Text by: Quartz Co. Editorial Team
Ice skating is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable winter activities there is: no matter your age, everyone can enjoy gliding, twirling and, while doing so, making the most of the winter season. Ontario is full of charming skating trails. Here we're sharing some of our favourite picks to have an original and unforgettable skating experience.
Rideau Canal Skateway
You can’t make a list of the top places for skating in Ontario without mentioning the Rideau Canal Skateway. With its length of 7.8 kilometres, it’s the largest natural ice skating rink in the world. The canal is also Ottawa’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wind your way through downtown on your skates at any time of the day, making sure to stop at one of the many appetizing food stands offering you to refuel with a poutine, hot chocolate, or the most delicious Ottawa invention, BeaverTails.
River Oak Skating Trail
Just 30 minutes from Ottawa is the superb River Oak Skating Trail, a perfect place for a romantic date or a fun-filled family outing. The 3km long ice trail leads you through magnificent orchards, meandering meadows, and majestic forests. On Fridays, torches light the way, making this a great outing idea for couples. If you’re visiting with friends, why not bring your own hockey stick and puck to test your skills all along the trail.
Greater Toronto Area
Bentway Skating Trail
The Bentway is a unique concept that was created with the goal of bringing Torontonians and visitors alike in a public space and to help them connect outdoors all year round. From Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street, 1.75kms underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway have been transformed for the past few winters into a figure 8 skating trail. The trail is free and accessible, with free skating classes that are scheduled throughout the winter. Skaters can enjoy a cozy pick-me-up with a hot chocolate or Kahlúa-spiked coffee before getting back on the ice for more outdoor fun.
Gage Park Skating Rink
This skating rink alone is worth a trip to Brampton. Every winter, Gage Park’s jogging path is turned into a stunning skating rink. Comparisons have been made to Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, courtesy of the park’s romantic white gazebo and multitude of small lights that light up the rink at night. Skate the evening away while a DJ spins, and be sure to stop at a fire pit or a food truck for a quick break before hitting the ice again.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Second only to the Rideau Canal Skateway in terms of international fame is the skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park. Named one of the Top 50 Canadian Winter Experiences by Flight Network, and one of 19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World by Travel+Leisure, this tree-lined ice trail is straight out of a fairy tale. Skate between tall, snow-covered evergreens and marvel at the wonders of Canadian nature in winter. On select nights, hundreds of tiki torches illuminate the trail, giving it an even more magical feel.
Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh Ice Trail
No other skating trail in the world boasts an on-site winery like the Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh Ice Trail does. Glide along the 1.2km trail winding through the forest and cranberry bogs, or head to one of the two pond hockey surfaces to pass the puck around. Make sure you take the time to stop at the waterfalls midway through to warm up by the fire before heading to the Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery for a tasty tipple of mulled wine and cran-apple cider. Every Saturday from 6pm to 9pm, the ice trails lights up with 400 tiki torches for Light the Night evenings, making for a truly memorable skating experience.
Peterborough and the Kawarthas
Peterborough Lift Lock Skating Rink
The Peterborough Lift Lock is a true feat of engineering. It’s one of the first hydraulic lift locks built in North America and the highest in the world, so skating beneath it ism, therefore, a pretty amazing experience. Every winter, part of the Trent-Severn Waterway is cleared for skaters’ enjoyment. Bringing your own skates is a must as there are no rental services near the skating rink. Show off your skills on the large rink before heading into Peterborough proper for an après-skate drink or bite at one of the city’s many pubs or cafés.
Ontario Speed Skating Oval
Serious skaters, look no further than the Ontario Speed Skating Oval in Lakefield. This 400m track is the perfect place to hone your crossovers and get some real speed. If regular skates aren’t giving you the thrills you crave, you can rent speed skates and learn how to fly on the ice. Special events such as candlelit skates are regularly scheduled, so follow their Facebook page to be kept in the loop.
To make the most of your skating day, make sure you wear warm clothing and a quality winter jacket. Quartz Co. offers a long and water-resistant jackets, which will keep your legs warm while you zip on the ice, whether it’s under the winter sun or the nighttime stars.
Photos by: Hannah Manning, Mark Flemming