Winter in Canada is a season to look forward to. The crisp days, white landscapes and blue skies combine to make it one of the most beautiful times of the year for you to visit.
If you are tempted to book a winter trip to Canada, then make sure you add on some outdoor winter activities to make the most of the snowy wonderland.
From dog sledding and snowshoeing to drinking ice wine and staying in an ice hotel, there are lots of winter delights to enjoy. We’re on hand to take you through some of the best activities on offer. Trust us, we’ll soon convince you that winter is wonderful!
Stay in an ice hotel, Quebec
It is not often you get the chance to stay in a hotel that is entirely made of ice and snow. Go on our Quebec Winter Wonderland holiday and this rare treat is all yours.
Located 10 minutes away from Quebec City, the snow capital of the world, Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in America that is entirely sculpted of the frozen good stuff.
Every December, when the temperatures are below zero, the construction process for the new hotel begins. More than six weeks of snow-packing and ice-carving later, the hotel is built.
The unique Hôtel de Glace has become one of the most famous images of the Canadian winter, with over a million people visiting the attraction since its opening in 2001.
The hotel boasts 44 rooms and themed suites, a Nordic area with hot tubs and saunas, an ice chapel and an ice bar. Enjoy a night of luxury under dazzling décor complete with fine dining or a guided tour of this spectacular hotel. If you are looking at visiting the Hôtel de Glace during your next trip to Canada then it will be open from January 4 until March 26, 2017.
Fun fact: The ice hotel is made up of 500 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow!
Helicopter tours over Niagara
The majestic Niagara Falls is a remarkable place to visit anytime of the year, but it is a spectacular dazzler in the winter when sections of the waterfall freeze over.
If you’re a thrill seeker then Niagara Helicopters has been delighting people from around the world for nearly 50 years.
From the sensation of lift-off to the excitement of soaring above the turbulent rapids and the cascading waterfall, your all-scenic flight will give you an unrivalled view of Niagara’s natural and man-made wonders.
You will get the highest, most scenic, most exciting sightseeing experience in the Niagara Region – all from the safety and comfort of one of five meticulously maintained Bell 407 helicopters.
The 9-minute tour includes on-board commentary in many different languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.
Fun fact: You can pick up exclusive Niagara Helicopters collectables, including personalised high-quality photos of you and your loved ones.
Polar Bear holidays in Churchill
Anyone that was lucky enough to watch BBC One’s Arctic Live will undoubtedly want to see Canada’s famous polar bears in real life.
With tours like our Ultimate Polar Bear Expedition holiday you can explore the frozen tundra and scour the Hudson Bay coastline in search of these majestic creatures.
The arctic experience continues when you return from your tour to the cosy Lazy Bear Lodge. With timber reclaimed from a fire in the boreal forest and windows recycled from an 1800’s Hudson Bay Trading Post, it is an authentic northern wonder itself.
If you love polar bears and come with a sense of adventure, then this is a unique holiday into the winter wilds you are not likely to forget in a hurry.
To find out about our other polar bear tours and what you should be aware of on a polar bear watching holiday in Canada, read our essential guide.
Fun fact: Polar bears are Earth’s largest land-based carnivores.
Try some icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Although icewine’s roots can be traced back to centuries-old German winemakers, there is nothing more quintessentially Canadian.
Icewine is produced when grapes are left on the vine during the winter months to concentrate and intensify the flavours. Water content freezes, thaws and dehydrates in each precious icewine grape.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for producing icewine and one of the most famous wineries in the region is Inniskillin.
Inniskillin icewine is an intensely concentrated sweet wine made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine. It is fermented slowly—sometimes for up to four months—and stops naturally at 10-12% alcohol.
The icewine is a brilliant golden colour and boasts aromas of lychee, apricot and pears with flavours of honey, mango and tropical fruits on the palate.
If you are somewhat of a wine connoisseur, then the Ontario winter and wine holiday we offer is perfect for you.
Fun fact: Over the last 40 years, Inniskillin has grown in popularity. Now its iconic icewine is exported to over 85 countries worldwide and is the number 1 wine sold in global travel retail.
Snowshoe across the wilderness
It can be easy to overlook a good winter walk on a list of top winter activities to try in Canada. But if you do then you will miss out on one of the most incredible ways to experience the stunning National Parks this country boasts.
A snowshoe walk means you can savour your gorgeous surroundings and get fantastic views of Canada’s incredible wildlife.
Becki, an award-winning travel blogger at Borders of Adventure, talks about her snowshoeing adventure to the mountainous plains of Mont Tremblant in Canada’s Québec province.
Becki says snowshoeing is a great way to learn about nature and survival in the great outdoors, and is easy for beginners to learn.
She says, “When you first strap on your snowshoes, it feels odd to have large aluminium frames attached to your feet, making you immediately waddle like a duck.
“As soon as we put our snowshoes on, we were taught how to walk in them, where you lift your feet slightly, roll your feet more and really emphasise the stepping action on your toes. Within minutes you soon realise it’s easy to pick up a stride and your adventurous spirit, as you pass the snowy roads and hit the powder-drenched forests.”
To sum up her experience, Becki, adds, “Easy to learn, safe and inexpensive, snowshoeing is an ideal way to experience the exhilaration of the great outdoors in a Canadian Winter.”
Check out our Canada Winter Crossing Holiday to go on your own snowshoeing adventure.
Fun fact: Snowshoeing was once an essential skill for hunter-gatherers.
Go dog sledding
Dog sledding is one of top winter activities in Canada.
Apart from the jingle of the dogs’ collars, the pitter-patter of paws on the snow and the occasional command from the musher, you will glide along the Canadian wilderness in silence.
There are a lot of destinations across Canada offering dog sledding tours and one such place is the Canadian Rockies.
Rockies Heli Canada allows you to experience the Canadian Rockies with a little canine love. Spend the morning being pulled by a team of sled dogs and then enjoy a 20 minute flight over the Rockies.
Fun fact: According to Dog Watch, dog sledding has been around for over 1,000 years.
See the Northern Lights
No list of winter activities in Canada would be complete without giving an Aurora tour a worthy mention. As one of the best countries in the world to view the Northern Lights, the otherworldly phenomenon is a must-see.
Our Northern Lights of the Yukon tour gives you a front row seat for the most spectacular silent night show.
Seeing the Northern Lights in the Yukon is common and you will be gobsmacked with the beautiful array of green, violet and red colours shimmering in the sky above you.
You can see the Northern Lights in other parts of the country as well, so check out our article about the 5 best places to see them.
Fun fact: According to the Good Nature website, the Inuit of Hudson Bay used to dread the Northern Lights as they believed they were the lanterns of demons pursuing lost souls.
Ski at Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb is a hugely popular Canada ski holiday destination and it isn’t hard to see why.
Over the past 10 years Whistler Blackcomb has received an average of 11.7 metres (38.4 feet) of snow a year.
Whistler and Blackcomb’s 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers and more than 200 marked trails make it a destination every skier and snowboarder puts on their to-do list.
This is why Whistler Blackcomb is consistently ranked as the number one winter sports destination in North America.
With incredible scenery, a charming pedestrian village, endless powder-filled bowls and an impressive ski area to suit all ability levels, Whistler really does have it all. It is a ski destination you need to visit.
Fun fact: Whistlers Best website reveals that the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains have a combined total of 38 lifts, including the famous Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
Ice skate on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa
During winter the Rideau Canal, a historic waterway owned by Parks Canada, turns into the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink.
Hundreds of thousands of skaters and outdoor enthusiasts will stop by to enjoy this unique 7.8-kilometre ice surface that winds through the heart of Canada’s capital city.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site’s skating season typically starts in mid-January. If you are looking to go skating at this historic site then you need to head to one of the Skateway facilities located on the ice at Rideau, Concord, Fifth, Bronson and Dows to pick up some equipment.
If you get a bit tired then you can also enjoy food and beverage concessions which are dotted along the canal.
Fun fact: The canal was constructed between 1826 and 1832 by thousands of Irish and French-Canadian labourers.
Go Shopping in Toronto
See Toronto Now recommends going shopping in Canada’s biggest city as an unmissable winter treat.
If you are visiting Toronto in the build-up to Christmas then holiday shopping in the city is a great way to have fun and explore.
With Christmas decorations adorning shop windows, handcrafted gifts for sale and festive music playing in the malls, shopping here is a fantastic experience.
Even after Christmas you will be able to pick up a range of bargains in the January sales from Toronto’s international retailers. It’s the best way to head home with a souvenir or two.
Fun fact: Hike, Bike and Travel say there are 9,520 streets in Toronto.
Image Credit: Hôtel de Glace, Renaud Philippe, Niagara Helicopters, Inniskillin, Tourism Whistler, Justa Jeskova, Ottawa Tourism.