It might be popular to pack up the family and head to an all-inclusive over Christmas break but there’s more than one way to get away during the holiday season.
In fact, we’re big fans of spending the holidays at home and then beating those post-holiday blues with “weekend getaways” so we can have mini-vacations all winter long!
We set off looking for some family-friendly, if lesser considered, adventures to extend your holiday feelings well into the winter months.
- No passport required
- No trips to the travel doctor
- Resource-friendly (planning, time, cash)
Most importantly – each of our Canadian Winter mini-trips needed to have a touch of magic to take you through the slowest months of the year.
Afterall, isn’t it so often the case that all we could ever want is right in our backyards the whole time – we just hadn’t bothered to really explore it?
So pack your carry-on, and click your heels – away we go!
A weekend at the capital – Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa holds lots of magic through the winter – especially in February, when Winterlude comes around! This year is Winterlude’s 40th anniversary and it’s going to be the one to experience!
Skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, visiting the Crystal Garden Confederation Park for the international ice carving competition, and of course playing in the Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques Cartier Park – North America’s largest snow playground!
We’d add in how wonderful it is to have lunch at the Union Street Kitchen Cafe, and wander over – hot chocolate in hand – to skate at Rideau Hall (free, reservations required) and to warm up in its rooms – the Circus Room is our favourite! Since it’s right across the street from 24 Sussex Drive, you can pop into the PM’s house for a tour too!
Another side of cottage country – Muskoka, Ontario
Cottage Country in the middle of winter? What a joy to see what this quiet, snowy paradise has to offer in the colder months. We’re always up for a weekend at Deerhurst Resort – especially with their new family-friendly Escape Cabins (kids 10 and up) and mid-week specials.
Fire & Ice skating nights on the iconic Arrowhead Skating Trail are a big draw as well – these special tiki-lit events typically take place from 6-9 PM, all the way through to March! (Insider Tip: try for a Thursday nights since they’re usually less crowded)
The world’s oldest winter festival – Quebec City, Quebec
Bonhomme, Bonhomme sais-tu jouer!
If your kids have been learning French in school, then they’ve definitely learned the theme song for Bonhomme Carnaval – the King of Quebec’s Winter Carnaval! What better delight would there be than to take them to see the real thing, live in Quebec City?
From mid-January through February, Quebec City is vibrant and alive with the celebration of winter. In fact, it’s the world’s oldest major winter festival, since it was first founded in 1894! Between Old Quebec City, delicious traditional cuisine that shines in colder months, and the 10 days of activities for Carnaval, Quebec City in winter is one of our favourite family destinations.
Spectacular outdoor adventuring – Lake Louise, Alberta
A truly unequaled outdoor getaway, Lake Louise is renown for its breathtaking landscape and views. Whether your family is into ice-cleat hiking to the Johnston Canyon to be awe-struck by the massive one of a kind ice pillars that form around the frozen waterfalls, ice-skating on Lake Louise where you can take in stunning handmade ice castles, or even the sporty thrill of dog-sledding, horseback riding, and ice-fishing – you’ll never be lacking for outdoor fun!
For a little more romance, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience to curl up under a sheepskin fur with a cocktail in the shimmering ice-lounge patio at Deer Lodge or indulging with a stay at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – unforgettable!
Winter without the snow – Tofino, BC
Just when you thought it was all snow and ice – there’s spectacular Tofino! We’d call a trip to Tofino “winter-adjacent.” There’s a blissful lack of snow over in BC where instead, you’ll be be greeted by green mountains and crashing waves.
From farm-to-table dining experiences to incredible storm watching at the Wickaninnish Inn, from winter surfing to hikes along the Pacific Coast trail – even rainforest walks and wildlife tours! Tofino feels far removed from what we expect of a Canadian winter – and yet these slower months are the perfect time to check out this popular town.
There’s so much magic in a Canadian winter that’s easy to plan, easy on the wallet, and filled with fun adventures and discoveries for everyone in your family – all right at home.
In fact, it reminds us of what a certain adventure-seeker realized in the Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”