Lace Up for the World’s Largest Ice Skating Rink

  • The freezing of the Rideau Canal makes it the largest outdoor skating rink in the world.

    The freezing of the Rideau Canal makes it the largest outdoor skating rink in the world.

  • The city's imposing chateau built by railroad magnate Charles Melville Hays is now a posh Fairmont hotel.

    The city's imposing chateau built by railroad magnate Charles Melville Hays is now a posh Fairmont hotel.

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The telltale sign of a true cold-weather city is its warm welcome of the frigid temperatures. Take Canada’s capital, which every year leans into winter with the purposeful freezing of its beloved centerpiece, the Rideau Canal. As soon as the weather allows, a 7.8-kilometer section of the historic waterway is drained low enough so that a heavy ice cap can form on top, transforming it into the Rideau Canal Skateway—the world’s largest outdoor skating rink and one of Canada’s top winter attractions. Ottawans have been skating the canal since 1971, and these days, more than a million people take to the ice each season, which typically runs from early January to early March. The Skateway is also a hub of Ottawa’s annual Winterlude Festival (Jan. 29−Feb. 15), which fills the city with ice sculpture displays, food events, skating clinics, and North America’s largest snow playground. —Gabrielle Lipton

Getting There
Via Toronto on Air Canada or WestJet, an hour-long flight.

Where to Stay
Across the canal from Parliament Hill, the Fairmont Château Laurier (doubles from US$265)—shown here on the right—is a regal 1912 landmark that retains its original copper-clad turrets and Tiffany stained-glass windows.

Be Sure to Try
Beavertails—a quin-tessential Ottawa snack. The fried dough pastries (shaped, as their name suggests, like the tail of a beaver) are served piping hot with sweet toppings like maple butter.

What Else?
Explore the crop of cool shops on Dalhousie Street, at the edge of Ottawa’s touristy Byward Market. Highlights include womenswear boutique Isabelle and Workshop, which stocks jewelry and apparel by dozens of Canadian designers.

This article originally appeared in the December/January print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Ottawa On Ice”)

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