Maisonneuve Park. Photos by Cindy Lopez
Sometimes you need to embrace the Montreal Winter, snow, ice and all. This season we’ve been either under a blanket of snow or sliding on a giant skating rink — maybe it’s time to skate on it. From parks to landmarks, skating in the city is a beautiful experience that’s totally worth it, even if it means enduring a little cold.
Skating conditions this year have been great, and as we’re nearing its last few weeks, I took advantage of a period in between snowstorms to complete a five-day exploration of Montreal’s rinks. Most places go until the second week of March, but that could change given the unpredictability of weather patterns.
There are the hockey rinks with boards for a game of pick-up, and then there are the open rinks for leisure skating. The majority of rinks are natural, though some use artificial ice on days where the weather is more spring-like. You can check ahead online for ice conditions. And if you don’t own a pair a skates, no worries. Most places provide skate rental, or if you’re thinking of investing in skates, we’re nearing end-of-season prices, and you could always go for second-hand. Here’s what I discovered skating in the city:
4601 Sherbrooke E.
Only a few minutes from the Big O, it’s worth the trek. This rink has an appealing speed skating oval shape but it’s also great for some leisurely skating. Your scenic view is of the woodsy part of the park and the stadium — a very Montreal winter wonderland. There’s a chalet nearby to put on your skates and healthy snacks in the vending machine. (7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, no rental)
In the heart of Rosemont-Petite Patrie, this rink is the entire park path with a gazebo in the centre to skate around. There’s a trailer to change into and borrow skates if needed (from 3–9 p.m., ID required). You’re also steps away from dining on Beaubien as well as Cinéma Beaubien if you’re down for a movie post-skate. (7 a.m.–10 p.m.)
Petite Italie Park
St-Laurent & St-Zotique
The smallest of the rinks, it’s pond-style with a trailer and skate rental. I enjoyed a night skate here in Little Italy with the St-Laurent Boulevard lights nearby plus music to skate to to drown out the street noise. One bonus is that you’re steps away from bars for some “après skate” afterpartying. (7 a.m.–9 p.m., rental 3:30–8 p.m.)
As you skate in circles on this Outremont park pond, you’ll pass a white chalet and go under a small bridge. For a particularly serene experience, I recommend a morning skate there as all you can hear is the sound of your blades. (Monday to Friday 3–9 p.m., weekends 9:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., no rental)
Sir Wilfrid-Laurier Park
1115 Laurier E.
You would normally think of Laurier Park as a summer hangout, however it’s super active in the winter with two hockey rinks and an open rink (on the south side, near the playgrounds) that provides a quiet, cozy place to skate in. Recommended especially for a quick skate if you’re squeezed for time. (10 a.m.–10 p.m., no rental)
3933 Parc LaFontaine
This is one of the most popular natural skating rinks in the city. LaFontaine is great for either a solo or group skate outing, day or night. You end up channeling your inner ice dancer while skating under tree covered lights. They have paid rentals and skate sharpening (a quick note that the rental location is near the Sherbrooke entrance of the park due to renovations to the chalet in the centre of the park). (Monday to Friday 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m., weekends 10 a.m.–8 p.m.)
The Old Port’s Natrel skating rink
16 Promenade du Vieux-Port
In the heart of the Old Port, this is the only place you can skate on both an artificial and natural rink — depending on the weather, you may luck out and skate on both surfaces. You have to pay to get in (price doesn’t include rental) however this skating rink has plenty of programming, such as DJ nights and the chance to skate under la Grande Roue for a photo-op. The Natrel rink is open until March 10 so you still have time to get your skate on. (Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Thursday to Sunday 10 a.m.–10 p.m., entry $6.95/$4.60 for kids 6-12/families $18)
Mount Royal Park
2000 Chemin Remembrance
Skating on the iconic Beaver Lake is a Montreal-winter must. However it’s the smaller rink that has the artificial surface. During my recent visit, I glided to classic music as my fellow skaters and I felt like kids — a lot of us had our first skate out on Beaver Lake. If you need to rent, it’s only $10 for two hours and they provide skate sharpening if you need it. There’s a restaurant upstairs in the chalet if you’re hungry after skating — maybe grab a hot chocolate before heading off. (Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.–10 p.m., same rental hours)