If there’s a place that does winter right, it’s Canada. Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Niagara Falls in particular embrace the snowy, frigid season in style, hosting numerous outdoor and indoor festivities to get you and yours in the holiday spirit.
Each year, downtown Toronto radiates during the Cavalcade of Lights celebration, located in Nathan Phillips Square. Akin to New York City’s Rockefeller Square tree lighting, the Cavalcade of Lights sees the city’s official Christmas tree lit to kick off the holiday season while onlookers revel in free live performances, a fireworks display, and an ice skating dance party.
But perhaps the city’s most famous and beloved holiday tradition is a trip to the Distillery District for the Christmas Market. Set in along the pedestrian cobblestone block and designed to emulate the magic and wonder of German and Austrian winter markets, the Christmas Market features a slew of wooden huts, each filled with different vendors to fulfill everyone’s Christmas gift lists. There are also plenty of lights and decorations to check out in and around the neighborhood’s boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.
Fixed in the heart of Old Montreal, Place Jacques-Cartier never shines brighter than during Montreal en Fetes. Literally meaning Merry Montreal, this gathering combines musical performances, live acts, winter activities, and art installations to create an unforgettable free holiday party for everyone in the family to enjoy.
Just a short walk from Place Jacques-Cartier is Quartier des Spectacles, the home of Montreal’s cherished lights festival, Luminotherapie. This event sees downtown Montreal ignite with beautiful interactive light displays and artworks. Typically lasting a month, Luminotherapie is best viewed during nighttime to fully take in these masterful beacons.
As the oldest city in Canada, Quebec City in winter is truly something spectacular to behold. A visit to the Petit-Champlain District is a must, as its 18th- and 19th-century French architecture and fresh snowfall transport you right into the world of your favorite Christmas stories. Shops and sites throughout the neighborhood are decorated with crossing string lights and wreaths, all of which look especially whimsical beneath fresh, powdery snow.
Quebec City doesn’t just put on a show for Christmas, though. The city is known for a joyous, nighttime New Year’s Eve event on the Grande Allée. Considered to be the epicenter of nightlife delights throughout the year, Grande Allée draws in spectators during the holidays for its free Ferris wheel, ice bars, live performances, and New Year’s countdown.
There’s no better time to view one of the world’s great wonders than during the holidays. Niagara Falls hosts Canada’s largest free outdoor light festival annually throughout late fall and winter along the Niagara Parkway. With family and couple routes through Old Fort Niagara, Queen Victoria Park, and paths parallel to the Falls, this event features illuminated statues and centerpieces all with the Niagara Falls Illumination Experience as a breathtaking backdrop.
Winters in Canada can get quite cold, especially around the holidays. Clifton Hill is the perfect place to warm up after a winter walk near the Falls. The famous Niagara Skywheel stays open during winter weather, delivering a dazzling view of the area that can’t be missed. There are also plenty of other family-friendly activities, including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, Movieland Wax Museum, and much more.