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 -33° Celsius at night, both the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River are frozen. Snow and ice transform Canada's capital into a real winter wonderland. Perfect weather conditions to experience the Ottawa Winter Festival with the Canadians.

Admittedly, when we hear how low the temperatures drop in Ottawa, our hearts slip into our pants. And we wonder how we're going to survive the cold days in Ottawa. Thickly wrapped up in several layers of clothing, equipped with warm hats, scarves and gloves, we can hardly move. Thus the wind finds only a few surfaces to attack. The fact that you look like a Michelin man wiggling through the city doesn't bother anyone either. Because everyone who ventures out into the open looks the same.


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Celebrating winter in Canada at the Ottawa Winter Festival

The only thing we have to get used to is that as soon as we enter warm rooms, we first have to peel off most of our layers of clothing before we feel comfortable in the heated buildings again. We do that often. When the icy winds cut our cheeks too much, we look for a café or a shelter. There we can warm up our cold faces before continuing our exploration of the Ottawa Winterlude. We're not the only ones in the cafes. Hot chocolate, cappucino and hot apple cider are flowing in abundance these days. Best served with BeaverTails, a pastry quintessentially Ottawa and Ottawa Winterlude. Tongues of dough fried in fat, shaped like a beaver tail, are refined with sweet ingredients: cream, sliced ​​bananas, Oreo crumbs or Nutella. These are available in stalls on the Rideau Canal or originally on 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 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 at the Ottawa Winter Festival
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.


Best hotels for the Ottawa Winterlude

  • The Fairmont Chateau Laurier* offers good views of the Rideau Canal from the bridge in front of the hotel. At the Afternoon tea at Chateau Laurier you can also warm up after a visit to the Ottawa Winterlude.
  • From the Lord Elgin Hotel* it is just a few steps to the Crystal Garden and the Mackenzie King Bridge. The departure point of the Sno-Coaches is also only a five-minute walk away. There is also a coffee shop where you can warm up with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or a hot apple cider.
  • The Westin Ottawa* is just as convenient. If you walk through the CF Rideau Center shopping mall, it takes you only five minutes to get to the Mackenzie King Bridge and a little more to the Crystal Garden. You can reach the Sno-Coach stop in 15-20 minutes on foot. After an event you can warm up in one of the restaurants in the Rideau Centre.
  • You can find more accommodations in Ottawa via this link*.


Ice carving competitions at the Ottawa Winter Festival

There are various events in which the ice artists have to complete their works of different sizes within a certain time. The participants come from all over the world: alongside Canadians, there are French, Japanese, Iraqis, Latvians, Malaysians, Mexicans, Peruvians, Filipinos, Poles, Russians 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 his 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 at the Ottawa Winter Festival
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.

With the Sno-Coach to the Snowflake Kingdom

Access to Snowflake Kingdom from Confederation Park is via the free Sno-Coach, a bus service that connects Winterlude venues and runs every ten minutes. The main topic of conversation on our bus is – as one would expect – the weather and the cold. A family man traveling with his two children tells how he first visited Snowflake Kingdom years ago. "I've never frozen as much as I did then in my life," he laughs. His neighbor agrees: "Yes, today the winter clothes are much better' and he grins, cheeks flushed red. They don't seem to be lacking in fun, however.


The Glacier Slide at the Ottawa Winter Festival
The Glacier Slide - Ottawa Winterlude 2023


We are at the Snowflake Kingdom in the morning, but there are already numerous families on site when we get there. It's all about active participation and having fun. Ice slides have been built into several snow hills, which children and their parents slide down with loud hoots. Without a base to sit on, mind you. Here you just sit on the ice and start sliding. There is the Glacier Slide for individuals, the Iceberg Slide for individuals or groups, the Chinook, where you slide down the mountain in large tubes, 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


The snow sculptures are still being made when we visit. Four three-dimensional sculptures are planned, two of which are complete when we visit, and two murals depicting the park's themes during our visit: The Year of Sport in Canada and the Bicentenary of Sir John A. Macdonald's Birthday.


Petar filming on the Ottawa River - Lust for Winterlude 2020
Petar filming by the Ottawa River during our visit to the Ottawa Winter Festival


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 definitely a Canadian declaration of love for their winter, which we can understand very well after our visit. Winterlude is the Ottawa Winter Festival par excellence. If you've had enough of the winter cold and snow, you can warm up in the city's museums, for example in the National Gallery of Art.

Ottawa Winterlude Questions and Answers

How cold is Ottawa in winter?

Temperatures in Ottawa average -4°C during the day and -13°C at night. However, with the wind chill factor, it can feel significantly colder. During our visit to Winterlude in Ottawa, we experienced temperatures as low as -33C.

Where is Winterlude held in Ottawa?

There are three locations where most of the events take place.

  • You can ice skate on the Rideau Canal. There are also cultural and live music shows.
  • Ice carving competitions are held at the Crystal Garden, located between Ottawa City Hall and the National Art Center.
  • Also on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River is the Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. This is a kind of winter playground for the whole family. Both places can be easily reached with the Sno-Coach.

When is Winterlude Ottawa 2023?

The Ottawa Winterlude will take place from February 3rd to February 20th, 2023.


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 for the Ottawa Winter Festival 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! *

Hotel for the Ottawa Winterlude 2023:

Here we have selected hotels, which are located best for the Winterlude within short walking distance to the venues. You will be glad to stay there.

Ottawa Tours and Excursions:

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



Winterlude Ottawa
Click on the photo and save the Ottawa Winter Festival “Winterlude Ottawa” on Pinterest


Do you also know:


We're also participating in the Before We Die blog parade about 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 Ottawa Winterlude 2023: On-site research at the Ottawa Winter Festival. Thank you to Tourism Ottawa, Ontario Tourism and the Canadian Tourism Commission for supporting this trip. However, our opinion remains our own.

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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