The short answer? Any time of year is the best time to visit Canada.
In December you’ll find fabulous Christmas markets such as Toronto’s Distillery District’s and, of course, Canada’s wild landscapes look spectacular covered in snow. Come spring, the melting snow forms cascading waterfalls and it’s a great time for hiking to find them. In summer it can be surprisingly warm, the perfect time for some wild swimming. And in the autumn, the fall foliage displays easily rival those found anywhere else in the world.
What the weather will be like at any particular time of year will, of course, depend on where in Canada you visit. It’s a vast country, with the far north in the arctic circle and its most southerly towns and cities on the same latitudes as some of the hottest places in Europe.
Did you know? The city of Colchester in Ontario, is on the same latitude as Rome.
As I found out when I visited British Columbia in June, the weather patterns can vary greatly even within a single province. While I was on the Sunshine Coast of Canada, the 100-or-so miles of coastline northwest of Vancouver, the region certainly lived up to its name, with the temperatures reaching as high as 28 °C, warm enough for a dip in the sea. A few days later, after catching the ferry to Vancouver Island and driving to Tofino on the island’s North Pacific Coast, the weather couldn’t have been more different. While we had a fabulous time bear and whale watching, I was surprised at how much colder it was there, despite being further south. Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, it may be colder or hotter than you expect (and quite possibly both). But whatever the weather, nothing dampens the warm spirit of the people of Canada — it’s one of the friendliest countries I have ever visited.
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To help you decide when would be the best time to travel to Canada for you, here’s my guide to things to do in the different seasons.
Things to do in Canada in the winter
Visit the frosty Niagara Falls where beautiful ice sculptures form, go ice skating in the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or skiing in Banff in the Rocky Mountains, Canada’s oldest national park. Sleigh rides, dogsled tours, snowmobiling and ice walks can all be enjoyed here in a sublime mountainous setting of glaciers, valleys and lakes.
Did you know? The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is the largest natural skating rink in the world. It’s nearly 5 miles long and for some commuters it’s the quickest way to get to work!
My most recent visit to Canada was in late March/early April, although the weather was more typical of much earlier in the year. The snowy scenery was breathtaking and it was fascinating to see people with their RVs camping out on frozen lakes and ice fishing. Neill and I enjoyed walks across the ice-covered lakes, snowshoeing through wintery woodlands and a road trip around a frosty Lake Superior.
One evening, we built a fire on the snow and ice beside a lake (not on the frozen lake as people once used to do, before they realised the harm this did to the environment). We chatted around the fire and it was the perfect time to make use of a gift from one of Neill’s relatives, a hand-knitted pair of mittens, with one shaped to cup a can of beer in it. How ingenious!
Canada’s winters can be mighty cold but if you have the right clothes with you this shouldn’t be a problem. Layering your clothing is a good idea, so you can add or remove layers as the temperature changes. When it’s really cold I even need two layers of gloves.
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Things to do in Canada in the spring
The first signs of spring in Canada are the exquisite cherry blossoms in British Columbia at the beginning of March, while in Whistler and Banff the skiing season is in full swing and carries on into May.
Meanwhile, in the more easterly provinces of Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, spring sees spirals of smoke rising up from the forests. Springtime is maple tapping time, when the first sap collected from maple trees is boiled and reduced to syrup. The tradition goes way back — the first nations taught early settlers how to collect the sap and make the syrup.
Did you know? It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Quebec province alone produces 77% of the entire world’s supply.
A visit to Gilbertson’s maple farm on St Joseph Island in Ontario.
Gilbertson’s have been producing maple syrup since 1936. We visited on a bank holiday this spring, so it was understandably busy, with over an hour’s wait to get a table in the onsite restaurant. To stave off hunger, we tried the maple syrup taffy (lollipops) before touring the farm in a trailer pulled by a tractor to see the trees being tapped. A look around the gift shop with its tempting treats also helped pass the time and it didn’t seem that long before we were settling down at our table.
It was well worth the wait. I thoroughly enjoyed my French toast smothered in maple syrup with maple bacon and maple baked beans, all drizzled in maple syrup. Deliciously sinful!
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Spring is also a great time for hiking, whether snowshoes are necessary, as was the case during our most recent visit, or not. You could visit the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa. It’s the largest tulip festival in the world with parades, fireworks, live music and three million or so tulips! Another option, and one of my personal favourites, is a driving tour of Canadian wineries, most notably in Okanagan, British Columbia and Niagara, Ontario.
Did you know? In the spring of 1962 in Pincher Creek, Alberta, a Chinook (a wind system named for a First Nation’s term for ‘snow eater’) caused the temperature to rise 41°C in an hour, from -19°C to 22°C.
Things to do in Canada in the summer
Summer is the perfect time to swim or kayak in Canada’s beautiful lakes, go whale-watching, hike through forests or camp in the wilderness of the Northern Territories — the Yukon is high on my wish list. While there are festivals happening year-round, the summer is the key festival season, with events celebrating food and drink, music and comedy and including, of course, possibly the most famous event of all, The Calgary Stampede — cowboy hats are optional but you might feel a bit out of place without one! Look out for local farmers’ markets too. Here you’ll discover fabulous things to eat and drink and you’ll get a feel for the warm sense of community found across Canada.
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Did you know? There’s a website dedicated to breakfasts at the Calgary Stampede. Rumour has it that if you do your homework, you can eat a FREE breakfast of pancakes, bacon and other delicious delights each day of the 10 day event.
Canada’s summer festival highlights
Mondial de la Bière, beer festival
Just For Laughs, comedy festival
Fringe, comedy festival
Taste of Edmonton, food festival
Folk Fest, folk music festival
The Calgary Stampede, cowboy festival (one of Canada’s most iconic events).
PNE Fair (Pacific National Exhibition)
Celebration of Light, fireworks competition
Caribbean Carnival, music and arts festival
Canada Day 1st July marks the birth of Canada as a country. Don red and white clothing and enjoy the fireworks and celebrations.
Things to do in Canada in the autumn
I’ve yet to visit Canada in autumn, however, on more than one occasion I’ve gazed out across a beautiful vista and wondered what that view would look like when the fall foliage is at its height. It must be a wonderful time for hiking woodland trails. I have heard that the autumnal displays, particularly in the eastern provinces, are just as impressive as any you’ll find elsewhere in the world. I hope to find out for myself one day. Top of my wishlist is a return visit to the Algoma region of Ontario to catch the train from Sault Ste. Marie to the Agawa Canyon.
Did you know? Searching for the best fall foliage display is known as leaf peeping. In Ontario, be sure to follow the Fall Colour Progression Report.
Autumn is another popular time for wine touring, with the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival held each September. Also keep a lookout for fall fairs and pumpkin festivals. And the second Monday of October is Canadian Thanksgiving, a popular time for travel.
Winter, spring, summer or autumn, Canada is a country for all seasons and I can’t wait to return one day and discover more about this spectacular and welcoming country. If you have been to Canada or are lucky enough to live there, what’s your favourite season? When do you think is the best time to visit Canada?
To learn more about how you can plan an epic Canadian adventure of your own visit ExploreCanada.co.uk.
Disclosure: This article was brought to you in association with Destination Canada.
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