As daffodils blossom and birds once again sing in the trees, spring has sprung in many parts of North America. Many folks have weathered a long snowy winter and crave warmth, sunshine on their bare arms and all the outdoor activities that forced hibernation kept from them over the last few months.
I, for one, can never get enough of winter fun. Living in San Francisco, a trip to the mountains is easy but requires some planning and often ice skating indoors has to satisfy my cravings.
In Ottawa, Ontario, workers and students can ice-skate commute (skammute?) on the Rideau Canal Skateway. The 4.8-mile-long, 26-foot-wide frozen canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can rent skates, and warm up spots, cafes and other amenities dot the route. It is of course a popular tourist attraction and the centerpiece of Winterlude, a three-week-long winter festival including ice sculptures, skate clinics and Snowflake Kingdom, a snowy playground wonderland.
The world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink has been open for more than 40 years. The average length of the skating season is 50 days. The Rideau Canal skate season typically runs from December to mid March. Some years it is extended to as much as 95 days and you can check ice conditions daily. Moms pushing strollers mingle with commuters and school kids, making rush hour a busy affair on the ice. It gets cold in Ottawa and many insist a packet of tissues is mandatory to fend off the runny noses. Some prefer hockey skates, others speed skates or figure skates. Canadians are of course big ice enthusiasts!
Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is home to some great museums, imposing structures and fine restaurants welcoming an international diplomatic core. If you’re like me and love the idea of a long outdoor skate, Ottawa might be calling.