Ottawa Winterlude 2023: Ice Sculptures and More

Winterlude - Canada travel tips

Experience the Ottawa Winterlude 2023

The Ottawa Winterlude 2023! A Canada travel tip in the east for winter. This is how I imagine winter to be. Frosty temperatures, lots of snow, frozen rivers and a bright blue sky where the sun's rays make the snow sparkle. We're lucky enough to experience the Ottawa  Winterlude under optimal - albeit icy - conditions. With temperatures of what feels like -33 ° Celsius at night, both the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River are frozen over. Snow and ice transform Canada's capital into a real winter wonderland.

Granted, when we hear how low the temperatures in Ottawa are during our visit, our hearts are slipping. We wonder how to survive the icy days in Ottawa. Well packed in several layers of clothing, equipped with warm hats, scarves and gloves, we can barely move. But thus the wind hardly finds any surface to touch. It doesn't bother anyone, that we look like Michelin mascots wiggling through the city. Because everyone who ventures out into the open looks the same.


What is essential in your suitcase?


Winter in Canada

We only need to get used to that we have to peel out of most of our clothes, every time we enter warm rooms, until we feel comfortable in the heated buildings. We often do that. When the icy winds cut our cheeks too hard, we look for a café or a shelter. There we can warm up our cold faces, before we continue our exploration of the Ottawa Winterlude. We are not the only ones in the cafés. Hot chocolate, cappuccino and hot apple cider flow in abundance during the Winterlude. Hot drinks taste best with BeaverTails, a pastry that is unique to Ottawa and the Ottawa Winterlude. These are dough tongues fried in fat and remind me of a beaver's tail. You can get them refined with sweet ingredients: cream, banana slices, Oreo crumbs or Nutella. They are available in stalls on the Rideau Canal or at the original food stall at Byward Market.


Ottawa Winterlude: ice sculptures and ice skating
Skating on the Rideau Canal is also on the Ottawa Winterlude 2023

Ice Skating on the Rideau Canal at the Ottawa Winterlude 2023

Here's how Canadians do it: they roam the city with their kids and visit the venues where activities and events take place at the Ottawa Winterlude. They enjoy the winter weather and snow. We see children rolling in snowdrifts and their parents laughing as they watch their offspring play. Ice and snow? It's just part of winter here.

Lesley Carter from Bucket List Publications attended the Winterlude Festival with her family every year while living in Canada. She said: "Rather than fret about winter, let's find ways to celebrate it. Visiting festivals like Winterlude and Winter Carnival is the highlight of my year.”

Families come to the city to enjoy the Winterlude. There's the frozen Rideau Canal, which every year turns into a 7.8 kilometer long skating rink since the winter of 1970-71. You can reach the city center on skates from Dows Lake to Confederation Park below Chateau Laurier. In winter, Rideau Canal turns into a gateway to downtown Ottawa. Everybody uses it. And not just for fun: while cars are laboriously driving over snowy and slippery roads along the canal, skaters glide elegantly into the city on the frozen channel. It's an unhindered and quick way to get around in Ottawa in winter.


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We recognize those who do this more often by the backpacks they carry on their backs. This is where they store the shoes they put on when they reach their destination in the city. There are huts on the canal at regular intervals where you can rent ice skates or put on your own. In addition to the shelter, there is always a kiosk that sells hot drinks and BeaverTails.



Sir John A. Macdonald
Sir John A. Macdonald


What Competitions happen at the Winterlude?

Events will be held on the Rideau Canal during the Ottawa Winterlude 2023. When we visited the Winterlude, we watched the kilt skate. Hundreds of skaters in Scottish kilts slid down the Rideau Canal from 5th Avenue to the National Arts Center.

The Accora Village Bed Race (bed race) is sure to be enjoyable, too. Costumed participants push decorated hospital beds over the frozen ice. Pagan fun for the whole family.

Another race is the Ice Dragon Boat Festival. In this, teams in Chinese dragon boats fight for victory on the frozen Rideau Canal in Ottawa.


Rideau Canal and Chateau Laurier
Rideau Canal and Chateau Laurier at the Ottawa Winterlude


How to Care for the Ice Rink on the Rideau Canal?

We learn from a representative of the National Capital Commission, how seriously ice skating is taken during the Ottawa Winterlude. The commission is responsible for the skating rink. Maintenance squads are working on the Rideau Canal night after night. They make sure that the morning ice is perfect for the commuters, who skate into the city. For this, they clear fresh snow from the ice, which would otherwise act as an insulating layer. At the edge of the Rideau Canal they drill holes in the ice. Through these, fresh water swells up from below and freezes overnight.

Thus, early risers, who skate on the ice, find ideal conditions for their journey into the city. Not every winter is the same, and temperatures are not always as low as they were during our visit. It sometimes happens that the channel can not be opened for skaters at the beginning of the Winterlude. On average, the skating rink on the river is open for 51 days. In 1971-72 the skating rink on the Rideau Canal was open for an amazing 90 days.


Ballerina in ice
Ballerina in Ice - One of the ice sculptures during our visit to the Crystal Garden - See, what is made at the Ottawa Winterlude 2023


Ice sculptures in the Crystal Garden at the Ottawa Winterlude

The Crystal Garden is located between the National Art Center and Ottawa City Hall. This is where the Ottawa Winterlude is opened with a stage show and nightly outdoor dance party. Ice carving competitions are also held in the Crystal Garden. More than 675 blocks of ice are transformed into imaginative ice sculptures by ice carvers from all over the world.



There are several competitions in which ice artists have to complete their works of different sizes within a certain time frame. The participants come from all over the world: there are Canadians as well as French, Japanese, Iraqis, Latvians, Malaysians, Mexicans, Peruvians, Filipinos, Poles and Americans. One participant even comes from Mauritius.



There are several competitions: we follow the first one. The ice carvers have two hours to carve a figure out of a block of ice. When we first arrive in the morning, they are about to draw their figures on the ice blocks. An hour later, rough sculptures appear from the ice. But they are most beautiful in the evening and the next day, when they are polished and illuminated in the dark at night.



We discover true works of art: I like the kudu with its curved horns, the snowman with the big snowflake in its belly and the ballerina in the ice block. During the Ottawa Winterlude 2023 there will be more competitions, where ice carvers work larger blocks of ice during a period of up to 28 hours, spread out over several days.


Snow sculpture in the Snowflake Kingdom
Snow sculpture in the Snowflake Kingdom - Ottawa Winterlude 2023


The Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park

The largest snow playground in Jacques-Cartier Park is being created during the Ottawa Winterlude 2023 on the Quebec side in the city of Gatineau. Here's how it works: Snow sculptures are created, ice slides lure you to winter fun, and the audience gathers in front of the stage to watch the shows of the commentators on stage.



Snowflake Kingdom can be reached from Confederation Park with the free Sno-Coach, a bus line that connects the Winterlude venues at ten-minute intervals. The main topic of conversation in our bus is - how to be expected - the weather and the cold: a family man who is traveling with his two children tells how he was at Snowflake Kingdom years ago. "I've never frozen as much as I did then," he laughs. His neighbor agrees with him: "Yes, today the winter clothes are much better," And he grins with red frozen cheeks.


The Glacier Slide
The Glacier Slide - Ottawa Winterlude 2023


We are at Snowflake Kingdom early in the morning, but there are plenty of families on the grounds already. Active participation and having fun are, what people come here for. Ice slides have been set up, over which children and their parents slide down screeching with delight. On their bums, mind you. Here you just sit on the ice and slide down. There are the Glacier Slide for individuals, the Iceberg Slide for individuals or groups, the Chinook, where you slide down the mountain in big tires, and the Kiddie Slide for the little ones.


Snow sculpture in the Snowflake Kingdom - Who comes to the Winterlude 2020?
Snow sculpture in the Snowflake Kingdom - Ottawa Winterlude 2023


Snow sculptures are still under construction during our visit. Four three-dimensional sculptures are planned, two of which are completed during our visit, and two wall facades depicting the theme of the park: the Year of Sports in Canada and the bicentenary of Sir John A. Macdonald's birthday.


Petar filming on the Ottawa River - Lust for Winterlude 2020
Petar filming on the Ottawa River


The Ottawa Winterlude: a true Winter Wonderland

The Ottawa Winterlude 2023 is definitely one thing: great fun for young and old. Here you can really enjoy winter with all its facets: there is enough snow and ice. As soon as the sun shines, Canadians are out and about having fun in the snow and ice. The Winterlude is a Canadian declaration of love for their winter, which we can understand very well after our visit. Those who have had enough of the winter cold and snow can warm up in the city's museums, for example in the National Gallery of Art.


Travel Arrangements:

Event date of the Ottawa Winterlude 2023:

The Ottawa Winterlude 2023 will run from February 3 to February 20, 2023.

The Event program for 2023 can be found under this link. It will be released in December.


Book your arrival here*. Ottawa also has its own airport.

Car Rentals:

Cheap Car Hire - Book Fast and Easy! *


Here we have selected hotels, which are the cheapest for the Winterlude within short distances to the venues you need in the winter cold in Ottawa.

Ottawa Tours and Excursions:

You can book Ottawa City Tours and more * with our partner Get your Guide.



Winterlude Ottawa
Click on the photo and make a note of “Winterlude Ottawa” on Pinterest

Do you already know:


We participate with this article in the blog parade of Before We Die the most beautiful destinations in winter, We are also in the blog parade of Ms. Schweizer, the the most beautiful winter posts by bloggers examined. As in the blog parade My best winter report.

Tips for slow travel you can find here.

Source: Own research on site for Ottawa Winterlude 2023. Thank you to Tourism Ottawa, Ontario Tourism and the Canadian Tourism Commission for supporting this trip.

Text Ottawa Winterlude 2023: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photo Ottawa Winterlude 2023: © Copyright by Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Video Ottawa Winterlude 2023: © Copyright by Petar Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline

Ottawa Winterlude 2023: Ice Sculptures and More

13 thoughts too "Ottawa Winterlude 2023: Ice Sculptures and More"

  1. Dear Monika, dear Petar,
    so beautiful these sculptures look, I think that's too cold for me :-)
    Quite apart from that, I still love the natural beauty of nature a whole lot more.
    But it still looks cool :-)
    Best regards, Katja

    1. Dear Katja,

      Natural ice magic is also available in these temperatures in Canada, and not too short. We were already very impressed by the ice sculptures, especially because we saw them emerge from simple blocks of ice within a few hours.

      Best regards,

  2. Hello you two,
    even when reading it was already cold, that sounds incredibly interesting. I could easily imagine traveling to Ottawa in February. But we did that with your luggage? 23kg are not much for winter clothes.

    1. Hello dear Ina,

      Admittedly, Winterlude is an icy pleasure, but also one that you will not forget. We like to think back to it. That was no problem with the luggage. We had a lot of thin shirts to pull on. The warm sweater or thick waistcoat we wore on arrival and return travel under the coat. And when it got really cold, we still had it the hand and foot warmerswho have really done us great service in this cold.

      Best regards,

  3. Hello Monika and Petar,

    I've never heard of the Ottawa Winterlude! But it's getting cold in Canada, I think right now! It really only helps to warm clothes and to drink something warm every now and then.
    The sculptures look impressive too, wow!

    Thanks for the nice report including video. Very tempting!

    Best regards,

    1. Dear Barbara,

      we had heard and read about Winterlude again and again for years, until finally we ventured ourselves. And what can I say: it inspired us. Despite the freezing temperatures, we traveled a lot in Ottawa and watched the events and, above all, the great ice sculptures again and again. It's amazing what you can do with a simple ice block.

      Best regards,

  4. Dear Monika, dear Petar,
    what a great and captivating contribution. I especially liked the ice sculptures (the kudu is really awesome). My son would like the kilometer-long skating rink. How -33C feel, I can not really imagine. We had -25 here, but is that comparable?
    Best regards,

    1. Dear Charnette,

      I'm glad, if you like our article about the Winterlude. That was a great experience that we will certainly not forget. The -33 ° C in Canada probably feels different than the -25 ° in Germany. The reason is that it is dry cold in Canada. Of course it's cold. That's why we have the Tips on how to protect ourselves against the cold, used by our Canadian hosts. Therefore, we were well prepared for the icy temperatures.

      Best regards,

    1. We could not envision that either, before we got there, Azlin. But it was not too bad, since we were in a city with lots of place to warm up again. We spent a lot of time exploring the Canadian winter in Ottawa.

  5. Fascinating how to create such filigree works of art. Ottawa is not around the corner now. If you know such an outdoor art event in the D / A / CH region, please let us know.

    Greetings from Stuttgart Silke & Thomas

    1. Hello Silke and Thomas,

      I do not know such an event here in the D / A / CH region. In Ottawa it was definitely very impressive. When I hear something, I like to get in touch.

      Greetings from the snowy Rupertiwinkel,
      Monika & Petar

  6. Dear Monika and Petar,
    the Winterlude spectacle looks really interesting. I like the fragile ice sculptures in the evening lighting. For winter lovers, this is an interesting alternative to the High North of Europe!
    Best regards, Sabine

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