Bucket List: Top 6 places in Canada to visit during winter

From shopping to eating to winter activities, Blue Mountain Village has something for everyone.  Photo by Andrea Hamlin Photography © Blue Mountain Resort

From shopping to eating to winter activities, Blue Mountain Village has something for everyone. Photo by Andrea Hamlin Photography © Blue Mountain Resort

Canada is the coolest country in the world, making it the perfect destination to head for an authentic winter experience. As someone who lives in the hustle and bustle city of Toronto, I tend to naturally gravitate towards beach vacations during cold months, but lately I've been craving a true north getaway. I've never truly grasp the beauty of winter in my home country, so naturally I made a bucket list of places I need to see. Here are some of the top places in Canada to visit during winter:

Château Montebello’s lobby sends major cozy vibes.  Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Château Montebello’s lobby sends major cozy vibes. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

1. Château Montebello

Known as the largest log cabin in the world, Château Montebello is like a scene from a Christmas movie. During the holidays, the massive grounds of this Quebec resort are decorated with festive lights and cheer. Come when there’s snow on the ground, in late January or February, to enjoy outdoor activities like cross-country skiing or dog sledding in the trailed woods. But the resort’s 1930s architecture might have you wanting to stay in, read a book and sip hot cocoa by the lobby’s 20-metre high, six-sided fireplace. You’ll also want to take advantage of their spa for a 60-minute moisturizing body scrub or fire-side massage – because some R&R is much needed during winter.

The exterior of Fogo Island Inn is like a glimpse into the future, or a scene from another planet.  Photo courtesy of Fogo Island Inn

The exterior of Fogo Island Inn is like a glimpse into the future, or a scene from another planet. Photo courtesy of Fogo Island Inn

2. Fogo Island

Shhh, you hear that? That’s the sound of peace and quiet. Fogo Island is particularly still during winter, which lasts from November to March. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a low-key Easter getaway in 2016 with his wife and kids at this remote Newfoundland and Labrador island. They stayed at the Fogo Island Inn, which is a true architectural masterpiece and was listed by Vogue as one of the top five winter wonderland vacations that are better than the beach. You can enjoy outdoor activities like fishing and seal spotting, or relax in the indoor spa, amongst other things.

I mean, who doesn’t love a scenic view while skiing?  Photo courtesy of Tremblant

I mean, who doesn’t love a scenic view while skiing? Photo courtesy of Tremblant

3. Mont-Tremblant

Imagine skiing down the mountain with views of an old charming town around you. That’s what Mont Tremblant looks like, located about 80 miles north of Montreal. You can even ski your way into Casino Mont-Tremblant, put on a pair of anti-slip boot covers and conveniently hit one of the 400 slots or 16 gaming tables. After riding the slopes, head to the European-style village to sample some taffy off the snow at Cabane à Sucre.

Banff Upper Hot Springs is a postcard-perfect spa getaway.  Photo courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

Banff Upper Hot Springs is a postcard-perfect spa getaway. Photo courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

4. Banff and Jasper

For an Instagram-worthy view of winter wilderness, visit Banff National Park. Drive on the Icefields Parkway for a scenic view that connects Banff and Jasper national parks. Both parks have their own unique view of the Rocky Mountains and tremendous tourist appeal. Head to Jasper to spot wild animals in their natural habitat, like bighorn sheep, wolves and bears – but be careful to keep your distance. Tip: join a wildlife watching tour like SunDog Tour Co. to ensure you’re in expert hands. And if you’re looking for some R&R with an epic scenic backdrop, then head to Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Hôtel de Glace is rebuilt every year in time for visitors.  Photo by © Dany Vachon

Hôtel de Glace is rebuilt every year in time for visitors. Photo by © Dany Vachon

5. Hôtel de Glace

Canadians don’t live in igloos, but there’s an ice hotel just outside Quebec City that’s just as cool. Hôtel de Glace is made entirely of snow and ice, including the furniture. Rooms are available from January 4 to March 25. The temperature inside varies between -3°C and -5°C, regardless of how cold it is outside. Overnight, you’ll rest in arctic sleeping bags designed to keep you warm in conditions as low as -30°C. There’s lots of fun winter activities to enjoy on the grounds of Valcartier Vacation Village, which is where the hotel is situated.

Old Quebec’s Quartier Petit-Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America, is especially romantic during the winter season.  Photo by Francis Gagnon

Old Quebec’s Quartier Petit-Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America, is especially romantic during the winter season. Photo by Francis Gagnon

6. Historic Old Quebec

If you’re staying at Hôtel de Glace for a couple days, it’s worth taking a drive (about 35 minutes) to the charming European-esque, historic Old Quebec. They keep their holiday decors around until as late as March and it looks absolutely magical. Or better yet, stay at the ol’ neighbourhood overnight to get more time to discover all the places to shop, eat and take in the scenic surroundings. If you’re looking for a winter activity, head to Place D’Youville to skate amidst gorgeous historic architecture.


What are some Canadian winter destinations on your bucket list?