Canada is known as a winter wonderland, and it truly is! With spectacular skiing and snowshoeing, cozy cabins and spas, and maybe even a glimpse of the northern lights, Canada is a paradise for lovers of the cold and snow!
This winter, we may not be able to make it to the tropical beach of our dreams, but there is still so much to see and do right at home in Canada. It may not be the winter we hoped for, but keep reading to find a list of some fantastic bucket list items to check off this winter in Canada!
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Best things to do in Canada in Winter
1. Hit the slopes
It isn’t winter in Canada if you don’t go skiing or snowboarding! There are tons of amazing resorts to choose from, like the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park, which features jaw-dropping views of the Rocky Mountains.
Or, enjoy incredible panoramas of the city and ocean as you make your way down the slopes of Grouse Mountain, just a 20-minute drive from Vancouver. Near Toronto, Blue Mountain Resort is Ontario’s premier destination for skiing and snowboarding.
2. Stand in awe as you watch the northern lights
The spectacular natural light show of the northern lights is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime! Luckily, Canada is home to some of the world’s best northern lights viewing.
Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories or Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories are great options, thanks to their proximity to the Arctic Circle and the polar night, where darkness can last for over 24 hours.
In Northern Saskatchewan, the town of La Ronge has some of Canada’s darkest skies. With the wide-open terrain, you’ll be able to see the lights for miles!
3. Take a helicopter tour
Why walk or drive to some of Canada’s most epic winter views when you could fly? Companies like Blackcomb Helicopters in Whistler will take you soaring to new heights with helicopter tours to glaciers and ice caves.
Fly over the incredible Niagara Falls with Niagara Helicopters and get a bird’s eye view of one of Canada’s most famous landmarks. Hungry for more? Companies like Canadian Mountain Holidays offer heli-skiing trips. This winter, enjoy discounted prices for Canadians! Choose from 4-, 5-, and 7-day trips, where you’ll glide down remote mountain slopes and relax at the luxurious and heli-access only Bobbie Burns Lodge.
Find activities near you for the winter
Explore the wilderness, partake in winter sports, or pamper yourself this winter with GetYourGuide and its wide range of activities all over the country.
4. Enjoy a soak in natural hot springs
With all of the fantastic options for winter activities in Canada, you’ll be busy as ever, and maybe a bit cold too. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. Canada is home to some incredible natural hot springs, so you can soak your tired muscles and warm up after all of your exciting winter adventures!
Some of Canada’s best hot springs are found in and around Kootenay National Park in BC. Radium Hot Springs is right outside the town of the same name. If you’re driving a vehicle that can go up bumpy forestry roads, check out the Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park.
Near Tofino on Vancouver Island, check out Hot Springs Cove, some natural springs that are only accessible by floatplane – perfect for social distancing!
5. See beautiful ice sculptures
Enjoy incredible artwork this winter by going to see some ice sculptures! Every year at Lake Louise in Banff National Park, a winter wonderland appears over the 12-day Ice Magic carving exhibition. You’ll see incredible works of art emerge from the ice, from fantastical ice creatures to a fully-functioning bar.
In Edmonton, Alberta, be sure to check out the inspiring Ice Castles attraction. Sit on a frozen throne and walk through unbelievable tunnels as you explore an entire castle of ice. For the truly adventurous (and warm-blooded), book a night at the spectacular Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel), just 30 minutes from Quebec City.
6. Go skating
Another exciting option for winter activities to do in Canada is ice skating! From mountain lakes to outdoor rinks, Canada has some great spots to skate!
In Ottawa, glide across the world’s largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway. Its 7.8 kilometers are packed with beautiful views, roaring fires, and delicious treats. Why not enjoy a truly Canadian BeaverTail while you warm up along the canal?
In Vancouver, enjoy skating in the heart of downtown. Every winter, Robson Square is turned into an outdoor rink.
In the Rockies, skate across frozen bubbles as you enjoy awe-inspiring mountain views on the picturesque Lake Minnewanka or Abraham Lake.
7. Go snowshoeing
If you want to get outside this winter but aren’t into the adrenaline rush of downhill skiing, make sure to try snowshoeing! This fun activity is great for the whole family and will help you work up a sweat too.
If you dream of backcountry camping in winter, you can always snowshoe to a backcountry hut in the mountains! Some popular options are the Elizabeth Parker Hut at Lake O’Hara (just past Field, BC), or Skoki Lodge by Banff, Alberta. Make sure to check out the Alpine Club of Canada website for hut maps and reservations.
8. Take a wildlife tour
Nothing makes us feel closer to nature than being able to see some of Canada’s incredible wildlife in their natural habitats! Canada is home to a wide variety of creatures, and winter is the perfect time to go wildlife viewing without the crowds.
If marine wildlife is more your thing, check out some of the many boat tours offered in Canada, such as a marine wildlife tour from Orca Spirit Adventures in Vancouver, Victoria, or Port Renfrew. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, sea lions, otters, and whales!
If you decide to look for wildlife in Canada this winter, just make sure to never feed or approach animals and stay in your car. This will help keep you and Canada’s beautiful wildlife safe!
9. Check out a museum
Sometimes we’d rather stay inside this winter, and with La Niña bringing chilly temperatures to Canada for winter 2020-21, it’s important to have some options for things to do when we don’t feel like braving the cold. Luckily, Canada has a wide variety of museums to explore, so you can get a dose of culture while you stay warm.
In Vancouver, head to the Museum of Anthropology to see incredible artifacts from around the world, including First Nations art from right here in Canada.
For a glimpse into Canada’s multicultural history, stop by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, or the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Do a quick search online to find out about local museums and galleries near you, and learn a bit of history about your own home! Be sure to double-check the hours of your museum of choice before you go. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many museums have shortened hours, and some require reservations so you can maintain appropriate social distancing during your visit.
10. See (or climb) some frozen waterfalls
Enjoy a new and exciting take on waterfalls this winter. Waterfalls are spectacular in the summertime, but possibly even more beautiful to see when they freeze in the wintertime.
Ever tried climbing a frozen waterfall? Book a guided ice climbing trip to Maligne Canyon outside of Jasper, Alberta. There you’ll learn how to safely climb a frozen waterfall in the beautiful Jasper wilderness. It’s a unique experience that you’ll remember forever!
11. Go ice fishing
Who says you can’t go fishing in the winter? It takes a little bit of extra effort, but if you dress warmly and bring the proper gear, you can enjoy a sunny day out on a frozen lake, and maybe you’ll even bring home dinner!
Stop by the “ice fishing capital of Canada” at Lake Simcoe, Ontario. You can rent a hut or bring your own, and you can try your hand at catching trout, whitefish, or yellow perch.
Canada has tons of lakes, so chances are there’s a spot to go ice fishing close by. If not, some other popular lakes are Cold Lake in Alberta, Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, and Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan.
12. Stay in a cozy cabin
Canada is a haven for lovers of winter, but not everyone is a fan of the snow. If your dreams of a beach vacation were shattered this year, why not rent out a cozy cabin? Instead of suntanning on the beach, you can stay warm and toasty by the light of a roaring fire while you sip on a mug of hot cocoa.
Gaze out at the beautiful Rocky Mountains from a cabin at Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis, Alberta, or check out the beautiful frozen lakeside cabins at Cedar Grove Lodge near Huntsville, Ontario. Check out Glamping options on Booking for listings of gorgeous (and warm) cabin rentals all over Canada!
13. Drink some ice wine
Winter in Canada is the perfect time to sip on a glass of delicious ice wine. Canada is the world’s largest producer of this tasty beverage made from frozen grapes. It’s very sweet and goes great with dessert.
The Okanagan is one of Canada’s favorite recreation and wine-tasting spots in the summertime, but drop by in the winter and sample some amazing ice wines. Niagara Falls is also famous for its wines, and many stops on a wine tour will have a selection of ice wines to sample. When the weather turns chilly, enjoy some delicious Canadian ice wine. Look at it as quality assurance!
14. See some beautiful lights
There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as the glow of a beautiful light display in winter. For all the cozy winter vibes, check out a winter light festival near you! Canada’s largest winter light festival is held annually in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
In spring 2021, look out for Montréal en Lumière (Montreal in Lights) or the Toronto Light Festival. In Vancouver, don’t miss Canyon Lights, the annual light festival at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Take in the warm glow of the lights as you walk across the bridge and gaze in awe at the beautiful coastal rainforest.
15. Relax at a Nordic spa
If you find yourself feeling tense and are searching for a way to relax, check out a Nordic spa this winter! Canada has jumped on the bandwagon when it comes to the nordic tradition of alternating between hot saunas and cold pools. We think the Scandinavian people are definitely onto something!
Book a day of relaxing at the Scandinave Spa in Whistler, or pamper yourself at the USVA Nordik Spa in Moncton, NB. Enjoy relaxing massages, cedar saunas, and soothing pools as you unwind in perfect bliss at a Nordic spa in Canada.
16. Go storm watching
Winter in Canada isn’t all about the snow! During the winter months, massive storms roll in from the ocean, battering Canadian coastal towns. A storm watching vacation is an unforgettable way to experience winter in Canada.
Book a weekend at Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino, where you can watch the waves from inside your gorgeous lodging. Stay in a waterfront chalet at Driftwood Park Retreat in Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia, and enjoy the storm while you stay cozy inside. Just don’t forget your rain jacket!
18. Go to a maple syrup farm
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to a maple syrup farm this winter. There are tons of maple syrup farms and sugar bushes in the eastern provinces of Canada. These excursions are fun for the whole family, with pioneer wood-cutting, snowy trails, sleigh rides, bonfires, and of course, samples! Make sure to try the classic taffy-on-snow, warmed maple syrup drizzled onto the snow and then rolled on a stick. Delicious!
19. Celebrate Christmas
Lastly, even though 2020 hasn’t turned out the way most of us would have hoped, the Christmas season is a time for us to gather with our loved ones, reflect on what we’re grateful for, and spread holiday cheer!
Don’t miss some of Canada’s incredible Christmas markets. You can find them in most major cities, including Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto. Look out for Santa Claus parades and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in many cities across the country. And, if you’re looking for a fun and unique way to celebrate the holidays, why not try some of the other activities on this list?
Did we miss any must-do things to do in the winter in Canada? What activity are you looking forward to trying the most? Let us know in the comments below!
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Lindsey Novakowski is a freelance writer based in Banff, AB. When she’s not hunched over a laptop, you can find her out and about, exploring all the beauty (and beer) that the mountains have to offer.
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