Skip to main content

Top 5 winter vacations in Canada

Top 5 winter vacations in Canada

Come winter time in Canada, storms sweep the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, snow blankets everything in between, and the heat gets turned up, way up, inside. All of which has given rise to a refreshing roster of distinctly Canadian cool-season escapes.


So if you’ve never been to Canada outside of summer, or have yet to visit, you just might find yourself packing for places north after reading this list of must-do wintertime getaways.

Kick it up on the slopes

Among the most exhilarating things to do in Canada during winter, skiing and snowboarding promise crisp fresh air, sparkling mountain vistas, and heaps of the country's signature fresh powder snow. Resorts big and small dot the land (there's even one on the prairiesExternal Link Title), serving up easy-to-epic runs, often with dining, apr?s-ski, and accommodations on the side.

British ColumbiaExternal Link Title alone is home to thirteen major resortsExternal Link Title. Carve through one of North America's biggest snowfalls (11 metres annually) at Mt. Washington Alpine ResortExternal Link Title, a 1.5-hour drive north of NanaimoExternal Link Title on Vancouver IslandExternal Link Title; make tracks down one or all of the eight winter playgrounds along Kootenay RockiesExternal Link Title' fabled Powder HighwayExternal Link Title; or dip into the Alpine Fondue & Starlight DescentExternal Link Title at Sun Peaks Resort - this National Geographic Best Winter Trip 2019External Link Title is just an hour's drive northeast of the riverside cityExternal Link Title of Kamloops.

Next door in the Rocky Mountain-bordered provinceExternal Link Title of Alberta, one ticket lands you on the slopes at three ski and board destinationsExternal Link Title: Lake Louise Ski ResortExternal Link Title with 1,700 hectares of varied terrain, Banff Sunshine VillageExternal Link Title with its seven-month-long season, and Banff NorquayExternal Link Title, home to Canada's longest consecutively running annual ski raceExternal Link Title. A half-hour drive south of the laidback Alberta mountain townExternal Link Title of Jasper, Marmot BasinExternal Link Title boasts Canada's highest elevation base (1,690 metres) and North America's most affordable amenitiesExternal Link Title.


On the other side of the country, TremblantExternal Link Title tempts with 102 runs, the Le NomadeExternal Link Title on-mountain mobile canteen, and a European-style pedestrian village 145 kilometres northwest of MontrealExternal Link Title, QuebecExternal Link Title.

Wind down at a spa or hot spring

Canada in the winter means snow-dusted trees and glistening icicles - best viewed from the warm surrounds of a spa or hot spring.

In British ColumbiaExternal Link Title, sink into a stone-lined mineral pool and soothing treatments at ParksvilleExternal Link Title's Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-MaraExternal Link Title, a two-hour-drive north of Victoria and number one on Spas of America's Top 50 Canada SpasExternal Link Title list. Soak in a natural horseshoe-shaped cave and outdoor pool at Ktunaxa Indigenous-owned Ainsworth Hot Springs ResortExternal Link Title in the Kootenay RockiesExternal Link Title. Or sit a spell at these other go-to B.C. hot springs.

Voted Best SpaExternal Link Title in the annual Best of Calgary awards, the Riverside SpaExternal Link Title along AlbertaExternal Link Title's Bow River beckons with a eucalyptus steam room, Swiss raindrop showers and dimly lit fireside lounge. A six-hour-drive north, Miette Hot SpringsExternal Link Title in Jasper National ParkExternal Link Title gurgles with the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies - 54?C at its mountain source, the water cools to a comfortable 40?C in the pool.

Heading east, bob in Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral SpaExternal Link Title's famously buoyant waters in Manitou BeachExternal Link Title, SaskatchewanExternal Link Title; or indulge in Elkhorn ResortExternal Link Title's Solstice Spa treatments and pool in central ManitobaExternal Link Title's boreal forest- come back in late 2020 when the new Elkhorn Nordic Spa opens with a temperate pool, cold plunge, and relaxation pavilion. Can't wait? Some 30 of Qu?becExternal Link Title's 200-plus spas already offer Scandinavian-style amenities, including Strom Spa Nordique'sExternal Link Title hot-and-cold thermal experienceExternal Link Title

Make it an offbeat adventure

Better known for its seafood and iceberg-spotting, Atlantic Canada also serves up a variety of novel winter activities. Gape at central Newfoundland and LabradorExternal Link Title's snowdrift-laden landscape of Gaff Topsails on a Hodges Hill Snowmobile TourExternal Link Title, then tuck into an open-concept chaletExternal Link Title with river view for the night. Give fat biking a go in New BrunswickExternal Link Title's Kouchibouguac National ParkExternal Link Title, where groomed trails wind through a mixed-wood Acadian forest. Meanwhile, snowshoeing, an infrared sauna for two, Qi Gong sessions and a cedar-scented Mongolian yurt are all part of the Snow Much Fun PackageExternal Link Title at Cabot Shores, at the start of Nova ScotiaExternal Link Title's 298-kilometre Cabot Trail. While the whole clan can go tubing, outdoor skating or cross-country skiing at Prince Edward IslandExternal Link Title's family-friendly Mill RiverExternal Link Title resort, a 1.5-hour drive up island from the historic capitalExternal Link Title of Charlottetown.

Up north, hop aboard one of the most quintessential winter vacations in Canada: dogsledding. Make like a musher on Into the Wild Adventures' multi-day dogsledding excursionExternal Link Title, where you'll drive your own sled dog team through a YukonExternal Link Title landscape of deep valleys, canyons and mountains. Or simply watch how it's done by catching part of the legendary Yukon Quest International Dog Sled RaceExternal Link Title, running from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon, every February. Ease into the sport on Arctic Chalet Resort & Adventure Tours' 2.5-hour Fabulous Fun RunExternal Link Title in the Northwest TerritoriesExternal Link Title. Or cross snow-covered tundra or frozen ocean on Inukpak Outfitting's half-, full- and multi-day dogsledding tripsExternal Link Title in NunavutExternal Link Title.

Chill in the city

Time your trip to coincide with a colorful cool-weather carnival or spirited event. Indeed, some of the best places to visit in Canada in winter are urban hubs home to long-standing annual celebrations.

Toasting its 10th year in 2019, the Vancouver Christmas MarketExternal Link Title hums with 80 huts housing Eastern European-inspired treasures and treats - browse handcrafted glass and wooden ornaments while putting back a Transylvanian chimney cake and steaming mug of Gl?hwein. Just steps away, the yuletide version of FlyOver CanadaExternal Link Title takes passengers on a simulated and suitably cheery ride to the North Pole. Also in British ColumbiaExternal Link Title, the Vernon Winter CarnivalExternal Link Title salutes six decades of winter fun in 2020 with snow sculpting, a parade, the Suds N Cider showcase and other fan favorites.

In the Canadian capitalExternal Link Title of Ottawa, OntarioExternal Link Title, take a deep dive into the season during February's three-weekend WinterludeExternal Link Title. Highlights include ByWard MarketExternal Link Title's Crystal Garden ice sculptures, foodie tours, and SubZero Electro DJ Nights (think outdoor dancing), as well as the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat FestivalExternal Link Title with its toque-topped teams racing blade-equipped vessels down the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Still, don't miss the mother of all winter carnivals, the Carnaval de Qu?becExternal Link Title, held every February in Qu?becExternal Link Title's European-like capitalExternal Link Title of Qu?bec City. Considered the world's largest celebration of its kind, the 10-day Carnaval delights with night parades, a 60-team canoe race over the frozen St. Lawrence River, plenty of Carnival Grog (a maple-syrup-forward cocktail), and the lively red-toque, arrow-sash-sporting snowman mascotExternal Link Title called Bonhomme.

Set your sights on the Northern Lights

When it comes to classic winter vacations in Canada, viewing the aurora borealis is, well, up there. Also known as the Northern Lights, this natural phenomenon occurs when the sun's electrically charged particles collide with gases upon entering the earth's atmosphere. The resulting display of colourful dancing lights on clear, cold nights continues to draw travellers from around the worldExternal Link Title to Canada's north.

As such, the aurora borealis' constantly changing appearance is now matched by the many ways to see it. Spy the light show from the cozy comfort of a private glass chalet at Northern Lights Resort & SpaExternal Link Title in the Yukon, or teepee village after a gourmet three-course meal via the Aurora Dining ExperienceExternal Link Title in the Northwest TerritoriesExternal Link Title. Keep it simple with a secluded viewing spot just outside the NunavutExternal Link Title capital of Iqaluit on Arctic Kingdom's Guided Northern Lights GetawayExternal Link Title, or plexiglass bubbleExternal Link Title called an Aurora DomeExternal Link Title 20 minutes away from the northern ManitobaExternal Link Title town of Churchill.


Now it's time to plan your winter escape to Canada with this list of top five getaway ideas.