It’s time to start planning your winter escape! Thinking of spending white Christmas in Canada with you S/O? Use this list of best Christmas destinations to plan your Christmas vacation in Canada.
To get you into the holiday spirit, we curated this article showcasing the best places to go for Christmas, as well as where to see Christmas lights during the holiday season, fun and frosty winter festivals, traditional Canadian Christmas traditions and magical Christmas markets not to be missed!
Best Cities for Christmas in Canada
When it comes to where to go for Christmas in Canada, Ottawa immediately springs to mind. The capital city of Canada goes wild and sparkles with holiday cheer.
Ottawa Christmas is brimming with all types of festive activities. From skating to relaxing in the nordic spa to watching the Santa Clause parade, Ottawa really transforms into a winter wonderland.
One of the best Ottawa Christmas events unquestionably is the Christmas Lights Across Canada. Introduced in 1985, this Ottawa light show program brings joy to the season with projection lighting. Combining with sound and technology, you’ll see Parliament Hill comes to life with imagery inspired by Canada’s nature, climate and culture! It takes place from early December to early January.
If you prefer to stay warm, Magic of Lights at Wesley Clover Parks is a great alternative. This Ottawa Christmas lights event, running from late November to early January, is a drive-through experience displaying nearly one million LED lights over two km. On the way, you’ll come across a 200-foot light tunnel and animations of iconic winter characters like snowmen, elves and more!
One of the must-dos in Ottawa at Christmas is trying the BeaverTails pastry – a real Ottawa delicacy! True that these whole-wheat pastries can be enjoyed year-round in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, but there is nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on skates on the frozen Rideau Canal in winter!
New this year is the Ottawa Christmas Market at Lansdowne Park. It is Ottawa’s first European-style Christmas Market. Not only will there be local vendors selling crafts and delicious baked goods, but will also have live entertainment, a central bar, fire pits, Christmas trees, and spectacular light installations onsite to get you in the holiday mood! The Ottawa Christmas Market will take place Fridays through Sundays from November 29 to December 22 this year.
With all these celebratory events, you could never be bored. It’s no wonder Ottawa is one of the best places to visit for Christmas!
Contributed by Lindsay from Step into Jordan
Whistler is one of the best places to travel for Christmas, and not just because being on a world-class ski hill is going to guarantee you a white Christmas! It is also one of the few places that you can be guaranteed to have a white Christmas on the west coast of Canada, as areas around Vancouver do not usually have snow over the holidays!
The obvious winter activities in Whistler are skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. There are also light walks, ziplining and tons of other fun winter activities. All of these together are what make Whistler a world-class destination! And these activities are available all winter – perfect for those who’d like to have an action-filled Christmas holiday in Canada.
Some of the Whistler Christmas events include the festival of trees at the Four Seasons, the indoor holiday experience at the Whistler Conference Centre featuring games, a bouncy castle, and crafts, the Christmas Eve Church service at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Santa Claus visits in various hotels.
The ski hills are open on Christmas day for those who want to spend the holiday on the slopes. It is a busy time to be on the mountain as visitors from all over the world holiday in Whistler and locals from the Vancouver Area spend Christmas break up on the ski hill.
Pro tip: If you are planning on visiting over Christmas, be sure to book your accommodation early!
3| Banff & Lake Louise
Why not considering spending Christmas in the Rockies? Banff and Lake Louise are the best Christmas towns in Canada to visit for the holidays. With strings of Christmas lights and snow-covered trees line the streets, these towns will transport you into a realm of fantasy!
Banff Christmas Market runs through two weekends in November (15th-17th & 22nd-24th), giving visitors the opportunity to shop for handcrafted gifts. The Market takes place at Warners Stables, less than 20 mins walk from downtown Banff. Enjoy the jolly atmosphere with culinary delights, warm beverages, and Christmas carols!
When visiting Banff for Christmas, we recommend stopping by the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for Christmas at the Castle. Every day in December there’s something fun going on to help you discover the holiday magic! Gingerbread House Making with Mrs. Claus, Christmas Afternoon Tea, Skating with Santa are some fun events worth checking out!
Mountaintop Christmas at Banff Gondola has quickly become the new Christmas tradition. Santa and his elves ditch the sleigh to bring you Christmas joy at the summit. Start with cookie decorating at his bakeshop, a romantic meal at Sky Bistro, and then wrap up with a classic Christmas film. You will experience the Christmas season like never before!
Lake Louise Christmas
For those who want to hit the slopes, Lake Louise Ski Resort is no doubt one of the best places for Christmas. On December 21st & 22nd, Santa Claus will be out skiing with his elves. Make sure to bring the camera for a photo with him! On December 24th, the ski lodge will put up the Magical Christmas Feast for all to enjoy a succulent turkey dinner.
If you’re staying over at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can sign up for guided adventures. A visit to the Johnston Canyon Icefalls, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing after dark are wonderful ways to build Christmastime memories!
Covering in fluffy snow, the city turns into a mesmerizing winter wonderland in the holiday season. Indoors or outdoors, there are many joyful ways for couples to enjoy Calgary Christmas.
Running three consecutive weekends in the month of November, Spruce Meadows Christmas Market is the ideal place for locals go shopping for world-imported items and handcrafted gifts. The Calgary Christmas market houses more than 300 vendors, offering one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. With live musical performances and 74 km-long twinkling Christmas lights, Spruce Meadows will bring you a sense of celebration and romance.
Pro Tip: Advance tickets purchased online will save you $2 off the regular admission of $12/person.
One of our favourite Christmas events in Calgary is Once Upon A Christmas at Heritage Park. Couples can immerse in the joy of the season by going on festive wagon rides, singing carols, or visiting old Saint Nick for festive photos. It’s an old-fashioned Christmas like no other that transports you back in time to old Yuletide traditions. The Once Upon A Time Christmas Breakfast Buffet will also be open, served at the Wainright Hotel and Gunn’s Dairy Barn (make sure to buy your tickets in advance!).
To see Christmas lights in Calgary, we recommend Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo. Over 2 million holiday lights and 200 sparkling displays take over the zoo grounds. Couples can walk through outdoors and indoors to interact with displays and capture Christmas-y Instagram-able moments! The event runs nightly from November 22nd through January 4th, 2020.
Polar Express™ Train Ride at Aspen Crossing gives you a romantic Christmas train experience in Calgary. The train ride takes approximately an hour. Included in your golden train ticket are hot chocolate and cookies served on board, caroling, as well as a reading from The Polar Express™ book. Even better, couples can come dressed cozy and warm in their pajamas as part of the Polar Express™ Christmas theme!
Want to stay warm indoors? You can enjoy some holiday fun at Noel Christmas Festival, opening for the first time this year in Calgary. The indoor Christmas Lights festival, located on Stampede Park in the Nutrien Centre, starts on November 28th running until December 31st. In addition to the four themed light parks, Santa’s Village, food trucks, and a fully licensed artisan vendor market can also be found on the grounds. It’s a one-of-a-kind Calgary Christmas experience you don’t want to miss.
Contributed by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Vancouver is a lovely city all year round but is especially endearing when the night falls dark early and the city lights bring about a new buzz. The odds of a snow-covered ground are low, making it one of the best places to visit during Christmas for people who don’t like wearing layers of heavy, uncomfortable clothing.
There are a variety of festive things to do in Vancouver in winter. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the Downtown events, parades, and of course, shopping.
Vancouver’s main shopping drag is Robson Street where you can pick up popular branded items. If you are looking for something more bespoke, head to Granville Island for local craft jewelry or art.
Hycroft Manor is also a unique shopping spot as the mansion decks its halls and gives space to local vendors.
There are several Christmas activities in Vancouver including Vancouver Santa Claus Parade, the Festival of Lights, Glow Vancouver, Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park, and Vancouver Singing Christmas Tree.
The Christmas parade sees Santa and city dancers take over the streets for one day while the Festival of Lights is a month-long event at VanDusen Botanical Garden. Glow Vancouver is a hit with the Instagram crew, couples, and families.
For a more interactive experience, hop on Vancouver’s Christmas train at the Stanley Park Train Plaza. The dazzling locomotive will wind through the forest decorated with over 3 million twinkling lights, surprising visitors with breathtaking displays and live performance.
The most impressive performance is the Singing Christmas Tree. Vancouver Broadway Church hosts the free event over the course of 6 days in December, enchanting guests with the singing choir, mini skits, acrobatics, dancing and even people floating down from the ceiling!
Vancouver also has a Christmas Market with the typical European huts kitted out in decor selling welcomed warm mulled wine. Children’s choirs take to the stage throughout December at this market located at Canada Place.
Contributed by Ioana from The World Is My Playground
As the biggest city in Canada, Toronto knows how to bring out the Christmas spirit. Bundle up and get ready for a host of great activities all around the city!
Toronto Christmas season is kicked off every year with the Cavalcade of Lights, a celebration that sees the 18m-tall Toronto’s Official Christmas Tree lit, live performances, fireworks and skating. This year, the Toronto Christmas event takes place on November 30, 2019 at Nathan Phillips Square.
Also the home of the “Toronto” sign, Nathan Phillips Square is at the top of things to do in Toronto during Christmas. The skating rink in the middle can be used during the day or after dusk when the city lights and skyscrapers make the entire experience even more magical. Bring your own skates or rent some from the kiosk close by. If you love skating, you may also want to check out the skating parties at the Harbourfront Center, especially on weekends when there’s a live DJ to keep you on tempo.
One of the most popular Christmas activities in Toronto is shopping at Distillery Christmas Market, the best known and most populated Market in the city. Buy jewelry and locally made products and souvenirs from the stalls, enjoy a glass of mulled wine, delicious food items, or warm up with a nice dinner (just make reservations in advance!). The Toronto Christmas Market is free during weekdays (though closed on Mondays) and usually packed on weekends.
An evening visit to Casa Loma is a must on your Christmas getaway in Ontario. It is one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Toronto. This year’s A Nutcracker Christmas at the Castle is pure holiday magic featuring entertainment from the famed illusionist Professor Wick and ice skating performers Glisse on Ice. In addition, you’ll find whimsical holiday decor throughout the castle, including a 12m-tall tree and 8 other signature trees by talented Canadian designers. While you’re there, make sure to visit Santa in his castle workshop, participate in festive arts and crafts, and decorate tasty treats!
If you’re in a shopping mood, check out the One of a Kind Christmas Show at the Exhibition Place for thousands of Christmas-themed and holiday products! Time permitting, stop by Yonge and Dundas Square (Toronto’s mini “Times Square”) and stroll through Eaton Centre, the biggest shopping center and the best-decorated one, for additional holiday spirit. Inside Eaton Centre stands a 33m-tall of Christmas tree, possibly the largest Christmas tree in Toronto!
With these fun things to do in Toronto in December, you will get into the festive mood in no time!
7| Québec City
Contributed by Alicia at Travels With The Crew
Québec City is beautiful at any time of year and visitors flock here to visit one of the oldest cities in North America. However, once Québec City puts on its Christmas finery it becomes a magical place unlike any other. Every building is decked out in greenery, lights, and snow and it becomes a Christmas wonderland.
Here are some of the top things to do in Québec City at Christmas:
Québec City’s German Christmas Market. This is one of the best Québec Christmas markets and it keeps getting bigger and bigger each year! This outdoor food and crafts market is set up in the upper town, offering local delicacies as well as tastings of traditional French Canadian Christmas food and German products – a perfect spot for last-minute Christmas shopping. There’s even Christmas music and choirs to immerse you in the magic of the holidays!
Le Grand Marché de Noël is another Québec City Christmas market worth checking out. This newly opened indoor food market hosts 70 merchants selling artisanal and local products. Definitely one for the foodies!
Fairmont Château Frontenac. Québec City Christmas is not complete without a visit to the Château. The most photographed hotel in Canada towers over the city of Québec. It is beautiful on the outside as well as the inside. During Christmastime, the lobby is full of Christmas trees decorated by local organizations.
Fairmont’s Christmas brunch and dinner have become quite a tradition. Buffet or course meal, either way, it’s a treat that’s truly unforgettable! Reservation is required.
Other Québec Christmas traditions include sliding down the Ice Slide outside the Château Frontenac. The enormous Ice Slide opens when the temperatures drop. It’s such a thrill to drag your sled up to the top and ride all the way down!
Ice Skating. There are hundreds of ice rinks all around the city, but the best one is right inside the Vieux Québec at Place d’Youville. This rink is free to use and Christmas music is piped through speakers as you skate with the locals.
Old Québec Christmas gives you a great European feel without physically being in Europe. Come to Québec City for Christmas to witness an experience of a lifetime!
There’s nothing more magical than a trip to Montréal during the Christmas season. The city offers up lots of festive fun and shows for couples to enjoy. Here are some Christmas events in Montréal that will bring you joy and laughter:
Montréal en Fêtes. Be sure to stop by Nordic Square between December 19th to 31st, 2019 and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere. Everything from public art installations, tasting of local products, performances to fun-filled winter activities will put a smile on your face and fill you with happy memories!
Noël dans le Parc. It is an urban Christmas village in Montréal and a Christmas tradition for Montrealers. The festival takes place in the heart of downtown Montréal from November 30th to December 24th, bringing together musical performances, famous artists, entertainment (featuring circus artists, fire eaters and giant puppets!). The enchanting setting and fun program will make your holiday extra-special!
If you’re interested in visiting Christmas markets, Montréal has a few good ones to snag some deals. At Village de Noël de Montréal at Atwater Market, you can buy, eat and drink your way through 50 chalets of local craftsmen and restaurateurs. The village is open every weekend from November 29th through December 22nd. Go indoors at Palais des Congrès des Montréal for the Nutcracker Market, where over 100 vendors gather from November 28th to December 8th. You can find a range of gifts from culinary delights, home decor to jewelry and accessories to satisfy your Christmas shopping needs.
Why not extend your Montreal trip with a visit to Toronto? The cities are just a train ride away. Check and compare Montreal-Toronto train tickets now!
That rounds up the best destinations to visit in Canada during Christmastime! Do you have a favourite?