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Fun and Budget-Friendly Winter Activities

Updated: March 7th, 2024

Canada, the second largest country in the world, has large parts of its landscape above North America's temperate climate zone according to the Koppen climate classification. This makes the country one of the coldest in the world during winter.

As winter's chilly embrace settles in the Northern Hemisphere, many Canadians have developed a lot of fun and affordable ways to spend Canada’s winter months instead of entirely shrinking away from the world. From adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures to cozy indoor escapes, there's something for everyone to enjoy without breaking the bank.

Grab your mittens, bundle up, and join us as we uncover the top fun and affordable winter activities that will keep you entertained all season long!

Winter Activities in Canada

winter actiivities in canada

Canada embraces winter, transforming it into a playground for frosty fun and unique experiences. Every winter, Ottawa's Rideau Canal transforms into a 7.8 km (4.8 mile) skating rink, holding the title of the world's biggest naturally frozen skating rink. Canada isn't just known for its love of winter activities; it's also known as the birthplace of ice hockey. The sport originated in Nova Scotia in the mid-1800s and has since become Canada’s national pastime.

The Canadian National Winter Festival, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, boasts a unique "Speed Skating in a Mukluk" race competition. Participants race across a frozen river while wearing traditional mukluks, showcasing athleticism and cultural connection. Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba is known as the "Ice Fishing Capital of the World." Here, you'll find a vibrant community of ice anglers enjoying the sport and celebrating winter traditions!

Learn more about winter in Canada.

Top Fun and Budget-Friendly Winter Activities in Canada

Here are the various fun and budget-friendly activities you can do in Canada.

Ice Skating

Lace up your skates and glide across scenic rinks like the Rideau Canal in Ottawa or Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Many parks and public spaces also offer free skating opportunities, making it a budget-friendly and social activity. This includes free drop-in ice skating options offered at

Learn more about Ice Skating in Canada.

Explore Canada’s Winter Wonderlands On Foot

Strap on some snowshoes and embark on a peaceful trek through snowy forests or frozen landscapes. National parks like Banff, Jasper, Fundy and Yoho offer breathtaking winter scenery, while local trails provide a more intimate experience. Admission costs for these popular national parks can be outlined as followings.

Canadian National Parks Cost for Adults (CAD) Cost for Seniors (CAD) Cost for Youth (CAD) Cost for Families/Groups (CAD) Cost for Commercial Groups (CAD)
Banff 11.00 9.50 Free 22.00 9.35
Jasper 11.00 9.50 Free 22.00 9.35
Yoho 11.00 9.50 Free 22.00 9.35
Jasper 9.00 7.75 Free 17.50 7.65

You can explore and find public trails and natural areas on Parks Canada. Breathe in the crisp winter air and soak in the serene beauty of nature.

Learn which winter wonderlands to explore on foot via Canada’s National Parks.

Cozy Up By a Bonfire

Gather your loved ones around a crackling bonfire, roast marshmallows, and share stories under the starry winter sky for a cozy, cost-effective winter experience. It's a perfect way to warm up after a day of winter activities and create lasting memories. Be sure to check local regulations regarding fire safety and permits.

Marvel at Canada’s Winter Festivals

Immerse yourself in the festive spirit at winter carnivals like Quebec City's Winter Carnival or Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur. While these festivals have ticketed events, which cost 40.53 CAD and 128.33 CAD respectively, many offer free activities like live music, snow sculptures, and cultural demonstrations.

These festivals include:

Research your local festivals and take advantage of the free offers. Witness stunning ice creations, enjoy lively entertainment, and savor the delicious local cuisine.

Learn about the best winter festivals in Canada.

Go On a Photo Adventure in Canada

Capture the beauty of the frozen landscape with a winter photography expedition. Look for frozen waterfalls, snow-covered landscapes, or charming winter scenes in your local town. Explore your local area with your camera instead of spending money on expensive outings. Capture the beauty of winter landscapes and create lasting memories.

Enjoy Canada’s Winter Sports

Hit the slopes for skiing or snowboarding, or try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Many resorts offer free lift tickets and ski free offers during the off-peak season, making it an accessible winter activity. According to, these resorts include:

  • Apex Mountain Resort,
  • Castle Mountain,
  • Bromont,
  • Fernie Alpine Resort,
  • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort,
  • Kimberly Alpine Resort,
  • Lake Louise,
  • Mont Blanc,
  • Marble Mountain, and
  • Mont-Saint-Anne.

Learn more about the top 7 winter sports in Canada.

Relax in Canada’s Natural Hot Springs

Soak in natural hot springs' warm, mineral-rich waters and let your worries melt away. Popular destinations include Banff Upper Hot Springs, which has free admission for children under the age of three, in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and Lussier Hot Springs in British Columbia.

After a day of winter fun, unwind and rejuvenate in the naturally heated waters surrounded by stunning winter scenery. Canada’s hot springs, with the exception of Banff Upper Hot Springs are free for the public to explore.

Explore Your Local Canadian Museums And Art Galleries

Escape the cold and delve into culture at museums and art galleries. Many institutions offer free admission or discounted rates on specific days. Immerse yourself in art exhibitions, historical artifacts, or fascinating cultural displays, and broaden your horizons during winter. Some examples of free museums and galleries in Canada include

  • Spadina Museum,
  • The Market Gallery,
  • Aga Khan Museum,
  • Contemporary Art Gallery,
  • Canadian War Museum, and
  • National Gallery of Canada.

Learn more about the Canadian Festival and Cultural Attractions.

Warm Up With a Cup of Hot Chocolate In One of Canada’s Many Cafes

Savor a steaming mug of hot chocolate after a day of winter fun. Local cafes and restaurants often have delicious winter-themed discounted drink offers to attract customers during the winter.

With rich chocolate flavors and cozy spices, warm up from the inside out and enjoy a delightful treat. Canada’s affordable cafes are further reflected when compared to cafe costs in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) according to Numbeo.

Countries Cost of Cappucinno at a Cafe (CAD)
United States 6.86
United Kingdom 5.37
Canada 5.07

Go Snowshoeing

Go on a winter adventure with snowshoeing, a budget-friendly activity suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Explore snowy trails, forests, and frozen lakes while enjoying the winter scenery. It's a great way to exercise, connect with nature, and appreciate the beauty of winter. Prominent parks and trails that provide free snowshoeing opportunities include:

Learn more about snowshoeing with outdoor activities in Canada.

Experience The Thrill of Tobogganing in Canada

Also known as sledding, tobogganing is a classic winter activity children and adults enjoy. Lace up your boots or rent snowshoes and embark on a scenic winter hike or snowshoeing adventure free of charge. Head to a local hill, grab a toboggan or sled, and zoom down the slopes for a dose of winter fun and laughter.

View The Northern Lights

While not exclusive to winter, the colder months offer the best chance to witness the awe-inspiring Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Travel to northern regions like Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut to witness this mesmerizing natural phenomenon of dancing lights in the night sky.

What Are Some Tips For Saving Money on Winter Activities in Canada?

what are some tips for saving money on winter actiivities in canada

Here are the most prominent things to do to save money on winter activities in Canada.

Be Strategic With Your Equipment

Canadian winters are magical, but keeping warm while pursuing fun activities shouldn't empty your wallet. Here are some clever strategies to maximize your winter fun with minimal equipment investment.

Affordable Equipment Investments  Description
Borrow or Rent Instead of purchasing equipment you might only use a few times, consider borrowing from friends or family or renting from local shops. This can be especially cost-effective for skis, snowboards, or snowshoes.
Invest in Layers Invest in versatile clothing items you can layer for warmth. This eliminates the need for buying a bulky winter coat you might only wear occasionally. Thermal clothing, base layers, and good winter boots are key winter essentials.
Check for Second-Hand Options Consider buying gently used winter gear from thrift stores, consignment shops, or online marketplaces. You can find good quality items at a fraction of the retail price.

Plan Your Activities

Let's explore the many creative ways to plan your activities in Canada and ensure your experience of the magic of its winter season doesn’t empty your wallet.

Planning Your Activities  Description
Off-Peak Season Many winter activities like skiing or snowboarding offer cheaper lift tickets and rentals during the off-peak season. Consider visiting during weekdays or shoulder seasons to save on costs.
Pack Your Own Food and Drinks Bringing your snacks and drinks eliminates the expense of purchasing them at concession stands or cafes. Pack thermoses with hot beverages and healthy snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day.
Carpool or Use Public Transportation When traveling to your chosen activity, consider carpooling with friends or utilizing public transportation options. This can save on gas and parking costs.
Look for Deals and Discounts Many attractions and businesses offer discounts to students, seniors, or families. Check their websites or social media pages for ongoing promotions or special offers.

How Can I Visit And Participate in Canada’s Winter Activities?

Canada welcomes visitors from around the world to experience its winter wonderland and offers various visa options depending on your intended purpose and duration of stay. Here's a breakdown of some common visa options that might be relevant for participating in winter activities:

Canada’s Visitor Visa

A Canada Visitor Visa is the most common visa option for short-term stays in Canada, typically valid for up to 6 months. It allows you to participate in tourism activities, including winter festivals, sightseeing, and recreational pursuits like skiing or snowshoeing. You can apply online or through a visa application center in your home country.

IEC Working Holiday

International Experience Canada’s Working Holiday Visa (WHV) program is targeted towards younger individuals (18-35 years old, depending on your home country) who want to work and travel in Canada for an extended period (usually up to 12 months).

It allows you to work temporary jobs to support your travel and living expenses while experiencing Canadian life, including winter activities during your free time.

Learn why you should go on a Working Holiday in Canada.

Super Visa

The Super Visa is designed for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents to visit for extended stays (up to 2 years). While not specifically intended for winter activities, it allows your family members to join you in Canada during winter and participate in various winter festivities or celebrations. Processing times can be lengthy, so applying well in advance is essential.

Study Permit

If you're interested in studying in Canada while participating in winter activities, consider applying for a study permit. This option allows you to enroll in a full-time academic program at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.

International students typically have free time during winter breaks to explore winter activities and enjoy the season. Remember, studying in Canada comes with tuition fees and living expenses, so careful financial planning is necessary.

Student Direct Stream

If you’re an international student from 14 participating Latin, African, and Asian countries, you can use the Student Direct Stream (SDS) to apply for a study permit faster than the standard process, usually as fast as 20 Calendar days. This benefits international students who want to visit Canada and experience its fun winter wonders urgently. So, consider this option to combine academic studies with winter activities.

Find out more about how to get a Canada study permit.



How Can I Stay Warm And Safe While Enjoying Winter Activities?

To stay warm and safe during winter activities, dress in layers, wear waterproof clothing, and don't forget gloves, hats, and insulated boots. Additionally, always check weather forecasts, stay hydrated, and avoid risky activities in extreme conditions.

Are There Any Winter Activities That Are Good For Kids?

Winter activities suitable for kids include building snowmen, having snowball fights, ice skating, and making snow angels, providing endless fun and excitement for the whole family.

What if I Don't Live in a Canadian Area With Snow?

If you don't live in a snowy Canadian area, you can still enjoy winter activities such as ice skating at indoor rinks, hiking, visiting winter festivals, or trying out winter sports like ice hockey or curling at local facilities.

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