of the iconic bright red sleighs…the kids love them, plus they offer a great place to stash your stuff. For those travelling light, skates are available for rent right on the Skateway.
Jacques-Cartier Park’s Snowflake Kingdom (FREE)
Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park is transformed into North America’s largest winter playground; it’s also the home of the Ice Hog family, Winterlude’s beloved mascots. Thanks to its larger-than-life snow slides, sculptures and kid-friendly attractions, Snowflake Kingdom offers fun for all ages. The theme this year is Adventure, Discovery and Exploration! In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s visit to the region, there will be olde-time games, a Champlain snow carving wall and an authentic Algonquin Village where visitors can learn about life in those times. Children can try downhill skiing, while folks of all ages can test their skills in a winter obstacle course or on a kicksled course. In the XTREME zone, you can try ziplining, snowskating and pedaling go-carts in the snow. Entertainment on the Snowflake Stage includes singing, music, dancing, Zumba and buskers.
Winterblast Weekend: February 15 to 17
New this year, Winterblast Weekend is ideal for the younger set, aged 13 to 24. The kick-off event Friday night will include a DJ battle between local high schools, dancing under the stars and sliding after dark at Snowflake Kingdom. Saturday night, Chill Out and Warm Up will be presented. It’s a showcase of short films created by youth. Sunday, you can meet the artists behind the collection “Defining Moments: Discovering Our Canadian Stories.” This cross-country travelling exhibit features the work of 26 young people, aged 13 to 30.
TIPS: At Snowflake Kingdom, snow pants are a must (even for the adults) because you won’t be able to resist taking a few turns down the giant snow slides. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, try to visit during the week, or early on weekends, to avoid the crowds and get in as many slides as you can. As an added bonus this year, the snow playground will be open for the Family Day holiday.
Confederation Park’s Crystal Garden (FREE)
Right through Winterlude, Confederation Park is the place to experience art and cultural diversity. Check out the masterpieces made of ice at the Crystal Garden. After dark, special lighting will turn the ice-carvings into dazzling attractions. In addition, this year’s new outdoor Garden of Lanterns will feature a 35-metre tunnel showcasing over 1,300 lanterns. Outside the tunnel, you’ll notice free-standing lanterns shaped in whimsical forms.
During the first weekend of activities, the popular International Ice-Carving Competition will include professional ice carvers from around the world. See the world’s masters work around 2013 theme: The Imaginary Garden.
But that’s not all you can see. The IllumiNation outdoor gallery will feature light artworks by Canadian artists; the Royal Norwegian Embassy will invite all to discover, from an authentic Sami Lavvu, the customs and folklore of Norway; and you can also explore an exhibit of Arctic images that celebrates the centennial of the first Canadian Arctic Expedition.
TIPS: Admire this icy world of wonder at night. It’ll be spectacular. Since there’s direct access to the Rideau Canal Skateway, combine your visit to the Crystal Garden with an enchanting night skate. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
For 2013, in addition to the festivities at the main sites, there are incredible activities on tap at other venues. Here’s a glimpse of a few of the special events planned:
• Winterlude Stew Cookoff (Feb 1 in the historic ByWard Market)
• Cracking Up the Capital Comedy Festival (Feb 6-9)
• Ottawa Fashion Week (Feb 7-9)
• Gatineau Loppet (Feb 15-17) (the largest cross-country ski event in Canada; takes place in Gatineau Park – which this year is celebrating it’s 75th anniversary)
• Cool Science Saturday at the Canada Science & Technology Museum (Feb 16)
• Winterman Triathlon (Feb 17)
• Funatorium Explorium (Feb 17 & 18)
• Ottawa Winter Jazz festival (Jan 31- Feb 2)
• Baltic Nordic Film Festival (Feb 8 & 15)
• Concerts: Sarah Slean (Feb 1); Elisapie Isaac (Feb 2); Isabelle Boulet (Feb 8); Alex Cuba (Feb 12); + many more, including children’s concerts and theatre
• National Arts Centre: English and French theatre and dance events, plus their popular free family activities on Ontario Family Day (Feb 18)
Remember: Winterlude celebrations continue at the main sites for Ontario Family Day, February 18.
For details, call 613 239-5000 or 1 800 465-1867 or visit www.winterlude.gc.ca.