If you will only travel to Canada during the summer months, you're missing out. July and August, with all its sunshine and warm weather, hogs the majority of 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.
If you alter your expectations and arrive with a realistic attitude (and some waterproof clothing), you will get great value and enjoyment by visiting Canada in the waning winter month of March.
Be aware that the most popular Canadian destinations and ski hills will be hopping during the March Break, when schools shut down for a week or two, and often on U.S. holidays and long weekends when our neighbors to the south arrive to get extra value on their U.S. dollar.
But where to go? Here are some recommendations for the best places to go in Canada in March.
There's no way to break this gently: It rains in Vancouver. A lot.
Now that you know the worst about Vancouver, all the good stuff — and there are lots to crow about — is 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.
Visitors can take part in cherry blossom celebrations beginning at the end of March, whereby people gather amongst the more than 40,000 cherry trees as their pink and white blooms reach their peak.
The Whistler ski season is lusciously long. In March, the two main mountains — Whistler and Blackcomb — still have 6 to 8 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. You will also want to make sure you're not there during a major U.S. holiday, but if the stars align and you can book to avoid these, you can score a deal.
Check out the Whistler/Blackcomb official website for travel deals.
Here's another piece of truthful advice: Visiting Toronto in March is a crapshoot, weather-wise. So if you don't mind packing a winter jacket and a t-shirt for unpredictable March weather, you'll get all the enjoyment and excitement Toronto has to offer at shoulder season rates. Toronto's friendly, exciting, multicultural vibe is tangible year-round.
Typical winter weather is not a deal breaker if you come prepared and can even be exhilarating. Join in sub-zero merriment by going ice skating at the Toronto City Hall or at 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. In addition, Toronto is a top theater destination and will have something to your liking at one of its many live theaters.
If the weather gods smile down on you in March, take advantage of maple syrup festivals, outdoor patios, nature getaways, strolls along the Harbourfront or a visit to the Toronto Beach.
Though 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/early spring has its advantages.
Winter in the Rockies is long and come March, the full roster of winter activities is available, with downhill skiing at its peak. Banff offers the benefit of three incredible ski resorts all located with 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 just following in the footsteps of this holiday, at the very beginning of March can be an excellent time to get a travel deal (again, if you take care to avoid March Break).
Quebec is a stunning and unique city to visit. 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 has tapered off, with temperatures just under freezing and often above. The streets are more navigable (still bring boots!) but winter activities are still available, including the Quebec Ice Hotel, outdoor skating, the Chateau Frontenac ice slide (till mid-March) and dog sled rides.
In addition, 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.