Hardly any other country in the world welcomes winter with the enthusiasm that Canada does. Canadians celebrate the cold weather because it brings all the things they need for some of their favorite activities: skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating, and more. If you're looking to visit the Great White North during winter, you'll find plenty to keep you busy, from brisk zipline adventures to ice festivals.
Quebec is home to the famed Hôtel de Glace, the only hotel of its kind in North America. The beds and sofas in this glorified igloo are made with blocks of ice, but even though the temperature inside lingers around the -3 to -5 degrees Celsius (23 to 26 degrees Fahrenheit) range, you can keep warm with the mountains of blankets and sleeping bags the hotel offers each guest.
Sometimes the only way to cope with Canada's frigid temps is to escape them by dipping into a coffeeshop, a museum, or a theatre—the Royal Alexandra, Ed Marvish, Princess of Wales, there are tons of them. In fact, Toronto is one of the premiere theatre destinations in the world (after London and New York City). The city's winter theatre lineup features a range of diverse shows and many of the nearby hotels offer packages where guests can get significant theatre ticket discounts.
Be Good to Your Body at Ste. Anne's Spa
What better way to warm up than with a spa day? There are ample spas dotted around this vast country, but Ste. Anne's trumps them all. Originally a farmhouse (circa 1858), the dreamy estate in Grafton, Ontario, has grown to include several cottages that provide retreat in the way of spa treatments, meditation, exercise, and healthful food. Rooms often come with fireplaces for cozy wintry nights by the fire. You can make it a weekend trip from Toronto, just a 75-minute drive away.
Skiing is a favorite winter pastime in Canada, so it's no surprise that there are world-class resorts in every corner of the country. Whistler Blackcomb, just outside of Vancouver, is perhaps the most well known, then there's Revelstoke and, further east, in the Canadian Rockies, Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise. The East Coast is not left out, either, with the famous Mont-Tremblant in Quebec.
Get Adventurous in Newfoundland
Newfoundland is a mecca for winter adventure, seeing as it's home to some of Canada's best-groomed snowmobile trails and ziplining. Yes, ziplining is a year-round activity in this chilly country. Marble Zip Tours in Newfoundland and Labrador zigzags from peak to peak, across the picturesque Marble Mountain Gorge above Steady Brook Falls. But if heights and speed aren't your thing, this area is also known for its cave tours.
There are few places in the world where you can see the aurora borealis dance in the night sky. Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, is one of them. People flock to this nordic sliver of Canada to spot the Northern Lights, which are best spotted during the winter months.
Ottawa is a year-round destination, but in winter, one of the biggest draws is the Rideau Canal, which freezes over and becomes a 7.8-kilometer (just under 5 miles) outdoor skating rink. During February, this stretch of ice becomes the centerpiece for Winterlude, a carnival that celebrates all-things-ice with sculpture carving, sledding, skating shows, concerts, and more. It takes place every year for more than two weeks in February.