Canada is known for its horrible winters. But all the fresh snow and frigid December air make for a cozy vacation that helps foster a mindset of embracing the magic of winter rather than dreading the colder months.
In fact, now is the perfect time to reconnect with our neighbors to the north and plan a magical getaway for the holidays.
Whether you’re hoping to spend your holiday on the ski slopes of the Canadian Rockies, or you’d rather sip mulled wine while browsing Old Montreal’s Christmas markets, here are some of the liveliest holiday spots in Canada.
We’re pretty sure Whistler must have been the inspiration behind “A Walk in Winter Wonderland.” For those who like to keep their feet on the ground, this world-renowned ski resort offers picture-perfect powder snow, delicious local cuisine and an array of outdoor activities to choose from.
With a heated outdoor pool, three hot tubs and views of the surrounding mountains and forests, the Four Seasons Whistler is the perfect choice for a luxury vacation in Whistler. Only an 8 minute walk from the base of the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lift.
Lake Louise is a picturesque outdoor destination any time of year, but it’s especially magical around Christmas time. The cozy mountain town provides the perfect setting to rest and relax with a steaming cup of hot cocoa or put on your roller skates for a spin on a frozen turquoise lake 200 feet deep in the mountains.
If you’re looking for the perfect combination of simplicity and luxury, look no further than the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. One of Canada’s oldest luxury hotels, this bucket list hotel boasts stunning views of the turquoise lake and surrounding mountains.
Looking for a more adventurous holiday adventure? Head to Churchill, Manitoba. This prairie town is home to more wild polar bears per capita than any other city in North America. Don’t worry, though, that you’ll spot polar bears or other arctic creatures—expert-led tours and expeditions are plentiful and easy to book.
The Polar Inn & Suites is an easy overnight place. Each room has a kitchenette and cozy dining area for rejuvenating after a day of hunting polar bears or even the northern lights.
Ontario’s largest city is a fun weekend destination year-round, but December is especially charming. Head to the Distillery District to see the twinkling lights and crafts that make up Toronto’s Christmas Market, or head to Nathan Phillips Square to skate around the ornately decorated Toronto City Hall.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto is taking the festive season very seriously – from the “Nutcracker” afternoon tea and Christmas dinner service to an actual visit from Santa Claus, the lavish hotel pulls out all the stops when it comes to conjuring the festive magic.
Maybe you’ve visited Niagara-on-the-Lake during the high summer season, but don’t overlook the winter months in this popular resort city. Here, you’ll find a sparsely populated ice skating rink, an annual mulled wine festival and a quick drive to Niagara Falls for festive lights and music.
Looking for something at the intersection of comfort and luxury? The Prince of Wales is just fine. The royal-style hotel is more of a posh speakeasy than a small-town hotel, thanks to its dark mahogany drawing room, open-air dining room and lavish suites and rooms that look like they’ve been borrowed directly from the Palace of Versailles .
Looking for world-class skiing in Eastern Canada? You’ll want to head to Mont-Tremblant. This popular ski resort has won over tourists and locals alike – and for good reason. Mont Tremblant is arguably the best ski mountain east of Alberta, but there’s also a charming village at the base that will make you feel like you’re in the Arctic.
The village of Mont Tremblant has many charms, but if you want a luxurious pedaling spot suitable for skiing, the Sommet des Neiges is your best bet. This high-end hotel actually includes ski-in, ski-out facilities so you don’t need to carry your skis to the slopes.
Quebec City is going to be one of the coldest destinations on this list—after all, it’s a city known for its ice hotels. But the centuries-old buildings and ornate holiday decorations are worth braving the freezing temperatures alone. Old Quebec has many options for warming up, from indulging in a steaming pot of fondue to sipping mulled wine in one of the city’s many cozy bars and pubs.
In Quebec City, there is only one address that really matters, and that is Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. You’ve probably seen this stunning hotel, as it’s the most photographed hotel in the world. But the interior is as impressive as the castle-like architecture. Here you’ll find unabashed luxury and hospitality, from a myriad of locally-focused bars and restaurants (including a sumptuous Christmas dinner service) to spa services and extra-curricular activities such as wine tasting and cheese wine direct from the hotel from the cellar with local cheeses.
Montreal will be the best choice for world-class dining and entertainment alongside century-old architecture and history. Grab a glass of mulled wine and walk through Montreal Village at Atwater Market, or head straight to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ performance of “The Nutcracker.”
When it comes to where to stay in Montreal, your options are endless, but depending on which neighborhood you want to make your home in, there are always some great ones to choose from. Stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Montreal for timeless luxury downtown, or drop your bags at the more unassuming Nelligan if you want to explore the cobbled streets of the Old Port during your vacation.
Nova Scotia is known for its kind citizens and tight-knit communities—and that only gets stronger in December. Find a chat in one of the many pubs and bars in the city center core and you’re likely to be invited to a Christmas dinner or festive party. Otherwise, enjoy a steaming bowl of lobster bisque and a drink at Bishop’s Landing, or head to the Glow Halifax Christmas Light Festival, an interactive holiday light show and market that draws tourists and locals alike.
Halifax may be quaint, but it’s home to many great historic and modern buildings. If you want to be right in the middle of Bishop’s Landing’s restaurants and shops, the Westin Nova Scotia is the perfect choice. If you prefer to be near the Halifax Public Gardens, you can follow Spring Garden Road to The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites.
Planning a winter vacation in St. John is always a good idea. Not only will you find an extensive Christmas dinner service, a festive craft market and Celtic Christmas products, but you’re actually about 4 hours’ drive from the ports of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. This is a quiet piece of French territory off the coast of Canada, where you’ll find everything from buttery croissants and pain aux chocolat to French architecture and shopping. Make sure to pack some Euros.
Built on the site of old Fort William at the foot of Signal Hill, the Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel not only has a long history, but also has an excellent location. Everything in St. Louis is within walking distance from here. John’s best cultural offerings and a stone’s throw from venerable George Street.
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