While you plan your next holiday away from home, consider visiting a country that becomes a winter wonderland every year: Canada. The Great White North is known for its stunning snowy views, skiing on the Rockies, ice lakes, and incredible winter festivals.
Canada is generally cold between November and March, but that doesn’t mean Canadians stay indoors, as winter means the stage is set for some of the country’s biggest and most popular festivals and events.
Take a journey to this snowy wonderland with us.
Winter Festivals in Canada
All across Canada, numerous events and festivals are held throughout winter, from ice sculptures to ice skating, dining, music, and even beard-growing competitions. The snow-capped mountains are some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see, while the frozen lakes in certain areas bring out budding ice skaters and families.
Winter festivals are a huge part of what makes Canada great. Canadian winter festivals allow us to celebrate our culture and heritage in the coldest time of year. Here is our list of the best festivals you can enjoy this winter! Learn more about Canada's amazing festivals here.
Carnaval de Québec
This is the biggest winter festival in the world and has been a highlight of Quebec’s calendar since 1894. Taking place every January and February, the festival has become so much more than just celebrating with delicious food and drinks. The festival now has a night parade which attracts thousands of festival-goers each year, concerts, snow sculptures, sleigh rides, and an ice palace!
The Winter Festival of Lights
The Winter Festival of Lights is a spectacular display of over 120 light-illuminated displays. It entices over 1 million attendees every year.
The festival hosts a range of activities and events, including the infamous Zimmerman Fountain, the awe-inspiring Fireworks over the Falls,1 5 3D Canadian Wildlife displays, the iconic illuminated Skylon Tower, over 50 trees decorated in sparkling lights in Dufferin Islands, Santa's Village, the Candlelight Stroll, a Christmas concert series and much, much more. For a truly magical experience, don't miss the opening ceremony in Queen Victoria Park in Ontario.
WinterFest, hosted in Canada's Wonderland, located in Vaughan, just north of Toronto, is an amusement park turned into an immersive winter festival filled with family-friendly activities such as ice skating on the Snow Flake Lake ice rink, a night lighting ceremony, enjoy over a dozen live shows, meet 20 new Winterfest characters, visit eight whimsical Winterfest worlds and much much more.
Drawing crowds of thousands of music lovers, Igloofest is an annual outdoor music festival that takes place at the Old Port of Montreal in Montreal. The annual winter music festival runs from January to February.
The event brings together some of the best local and international electronic music DJs on a giant playground. The music festival also has some unique competitions, such as the winter wear competition colorfully named “Iglooswagg”.
Snow Days - Ice Magic Festival
Snow Days is an annual celebration that draws artists from across the globe to take part in its international ice sculpting competition at Ice Magic Festival, Alberta.
When you're done ogling ice and snow sculptures, are sure to take in the breathtaking sights in the region and enjoy some hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing or simply unwind and enjoy signature cocktails and local culinary dishes against the backdrop of the magnificent Canadian Rockies and Lake Louise situated in Banff National Park.
Ottawa & Gatineau
Winterlude is a three-week-long event with activities for all ages. You can skate along the Rideau Canal, the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, enjoy eclectic concerts, participate in a bed race, or marvel over phenomenal ice sculptures.
The Yukon Rendezvous is a vibrant winter festival held in Whitehorse, Yukon. It celebrates the northern heritage and culture through a range of activities. Attendees can engage in dog sledding races, snowshoeing competitions, and awe-inspiring ice sculpture contests.
With a strong emphasis on community involvement, visitors can immerse themselves in indigenous traditions, witness captivating performances, and relish in local cuisine. The festival radiates a warm and inviting atmosphere amidst the cold winter, making it an unforgettable experience for all ages.
Deep Freeze Festival
The Deep Freeze Festival in Edmonton transforms the winter landscape into a whimsical wonderland of art, culture, and frosty fun. In the heart of winter, the festival brings together local artists, performers, and communities to celebrate the season's beauty.
Attendees can partake in ice carving competitions, play traditional winter games, and explore art installations uniquely designed for the cold climate. The festival aims to embrace the chilly weather with warmth and creativity, making it a cherished event for families and individuals.
Festival du Voyageur
The Festival du Voyageur is a lively winter celebration that pays homage to Winnipeg, Manitoba's fur-trading era and French-Canadian heritage. Steeped in history, the festival offers an immersive experience where attendees can relive the fur traders' days through historical reenactments, live folk music, and traditional dancing.
Visitors can savor authentic French-Canadian cuisine, participate in snow sculptures, and enjoy lively parades featuring colorful costumes and vibrant floats. The festival's joyful ambiance and rich cultural offerings make it a beloved annual tradition.
Montréal en Lumière
Montréal en Lumière is a captivating winter festival that illuminates the city of Montreal, Quebec, with artistic brilliance. Fusing light, arts, and culinary experiences, the festival transforms the city into a mesmerizing spectacle.
Attendees can wander through dazzling light installations, attend live performances by renowned artists, and indulge in gourmet dining experiences during the "gourmet week." The event showcases a seamless blend of creativity and gastronomy, drawing locals and tourists alike to celebrate the winter months with artistic flair.
Snow Magic is an enchanting winter festival held in Toronto, Ontario, that turns the city into a magical winter playground. Celebrating the season's splendor, the festival offers a variety of activities for all ages.
Attendees can skate on outdoor ice rinks surrounded by stunning light displays, explore interactive art installations, and enjoy live music performances against the snowy backdrop. Culinary enthusiasts can savor winter-inspired treats and hot beverages. The festival aims to infuse warmth and wonder into the cold months, making it a delightful experience for residents and visitors.
Things to Do In Canada In Winter
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Canada has to offer. Besides incredible festivals, great food to keep you warm, and awesome activities for the whole family, Canada also has adventurous winter activities for you.
Zipline Over the Snow-Capped Forests
Ziplining is much more fun when the landscape is blanketed in white snow. Hit the treetops of areas like Whistler, where the tours take you along breathtaking routes through the forests. The newly established Sasquatch course is one for the brave. The course runs for 2 km at 180m above the ground and is the longest zipline in North America.
Skiing in Whistler
You cannot visit Canada without hitting the slopes of some of the most impressive mountains in the world. Whistler has become one of the prime spots for skiing and snowboarding, with 8100 acres of snow-covered slopes, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers, world-class terrain parks, and more than 200 marked trails to explore.
Skate along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
In winter, around January and February, this 8km river turns into an ice-skater's dream, with thousands of people taking to the ice. The Canal is completely transformed into a winter wonderland with food trucks, sleighs, and plenty of hot chocolate stations to keep everybody warm.
Embracing the Cold in Canada
While the prospect of Canadian winters might seem daunting to some, the winter festivals offer a beautiful way to embrace the cold and make the most of the season. Instead of shying away from the winter chill, these festivals encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and experience the joy and excitement of celebrating amidst the snowflakes. Canada has plenty of outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
As you consider starting anew in Canada, the country's winter festivals offer more than just entertainment – they provide a gateway to understanding, connecting, and immersing yourself in the Canadian way of life. From Quebec's ice palaces to Toronto's mesmerizing light displays, these festivals are a testament to Canada's commitment to unity and diversity. Start Your Travels in Canada
What Are Winters Like in Canada?
Canadian winters are often characterized by sub-zero temperatures, especially in central and northern regions. Temperatures can drop well below freezing; in some areas, they can reach extreme lows, sometimes dropping to -30°C (-22°F) or even lower.
Many parts of Canada experience significant snowfall during the winter months. Coastal areas may receive milder winters with less snow, while inland and northern regions often get heavy snowfall that can create a picturesque winter landscape.
Canadians embrace winter by participating in various outdoor activities despite the cold. Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, ice hockey, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are popular pastimes. The country boasts numerous ski resorts, ice rinks, and trails for these activities.
How Can I Visit Canada in Winter?
To enjoy a winter festival in Canada, you’ll need a visitor's visa or an (Electronic Travel Authorization) eTA, depending on where you’re visiting from. This visa will grant you 90 days in the country. If you’d like to explore Canada for longer, you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa if you’re from one of Canada’s partnering countries and meet the eligibility requirements.
Where Can I See the Northern Lights?
In the northern parts of Canada, particularly in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, you have the chance to witness the mesmerizing aurora borealis (northern lights) during the winter months. This natural phenomenon draws visitors from around the world.