by: Brandon Sousa

There are very few traditions that are through-and-through Canadian but lacing up a pair of skates and venturing down the natural ice of the world’s largest skating rink in the capital city of Canada may truly be the most notable.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is a four-and-a-half-hour drive, train ride or hour-long flight from Toronto, making this destination an easy and attractive weekend escape in the winter. The city is bustling with winter events, both indoors and out, centred around its great attraction, the Rideau Canal Skateway.

The Rideau Canal Skateway is 7.8 km long, running through Ottawa’s downtown core and sees on average 20,000 visitors each winter season. It plays host to the infamous Winterlude festival which has three weekends of winter programming.

On the edge of the iconic Rideau Canal is The Westin Ottawa; a hotel conveniently located in the heart of downtown, close to all the attractions and connected to the Rideau Centre Shopping Mall and the Shaw Centre. The city views from the rooms at The Westin Ottawa are simply breathtaking, overlooking not only the Rideau Canal but some of Canada’s most important buildings such as the Senate (right out front), Parliament and the National Arts Centre.

Their Traditional Rooms and up are all incredibly spacious, classically designed and feature simple amenities that make your stay more convenient. As part of their Wellness program, they make sure your visit to The Westin Ottawa reinvigorates your entire being and is not just a place to lay your head. They offer $5 rentals of personal workout gear including shoes, shorts, pants, socks and shirts. They have an on-site spa with massage therapists at affordable rates. Their workout facilities rival local public gyms and their indoor pool is a refreshing way to take your mind of things.

But it’s their Be Well program (bikeWESTIN, runWESTIN & skateWESTIN) that really has me impressed.

For the first time in January 2018, The Westin Ottawa offered skateWESTIN, a local first-come first-served program which allowed hotel guests to rent a pair of skates from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily with all proceeds supporting The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. With the Rideau Canal Skateway steps away from The Westin Ottawa’s front door, it just makes sense to forego the hotel gym and lace up in support of charity. Their Instagram-worthy skateWESTIN Lounge makes trying on a pair of skates as fun as snapping a perfect winter photo.

Schedule permitting, their concierge team will take you out on the ice for a little tour and snap a couple photos of your iconic experience skating the canal. Take it from me, the depth of their local knowledge will spark millions of questions as you enjoy the scenery that lines the canal banks.

Enhance this rich, Canadian experience by grabbing a BeaverTails pastry (about $5) or a Maple Snow Candy ($3) out on the ice, embracing every Canadian stereotype there is.

Once you’re all skated-out, come back inside to The Westin Ottawa and help yourself to some gourmet hot chocolate to warm yourself up.

Their other Be Well programming, bikeWESTIN and runWESTIN is focused on keeping active while being able to embrace and experience the great city of Ottawa. Contact The Westin Ottawa for more details.

The Westin Ottawa makes this true north tradition a must-do when in the nation’s capital and will satisfy your winter holiday cravings.