• rideau canal skateway

    An ice skater makes their way down the frozen Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ont. (Photo: Joey Waitschat/Canadian Geographic Photo Club)

With winter just around the corner, many Canadians are planning their seasonal escapes to more tropical locales. But in a bid to retain both a happy population and tourism dollars, many Canadian cities have started to embrace their snowy status, and are committed to making winter tolerable (even, dare we say, enjoyable). 

With that in mind, here are 10 of Canada's best winter cities.

Edmonton

This northern Alberta city hasn't historically been known as a tourist destination, but a renewed focus on winter activities might turn that around. From a plethora of festivals — Ice on Whyte, Winter Light and Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival — to unique attractions like Candy Cane Lane and heated winter patios, this oft-underrated city is sure to surprise. Want something a bit more active? Sip & Slide toboggan events or Swing 'n' Skate at City Hall happen on regular Sundays. Read more about Edmonton's wintry reinvention in the November issue of Canadian Geographic Travel.  

Quebec City

With its European aesthetic, Quebec City is already blessed with a certain romanticism that is brought even more to the fore when a sparkling layer of snow is added to the picture. Snow baths and icy canoe races are de rigueur at Le Carnaval de Quebec, while the famous Ice Hotel offers an unforgettable night in a building made entirely of ice.

Whistler

While renowned for its skiing, this British Columbia town has garnered recognition for its off-slope activities too. From winter ziplining and bungee jumping to a raucous apres-ski nightlife, visitors could almost be forgiven for skipping the award-winning ski resort. Almost. 

Ottawa

It's almost a necessity that the nation's capital embrace winter, and with the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, along with a veritable smorgasbord of winter activiites to enjoy in nearby Gatineau Park, it's safe to say "mission accomplished." The annual Winterlude festival's ice carvings are delightful to see at night with a tasty BeaverTail pastry in hand. 

Montreal

With the eponymous Mont Royal smack dab in the center of the city, there's plenty of room for cross-country skiing in this bustling bilingual metropolis. Fete des neiges, which takes place in January and February, offers snow soccer and a polar circus, and a 65-foot-tall tree provides a lovely centrepiece for the Winter Village at Olympic Park over the holidays.

Winnipeg

Winter or summer, The Forks is often the place to be in Winnipeg. Located at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River, this historic green space offers skate rentals and internationally-designed warming huts on one of the world's longest skating trails. There's also tons of free programming to enjoy at the Arctic Glacier Winter Park, including horse-wagon rides, snowboarding for kids, and indigenous elders telling stories and baking bannock in teepees.