Taking a look at the different skating spots in Ottawa and how they compare
With the increasing spread of the Omicron variant and the reintroduction of many province-wide restrictions, students may be feeling left with a short list of recreational activities to balance out their time this semester.
Luckily, outdoor rinks (ODRs) are a great way to exercise, socialize, and get outside while social distancing, and Ottawa has many to enjoy.
Regardless of skating abilities, students will find that the nation’s capital is not lacking in free places to lace up their skates and enjoy an afternoon. Below are just a few of the rinks near the University of Ottawa’s campus which offer diverse skating experiences for students. Let’s check them out:
Rink of Dreams
To begin, located approximately a 10-minute walk from Tabaret Hall, students will find the Rink of Dreams in front of Ottawa City Hall.
This refrigerated ice rink is decked out with colourful lights and music, which set the scene and enrich the somewhat merry-go-round feel of the repetitive circular path.
The Rink of Dreams is open between the hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, with the lovely rinkside snack of Beavertails available Fridays between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The rink’s capacity is currently 58 people at a time, however, between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., you must reserve a slot ahead of time to skate.
The rink is well maintained, with a Zamboni clearing the ice regularly and outdoor benches to lace up your skates.
This rink is good for novice skaters, as the ice is smooth and there are boards to rest on when needed, but the attraction can be enjoyed by skaters of all skill levels.
Sandy Hill ODR
For any Gee-Gees who find themselves in Sandy Hill, the rink behind the local community centre off Somerset is a great man-made rink framed with boards for the winter season.
With hockey nets set up, it’s an excellent spot to start up a friendly game of shinny with friends or to join a game with fellow students in the neighbourhood.
Given the somewhat secluded location, skaters may even have the rink to themselves at times and can get creative with their use of the ice. This makes it a great spot for an impromptu skate with friends or even to test your speed with skate relay races, a personal favourite activity of mine.
The rink is available at virtually all hours, however, the lights of the Annie Pootoogook Park turn off at 11 p.m., so I suggest stopping by prior to lights out to avoid a pitch-black skating experience. Additionally, updates such as occasional times the rink is closed for maintenance and flooding can be found on Twitter.
Looking for a change in scenery or to meet some friends from Carleton at a central place for some outdoor socializing? The outdoor rink at Lansdowne may be just the thing.
Although a longer trek from campus — about a 30-minute trip on transit — the rink at Lansdowne is a fun winter pass-time. It is a small rink with no borders, but has slightly less structure than the Rink of Dreams, providing more liberty to skate around as you please.
At night there are beautiful lights in the trees surrounding the ice, creating a calm escape from the busy downtown Ottawa area. Although many of the restaurants in the Lansdowne area are now takeout only, on Sunday’s the Ottawa farmers market is still operating and the famous Kettleman’s bagels is just a short stroll away from the rink serving as great post-skate activities/snacks.
Finally, who could overlook the giant ODR (equivalent to 90 Olympic hockey rinks to be precise)? That is, of course, the Rideau Canal.
Being the world’s longest and largest skateway, the canal acts not only as a leisurely activity, but as a means of transportation, stretching 7.8 kilometers all the way from the Rideau Centre to Carleton University with about 30 access/exit points to hop on or off the ice.
It is important to note the bumpier skating conditions, which may serve as a challenge to novice skaters, and I would recommend skating with a group of similar skating abilities as to not leave any trailing behind or gliding miles ahead on this long path.
Be prepared to skate with any shoes or items you bring out, as there aren’t any secure places to leave your belongings. Along the canal skaters will find many amenities, such as hot beverages and Beavertail pastries, in addition to washrooms, change rooms and skate rentals.
After much anticipation, as of January 14th at 8 a.m., the canal is open for skating. This being said, skaters never know exactly when it’ll close for the season, adding to the uniqueness of the rink.
Don’t put off experiencing this unique perspective of skating and the city, just steps away from the university’s campus.
As a second-year student who started first year at U of O amid the pandemic searching for activities last winter, some of my fondest memories were made on skates.
So, grab your hockey skates or your figure skates, your pucks and your sticks, your friends and your warmest outdoor gear, don’t forget your mask, and hit the ice!