Every February, the twin cities of Ottawa and Gatineau turn into a winter wonderland, filled with gorgeous ice sculptures, special events, and delicious treats called Beavertails.” Dubbed Winterlude, this annual winter festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Canada’s National Capital Region.

Running from January 31 to February 17, Winterlude 2020 is shaping up to be one for the history books, with organizers pulling out all the stops, including all-new activities and installations. You too can feast on the festivities by planning your visit to the Ottawa-Gatineau region for Winterlude with our insider information.

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Gatineau and Ottawa Winterlude 2020 Schedule

The Gatineau-Ottawa Winterlude 2020 schedule kicks off with opening ceremonies on January 31 on historic Sparks Street, but you’ll be able to find Winterlude activities scattered across the region. For instance, the quaint Glebe neighbourhood hosts its annual Snowmania exhibition, featuring cartoony animals sculpted from snow. 

For the first time in its history, the event will hold ice-carving competitions each week, rather than one at the outset of the event. Winterlude Gatineau has its own charms, such as the celebrations at Jacques Cartier Park with ice sculptures as far as the eye can see.

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Ice Sculptures in Jacques Cartier Park

Located along the shores of the Ottawa River by the Canadian Museum of History, the Jacques Cartier Park turns into the Snowflake Kingdom each year for Winterlude. The Snowflake Kingdom features giant ice slides for tobogganing and tubing, as well as the famous Jacques Cartier Park ice sculptures. These intricate, hulking carvings are made by world-class ice sculptors, and you can get a memorable photo op with them. 

Younger children will also love meeting the Ice Hog Family, the Snowflake Kingdom’s perennial mascots. If you’re lucky, you can also see the Ice Hogs take to the Rideau Canal.

Winterlude Triathlon

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Winterlude on the Rideau Canal

An iconic Canadian attraction and indelible Ottawa landmark, the Rideau Canal welcomes thousands of skaters a day from the heart of Parliament Hill down to the peaceful shores of Dow’s Lake. The 8km stretch features not only beautiful urban and natural sights, but also plenty of hot cocoa and Beavertail stands along the way.

The canal will host a number of festivities during Winterlude 2020, including the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, where racers glide along the frozen canal using special paddles. Kids can also hit a few slap shots in the Timbits Hockey Zone. 

If casual, Sunday skates aren’t your speed, you can test your mettle at the Winterlude Triathlon on February 1, when competitors skate along the canal, traverse a cross-country ski trail, and finally sprint to the finish line. 

Winter Pride Winterlude

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

The Best Winterlude 2020 Concerts

Some important Gatineau-Ottawa Winterlude 2020 dates to mark off include appearances from the event’s many musical guests. This year’s spate of free concerts includes performances by Canadian artists and diverse international artists, like Colores Andinos, who specialize in traditional South American music. They’ll be performing at the National Arts Centre on February 2.

On February 5, you can catch Grammy award-winning violinist Joshua Bell playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto at the National Arts Centre. You can also see performances of traditional Inuit throat singing along Sparks Street throughout Winterlude 2020. For a truly unique experience, you can see master ukulele player James Hill play the NAC on February 16 – 17

This is just a small sample of the Winterlude 2020 concerts — there will be many more throughout festivities and most of them are free!

Winterlude Beavertails

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Beyond Parliament Hill: Winterlude 2020 Activities and Events

Uptown Ottawa also has its share of fun Winterlude 2020 activities with Snowmania in the Glebe. The quaint main street is lined with mom-&-pop shops, diverse restaurants and – for the duration of Winterlude – fun snow sculptures, family activities and food stands. 

For the first time ever, you’ll be able to hit the ice in a skating rink in the middle of Ottawa’s bustling Centretown neighbourhood. The area will also host the Fire and Ice Festival on the weekend of February 8, featuring DJs spitting hot tracks and Drag Queens hitting the ice for a special performance. 

Byward Market Ottawa Sign

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

There are many more festivities to be enjoyed across the National Capital region throughout Winterlude. Check out the Gatineau-Ottawa Winterlude 2020 schedule for more info.

Keen to see more of the Ottawa-Gatineau region? Make sure to check out our top recommendations for visiting the glorious centre of Canada.

Special thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn in Gatineau, QC for contributing to this piece.

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