The best Canadian cities to visit during the shoulder season

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View of Canadian Lake

If you’re thinking of visiting Canada but don’t know where to go or when to plan your holiday, we uncover the perfect cities for a shoulder season vacation. You’ll discover all you need to know and what to expect when holidaying during these seasons, read on to find out more.  

Canada is perfect for exploring in every season, but what are the best cities to visit during the shoulder season? Shoulder seasons are generally Spring that runs from March to May and autumn (or fall) that runs from September to November but can vary depending on destinationthese off-peak times offer travellers a very different perspective of this awe-inspiring country. Generally quieter and free of summer-holidaying tourists, shoulder seasons can be equally as beautiful as summer periods, but often offers a more relaxed, tourist-free experience, away from the hustle and bustle that the summer holidays can bring.  

We spoke to Kerry Spencer, Editor at Cruise Critic who thinks Canada is the perfect location to visit during shoulder season: “Whether it’s taking in the country’s colourful colonial history, or exploring the rugged coastlines, craggy seaside villages and opulent mansions. Canada boasts outstanding scenery at any time of year, so if you like fewer crowds and are willing to dress up warm, Canada’s shoulder season could be a great time to visit.  

Many experienced cruisers often say that shoulder season – a time window that is not quite high season and not quite low season. While autumn might be a shoulder season in the Caribbean or the Med, when it comes to Canada, however, autumn is the prime travel time due to Canada’s popular and stunning fall foliage season.

Québec City 

View of Quebec City

A city that oozes historic charm and elegance. Québec City is a location that offers its visitors the very best no matter what time of the year they visit. Known for being one of the country’s oldest cities, it is full of detailed architecture, cobbled streets and boasts spectacular views. Shoulder season offers a very different view of Québec City, the drop in temperatures shows off the icy elegance of the city’s waterways and the Winter Carnival is a real celebration of the location.  

Kerry recommends Québec City as the perfect location for a shoulder season getaway to Canada: “Québec City is a fantastic North American destination to visit all year round. With over 400 years of interesting history, must-see sites include Place Royale, a picturesque plaza considered the birthplace of French civilisation in North America; the star-shaped Citadelle, a sprawling fortress and active military garrison; and the iconic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel. The charm of Québec City in the colder months is the city’s well-known Winter Carnival, an unmissable event that cannot be experienced in high season, and occurs every year, in February. 

The quieter months often mean there is a lot more on offer for you to enjoy as the crowds no longer fill the busy and popular areas. Enjoy a wine or food tasting tour around the city, or head to Niagara Falls whilst the crowds are quieter, one of the purest natural wonders of the world and well worth a visit during the colder months. 

Montréal 

Montreal view

Known as the cuisine capital of the world, Montréal is one of Canadas hubs for food lovers and offers exquisite architecture  as it combines a feel of modern and centuriesold cultures. A destination that is perfect for exploration all year round, there is something magical about Montréal as the seasons change and the leaves fall, making it one of the best locations to visit in shoulder season.  

Another year-round cruise destination favourite is Montréal, one of eastern Canada’s busiest turnaround ports”, says Kerry. “The big-city amenities and historical charm means there’s plenty to see and do in the colder months, such as visiting the gothic Notre Dame Basilica or enjoying the famous afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, which has been going strong since 1913. 

Kerry continues to tell us why the shoulder season is the best time to visit Canada: “Canada’s shoulder season is a great time to visit, to experience a mix of European chic, cutting-edge culture and a cool urban vibe, without the usual huge crowds of tourists getting in your way. 

The city is the perfect place to immerse yourself in new experiences and try the variety of unique activities on offer that would otherwise be filled with tourists. Museums are a must no matter what time of year you visit and are the perfect places to find out all about the history of your location. If you want to enjoy something a little more adventurous, then a walking tour of Old Montréal, an escape to Québec City or Montmorency Falls might be more up your street. 

Montréal is a magical “miniature Europe” even in late November through December. The air is crisp, the chance of snow lingers, and the city’s historic cobblestoned streets are quiet. Unmissable soul-warming treats include chewy crepes, steaming mulled wine, and gravy-laden poutine”, says Jen Avery, part of the duo at Thrifty Nomads 

Vancouver 

Vancouver view

Situated on the west coast, Vancouver is an idyllic setting for a shoulder season getaway as it provides quieter tourist areas but unique surroundings during these seasons. Surrounded by water, the air is filled with the smell of the ocean as the cooler months come around. But as spring returns, the sweet-smelling blossom that fills the air and deep sunsets are sights not to be missed.  A location full to the brim with exhilarating attractions and once in a lifetime experiences you can enjoy a plethora of guided tours. Immersing you into the culture and vibrancy of the city, from Granville Island Market Tours to Capilano Suspension Bridge tours, there is plentiful to keep you occupied. Not only thatVancouver has recently been voted the best place in the world to live so Vancouver holiday should be at the top of your Canada bucket list. 

The team at Hand Luggage Only recently reported on their trip to Vancouver and said: “My favourite part of the city, of course, is how immersed into nature it is – you don’t have to walk too far before you find some amazing park, jaw-droppingly beautiful mountains and even beaches (not something you immediately think of when you think of Canada). 

Toronto 

Water view of Toronto

An iconic skyline and a city full of wonder, no matter what time of the year, Toronto is often a top choice for holidaymakers looking for the perfect Canadian city break. 

We spoke to Joseph from Passion Passport, he recommends Toronto for a shoulder season getaway: “Canada is an exceptional year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, art lovers, and anyone who believes that doing something a little different leads to the best travel experiences. 

The winter weather suits the unique beauty of this country, while the shoulder season of spring brings a mild thaw thats perfect for exploring national parks, stretching your legs in some of the most walkable cities anywhere, and fuelling your adventures with some world-class cuisine. For city breaks, we recommend Toronto or Montréal for this season because both offer plentiful indoor and outdoor activities, from the colourful escarpment of Toronto’s Scarborough Bluffs and the views from Toronto Island to the diverse and dynamic international food scene of both cities. Or get outside and into stunning scenery at Banff National Park outside of Calgary, where nearby Edmonton is also worth a day trip. 

No matter where you decide to visit on your upcoming trip to Canada, shoulder season offers more than just stunning views and a cooler climate, it offers a whole new perspective on some of the favourite tourist hotspots and experiences unlike any other.  

If you are looking to visit one of these destinations in the future, take a look at some of our latest flights to Canada. 

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