Many of us spend our winters trying to find a way to escape winter. We’d love to go somewhere in the world that doesn’t know the meaning of the words ‘snow’, ‘cold’ or ‘slush’. That’s all well and good, but trying to avoid the inevitability of winter each year seems like a waste of energy. This year, why not try something different? Embrace winter and all its chilly glory by heading to a location that makes the most of the country’s colder temperatures. You might just forget that warmer spots exist.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination in the summer for obvious reasons: the roaring falls, the restaurants, the activities. All of those things are available in the winter as well with the addition of holiday light displays, lovely ice formations from the falls’ mist, and a general decrease in crowds. As long as you bundle up, exploring the Falls in the winter is a fun experience with unique sightseeing opportunities. And while you’re in the area, head over to one of the many wineries around Niagara Falls, and sample the region’s specialties: ice wine, a sweet dessert wine made from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
If you’re not keen on snow but enjoy the drama of winter storms, head to the west coast of Vancouver Island. November to March is storm season in spots like Tofino and Ucluelet, in fact, many hotels in the area are designed to allow guests maximum visibility, with floor to ceiling windows and outdoor hot tubs. Feeling particularly adventurous? Put on wet-weather gear and head out to the seashore, just keep an eye on the swells, which can be dangerous. If you’re really looking to embrace the chilly weather, find a surf shop and take surfing lessons. You’ll need a wetsuit, but surfing is possible all year round.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Sure, there’s great skiing throughout Banff National Park, but that’s certainly not the only thing to do in Canada’s oldest national park. Try ice skating on scenic Lake Louise, snowshoeing through the park’s many kilometres of trails or, if you’re not feeling like moving much, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride or dog-sled tour. And after you’re done all the active stuff, check out the Banff Upper Hot Springs and soak up the scenery while soaking in the mineral-rich water.
It doesn’t get much more wintry than Whitehorse. Daylight might be short, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a huge array of outdoor activities: cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and, of course, watching the Northern Lights. Once you’ve had your fill of the great outdoors, check out Whitehorse’s galleries, cafes and museums.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Like Niagara Falls, St. John’s is one of those places that most people think about visiting in the summertime. But winter is also a great time to see the city and experience the province’s warm hospitality. There’s ice skating in Bannerman Park, zip-lining along Canada’s longest zip-line course in Petty Harbour, and skiing or snowshoeing in Pippy Park. And, of course, there’s always live music on George Street for a real taste of traditional Newfoundland.
Quebec City, Quebec
Whether you go for Carnaval (and Bonhomme!) or simply to experience the city’s historic beauty, Quebec City has lots to offer the winter tourist. A short drive away from the city itself is the famous Ice Hotel, where you can either enjoy a drink in its ice bar or splurge on a full night in one of its icy rooms. You can also head to Montmorency Falls, a popular destination in the summer, and an equally spectacular one in the winter, when the mist from the falls freezes and forms the Sugar Loaf, a cone of ice at the base of the falls.
Winnipeg may not be the first place you think of when you think about a winter destination, but it has lots of fun stuff to do that will help you make the most of the cold. Check out the Forks, one of the country’s longest skating trails, with warming huts designed by world-famous architects along the route. At FortWhyte Alive, an outdoor education centre and nature oasis, you can hike, snowshoe and learn about the natural history of the area around a winter campfire.