For many Canadians, nothing conjures up more nostalgic childhood memories than putting on a warm toque and mittens before dusting off a pair of skates for an afternoon on the ice. It’s such a big part of our culture, in fact, that the scene of kids bundled up for a game of outdoor ice hockey was captured on the back of our old five-dollar bill, before the plastic ones came into circulation. And while a place like the 202-km Ottawa Rideau Canal gets a lot of hype—and for good reason—there are so many other incredible places to skate outdoors in Canada. Below are a few of our favourites.
Bonsecours Basin, Old Port, Montréal, Quebec
Situated at the edge of the St. Lawrence River and looking onto Old Montréal, Bonsecours Basin is a haven for leisurely skaters—you won’t find many speed demons here, especially in the larger crowds that gather on weeknights. In the evenings, there are even different musical themes and soundtracks to skate to, such as Classical Mondays, World Music Tuesdays, Urban Sounds Wednesdays, Romantic Thursdays, and Retro Fridays. Season passes and group rates are available. A single-day skate is $6.50 for adults, seniors, and teens, and $4.25 for kids aged 6 to 12 (children under 6 are free).
The Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg is home to the world’s longest outdoor skating rink and the meeting place at The Forks has an incredible history, which dates back to the early Aboriginal peoples 6,000 years ago. Through the years, it’s been home to European fur traders, Métis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers, riverboat workers, railway pioneers, and tens of thousands of immigrants. Today, it’s a classic Winnipeg hangout, especially in the winter. Located in the city’s downtown core, The Forks outdoor skating rink is nearly 9 km long, stretching along the two rivers—the smaller Assiniboine River and the larger Red River. And if it gets too cold, as it famously does in Winnipeg, the trails are home to a variety of warming huts designed by different artists and architects from around the globe.
Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Located in the heart of Skaskatoon, on the edge of the South Saskatchewan River, the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink was voted the best outdoor rink in Canada by Reader’s Digest in 2006. Skating here is free, though if the temperature drops below -31 degrees C with the wind chill, the rink will close. Skate rentals, a warm-up shelter, and even an outdoor fire pit are available on shore. Bring along a pal and enjoy a leisurely skate with a terrific view.
Grouse Mountain Ice Skating Pond, Vancouver, B.C.
Vancouverites literally take their ice skating to the next level by skating on top of a mountain. Grouse Mountain’s 8,000 square-foot rink is the only one of its kind on the West Coast. One of Vancouver’s most-visited attractions, Grouse Mountain has about 1.2 million annual visitors, who come for the breathtaking panoramic views and the fresh mountain air just outside the city. Access to the skating pond is included in your Grouse Mountain Alpine Experience admission ticket, membership or lift ticket.
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta
The Rocky Mountains are a breathtaking sight no matter what season it is, but the white, snow-capped mountaintops and the dazzling blue-green of the glacier-fed waters add a special charm to postcard-perfect Lake Louise. Banff has numerous rinks, both natural and manmade, indoor and outdoor. All outdoor skating is free, but the indoor skate at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre will cost you $5. The most famous rink in the region is outside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a beautiful outdoor rink located on scenic Lake Louise, which was voted number one on CNN Travel’s “10 most beautiful ice skating rinks in the world.”
Emera Oval, Halifax, Nova Scotia
One of the largest outdoor, artificially-chilled ice surfaces on the East Coast, the Emera Oval is equivalent to three NHL hockey rinks (with approximately 55,000-square-feet of ice area) and can accommodate up to 1,500 skaters at once. The rink is open to the public seven days a week and offers a number of free public recreational programs such as the Learn to Skate program, speed skating clinics, weekly themed events, and special events both on and off the ice.
Your own backyard
The best part about living in a country like Canada is that we have some of the most beautiful nature right in our own backyards. It doesn’t get much better than coming home from a long day at work and grabbing a couple of sticks to play a little puck with your family on your own frozen pond.