The 12 Best Places to Visit in Canada in Winter

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As we reach the cold season, you might be wondering where to embark on a winter adventure that combines breathtaking landscapes, thrilling outdoor activities, and the warmth of Canadian hospitality.

Well, you've come to the right place because, in this guide from Ask Genie, we'll be listing 10 of the best places to visit in Canada in winter. Whether you're an avid winter sports enthusiast or someone who appreciates the serene beauty of snow-clad landscapes, Canada has something special to offer during the chilly months.


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The Best Places To Visit for Canada Winter Holidays

1. Canadian Rockies

If you're eager to get your hiking boots on this winter, then the Canadian Rockies are great to visit. Featuring five national parks - Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes - you can truly have one of the best winter vacations in Canada.

One of the most popular places in the Rockies is Banff National Park; here, visitors can hike up the Stoney Squaw Mountain, walk on a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice at the Athabasca Glacier and take advantage of the luxury chateau-style spa hotels.

For those looking to experience Canada's natural wonders, this area is a prime picturesque place for travellers. 

Other highlights include:

  • Jasper National Park: This wilderness is another favourite among visitors with its snow-capped mountains and dog sledging tours.
  • Lake Louise ski resort: A great place for winter sports enthusiasts. Visitors can get stuck in with sleigh rides, winter campfires, and warm mulled wine from the Ice Bar at this cosy ski resort.

2. Vancouver, British Columbia

Cityscape view of Vancouver downtown. Tall business building and tower in snow day in winter with mountain view

Maybe you're more of a city person? If so, Vancouver is an excellent place to visit during the winter months.

The city comes alive during the holiday season with festive lights, markets, and celebrations. Since British Columbia has a rich maritime history, you can expect a lot of delicious seafood menus, markets and restaurants.

Just a short drive away, Whistler Blackcomb offers world-class skiing and snowboarding. Even if you're not hitting the slopes, the village has a fantastic ambience with shops, restaurants, and spas to indulge in après-ski relaxation.

Whether you want to go ice skating under twinkling lights, sip hot chocolate in cosy cafes or explore the city's many galleries and museums, there's something for everyone in Vancouver.

Other highlights include:

Planning a winter escape to Vancouver? Get the low-down from our very own culture vultures on the best Vancouver restaurants and the best things to do in Vancouver to make sure your trip is out of this world.

3. Plaster Rock, New Brunswick

People ice skating with hockey sticks with snow in the background

Plaster Rock, a lesser-known gem in New Brunswick, hosts the prestigious World Pond Hockey Championship, attracting participants from Canada, Britain, and the US. This quaint town offers not only thrilling winter activities but also stunning natural beauty. Imagine gliding across icy ponds amidst snowy forests - the perfect setting for a serene ice skating experience.

Other highlights include:

  • Ice caves & waterfalls: Visit enchanting New Brunswick ice caves and waterfalls in places like Midland and Fall Brook Falls.
  • Winter festivals: As part of the ever-popular FROSTival in Fredericton, you can also visit a new winter festival, Winter Frolic, which allows visitors to enjoy snow slides, sleigh rides, a lit-up Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round

4. Quebec City, Quebec

People walking down a narrow street with an ice sculpture on the right

Why stay in a regular hotel when you could be in an ice hotel? In Quebec City, you could stay in your own little igloo and embrace the winter season. As one of the best winter vacation spots in Canada, the Hôtel de Glace is perfect for a romantic getaway or a simple wintry retreat.

This charming city is also great for snow baths, ice canoe races and the famous Quebec Winter Festival. From mesmerising ice sculptures to lively outdoor events, Quebec City is a must-visit destination for Canadian winter adventures.

Other highlights include:

  • Fun, festive events: Experience a vibrant array of visual arts, theatre and music at events like Kaléidoscopes and Igloofest.
  • Snow pentathlon: Visit the world's largest winter multisport event. Whether you're a family, business, school or solo athlete, see if you can rise to the challenge of Pentathlon des nieges!
  • Ice fishing: Experience the thrill of ice fishing against the backdrop of the exceptional view of Old Québec at the Village Nordik.

5. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Sunset view of Charlottetown with riverfront

Although Prince Edward Island might be the smallest province, Charlottetown is the ultimate winter wonderland.

With charming streets blanketed in snow, its warm-hearted locals and vibrant arts scene provide a welcoming atmosphere despite the cold. Families can have great fun tobogganing and snowshoeing at Brookvale Winter Activity Park and end the evening dining in exquisite restaurants.

This little city also neighbours a stunning coastline and national parks, giving visitors a cosy way to celebrate winter in Canada.

Other highlights include:

  • Snow Yoga: Feeling tranquil? Take part in Flow in the Snow to keep your body and mind refreshed.
  • Ice City Festival: With streets of ice sculptures and art installations, Ice City offers a variety of exciting winter activities.

6. Ottawa, Ontario

View of rideau canal skating rink with bridge and buildings in the background

There's never a dull moment in Ottawa! Each year, Canada’s capital undergoes a stunning transformation into a snowy wonderland, offering an array of activities from ice skating to cross-country skiing amidst pretty landscapes.

Whether it's outdoor winter activities or cosy indoor experiences, this vibrant city has it all, making it one of the best cities in Canada to visit in winter. 

Other highlights include:

  • Rideau Canal: Ice skating on Rideau Canal Skateway - the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world - is a great winter activity. The Skateway is open daily from late December to late February. And guess what? It's free!
  • Winter camping: Look up at the stars on a campsite or cabin. Gatineau Park and Parc Omega are two camping options that are perfect for experiencing the great outdoors.
  • Downhill skiing: Camp Fortune and Mont Cascades, conveniently located within easy driving distance from downtown, boast exhilarating slopes and challenges for all skill levels.
  • Parliament Hill: The crown jewel of Canada's capital, Parliament Hill boasts stunning views of the Ottawa River. Warm up by the Centennial Flame, take in beautiful neo-Gothic-style architecture and marvel at the grandeur of this historic building.

Curious about food options? Take a look at our list of the best restaurants in Ottawa! We’ve also got a great list of things to do and places to visit whilst in Ontario, so take a look at some of our recommendations below:

7. Montreal, Quebec

View on Carré Saint Louis colourful Victorian houses on a snowy day

One of the best cities to visit in Canada during winter has to be Montreal. From snow tubing on Mount Royal to ice skating on Beaver Lake, there’s so much to see and do in this fantastic city. 

Montreal emerges as an enticing destination in winter not only for its scenic snowscapes but also for its vibrant culinary scene. As the city transforms into a snowy wonderland, its diverse and delicious food offerings become a beacon for travellers seeking warmth and flavour. From a steaming bowl of classic poutine to savouring maple treats, Montreal is a perfect place for food in Canada.

Other highlights include:

  • Montreal's markets: Experience the charm of winter markets, where you can sample local produce, artisanal goods, and seasonal treats.
  • Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing: Explore Montreal's parks, like Parc Jean-Drapeau or Parc Maisonneuve, which offer trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
  • Food tours: Keep yourself warm (and full) with a food tour. This is a great way to taste the region’s cuisine.

8. Niagara Falls, Ontario

Winter waterfall with peach-coloured sky

While Niagara Falls is a renowned attraction year-round, the winter unveils a mesmerising and serene beauty, drawing millions of visitors to marvel at its majestic allure. The frozen landscape surrounding the falls adds an extra layer of wonder, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the best places in Canada for a winter vacation.

Other highlights include:

  • Icewine Festival: This wine festival, held during the winter months, offers an exquisite opportunity to indulge in unique tastings.
  • Outdoor adventure: Embrace the winter outdoors by exploring Niagara's parks. Enjoy hiking trails at places like Niagara Glen or take a scenic walk along the Niagara River Parkway, offering beautiful winter vistas.

9. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winnipeg in winter with a clear blue sky and skyscraper backdrop and snow-covered ground

Winter in Winnipeg is a true delight! The city warmly embraces the season with its longest naturally frozen skating trail at The Forks - imagine gliding through the crisp winter air surrounded by pure snowy magic. 

And then there's the Festival du Voyageur, where you can experience the lively Francophone culture with outdoor fun, music, and delicious treats.

Winnipeg's winter spirit is all about enjoying the outdoors, from skating and sledging to cosying up around bonfires. It's the perfect spot to make unforgettable memories on a Canadian winter holiday.

Other highlights include:

  • Scandinavian spa: Thermea offers relaxation in the midst of nature, allowing visitors to unwind in thermal pools and saunas.
  • Outdoor adventures: Places like FortWhyte Alive and Assiniboine Park Zoo provide opportunities to immerse yourself in nature, witness wildlife, and partake in outdoor experiences like hiking, snowshoeing, or wildlife viewing.

If you’re keen to spend your Christmas in Canada, check out our list of the best places to visit!

10. Churchill, Manitoba

Aurora Borealis with winter landscape

Churchill is a one-of-a-kind winter destination that offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World," Churchill attracts visitors with its incredible wildlife.

In winter, Churchill becomes a haven for those seeking the thrill of observing polar bears in their natural habitat. Guided tours and specialised excursions provide opportunities to witness these magnificent creatures as they roam the tundra.

While Churchill may be remote and challenging to access, its unparalleled wildlife encounters and the chance to witness the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) make it one of the best places to visit in Canada during winter.

Other highlights include:

  • Bird watching: Churchill is a haven for birdwatchers, especially during the migratory season. It's home to various bird species, including snowy owls, gyrfalcons, and a diverse range of migratory birds.
  • Cultural experiences: Learn about the local Indigenous cultures and traditions of the Inuit and Dene communities through cultural tours and interactions, gaining insights into their heritage and way of life.
  • Historical sites: Explore historical sites like the Prince of Wales Fort and the Itsanitaq Museum, showcasing Inuit art and artefacts providing a glimpse into the region's history and heritage.
  • Hudson Bay: Enjoy the rugged beauty of the Hudson Bay coastline, take in breathtaking views, and experience the vastness of this northern landscape.

11. Calgary, Alberta

A bench on a snowy hill looking towards downtown Calgary with a warm sunrise

Up there with the best cities to visit in Canada during winter, Calgary offers a very chilled and laidback environment. 

With its proximity to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary serves as a gateway to world-class skiing and snowboarding resorts like Banff and Canmore. It's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking thrilling adventures on pristine slopes.

Amidst this winter sports paradise, Calgary's cultural scene thrives with festivals celebrating art, music, and cowboy heritage, while its scenic beauty - from the snow-covered Bow River Valley to charming parks - invites leisurely explorations.

Other highlights include:

  • Fish Creek National Park: This free-to-enter park allows visitors to explore its trails and appreciate the majesty of the snow-covered landscapes. 
  • Dog sledging: Experience the thrill of dog sledging around the city.
  • Cross-country skiing: Calgary boasts numerous trails ideal for cross-country skiing, providing opportunities for both beginners and seasoned skiers to glide through picturesque landscapes and enjoy the winter scenery.
  • Ice fishing: Venture out onto frozen lakes for a unique ice fishing experience. Several spots around Calgary offer the chance ​​to drill a hole, drop a line, and try your luck at catching some fish beneath the ice.

If you’re interested in what Calgary has to offer, feel free to have a look at our guides on the city, from the best hotels to the best neighbourhoods to visit

12. Toronto, Ontario

Sunset city skyline with cracked ice on the waterfront

Toronto holds a distinct charm during the winter months that makes it one of the best places in Canada for winter vacation. 

The city comes alive with winter festivals and events. From the enchanting Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Phillips Square to the iconic Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery Village, Toronto offers a plethora of festivities that embrace the holiday spirit and create a magical ambience. Toronto Christmas Market is featured on our list of the best Christmas markets in Canada. Want to check out the rest? Take a look at our guide!

As well as Christmas activities, Toronto boasts a wealth of indoor attractions that are perfect for escaping the cold. Museums like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario offer captivating exhibitions, while places like Ripley's Aquarium provide an immersive underwater experience.

Other highlights include:

  • Shopping and entertainment: The city's vibrant shopping districts, like the Eaton Centre and Yorkville, make for a cosy retreat from the chilly weather.
  • Outdoor activities: Embracing the winter spirit, Toronto offers outdoor activities like ice skating at the Harbourfront Centre's Natrel Rink or the iconic Nathan Phillips Square. There's also the opportunity to explore the city's parks and trails covered in snow, offering serene winter walks or snowshoeing adventures.
  • Multicultural celebrations: Toronto's multicultural population means a wide array of winter celebrations from various cultures. Events like the Lumiere Art of Light Exhibition at Ontario Place or Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown add a rich tapestry of experiences to the winter months.

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FAQs

Is it worth visiting Canada in winter?

Absolutely! As one of the best places to visit in winter, Canada offers an unparalleled experience no matter where you go.

In Canada, winter isn't just a season - it's a wonderland waiting to be explored. Whether you're seeking adventure on the slopes, cosy nights by the fireplace, or the chance to immerse yourself in vibrant winter festivals, Canada has it all.

Where are the best winter vacation spots in Canada?

The best Canadian destination for your winter break will depend on your personal preferences when travelling. Think about how much you have to spend, the type of weather you want, the activities you enjoy doing, and whether you prefer city breaks or more adventurous escapes. If you want to experience the best bright lights and big cities, we recommend visiting Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver or Quebec City. For a break filled with stunning scenery and outdoor activities, head to Banff National Park, Lake Louise or Whistler.

What are the best cities to visit in Canada during the winter?

The best Canadian city for your winter getaway will largely depend on the activities and experiences you hope to do while visiting. For a taste of Canada’s own “little Europe”, head to the French-Canadian cities of Montreal or Quebec City, where you’ll find quintessentially French culture. If you want to enjoy the highlights of city life whilst being a stone’s throw from incredible winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, you can’t go wrong with Vancouver. Nestled at the foot of Grouse Mountain, this Canadian city is perfect for culture vultures and thrill-seekers alike.


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