Many of us have at least a few days of down time over Christmas and New Year’s. If you don’t want to sit on the couch and chill, check out this list of great holiday events, sites and activities in and around Ottawa.
Just like the headline says, this is a buffet-style guide. If you only have an hour or two, you might try just one of them. But, if you have a half day, or a whole day, pick-and-choose several for a great holiday experience!
Merry Christmas to all … and to all a great day (or night).
Christmas Lights Across Canada, Parliament Hill:
The Magical Winter Lightscapes show which projects on the Parliament Buildings is impressive. It’s set to music but hurry, as it only continues until Dec. 25. At the same time, you can check out the art installation Prismatica, which features a series of interactive prisms refracting spotlight beams. It’ll be a great Christmas eve trek, or a way to walk off a few calories on Christmas night … after dinner.
When you’re done there, trek over to Confederation Park, City Hall, the Business Development Bank Canada building or many of the other downtown sites with Christmas displays. It’s a great walk, especially on a frosty holiday evening, and it takes about an hour to 90 minutes to cover the highlights. These Christmas lights continue through Jan. 7.
Skating at the Rink of Dreams (City Hall) or Lansdowne Park:
The Rink of Dreams at City Hall comes with a bonus … it’s right downtown at Elgin and Laurier, and easy to combine with a walk over to Parliament Hill and Confederation Park to see the lights displays. There’s also a BeaverTails stand on site, and if the Rideau Canal Skateway opens up in time, you could even skate down to it. The well-lit skating rink at Lansdowne Park features a big, beautiful Christmas tree in front of the Aberdeen Pavilion as well as lots of other activities at the movie theatre, restaurants and Ottawa 67’s OHL hockey games at the TD Place Arena.
Come to think of it, here’s a really unique holiday events suggestion: Start at City Hall or Lansdowne for a skate. Then hit the Canal Skateway (when / if it opens) and skate to the other venue. Then, trek over to hit that rink as well. Just remember your skate guards, because you have to walk across roads and/or sidewalks to access the rinks from the skateway.
Tobogganing at the Dominion Arboretum:
Want a fun, easy-to-access outdoors activity for kids of all ages? Head on over to the arboretum and join the fun. You can usually park not too far away and then walk in to the hill, which has one of the best vistas in the city overlooking Dow’s Lake, Carleton University, the Rideau Canal Skateway and a large portion of southwest Ottawa. The hill is very steep in some places, so be careful and keep your eyes on the kiddies! DISCLAIMER: A couple of years ago, the NCC started posting signs warning people sledding is not permitted, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet as far as I can tell. And it sure is a rush, one of the best hills in the city.
Gift of Lights, Wesley Clover Park:
Located off Moody Dr., between Nepean and Kanata (the former National Capital Equestrian Centre), the park is now the site for a massive Gift of Lights Christmas display. Pile the family into the car and head over for a 15 to 20-minute drive along the two-kilometre trail adorned with displays of lights. Due to popular demand, this has been held over until Jan. 7. It’s $20 per car, and proceeds go to the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
Lunch or dinner (pre-plan this part):
Got a favourite restaurant somewhere in the region? If they sell gift certificates, this would be a great way to add a meal to your holiday excursion. Buy the gift certificate before Christmas, then give it along with an itinerary of what you want to do that day. Awesome stocking stuffer or gift for a friend or loved one. Date night, anyone?
Alight at Night:
This annual holiday spectacle at Upper Canada Village was covered off in an Errata Etc. Ottawa blog post a couple of weeks ago. When it comes to holiday events, this is perhaps the most spectacular in the region. The entire pioneer-era village is lit by hundreds of thousands of lights. Enjoy sleigh rides, a train ride, dinner, even book an overnight stay. It’s down at Morrisburg, but well worth the 45-minute drive.
Taffy Lane – Ottawa’s Christmas Lights street:
This Orleans street comes alive at Christmas every year as homeowners create elaborate displays. If you’re in the east end, it’s always worth a drive past these “Great Christmas Lights Fight” worthy homes. If you’re not in the east end, well, it’s still worth the trip. Bring your sunglasses, it’s BRIGHT!
Walk along the Ottawa River:
The pathways are not all plowed, but almost all of them have well-worn footpaths from winter hikers, skiers and snowshoers. Take along your camera, especially if you are going in the late afternoon, as the sunsets across the partially frozen, steaming river, or reflecting off the snow and ice, can be spectacular. The paths are highly accessible, too, spanning much of both sides of the river (Ottawa and Gatineau). Most of the NCC parking lots also remain open through the winter.
Ottawa Senators Game-Day Experience, Skills Competition:
Hockey fans in the family will love these holiday events, which kick off Dec. 29 at 9:45 a.m., at the Canadian Tire Centre with the Game-Day Experience. Watch as your favourite players are put through their practice paces by Coach Guy Boucher and his staff. This is a very popular event, more so because many teams are arriving in town for the massive Bell Capital Cup minor hockey tournament. It’s free, though you are requested to bring a donation for the Ottawa Food Bank.
One day later, the Senators host their annual skills competition Dec. 30 at 5:30 p.m. Another very popular community event, All tickets are less than $20.
Do you enjoy other holiday events in the region that should be highlighted? Leave a comment here with the details, and include a link if there is a website or page.