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6 Magical Winter Vacations in Canada for Making Memories Together

By : Stephanie Hood

Posted in: winter trips, Snow Train to the Rockies Tags: Train tours, Coach Tours, Winter, winter wonderland, family travel

Regarded as the Great White North for good reason, winter vacations in Canada are, in a word, magical. Here, fresh snow is referred to as champagne powder, ice is carved into castles and the night sky comes alive with vibrant ribbons of color. As Canada Travel Experts we're well-versed in everything the season has to offer, and here we'll outline the best winter vacations for making memories together.

Ask a local and they'll tell you why winter in Canada is pretty great. Crowds from the summer months have calmed and the landscapes have transformed into a winter paradise that's perfect for trying unique activities together. With the pines dressed in a soft blanket of fresh snow and the mountains looking magnificent against a backdrop of blue sky, Canada's winter playground invites everyone to put away the screens and connect in a magical adventure together.

As we've already shared 11 winter wonderland trip ideas and a 72 hour guide to winter in Vancouver, it's clear that our love for the season is strong. This time, we're sharing our top recommendations based on our best sellers, so when you're wondering what the best winter vacations in Canada are you can turn to the six on this list.

A traveler watching the Northern Lights in Churchill. Image Credit: Travel Manitoba

Witness the Northern Lights in Churchill, MB

The Go-To: Northern Lights & Winter Nights Enthusiast

Churchill, Manitoba was recently placed on Lonely Planet's Top 10 for Travel list, and it isn't hard to see why. Located directly beneath the Auroral Oval with northern lights activity occurring over 300 nights a year, this is one of the best places on earth to witness Mother Nature's light show and to experience the incredible culture and warmth of a small Canadian town.

The first couple days of the Northern Lights & Winter Nights Enthusiast package is spent in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where you'll enjoy a welcome dinner hosted by your Interpretive Guide and tour the interactive exhibits at the Manitoba Museum. Once you have your fill of food, arts and culture it's on to Churchill where the evening is spent viewing the aurora from inside the Thanadelthur Lounge on a Tundra Buggy. This large, all-terrain vehicle has been designed to take you to only the best viewing locations, and keeps you warm and cozy inside while you soak up the lights.

A Tundra Buggy beneath the Northern Lights in Churchill. Image Credit: Travel Manitoba

Throughout the trip, try additional activities like a remote culinary experience, snowshoeing with a local resident, dog sledding and more – each day you'll learn something new about the people and lifestyle of this small town, and each evening ends with watching the aurora stretch and dance across the sky.

Travel Expert Tip: The more nights you spend in Churchill, the more likely you are to see the lights. I also recommend enjoying a meal at the town's Lazy Bear Cafe, where you can sample authentic Canadian fare like elk, Arctic char and bison complimented by local berries and mushrooms.

Canada by Design team member Jennifer under the Northern Lights in the Yukon

Witness the Northern Lights in the Yukon

The Go-To: Yukon Northern Lights

You don't need to travel across the country to watch the intricate dance of the Aurora. In fact, you don't even need a full week. With our Yukon Northern Lights package, you can spend just three to four days in Canada's north, cuddled up in cozy warming huts and watching in wonder as purples, pinks and greens paint the sky.

Departing from Vancouver, be swept off to Whitehorse (we include airfare) where you'll be based at a hotel within walking distance of attractions, restaurants, banks and stores. Get fitted for winter clothing and register for optional tours, then spend your first evening at a heated viewing cabin with hot drinks, snacks and a fire to keep you warm.

Canada by Design team member Teagan snowmobiling in the Yukon

This trip includes a city tour of Whitehorse, which travels along Main Street and features the Train Depot of the White Pass, the Log Skyscraper, the Log Church, the Sternwheeler SS Klondike and more. With an afternoon free to do as you please, you can add dog sledding, snowmobiling or ice fishing and snowshoeing. Each is an authentic way to experience Canada's great white north!

Travel Expert Tip: This tour departs from Vancouver, so add a pre or post night in the city to see what it's all about. As a life-long local, I recommend walking the twinkling treetop canyon at Capilano Suspension Bridge, visiting the Christmas Market in Coal Harbour or popping into an artisan eatery on the cobblestone streets of historic Gastown.

A Prestige Class cabin with the bed made on board VIA Rail. Image Credit: VIA Rail

Take a Luxury Train Ride to the Rockies

The Go-To: Luxury Snow Train to the Rockies

We created a crowd favorite with our Snow Train to the Rockies, and VIA Rail just made it better by offering Prestige Class on the train. Enjoy a fantastic rail journey in first-class comfort, with your own private cabin with sectional couch that turns into a double bed. Perks include priority boarding, delicious drinks, gourmet meals and reserved seating in the viewing cars. If you don't feel like royalty by the time you arrive to Jasper, just wait till you see what's in store.

Staying at the finest Fairmont properties like the Jasper Park Lodge, Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs Hotel, the Luxury Snow Train to the Rockies package includes all our best offerings. Embark on day tours like a helicopter snowshoe, private ice canyon walk and magical sleigh ride (all included!), then return to more superb meals, fine wines and views like you wouldn't believe.

Canada by Design team member Stephanie (hey, that's me!) heli snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains

For a better idea of what you can expect, watch our short video on YouTube: The Snow Train to the Rockies. One of our Travel Designers, Samantha, and I traveled aboard the snow train this past December and brought along a camera crew to capture it from start to finish. You'll notice a pre-night in Vancouver is already included in this package, and we've set you up for some amazing memories in our home city!

Travel Expert Tip: Book your snow train closer to the holidays for impressive festive decor at the Fairmonts. If you're loving the idea of lots of snow, February and March are the months for you, and if you're more adventurous in your travels ask us about ice climbing in Maligne Canyon instead of the ice walk!

Canada by Design team member Lindsay skiing in Jasper

Ski the Rocky Mountains and Whistler

The Go-To: Ski Safari with Rockies and Whistler

We'd be remiss to write an article on winter vacations in Canada and not include the Ski Safari with Rockies and Whistler package. Combining some of the country's absolute best mountains, you'll shred the slopes of world-class ski resorts in Banff and Jasper National Parks, spend a night on VIA Rail and discover why Whistler is North America's favorite ski resort.

A two-week trip from Calgary to Vancouver, your first few stops on the list are Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. With these small alpine towns ccupying the first week of the trip, you can conquer Sunshine, Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resorts before boarding VIA Rail for an overnight journey to Vancouver. A semi-private berth or private cabin is included as your accommodation on the train, however I highly recommend inquiring about Prestige!

Skiiers enjoying a day on the slopes in Whistler. Image Credit: Tourism Whistler

After exploring and overnighting in Vancouver, check out and board a scheduled coach transfer to Whistler. Just a 2-hour drive on the scenic Sea to Sky highway, you can enjoy stunning views of the Howe Sound as you wind your way up to the alpine-inspired Whistler Village. This is where you'll stay for the final four days of hitting the slopes before being transferred back to downtown Vancouver.

Travel Expert Tip: Save yourself the trouble of lugging around extra equipment and instead rent your gear while you're here! We make things really easy for families by including ski school, lift passes, rentals and non-ski activities. On this trip there's something for everyone!

A family celebrating Christmas at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Image Credit: Fairmont

Celebrate Christmas in a Winter Wonderland

The Go-To's: Christmas in Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper

Enjoy snowy family adventures by day and festive dining experiences in a fully decorated Fairmont hotel by evening. Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Whistler are the top Christmas destinations in Canada each year, and for now there's still some availability at the properties.

With the Christmas in Whistler package, feast on a fondue dinner atop Blackcomb Mountain, embark on a scenic helicopter flight and dog sled through beautiful old growth forest. Combined with some time in Vancouver as the start and end point, you'll also receive the bonus experiences of the Vancouver Christmas Market and Granville Island.

Canada by Design team member Samantha on a heli tour in Whistler

The Christmas in Jasper package departs from Edmonton, which once again means you can include the Ice Castles in your trip! Then, take a scheduled coach to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for an ice walk in Maligne Canyon, dog sledding tour and Christmas feast in the Fairmont's festively-decorated Beauvert Dining Room.

Last but certainly not least, the Christmas in Banff and Christmas in Lake Louise packages each depart from Calgary. Make unforgettable memories together with an ice walk through Johnston Canyon, horse-drawn sleigh ride and a tour of either Banff and its wildlife or the frozen Lake Louise. Of course, both packages also include a Christmas feast, complete with festive decor, live entertainment and a buffet spread of culinary delights.

Travel Designer Tip: One of my favorite activities in the Canadian Rockies is the Top of the World Snowshoe Tour in Banff. Ask our Travel Designers to add this to your trip and personalize your itinerary.

A wintery view of downtown Vancouver. Image Credit: Tourism Vancouver

Add Vancouver to Your Vacation

The Go-To: Discover Winter in Vancouver

The perfect addition to your family’s Whistler ski trip, train tour or northern lights adventure, Vancouver offers festive events, year-round outdoor adventure, shopping, spa and culinary delights to round out your winter vacation. If you haven't been just picture this: a walkable city surrounded by snow-capped mountains and ocean that in the winter enjoys a comfortable temperate climate.

The Discover Winter in Vancouver package is four days and three nights, and splits time between the beautiful outdoors and the bustling city center. Gaze at views of the surrounding coastal mountains and take time to stroll the seawall. Tour Stanley Park, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and the Granville Island Public Market, then spend time wandering and learning the history of Chinatown and Gastown.

The Vancouver Christmas Market in downtown Vancouver. Image Credit: Tourism Vancouver / Vancouver Christmas Market

As with any city visit, the culinary scene is of huge importance. In Vancouver, Asian fare and seafood are often the specialty, and this package includes a dinner at either Black and Blue or Coast Restaurant. Where the former is a steakhouse inspired by the classics of Chicago, the latter serves some of BC's best seafood in a true west-coast setting.

Travel Expert Tip: Even in winter there are plenty of festive events on the Calendar. December sees the Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza in Coal Harbour, and January 17 - February 2 entertains foodies with Dine Out Vancouver. With this, you can enjoy multi-course dinners at an array of restaurants for select prices; from fine dining to family friendly and everything in-between.

Feeling inspired? Get in touch with one of our travel designers to customize your own magical winter experience. Prefer to simply stay in touch? Subscribe to our newsletter for up-to-date deals, trip ideas and more!

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