Winter, is finally here. And while some of us might cringe at the thought of the cold snow and ice... well, I say, why not make the best of it!
Thankfully, Montreal is full of awesome winter festivals. But if you've done and seen it all in the city, why not venture out to a brand new, very close and very cool spot... like Ottawa!
Canada's capital is packed with amazing things all year round but comes alive during the wintertime thanks to their Winterlude festival. Going down this February 2 - 19, 2018, mainly during the weekends, this mostly free event features concerts, beer gardens (!), skating, ice sculpting competitions and a lot more.
Plus, it's not even two hours away from Montreal. So hop in the car, lace up your boots and prepare for an awesome time!
Start the festivities off right at the Winterlude Kick-Off Party
Winterlude is going down this year from February 2 - 19, 2018. There are TONS of awesome events happening (mostly during the weekend and mostly for free!) and the best way to make sure you kick them off right?
By heading down to the Winterlude Kick-Off Party, of course! Going down February 19 at Ottawa's Confederation Park, this free event will feature live music, ice sculptures, an outdoor dance party and a whole lot more!
Skate the Rideau Canal, AKA the world's largest natural skating rink
I mean, the Rideau Canal is beautiful any time of the year. But during the winter, the whole thing transforms into a skate-able ice path that's just too beautiful for eyes to behold.
It's also super cool because it's the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world, and come on, don't you want to straight-up say you've skated world's largest rink?
Get yourself the Parliament Hill and skate the Canada 150 Rink
A smaller rink than the Rideau Canal Skateway, the Canada 150 Rink was of course put in place to celebrate a huge milestone in Canada's history: it's 150th birthday in 2017!
While it might not be as big, it sure is beautiful - especially considering you'll have a gorgeous view of Parliament Hill the whole time.
Check out the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, which happens to be the first in North America!
Dragon boating is cool in and of itself, but add ice to the mixture and you've basically got yourself a party.
Which is why it's so awesome that there's going to be one huge dragon boat party going down during Winterlude! The Ice Dragon Boat Festival is happening on February 10 as part of Winterlude on Ottawa's Dow's Lake. Make sure to get to this majestic event early as seating is limited!
While you're checking things out, make sure you don't miss the Accora Village Bed Race
A tradition deeply rooted in Ottawa and Winterlude tradition, the 38th annual (!) Accora Village Bed Race is a super fun, kind of goofy event.
Racers decorate hospital beds and race them across the ice in a show that's sure to amaze and amuse. This event is for charity, BTW, so make sure you don't miss out on it!
Watch the ice come to life thanks to the glorious ice carving competition
Honestly, this isn't your grandma's ice carving competition! Hosted at the Crystal Garden at Confederation Park throughout the festival, expert ice sculptures from all over the world come to turn ice chunks into pure magic.
During the evening, when it gets dark, beautiful glowy lights make the ice come alive - so go ahead. Watch the competition, take a nighttime stroll or do both. The sky is the limit!
Stay warm in the chilly weather thanks to the FIRE sounds of Winterlude's free outdoor festivals
Throughout the festival, Confederation Park will host tons of awesome artists for FREE live shows on Friday and Saturday nights!
Although the lineups aren't announced just yet, the Sub-Zero Concerts are sure to be an amazing time - so make sure you check back here to see when the specific lineups will be announced.
Build a snowman, slip, slide and have fun in the snow at the Snowflake Kingdom at the north end of Park Jacques-Cartier
If winter activities are your THING, then you might want to sit down for this. The northern part of Ottawa/Gatineau's Park Jacques-Cartier is going to be turned into a winter activity wonderland for the Winterlude festival!
Featuring spots to go tubing, sledding, sliding and just about any other winter sport you might think of, the Snowflake Kingdom is the perfect spot to go and get a little bit snowy! It's family friendly too so everyone on the trip can have the time of their lives.
Prepare to get blown away by the beyond gorgeous Mosaïvernales outdoor snow and ice art exhibit
True story: this year I headed on over to the Botanical Gardens here in the city, expecting to see that beautiful plant sculpture of the woman holding out her hands (AKA, MosaïCanada). It wasn't there, friends. Because it's in Ottawa instead.
And although this was a summertime thing, there's going to be a winter version of the famous exhibit happening during Winterlude in Ottawa ONLY! The Mosaïvernales is a beautiful, dreamy exhibit happening with sculpted snow at Park Jacques-Cartier, on until March 4!
And then mozy on over to Festibiere in Gatineau for a fun beer festival experience
Situated in Gatineau (which is legit next door to Ottawa), the Festibiere is one awesome spot to check out if you're a lover of all things beer! And I mean, let's be real, who isn't?
Happening at the very start of Winterlude, on February 2 - 3, and happening in a legit museum (!) - the Canadian Museum of History - this weekend event is sure to be the absolute perfect way to cap off a day or two of Winterluding.
If one pint's not enough, head back into Ottawa itself and enjoy a winter beer garden!
The Ottawa Winter Brewfest is going down at the tail end of Winterlude, on February 16 - 18 at Lansdowne Park.
And honestly, there is no better way to celebrate winter than by turning a park into one awesome wintertime party where the beer - and fun - flows free!
Feeling jazzy? Head on over to the TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest!
If you think Montreal's summer Jazz Fest is awesome - well, I mean, you're right. And there's nothing better than enjoying an equally mindblowing outdoor experience, right in the coolest capital in the world!
Ottawa's Winter Jazz Fest is going down during Winterlude, February 8 - 10, at Le Nouvelle Scene. Musical guests include Barbra Lica, Chet Doxas and Emma Frank. And although the tickets cost a little bit, one show at the end of each night is totally free!
Don't forget to check out the ByWard Market, for a culinary and nightlife experience unlike anything else
Considering you're going to be in Ottawa, you totally have to get yourself to the ByWard Market.
This spot is situated right in the heart of Ottawa and has some of the best restaurants and most fun spots in the entire province... and arguably in the entire country!
So after your Winterlude adventure is all wrapped up, get yourself to the Market and cap off an amazing weekend with an amazing meal and a drink or two. Regret level zero, friends. Regret level zero.
But honestly, you can kind of say that about all of Ottawa. Canada's capital is not only home to one seriously bumping winter festival (let's be real here, Winterlude is one of the rare things to actually look forward to during the winter!), but it also happens to be an amazing place to visit any time of the year.
With fun festivals, awesome restaurants, awesome activities and something to do basically every single day, you should probably be getting yourself to Ottawa like, right TF now.
And considering it's less than a two-hour drive away from Montreal, it's a no-brainer. Come for Winterlude but stay for many more awesome things!