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A Diversity of Scenic Fun
No matter the season, the Rideau Canal is a must for visitors to Ottawa, Canada's capital city. The scenic waterway is the highlight of the city's charming downtown area.
The 202-kilometre canal system connects Ottawa to Kingston with lakes, rivers, and several scenic focal points along the way, but the Eastern Pathway in downtown Ottawa is the most iconic stretch. It's most accessible via Queen Elizabeth Drive and Laurier Avenue.
Hours of operation vary greatly by activity and season. In the cold season, an 8.5 metre portion of the canal is transformed into the world's largest naturally frozen ice-skating rink, officially called the Rideau Canal Skateway, and it's open 24 hours a day.
In the warm season, boat rides launched from places like the Davis Lockstation are a popular way to enjoy the canal, and hours are generally from 9 or 10 a.m. to sundown, depending on the weather and holidays like Canada Day, August Civic Holiday and Labour Day.
Visit in the cold season and lace up to enjoy what may be the most beautiful ice skating experience in the world. The Rideau Canal Skateway boasts as much surface area as 90 Olympic hockey rinks and the ice is beset on all sides by gorgeous Ottawa landmarks.
The best time to visit the Skateway is during Winterlude. Drawing crowds of around 1.6 million over the course of three weeks every February, Winterlude events are hosted on the frozen Rideau Canal, nearby Confederation Park, and more locations in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau.
Take part in skating shows, DJ dance parties, and interactive displays, while ice sculptures line the parks and surrounding streets.
Of course, there is plenty more fun to be had when the ice melts. How about a relaxing stroll along the canal's walking trails? It's the perfect way to learn about the Rideau Canal's history and nature, and the Ottawa Locks are a fun focal point.
Or venture further out along the canal by paddling the calm waters in a canoe. September mornings are an especially nice time to do so – as ghostly fog fills the crisp air before morning rays bring nature to life.