a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Feb, 2011

A peek inside the wintery grounds of Rideau Hall

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

One of the best things about being a WAHM is that I have the luxury of juggling my schedule around my kids and work deadlines. Usually it works out, sometimes it does not… like yesterday, when I had a massive deadline AND a field trip.

Neither were negotiable, so I was up at 5:00 in order to squeeze in a few extra hours of writing before the field trip. This one was to Rideau Hall, residence of the Governor General. It’s a pretty special place.

Sadly, I was so rushed that I left without my School Trip Emergency Survival Kit (STESK). My STESK consists of two things. Two important items I learned to bring with me after dozens of lessons learned during school trips. Namely:

  • Tylenol
  • A thermos of hot tea

Without my STESK, survival is dubious. And might make me want to use this:

Just kidding (OK, only half-kidding).

Because I was rushing with this deadline I found myself working until the very last minute, and by then it was too late to get my STESK ready, so I went without. :)

I survived! Mostly because the kids, the parents, and the teachers are really nice people and school bus suspension seemed a bit more stable than it had in the past:

Here’s a sneak peek inside the wintery grounds of Rideau Hall.

The building itself is very interesting. So many stories! No photos allowed inside though. Did you know that if the Canadian flag is flying it means the GG is not at home? Sadly we weren’t going to meet His Excellency.

Rideau Hall, Ottawa

One of the reasons I like to go on field trips is for the memorable one-liners. For example, this time around someone asked the security guard if he was the Governor General. I got a chuckle out of that one. :)

We got a short tour and then proceeded to the outdoor skating rink.

This place has been recommended to me before, but this was the first time I’d seen it myself. How can I put this, it almost made me cry. That’s how pretty it was. It felt SO CANADIAN too. Outside, on ice, sun shining, music playing … a perfect day. I bet it’s spectacular at night.

I bet it's pretty at night too.

Kids on ice! Lookout!


Perfect day for skating, Rideau Hall

So pretty. Skating at Rideau Hall.

Look at the ice

(FYI, out of respect of the children’s privacy, I am not posting photos in which anyone is clearly identifiable.)

There’s also a rustic warming hut beside the rink (I think they refer to it as the Chalet) which has a big wood stove inside, making it a really cozy place to lace up your skates:

Warming hut at Rideau Hall

Wood in the warming hut

Inside the warming hut, Rideau Hall

Everyone was pretty happy at the end, which made me happy I came. And that I didn’t even make use of the emergency exit.

You might be interested to know that the rink is open during the evening (but you need to make reservations for your group) and is open to the public during weekends. There is more information about it on the GG’s official website.

I urge you to check out Rideau Hall next time you have a hankering to do something cheap and interesting here in Ottawa. It makes a great field trip.

6 Responses to "A peek inside the wintery grounds of Rideau Hall"

1 | FireMom

February 5th, 2011 at 11:24 am


This post made me smile. I think I need a STESK in general. I’ll keep that in mind for field trips which start next year. (EEP!)

I love the photo of the skates and skirt. Lovely, lovely.

2 | Glen Gower

February 5th, 2011 at 12:30 pm


Great post & beautiful photos as always. This rink is one of Ottawa’s best kept secrets. Strangely – I’ve never visited in the winter, but did get a tour in the summer from local hockey historian Paul Kitchen. He says it’s the oldest continually operating skating rink *anywhere*.

I posted a bit on my blog last month: http://ottawastart.blogspot.com/2011/01/awesome-ottawa-really-old-skating-rink.html

3 | CampingGirl

February 5th, 2011 at 4:43 pm


This has been on my list of “Ottawa to-do’s” for ages. I need to get there! I have also wanted to check out the concerts in the summer.

4 | Une femme en santé

February 6th, 2011 at 2:55 pm


Hello Andrea,
I love going skating there.
I love the music as you are skating. One day I saw a guy proposing to his girlfriend. It was so touching.
I have to go back this yeay :-)

5 | Allison P.

February 6th, 2011 at 4:50 pm


Don’t forget the changing of the guards at the GG residence. My kids not only LOVE watching it, but they reenact the whole thing over and over and over… and over… at home! Hours of (pretty quiet!) fun!

6 | Free places to skate in Ottawa >> a peek inside the fishbowl

February 5th, 2014 at 12:28 pm


[…] my list, but certainly not least, is the historic outdoor ice rink at Rideau Hall. It’s such a fun experience. It feels like you’re stepping back in time, and it’s also free! I’m itching to […]

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  • andrea tomkins: Thanks Lynn! I will keep doing it as long as I enjoy doing it. :)
  • Lynn: just chiming in to say how much I still enjoy these weekly reading lists. That Google food one was fascinating!
  • Nick: In February, only one thing is good - this is the last month of winter and spring will come soon and it will be warm)
  • Tannia: I someone today who said he played polkaroo.
  • Tannia: What was the actor's name who played polkaroo?
  • Lynn: Oh man, I can see this as my future in just a few short years. Between you and Allison (who's oldest is off in America for university), I can hardly r
  • Amy: Although what your daughter says makes sense and I'd follow her advice when you can, keep in mind that ride-sharing apps are a very recent way to trav

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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