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Ottawa's Winterlude is a Fun, Family Affair


Evelyn Hannon

Some events and destinations are so kid-friendly and fun that you are duty-bound to tell other parents and grandparents about it. That's how I feel about Winterlude which is celebrated the first three weekends of February in Ottawa, Canada.

Last winter my granddaughter, Lotus and I celebrated her 7th birthday on a weekend excursion to Canada's capital city. Each day was jam-packed with activities and we both weren't bored for a single minute. For those considering going -- I thought it would be helpful to list where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and what we wore to keep warm. One thing is definite; we're going again this year. Perhaps we'll see you there?

Economy is the perfect class...

We travelled by VIA Rail Canada between Toronto and Ottawa. Since it was a birthday gift I chose the added convenience of priority boarding, a delicious meal and beverages included in the price of a business class train ticket. The service we received was absolutely perfect but Lotus seemed to be the only child in the upgraded car and she would rather have had a grilled cheese sandwich than the excellent adult meal that was served to me. Grandma's mistake. This year we'll bring a picnic basket of kiddie snacks and travel economy so that my granddaughter can have the fun of interacting with all the other kids on board.


Pack your longjohns...

Winter in Ottawa is cold but not so cold you can't enjoy yourself outside. The trick is to be prepared with the proper clothes. Lotus wore a down two-piece snowsuit with hood. I packed a long down-filled coat with hood and silk longjohns to wear under my jeans. We both had warm hats, winter boots, socks, an extra sweatshirt and two pairs of mittens incase one pair was misplaced. I packed a few plastic bags (like the ones you put fruit into at the grocery). We wore those tied over our socks in case snow got into our boots and made them wet. With that simple list we were perfectly dressed.


A great hotel location...

We stayed at the Lord Elgin Hotel smack dab in the midst of all the Winterlude fun (we walked to most places and took the shuttle bus for about $2-$3 per day to areas a bit farther away).

Knowing that it was Lotus's birthday the hotel manager left a little Lord Elgin Teddy Bear in the room to greet us. You can be sure he now has my granddaughter's loyalty for life.

I appreciated the location of our hotel room as we were situated just opposite the wonderful ice sculpture garden in Confederation Park. On two occasions Lotus had the fun of interacting with all the Winterlude characters that roamed the park and together we tested the throne made out of solid ice. Brrrrr (thank goodness for those longjohns)! At night the park was lit by hundreds of tiny colored lights making it a magical sight from our hotel room window.


The Hard Rock Cafe really rocks...

On our first night in Ottawa we chose the family-friendly Hard Rock Cafe for Lotus' birthday celebration. Granddaughter dined on a huge hamburger and fries while grandma opted for an excellent salmon steak served with decadent garlic masked potatoes. Lotus really enjoyed her food but she 'loved ' the enormous birthday sundae delivered to our table by the Hard Rock Cafe singing staff. Oh my goodness, what a feast for both of us. Of course we couldn't finish that huge treat even though we tried our very best. Lotus talked about that free giant ice cream sundae for days.


Skating on the canal...

Pack your ice skates (or rent them when you get there) and join the throngs of people having great fun on The Rideau Canal Skateway. At almost five miles long it's the world's largest skating rink and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We didn't have skates with us but we still walked the canal, people watching and enjoying the Winterlude booths that lined the sides of the rink. Lotus laughed as some moms skated by pushing babies in strollers while one dad pushed his kids and a big dog in a rented sleigh. It was pure winter family fun.


Female-Friendly Travel Canada



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