Skating along St. Lawrence river

On Patine! The Best Outdoor Skating In And Around Montreal

In Montreal, there are two ways to deal with winter: hide from it or embrace it. Considering there is snow on the ground for four to five months of the year, I decided soon after my arrival to learn how to enjoy the season. Near the end of my first winter here, I bought an inexpensive pair of recreational skates to enjoy the abundance of outdoor skating.

Every neighbourhood has at least one skating rink within easy walking distance. Some are specifically set up for playing hockey while others are free-skate rinks or decorative paths. Enjoying the winter scenery while I skate is important to me, so all of my favourite skating places are the decorative paths in the larger parks.

My reviews below are only a few of the many places to skate in Montreal. For an interactive map of all the rinks and their current condition, check out patinermontreal.ca.

Full Service Skating

If you are new to outdoor skating and not sure you want to invest in a pair of skates, I recommend trying out one of the full-service skating rinks. You can rent skates at all of these locations, usually around $6-$8. If you already own skates, they also have sharpening services.

Bonsecours Basin (Bassin Bonsecours)

If you are uncertain about outdoor skating, Bassin Bonsecours will convert you. Open from 10am to 9pm (weekdays)/10pm (weekends), you can enjoy skating surrounded by the beauty of the Old Port day or evening. For $6, you can skate on the ultra-smooth refrigerated rink or skate with more freedom on the natural ice in the basin. Each evening is a different musical theme, adding to the festive air. Bring your own lock to store your boots and other personal items in the bench lockers in the chalet.

Beaver Lake (Lac des castors)

skating beaver lake
Refrigerated rink at Beaver Lake
On top of Mont Royal, Beaver Lake also offers the choice of a smaller refrigerated rink or the freedom of natural ice on the lake itself. There is no charge to skate, but there is a full service equipment counter inside the chalet if you need to rent. A popular spot on the weekends, it is best to go early or, since it is open until 9pm, try the evenings during the week. Bring your own lock for the bench lockers in the chalet.

Parc Lafontaine

A neighbourhood favourite in the Plateau, Parc Lafontaine is one of the most scenic of the outdoor skating paths. The long natural ice path winds around the chalet and toward the south west corner of the park, giving you the feeling of skating along a meandering river. Also a popular spot on weekends, it is best to go early, when the ice is the smoothest and less crowded. Skating is free and you can store your boots in the bench lockers inside the chalet.

Parc Jean Drapeau during Fête des Neiges

The skating path during Fête des Neiges 2013

Fête des Neiges is the annual winter festival usually held at Parc Jean Drapeau on the weekends from mid-January through early February. For the past two years, you can skate for free along a scenic path near the St. Lawrence river. Because it is during the festival you can also take in one of the other winter activities or enjoy hot chocolate and Beaver Tails while you’re there.

Favorite Neighbourhood Skating

You will need to bring your own skates to these fantastic free neighbourhood spots.

Parc Maisonneuve

44824-skatingparcmaisonneuve
With a beautiful view of the Olympic Stadium on one end, the huge oval at Parc Maisonneuve will inspire your inner speed skater. The ice is well-groomed and not too busy on a Saturday morning, so it is very easy to pick up some speed and get a good workout. On the other side of the oval, the park is a beautiful winter wonderland with trails for cross-country skiing and walking. If you want to lock up your boots and belongings, there are lockers in the heated chalet if you bring your own lock.

Parc St. Viateur

This scenic path has been a favourite in Outremont for generations. The well-groomed, natural ice path circles the park, taking you under a small bridge and by the charming heated chalet, where you can safely keep your boots warm. Since it gets busy on the weekend, it is best to go early and then warm up with hot chocolate at one of the nearby cafés.

Road Trip!

If you are inspired to do a winter skating road trip, these two are worth the drive!

Domain de la foret perdue (Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel)

Outside Trois Rivière at Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, Domaine de la Forêt Perdue has a 10km labyrinth of groomed skating paths winding through forested farmland. In addition to great skating, there is a small zoo of goats, sheep, llamas and more, your can try your hand at ice fishing for trout, and sample some maple syrup taffy cooled on snow. If you’re hungry, you can buy a pretty decent hot lunch on site or heat up your own in a microwave in the food chalet. For $12, you enjoy a full day at the Domaine and leave with your choice of a small bottle of honey or maple syrup or a small package of buckwheat flour.

Rideau Canal (Ottawa)

Winterlude 2013

Famous for being the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, the Rideau Canal is worth the drive to Ottawa. Because it is natural ice, its condition is very weather dependent, so the best time to go is usually during Winterlude in February. For the full experience, start at Dow’s Lake and skate toward downtown, which is 7.8km one-way. If you get tired, you can rest and refuel at one of the many rest and snack stations every 1-2km along the way. The canal can get very crowded during Winterlude, especially downtown, so its best to start early.

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