Top 10 Places to Spend Christmas in Canada
From festive Santa Claus parades to can’t-miss holiday markets, we’re counting down the best places to celebrate Christmas in Canada.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Quebec City
Even if they did nothing at all, Quebec City would still be a great place to spend the holidays, with cobblestone lanes, fluffy white snow, and some of the most historic and striking architecture in Canada. But, fortunately, there’s a lot going on in the capital of La Belle Province, including an authentic German Christmas market where you can sip mulled wine and browse for gifts, and the chance to meet Santa Claus himself at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac—widely recognized as one of Canada’s greatest hotels. If you can’t decide where to spend Christmas in Canada, Quebec City will not disappoint you.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Toronto
Canada’s largest city certainly knows how to do Christmas. Attracting half a million people each November, Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade is one of the biggest in the world. And throughout the month of December, you can take in the Christmas market in the charming Distillery District, as well as the Cavalcade of Lights—a festival that kicks off with the lighting of a massive Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square, in front of City Hall. Still not convinced the Big Smoke is the best place to spend Christmas in Canada? Here are 50 more reasons to fall in love with Toronto.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Ottawa
Beginning with an illumination ceremony in early December, the nation’s capital bathes the Parliament Buildings in dramatic lights with the prime minister often flipping the switch himself. The ceremony also includes free hot chocolate, Christmas caroling and Beaver Tails, and is followed by a solid month of beauty: both Parliament Hill and more than 60 sites along Confederation Boulevard feature lovely illumination displays. Here are four more reasons to fall in love with Ottawa this winter.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Niagara Falls, Ontario
How do you make one of Canada’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders even more impressive? A spectacular light show, of course! The illumination of the majestic waterfalls is part of Niagara Falls’ annual Winter Festival of Lights, which sees more than three million lights strung throughout the city, including the world’s largest Canadian/American illuminated flag. There are also weekly fireworks over the falls for the duration of the festival, and a number of other festive events, including musicals, shopping fairs and concerts.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Saskatoon
There are few bigger thrills than being a kid at Christmas, especially if you live in Saskatoon. A recent study by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that Saskatoon (the only city in Canada to break their Top 10) has the highest number of candy and toy stores, per capita, in the country, plus an abundance of kids under the age of 14, and a very good probability of having snow on December 25. It’s the perfect combination for a magical Christmas! Grown-ups will also appreciate the burgeoning food scene in this “Paris of the Prairies.” Here’s why Saskatoon is Canada’s next great culinary destination.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Vancouver
An annual tradition since the 1960s, Vancouver’s Carol Ships Parade of Lights takes the holiday spirit out on the water. Every night in the month of December, as many as 80 boats strung with some 100,000 lights cruise around False Creek, Deep Cove and Port Moody. Watch from shore at a bonfire or carol sing, and book yourself a spot on a dinner cruise on board one of the ships. Or, head to Stanley Park—one of Canada’s greatest green spaces—to ride the miniature train through an impressive display of more than one million lights. While you’re at it, check out these other must-see sites in Vancouver.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Calgary
While taking a trip to the zoo may not be your first impulse on a cold winter’s day, in Calgary, it’s a tradition. Every year, from late November to early January, the Calgary Zoo hosts a huge event called Zoolights. Sip hot chocolate and wander through a winter wonderland of two-million beautiful lights, warm yourself at a crackling firepit, then get a picture with Santa himself. Once you’ve navigated the Enchanted Forest—complete with Snow White and evil queen—check out these top attractions in Calgary.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Bay Roberts, Newfoundland
What’s better than a Santa Claus parade? Two, of course. This small Newfoundland community on the Avalon Peninsula hosts an annual Festival of Lights that includes the largest Nativity scene east of Montreal, the province’s first intelligent light park, fireworks, concerts and, yes, two parades—one during the daytime and another at night. Here’s another reason you should consider a visit to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Edmonton
Home to an honest-to-goodness Candy Cane Lane, Edmonton’s West End becomes a winter wonderland every December. The neighbours in the city’s Crestwood community have banded together for the past 50 years to decorate their homes with a festive spirit that would make Santa proud. So popular is the spectacle that on peak nights during weekends just before Christmas, there have even been traffic jams. Organizers encourage people to walk—or, better yet, use their website to book a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Where to Spend Christmas in Canada: Airdrie, Alberta
This city north of Calgary hosts a super-sized holiday celebration every year. In the heart of Nose Creek Park, you’ll find the Airdrie Festival of Lights—a massive outdoor display of a million-dollars’ worth of twinkling lights that’s the largest of its kind in Western Canada. You can wander through the immersive illuminations (or take one of three miniature train rides for a toonie), and enjoy bonfires, an impressive assortment of food trucks and skating on Nose Creek Pond.
Getting into the holiday spirit? Check out the greatest Christmas movies of all time.