Canadians are known for getting out and about even in the snowiest weather, be it on skis, skates or snowshoes. Enjoy Canada this winter by embracing the locals’ positive attitude and stepping onto some of the country’s best ice rinks. Some are in Canada’s top cities while others require you going further afield. Consider hiring a car in Canada to get out of the city to enjoy some of these winter wonderlands.
Red River Mutual Trail- Winnipeg
Skate your way through the city of Winnipeg on the Red River Mutual Trail. At 6.1km long, it holds the Guinness World Record for the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. The trail also features stunning craftsmanship with The Warming Hut Art + Architecture Competition. Each year, three hut designs are chosen from hundreds of entries to join the permanent parade of successful designs from previous years. These huts not only show off incredible design and construction skills but are also great places to stop and warm up. This year features a hut from world-renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor.
For those serious about their skating prowess, The Red River Mutual Trail is also home to The Great Skate courtesy of The November Project. It is a 5km race for people of all abilities that is as much about having a great time as winning.
Rideau Canal- Ottawa
The Rideau Canal runs through the heart of Ottawa and during the summer this thoroughfare is a popular spot for boating. Come winter it transforms into the world’s largest outdoor skating rink. The canal only opens for skating when the ice is thick enough to hold both the number of skaters and the machines that groom the surface. You can rent skates, or for those less confident, a sleigh. It is a great place to stop off between shopping and cultural haunts.
Travelling Ted feels that skating on the Rideau Canal is a classic Canadian experience that many people miss out on:
“Many people are afraid to visit Canada in the winter, but the outdoor adventure activities are just as awesome in the winter as they are in the summer. In fact, visiting in the winter I would argue is even better. How can you beat ice skating up to a hut to buy poutine as far as a Canadian authentic experience? I highly recommend a visit to the Rideau Canal this or any winter. It was worth it just for the poutine, but make sure you keep your balance.”
The Natrel Rink- Toronto
Toronto has a few outdoor ice rinks but none are as picturesque as the Natrel Rink. Set against the shoreline of Lake Ontario, this rink has skate rentals available and weekend evenings with DJs to turn your afternoon skating into a party. The rink has been open for 30 years and is well established with a warming station, outdoor fire pits and lounge areas for spectators and tired skaters.
Grouse Mountain Ice Skating Pond – Vancouver
Vancouver is more temperate than other Canadian cities meaning you cannot always guarantee it will be cold enough for outdoor skating. However on the outskirts of North Vancouver is the Grouse Mountain Ice Skating Pond that offers an array of wintery delights including snowshoeing, sleigh rides as well as skate rentals. The pond is beautifully lit at night to give a true grotto effect though families may prefer the warmer temperatures throughout the day.
Parc La Fontaine – Montreal
Enjoy the picturesque skating trail in Parc La Fontaine in the heart of Montreal. Surrounded by beautiful parkland, mounds of snow cleared off the ice and the open sky, it is easy to forget you are close to the city centre. Parc La Fontaine has all the facilities for a perfect afternoon out in the open, you can rent skates and the admission to the lake is free. Warm up with hot chocolate at Espace La Fontaine before heading back into the city for more shopping, culture or a restaurant reservation.
Lake Louise- Alberta
Lake Louise has so much to offer as a year-round attraction. If you get tired of the world-class skiing, head on to the ice just outside the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. Ringed by the Rockies, the stunning scenery includes a glittering ice castle making it perfect for couples and families. Once the sun goes down, you can admire Alberta’s beautiful winter sky as the hotel and surrounding trees are illuminated. Brittany from Thrifts and Threads describes her own midnight skate on Lake Louise:
“I mustered up some energy and was really glad I did. By far Lake Louise is the best ice skating I’ve experienced, the stars were so bright, we were the only ones out there and it was pitch black.”
Out of the city
The Loop, St Johns – Newfoundland
St John’s is on the eastern side of Newfoundland and every winter a thoroughfare is made into a beautiful outdoor rink in the centre of town. Used by locals and tourists alike, the loop has become the heart of outdoor winter activities in St John’s. Don’t despair over short days as it is beautifully illuminated in the evenings. Shelley from St. John’s she was able to give us a few more details:
“The Loop first opened on Christmas Eve 2014 as part of the revitalization of Bannerman Park, a century-old park in the heart of the city. The Loop opens for the season when temperatures are consistently low enough to make and maintain the ice, which often occurs in late December, and usually remains open until early April.
“There is no charge to skate at The Loop, and during the season it is open daily from 10 am to 11 pm The Loop is well used by the community and receives about 500 skaters per day on the weekends and 200 during weekdays. The City of St. John’s hosts a number of community events at The Loop including skating parties on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.”
Arrowhead Provincial Park- Ontario
Just outside Algonquin National Park is the small but picturesque Arrowhead Provincial Park that is perfect for those seeking a winter woodland skate. The magical trail wends itself through snow-laden trees looking Christmas-card perfect. The trail was created 6 years ago after the park’s assistant superintendent grew tired of a confined skating rink. Since then the Arrowhead Provincial Park skating trail has grown in popularity, becoming a firm winter favourite in Ontario.
The rental shop is perfect for those travelling without skates and the campfire is a welcome spot to stop and warm up. During December and March, there are special Fire and Ice nights when the trail is illuminated in the evening, making the experience that little bit more magical. Emma and Stewart describe the trail perfectly in their blog Brown Bear Travels:
“Picture a quintessential Canadian winter scene: snow-covered evergreens as far as the eye can see, big fluffy snowflakes falling and a beautiful torch-lit skating trail winding through the middle of it all. And there you have the Arrowhead Provincial Park Ice Skating Trail.”