Winterlude packing guide

12 Jan

So, you’re coming to Ottawa for Winterlude this February. Glad to hear it! (If you haven’t booked yet, check out the Winterlude accommodation packages — for couples and for families – available through Ottawa Tourism (and don’t forget the popular Third Night Free promotion at select hotels).

Especially if this is your first visit to Ottawa in the winter, we urge you to refer to this packing guide to make sure you enjoy yourselves to the fullest. Because no matter how amazing the ice sculptures at the Crystal Garden, how romantic the outing on the Rideau Canal Skateway, or how slippery the ice slide at Snowflake Kingdom, you won’t have any fun at all if your feet are cold!

BeaverTails are a delicious hot pastry treat available on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Don't let cold feet stop you from enjoying one... or two!



  • A backpack: It’s great for stashing your boots while you go skating on the Rideau Canal (remember to bring a plastic bag or two to limit wetness on the inside), plus it leaves your hands free to eat a BeaverTail!).
  • Snacks: Raisins, chocolate, power bars—you need something to munch on to keep your energy level up while skating, snowshoeing, skiing, or just wandering around town.
  • Water bottle: Stay hydrated! You may not realize you’re thirsty in the cold, but your body needs water! An insulated version is best.
  • Indoor clothing: Bring an extra layer or two of clothing so if it’s warmer or colder than you think, you’re prepared. This is key! Thin sweaters and shirts that whisk away any moisture are the best and they pack well.
  • Outdoor clothing: A warm jacket or parka is a must. Ideally, it would be a fabric that blocks the wind and repels moisture. Remember to layer in order to stay warm.
  • Ski pants: For so many reasons: they block the wind and add warmth, they protect your pants from snow and slush and prevent you from getting wet and therefore colder, and best of all, they help you whizz down the ice and snow slides at Snowflake Kingdom. If you wear jeans, you’ll get stuck and that’s embarrassing (this is the voice of experience talkin’ here!)!
  • Accessories: A warm hat, gloves or mittens, a scarf…these are necessities. And don’t feel self-conscious—the entire city battleshat-head! The more colourful, the better! Remember, too, that mittenswill keep your hands warmer than gloves (assuming they’re not wimpy things you can see through). Waterproof is best.
  • Footwear: Don’t skimp here! Warm socks and boots are a must (stick an extra pair of socks in your backpack just in case). Stiletto heels just won’t cut it, either—dress for warmth and you’ll enjoy your time outdoors.
  • Sleigh rentals are convenient for those in your group who don't skate. Push 'em along the Rideau Canal Skateway!

    Skates and sleighs: If you don’t bring your own pair of ice skates, you can rent some from Capital Skates at two locations on the ice surface: one near the National Arts Centre downtown and the other about half-way along the Canal near Fifth Avenue. Capital Skates also rents sleighs, which are perfect means of transportation for children or non-skaters, and which need to be pushed by skaters. Rates vary.

  • Bandaids: If you haven’t skated in years, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to blisters (though modern skates are MUCH more comfortable than they used to be).
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm: Think about it—the sun reflects off the snow and ice so it’s extra strong.Plus sunglasses might help you combat hat head once you move inside.
  • Tissues and wipes: Cold weather often means runny noses, so you’ll appreciate a handy supply of tissues.
  • Camera, batteries, recharger: You want to record these moments for posterity, don’t you? Pack your camera securely—and warmly—in an inside jacket pocket, not in your backpack! Batteries may deplete faster in the cold—be prepared!


  • Once you’ve spent all day outside being active, you deserve a reward. Indulge in an activity as part of Taste of Winterlude, a series of culinary special events, including winemakers’ dinners and walkabout winter feasts (where you walk from restaurant to restaurant for each course of a multi-course meal).
  • Use the SnoBus to get around. For $3.50 per adult (free for kids 11 and under), you can get a ride to the major Winterlude sites. The SnoBus runs on Saturdays and Sundays during Winterlude and connects from downtown Ottawa to Snowflake Kingdom (Jacques-Cartier Park) (10am to 5:30pm) and from downtown to Dows Lake (10am to 8:00pm) and the pass is good all day.
  • There are Chalets (or warm-up huts) all along the Rideau Canal Skateway. This is where you can put on your skates, or simply pop in to warm up for a while. Some people leave their boots behind, but most people throw them in a backpack and take them with.
  • There’s nothing more Canadian than standing in your skates with a BeaverTail in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other, on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Take a photo or upload a video to YouTube!
  • Most women in Ottawa arrive at parties with a shoe bag. You wear your boots to get to where you’re going, then you slip on your knock-’em-dead pumps once you’re there. Practical and sexy!

Anything I’ve forgotten? Weigh in below with a comment!

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2 Responses to “Winterlude packing guide”

  1. ottawajantine January 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I got a response from Twitter that’s worth sharing here. @yumikid wrote “Winterlude peeps should bring cash – many of the vendors at sites don’t take Interac!”

    Good advice, Yumi!


  1. Tweets that mention Winterlude packing guide « Let’s Go Ottawa -- - January 12, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jantine Van Kregten. Jantine Van Kregten said: Your first @Winterlude in Ottawa? Check out my Winterlude Packing Guide! (Locals: did I miss anything?) [...]

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