While our Christmas season is sure to look a little bit different this year, the good news is that our favourite ways to celebrate Christmas in Canada should remain relatively unchanged. While beach-goers will have limited options this winter, there are many magical spots to enjoy Christmas with friends and family in Canada.
Christmas in Canada
If ever there was a destination designed for the holidays, spending Christmas in Canada, would be it. They don’t call it the Great White North for nothing, and if you’re looking for a white Christmas, you’re sure to find it. Couple that with dazzling light displays and heart warming Christmas Markets, there’s no shortage of ways to get yourself into the holiday spirit. Here’s a look at the most Christmasy spots for spending the holidays in Canada.
Note: Due to Covid-19, some events described below may be subject to change.
Snowflakes fluttering gracefully to the ground make no sound, but the cheery jingle of sleigh bells is your cue that you’re in one of the world’s most Christmasy destinations. A postcard perfect holiday is easily obtained in Banff National Park. Surrounded by snowcapped peaks, you’ll sip hot chocolate by the fireplace after alfresco adventures in the invigorating alpine air has left you rosy cheeked and more calm than you’ve surely felt in weeks.
Take a twirl on a frozen lake, slip into a horse driven sleigh or barrel down the slopes at one of the three ski resorts just outside of town. You can stay slope-side Sunshine Mountain Lodge, go snow tubing at Mt. Norquay (they also offer night-skiing) or check out the ice castle built near Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Shopping at the Banff Christmas Market can’t be missed, nor can wandering along Banff Avenue, where Canada’s largest year-round Christmas store is situated. Even if you’re not staying at Fairmont Banff Springs, you’ll want to wander in to suss out Christmas at the Castle. Their halls are totally decked out with too many Christmas trees to count. There’s crafts with Mrs. Claus, festive cocktails and outdoor fires to roast marshmallows on. You’d be hard pressed to find another hotel that goes all out for the holidays in Canada.
Identical wooden huts strung with lights make the Vancouver Christmas Market a worthy consolation if you can’t make it over to Germany to experience their epic Christmas markets. This European inspired market boasts over 80 local artisan vendors, holiday entertainment, an adorable carousel, and yes, Santa! The market opens every November and is held at Jack Pool Plaza.
From December 1 to January 31, Capilano Suspension Bridge park is lit up for the holiday season during Canyon Lights. The suspension bridge, cliff walk, rainforest and canyon areas are decked out with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, turning the canyon into a Christmas wonderland.
For more dazzling displays, head to Stanley Park for their Bright Nights displays, best viewed via a miniature train. Don’t leave the city without ice skating at Robson Square or checking out the holiday programming at Canada Place.
One of the oldest cities in North America, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when navigating through the cobblestone streets of old Quebec. The fairytale charm is laid on even more so during the holidays, and nowhere is that more evident than at the Christmas Market at Place de l’hotel-de-ville.
Here you’ll find a German-style market located in the heart of Old Quebec. The market recreates the fantasy and history of a European Christmas market, while also offering local delicacies (maple taffy!) and artisanal gifts. Get your shopping done, catch a performance or take the kids to visit Santa Claus. The market also has its own KinderMarkt, set up specially for children.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
It wouldn’t be Christmas in Newfoundland without some Mummering. This tradition happens over the holidays and includes visits from friends and family dressed in disguise. The visitors are welcomed into the home and they put on informal performances, while the hosts try to guess the true identity of the visitors. Once the visitors are identified, they move onto the next house to visit other friends, but not before a wee tipple to be sure!
Every year, St. John’s hosts a festival and parade to encourage the Mummering tradition, which you won’t find outside of Newfoundland, Ireland or the U.K.
Home to the oldest running German Christmas Market in Canada, Winnipeg’s Christkindlmarkt offers German specialities including mulled wine, German chocolates, stollen and more. Local vendors and entertainers from the area bring festive joy, and all proceeds go towards supporting local German culture and education.
For the ultimate Christmas gift to yourself, check out Thermea Nordic Spa. It’s only a few minutes from downtown and focuses on the multi-sensory experience of being immersed nature. Even in the freezing cold! The spa has several outdoor baths, distinct saunas, an exfoliation room and numerous indoor and outdoor rest areas.
Those looking for the convenience of having all their winter fun in one place out to check out Arctic Glacier Winter Park at The Forks, National Historic Site in downtown Winnipeg. Here, you can skate on 1km of trails, play hockey and glide under a canopied skating rink that’s transformed into a dance floor. There’s Indigenous Programming, a toboggan hill and even Crokicurl, a combination of curling and Cronkinole. You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse Canadiana experience.
Christmas in Ottawa
Anytime of year there’s much to explore in Canada’s capital, but Christmas in Ottawa is really special. During the winter months, Ottawa is aglow with Christmas lights. The heart of the light show is found at Parliament Hill.
The illumination ceremony is laced with lights, music and entertainment. Additionally, Ottawa is ablaze with winter lightscapes projected onto the centre block of Parliament Hill. Layer that with the rest of the city’s lit up buildings and you’ve got one dazzling demonstration of the holiday spirit.
After the holidays, you’ll want to take to the Rideau Canal. The largest skating rink in the world typically opens in February and allows you to glide your way through the city, pausing at rest areas along the way set up with fires and snacks to keep you toasty warm. On that note, also consider warming up in the saunas and outdoor plunge pools at Le Nordik, Canada’s largest day spa, situated just minutes from downtown Ottawa.
A 30-minute drive outside of Ottawa lies Almonte, a town that looks straight out of a Christmas movie. I guess that’s why they’re filming a new Hallmark holiday movie there. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right onto the set with a winter visit, but the very best time to explore is on the first Friday of December for Light Up the Night, a wintery open-air concert.
Christmas in Mont Tremblant
While Christmas in Mont Tremblant can be busy (book early!), there’s a reason for its popularity. Set snuggly within the Laurentian Mountains, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Europe with all the brightly coloured shops and restaurants lining the pedestrian village.
Most resorts sport heated outdoor pools, in-room fireplaces and here’s tonnes of winter activities to do from skiing to horse sledding to ice climbing. Though Jody is a Rocky Mountain snob, even she was impressed with the quality of runs for snowboarders.
Besides numerous options for gourmet hot chocolates, waffles and maple taffy, there’s a host of beautiful restaurants showcasing both nouvelle and traditional French cuisine. Plunge chunks of bread into a gooey cheese fondue at La Savoie or tuck into duck confit with the most delectable duck fat fries at Le QC.
Lodging privileges at Mt. Tremblant resorts give guests access to first tracks, complimentary ice skates and evening snow tubing.
Christmas in Edmonton
One of the many reasons why it’s worth spending Christmas in Edmonton is that this provincial capital is one of the few Canadian cities where you can actually see the Aurora Borealis AKA the northern lights! In Edmonton, the northern lights are visible about 90 days of the year, and your best shot to view them is between October and March.
To see them best, you might may have to drive a bit out of the city to get away from the light pollution. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to see them, a website like Aurora Watch is the best way to forecast what night will be best.
Wander through an ice castle
Edmonton is home a fairytale-esque Ice Castle! With a throne room, waterfall, ice maze, ice slide and icy art creations, it’s as awe-inspiring as you’d expect. Perfect for a romantic date night or family-friendly activity, it’s particularly lovely to visit in dreary January, after the all the holiday magic has dissipated.
Visit Candy Cane Lane
Edmonton’s Crestwood neighbourhood puts on an epic display of Christmas lights that puts the Griswold’s to shame. Candy Cane Lane has been running every Christmas for the last 50 years. This tradition is so important to the neighbourhood that when people move, they often leave their decorations for the next owners to keep it going. This free event runs along 148 street between 99 and 92 avenues. In non-COVID years, you could even take a sleigh ride along Candy Cane Lane.
What’s your favourite way to enjoy Christmas in Canada?
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