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Canada's capital celebrates its annual winter festival every February.

Where will you find Winterlude events? In Ottawa and Gatineau, events take place in Confederation Park's Casino du Lac-Leamy Crystal Garden; Jacques-Cartier Park's Snowflake Kingdom; the Rideau Canal Skateway; and the American Express Snowbowl, located above the Skateway, near Rideau Street.

Free Winterlude events and entertainment

Most events are free, including skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Measuring 7.8-kilometres-long, it's the world's largest naturally frozen skating rink, according to the Guinness World Records. The NCC Ice Safety Committee tests the ice in the Rideau Canal. It must be 25 to 30 centimeters thick to be safe for skating.

Other free things to do include a large kids' snow playground, outdoor concerts, ice sculpture competitions and the American Express Winterlude Kick-Off.

Previous entertainers have included Randy Bachman, Josée Lajoie, Jason Collett, Amy Millan, Apostle of Hustle Les Respectables, Les Trois Accords and Young Galaxy. An original song, written by Jay Knutson, was performed on the Six String Nation Guitar (a guitar built with pieces of Pierre Trudeau's canoe paddle, Paul Henderson's hockey stick and other historically significant wood).

The American Express Snowbowl is an outdoor amphitheatre, built over top the ice surface. The Snowbowl is open during the day and evening, even if the Rideau Canal Skateway is not open for skating.

Snowflake Kingdom, at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, is a playground with huge snow slides and a giant labyrinth made of snow for kids and families.

Ice and snow sculptures

Visitors can view the snow sculptures, beginning the second weekend of Winterlude. Teams of sculptors from each Canadian province and territory depict past winters and show how our ancestors overcame winter hardships and had fun in their provinces and territories.

Ice sculptures greet visitors to Casino du Lac-Leamy's Crystal Garden in Gatineau.

On the first weekend of Winterlude, visitors to Confederation Park can watch the Casino du Lac-Leamy Crystal Garden International Ice-Carving Competition. Carvers compete to create ice sculptures from one block of ice. The world's master ice carvers will sculpt 25 blocks of ice during the second weekend of Winterlude, protected by a large tent.

Winterlude hotel packages

Packages for couples and family getaways are available online from Ottawa Tourism. The Spa Escape package includes two nights' accommodation for two adults; spa services at Holtz Spa or Au Naturel Spa; admission for two to the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization or Canadian War Museum; Casino du Lac-Leamy cash certificates; and a Rideau Centre Visitor Values coupon booklet for shopping.

The Winterlude Family Fun package includes two nights' accommodation; family admission to the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization or Canadian War Museum; and a Rideau Centre Visitor Values coupon booklet for shopping.