Traveling to Canada in the Winter – There’s a reason Canada is known as the Great White North, and it’s not because it’s a tropical paradise.
Canadian winters are legendary as much for their breathtaking beauty and unique seasonal attractions as for their bitter cold and heavy snowfalls.
Maybe you’re heading to Toronto for business or Vancouver for vacation.
Perhaps you’ve recently purchased some Calgary real estate or maybe you’re just visiting your Great Aunt Bedelia in Montreal.
Whatever your destination, here are some important things to know before braving the Great White North when it’s at its greatest and whitest.
Traveling to Canada in the Winter Dress warm. Very, very warm
Don’t roll your eyes!
You may think you know how cold Canada can get, but unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, you have no idea.
While winters in the British Columbia region are relatively tame, hovering just above or below zero degrees, areas in the Prairies are often closer to negative 35, and that’s not including the wind chill.
Know where you’re going and what the weather will be like and dress accordingly, but prepare for the worst just in case.
Wear a heavy insulated jacket over fleece or wool clothing with thermals underneath.
Bring a warm beanie, gloves, and heavy boots with removable ice cleats.
Finally, keep a pair of sunglasses handy.
Sunlight reflecting off a snowbank can be blindingly bright.
Take advantage of winter deals
They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
What if you can’t stand the cold?
Then get out of Canada?
A lot of people do just that every year, which means that hotels, spas, and other tourist destinations will often offer significant discounts.
Many will even have special wintertime packages that pair room and board with meals and/or activities.
Most airlines will also offer cheaper flights, and don’t be surprised if it suddenly becomes easy to get reservations at some of those hard-to-book restaurants you’ve been salivating over.
Expect delays or even closures
It’s not all easy reservations and inexpensive hotels, mind you.
The fact that tourism slows down in the winter means that, while many businesses and attractions offer discounts, others are forced to reduce their hours or offerings, or even close their doors entirely.
Make sure to double-check the winter hours of your destinations beforehand, and look up weather and traffic reports as well.
Snowstorms and freezing temperatures can cause unplanned delays and closures.
Above all, make sure to drive safe, bring a shovel and other supplies along, and keep your phone charged in case of emergencies.
Don’t miss out on rare opportunities
Traveling to Canada in the winter might seem like an awful lot of trouble, but with a little preparation and care, all that effort can yield some truly one-of-a-kind experiences.
There are few places in the world that offer better skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing opportunities than Canada in the wintertime.
Scenic areas like Niagara Falls and Banff National Park are all the more breathtaking when surrounded by blankets of pure white snow and rows of glittering icicles.
If cold doesn’t bother you, consider visiting Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace, a hotel made entirely of ice and snow, which only exists for three months in the winter and has to be rebuilt anew each year.
Similarly short-lived and unforgettable are annual events like the Toronto Light Festival, Ottawa’s Winterlude, and Montreal’s Igloofest.
Last but not least, the long dark nights of a Canadian winter provide perfect conditions for viewing the Northern Lights in all their shimmering, psychedelic glory.