Canadian Winter Vacation on Ice

The weather is variable in Canada, and we have a variety of winter climates across Canada. In Southern Ontario today it is a sunny 6 degrees, and the river below me is not quite frozen. We had a lovely dusting of snow yesterday, which wasn’t fun to shovel, but it made a pretty scene all over the tree branches. The best thing to do in Canada during winter is to join in the winter experience with winter sports and outdoor activities. While my husband loves his ice fishing, and all of my adult kids and husband have been hockey players, I have never been much of an athlete. Now that our kids are busy with University, we may road trip around to visit here and there, or just enjoy the winter in our own neighbourhood.

My unsteady skates with my spouse’s steady ones

Our local mall has an indoor arena, where we have skated. We attended a public skate in the middle of a weekday (we’re retired), and enjoyed the company of new Canadians from a local college in a learn to skate visit. We also attended a Senior Citizen skate. While we were the youngest skaters at the event, the others were regulars, and there was a definite social order there. I am a terrible unsteady skater,who just wants to go slow and hold my spouse’s hand. I received a lot of instruction.

My husband (a really strong skater and hockey player – but a bit rusty), asked some older fellows finishing up some shinny hockey if he could attend. They suggested he practice a bit more!

Despite our rusty skating skills, I felt that I had exercised and had fun! We laughed so much at ouselves and enjoyed the change of scenery from the day to day. It may be hard to stand up, but it’s not difficult to find the equipment necessary to skate. A warm jacket, gloves, maybe a helmet – and many locations rent skates – just check ahead of time. Public skating is typically very inexpensive – and many times free!

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While we can skate across Canada at local indoor arenas during public skates, there are so many spectacular locations across Canada to add skating to a winter vacation or road trip. Always check the latest hours of operations and ice conditions/weather before planning any trips around these locations! If you are visiting any of these Canadian locations, consider adding an hour of skating to your day to “feel the winter”. When I travel I tend to get that overstuffed feeling, from too much driving/flying/tour bus travelling and too much local restaurant sampling! So adding a bit of physical activity such as skating can be a healthy and pleasant change, especially if you are skating in a historic or beautiful location.

Halifax Emera Oval – Halifax Nova Scotia

If you are visiting beautiful Halifax Nova Scotia, why not visit the Emera Skating Oval for a bit of outdoor skating. The Emera Oval is open year round for in-line skating in the summer and ice skating in the winter. How great is that? This outdoor oval is the size of 3 NHL hockey rinks, and “is the largest outdoor, artificially-refrigerated ice surface east of Quebec City.” in Canada’s oldest urban park. Hours Of Operation Skating Dec 15–Mar 15; rollerblading and biking April 15–Oct 27.

Halifax Emera Oval – Photo Nova There are regularly scheduled public skates at the oval, with skate and helmet rentals, and indoor warming areas.

Ottawa – Rideau Canal – Ottawa Ontario

If you are visiting the capital of Canada in Ottawa Ontario, and touring it’s museums and parliament buildings, you will also want to participate in Winterlude. Every year the portions of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa become an enormous groomed skating rink. This year Winterlude runs from Jan 31 to Feb 17th – with regular events scheduled: The Rideau Canal Skateway is recognized as the world’s largest skating rink at 7.8km . This year it is open until March 8th. ALWAYS check the websites and weather for current conditions:

Rideau Canal Skateway, Winter
The Rideau Canal Skateway – photo Ottawa Tourism

Quebec City – Quebec

This beautiful city has been my favourite destination since my teenage years. This walled city is like a little piece of Europe. Quebec City is the only walled-in city in North America and one of the oldest, if not the oldest with old cobblestone streets, history and character. At the walled entrance to the Old Town of Quebec – there is a small refrigerated outdoor rink. It is beautifully lit at night! Patinoire de la place D’Youville “Outdoor skating rink with a system for keeping the ice frozen during warmer weather. Open from mid-November to mid-March. No admission fee. Skate rental and sharpening services onsite.” Time your visit during the Quebec Winter Carnival and there will be many events – including Ice Sculpture carving demonstrations.

Ice rink
Patinoire de la place D’Youville – Photo- Quebec tourism

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Toronto – Ontario

If you are visiting Toronto Ontario, there are several outdoor rinks including the scenic Colonel Sam Smith Park Skating Trail, the waterfront Harbourfront Natrel Rink, and The Bentway Skating Trail (a figure 8 skating rink), under the Gardener Expressway Highway, next to historic Fort York.

The most iconic, instagram worthy place to skate though is at Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall. You have to take a picture of yourself skating by the Toronto Sign! ” From December 2 to March 22, Nathan Phillips Square will host free, drop-in programming. Visit Welcome to Winter to find the Skate the Square schedule.”

Photo – Nathan Phillips Square

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Arrowhead Provincial Park

This one is in Ontario’s Muskoka cottage country, north of the Toronto Area. “Enjoy this 1.3 km skating trail that winds through the Muskoka forest. The trail is lit with hundreds of tiki torches during select nights. 11:00 AM to 05:00 PM Daily Night skating on select nights – Fire & Ice Nights from Jan 4, 2020. Cost: Admission to provincial park. Skiing extra. Address: Arrowhead Provincial Park — 7 km north of Huntsville.”

This trail is more rustic, but peaceful and beautiful – just not necessarily as smoothly groomed as an ice skating rink – It’s in a forest after all!! “
“TRAIL UPDATE: Ice skating trail isnow OPEN for 2018 / 2019 season. Remember, the trail is always weather dependent (i.e if the temperature is above 0°C, park officials might need to temporary close the skating trail). We always recommend checking the Arrowhead Park ski report prior to leaving your home to make sure that the trail is open. Park staff update the report every day, first thing in the morning.”

Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail
Photo –

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery – Niagara Region Ontario

If you are visiting Niagara Falls, you are entering Ontario’s wine region. The Wayne Gretzky Winery is located in Niagara’s wine country. While they aren’t growing grapes through the winter, there is a Winery, a Brewery and a Whisky Distillery. Who can complain about that?

“Bring your skates to enjoy a favourite Canadian activity, and relax on the heated Whisky Bar patio as we serve up wine, cocktails and our winter menu (non-alcoholic beverages, too). Food Menu only available Friday – Sunday. View The Whisky Bar patio menu. As long as weather cooperates, the rink opens in early December and closes mid-March. You can call us at 1.844.643.7799 to confirm if the rink is open before you arrive. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get updates about the Estate and learn more about special events.”

I doubt you’ll bump into Wayne Gretzky, but it sounds very civilized, although I’m not sure how much skating I would do if I had a glass of wine (or 2). During the weekends in February, wineries in Niagara on the Lake are participating in a “Days of Wine and Chocolates” Tour. Days of Wine & Chocolate – Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Calgary Olympic Oval

Ok, this one is a little bit different – It’s indoors. The location of the 1988 Olympics, the 400 metre indoor Olympic Oval is located in the University of Calgary and does have regular public skates with skate rental both on the oval, and on the 2 hockey sized rinks circled by the oval. Check the schedule before you book though, as the facility is used for athlete training and often hosts Canadian and World Cup speed skating competitions. So if you don’t get to skate – you can always watch future Olympians!

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Young Canadian Speedskaters Competing at the Calgary Olympic Oval

Calgary Olympic Plaza

If you would like to skate outside in a downtown Calgary location, try the Calgary Olympic Plaza

There are so many more beautiful locations to break out the skates across Canada – so if you have any more suggestions – I will definitely add them in and repost! These are just the rinks that I have been to – so if you would like to add a comment or send a picture – please do!

Happy winter travelling!!

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9 thoughts on “Canadian Winter Vacation on Ice

  1. I went skating with my kids this week too! We have outdoor rinks in our town that are free. It’s a wonderful pastime. Here in Manitoba we also have the River trail, which I haven’t ever skated on but would love to. Apparently it is the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world! Here’s a link to that info:

    “I wish I had a river, I could skate away on” 🥰

    1. Thank you very much for posting this link. That’s absolutely the type of rink/trail that would be wonderful to skate on. In Manitoba I have only been to the Susan Auch Oval in Winnipeg, and I was thinking of including that as well, but stopped with what I had so far! Enjoy skating with your kids – the time goes so fast!

  2. I haven’t been skating since I was a teen! I would love to try again, slightly afraid of breaking bones though haha. I should get my kids to re-teach me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to return to my original capabilities on the ice, but it would be nice to just forget my troubles as I glide across the clouds once again 😀

    1. I’m still the same unsteady skater that I’ve been for years, but my husband holds my hand, and my kids are big enough to hold me up now (or stay out of the way when I fall!)

  3. I love skating at the Oval in Halifax – free, and a perfectly groomed surface! For women new or returning to skating, I would highly recommend recreational skates or hockey skates instead of figure skates. They provide excellent ankle support and make everyone steadier on their feet. When I first got them, I thought, “No wonder men and boys have such an easier time on the ice!”

    1. The Halifax Oval is awesome! That’s a good idea about the skates! I’ve been wearing the same skates for 30 years and haven’t gotten any steadier.

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