Ice skating is synonymous with winter in this part of the world. Whether you’re a skating newbie or the next Olympic hopeful, pull on some mittens, lace up your ice skates and glide onto the frozen playgrounds across the country. Ice skating in wide-open outdoor rinks and trails is the perfect family adventure or romantic holiday date.
Take a break from that iced-over cul-de-sac in the ‘burbs and experience the fun of Canada’s top outdoor ice rinks.
Great Slave Lake - Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Hearty locals from the Northwest Territories can’t wait til it’s that time of year again to skate across massive Great Slave Lake, North America’s deepest. They also delight in skating the “ice roads.” Or for something more conventional, join lively folks at Yellowknife’s 198-metre-long Olympic Oval at Tommy Forrest Park.
Rideau Canal Skateway - Ottawa, Ontario
Canada’s most beloved outdoor rink happens to be the world’s largest: Ottawa, Ontario’s picture-perfect Rideau Canal. You can skate nearly five miles along the naturally frozen canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, usually open January to March. Views of the city are fabulous — and, it’s free, just bring your own skates or rent them from a hut along the banks.
Shipyards Park - Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
A historic steamboat industrial zone, today the reclaimed Shipyards Park in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory is a hub for year-round recreation and special events, including a skating loop, tobogganing, and for the daring, ice tower climbing. If you can, visit during February’s raucous 10-day winter festival, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, an institution since 1945.
Lake Louise - Lake Louise, Alberta
You’ve probably seen the turquoise Lake Louise, framed by Alberta’s Rockies in the summer. But what about winter? When temperatures drop, it becomes the perfect setting for a fairy tale, giant ice castle included. Named as one of the “10 most beautiful ice skating rinks in the world,” the frozen lake is cleared and maintained daily by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and has a heated shelter to warm chilly fingers and toes.
Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
In downtown Saskatoon, skate under the holiday lights at Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink in Kiwanis Park on the shores of the South Saskatchewan River. Rent skates from the stately and historic Delta Bessborough Hotel and warm up around the fire pit or in the warm-up shelter post-skate.
Bonsecours Basin - Montreal, Quebec
Easy does it at Montreal's Bonsecours Basin in charming Old Montreal — home of Canada’s first outdoor commercial rink way back in 1850! Glide along with a view over the St. Lawrence River and listen to some of Montreal's best DJs on Thursday nights.
Emera Oval - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Built specially for the 2011 Canada Games, 55,000-square-foot Emera Oval in Halifax, Nova Scotia is one of the East Coast’s largest outdoor, machine-chilled surfaces — the size of three NHL rinks. Open daily, there are free public programs, such as learn-to-skate lessons and speed skating 101, plus weekly themed events. Fun!
The Forks - Winnipeg, Manitoba
Hit the ten-kilometre stretch skirting two rivers, the Assiniboine and Red and stop in at the artsy warming huts designed by global talents. Or back in downtown Winnipeg, the The Forks National Historic Site includes 1.5 kilometres of park trails to skate and an Olympic rink.
Lake Windermere Whiteway, British Columbia
Ottawa’s may be the biggest rink, but the BC mountain town of Invermere is home to the longest outdoor skating pathway in the world. The Lake Windermere Whiteway stole the title from Manitoba in 2014 with over 30 kilometres of trail. Stay in style at nearby Fairmont Hot Springs Resort before hitting this multi-use trail offering ice-skating as well as groomed skate and classic cross-country ski trails.
In Atlantic Canada, frozen ponds are in abundance. To shorten the list, consider Lily Lake in Saint John, or The Loop in St John’s. In Prince Edward Island, the kids will boast ear-to-ear smiles after enjoying Mill River Resort, with a full range of winter activities including tree-lined outdoor skating rink and nightly bonfires.
If you haven’t ice skated outside before, what are you waiting for? It’s big fun and a beautiful, active way to celebrate winter.