Most Australians have experienced ice skating – if at all – in an enclosed rink while it swelters outside, perhaps hauling themselves along the perimeter railing. But there’s nothing like skating in the great outdoors as the snow is falling, and hot chocolate brews nearby. And nobody does outdoor skating better than Canada, from canals to forests, to lakes great and small.
So if you have your heart set on some frosty fun, start making plans to visit these cool places to ice skate in Canada next winter. But be ready for small children to put you in the shade – in this ice-hockey-mad nation they start learning to skate practically as soon as they can walk.
The largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world (Guinness says so), Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. At 7.8 kilometres long, you can glide from the Canadian capital’s downtown core to Dows Lake, along with the other 19,000 daily visitors. And there’s hot soup, hot chocolate and heated change huts all the way. Make sure you stop for a piping hot BeaverTails pastry, the quintessential Ottawa experience.
This glacier-fed beauty spot sits all aquamarine amid Alberta’s green-forested Rocky Mountains in summer, but freezes over in winter to become one of the country’s most spectacular ice skating spots. Skate along in a sea of white, with the massive Victoria Glacier as your backdrop. The newest snowfall is cleared from the lake daily and a huge ice castle adds to the spectacle. And you can duck into the glorious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to warm up.
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Zoom through an enchanted forest at the Arrowhead Provincial Park Ice Trail in Ontario. The 1.3-kilometre trail winds through snow-heavy evergreen trees, which loom even larger on Fire & Ice nights, when the trail is illuminated by hundreds of tiki torches. The park is full of other winter activities, including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, fat biking and more. Oh, and this is maple syrup country, so prepare your sweet tooth.
Feel the ambience of Old Quebec at the Place D’Youville skating rink. Sitting beside the old city walls, the rink takes on a special glow at night, with pretty lights illuminating the old Porte Saint-Jean and Capitole de Quebec building, as live music floats on the cool night air. There are plenty of restaurants around the square should the chill set in. You can also have a skate on the clifftop Plains of Abraham, a historic site where the British defeated the French in 1759. It’s a perfect spot for a horse-drawn sleigh ride, too.
While skating on Toronto’s frozen Lake Ontario is not encouraged by the city authorities, you can skate right beside it at the Harbourfront Centre’s free outdoor rink. The beautiful shoreline of this Great Lake is breathtaking, with the city’s CN tower rising above the skyscrapers behind. There are DJ skate nights, learn-to-skate classes for the ice-challenged, along with special activities for the kids and more.
In spring and summer, this treasure garden in an old quarry at Victoria on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island is full of flowering bulbs, and blooming shrubs and trees. In winter, when dainty snowdrops and lush hellebore bloom, it’s time to strap on your skates for cool nights and Christmas lights. Float below twinkling lights as carols croon, then head into the coffee shop for a hot chocolate and a snuggle by the roaring fire.
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