Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is known in that country as “the city that fun forgot.” Since it is the seat of government and home to hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats and politicians, I’ll readily admit that it is not exactly a hive of happening hipness. It is where I was born and raised, however, and while I have left that city for more exciting prospects in Toronto, Ottawa certainly has its charms. Its embracing enthusiasm for winter is one of them.
Ottawa is the seventh coldest national capital in the world, the coldest being Ulaan-Bataar in Mongolia. With temperatures consistently falling below -20 degrees Farenheit in January and February, and an average of three feet of snow accumulation, Ottawans know how to do winter.
This weekend is the final weekend of Winterlude, Ottawa’s winter festival. Known worldwide for its unbridled celebration of the year’s coldest season, the two-week festival hosts international ice-sculpture competitions, maple-syrup making courses and lots of skating on the world’s largest skating rink: the Rideau Canal Skateway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site measures 5 miles long and extends from Ottawa’s downtown core to Dows Lake in the city’s south end.
When it is frozen during the winter, thousands of skaters descend upon the canal each day to skate along the winding, scenic path of ice, which is lined with heated rest areas and pavilions that serve hot drinks and tasty treats.
I try to make it there each year but this year I missed it and I’m feeling a little nostalgic, which is why I selected images of Winterlude for this week’s Five Beautiful Things column. If any of you are winter enthusiasts and have the chance to visit Ottawa during Winterlude (the first two weeks of February), you are certainly in for a treat.