The Best Places to Visit in Canada in May

OttawaSpring.jpg

Dennis McColeman / Getty Images

July and August are when most tourists flock to the sunshine and warmth of Canada in the summer (which is still much cooler than most places in the U.S.). Springtime in most parts of Canada can still feel chilly, but by May the weather is pleasant, and the country has so much to offer, including cheaper rates, fewer crowds, and some unique spring 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 month of May.

But where to go? You'll find appealing choices all across the country, from the eastern shores of Newfoundland all the way to British Columbia on the west.

01 of 05

Ottawa

Ottawa Tulip Festival
Dennis McColeman / Getty Images

You don't need to travel all the way to Amsterdam to see tulips in bloom. Since 1945, Ottawa has celebrated the blossoming of local tulips with a festival that has grown to the three-week, city-wide event it is today.

The tradition began when Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs in appreciation for the safe haven offered to exiled Dutch royalty and the role Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II. That turned into the annual Canadian Tulip Festival, which continues to celebrate not just the flowers but also Canada's role in WWII.

In 2021, the Canadian Tulip Festival is hosting a virtual celebration. The festivities will feature online performances, programs, and activities from May 14–24.

As the winter chill is finally giving way to warmer weather, May is also a great time to enjoy all the activities that the Canadian capital has to offer.

02 of 05

Whistler

Looking off the side of Blackcomb Mountain.

TripSavvy / Mike Doyle

The Whistler Blackcomb ski season is lusciously long. In May, when almost every Canadian ski resort has had its end-of-season party, Whistler is one of the only places where you can often still find snow on the mountains. Plus, it's conveniently located just a short drive away from Vancouver, and the route to get there along the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most scenic driving trips in all of Canada. Expect it to be extra beautiful with the backdrop of spring as you drive into the mountains.

You may not be able to surf fresh powder in May, but you do get fewer crowds, major spring ski discounts, longer days for skiing, and, of course, the coveted goggle tan.

As of April 2021, Whistler Blackcomb is closed until further notice.

03 of 05

Victoria

Victoria Harbour, British Columbia
Stephanie Hager - HagerPhoto / Getty Images

It seems fitting to give a nod to the city that shares its name with one of Canada's most celebrated holidays: Victoria. The British Columbia capital city that sits gorgeously at the bow of Victoria Harbor on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is named for Queen Victoria (the legendary British monarch), and so too is the holiday weekend that takes place the third week of May: Victoria Day. It always takes place on the Monday before May 25 (or the Monday before Memorial Day in the U.S.). The long weekend is often called May-Two-Four by locals, even in years it doesn't fall on May 24 (Queen Victoria's birthday was May 24).

Conditions in Victoria in May are just about perfect for exploring this modern city that is nevertheless full of history, especially since the summer rush of tourists has yet to arrive. In May, you will be greeted with comfortable temperatures while the flowers and greenery are in full bloom. Being the Pacific Northwest, rain is always a possibility, so don't forget an umbrella.

04 of 05

Calgary

Canada, Alberta, Calgary city skyline across Bow River in day time
John E. Marriott / Getty Images

Though July is when the throngs of cowboys and cowboy wannabes arrive in the city to partake in the Calgary Stampede, Calgary and the Canadian Rockies are peaceful and beautiful in May. Though a dump of snow is not out of the realm of possibility in May, it is unlikely, and the shoulder travel month means lower rates for flights and hotels. 

Calgary is not just the perfect gateway to Rocky Mountain highlights like Banff, Jasper, and the Icefields Parkway; it is also becoming a cultural hub with an increasing presence of museums, theater, and live music. Don't worry though, line dancing is still a well-practiced pastime and workout in this big city with boondock roots.

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Newfoundland and Labrador

Surfacing humpback whale in Newfoundland
Rolf Hicker / Getty Images

To get a taste of nature that you really can't see anywhere else, head to the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador in May to see two gigantic beauties side-by-side: whales and icebergs. The Labrador Sea, which stretches from Canada to Greenland, is also known as Iceberg Alley, and spring is one the best times to see these floating building-sized hunks of ice.

The bay around Newfoundland and Labrador is also one of the best places to go whale watching, and you can spot more diverse species of whales around these waters than almost anywhere else in the world. May is the beginning of whale season and some species that you may see include belugas, minkes, humpbacks, sperm whales, and maybe even a giant fin whale if you're lucky.

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