6 Places to Embrace Canadian Winter

6 Places to Embrace Canadian Winter November 19, 2015 · 12 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links.

Rob and Chris Taylor from 2 Travel Dads wrote a similar version of this article on their blog, focusing on the Ottawa's Winterlude, one of the cities mentioned below. Their article A Family Guide to Winterlude: the ultimate winterfest in Canada's Capital offers an in-depth look at at the celebrations in Ottawa. If you're looking for more information about Winterlude, be sure to check out their blog!

A Family Guide to Winterlude: the ultimate winterfest in Canada's Capital


The snow has begun to fall, and I had to dust off my winter jacket for the first time today. Winter in Saskatchewan is cringe worthy. Minus fifty Celsius winds, snow drifts against the door, those persistent drafts, pushing out stuck cars, frozen engines, slippery roads, tongues stuck to metal poles... the list goes on. Winter sucks.

But it doesn't have to! Here are 6 places to embrace the world famous Canadian Winter!

6. Banff, Alberta

Banff Springs Hotel

I could just say "the Rockies" as the whole mountain range between Alberta and British Columbia is an outdoorsman's paradise in the winter, but Banff has a special place in my heart so I'll focus on that location.

Banff National Park is home to the stunningly beautiful Banff Springs Hotel – one of Canada's most iconic buildings.  This luxury hotel was built during the 19th Century in a cross-country effort to make the vastness of Canada more appealing to tourists, and it worked. The hotel offers suites anywhere from $300 to $1,000 a night, but with over 300 rooms available, there's always a place for you!

Besides the gorgeous hotel, the town of Banff also boasts quaint shops and incredible shopping. Throw all that in with the downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, curling, skating, ice fishing, hiking and plethora of hot spring in the area, it's a perfect winter getaway.

5. Ottawa, Ontario

Rideau Canal Skateway

My only trip to Ottawa was in late October, but I've always wanted to go back in the winter. The main reason is to skate (or attempt to) on the Rideau Canal Skateway, a 7.8 kilometer long outdoor skating rink, making it the largest outdoor rink in the world. The canal was built for military purposes in the event that the United States invaded, in which case there was a lifeline between Montreal (the then capital of Canada) and Kingston (the then headquarters of the British military).

You can also go to Winterlude and take part in fire and ice sculpting (or just watch somebody else do it!) or visit the Snowflake Kingdom – the biggest snow playground on the continent! You can also go downhill and cross country skiing in Canada's capital, if you didn't get enough of that in Banff.

And if you're hungry, swing by ByWard Market Square and grab yourself a Beaver Tail – a classic Canadian treat that US President Barack Obama had to try!

(It was our treat since they never invaded us again!)

4. Quebec City, Quebec

Hôtel de Glace

If you love shopping but can't afford Paris, Quebec City is the next best thing. From cobblestone streets and French architecture to a YEAR ROUND Christmas store, Quebec City is one of the best places in Canada to spend your winter.  

But this city isn't just good for shopping and architecture gawking. Quebec City is also home to the world's largest winter festival, featuring things such as snow baths, night parades, snow slides, giant foosball, snow sculptures, shows, sleigh rides, and skating!

In November they also close off some of the streets and Red Bull puts on "Red Bull Crashed Ice", a high-paced downhill ski tournament through the winding francophone streets of the only walled city north of Mexico.

If you need a place to spend the night, be sure to check out the Hôtel de Glace, a 100% ice hotel, the only of its kind in North America. The hotel features a beautiful Great Hall, Chapel, ice slide, exhibitions and Ice Bar, as if you needed any more convincing.

You could also stay at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, if you're looking to splurge.

3. Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill

Not nearly as big as Ottawa or Quebec City, Churchill is a nature lovers dream come true. Isolated from the hustle and bustle of Canada's main cities, this community boats a population of only 813 people. Why head here? One reason in particular:

Polar bear tours!

Nestled on the edge of Hudson's Bay, this community not only offers tours to go out and see polar bears up close, but it also has a problem with polar bears wandering into the city. On Halloween the police use helicopters and patrol the community to protect the kids from overly curious bumbling, snuggly snowy teddy bears.

(Okay, maybe not so snuggly. Seriously. Don't get too close.)

Besides polar bears, you can also see the majestic beluga whales, go ice-fishing, cross country skiing, kayaking and camping out in an igloo and watch the mesmerizing northern lights!

2. Regina, Saskatchewan

Regina

"Wait. Didn't you say winters in Saskatchewan suck?"

They are pretty awful, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything fun to do in the winter!

Regina offers a unique shopping experience at their annual Wintergreen Fine Craft Market where you can buy a variety of locally made crafts, such as dishes, artwork, jewelry, ornaments and - oh my god! - the fudge! If you miss Wintergreen that's okay because there's more awesome shopping experiences, such as the ChristKindl Markt and the Sparkle 2015 Christmas Jewelry Sale.

If you're feeling outdoorsy, you can go skiing, skating, curling, roller blading, kite surfing or ATVing outside the city. You're also welcome to catch a flight with the Regina Flying Club and view the city from above like I did a few weeks ago. Additionally you can go on a sleigh ride through the majestic Wascana Park, drop by a Pat's game or catch a performance at the Globe Theatre, with "The Snow Queen" and the "The Hound of Baskervilles" coming up the next few months.

If you're hungry, there's always the dozens of excellent restaurants popping up downtown like Malt City, the Capitol Jazz Club and Tapas Bar, Slow Food Pub, the Cathedral Freehouse, Leopold's Tavern or Bushwakkers Brewery that will leave your mouth watering for more!

1. Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver

Being next to the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is spared the cold that the rest of Canada gets – and the snow. Instead, Vancouver trades it for rain, as November to March is their rainy season. Don't let that deter you though; a warm, rainy day in Vancouver is a vacation from the blistery coldness on the other side of the Rockies.

When visiting Vancouver, you can check out the Bright Nights Train and Plaza at Stanley Park, an incredible display of over three million (one for every 11 Canadians) lights. If that doesn't make you say "Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Whatever", the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is host to the world's largest Christmas tree; a tree that is over 150 feet tall!

If that isn't enough sparkly stuff for the holidays, the people of Vancouver are known for their incredible Christmas decorations, so taking a quick walk around any section of the city will lead to an incredible display of lights, snowflakes, Santa Clauses, elves and nativity scenes.

If you're of the Chinese ancestry – or even if you're not – you can also celebrate Chinese New Year and see the best display of Chinese culture (dragons and all) anywhere in Canada!

Once you're done staring at the lights, throw on your bathing suit and take part in the annual Polar Bear Swim where all Vancouverites take a dip in the English Bay on New Year's Day!

Swimming in subzero temperatures not your cup of tea? That's alright; you can warm yourself up with Vancouver's Hot Chocolate Festival, Wine Festival or Beer Festival. You can also indulge in some incredible dishes at the Stake Restaurant and snuggle up with some felines at one of the many cat café's popping up across Canada.

You can also take an hour and half bus ride to Whistler if you miss skiing and snowboarding from your time in Banff! You can never have too much fun with a fresh layer of snow!

 

I'd love to hear where you think the best place in Canada to embrace winter is! Let me know in the comments below!


Cover image of Quebec City was taken by Chensiyuan, taken from Wikipedia.

Image of Banff Spring Hotel taken from Banff Lake Louise.com.

Image of Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa taken by RoadTripper.ca

Image of Hôtel de Glace taken from the official website.

Image of Churchill Polar Bear Tours is from Ataryan.com (I'm not linking to it as it redirects to spam).

Image of Regina taken by JavaPost.

Image of Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park taken by Good Life Vancouver.

Don't forget to pin it!

6 Places to Embrace Canadian Winter

And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.

Sharing this article helps the blog grow!

Get Your Complete List of What to See & Do in Regina!

Others are reading...

6 Places to Embrace Canadian Winter

Rob and Chris Taylor from 2 Travel Dads wrote a similar version of this article on their blog, focusing on the Ottawa's Winterlude, one of the cities mentioned below. Their article A Family Guide to Winterlude: the ultimate winterfest in Canada's Capital offers an in-depth look at at the celebrations in Ottawa. If you're looking for more information about Winterlude, be sure to check out their blog!

A Family Guide to Winterlude: the ultimate winterfest in Canada's Capital

The snow has begun to fall, and I had to dust off my winter jacket for the first time today. Winter in Saskatchewan is cringe worthy. Minus fifty Celsius winds, snow drifts against the door, those persistent drafts, pushing out stuck cars, frozen engines, slippery roads, tongues stuck to metal poles... the list goes on. Winter sucks.

Read More

Instagramming Canada - Northwest Territories

When I started this post, I had the same question as you: "What is there worth seeing in the Northwest Territories?" I expected snow, ice, permafrost and igloos. I wasn't wrong, but I was far from the truth. While learning about this stunning territory, I found out all sorts of things. I won't bore you with them, but there are two interesting places worth mentioning.

The first is the Giant Mine, a gold mine that entered production in 1948. It ran until 2004 and produced 7 million ounces of gold. In 1992, during the height of a labor dispute about the mine, an explosion ripped through it, killing nine people. It was discovered this explosion was caused by a bomb set by Roger Warren, and he was convicted for nine counts of second-degree murder. He claimed the union had "dehumanized" the strikebreakers (somebody who refuses to go on strike during a labor dispute) and had the union, security or the company listened to the strikers, he wouldn't have done it.

After the mine closed, it was discovered the land was poisoned with around 17,000 tons of arsenic and asbestos. This includes nearby lakes, rivers, forests and houses. The company said it was the responsibility of the Canadian and Northwest Territorial government to clean up. The containment is lethal, even in small doses, and the cleanup effort is being called the "greatest challenge associated with the remediation of Giant Mine". In 2014 the Canadian government put forward $900 million to a billion dollars to clean up the area through freezing the contaminants and transporting them somewhere safe. Once completed, it is expected that the Northwest Territories' first mining museum is to be built on the property, although there is no set date.

Read More

100+ Things to do in Regina

A few summers ago I put out a list of 20 things to do in Regina. I thought it was a pretty good list and it got some positive reviews. It came on the heels of a few other similar, smaller lists of places people should visit in Regina and was meant as a "grand finale" of lists.

That article is old, but it's still fairly popular. Normally I wouldn't pay much attention to it, but a few months ago somebody commented on it and informed me that my list, and my blog in general, "sucked". Ouch.

It took me a bit to think about how I should respond to this person, so in rebuttal I have complied my longest list ever, consisting of over 100 things to do in Regina. I spoke to people at Tourism Regina, The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District and the The Warehouse District Business Improvement District to help put this list together.

Read More