February is the coldest month in Canada, but winter festivals—and ski season—are still in full season. If you can brave a little chill, it's an excellent month to score discounts on lodging and travel. There are numerous travel bargains this time of year for visitors to the north, with lower than average airfares and hotel prices.
The temperatures are cold but if you're prepared, you can enjoy the many activities and festivals that take place during February in Canada.
Here are some of the highlights of things to do and see across Canada during the month of February.
Canada Weather in February
Canada's weather can change considerably from region to region, but overall, February is among the country's coldest months. While the West Coast is slightly warmer (temperatures in Vancouver average around 41 F, or 5 C, in February), it's also wetter, receiving nearly six inches (150 mm) of rain spread out across 16 days. Meanwhile, the country's East Coast is significantly colder, averaging 26 F (-3 C) in Toronto. (Banff, in the middle of the country, is a usually a freezing 17 F, by comparison.)
Average February Temperatures in Major Cities
- Calgary: 35 F (2 C)
- Edmonton: 30 F (-1 C)
- Toronto: 34 F (1 C)
- Whistler: 34 F (1 C)
- Montreal: 28 F (-2 C)
- Vancouver: 51 F (11 C)
- Banff: 30 F (-1 C)
What to Pack
February's cold temperatures call for clothing that can be easily layered—which is also important, as even though it's cold outside, stores, restaurants, and other establishments can be quite warm inside.
Here's what you should pack in your suitcase:
- Long-sleeve shirts, including sweaters and sweatshirts.
- A heavy winter jacket, a lighter jacket, and a winter vest
- Hat, scarf, and gloves or mittens
- Closed-toe, comfortable waterproof shoes, and boots
- An umbrella
February Events in Canada
Despite the freezing temperatures, Canada hosts plenty of events—indoors and out—in February.
Here are a few of the most exciting:
- If the Maritimes are more your cup of tea, February is a great time to visit Nova Scotia. In addition to a wide variety of winter sports, you can check out the Nova Scotia Heritage Day on the third Monday in February. The day celebrating the rich heritage of Nova Scotia, including the Mikmaq First Nations population, was created and named by local schoolchildren.
- Vancouver's Hot Chocolate Festival is a month-long annual charity fundraiser, with dozens of bakeries, ice cream and coffee shops and chocolatiers participating. A great way to keep warm with a tasty treat during one of Canada's coldest month, the Hot Chocolate Festival begins in late January and concludes on Valentine's Day (February 14).
- Vancouver hosts free ice skating at Robson Square throughout the winter months. It continues through February.
- Don't miss the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, featuring prix fixe menus from Vancouver's finest restaurants over a nearly three-week celebration. Originally envisioned as a way to drum up business during the slower tourist season of January and February, Dine Out Vancouver has become a must-visit for foodies in western Canada.
- The Toronto Light Festival is a relatively new art festival featuring light-themed art installations. It runs from late January through mid-March. February is also the month when the winter culinary festival Winterlicious, featuring hundreds of Toronto restaurants, kicks off.
- And to mark the Chinese Lunar New Year, Toronto hosts the Qinhuai Lantern Festival in early February. The lantern festival is reminiscent of the new year events held all across China.
- Igloofest is an outdoor music festival started in 2007 that highlights local music. It's held at the Old Port of Montreal, and regularly draws thousands of visitors over its three-week run. One of the highlights of Igloofest is the "One Piece Suit" competition, and no, it's not a swimsuit competition. Even Quebecois aren't baring it all in these temperatures. It's a snowsuit competition, which can draw nice prices for participants (and is a much more climate-appropriate option).
- There's also the Montreal Snow Festival, or Fete des Neiges, which runs every weekend from mid-January to mid-February. It's held in Parc Jean Drapeau, with activities for the whole family, including a playground with ice sculptures, a hockey tournament, inner tubing, skating, sledding, and snow-shoeing. There are live shows and food as well.
- Don't forget to check out Montreal's Festival of Lights or Montreal en Lumiere, which begins in February and runs through mid-March. The three-week festival features games, music, art displays and entertainment for families, and a vast array of culinary events, including the Festival of Quebec Cheeses.
February Travel Tips
- Driving in Canada during the harsh winter months can be treacherous if you're not prepared.
- Weather temperatures will often include a "wind chill factor," which means that it feels colder than what the thermometer actually reads because of a cold wind. An example of what you might hear a meteorologist say is, "It's minus six, or minus 10 with a wind chill."
- Canadians know how to dress well for winter's freezing temperatures. Follow their lead by donning sturdy winter gear, including waterproof footwear and clothing.
Want to know more about visiting Canada? Learn about the best times of the year to visit.