Winter in Southern Ontario and Quebec is chilly, icy, and snowy. The wind wipes around buildings, through trees and people as if it’s looking for something or someone to play with. The best outdoor activities in winter include concerts, sports, festivals, history and food. Perfect for relaxing and letting your inner child take over and play.
Here are some of the best outdoor activities in winter!
Glide around on the Rideau Canal – Skating on the Rideau Canal is one of the best outdoor activities in winter. Beginners and experts alike lace up and glide around the 30cm thick ice. There are huts with foods, like BeaverTails, and enjoy the views of downtown Ottawa. Two-hour skate rentals are available for $25.
Be a Kid at Winterlude – In February, Winterlude entertains locals and travellers alike for 17 days. Typically the coldest month in winter, this festival encourages everyone to embrace the weather and have fun. Watch the National Ice-Carving Championship, and the bed race in the ByWard Market. Build snowmen, see musicians, go sledding, and more.
Go Snow Biking in Gatineau Park – Not far from Saintlo Ottawa Jail, across the Ottawa River, is Gatineau Park. The park boasts 49.5 km of snow biking trails, with options for all skill levels. The southern sector is the most popular. Bike rentals are available at Relais Plein Air.
Capture the Beauty of Ottawa in Winter – Wander around Ottawa capturing its beauty for your Instagram feed. There is the snowy and slightly frozen Rideau Falls, and swarms of warmly dressed skaters on the canal. After a new fall of snow, Fairmont Château Laurier resembles a fairytale castle, and Parliament Hill can be pretty, too. Of course one of the best views is of Ottawa’s skyline, seen from Gatineau.
Party at Igloofest – Igloofest is one of the biggest winter outdoor parties in Canada. When the sun goes down, head to Jacques Cartier Pier in Old Montreal for a night of dancing, drinks, and having fun in the igloo village. Performances take place on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from January 18th to February 10th. Tickets are $42.50 per night. VIP tickets ($72.50) include access to heated bathrooms and indoor spaces. Be sure to book the Igloofest special at Auberge Saintlo Montréal and save 10% on your stay!
Go to Montréal en Lumière – Shows, gastronomy, free outdoor activities; there is so much to love about Montréal en Lumière. 2024 marks the 25th edition of this vibrant succulent event. Wander through colourfully lit streets, go ice skating, see musical performances, and savour gastronomic tastings from some of the city’s best restaurants.
Glide through Parc Maisonneuve – This large park is home to trails, fields, a community garden, and the Montréal Botanical garden. In winter, it’s a popular spot for cross-country skiing and ice skating. Warm up in the park’s chalet, skate the illuminated rink at night, and admire the views of Olympic Stadium’s Montréal Tower. Equipment rental is available near the park chalet.
Go snowshoeing on Mont Royal – Rising above the city like an overprotective sibling, Mont Royal is a hub of activity year-round. Strap on some snowshoes and hit the trails in search of stunning city views and crisp winter landscapes. Cross-country skiers will find plenty of trails here, too, and tubing down the slopes is always fun. Equipment rental is available at the Beaver Lake Pavilion.
Take a FREE Walking Tour of Old Montreal – Walking tours are one of the best ways to begin a stay in a new city. Perfect for learning some history, scouting for places to hang out during your trip, what to eat, where to drink, and more. This walking tour is about 2 hours in duration, and the guides are passionate about the city. When your tour is over, remember to tip! Learn more here.
Go Hiking at Les Sources Joyeuses – In winter, locals flock to Les Sources Joyeuses for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. Considered a winter garden, the views here are spectacular, and the air crisp and clean. There is a chalet for warming up, and bringing lunch is always a good idea. The daily fee for hiking is $6. Snowshoeing is $12 and cross-country skiing is $16. Equipment rental is available onsite.
Enjoy Snowshoeing on Mont Grand-Fonds – Charlevoix’s Mont Grand-Fonds boasts 41 km of snowshoeing trails. For sweeping winter landscape views head to Le Sommet, a 8.5 km trail which also features a summet chalet. Beginners will enjoy the 4 km La Promenade trail. There are alpine skiing and cross-country skiing trails, too. The daily fee for snowshoeing is $11.51.
Go Dog Sledding with Descente Malbaie – Go dogsledding in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve with Descente Malbaie. The dogs love to run, and there are plenty of stops, making it easy to capture beautiful photos that make your friends jealous. A half day excursion is $140 per person.
Hit the trails at Parc des Chutes – There are 10 km of snowshoeing trails at Parc des Chutes, as well as a beautiful waterfall and an old water station. Spend a few hours on the trail with a pair of snowshoes strapped to your boots or go for a winter hike.
Go Ice Skating – Ice skating is a favourite winter activity with all age groups. Grab a pair of skates and head to Parc Blais in Old Rivière-du-Loup for a few hours of fun, then pop by a café for some chocolat chaud or a warm pub for a beer. Centre Premier Tech on rue Frontenac is a lovely ice skating spot as well.
Spend a Day at Forillon National Park – Located not far from L’Anse au Griffon, Forillon National Park is a great spot for cross-country skiing, winter hiking, and snowshoeing. Kicksledding and fat biking, too. There are 33 km of trails to enjoy and equipment rental is available through Centre culturel Le Griffon.
Southern Ontario and Quebec are beautiful in winter. Outdoor sports are the most popular activities in winter, but there are also festivals, concerts, and fascinatin walking tours. When you check into your Saintlo Hostel, chat up the staff for tips on local fun, as well as hostel activities.
Tip: Always dress in layers, so you can peel one off if you start to feel hot. Sweat makes one feel the cold very quickly!