I used to hate winter —completely and utterly loathe it. I would get cranky when the leaves would disappear and pretty much hibernate until spring. Then I had a lightbulb moment. Unless I was moving my family to Hawaii, it was time to get with the program and embrace the snow. After all, in Canada, winter weather can be up to a five month affair. That’s a lot of time to spend cooped up inside, especially with children.
So I picked up ice skating again on our beloved Rideau Canal, then we got the whole family involved in snowshoeing, and finally last year, I learned to ski. I am officially a winter lover now and I’m happy to report I’ve learned a few things since I started to head outdoors from November to March.
First, as long you dress for the weather, there’s not much you can’t do outdoors. Second, winter is a lot of fun! Third, there are so many beautiful winter travel destinations, I may not have enough winters left to explore them all! Thankfully, I live extremely close to a few fabulous winter wonderlands that are definitely worth your time to explore.
My Favourite Winter Wonderlands
My adopted city, Ottawa, is unique in that it is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer. I truly believe I live in the best city in Canada and so I encourage everyone I meet to come visit. If you plan a trip in the winter, do try and work it around our annual Winterlude. It’s a giant celebration of all things winter with snow sculptures, a giant snow playground, outdoor concerts, delicious Canadian food and of course, skating. This is a sell-out every year, so book your hotels early. Best bets are the Chateau Laurier, the Ottawa Marriott and the Lord Elgin.
Old Quebec City
I met my husband in Cuba in November and fell in love with him on the icy streets of Old Quebec City in January. I blame the delicious French red wine and the stunning beauty of this charming 16th century European settlement for my hard fall. My husband clearly knew what he was doing when he brought me here. Sans children, Quebec City offers world class dining, great shopping and cozy hotels. Bring the kids and there’s still plenty to do with skating and sledding at the absolutely spectacular Chateau Frontenac. If you can swing a room here, I highly recommend it.
Mont Tremblant holds a special place in my heart since it is where I learned to ski, but it’s more than that. Managed by Intrawest, a luxury adventure travel company, Mont Tremblant not only offers world class skiing, but it’s the quintessential après ski spot. High-end luxury boutiques stock the very best in hip ski wear, and restaurants are toasty warm and welcoming after a cold day on the hills. Accommodations vary from studio rentals to chalets to luxury hotels. When booking here, check out the Fairmont Tremblant which commands the very best spot on the hill or look into AirBNB rentals. There’s plenty to do off the slopes here too, so even if you’re not a skier, you won’t be bored.
The Eastern Townships
Filled with quaint villages and towns Quebec’s Eastern Townships are definitely worth a visit. You’ll find four different ski hills here, a zoo that’s open year-round, and gourmet dining options. Bordering on Ontario, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, it’s a central location easy to get to.
I have raved about Old Montreal as a destination for couples during the summer months, and everything I raved about in July is just as applicable during the winter months. Why go when the weather is chillier then? For starters, it’s beautiful with freshly fallen snow and very, very quiet. Almost like someone has put mufflers on the city. It’s dream like walking the cobblestone streets hand in hand with your amour. Slip into cozy pubs to warm up and then head out again to explore history. Dreamy.
While I certainly haven’t exhausted all the amazing winter destinations around me, it’s time to start exploring a little further. My friends over at Taking the Kids have a fabulous guide this yearwith the very best destinations in North America listed. Where would you go for snow fun this year?