Illuminating Christmas in Ottawa and the region

Dec 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Adventure, Featured, Travel

By Katharine Fletcher

Whether we call December’s festivities “Christmas” or “the Holiday Season”, winter is upon us and is well worth celebrating. With snow blanketing fields and forests, cityscapes and rural landscapes, colourful twinkling lights allow us to marvel at the magic the decorations weave.

From Parliament Hill to Upper Canada Village, from the Chutes Coulonge (north of Fort Coulonge in the Pontiac) to pretty lights decorating the Governor General’s Skating Rink, there’s many a reason to get outside and into the seasonal spirit. Here are a few ideas to consider.

Christmas Lights
Across Canada
Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Celebrate the 34th season of this light show at Parliament Hill, which continues until Jan. 7. Dress very warmly because during this event you’ll be standing outside, watching the Magical Winter Lightscapes multimedia show projected onto the Parliament buildings.

This event is part of Christmas Lights Across Canada because all Canada’s capital cities participate.

Naturally, there are many more lights in downtown Ottawa: across from Parliament Hill, stroll around the War Memorial at the head of Elgin Street. The National Capital Commission decks the trees with tiny lights, making the monument glitter. Want to warm up? Pop into the comfort of your car and drive the Confederation Boulevard loop – and don’t forget your camera!

Check website for times:

Governor General’s Skating Rink & Winter Pavilion
Rideau Hall

Want to get a bit of exercise while enjoying some pretty lights? Then head to Rideau Hall where you can skate at the Governor General’s skating rink, first built in 1872. Canada’s third Governor General, the Earl of Dufferin, organized many skating parties here, so after lacing up your skates and taking to the rink you’ll be gliding about where Lady Dufferin first learned to skate.

You’ll be lacing up your skates in the refurbished heritage building known as the Winter Pavilion, where a wood stove keeps everyone cozy. Then head outside to skate on the rink to music, creating your very own, very special Ottawa heritage winter experience. Very child friendly. Open until March 24.

Free: check times at website:

Alight at Night
Upper Canada Village
13740 County Road 2, Morrisburg

The 19th century pioneer village museum situated alongside Lake Ontario showcases life in Canada in the 1860s. During December, it adopts a fantastical appearance during Alight at Night, where more than one million lights drape trees, cedar fences, and buildings. Scarlet, royal blue, emerald green and other colours shine brilliantly against the night’s dark sky.

Included in the price of admission, you can take a horse-drawn wagon ride, a trip on a toy train, sing carols at Christ Church, and visit Santa (until Dec 23). Horse-drawn carriage rides are extra – but what a romantic way to get into the Christmas spirit as you wend your way through the village. Saturdays attract the biggest throngs, so plan your visit accordingly.

Want to enjoy a meal? Cook’s Tavern operates as a restaurant, and other options for food include Willard’s Hotel, Harvest Barn, Kettle Corner and Village Pantry.

For details (admission/varied times) go to:

Vintage Village of Lights
Cumberland Heritage
Village Museum
29140 Old Montreal Road, Ottawa

From Upper Canada’s mid-1800s theme, now fast-forward to the 1920s-1930s, where lights trim buildings and trees to create a Christmastime fantasy. Activities include horse-drawn wagon rides, decorating gingerbread, and for little ones, sending Santa a telegram. Family passes available.

Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 3-8 pm until Dec. 23. Lights start: 5-8 pm  Check website for admission fees:

Festival of Lights
Chutes Coulonge
100 Promenade
Mansfield-et-Pontefract, QC

Imagine walking one km through woodland trails towards the illuminated Chutes Coulonge Waterfall. The Rivière Coulonge was once one of the region’s mighty “logging rivers”, where hewn timbers coursed downriver, then shot down a slide constructed so the precious logs destined for Britain wouldn’t be destroyed by tumbling over the rocky falls.

In December, lights illuminate the white pine forest and waterfall, creating a magical setting at this heritage park. Trimmers Fresh Food Fast provides food on-site.

Special events: Dec. 15: Music night, where local musicians play seasonal tunes; Dec. 22: Santa Claus visits the Chutes. Open every Saturday in Dec., from 4-9 pm.

Info: Check fees, directions: Facebook: Tel: 819.687.2270

Katharine Fletcher is author of several guides to our region ( She’s also a visual artist who invites you to like her page at:

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