When you think of Canada, what comes to mind? Winter all year round, moose-spotting, ice hockey, bacon and maple syrup, free health care and friendly locals, right? Well, this is somewhat true, but in fact, it's so much more than that. As the second largest country in the world, spanning over 6 time zones, Canada offers a wealth of prospects and attributes that are simply unparalleled. Think multicultural communities with a vivacious culture, a thriving economy, exceptional health care and education systems, all set against the cool backdrop of towering snow-covered mountains, bounteous lakes, endless landscapes and jagged coastlines. But, before your book that flight, let's take a look at all things Canadian and the best times to indulge in them.
There are 3 main factors to look at when deciding when to travel to any foreign country:
Canadian winters last from mid-December to mid-March but no 2 provinces are alike. For example, it is rare that you would experience heavy snowfall or sub-zero temperatures in Vancouver in winter, whereas Montreal winters are freezing cold with a multitude of extreme snowstorms hitting throughout the season. Peak season is usually during the summer months of mid-June through September. Days are warm and popular tourist destinations are cities like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Summer is generally the most popular time to visit Canada but, for an exceptional experience, the best time for travel has to be during the fall months, from September through November. The weather is fresh and the sea of summer crowds have departed, leaving you to enjoy the fall foliage, festivals and reduced prices. With so much to do and see in this vast beautiful country and the weather varying from province to province, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when would be the best time to visit for you.
It is also important to remember that the time of year you decide to embark on your travels will not only affect your budget but availability too. So depending on whether you want to avoid the bustling crowds, take part in winter activities like snowmobiling and dog sledding or simply to join in the festivities, be sure to book early to avoid expensive flights and struggling to find affordable accommodation. So let's take a look at your seasonal options.
Early May - End June
This is a great time to explore Canada as there are few tourists and prices are reasonable. This is officially the beginning of the tourist season but the first two weeks of May are generally not busy.
July to August
This is the peak tourist season throughout Canada, which means that you may have to book 6 to 9 months in advance to ensure availability and better prices to visit popular attractions and locations. Prices are naturally higher and days can get quite hot.
September and October
The weather is balmy, although the evenings can be quite nippy, and trees are adorned with brilliant hues of red and gold. By then the summer tourists are homeward bound which means lower prices, making this an ideal time to visit Canada.
This is generally not the best time to visit Canada due to its cold and rainy weather, and the trees are bare. This may, however, be a great time to visit bigger cities such as Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.
The holiday season rings in pleasant snow conditions and is lively and bustling due to Christmas and New Years celebrations. It is advised that you book at least 6 months in advance.
This is the coldest month of the year, which means fewer tourists, making it the least expensive month for winter travel.
This is when temperatures start to rise and schools are on Spring break. Lots of tourists and families opt to go on vacation at this time which means an increase in prices and early booking is a must.
The weather is pleasant and spring-like with plenty of sunny days.
- January - March: The Northern Lights.
- January: Ottawa Skateway, the world’s largest natural ice rink.
- April: Hiking in the Rockies.
- February - March: Skiing in Banff and Whistler.
- May: National Parks (before peak season starts), puffin and whale watching on the Atlantic Coast (where you’ll be sure to see humpbacks, minkes and belugas).
- June - All hiking trails are open, lakes have thawed and wildlife is increasingly more active. Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Magnificent mountain ranges are now uncovered from previously heavy laden snow and mountain ranges, forest valleys, lakes and glaciers are now accessible.
- September to October: This is the perfect time for most outdoor activities, in particular, Niagara Falls as there are fewer crowds. Salmon run means it is a great time to spot grizzlies in Bute Cove and black bears fishing. October’s colder temperatures means it is the perfect time to see polar bears migrating to their summer habitat.
- October - May: In Newfoundland, the Maritime Provinces and the North, tourist infrastructures close down completely.
- November to December: Ice skating, White water rafting (Caribou), Heli-hiking (Banff), Tree trek canopy Walk (Whistler), Alberta Dinosaur badlands, Yoho National Park hiking and Moraine Lake should all feature on your to-do list.
- All Year Round:
- Quebec: Visit Harbour market and be sure to try some of Quebec’s famous cheese.
- Victoria (Fort Street): Known for its urban delicatessens and locally owned restaurants.
- Vancouver food trucks tours: You can enjoy gastronomic treats like wild smoked salmon and Japanese artisan hotdogs.
Events Not to be Missed!
Canada hosts a wide array of vibrant holidays and festivals throughout the year, so it suffices to say that the season won’t really affect your travel plans too much. Events that should not be missed are:
January to March
- January: Winterlicious(Toronto) - a restaurant festival where some of the city's best chefs serve affordable pre-fixed menus.
- February: Winter Carnival(Quebec) - a 2-and-a-half-week (14 nights) long celebration of winter. It is the world’s largest winter festival and is noted for its incredible ice and snow sculptures.
- February: Festival du Voyageur(Manitoba) celebrates Saint-Boniface's French-Canadian heritage. This week-long festival includes snow sculptures as well as activities such as dog-sledging, and skating.
- Winterlude (Ottawa) - Why not skate around the world’s largest skating rink whilst taking in the breathtaking scenery of the city.
- March: Go maple syrup tasting in Quebec and Ontario or visit Vancouver’s annual cherry blossom festival.
- March: Pacific Rim Whale Festival - This is your chance to spot over 20,000 whales migrate to Canada’s coastline.
- April: Celebrating over 100 documentaries, Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival(Toronto), is North America's largest festival of its kind.
- April: Vancouver Sun Run - This 10-kilometre race is Canada's largest, and the second-largest in North America.
- Victoria Day is a national holiday in Canada that falls on the Monday before May 25. There's usually a small swell in domestic travel and you can expect government agencies, schools, and banks to be closed.
- The Canadian Tulip Festival is held over 10 days in Ottawa. Visitors can stroll through the tulip market, visit art exhibitions, and much more.
June to July
- June: Montreal Jazz Festival is the largest of it’s kind and draws thousands of global jazz artists and enthusiasts, with hundreds of concerts to choose from, most of which are free of charge.
- The Banff Summer Arts Festival brings music, film, theatre, and dance performances to Banff, Alberta, every summer.
- July: Calgary Stampede or the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth - a 10-day annual festival that started as an agricultural fair celebrating cowboy culture now draws in rodeo competitors from across the globe who compete head to head for a 2 million dollar prize. You can also enjoy activities such as barrelling racing, bull riding, saddle bronc, steer wrestling and tie-down roping. Each year more than a million are drawn to the festival to partake in these activities as well as the celebration of ranching heritage.
- July 1 is Canada Day, a celebration similar to July 4 in the U.S. Expect fireworks and other patriotic festivities.
- August: Edmonton Folk Festival has grown to be one of the world's premier folk festivals and never fails to deliver an outstanding lineup with reasonable ticket prices.
- September: Labour Day weekend - Most locals tend to go away for weekend retreats which means higher prices.
- The Vancouver Fringe, held every September, celebrates the art of all things theatrical, presenting a variety of live performances.
- The Toronto International Film Festival takes place in September, screening more than 375 films as well as hosting approximately 500, 000 people every year.
- October: Oktoberfest is the equivalent to the famed German festival and runs for two weeks in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.
- August - November: The Salmon Run - Salmon return from the ocean in droves, returning to rivers on the west coast for spawning.
- Ottawa hosts the two-day Ottawa Food & Wine Show in the first week of November. It draws nearly 25,000 guests annually and boasts more than 1, 400 different wines and spirits to sample.
- Mid-November: Toronto Santa Claus Parade - This is one of the largest parades in North America. Brimming with festivity and decorative floats, it attracts over half a million people each year.
- Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights in Ontario is a spectacular event that kicks off in November but runs throughout January. It includes a three-mile route of lighted displays as well as fireworks over the falls.
August to November
November to January
Enticed to visit Canada? Remember that you’ll need a visa to visit one of these beautiful destinations. There are 2 types of visitor or tourist visas - a single or multiple entry. A single entry visa will allow you to enter the country once and to travel throughout Canada before leaving. You will only need a multiple entry if you plan on travelling in and out of Canada.
For more information on visa requirements, as well as how to go about applying for your tourist visa be sure to visit our blog. Better yet, if you’re looking for a more permanent change, we can help too. We know that this can be quite an arduous task, so why not let one of our informed RCIC professionals guide you through the immigration process. All you have to do is click here to get the ball rolling on the assessment process and you’ll be one step closer to actualising your dreams of travelling to Canada!