Calling all ice skaters: For next-level skating, you’ll want to make a pit-stop in Ottawa, Canada this winter. Each year, the Rideau Canal, which snakes through the city center, freezes over enough to form the world’s largest natural ice rink—stretching 4.8 miles from Downtown Ontario to man-made Dow’s Lake. Access is free, and visitors can explore over six square miles (equivalent to 90 Olympic skating rinks) of frozen canal. For a respite from the cold, skaters can relax at one of the many rest areas along the way, which feature fire pits, changing rooms, and vendors selling “Beaver Tails”—warm, deep-fried cinnamon and sugar pastries that have been a Canadian classic since 1978.
Rideau Canal’s rink usually opens for the season in January and runs until late February; however, the river has to freeze 12 inches thick minimum in order to support the 20,000 skaters that visit daily. Jean Wolff, spokesman for the National Capital Commission, told the Ottawa Citizen, “Impatience with the opening of the canal is always high. The Skateway is the No. 1 winter icon in the capital. But at the end of the day, it’s a natural surface, natural ice outdoors and we have to do it with the weather we have.” The Citizen reports that it takes at least two weeks of consecutive cold nights (below -10 or -15 degrees Celsius) in order for there to be enough ice. As of Friday morning, conditions were deemed safe enough for the rink to open.