Instead of dreading that first snowfall in Canada, get outside and embrace the winter season. During the winter months, Canada turns into a winter wonderland. Canadians know how to beat the winter blues. Once you learn how to dress for cold weather, you’ll find that there are plenty of things to do in winter in Canada that make it worth heading up North for the holidays. So instead of hibernating this winter get outside and start planning a winter trip to Canada. Don’t forget to bundle up!
Fun Things to do in Winter in Canada
Go Skiing and Snowboarding
Canada is blessed with some of the best locations for downhill skiing and snowboarding in the world. In addition to the beautiful snow-capped mountains, visitors can also check illustrious ski resorts that offer excellent accommodation and facilities that complement the outdoor fun. Canada has some of the best ski resorts on earth from Whistler Blackcomb to Mont Tremblant, you can downhill ski in Canada from coast to coast!
You can have the best skiing and snowboarding experience between Alberta and British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada with the most popular being Whistler Blackcomb, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, and Big White in BC. When skiing in Alberta, Lake Louise in Banff National Park is the premier ski resort but other great ski resorts include Sunshine Village and Marmot Basin. In eastern Canada, Quebec is the place of choice with Mont-Tremblant, Mont Saint Anne, and Le Massif being favourites. And right here in Ontario, we love a weekend getaway to Blue Mountain too!
Cross country skiing is also very popular with Canadians. You can do this winter sport in Canada nearly anywhere and most ski resorts offer it as well. If you aren’t ready for downhill skiing, give X-country skiing a try. It’s fun for the whole family. For a truly unique Canadian winter adventure, try skijoring. It mixes skiing with dogsledding and is a rip-roaring good time.
Watch the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a natural display of light in the night sky. This phenomenon is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere. The native Cree People called the Auroras “The Dance of the Spirits”. It will cost you nothing to gaze at the beautiful Aurora Borealis and there are plenty of places to see the Northern Lights dance when you visit Canada in winter.
Where to See Northern Lights in Canada
Head to Yellowknife, Goose Bay in Labrador, the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, and the prairie provinces of Canada to get the best view of the Aurora Borealis. We’ve also seen exceptional Northern Lights in Alberta around Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. And we watched the auroras every night while searching for polar bears with Churchill Wild.
Skate on the Rideau Canal
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal is one of the most iconic things you can do in winter in Canada. Usually, the skating season on the UNESCO World Heritage Site begins during Winterlude, Ottawa’s winter carnival. You can rent skates and hop on the world’s largest skating rink. It stretches for miles with warming stations, where you can sample frozen maple syrup and beavertails with plenty of fun adventures along the Rideau Canal that runs through the city of Ottawa.
Attend a Winterlude
Speaking of Winterlude, Canada has plenty of winter carnivals to attend. When the days grow shorter and colder, Canadians love to get outdoors to celebrate with lights, ice sculptures, and winter activities. Throughout the winter, you’ll find winter carnivals in every province. Our favorite is Winterlude in Ottawa.
We’ve attended it several times taking advantage of all the winter fun including snow tubing, the ice bar at Andaz, the winter zipline network in Gatineau, and exploring all the ice formations and ice sculptures. Another great place to go ziplining in the winter is at the Marble Mountain Ski Resort in Newfoundland and Labrador. (We haven’t been there yet, but it’s on our list!)
Carnivale Quebec City
Quebec City has the famous Carnivale winter carnival. This UNESCO World Heritage City truly comes alive in winter. The old city is transformed into a winter wonderland that feels frozen in time. You can visit the famous Ice Hotel and have a drink at the ice bar. Opening in 2001, it was North America’s first Ice Hotel and you can watch ice sculpture competitions. Make sure to visit North America’s most European City in the winter. We loved our winter stay in Quebec City.
Other winter festivals in Canada are the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, Jasper in January, and the Montreal Lumiere Festival. At the winter festivals, you can expect to see an ice sculpture competition, snow tubing, ice skating, and beautiful ice bars where you can wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy the brisk air. Read more: Montreal Festivals – Celebrate Canada’s Coolest City
Ice Wine Festival
A winter festival that is unique to Canada is the Ice Wine Festival in Niagara Falls. We love heading outdoors to taste the delicious ice wines of the Niagara Region. The wineries open their doors to sample food and the region’s popular dessert wine made from their frozen grapes while showcasing ice sculptures and winter cheer. We have even gone snowshoeing and ice tasting at the ice bar, or simply enjoying the great outdoors during the Ice Wine Festival. If you are looking for unique winter things to do in Canada, this festival is a great start! Read more: Snowshoeing Wine Tour Niagara Falls
Frozen Niagara Falls
Canada has beautiful waterfalls and when they are frozen, they are even more magical. You can find them anywhere in the winter but one of the most iconic things to see is a frozen Niagara Falls. Nothing compares to seeing the massive frozen horseshoe falls. Seeing Niagara Falls frozen is something that is truly unique.
And besides, just because it is winter, it doesn’t mean the town of Niagara Falls closes down, in fact, it is a rip-roaring good time in this Canadian tourist destination. There are beautiful frozen waterfalls throughout Canada. Once the temperature drops the winter wonderland of frozen cascades takes over the landscape. Read more: Romance in Niagara Falls, Ontario’s Best Weekend Getaway
Dog Sledding Tours
Dog sledding is a legendary Canadian winter adventure. It is so popular that you can go mushing in all thirteen Canadian provinces and territories. However, the sledding period is determined by the climatic variations across the country. For instance, Whitehorse in Yukon enjoys dog sledding from November to March, whereas Quebec’s mushing season runs from January to March. We have gone dogsledding from the Canadian Rockies in Alberta to Northern Ontario. Read: The Misconceptions of Dogsledding
Where to go Dogsledding in Canada
Ice climbing is gaining increasing popularity as one of the best winter sports among winter thrill-seekers. It is a challenging and vigorous activity that demands sound physical fitness. If you feel the urge to scale new heights on frozen waterfalls and towering slopes of ice formations, head to the Rocky Mountains of Alberta.
Where to go Ice Climbing in Canada
- Canmore Alberta is considered one of the best places in the world to go ice climbing with Yamnuska Outdoors
- Quebec also has some of the best ice climbing in Canada with Parc de la Chute-Montmorency and Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaieb being the popular choices.
- The Ghost River Valley, Bow Valley, Stanley Headwall and IceFields Parkway in the Rocky Mountains have attracted climbers from across the globe to scale the glittering ice in picturesque surroundings.
If your legs cannot take the strain of skiing, you can gear up for snowmobiling. From Newfoundland to Vancouver, there are numerous trails that offer the perfect snowmobiling experience. Canada has gone beyond short trails by constructing the Trans Canada Trail, which connects one part of the country to the other over a 21,500 kilometer long trail. There is an amazing snowmobile route in Quebec that leaves Quebec City and goes north to Hudson Bay. We’ve explored the trails of Haliburton in Ontario and the backcountry of Whistler in BC.
There are so many ways to enjoy snow and ice. The sub-zero chill freezes the canyons, caves, and crevasses in the regions of Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park in Alberta. Winter transforms these resort towns into an icy winter wonderland. Climb the glistening canyon walls and take the ice walk to explore ice caves and the beauty of locations that are seemingly inaccessible during summer as you marvel at the frozen waterfalls.
Some of our favorite places to go on an ice walk in Canada are Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park, and Grotto Canyon Canmore. The Ice Caves of Lake Superior can become spectacular when the winter conditions are right.
As the temperature drops, the fishing action heats up across Canada. Ice fishing presents a unique fishing experience to locals and visitors alike. Stepping on a frozen lake, drilling a hole in the icy water, inserting a fishing line, and waiting in anticipation can be a rewarding experience. Most Canadians sit in warm fishing huts but we tried our hand in Northern Ontario during a winter expedition but there are plenty of places to go ice fishing in Canada. From Lake Simcoe (situated 60 miles north of Toronto) to Tobin Lake in Manitoba and Renforth New Brunswick. British Columbia and Quebec are also good for ice fishing.
Snowshoeing is a popular winter activity in Canada as the technique of snowshoeing is easy to learn and it is an inexpensive activity. Plan a hike in the winter forest, snowshoe across frozen lakes, and ascend mountain slopes. As a bonus, it acts as a great workout too. As a matter of fact, many walkers, runners, and hikers are choosing snowshoeing as their preferred winter activity because it burns many calories.
The most famous snowshoeing destinations are Callaghan County in Whistler, The Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and the parks of Northern Ontario We’ve gone snowshoeing in nearly every Canadian province and the great thing about this winter experience in Canada is that anyone can do it. Just strap on some snowshoes and hit the trail.
By late December, most of the lakes and ponds in Canada are frozen. From frozen lakes to backyard ice rinks created by the locals’. There are plenty of places to enjoy skating on public skating rinks and frozen ponds in almost all Canadian cities. The best part is that ice skating on a frozen lake is that it is absolutely free. Whether you are gracefully sliding on the ice floor or playing a game of ice hockey, you are sure to have fun on the ice. Just watch out for the ‘Thin Ice’ signs.
World Pond Hockey Championships
Canadians love ice hockey so much that we host the World Pond Hockey Championship in Plaster Rock New Brunswick. 100 teams head to the East Coast from around the world to compete in this unique tournament. Hot tip: Don’t be afraid to join a pond hockey game taking place, Canadians are friendly and will let you in on the fun!
Where to go Ice Skating in Canada
Besides ice skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario, there are countless ice trails and skating rinks around the country. Winnipeg has the longest ice skating rink in the world on the Assiniboine River. If you want to play an iconic game of pond hockey, the best place to do that is on Lake Louise. It is one of the most beautiful outdoor skating rinks on earth with the Canadian Rockies surrounding the frozen lake.
One of the most romantic outdoor winter activities in Canada is to take a sleigh ride. We have hopped on sleigh rides from east to west across this great country, and each has been as magical as the other.
With hot chocolate in hand, a blanket on our laps, and incredible northern scenery, winter sleigh rides are some of the most romantic things to do in a Canadian winter. We’ve taken sleigh rides around Lake Louise in Banff National Park, from the Fairmont in Whistler British Columbia, in Mont Tremblant Quebec, and in Muskoka Ontario.
After all those winter adventures, warm up your bones at hot springs. Canadians love to sit in the outdoor hot tub. Nothing is quite as magical as having the snowfall all around you as the steam rises from the hot bath. Some of our favourite hot springs in Canada are the Banff Hot Springs in Alberta, Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, and Takhini Hot Pools in the Yukon.
Get away from it all at a backcountry lodge. Dogsled, cross country ski, snowshoe or snowmobile into a backcountry lodge anywhere in Canada. Some of our favourite places are with Winterdance in Haliburton, Ontario. Get completely off the grid and take horses to explore the Canadian Wilderness. Or ski into Sundance Lodge in Banff, Alberta for a truly off-the-grid experience. You can find backcountry lodges throughout Canada and they are truly extraordinary. Sit by the roaring fire, sip mulled wine and listen to stories by the local tour operators. They always have the most interesting lives.
And there you have it! All of the best things to do in the winter season in Canada. From the West Coast and the Canadian Rockies to our national parks and iconic cities, Canada is an amazing place to visit in Winter. If you are looking for a unique vacation destination, consider a trip to Canada during the winter months. It’s a trip you’ll never forget.