When is the best time to go to Canada? It really depends on what you are looking for in a vacation. From coast to coast, Canada is a beautiful country that is fantastic to visit at any time of year, but every traveller has their own ideas of what they want from a trip.
Some want Winter festivals or sports, others love to hike in nature looking at Fall colours, and some prefer exploring a city in the Summer. In this post, we'll give you an idea of when you'll get the best weather in Canada and the best times to travel to Canada for your own preferred interests and sights to see.
Best Season to Visit Canada
Canada is a vast country whose climate varies extensively from the East to the West. Although many people favour Summer for their vacation, as they think it's too cold the rest of the year, the best time of year to visit Canada is between September and November for a number of reasons.
Some parts of Canada can get very hot during summer, so the weather can be much more comfortable during the fall months, with the fall foliage providing a beautiful backdrop to your visit. However, everyone has their preferences for weather, so we'll break it down by the seasons for you, looking at the best months to visit Canada.
1. Winter — December 21st to March 19th
January is the coldest month in Canada for most of the provinces. Although northern regions and the flatlands can experience temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, inland cities like Vancouver are much milder, with lows of around 40 degrees. While snow can come as early as October and appear into April, but snowfall is heaviest from December through February. The month with the most snowfall is usually January. But don't let that discourage you — there is a lot to love about Winter in Canada.
This is an excellent time of year to visit Canada for winter sports such as skating and skiing. It's also the perfect time to observe the Northern Lights. Winter in Canada is the ideal time to visit a mountain lodge and spend a few days cozied up with your family, warming up by the fire after a day outside exploring. There are also many festivals during this season, so if you wrap up nicely for the cold, this can be a wonderful time for a visit.
A Winter train trip is a magical experience, where you can stay cozy in your private cabin and watch the snowy landscape roll by the window.
Travel across Canada on our Trans Canada by Rail in Winter train trip.
2. Spring — March 20th to June 20th
Springtime in Canada is still a little chilly, with temperatures not getting much above the mid-fifties Fahrenheit, and most parts of the country experience heavy rainfall in April, making it the rainiest month in Canada. That said, with all the plant life and flowers springing into life, it can be a beautiful time to visit, especially on the West Coast of Canada where the Spring come earliest. Spring can also be the best time for some wildlife viewing, with migrating birds and bears leaving hibernation.
#1 Travel tip: When to go bird watching
Canada offers some fantastic bird watching all-year round. For migrating birds, plan your trip for early Spring or early- thru mid-Fall. For breeding birds and chicks, aim for late spring and early summer. British Columbia has great winter birding in December.
If you're well-equipped for the weather, Spring can be an excellent time to book your trip, as this is when you can find the best deals on accommodation and travel. In addition, with the lengthening days leading up to the summer solstice, it's a great time to explore the glaciers and mountains of the Northern Territories.
#2 Travel tip: Top bites
Some of Canada’s signature foods are only available certain times of year. For example, lobster season generally occurs between April-June. Other iconic dishes, such as poutine, can always be found.
3. Summer — June 21st to September 20th
As in many other countries, Summer is the peak season for visitors to Canada. However, temperatures vary across the country, with highs between 70 and 95 Fahrenheit in Toronto and 65 to 80 in more temperate Vancouver. This gives plenty of opportunities to visit Canada's many sites of natural beauty. Generally, July is the hottest month in Canada.
From July through August, school is out in Canada, so many families take their Summer holidays. It is also the peak season for outdoor festivals and celebrations, from the Calgary Stampede to the Canadian National Exhibition.
Train tours, such as our trips on the Rocky Mountaineer train, run primarily in the Summer and Fall, which may make these seasons the best time of year to trave to Canada if this is the vacation you are looking for.
Read more: Best Summer Festivals Across Canada
4. Fall — September 21st to December 20th
Fall is a spectacular season in Canada, making it one of the best times to visit Canada. During these month, there are comfortable temperatures, around 60 degrees in September in Toronto, steadily falling towards winter. Rain is common this time of year, although not as much as in April.
You can expect the first snow in November. Overall, Fall is a great time to travel in Canada, neither too cold nor too hot, with little in the way of extreme weather.
A major draw of visiting Canada in the Fall is the leaves changing colour, which creates vivid red, orange and gold landscapes. For this reason, many believe October is the best month to visit, when colours are at their peak.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the Best Time to Visit Canada for Wildlife Watching?
If you are visiting Canada specifically for the wildlife, it's best to go between May and November. You'll have your best chances to see grizzly bears, polar bears, migratory birds and more than ten species of whales through this stretch of the year. The grizzly bear-watching season begins between May and June as they emerge from hibernation. At the same time, humpback whales are chasing herring as they migrate north. In July and August, you can visit the Arctic regions to see caribou, foxes, polar bears and whales off the coastal areas. September is the best month to see grizzlies at their most active, cramming in the food ready for hibernation and chasing wild salmon as they travel upstream to spawn. October and November are the best months for viewing polar bears as they gather near Churchill for the sea ice. Most Canadian wildlife will be hard to spot during winter as it either hibernates, hides from the cold or migrates to warmer climates.
When is the Best Time to Visit Canada for Festivals?
Canada has festivals all year round, from the Winterlude festival in Ottawa to Carnivale, the Canadian National Exhibition, and the Pride parade in Toronto in the Summer. However, most festivals occur in the Summer months, such as the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, the Calgary Stampede, the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal and the Celebration of Light in Vancouver. All-in-all, Canada is a great place to visit for festivals at any time of the year.
When is the Best Time for a Winter Vacation in Canada?
Canada has fantastic Winter vacation options, such as skiing, dog-sledding, outdoor hot-pooling and sleigh rides. And the best part is Canadians are used to the cold weather, so the infrastructure doesn't grind to a halt. The best months for these activities are November and December, as the real cold bites hard in January and February. The northern lights are also awe-inspiring during this time with the long hours of darkness.
What is the Best Time to See Fall Colours?
In Ontario, the best place to see Fall colors, the best time to visit is from mid-September until mid-October. Other areas have beautiful displays too during this time, although the further north you travel, the earlier winter begins to set in. Across Eastern Canada and the Rockies all boast stunning Fall foliage.
What is the Best Time to Avoid Crowds?
The off-season in Canada lasts from November until April when the weather is particularly cold. During this time, you will find far fewer crowds—unless you're visiting a ski resort! January is the coldest and snowiest month, which also makes it the quietest month, which means you will get the best deals on travel and accommodation. However, it's best to remember that some areas are closed during this season, such as the maritime resorts in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, and northern parts, such as the Yukon.
If you want to avoid crowds and still be able to visit all these areas, October or May are probably your best bet. There are also hidden gems and tips for avoiding the crowds in the summer, which is the peak season.
While every season has its draws and much depends on what you want to do, our Canadian Insiders recommend Fall as the best time to go to Canada because of its ideal weather and reduced crowds. For those travellers looking to relax on a rail journey with Canadian Train Vacations, the Fall is also ideal, as both VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer offer trips at this time of year.
About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Managing Editor at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more
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