Winter is long in Canada and very cold in the largest part of the country as well (the exception being Vancouver Island and the BC coast). But instead of hiding inside until spring, Canadians make the most of their winter by enjoying all the ice and snow!
There are lots of amazing things to do in Canada in winter, read along and before you know it you are planning a winter trip to Canada!
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Things to do in Canada in winter
In this post you will find a list of the best winter activities in Canada. Included are:
- Attend a hockey game
- Dog sledding in Canmore
- Ice castles in Edmonton
- Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
- Skiing and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains
- Stargaze on the mountain top in Banff
- Chase the crazy festive decor in Vancouver
- Ice skating in downtown Vancouver
- Winter sports on Mount Seymour
- Winter ziplining in Whistler
- Admire the frozen Niagara Falls
- Drink ice wine at Niagara on the Lake
- Ice skating on the Rideau Canal
- Icefishing in Muskoka
- Snow shoeing and wine tasting in Prince Edward Country
- Toronto Islands in winter
- Go shopping in Montreal’s Underground City
- Ice skating on Mount Royal
- Toboggan slide in Quebec city
- Visit the Montreal Light Festival
This post has been created in collaboration with several other travel bloggers, who have kindly shared their favorite Canada winter activity with me to create this post and hopefully inspire you to visit these great winter destinations in Canada !
Attend a hockey game (anywhere in Canada)
Kris from Nomad by Trade: hockey is almost synonymous with Canada, and despite growing up just across the border in Michigan, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the sport and had always had my sights set on attending a game at one of the Canadian teams’ arenas.
When we were planning a winter trip to Ottawa, we specifically scheduled it around a game my beloved Red Wings would be playing against the hometown Senators. Even though it was a relatively meaningless regular season game as neither team was particularly good at the time, the atmosphere was fantastic.
We enjoyed some monster-sized servings of poutine for dinner and enjoyed rooting our team on. They lost, but it was still a great experience!
If you want to attend an NHL game in Canada (the best of the best), you’ll find franchises in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Minor league franchises can be found in many more towns throughout the country.
Tickets to lower level leagues will also be cheaper, so if you’re looking to see a game on a budget just to have the experience, check out one of the smaller leagues.
Dog sledding in Canmore (Alberta)
Lora from Explore With Lora: dog sledding has been a Canadian tradition for years and now visitors have the chance to try it one of the most beautiful places in Alberta.
Just outside of Banff National Park is the small but charming town of Canmore, where you can find local tour companies offering dog sledding tours through the area. I liked Snowy Old Tours because of their commitment to Sled Dog Welfare.
The two-hour tour takes you on a scenic and exciting ride through the Rocky Mountains and surrounding forests. It stops halfway to give guests a chance to warm-up with hot chocolate and give some love to the hard-working dogs.
The tours run daily from December 1st – April 30th, pending snow conditions. Given Canada’s harsh winters, it’s recommended to wear warm layers with an insulated winter jacket, snow boots, a hat, scarf and mitts. The tour company will provide you with a complete list of what to wear.
Prices vary depending on how many people are on the sled, I paid $500 CAD for a 2-person sled. The tours are popular so you need to book in advance. They are already taking reservations for the 2019-2020 season!
Ice castles in Edmonton (Alberta)
Melissa from Parenthood and Passports: each winter, Hawrelak Park in central Edmonton is transformed into a dreamy winter experience straight out of a fairy tale. The second largest city in Alberta is one of just a few places in the world where you can walk through a real-life ice castle.
But the Edmonton Ice Castles aren’t just a picturesque backdrop for an awesome Instagram photo, the attraction is a family-friendly experience. There a acre-sized frozen wonderland features exhilarating ice slides for both kids and adults, crawl spaces that open up into secret rooms, and mazes of tunnels and slot canyons made entirely from ice.
There are also fountains and an elaborate ice-carved throne that I’m sure would even earn the approval of Queen Elsa from Frozen. At night, LED lights embedded inside the ice change from brilliant hues of blue and purple to vivid red, soft pink, and white in sync with playful music.
If you want to visit the Ice Castles, you have to visit Edmonton in winter. It is only open from early January until early March, but it is definitely something worth bundling up to see!
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk (Alberta)
Rhonda from Travel Yes Please: as one of Canada’s signature experiences, the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk is a must do during a winter trip to Canada!
Once the temperatures dip below freezing, Jasper National Park’s Maligne Canyon is transformed into an icy wonderland. Visitors can get an up-close look at the icicles that drape the canyon walls by strapping on a pair of ice cleats and walking along the canyon floor.
During the ice walk you’ll see frozen waterfalls, delicate ice crystals, even fossils embedded in the ancient rock. Maligne Canyon is also a popular place to go ice climbing, so you may even see some people scaling the icy walls.
The ice walk can be done independently or as part of a guided tour. If you take a tour, you’ll learn many interesting facts about the canyon and how it was formed, as well as be provided with cleats and warm boots to use during the walk. Maligne Canyon is located on Maligne Lake Road, a short drive from the town of Jasper.
Skiing and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains (Alberta)
Ash and Dani from World To Wander: snowboarding and skiing on the west coast of Canada is some of the best powder in North America. There are many places to enjoy winter sports in Canada, but one of our favorites in Banff is Sunshine Village. It’s easy to get to as its located right inside Banff National Park.
There is a shuttle bus that can take you from The Village at Lake Louise directly to the Ski Resort if you prefer not to drive. The shuttle is free with a purchase of a season pass or ski lift ticket.
There is an entrance fee to get into the National park per vehicle which is 19.60CAD, if you’re driving. In order to ride the ski lift it’s about 99CAD plus additional fees for equipment rental (skies, snowboards and boots). We typically bring our own snowboard equipment as we have had it fitted to our likeness.
The ski lifts run 8am to 6pm in the winter season so we recommend getting there early. Another perk to arriving early, is that you beat the queue for parking and get on the snow to get one of the first runs. We always love being the first on the slopes to enjoy the powder before it becomes packed down.
Don’t forget to be prepared for a cold day! Bring your snow jacket, snow pants, base layers, beanie, wool socks, goggles and gloves. I recommend also including hand warmers and balaclava. It gets cold out up on the mountain and it’s always useful to be prepared as it’s a bit more expensive to purchase any items from the retail store at the Ski Resort.
Stargaze on the mountain top in Banff (Alberta)
Mayuri from To Some Place New: Banff in winter is a great time to visit and experience the warmth of the National Park. Image the snow capped mountains, the Christmas lights and the sheer joy and happiness in the air!
Banff Gondola is one of the must visit attractions at all times of the year. It’s even better during winters as it hosts a ton of seasonal activities. Christmas on Mountain Top is a holiday season activity where you can reach the Sulphur Mountain top and meet Santa Claus and get pictures taken. This event runs from mid November to the end of December.
Banff Gondola is also a stargazers haven. There is stargazing technology available at 2286 meters high (7500 feet) to see the night sky. This event runs until March, so definitely add this to your places to visit in Canada in winter list! The Stargazing activity is free to visit with a Banff Gondola entry ticket.
Banff National Park is amazing for a winter vacation in Canada. And to join in the holiday festivities or chase stars on a mountain top (with ease) is just the perfect icing on the (Christmas) cake!
Chase the crazy festive decor in Vancouver (British Columbia)
Gemma from Two Scots Abroad: although known for glorious summers, Vancouver knows how to put on a great festive show around the city!
Locals and visitors can chase the crazy Christmas decor at the likes of Hycroft House. This is a personal favorite thing to do in Vancouver in winter.
This Edwardian mansion decks its halls, stairs and pillars with lights, holly, wreaths, tinsel and baubles. There’s also a pop-up Xmas fayre selling local maker goods, perfect for Christmas gifts.
VanDusen Botanical Garden is another popular spot for families. The gardens are crammed with one million lights hung on rails, trees and archways. Unfortunately, it is a really busy event so expect to wait in line at night.
Like many North American cities, Vancouver has its own Christmas market. Here you can listen to performances, drink Glühwein and eat bratwurst sausages at Canada Place.
Ice skating in downtown Vancouver (British Columbia)
Lesley from Freedom 56 Travel: Robson Square usually opens for the winter skating season in early December, just when it becomes cold enough to bundle up in your best skating outfit. If you’re visiting Vancouver and staying downtown, you can easily walk to Robson Square.
There’s something so magical about being able to go for a skate in the middle of downtown Vancouver in the open air. It’s a truly ‘Canadian’ feeling. There’s always music to skate to and often there’s even live entertainment. This is definitely one of the more romantic things to do in Vancouver in winter!
Don’t worry if you didn’t bring your skates as rentals and helmets are available at Robson Square for just $5. The best thing about the whole experience is that ice skating is free! Hours are 9am to 9pm during weekdays and 9am to 11pm in the weekends.
Winter sports on Mount Seymour (British Columbia)
Lindsay from Chiang Mai Family Guide: one of the best day trips from Vancouver in summer or winter is Mount Seymour. While summers on Mount Seymour are all about hiking, winter is equally if not more fun!
There are plenty of things to do on Mount Seymour in winter, such as tobogganing, snow tubing, skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing and other fun (family) activities like building a snowman or making a snow angels.
You can easily travel to Mount Seymour from Vancouver by shuttle bus from the Rupert Skytrain Station or the Parkgate Community Centre in North Vancouver. The shuttle bus is seasonal and generally operates between Oct 1st and March 31st.
A day on Mount Seymour is guaranteed to offer lots of fun for all ages, so add this to your Canada winter travel list!
Ziplining in winter in Whistler (British Columbia)
Lydia from Africa Wanderlust: you may think ziplining is only a summer activity, but nothing could be further from the truth. For the adventurist that loves an extra element of fun, you need to try out winter ziplining. Superfly Ziplines in Whistler, BC, is the best place to have the most spectacular experience.
Getting to Whistler from Vancouver is an activity in itself, as you get to drive the stunning Sea to Sky highway with plenty of worthwhile stops along the way.
Important note: when driving to Whistler in winter, please note winter tires are mandatory!
- Address: 211 – 4293 Mountain Square, Whistler BC, V8E 1B8
- Cost: $159.99 (Adult), $109.99 (Child)
- Duration: 3 hours
- Fun Facts: 4 zip lines, 200 meters height, 100 km/h speed, and 1.3 km length
- Winter hours: Open 9 am – 6 pm, zipline tour at 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm)
- Things to bring: water bottle and of course your camera
Need to know: to be considered a child, you have to be between 7-12 years. Children under seven cannot participate. You need to check-in at least 20 minutes before your tour time.
Winter ziplining may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of things to do in Canada in the winter. However, it is well worth the experience!
Admire the frozen Niagara Falls (Ontario)
Laura from The Travelling Stomach: Niagara Falls is naturally one of the iconic spots in Canada, with thousands of tourists flocking to visit it each year. However, most people will visit the Niagara Falls in the height of summer or fall when the colors explode in the area and there many things to do in Niagara Falls with kids.
However, winter is a surprisingly epic time to visit, during which you might even be able to see the incredible spectacle of the falls while frozen!
Although some of the attractions around the falls may be quieter at this time of year, you are also blessed with the smaller amount of visitors, giving you the chance to enjoy the stunning surroundings in peace!
What’s more, the cold weather is just what is needed to produce the little know ‘Ice Wine’, where the wine is made from frozen grapes! There are some excellent wine tasting experiences in the area (read more below), letting you enjoy this wonderful dessert style wine, proving that wine tasting doesn’t just happen in summer!
Drink ice wine at Niagara on the Lake (Ontario)
Eric from Ontario Away: if you’re in Canada during the winter, you’ll have to have a sip (or two) of a coveted Canadian product: ice wine! Canada is a top global producer of ice wine and a majority of it comes from Niagara on the Lake, Ontario’s famous wine region.
Growing wine grapes is easy, it’s getting the grapes down to the perfect freezing temperatures that can be tricky! Luckily, the unique climate of Niagara on the Lake provides the perfect place for winter harvests.
Ice wine can be enjoyed all year round, but there’s something very special about sipping it during its harvest season. That makes winter in Ontario a great time to visit the wineries where it is produced!
If you want to sip ice wine, Niagara on the Lake is located only about 2 hours driving from Toronto. It’s a great idea to head down in January for the annual Niagara Icewine Festival. Here, many of the wineries in Niagara on the Lake open their doors for special tastings and outdoor events.
One of the biggest producers of ice wine in the region is Inniskillin so be sure to check them out. Oh, and don’t forget your gloves and hat (called a toque in Canada)!
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal (Ontario)
Sam from Sam Sees World: in winter, Canada’s capital city Ottawa, is transformed into a winter wonderland with a plethora of activities for people to engage in and experience. One of the biggest and most well know of these activities is the Rideau Canal skate way!
The Rideau Canal is a human-made canal turned ice-skating rink like no other. This site attracts almost one million visitors a year eager to join the fun. It is the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink that spans over 7.8km! It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from January until early March. And the best part is that it’s free!
The ice rink is universally accessible and has amenities such as ramps, washrooms and heated change rooms. More so, along the canal, there are various food and drink stands where you can get a warm hot chocolate and a fresh beaver tail.
Ottawa’s Rideau Canal skate way is an experience that should undoubtedly be on your Canada bucket list!
Icefishing in Muskoka (Ontario)
Michele Peterson from A Taste for Travel: as soon as the depths of winter hit in Canada, and the nights are long and the days short, it’s time for intrepid Canadians to don their warmest clothes and head out to do some ice-fishing.
The layer of ice on the lakes needs to be thick enough to walk on and while generally 4 inches is considered the safest thickness, the most enthusiastic ice anglers are often willing to venture out on the lake when the ice is just two or three inches thick.
January is the safest time to go ice-fishing, however it’s wise to test the thickness of the ice by drilling a small hole in the ice with an ice auger to ensure it’s a minimum of four inches thick.
While there are many remote places to go ice fishing in Canada, one of the best places to go near Toronto is to one of the luxury resorts in Muskoka. Several tour operators in the Muskoka region offer half and full day ice fishing excursions on beautiful Lake Rousseau and Lake Joseph.
The experience includes a local guide, fishing rods, lures and bait as well as a warming hut to protect anglers from the frigid temperatures and winds. You need to bring your own warm clothing (including winter boots) as well as an Outdoors Card and a fishing license from the Government of Ontario. These can be purchased online.
The Muskoka region offers an incredible variety of game fish including small-mouth bass, northern pike, lake trout, walleye and perch. Many of the ice-fishing tour operators even have cooking facilities and will prepare and cook your catch for you right onsite.
There’s no better way to celebrate winter than by enjoying a meal of fresh-caught fish in a cozy ice hut in the middle of a frozen lake surrounded by pine treed forest and clear winter skies…
Snow shoeing and wine tasting in Prince Edward County (Ontario)
Taima from Poor In A Private Plane: Prince Edward County, located on the North Shore of Lake Ontario is a gem in the wintertime. When the snow starts to fall and the summer visitors are long gone, you will find yourself in a winter wonderland.
One of the best things to do in Prince Edward County is snowshoeing. But what if I told you that you can go snowshoeing at a vineyard. Yup, you read that right. Snowshoeing at a vineyard!
Prince Edward County is home to miles and miles of snowshoeing trails however Sugarbush Winery is the perfect snowshoeing destination. Bring your own snowshoes, or rent them from the winery for 15CAD which includes a wine tasting. The trail which surrounds the vineyards takes about an hour to complete.
After you are done with the trail, get cozy in the tasting room and settle in for a wine tasting. They have several varietals to choose from and you will not be disappointed.
They even have hot chocolate for the kids. Make a day of it and be sure to visit some of the other wineries in the area as well, you will not be disappointed!
Toronto Islands in winter (Ontario)
Ellie and Ravi from Soul Travel Blog: for those who love nature, a beautiful cityscape and a bracing winter wind, look no further than a trip to the Toronto Islands for an unforgettable winter experience.
Just off-shore from the city of Toronto itself, the Toronto Islands are home to a permanent year-round population of around 1000 people. For that reason ferry services from downtown Toronto remain in operation throughout the winter, even when Lake Ontario starts to freeze over!
The ferry runs from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to Ward’s Island (on the westerly end of the 15 Toronto Islands which link together) and runs on an hourly schedule during mid-winter.
We visited the Toronto Islands when the ‘polar vortex’ had hit Toronto. It was an incredible experience gliding through the freezing ice on the ferry, but you wouldn’t want to stay outside for long!
On the island itself the main activities include ice-skating, joining the locals who live there in a game of ice-hockey on one of the frozen creeks, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing or just walking in the snow and enjoying the beauty.
Our favorite thing to do was to take pictures back across the lake of Toronto’s skyline surrounded by white! For all the activities you’ll need to bring your own equipment as nothing is open on the island, and only walk/skate on ice that you are sure is safe.
Make sure to bring some warm refreshments with you as the cafes close for mid-winter and re-open around March each year.
Important note: be sure to check the return ferry schedule closely to avoid spending longer than you meant to on the Toronto islands!
Ice skating on Mount Royal, Montreal (Quebec)
Carine and Derek from We Did It Our Way: there’s one thing everyone will tell you about Montreal. It’s absolutely amazing… in summer when there are tons of activities, concerts and festivals.
But winter is a different story. It’s just cold and frigid, and the only way to embrace it fully is to enjoy the great outdoors! One of our favorite things to do is to head to one of Montreal’s most iconic spots, the landmark that the city is named after, Mount Royal.
Here, you can enjoy the most Canadian winter sport: ice skating. Best of all, it’s one of the few things you can do for free any day of the week! As soon as temperatures drop low enough, the famous Beaver Lake turns into one of Montreal’s favorite skating rinks.
It’s located right next to the Beaver Lake Pavilion, which is the perfect spot to lace up or to warm up with a coffee or hot chocolate between laps on the rink. It’s also where you can rent some skates, if you don’t already own a pair. Ice skating on Mount Royal is the perfect activity for couples, families, and groups of friends.
Make sure you go on the special musical and gourmet evenings sprinkled throughout the winter. Also, make sure you wear layers, although temperatures are below 0, you can get pretty hot skating laps!
Toboggan slide in Quebec city (Quebec)
Kurosh of Road Goat: the Quebec City winter toboggan ride is a century-old tradition. It’s located on Dufferin Terrace behind the Chateau Frontenac. Open from December to March between 9am and 5pm (longer hours in February for Winter Carnival) in suitable weather. You can buy tickets at the kiosk at the bottom of the hill for 3CAD per person.
They also offer a package of 7CAD for two people (plus hot chocolate from the cafe or snack shop), a package of 4 slides for 10CAD, and packages for groups of 20 people or more.
There’s three slides so multiple sleds can ride at the same time, and you can go as fast as 70 km/hr! You grab your sled and walk up to the top of the slide before racing down. Each slide fits up to four people.
Insider tips: wrap the rope of the toboggan around your body with the toboggan behind you so it doesn’t slip out of your hands and hit anyone while you’re walking up the hill!
Also make sure to hold on tight to any hats or loose items because you’ll be flying down super fast!
Visit Montreal’s Underground City (Quebec)
Carole of Travels With Carole: when I first heard about an ‘underground city’ in Montreal, I pictured a city underground. Actually, it is a little different than that. It’s more like an underground collection of passageways that intersect here and there.
I found myself staying in downtown Montreal last March and made a point of going underground to do some subterranean shopping. There are many spots to enter, including at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel. This is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their famous ‘bed-in for peace’ honeymoon in 1969!
From the lobby a curving stairwell leads down to the entrance doors, to what is credited as being the first link in the Underground City. Inside, it’s warm, well-lit and maps are posted along the way. Be sure to exit at St. Catherine Street for some upscale shopping opportunities.
The network is sometimes above ground though always indoors. It’s even more popular in summer because of its air-conditioning!
Visit the Montreal Light Festival (Quebec)
Eileen from Families Go: one of the best reasons to visit Montreal in winter, aside from lots of guilt-free poutine to keep you warm, is the 10-day Montreal en Lumiere festival.
Always in late February, it often coincides with Presidents’ Day weekend in the U.S. The most accessible part is an all-ages outdoor carnival on Catherine Street; with free activities including a Ferris wheel, ice toboggans, zip lines, curling and giant Light Bright stations and other games.
Food vendors sell local favorites like poutine, frozen maple lollipops, hot beaver-tail doughnuts as well as beer and wine. You can also buy marshmallows and sausages to roast in bonfires that blaze along the street.
Large-scale illuminated art dot the nearby streets. Look for special music shows and culinary events across the city during the same week. Prices for these vary and some tickets get snapped up quickly.
The highlight of the week is Nuit Blanche, an all-night, mostly free citywide festival of outdoor concerts, art exhibits and cultural activities both above ground and below. The Metro stays open all night just for the 300,000 people who attend!
Winter activities in Canada: in conclusion
I hope this list of fun Canada winter activities has inspired you to plan a Canada winter trip! Read more about traveling Canada (in summer) here:
- Beautiful places in Canada you must visit
- Charming small towns to visit in Canada
- Things do in Drumheller
- Things to do in Victoria