If you only think Canada is worth visiting during the summer months, you're missing out on the magic of the brutal but beauteous Canadian winter. July and August, with all their sunshine and warm weather, attract the majority of yearly visitors to Canada, but other times of the year, such as March—and spring in general—have much to offer, including cheaper rates, fewer crowds, and unique activities.
You will need to bring realistic expectations about the weather, and winter-proof clothing, but you can still great value and enjoyment from visiting Canada in March. By this time of year, winter is just starting to loosen its grip. Most ski destinations in Canada will still be hopping at this time of year, particularly around March Break, which is when schools close for a week or two. If you're not sure which is the best Canadian destination to visit in March, many options appeal to many different travel styles, whether you're a skier, foodie, or both.
There's no way to put this gently: It rains a lot in Vancouver. Now that you know the worst about Vancouver, all the good stuff—and there are lots to crow about—is the icing on the cake. Vancouver is beautiful, friendly, laid back, and safe: a year-round destination that offers different benefits depending on when you visit. Come March, while more eastern destinations like Toronto and Montreal are still buried in snow, spring begins its descent on the coastal city of Vancouver. Visitors can take part in cherry blossom celebrations beginning at the end of March, when people gather amongst the more than 40,000 cherry trees as their pink and white blooms reach their peak.
Thanks to the city's location two hours north of Vancouver, the Whistler ski season is lusciously long. In March, the two main mountains—Whistler and Blackcomb—still have six to eight weeks of ski life left in them. The snow is plentiful and the days are getting longer. Beware arriving the same week as March Break, when the resort town fills up with school-age kids and their families. Once the location of many events during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, this is your chance to give bobsledding and other niche winter sports a go since many of the Olympic venues are still operational.
If you don't mind packing a winter jacket and a t-shirt for unpredictable March weather, you'll get all the enjoyment Toronto has to offer at shoulder season rates. Toronto's friendly, exciting, and multicultural vibe is tangible year-round, and the sub-zero weather means that you can still join in on the merriment by going ice skating at the Toronto City Hall or at the Harbourfront.
If the weather is particularly inclement, there are lots of indoor shopping centers, including a below-ground network called The Path, museums, and galleries to keep you warm and dry. Toronto is also a top theater destination and may have an intriguing play or musical running at one of its many live theaters. In March, you can also take advantage of maple syrup festivals, outdoor patios, nature getaways, strolls along the Harbourfront, or maybe even a visit to one of the beaches on Lake Ontario if you're looking for a brisk outing.
Although summer months are by far the most popular time of year to visit Banff, planning your vacation to this outrageously scenic town in Alberta's Rocky Mountains in late winter and early spring has its advantages. Winter in the Rockies is long and come March, the full roster of winter activities is still available, with downhill skiing at its peak.
Banff offers the benefit of three incredible ski resorts, all located within Banff National Park, and a tri-area ski pass that allows access to each. Other winter activities include ice walks, snowshoeing, and dogsledding. The number of visitors to Banff drops significantly after the Family Day weekend on the third Monday of February, so booking a trip right after this holiday ends, during the first week of March, can be an excellent time to get a deal on your hotel.
Quebec City is one of Canada's most charming and unique cities. Even after several visits there, this city can take your breath away. The 17th, 18th, and 19th-century architecture and cobblestone roads are best explored on foot, which makes summer the most popular time to visit. Nevertheless, if you would like a little elbow room as you peruse the boulangeries and patisseries of Quebec's narrow, winding streets, March is an excellent time to visit.
By March, the sub-zero sting is tapering off, with temperatures just under freezing and often above. The streets are more navigable, but you should still bring a pair of snow boots. Winter activities are still available, including the Quebec Ice Hotel, outdoor skating, the Chateau Frontenac ice slide (till mid-March), and dog sled rides. Just outside of Quebec City, Mont Saint Anne and Le Massif both offer some of the best in downhill skiing on the North American east coast.