Ben Durham

Canada’s Winter McDonald’s is BeaverTails® [Ottawa’s Rideau Canal vs. London’s Storybook Gardens]

the front of the only beavertails location in London

Back on January 12, 2019, Natalia and I went skating at Storybook Gardens. This was before the weather decided to go bipolar (pun intended). I swear, the hardest part about winter is not knowing if it’s going to be -36°C or +10°C… because both of those temperatures happened with just days separating them following this ice skating outing.

The only Beavertail location in London

the front of the only beavertails location in London
The front of the only BeaverTails location in London.

This all started with a random question of mine: “have you ever had a Beavertail before?”

“Nope! What’s that?”, replied Natalia.

What are (is) BeaverTails?

I was actually kinda shocked, though she hadn’t seen Back To The Future or Indiana Jones either (that’s since been resolved!), so it’s not that shocking.

BeaverTails is a Canadian-based chain of pastry stands operated by BeaverTails Canada Inc. Its namesake products are fried dough pastries, individually hand stretched to resemble beaver’s tails. The chain originated in Killaloe, Ontario in 1978 and opened its first permanent store in Ottawa two years later.

[Wikipedia Source]

Either way, I immediately whipped out my trusty paper map and tried to find the nearest Beavertails location to us.
Google is the new paper, right? No? Oh, okay. I might have that wrong then.

That tiny lonely pin is the only BeaverTails location in London

You can barely see it because it’s so small and lonely. Here, let’s zoom and enhance.

Zoom and enhance like the movies! Zoomed into the only BeaverTails location in London

Why is Ben obsessed with Beavertails?

I know that’s what you’re thinking because any sane person would be wondering that at this point. It’s simple: BeaverTails were a memorable part of my childhood, growing up in the Ottawa / Gatineau, Quebec region.

[Source] A small group of skaters waiting in line in front of a BeaverTails shop

I’d say my association with BeaverTails is similar to how kids are trained to associate McDonald’s with food and inside play-gyms, which develops a positive life-long relationship with its brand. On the parental side of things, McDonald’s gives tired parents an “easy out” by being able to cheaply feed and exhaust their kids. Get ’em while their young!

The Great White North (Ottawa)

In BeaverTails’ case, it’s “Get ‘Em While Their Cold!”. Here’s where Ottawa comes into play… and why BeaverTails are more prevalent in Ottawa’s colder climate than London’s more mild climate. Let’s also note that the population of Ottawa and Gatineau regions are known to be more outside-activity orientated than Londoners, generally speaking.

Compared to London’s measly one BeaverTails location, during the winter, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is littered with these shops. I’d say 5 or so of them within the 7.8 KM stretch.

Brand Association – Warmth & Laughs in the Cold

Here are some bad selfies from February 10, 2017, of my sister and brother-in-law (Jamie and Jon), and I nomming on our BeaverTails while out for a skate on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

Here was the weather on that day in Ottawa:

[Source] -15°C and snowy on February 10, 2017. Brrr!

So how and why was our trio smiling?

We were already exercising

We were out skating, so our cores were actually fairly warm. Our journey down the 7.8-kilometre skateway in the 20kph wind did cause our toes and fingers to begin feeling a bit chilly though. It was about time to stop for BeaverTails. We each willingly got a nice undersized and overpriced hot chocolate along with our choice of BeaverTails.

Happiness, enhanced

We were already in a great mood because that’s what exercise does – making you happy because of science (releases endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone into the body).

A totally separate skating occasion, where Jess (4th), here parents (1st and 2nd), Matt (3rd), Jenny (5th), and I (obviously, the one posing) went skating at Patinage en Forêt. Here’s a Google Map to the exact location. WE ALL HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! Their hot beverages are great too 😉

ecause our core temperatures were already warm from getting our blood pumping from the exercise, once we stopped, sat down, and got out of the wind, we became nice and toasty. Combine that with a nice cup of hot chocolate and a sugar-topped and filled Beaver Tail, we were very happy and content. These types of activities linked with a product create strong memories!

As for the laughs…

Ben and Matt at Winterlude in Ottawa in front of an amazingly detailed ice sculpture - February 7, 2017
Ben and Matt at Winterlude in Ottawa in front of an amazingly detailed ice sculpture – February 7, 2017

I suppose the laughs just come with the company. My parents always encouraged us to “get out and play” (THANKS, GUYS!), so we were always happy when we were out doing activities. And when you haven’t gone skating on the canal in over 10 years, you’d be happy too!

Making a special outing out of skating is a nice cozy experience that makes you appreciate the eventual warmth. It’s part of the reason that I like winter so much: the absence of warmth (which, scientifically is what “cold” is, because there’s no such thing as cold, per se).

So, why only one London location?

BeaverTails is a big niche company. They sell one thing -plus warm drinks- as a welcome up-sell to one type of customer: cold customers. Typically, those cold customers can be found skating outdoors. That’s why the only BeaverTails location in London is strategically placed right next to the outdoor skating path at Storybook Gardens! It all makes sense.

Back to Skating at Storybook Gardens

After this entire article, you must be wondering if I spent all my time inside the BeaverTails. Actually, we came prepared with skates, camera, mugs, and a HUGE canister of homemade hot chocolate. I’m not a fan of BeaverTails’ undersized and purely disposable cups, so this is us making a statement!

Oh, and we skated. It was great! We actually over-dressed and were stripping layers off as we skated more and more. #exerciseismagic


No matter where you live in Canada, whether there are BeaverTails or not, get out there and get active during our cold winter months! Embrace the lack of warmth… and then embrace the amazing heat of hot beverages, potentially some pastries, and definitely the memories.

A wild Natalia, obviously embracing the lack of warmth after skating in London’s Victoria Park
– December 13, 2017

If you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comments section below! If you want to subscribe to my newsletter to be notified when I post new blog posts, follow me with the link on the sidebar! Cheers!

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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