a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Feb, 2014

Free places to skate in Ottawa

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

So pretty. Skating at Rideau Hall.

I love ice skating, but I’m not very good at it. I would probably want to skate more often if I had good skates, but my skates are pinchy, stiff, and deeply uncomfortable. Every year I promise myself that I’ll replace them, but I don’t. I’ve had them since high school! (I know. I can’t believe it either.)

That being said, I’m still convinced that Skating is A Wonderful Thing. And it’s so Canadian too, isn’t it? It’s something many of us do growing up. The sound of the blades slicing along the ice, the smell of the indoor rink, the feeling of the glide (and the stumble and resulting fall)… it takes me right back every time.

Skating is active, outdoor, social… and it’s one of the cheapest activities you can do as a family. We’re spoiled for choice here in Ottawa as there are many places to skate for free.

Here’s something new: Ottawa residents can skate for free at local arenas on weekends. The City and RBC recently announced a sponsorship agreement that’s worth $200,000 over three years. This agreement will support free public skating in City arenas on Saturdays and Sundays at all scheduled free skates from January to April and September to December. You can read more about that here.

If you live in Kitchissippi (meaning: McKellar/Highland Park, Westboro, Civic Hospital, West Wellington, Hintonburg et al.) you should check out the guide to outdoor rinks that was published in the Kitchissippi Times recently. The writer of this section, Anita Grace, did a really nice job summarizing each rink, and this special section also includes a rink ranking, as voted by KT readers. I’ve already had a few people tell me they cut it out of the paper and stuck it to their fridge because they’re planning on skating their way through all ten rinks. (I love that!) The rest of Ottawa can find their local outdoor rinks listed online right here. (Related: Ottawa Rinks is a volunteer website which publishes current and up-to-date outdoor skating rink conditions. It’s worth checking out!)

Winterlude has started and the Rideau Canal Skateway is open. Mark skated home from work the other day and said that the ice was great. You can check conditions online right here.

There’s also the Rink of Dreams. Have you been? It’s another free place to skate here in Ottawa. Weather permitting, it’s open daily from 6:00 a.m. (!) to 11:00 p.m. and heated change room are open 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. There are Beavertails to be found there too… sadly, these are not free. :)

And last on 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 go again before the skating season is over.

Are you a skater? I’d love to hear about your favourite skating hotspot in Ottawa if you have one.

10 Responses to "Free places to skate in Ottawa"

1 | Molly

February 5th, 2014 at 12:51 pm


Take yourself over to Canadian Tire and buy yourself some new cushy skates. I know the kind of skates you are talking about – I spent years skating on the pond behind my grandparents barn in hand-me-down skates that that hurt and pinched my feet. Then I became and an adult and moved to Ottawa. And everybody asked me what it was like to skate on the canal. SHEER HELL was my answer. Until my delightful husband presented me with warm, cushy skates. And now I LOVE skating. Not when it is super cold out – but days like today are so nice to be on the canal.

So, go. Go and get your new skates! Your feet will thank you! I promise.

2 | andrea tomkins

February 5th, 2014 at 2:47 pm


I know! I really need to get on this… STAT.

3 | Javamom

February 6th, 2014 at 11:45 am


I’m going to suggest the opposite from Molly as I too had horrid skates for so long and ended up hating skating (when in fact it was just the discomfort and pain of the footware that caused me to hate it).

DH is a hockey guy. The kids are in hockey. So one day in August last year during some horrid heat wave we went to get them outfitted for the upcoming hockey season and it was DH that suggested I try on a used pair of hockey skates. And you know what? BEST EVER IDEA.

The new (not used) hockey skates I first tried on were so hard and not-worked in, it wasn’t any better than my old crappy pair. The used hockey skates however are perfect! Now I can skate without discomfort (although I’ll never be as good or fast as the kids) and we saved money, too.

Good luck! I hope you find a great pair of skates somewhere.

4 | Molly

February 7th, 2014 at 4:14 pm


I know what you mean about the new hockey skates – but mine kinda look like a bit like a hockey skate and bit like roller blade. They are white with a pale blue stripe, there is still a toe pick, they are oh so warm! I have no idea what kind they are but they are great!

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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 offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). 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, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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