Not sure if this should fall under "Must see activity" or "Tourist Trap". I tend to think it's both. The Rideau Canal is one of Ottawa's top attractions and a lot of fun to skate on -- although it's outside, the surface is generally quite smooth.
The only drawback is that the canal can be extremely crowded, especially on weekends and especially during Winterlude (February). It's best to go on a weekday (morning), preferably in January, if you can arrange it. Much more fun and less risk of collision / injury / lawsuit. ;-)
But whenever you go, you must sample a "Beavertail"! Vegetarians, don't worry: It's just like a flat doughnut covered with cinnamon & sugar (or whatever topping you choose).
Skate rental and sharpening are available at huts on the canal, particularly downtown in the area of Laurier Avenue.
You cannot go skating on the Canal without also stopping in at one of the many Beaver Tail outlets for a tasty treat of a deepfried Beaver Tail.
Added note IF you come at a time of the year where skating on the canal is not an option (or you don't skate, there are other Beaver Tail location in other parts of the down town.
Skating on the Largest Skating Rink in the World (7.8 Km long) is great for those enjoy the outdoors. Skates can be rented for those who do not have any. There are also sleds that can be rented which you can push two people in so you can walk the canal as well. There are many little huts along the canal that you can leave your boots while you skate. It is nice during the daylight and equally as nice in the evening with just the night lights.
All is free, however there are Donation Boxes for voluntary contributions.
There are also many little kiosks that sell many snacks.....the most famous being a "Beaver Tail"....the sweet and delicious pastry that is traditionally Canadian. Beaver tails come in different flavours so you will probably find one that you like. Favourites include Cinnamon and Sugar, Maple, Jam or Chocolate.
Hope you Enjoy!!!
As a visitor it's very unlikely that you'll have brought your own skates but there are several places on the canal (and around town) where you can hire them. The main locations on the canal are at the start, by MacKenzie King Bridge, in the middle, at Fifth and at Dow's Lake. Hire charges for 2009 were $15 for 2 hours and $30 per day. The conscession is run by Capital Skates, are open from 10 am until 10 pm and take major credit cards. They also offer a sharpening service and also hire safety gear and children's sleds.
There are plenty of other facilites along the skateway including public conveniences, rest areas, fast food stands and first aid posts - for a useful map, click Skateway Facilities
Every winter the Rideau Canal becomes the World's largest skating rink (it used to be the World's longest but seemingly Winnipeg's is now longer, but nowhere near as wide) and is a major attraction for locals and visitors alike.
The legnth of the skating season depends on the temperature and in preparation for the expected necessary drop in temperature the authorities lower the water level so that the canal will freeze solid. After the temperature drops below a certain point, for a defined number of days (the exact details I can't remember but will update when my friend reminds me), the Capital Commision has the canal groomed to make for an excellent outdoor surface.
The skating season has varied, to date, from 95 days in 1971-72 to 34 days in 2001-02, but the canal is almost always skateable during the Winterlude festival which takes place every February. Website below has skating conditions updated regularly.
This is a very popular local thing to do, is absolutely free and in fact some locals skate it as their daily commute and for shopping trips into downtown. The skateway has a few rules such as no dogs or hockey sticks but apart from that just general courtesy is expected. Regular patrols are made by marshalls and trained paramedics just to keep everyone safe. As a word of warning though, it can be very busy in the evenings and at weekends and so if you want to do some serious skating avoid these peak periods.
If you are visiting Ottawa during the winter months and enjoy ice skating, the Rideau Canal is a MUST-SEE.
The Canal is 7.8 km long and stretches from downtown out to Dows Lake. It is maintained as a skating surface in winter, and is a river in the spring, summer and fall where boats are launched.
There are several stops along the Canal where you can have a seat on one of the benches to catch your breath. There are also several 'huts' set up where skaters can buy hot chocolate and the famous beaver tails.
Definitely a must-see. Even if you don't skate, many people walk along the canal - it's just as much fun! Don't forget your camera.
My fisrt winter in Ottawa was very exciting I could not wait to skate on the Rideau Canal. The fisrt day that the canal was open to skate i had to go and this is what I did. Ok the ice may not be the best but the view from the canal is worth the 7 km skate (remember you have to skate back to your car!). It's free and on the canal there is many things to see and do!
People of all ages come to enjoy the Rideau Canal Skateway, on skates, on foot and on sleds. In winter, this historic navigable waterway becomes a magical 7.8-kilometre roadway of ice in the very heart of Canada?s Capital.
Usually, winter is far from gone in March, in Canada. Maybe it was just bad luck, but although the ice on the Canal was still thick enough for people to skate on it, it was easier to walk on it.... it was covered with slush! We got tired of it very quickly, and next time, if we want to really skate, we'll make sure we go earlier in the winter!
In the winter months one can grab some skates and get a good workout by skating down the worlds longest skating rink!... The rideau canal is world known for that reason! It is quite beautiful and relaxing just skating down and enjoying the scenery that is around you.
Starting downtown skating down you will notice various landmarks on the way, first passing city hall on the right, then couple of km further south Immaculata High School (my old High School) will be on your left. Later, Landsdown park and Dow's lake come into view. Landsdown Park is the Football stadium that plays host to both the CFL's Ottawa Renegades and the OHL's Ottawa 67s (Jr Hockey).
Dows Lake is were all the action takes place, most people tend to congregate around there ... stop by and get a beavertail and a hot chocolate, see some ice sculptures (around Winterlude time) and then continue south. Heading further south you will pass Carleton University and then finally finish off at Hogs Back. Very awesome ! Just make sure the ice conditions are skate able :)
Oh and dress warm:)
The Rideau Canal was open after Christmas. Before that it wasn't frozen enough to skate on. It is the worlds largest skating rink according to the Guiness Book of Records.
It is a waterway, a canal in summer, but come winter time, it is a hive of action. There are huts put on the ice for skate hire and food outlets everywhere especially beavertails ( a long flat beaver tail style donut). People skate with their families from one side to the other. It is a very long outdoor rink. Spectacular to see in winter. You cannot visit Ottawa in winter without visiting the Rideau Canal right in the city.
The Rideau Canal is an awesome place to go ice skating...if you're willing to brave the Ottawa winters! Bring your skates, or rent them for a nominal fee, and take off. Be sure to stop about 1km south of Parliament Hill at the Beavertails stand for a maple syrup Beavertail and a much-needed hot chocolate.
Skating on the Rideau Canal is an experience of a lifetime. It is several km long and you can have a relaxing day of it, stopping for beavertails along the way. I used to want to skate to school, as Carleton University is on the opposite end of the canal from downtown. Shorter and nicer than walking!!!