Canada has a lot going for it these days and that’s not only because it’s the second largest country in the world, is home to the legendary mountie, has some of the best ski hills around and is full of moose, beavers and bears. Winter is prime season to enjoy the thrills of Canadian culture, after all, the house of parliament is made out of ice… isn’t it?
There’s a lot of legend around Canada and it’s mysterious season and although it may be nice to dream of a winter wonderland where everyone skis to work, lives in an igloo and uses dog sleds to get around six months of the year, it’s just not true. One thing is for sure though, that when winter hits Canadians lace up their skates to hit the rinks, wax up their skis and boards to hit the slopes and brush off the cobwebs on their toboggans to rekindle childhood memories on the snowy hills.
For winter holidays, there’s only one place to go and that’s Canada. From coast to coast there is something to enjoy this season. Whether you fly to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver there are cheap flights to Canada to be found, especially from London.
Nova Scotia is a world of its own with Celtic roots and plenty of pubs. The main beer on tap is locally brewed, Alexander Keiths. Take a tour of the brewery, located on Halifax’s waterfront, and join a pub crawl. Halifax still holds the record for the largest pub crawl in the world! Live Celtic jams aren’t hard to find. Take a drive to Peggy’s Cove, famed for its lighthouses, they’re especially pretty on a calm winter day. If you can get your hands on a toboggan, Citadel Hill is one of the most adrenaline-rushing and most dangerous sledding hill on the East Coast, are you up for the challenge?
Little do outsiders know that there are more mountains in Canada than the Rockies. Mont Tremblant in Quebec is a perfect ski getaway for those visiting Quebec City and even Montreal. From the UK it’s the most accessible. Warm yourself up on the “bunny” hill before heading up on the magic carpet lifts to the top. The longest run measures 6km, called Nansen. Quebec also hosts the Winter Carnival from January 28th to February 13th, an annual tradition dating back to 1894. Cosy up in a jazz bar in Old Montreal with a cup of mulled wine or hot apple cider, there’s plenty of winter cheer to be found in Canada’s French-speaking parts.
Have you ever dreamt of skating in Central Park or at the Rockefellar Centre in NYC? Then bring a few “loonies” (one dollar coins) and rent a pair of skates outside of Toronto’s city hall. There is an outdoor rink at Nathan Philips Square on Bay and Queen, although not exactly New York, it’s pretty close. Just a few metres away is the famous chip truck on Queen Street West where you can try famous Canadian “poutine”, a greasy plate of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds… sure to keep you energized on the rink. Across the street is the Eaton’s Centre, the biggest shopping mall in Toronto, a great place to warm up. Did you know Toronto has 82 outdoor skating rinks? Just one hour south is the famous Niagara Falls which are the most beautiful in winter. See Niagara Falls like a local!
Now that the 2010 Winter Olympic hype from last season has cooled down on the west coast, it’s a perfect time to visit. Whether you head to Banff or Whistler you can bargain for some wildlife spotting and excellent ski conditions. Banff is a friendly little ski town where elk and moose wandering the streets are not an unusual sight. Whistler is known for its high alpine peaks among the thrill seekers. Annual snow fall is around 30 feet (9m). More experienced skiers and boarders should head to Blackcombe to try their skill on the glaciers. Who said Vancouver’s Stanley Park isn’t beautiful after a snowfall? Get tickets to a local hockey game and enjoy the buzz of the city, this is Canada’s most liveable city.
Img: nayukim / flickr cc