When you glance at this list, you may notice these are some of Canada’s coldest and snowiest cities in the winter. But it seems those dark days and bone-chilling temperatures inspire some of the liveliest festivals in Canada, making winter an excellent time to travel the country. Because when you’re forced to slug out harsh winter weather, you quickly learn that while you can’t change it, you can change how you feel about it. Here are five Canadian cities doing just that.
Nowhere in the country celebrates snow and ice quite like Quebec City. The historic destination is home to the largest winter carnival in the world, which has been recognized alongside famous festivals in Rio and New Orleans. From canoe races during the day to parades at night, the activities at the three-week-long Carnaval Du Quebec are absolutely endless. But even if you can’t make it for the carnival, the narrow cobblestone streets and 17th- and 18th-century buildings the city’s become famed for are even more delightful when they’re covered in snow. So much so, in fact, that the city was recently ranked one of the top destinations for celebrating the holidays. Don’t miss: Spending a night in the one-of-a-kind Hotel de Glace, where you’ll sleep in a room made entirely of ice (we promise it’s cozy).
Surviving an entire winter in Edmonton’s frigid temperatures may not be easy, but enjoying a short trip to revel in its winter festivities certainly is. The city of Edmonton has a “WinterCity Strategy” that’s all about embracing the season and reclaiming the joy of winter. To accomplish this, the city has increased their cross-country ski trail services, sponsored and promoted free alpine ski and snowboard lessons, and started working toward designing buildings and public spaces that are comfortable year-round. Don’t miss: Ice on Whyte, an annual ice-carving festival featuring artists from around the globe.
In winter, the city’s historic Red River becomes The Red River Mutual Trail, also known as the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. But skating, running, walking, or even sledding along the trail is an even more inviting experience thanks to the now-famous Warming Huts that line the rink. Visit Winnipeg in February, when the city hosts Festival Du Voyageur, a 10-day celebration that transforms the French Quarter into a winter wonderland filled with stories of the fur trade, lively musical performances, lifelike snow sculptures, and tasty French Canadian foods. Don’t miss: Festival du Voyageur’s annual beard-growing contest, where men are ranked on who has the wildest, the wooliest, and even the fastest-growing facial hair.
You’ll hardly feel like you’re in the middle of a city when you find out just how many winter activities there are to enjoy in the nation’s capital. Outdoor enthusiasts will revel in the 7.8-kilometre skating rink along the Rideau Canal as well as the groomed hiking and snowshoeing trails that wind through Gatineau Park. In February, the city also hosts a comedy festival, a jazz festival, and a winter brewfest, though none of these can upstage the three-week-long Winterlude. The festival is famous for its giant snow slides and the International Ice Carving Competition, but this year’s big draw is a dragon boat race down the frozen Rideau Canal, which will be taking place for the first time in history. Don’t miss: Snacking on a Beavertail, a mouth-watering pastry that you’re guaranteed to find at one of the snack stations set up along the canal.
Montreal is known for its nightlife, and that doesn’t stop when the temperatures drop. Every winter, the city hosts a giant music festival known as Igloofest, when thousands of electronic music lovers gather at the Old Port of Montreal to dance under the stars. The city hosts another worthwhile party in March known as the Montreal All Nighter, which sees museums, event halls, theatres, restaurants, and bars stay open into the wee morning hours. For families or festival-goers with a more conservative bed-time, there’s Fete des Neiges, an annual snow carnival spread across multiple weekends in January and February, which features tube sliding, ice skating, music, sled dog tours, and even ziplines. Don’t miss: The chance to check out typical tourist destinations like Schwartz’s and the Mont Royal lookout without the crowds.
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