Hello From Ottawa – Confederation Park Celebrates Winterlude
Confederation Park is one of the main centres of Ottawa’s Winterlude Festival, and what was excellent for us was that we were staying right across the street at the Lord Elgin Hotel. So all we had to do was literally cross the street and we were right in the heart of the action.
Winterlude is Ottawa’s winter festival, organized by the National Capital Commission. It brings together exciting events and activities for the whole family and most of the activities are free of charge. Naturally, Winterlude is a big draw for tourists: last year the festival attractived approximately 650,000 visitors.
You would think that Ottawa is a city of bureaucrats, who maintain a stiff upper lip at all times. Far from it, as we had already seen during our Friday night outing to Fat Tuesdays in the ByWard Market, Ottawans know how to party and Winterlude is a 2 week long excuse for everyone to get out and celebrate winter.
Winterlude is hosted throughout the entire city, so here is a summary of some of the main Winterlude Locations:
Confederation Park is hosting the Casino du Lac-Leamy Crystal Garden, an outdoor entertainment venue that includes the Crystal Lounge, a variety of food vendors and outdoor sculptures.
When we headed out on Saturday morning, we walked right into the ice carving competition where 7 or 8 ice carvers were working on frozen blocks of ice, using a variety of electric and hand tools to give shape to the creatures of their imagination.
Chain saws were being used, electrical grinding tools and hand chisels slowly but surely created recognizeable objects. Teddy bears, choo-choo trains and cartoon characters were coming to life right in front of our very eyes.
Confederation Park also hosts the Fire and Ice Culinary Demonstrations, and renowned chefs and media personalities compete for the Winterlude Ice Chef titles.
Another Winterlude location just minutes away is the American Express Snowbowl, a stage located right in front of the Government Conference Centre. This year’s lineup includes Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Mes Aïeux, Jully Black, Doba Caracol, Daniel Lanois and many more.
On our way back from Darcy McGee’s on Saturday evening we walked down to Confederation Park and on to the American Express Snowbowl and caught a bit of a live concert. The stage was set against the National Conference Centre and was beautifully illuminated in orange, pink and purple shades and the crowd was enjoying the live music.
The Rideau Canal Skateway is another official Winterlude location. This past weekend I had a chance to experience the Canal myself, and on a beautiful crisp winter day, it was an exhiliariting experience to glide almost weightlessly across the frozen expanse of the 7.8 km long Rideau Canal, indeed the world’s largest natural ice skating surface, according to the Guiness Book of World Records.
The Rideau Canal Skateway itself hosts a variety of activities: you can get a taste of Aboriginal culture, traditions and cuisine at the Pig Island Aboriginal Village. The Canadian Tire JumpStart Activity Centre at Fifth Avenue allows children to test their hockey skills and they can also try out the Jumpai trampoline system. Union Station at Rideau Street provides a 1920s ambience: the history of the railway yards on the banks of the Rideau River is recounted on displays and interpretive panels.
This past Saturday, the 26th Annual Bed Race on Dow’s Lake combined athleticism, ingenous engineering and fundraising for a great day of charity and hilarity.
Another opportunity for fundraising is coming up on February 19, 2006, when Canadian Tire invities you to participate in the Great Skate from 11 am to 3 pm on the Rideau Canal Skateway on Fifth Avenue. Proceeds will go to Canadian Tire JumpStart, a charitable program created by the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families that helps kids in financial need participate in organized sports and recreation.
On the other side of the Ottawa River in Hull, Quebec, is Jacques-Cartier Park, official location of Snowflake Kingdom and another official Winterlude site. It offers the Ice Hogs Winter Sports Adventure, individual slides of different slopes which will provide fun to the whole family.
Northern Place is a snow shelter and presents the enchanting world of Aboriginal cultures with aboriginal shows and traditional demonstrations. The Ice Hog Amphitheatre is home to the Ice Hog’s Walkabout, and in case you didn’t know, the Ice Hogs are Winterlude’s official mascots. Children can get a hug from one of their favourite mascots – Mama, Papa, Noumi and Nouma. The Snowflake Kingdom also presents “Expérience Maneige”, an opportunity for 5 to 8 year old children to go downhill skiing.
And a restaurant festival preceeds Winterlude. This year Taste of Winterlude was held from January 20 to February 2, 2006, where many popular restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau served up their specialties in affordable prix-fix menu format. We missed the restaurant festival, but good food was not lacking during our past 2 days in Ottawa. Our enjoyable dinners at Fat Tuesdays and Darcy McGee’s gave us a sample of some of the culinary treats on offer in Ottawa.
Winterlude offers a wide variety of activities, and fortunately this past weekend we had a chance to participate in just a few. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope to come back to Ottawa for another festival, maybe even the famous Tulip Festival this coming May…….