The wait is now over! Ottawa’s Rideau Canal has been transformed into the world’s largest natural skating rink, freezing over for the first time in two years.
After some uncertainty due to weather conditions, the Rideau Canal Skateway has officially reopened, welcoming eager skaters who’ve been waiting for its return, to enjoy the over 7 km long skating rink.
According to Ottawa Tourism, this is the world’s largest skating rink and it’ll be open to either late February or March, depending on the weather.
WE’RE SO BACK!
The green flag is up over the Rideau Canal Skateway, and a section between Fifth Ave and Bank.
— Rideau Canal Skateway (@NCC_Skateway) January 21, 2024
The National Capital Commission is in charge of transforming the historic site into the winter destination and has been for years.
And transforming this site is not an easy task. Per Ottawa Tourism, the city needs at least 10 to 14 straight days of -10 to -20°C temperatures for the ice to be at least 30 cm in thickness.
According to the NCC, the Rideau Canal Skateway first opened during the 1970–1971 season.
“The idea to turn the Rideau Canal into a skateway came from then-newly appointed NCC chair Doug Fullerton,” shares the NCC.
“In January 1971, a team of NCC employees armed with brooms and shovels turned his idea into a reality. They cleared a small section of ice between the Mackenzie King and Laurier bridges near the National Arts Centre.”
Then it was extended as a six-metre-wide skating track with a distance of about 5 km.
Music and lighting were added to the area between the bridges to attract crowds, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Now, the Rideau Canal Skateway spans over 7.8 km and is an important site for Winterlude celebrations in February.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become the pride of the National Capital and a signature destination, according to the NCC.
While you enjoy your winter experience down the Rideau Canal Skateway, you’ll notice Beavertail stands where you can grab a delicious treats and hot chocolate, and even boozy beverages from other vendors.
If you’re not a skater, don’t worry, you can walk or shuffle along the edges of the skateway, or stroll on the pathways along the Rideau Canal.
Its opening comes just in time as Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival kicks off on February 2nd, 2024.
Now sharpen those skates and plan a trip to the Rideau Canal, you know you’ll want to.