Ultimate Guide To Skating The Rideau Canal Skateway [2024]

  • Date: 26/04/2024
  • Time to read: 12 min.
Skating The Rideau Canal Skateway

The Rideau Canal Skateway is one of the most popular Tourist Attractions in Canada during the winter season. Every year round when the temperature reaches below freezing low point typically in February & March and the entire (stretch of 7.8 km) canal freezes and becomes the largest outdoor skating rink in the World.

The skating season typically runs from January to late February or early March, depending on ice and weather conditions. The official opening and closing dates are announced by the National Capital Commission (NCC).

You will be surprised to know that locals use this canal as a highway to commute within the city

In this article, we have put together all the information related to skating the Rideau Canal. With my years of experience, I have covered every single aspect that is important and should be noticed.

Is it Free to Skate on the Rideau Canal?

Yes, skating on the Rideau Canal is completely free and you don’t need to pay anything for it! This is the exact reason why skating on the Rideau Canal is so popular as an accessible winter activity for people of all ages.

However, you do need to pay for skate rentals if you don’t bring your own, and for any snacks or treats you might want you have to purchase it from the vendors along the way.

When to Skate on Rideau Canal?

The exact dates when the Rideau Canal Skateway open vary from year to year and it totally depends upon the Weather conditions. It remain open when the ice is atleast 30 cm thick, to do so the temperature needs to be in the range of -10°C to -30°C for 2 weeks.

Usually, the canal opens in mid-January to early March. Due to warm weather aka Global Warming for the first time in 50 years, the canal didn’t open (in 2023) because there was not adequate ice for skating.

The best time to skate on the Rideau Canal is in mid-February. It’s the perfect time when the canal is completely frozen and almost always remains open for the public to skate and enjoy.

Keep in mind, that the authorities can any time close the Rideau Canal if things like a devastating blizzard, or a major hurricane strikes.

Besides that, in normal scenarios, the canal remains open for skating 24*7 (only if the ice is solid). You can skate anytime whether is daytime or nighttime.

The official opening date of the Rideau Canal is announced by the National Capital Commission (NCC) based on ice thickness and safety assessments. If everything goes right they will open the canal for skating. For the latest update, you need to frequently visit the official portal of the National Capital Commission (NCC).

Ottawa Canal Skating Google Map

Rideau Canal Skateway Entrance & Access Points

Rideau Canal Skateway Entrance & Access Points

Rideau Canal has more than 30+ access points and you can access the canal from anywhere you want. Along with that, it has 5 universal access ramps and a lot of people use it to access and skate on the Canal.

Here are some of the most popular access points that you really need to know before going skating on the Canal.

Dows Lake Pavilion is the official starting point of the skateway from where you can access the Canal. It is located at the south end of Dows Lake. The place also has a large parking lot, and skate rentals from there you can rent out the skate if you don’t have your own.

Carleton University: This is another access point which is located at the north end of campus, near the Bronson Avenue entrance.

Bank Street Bridge, Parliament Hill, and Rideau Center are some of the access points that you can also use to get into the Canal. Here is a complete list of access points on the NCC website(maps).

Keep in mind, that if you want a park your vehicle in the free parking lot then you need to arrive early otherwise, you have to go with the paid parking lots. Lansdowne Center is my ideal choice to access the canal whenever I have to go with the paid parking lot.

Renting Skates At The Rideau Canal

You can easily rent out skates from these three official locations(stores) that are Dows Lake Pavilion, Chateau Laurier, and Carleton University. The store hours can vary from location to location, but most remain open from late morning to 9 pm. After 8 pm, when stores begin their closing procedures, you can’t rent out a new gear for skating.

You are required to provide a valid photo ID along with a deposit as a basic requirement in order to rent out a skate.

Renting Skates at Canal will cost you around $30 per day(for adult skate rentals). If you want you can also rent out sleighs, ice trikes, and kicksleds. To book your rental you need to visit the official web page of NCC.

How Long Is The Rideau Canal Skateway?

The Rideau Canal Skateway is 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) in length, which makes it the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink. The canal goes along all the famous tourist spots in the city like the Parliament building, Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and downtown Ottawa, and goes all the way up to Dow’s Lake.

If you want to skate the entire Rideau Canal then it will take around 2-3 hours.

Can you Skate on the Rideau Canal at Night?

Yes, you can skate on the Rideau Canal at night! I have personally done it and it’s such a unique experience when you glide on the ice under the twinkling lights of the city.

The Skateway remains open 24*7 until all conditions like weather, ice thickness remain safe. This simply means that you can skate any time of day or night, depending on your preference. Keep in mind, that if you don’t have your own skating gear then you need to rent it out before 8 pm otherwise, you won’t be able to skate at night.

At night, the entire canal remains well-lit with floodlights which means you won’t be skating in complete darkness. Always be aware of your surroundings and watch out for other skaters otherwise you can collide with other skaters.

What To Wear While Skating on Rideau Canal?

If you want an enjoyable and safe skating experience on the Rideau Canal, then you need to dress warmly in layers of clothing aka Bundle up yourself with warm clothes.

Here is what I recommend:

  • Thermal Wears
  • Wool Sweater
  • Snowpants
  • A scarf (cover your neck)
  • Waterproof gloves along with woolen gloves.
  • Wool socks along with two pairs of normal socks
  • A hat or ear muffs
  • Skates & Helmet

Keep in mind, that the temperature in Ottawa can go as low as -35°C which is enough for frostbite so, it’s better to have an extra layer of clothing rather than having frostbite.

Skating is quite tiring and if you are doing it for the very time you are required to take frequent breaks.

Where to Leave Your Gear on Rideau Canal?

Rideau Canal

Where you will leave your gear while skating on Rideau Canal, I know this question bothers a lot of people who are going to skate single. So, let me tell you there are cubbies along the canal(at the access points) where you can keep your gear but you can’t lock them which means your stuff can get stolen easily.

So, the best thing that you can do is to have your own backpack and put your gear (boots) inside it. Take a grocery bag, put your boots in it, and then put the bag in your bag back so that it(bag) doesn’t get wet.

This allows you to get off the canal whenever and wherever you want to be. When you are going skating be light in weight means don’t carry too many things with you otherwise it will spoil your skating experience.

Skating Ice Condition

Skating on the Rideau Canal is completely dependent on the weather and ice conditions. To skate on the canal a minimum of 30cm of solid ice is required which takes about 2 weeks to freeze if the temperature remains between -10°C to -30°C.

The best time to skate on Rideau Canal is in mid-February when the skateway mostly remains open.

As skating on the canal is absolutely free, thousands of people skate on it every single day which in turn makes the ice bumpy and rough in some places. If you are not careful enough then you can hurt your keen as well.

So whenever you are skating always stay away from any kind of regularities on ice otherwise you might trip(fall) there and hurt yourself. To get the best experience of Skating reach the canal in the morning because at night they flood the entire section of the canal which makes the ice the smoothest.

To be frank, if you are a newbie no matter how hard you try you will be tripping a lot so be prepared for it.

Warm Huts and Rest Rooms

Skating is a tiring activities that require a lot of energy so you are required to take frequent breaks and warm yourself up.

You can also get off the Canal and visit a local restaurant nearby to get a hot coffee and warm yourself up. Km 0, Fifth Avenue, and Dow’s Lake are a few of the places where you can catch your breath and be a bit warm.

If just tired then you can sit on the numerous benches and picnic tables at are available at the access points of the canal.

Boost Up: Where to Eat on the Rideau Canal

As I told you, a lot of energy is required if you want to skate on the Rideau Canal. There are a lot of fuel-up spots available along the canal where you can have something to eat. If you are looking for restaurants then can check out these options.

Canal Ritz is best known for offering Italian dishes such as pasta & veal Marsala. Plus the view of the Canal is the best thing that you can see while enjoying your food.

JOEY Rideau is a relaxed, contemporary dining spot that is known for serving its international & regional dishes.

Thai Express Restaurant Ottawa: Noodles, stir-fries, curries & other Thai dishes are reasons why people love this restaurant so much.

Place to Take Selfies On The Rideau Canal

The Canal always remains flooded with people no matter when you are visiting it. If you are visiting it during the weekends then you can’t get a photo of yourself without anyone pocking in it.

So you need to visit the canal either at the time of sunset or when the sun is about to rise. Why is it so? During the sunset or sunrise, the sky gets scattered with orange shade which is the best background that you can have for your photo.

I know it is nearly impossible for most of us to get up early in the morning so recommend you to visit it at sunset time.

KM 0 & KM 7.8 Signs

While skating at Rideau Canal, you need to take a selfie at the beginning (KM 0 sign) and ending signs (KM 7.8) as a reminder that you have skated on the whole canal. Be careful with the uneven layering of the ice and you will not fall.

Parliament Building

Get on the Canal from any access point and as you skate along you will come across the Parliament building & the Fairmont Chateau Laurier which are a perfect background to have a great selfie that you can post on your social media profiles.


I have seen so many photos and selfies that people usually take under a bridge while they skate on Rideau Canal and believe me they are so good.

Mackenzie King Bridge, Laurier Bridge, Corktown Footbridge, Flora Footbridge, Pretoria Bridge, Bank St Bridge, and the Bronson Bridge are some of the best places where you can have popular bridge photos & selfies.

Things You Need To Know Before Skating On Rideau Canal

Know the Season and Ice Conditions

The canal typically opens for skating in early January and remains operational until late February or early March, if all the weather conditions are in favor (normal). To know whether the canal is operational or not, you need to visit the NCC official portal as they provide you the real-time updates on ice thickness and opening/closing status.

As of 2024, the canal is closed due to unsafe ice conditions, if things don’t go right then it will remain closed for the entire skating season.

Dress for the Chill

During the winter season, the weather can be totally unpredicted pack yourself up in a layer of warm clothes. Begin with thermals, a warm mid-layer (wool sweater), and a waterproof outer layer (parka or winter coat).

Warm socks, mittens/gloves, a hat, and a scarf are the most important so don’t you dare to forget them.

Gear Up for Safety and Comfort

While skating on the canal safety is your utmost priority. If possible then bring your own skates otherwise you rent them out from the stores (Dows Lake Pavilion, Chateau Laurier, Carleton University). Make sure the skates the comfortable enough as you will be skating the whole canal.

If you are a newbie then it’s highly recommended to wear all the safety gear as you will be more prone to fall. so, consider putting wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads for added protection.

Be Mindful of Etiquette and Safety

Don’t skate in the opposite direction, go in the same direction as the majority. Whenever you are skating always maintain a safer distance from the other skaters.

Watch out for the uneven ice patches and avoid skating over them. Avoid getting distracted, which can be by phone or talking to a friend, and be focused.

These are the most important things that you need to know before going for skating on the canal.

How long does it take to do the Rideau Canal?

Rideau Canal in winter

The entire stretch of Rideau Canal is 7.8 kilometers long, it takes about 2 hours to skate the entire length (it depends upon your pace). However, most of the people only skate a portion(section) of the canal, so I have provided you with the excepted time that it takes to complete the particular stretch.

  • Dows Lake to Parliament Hill is a 2.6-kilometer loop that takes about 45 minutes to skate.
  • Dows Lake to Carleton University is a 4-kilometer loop that takes about 1 hour to skate.
  • The full length of the canal is a 7.8-kilometer loop that takes about 2 hours to skate.

The skating time can vary from person to person as it totally depends upon how experienced you are. Newbies can take a lot more than compared to those who have been doing it for years.

Can Tourists Skate on the Rideau Canal?

Anyone can skate on the Rideau Canal as long as they have skated and know how to do ice skating. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions during the winter months.

The Rideau Canal is open to everyone who wants to skate, regardless of what their nationality or residency is. The canal has over 30 access points, making it easy to join the fun. If you don’t have your skate then you can rent it out from the official rental stores.

Is There Any Parking Near the Rideau Canal?

Yes, there are several parking options near the Rideau Canal. Here I have listed some of the most popular options where you can park your vehicle and enjoy skating.

Paid Parking:

Rideau Centre Parking: Being located right next to the canal at 12 Nicholas St, this underground parking is the perfect place to park your vehicle and enjoy skating on the canal. Remember parking fee depends upon how long your vehicle stays there.

Indigo Parking: Many Indigo parking garages are located within walking distance of the canal, including the one at 1 Rideau St. As always the parking fees depend on the location and duration of your stay.

Free Parking:

World Exchange Plaza: If you want to skate in the evening, then you can park your vehicle at World Exchange Plaza, as the garage offers free parking on weekends and also parking is free after 6 PM on weekdays. Being located at 130 Slater St, it’s a pretty good location that is not far from the canal.

On-Street Parking: There are a few limited free on-street parking spots available in some areas near the canal. Pay close attention to posted signs and restrictions otherwise, you might have to face heavy fines.

What’s The Best Time To Skate The Rideau Canal?

The best time to skate on the Rideau Canal is in February, as this is the ideal time in which the ice completely freezes and weather conditions remain normal. If you truly want to experience ice skating on the Canal then consider going to the weekdays as most of the crowd comes on weekends.

If possible try to reach in the early morning otherwise after 4 pm skate when fewer people are around.

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