Winterlude (Bal de Neige) is an annual wintertime festival held in Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. It is one of the largest winter festivals in Canada and one of the most important tourist attractions in the region. The festival was founded in 1979.

While Quebec City celebrates its Winter Carnival, Ottawa and Gatineau have a celebration of their own. The two cities are located on the opposite banks of the Ottawa River immediately across each other, forming the country’s National Capital Region, also referred to as Ottawa–Gatineau. The National Capital Commission launched the Winterlude festival in 1979 to celebrate the unique northern climate and culture of Canada.

The festival events are held in three main locations – Confederation Park, Jaques-Cartier Park, and Rideu Canal Skateway. Confederation Park is located in downtown Ottawa. During the Winterlude it hosts an ice sculpture display and competition. Ice carvers from around the world come to Ottawa–Gatineau to demonstrate their skills and to amaze attendees. Ice sculptures are especially beautiful at night when they are lit up with colored lights. Alongside the ice sculpture exhibition, Confederation Park hosts musical concerts.

Jacques-Cartier Park is located in Gatineau. During the festival it is transformed into North America’s biggest snow playground known as the Snowflake Kingdom, offering a wide range of exciting activities for visitors of all ages. The Snowflake Kingdom is home to the Ice Hog family, the festival’s official mascots who love to play with children and give them hugs.

The Rideau Canal Skateway is the world’s largest skating rink. It is approximately 5 miles long, with food stalls and skate changing shacks scattered along the entire length of the skateaway. Activities held on the Rideau Canal Skateway during the festival include annual Bed Race, Winterlude Triathlon, and more.

A wide range of indoor and outdoor activities is held by partners from across the National Capital Region. They range from arts and sports to science and technology including special exhibitions at Ottawa museums and a variety of events in the ByWard Market.

Winterlude usually lasts for the first three weekends in February, although some minor events take place from Monday to Thursday. Weekdays are perfect for attending the stating rink because it is much more crowded on weekends. Sadly, the festival is often hampered by mild weather which is hard to predict.

Winterlude / Bal de Neige




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