If you’re planning a Christmas holiday away from home, there really is no better place to spend the festive season than Canada. With snowy scenes and seasonal cheer in abundance, you’ll feel festive in no time.
Many of Canada’s cities transform from bustling metropolises to winter wonderlands over the festive period, with Christmas markets and lots of other events and celebrations planned. Read on for our top 6 places to jet off to for some festive cheer.
— TO Christmas Market (@TOXmasMkt) October 23, 2018
There are lots of cheap flights to Toronto that you can book up around the holiday season, but you won’t be the only ones to be drawn to Canada’s largest city. Half a million people are attracted by the sparkling lights, outdoor skating rinks, seasonal events and magnificent window displays.
Below are some of the best Christmas events in Toronto:
•Toronto Christmas Market (15 November to 23 December) – Inspired by the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market is a 5 week-long event celebrating the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas.
•Christmas at Casa Loma (December – January) – A homage to Gothic castles of days gone by, Casa Loma features incredible lights and is a sight to see during the Christmas period.
•Cavalcade of Lights (24 November) – The illumination of the iconic Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square takes place during this event. There are performances from some of Canada’s top musical talent and an amazing firework display.
•Christmas Flower Shows (first weekend in December until mid-January) –Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory are decorated and then filled with thousands of flowering plants including over 30 varieties of poinsettia.
Quebec is a must-visit destination as it is regarded by many as the most festive location in the whole of Canada. The city itself is bursting with culture and is the perfect place to go for a city break holiday over the festive period.
During the Christmas period, the cobbled streets, Parisian-style cafes and designer boutiques of Quebec are dressed in lights and decorations, which turn the city into a real Christmas village.
Below are some of the best Christmas events in Quebec:
•German Christmas Market (22 November-23 December) – In the heart of Old Quebec, the Christmas market recreates the European markets with its atmosphere, beautiful decorations, selection of delicious German treats (bratwurst, mulled wine, gingerbread, and much more), Christmas gifts, choral singing and indoor and outdoor performances.
•Cicérone Tours – Discover traditions of Christmas past on a walking tour with a costumed guide dressed from the early days of New France.
•Stroll through the city – From Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church in Place Royale to the end of Rue du Petit-Champlain, you can experience a winter wonderland as the area is decorated with a variety of amazing Christmas lights.
Montreal, also in the French-speaking province of Quebec, is another great city to enjoy over the Christmas season. You can indulge in delicious festive food check out one of the colourful seasonal events.
Rebecca Chant from the travel blog Maybe This Way highly recommends heading to the city over the festive period: “If you’re looking for a destination that takes Christmas seriously, Montreal is the place to spend your vacation. It’s not guaranteed to be a snow-covered Christmas, but the holiday charm throughout the city will more than make up for it. Wandering around downtown will lead you through decorated storefronts and lit up streets (Avenue McGill College is not to be missed). We even have weekly fireworks shows in Old Montreal called Fire on Ice.
“In the Quartier des Spectacles, play outside on 30 interactive seesaws with light and sound that change when in motion in an installation known as Luminothérapie. Go ice-skating in one of many free outdoor skating rinks or go cross-country skiing right in the middle of the city. You can even go ice fishing if you’d like!
“Winter markets are strewn across Montreal, where you’ll be able to find the perfect local gift or warm treat. Catch over 100 free musical performances while outside roasting marshmallows on a bonfire as part of Christmas in the Park. After all that, start your Christmas with a packed Midnight Mass at one of the many Basilicas or churches around the city.
“With the many outdoor activities make sure to bundle up warmly, grab a hot drink, and get ready to be filled with holiday cheer!”
Below are some of the best Christmas events in Montreal:
•Christmas in the Park (1-25 December) – Live music, poetry, bonfires and lots of other Christmas events can be found at this popular event.
•See Santa figurines at the Stewart Museum (15 November-7 January) – This Christmas, the Stewart Museum has a magical exhibit on display of hand-crafted Santa figurines from US and Quebec artists.
•Enjoy a Victorian Christmas – At the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site you can explore the old Victorian house and get an insight into how Christmas was celebrated during the era. There are also Christmas card making classes you can get involved in.
•Holiday Alley in Old Montreal – The Pepin Shop (Maison Pepin) decorates an alley in Old Montreal with decorations that make you think of Christmas. You can then browse the shop for presents to give to friends or family.
•Merry Montreal (Montreal En Fetes) (20-31 December) – Merry Montreal presents free activities in Old Montreal, so you can live the holiday season magic again. Be transported with the holiday spirit at Nordic Square (20-23 & 27-30 December) and experience musical performances, hot spots to warm up, interactive light installations and a sampling bar of Quebec’s finest products. Then celebrate 2019’s arrival on the Jacques-Cartier Pier in Montreal’s Old Port at Canada’s biggest New Year’s Eve party! Ariane Simon, the general manager of Merry Montreal, recommends that you dress up warm, “The best way to enjoy Montreal in the winter is to dress warmly and get out there! Make sure to wear a beanie, gloves, a scarf and lots of layers. A good trick is also to keep an extra pair of socks to change them once you get cold. Winter is also a fantastic excuse to indulge in a warm hot chocolate or gluhwein at Place Nordique to warm up.”
4. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most popular places to visit any time of the year, and this iconic waterfall is also a great destination to head to over the festive period.
There are nightly fireworks over Christmas and these spectacularly illuminate the Falls, but it’s the snow-covered Niagara that really is a sight to see as it puts you in the festive spirit.
Below are some of the best Christmas events in Niagara Falls:
•Winter Festival of Lights (3 November – 31 January) – The incredible light displays capture the magic of the holiday season, and the signature 8km long route travels through the Niagara Parks, Dufferin Islands and the surrounding tourist districts to transform the city into a winter wonderland.
•Skylon Tower glows red for Christmas (25 December) – In celebration of Christmas Day, the tower will glow red. The popular attraction is a great place to visit in the build-up to the big day as you can enjoy some great Christmas food over the festive period whilst getting unrivalled views of Niagara Falls. Anita Pang Hrepic, Director of Sales at the Skylon Tower, tells us about the different celebrations, “Skylon Tower transforms into a magical place at Christmas. We are decorated in the Holiday spirit with a Christmas tree in our lobby and Summit Suite Buffet restaurant and festive trimmings throughout the building. We officially welcome Santa to Skylon Tower on Saturday November 24th.”
•Visit the Nightmares Fear Factory – If you love Christmas books like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then there will be plenty of ghosts and other scary things related to Christmas that you can see at the Nightmares Fear Factory over the festive season. The Nightmares Fear Factory is a psychological haunted house and is the oldest attraction of its kind in North America.
•Santa Claus Parade (17 November at 11 am) – Santa Claus is coming to town! You can watch marching bands as part of the parade and even meet Santa and Mrs Claus at the Niagara Falls City Hall for a meet and greet, face painting and live entertainment.
Ottawa is the perfect city to walk around and celebrate the festive season as you can put on some skates and explore the city via the Rideau Canal.
Emily Cordonier, the blogger behind Embracing Ottawa, says the city is a favourite destination for many over the holiday season. She’s shared with us her most popular Christmas events in Ottawa:
•Byward Market (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm throughout the year) – “A favourite holiday destination is the Byward Market which is illuminated by thousands of lights and you can browse the many market stalls selling Christmas trees, wreaths, maple syrup and handmade gift ideas. On the weekends you can even enjoy a free horse-drawn wagon ride around the market.”
•Parliament Hill (December 5-January 7, 2019) – “Grab a beavertail pastry and hot chocolate and head to Parliament Hill where, every night over the holidays, a winter multimedia lightscape will be projected onto Parliament’s Centre Block. It is a unique and festive display you don’t want to miss!”
•Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village (November 30 – January 5) – “Another must-see holiday attraction in the Ottawa area is Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village. Go back in time and experience Christmas as it once was with thousands of multicoloured lights, a horse-drawn carriage ride around the village, visits with St. Nicholas, carollers in the old chapel, a train ride and delicious holiday treats. Nothing gets my family in the Christmas spirit more than this spectacular holiday outing.”
One unique place to celebrate Christmas in Canada is Vancouver. If you’re lucky enough to be spending time in the city over the festive season, then you’ll be delighted to see the city’s bounty of Christmas lights, markets and events against the backdrop of the snowy Coast Mountain Range.
A lot happens in the city during this time of year! Below are some of the best Christmas events in Vancouver:
•Stanley Park (27 November – 6 January) – The park becomes a mini North Pole as you can hop on the miniature Christmas train and be amazed by the festive lights (estimated to be over one million).
•Vancouver Santa Claus Parade (2 December at 12 pm) – With floats, marching bands and, of course, Santa, it is an unmissable event. The annual tradition attracts more than 300,000 people and lasts around two hours as it travels through the city. A spokesperson from the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade Society, told us a bit about this year’s parade, “Mark your calendars! The first Sunday in December is the official date of the TELUS presents the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade. The parade is the largest Christmas parade celebrated in Western Canada. In the spirit of giving, the free, family-fun event is also one of the largest food and fundraising events for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society and the CKNW Kids’ Fund. It’s the perfect kick off to the holiday season! Parade Route – At 12:00 pm, the parade will begin at West Georgia Street and Broughton, traveling east along West Georgia, turn south on Howe and finish at Howe and Davie.”
•Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (canyon lights running until 27, January, 11am-9pm) – The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is an iconic sight any time of the year but, with it dressed in Christmas lights, the bridge becomes even more of an Insta-worthy photograph.
•Watch the Nutcracker (7-9 December at 1 pm & 6.30pm) – Can it be Christmastime without Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker? Arguably the most famous ballet of all time, it is a Christmas tradition and is performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.
Just to recap, here are our top six best places to spend Christmas in Canada:
If you want to make Christmas extra special by spending it in one of the above places, then take a look at our range of Canadian holidays.