The cold, the snow, the early darkness–sometimes it seems like the only way to survive a Canadian winter is to snuggle up in front of your fire and stay inside for four to six months. And absolutely no one would judge you for that. Heck, a good cup of cocoa sounds pretty great about now and it’s not even the middle of November yet. But hold on a just second before you decide that hibernating is your best option this winter.
Canada may be pretty frigid, but it’s also a beautiful winter wonderland when that snow starts to fly. This country is too breathtaking to waste the entire winter inside. There’s definitely a winter activity out there that’ll suite your entire family and make you want to spend some quality time outdoors.
We’ve put together a list of all the best ones from around the country for every level of outdoorsman/woman. From simply skating the Rideau to embarking on your own dog sled adventure, we want to help you love winter in your home and native land. Plus, the fire feels so much warmer and the cocoa tastes so much sweeter after a day spent in the snow.
So grab your family, your friends or your special someone and start your winter adventure.
12 outdoor experiences that will make you actually love winter
LOCAL SKI RESORTSAh, the classic family or couple winter fun idea. Whether you're just learning (those bunny hills are there for a reason) or are a seasoned vet of the slopes, skiing is the perfect activity to do with a group (or solo, if you're so inclined). Even better, turn your skiing adventure into a mini vacation and stay at a local ski resort for the weekend. No one misses school or work and you get a little break from the everyday routine.Getty Images
WINTER FESTIVALSIf you think summer carnivals and festivals are fun, you'll love the winter variety too. You've got your big ones like Ottawa's Winterlude and, of course, The Quebec Winter Carnaval, but most cities will have their own local winter fests, too. Ice sculptures, snow slides and some of the best comfort food you'll find (we're looking at you, beaver tails) are all the best reasons to venture into the cold. Plus you can't beat that feeling of community you get by freezing for the sake of fun alongside your fellow Canucks.Getty Images
QUEBEC ICE HOTELWhile not exactly outside, this one makes the list because it's like staying in a little box of winter--a ridiculously cool box of winter (pardon the pun). This is the perfect example of nature combined with human ingenuity and skill. This is the ice sculpture of all ice sculptures. You can live in an ice house. We're sorry, but that seems like just about the coolest thing ever (again, pardon the pun).Getty Images
OUTDOOR SKATINGIf you're Canadian, you know how to skate. And if you're part of the one per cent of the population that's never been skating, that's fine, it's in your DNA. Skating on a rink is all well and good, but to truly embrace winter, the best place to skate is outside on a frozen body of water. Whether you scrape out a makeshift rink on a local pond (make sure you're doing this in a safe and legal way) or hitting up places set up by the city like the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, there's nothing more Canadian than skating outside.Getty Images
WINTER POND HOCKEYOkay, maybe there is something more Canadian than skating on a frozen lake: playing hockey on a frozen lake. A great activity for kids and adults alike, you can play on your local (safe and legal) pond rink or get involved in theCanadian National Pond Hockey Tournament. Register your team on the website and spend a weekend playing pond hockey in Haliburton, ON for the Maple Cup. Getty Images
ICE FISHINGWe know that freezing in an ice hut (or worse, out in the elements) waiting for a fish to bite might not sound like the most fun you've ever had, but ice fishing doesn't necessarily have to be like that. While some may prefer to tough it out and do some 'real' ice fishing, there are luxury ice huts that may just make fishing fun for those who would rather not freeze to death on a frozen lake. Plus, if you're successful, at the end of the day you get the satisfaction of eating a dinner you caught yourself.Getty Images
SNOWSHOEINGWant a workout and a winter adventure? Snowshoeing may be the perfect activity for you. Similar to cross-country skiing (but with smaller things strapped to your feet), a trip down a snowshoeing trail can be fun, exhilarating and even educational. Lots of resorts offer snowshoeing tours and your city might even run excursions. This can be a fun daytime date or a great family outing (just make sure the kids are old enough to enjoy themselves and handle the hike) that will surely tire the kiddies out for bedtime.Getty Images
DOG SLED ADVENTURINGIf you want a real, gritty Canadian winter experience and a chance to try something new, this might be for you. Outward Bound Canada offers a seven-day dog sled journey for daring Canadians who want to realize their own physical potential and learn to dog sled. Now this journey isn't for the faint of heart (or those prone to frost bite). This is for the real Canadian Winter Warrior. If you feel you would fare better sticking to the Rideau skate, feel free to sit this one out, but if you want to put yourself to the ultimate winter test, giver 'er a try.Getty Images
DOG SLED RACE WATCHINGFor those unwilling to put themselves through a gruelling week on a dog sled trail, maybe this is a better way to involve yourself in this Canadian tradition. The Canadian Challenge Dog Sled Race is an annual five-day event held in Prince Albert, Sask. Competitors participate in several categories of dog sled races and you can watch them all. You can even volunteer to help at the races. Not only do you get to witness all the action, you'll be surrounded by dogs the entire time. SO. MANY. DOGS.Getty Images
PICK A TREEIf you celebrate Christmas (or you're just looking for a holiday evergreen) why not skip Canadian Tire and head straight to the source: the ground. No, we don't mean grow your own (although you could, if you want to), we mean head out to select and cut down your very own tree. Not only will you be sure to find the exact tree you want, but you often get a fun tractor ride out into the field, too. Just be sure to bundle up and be warned, cutting down a tree is a lot harder than cartoons will have you believe.Getty Images
SNOW KITINGThis is probably the most exciting winter activity devised by man. You've heard of kite surfing, so allow us to introduce you to snow kiting. Now, don't just strap on a board and try this on your own, there are some great Canadian snow kiting lessons you can take ranging from hour-long intro classes to day-long boot camps. If you're looking for some extreme fun, try your hand at one of those lessons. If you're not really into extreme winter sports though, watching others glide around a lake with colourful kites can be pretty fun too.Getty Images
POLAR BEAR DIPOne of Canada's great traditions is testing who is the fittest of us all by running into freezing cold water in the middle of winter wearing minimal clothing. Most towns and cities with any type of water around will host a polar bear dip at some point during the winter. That's a local event you're not going to want to miss. Even if you'd rather stay dry, there's no harm in turning up to cheer on your fellow Canucks and check out the wacky costumes that some are sure to show up in. If you're planning on staying dry though, may we suggest observing from a safe distance? It's a well-known fact that a wet and cold human being will try their best to hug all the dry human beings in their immediate proximity.Getty Images