As the weather gets cooler and we get closer to the end of December, the winter season is on the horizon. Canadian Winters are known for cold temperatures, beautiful snowfalls and a wide variety of winter activities. Winter is one of the best seasons in Canada, as there are so many unique outdoor excursions that visitors can enjoy, including skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and sledding.
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Canada in winter, then you are in the right place.
Canada offers numerous beautiful winter vacation destinations for families of all ages, so let us guide you in selecting the right family vacation to enjoy during the winter months.
The 8 Best Places to Visit in the Winter in Canada
Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta
Banff and Lake Louise turn into a snowy winter wonderland with snow-covered mountains, frosty forests and frozen lakes that offer a tranquil environment and incredible photos.
The Banff and Lake Louise area is a hot spot for winter sports enthusiasts as there are multiple world-class ski resorts, including Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay, which offer snowboarding and skiing for various skill levels.
If you prefer enjoying the winter landscapes without the adrenaline rush of going downhill, then you will enjoy skating on the massive rink with the mountain backdrop.
Lastly, if you’re looking for relaxation, then check out the Banff Upper Hot Springs or witness the Northern Lights dancing in the skies if you’re lucky.
Quebec City, Quebec
The historic city of Old Quebec is a UNESCO heritage site that is a beautiful setting of cobblestone streets and heritage buildings that looks magical when covered in snow.
Visitors can enjoy ice skating outdoors at a variety of locations. However, the most picturesque location is definitely the Plains of Abraham. Head to Mont-Sainte-Anne or Stoneham if you’re looking to enjoy some downhill skiing or snowboarding.
If you plan to visit Quebec in late January or early February, be sure to explore the renowned Carnaval de Quebec, which is one of the largest outdoor winter festivals in the world. This festive event is a historic Quebec tradition that transforms the city into a winter wonderland complete with outdoor activities, parades, and ice sculptures.
If you enjoy adventure, then try a toboggan ride at the famous hill at Dufferin Terrace that overlooks the St.Lawrence River. You can experience the thrill of ice canoeing on the frozen St. Lawrence River, which is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Quebec is also known for having traditional cuisine like poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy) and tourtière (meat pie) from a local restaurant.
Where to Stay: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is a historic architectural gem that looks majestic when covered in snow.
- Pro Tip: Quebec City can be very cold during the winter months, so dress warmly in layers, and be sure to pack a scarf as it can be quite breezy.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler is a world-renowned location year-round for outdoor lovers and is especially popular in winter as it is a stunning alpine location with lots of winter activities. Whistler is a popular winter getaway from Vancouver for its world-class skiing and snowboarding.
Those who enjoy a thrill but prefer to explore the forests rather than the mountains will enjoy snowmobiling or snowshoeing. Guests can experience the magical feeling of winter by taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the forest or grabbing some skates and enjoying an outdoor skating rink surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
Even if you don’t like playing outside in the snow, you will find lots to do as Whistler has multiple restaurants, bars and shops to explore. You will also find a variety of live entertainment options, such as live music, to enjoy in the evenings.
Where to Stay: Four Season Whistler Resort is located in the village and is a 5-minute walk to the mountain. Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club is a luxury resort offering both ski-in/ski-out rooms and a shuttle to Whistler Blackcomb, as well as over 5 different restaurants.
- Pro Tip: Book in advance, as Whistler is probably the most popular winter destination in all of Canada. Whistler was the main venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so has become a popular tourist spot.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Similar to Banff, Jasper National Park offers another opportunity to explore the snow-covered Canadian Rockies and enjoy wildlife encounters, outdoor adventure opportunities and some great tranquil spots to relax.
Visitors will enjoy walking or snowshoeing through the untouched winter wonderland with frozen lakes, snow-covered mountains and beautiful snowy forests that may allow them to encounter some Canadian wildlife.
A unique experience near Jasper is visiting Maligne Canyon to take an ice walk. This guided excursion highlights ice formations as you walk through frozen canyons. Another unique experience is enjoying the thrill of dog sledding through snowy trails, guided by a team of eager huskies.
Skiing and Snowboarding are available at Marmot Basin, and Lake Mildred is a popular spot for skating with the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies. To warm up after a day outside, visit the Miette Hot Springs to soak in the hot tubs surrounded by snow.
Where to Stay: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a luxury resort with a rustic wilderness feel yet world-class amenities.
- Pro Tip: Make sure to make reservations in advance for the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
This natural wonder of the world is beautiful to visit during winter months as the falls and surrounding area transform into a snowy wonderland thanks to the frigid temperatures. The falls become partially frozen, and as the temperature drops the mist freezes on surrounding trees and rocks which creates beautiful ice formations.
There are opportunities to go ice skating near the falls as they operate 5 outdoor rinks during the winter. If you visit Fireman’s Park in the winter, you can often find kids enjoying tobogganing.
Lastly, Niagara Falls is beautiful to visit in the evening as it becomes illuminated and is a breathtaking visual against the frozen backdrop.
Where to Stay: Hilton Niagara Fallsview
Newfoundland and Labrador
Visiting Newfoundland in the winter is another off-the-beaten-path expedition as it is not a very popular tourist location in the winter.
In the winter, you can witness the spectacular iceberg formations along the coast in what is known as Iceberg alley where you can see various large chunks of snow and ice that have broken off from glaciers and float along towards Labrador.
Another unique winter experience is taking a winter whale watching tour. Newfoundland is one of the places where you can view whales, seabirds, and icebergs all in one location as whales and birds migrate north and the icebergs sail south.
Lastly, take some time to explore the winter beauty of Gros Morne National Park’s by snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling, and if you’re brave, you can even try winter camping.
Where to Stay: Old Salt Box Houses
Churchill, Manitoba is the Polar Bear Capital of the World and offers a unique Arctic experience. Some of the excursions and experiences you can enjoy in winter here are unique as they can only be experienced here or in the Arctic. The clear, dark skies of Churchill are ideal for catching the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
Polar bears migrate to Hudson Bay, making Churchill one of the best places to see these majestic creatures up close in their natural environment as you take a guided tundra buggy tour. You may also encounter other Arctic wildlife, such as arctic foxes, snowy owls, seals and other unique birds that do not migrate during winter.
Churchill provides a chance to experience the Arctic environment up close, such as dog sledding through snowy landscapes with a team of huskies or enjoying the ice by ice fishing, skating or snowmobiling on the frozen lakes.
Lastly, learn about the local Indigenous culture and heritage through cultural programs and events that provide insight into the history of the region.
Where to Stay: Lazy Bear Lodge is a unique gem as it is built with wood from the Boreal forest, recycled windows from the 1800s Hudson Bay Trading Post and a beautiful log cabin.
- Pro Tip: Churchill can offer a unique natural experience viewing wildlife but it’s important to remember that it gets extremely cold in its Arctic-like environment, so you must pack appropriate gear.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is not the most popular location to visit in the winter due to its extreme cold and high amounts of snow. However, it offers a unique winter landscape and activities.
PEI transforms into a winter wonderland with its rolling countryside, red sand beaches covered in snow, and frozen coastal landscapes, creating a serene and scenic backdrop for outdoor sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on the island’s trails and natural areas.
Since Prince Edward Island is located along the coastline, it is a prime destination for winter birdwatching. The nearby frozen lakes and rivers offer great locations to learn how to ice fish from local providers that provide gear and instruction.
Enjoy culinary delights in cozy restaurants as you warm up and enjoy fresh seafood and local specialities or check out local shops for handcrafted gifts and souvenirs made by local artisans.
Where to Stay: Mill River Resort offers campfires, fabulous food, and outdoor excursions all in one convenient location.
- Pro Tip: Tourist amenities may have reduced hours or be closed during the off-season.
Weather Conditions During Canadian Winters
You will find amazing family vacation ideas for winter in Canada, including festivals, snow-covered landscapes, outdoor activities and indoor experiences.
While Canada can be beautiful in the winter, snowstorms, blizzards, and extreme cold can influence your plans and can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. It is recommended to save road trips for the summer when the roads have better driving conditions.
What Kind Of Clothes Should I Pack For Canada In Winter?
The winter season in Canada varies from cool to cold depending on what part of the country you are visiting, and the snowfall also varies as the East Coast sees much more snow than the West Coast. It is important to pack the following items to stay warm and comfortable:
- Warm Winter Clothing: layering is best
- Insulated jackets
- Snow Pants
- Waterproof boots
- Mittens, hats and scarfs
Tips for Going on a Winter Getaway in Canada:
- Book accommodations in Advance: Popular winter resorts such as ski lodges book up very quickly and won’t be able to accept last-minute arrivals
- Plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities: While outdoor activities are a must, plan some indoor exploration such as museums, art galleries or cafes to give yourself an opportunity to warm up
- It’s important to stay up to date on weather conditions if driving and it is advised to only use cars with snow tires (this is a law in some provinces)
- We have further winter road trip safety tips you should make yourself familiar with if you’re new to driving in snowy and icy conditions.
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