The best places to skate outside in Canada
Nothing says winter in Canada like bundling up in a cozy jacket, toque and mittens, strapping on a pair of skates and heading outside for an afternoon on the ice. And, it is a great way to get some exercise and keep safe during our current COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the must-skate outdoor rinks you need to visit across Canada this winter.
Skating on the l'Assomption River, Joliette, Quebec
From late January to early March, the Assomption River in Joliette, QC is transformed into the longest outdoor skating rink in Quebec. Skaters can glide their way down two 3.4 km frozen river corridors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and enjoy onsite amenities such as coffee, locker rentals and skate sharpening. In February, the Assomption River is the location for the Festi-Glace, which offers a variety of winter activities for the whole family.
Bonsecours Basin, Montreal, Quebec
This is where it all began, Montreal's Bonsecours Basin in Old Montreal where Canada's first outdoor commercial rink was opened in 1850. The area is heavy on charm, with a view overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The rink is located in front of Terrasses Bonsecours and surrounds the Montreal Observation Wheel.
Rideau Canal Skateway (Ottawa, ON)
The scenic Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, which stretches from Ottawa’s downtown core to Dows Lake, is the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world, not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bring your own skates or rent a pair at the Skateway’s downtown and Fifth Avenue entrances and glide your way down the 7.8 kilometres of ice, stopping, in normal years, for hot soup, hot chocolate and BeaverTails at shop stands along the way. Check out the Winterlude Triathlon for a unique ski/skate/run along the canal.
Ice Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, Muskoka, Ontario
For a true winter wonderland experience, visit Arrowhead Provincial Park in Muskoka, ON from January to March and enjoy a scenic skate through the forest on the Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail. If you head to the trail in the early evening in January and February, you can experience Fire & Ice nights, where hundreds of tiki torches illuminate the trail as you carve through Muskoka's beautiful evergreens. Don’t have your own skates? No problem — skate rentals and sharpening are available onsite. Skating Enthusiasts Are Loving Arrowhead
Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery Ice Trail, Muskoka, Ontario
The Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh Ice Trail is a 1.2-kilometre loop through 12 acres of cranberries with stunning Boreal forests on one side and cranberry beds on the other. Warm-up by the waterfall fire or post-skate hit the winery for hot mulled cider or wine. Skate rentals and skate sharpening are available on-site. $5 per person.
The Manitoba 150 River Trail, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Skate, walk, run or sled your way along the Manitoba 150 River Trail in Winnipeg, the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world that starts in the heart of the city and follows the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Although 2020 is a different year to be sure, usually starting in February, there are several family-friendly events happening on the trail, including an Iron Man Curling Bonspiel, an all-terrain bicycle race and the Festival du Voyageur.
Skating on Lake Louise (Paul Zizka @paulzizkaphoto)
Lake Louise, Alberta
There is hardly a more perfect skating moment than on a clear day slicing across the ice of Lake Louise. Although there is more than one picture-perfect skating area in Banff National park, Lake Louise is just so iconic and so beautiful. The ice rink is maintained daily by Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and is free to use, with skate rentals available at Chateau Mountain Sports, located by the hotel lobby. Of course, the Waldhaus Rink on Spray Meadow behind the Banff Springs Hotel is a close second. The annual Ice Magic Festival is still scheduled to run in Lake Louise from Jan. 20-31, but there is a good chance it will be adapted in some way if it happens so be sure to check with organizers.
Grouse Mountain Ice Skating Pond, Vancouver, British Columbia
Skate with a stunning view of the city on Grouse Mountain’s Ice Skating Pond, open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the winter months atop Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, BC (weather permitting). Access to the skating pond is free with your Grouse Mountain lift ticket, and skate rentals are available onsite. If a friendly game of hockey is more your thing, the 8,000 square-foot Ice Skating Pond is available for private rentals, which include an hour of private ice time, access for up to 15 players and nachos in Altitudes Bistro.
Lead photo: Paul Zizka @paulzizkaphoto