The Best Time of Year to Visit Canada is – Definitely Complicated!
The best time to visit Canada will depend on where you are visiting and when. The best time to visit Toronto is different from the best time to visit Vancouver. The same can be said for regions like the Canadian Rockies all the way to Eastern Canada! The worst time to visit Canada? Well, that would depend on the temperature you enjoy the least!
Personally, Eric loves Canadian summers at the cottage in Ontario but autumn is his favourite. The changing leaves and cooler temperatures are something to experience in many parts of Canada – but especially in his home province of Ontario.
So, when is the best time to visit Canada? As in, what month might be the best to visit in both of the popular seasons? The short answer is:
- The Best Time to Visit Canada in the Summer: July or August.
- The Best Time to Visit Canada in the Winter: January or February.
Of course, it is not actually that simple. So keep reading to find out the best times to visit for different regions, cities, and tell you about the big festivals and events that go along with the seasons! Also, if you’re travelling to Canada (or just planning for now), we have lots of great posts to help you plan for the big trip!
- Discover the Best Things – 26 of the Best Sights and Places to Visit in Canada!
- Be Prepared for Canada – 13 Must-Knows for Travelling to Canada.
- Still Young and Want to Work? A Canadian Working Holiday Visa might be for you!
Climate and Weather Seasons in Canada
The climate in Canada varies since the country is so big and crossed many different climate regions all the way up to the Arctic. Some places do experience four distinct seasons with big temperature swings, while others have a more modest fluctuation between even the hottest and coldest months.
Going back to our “best seasons” to travel to Canada in, the temperature in Canada in June is around 20 degrees Celsius. Ontario might be closet to 25 or 30 while British Columbia and the East Coast might be more in the mid-teens. There are generalizations but you get the idea. The temperature in Canada in the winters is around -10 degrees Celsius – but this is made of Ontario or Manitoba being -30 Celsius while Vancouver might be 0 degrees.
Being from Ontario, there are a lot of jokes about the seasons. Officially, Ontario does see a distinct four of them – but the transition season is laughable and always play with humans year after year. There are seasons like “False Spring” and “Second Summer” – which are laughably true if you’re from there.
Best Time to Visit the Canadian East Coast
Before we dive in, it should be noted that the East Coast of Canada is also referred to as Atlantic Canada – since the Atlantic Ocean is right there. There are four smaller provinces – three grouped together more closely (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) while one is somewhat on its own (Newfoundland and Labrador). As such, these two groups are technically in different climate zones and this dictates the weather – Newfoundland being generally colder than the other three.
Generally, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have four distinct seasons that draw visitors for spring, summer, fall, and winter activities. The warmer months are more active but of course, you’ll get higher hotel prices. So, consider the autumn! You can learn more about the tourism seasons for PEI and New Brunswick if you are interested! Nova Scotia, since it sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean – gets stronger winter storms and the occasional tropical storm when the season is right in the summer. Here is the official tourism website of Nova Scotia to learn more.
Newfoundland, being higher up, has more unpredictable weather and colder winters. It’s known that people come out of hibernation in July and August when things warm up the most. You can learn more about the seasons at the official tourism website of Newfoundland and Labrador to plan your visit. The East Coast is full of culture with live, traditional music from the settler days being a huge draw of visitors year after year. You can’t miss the Celtic influences!
Best Time to Visit Quebec
Quebec is a province that is also tricky to talk about season wise. This is because the province, like Ontario, is huge and reaches far north into the actual Arctic region. That said, many of the main cities like Quebec City and Montreal, are in the lower half of the province along the St. Lawrence River. This region is far warmer in the summertime but still gets very cold in the winter.
If you are going for snow up at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort or snowmobiling around Gaspe Peninsula, the winter snow of February will do just fine. If you want summer patios and boat cruises on the river, you can go in May through to September and have a pleasant time. That said summer in the big cities gets busy since Montreal is a metropolitan city. Here is the tourism site of Quebec to get you started.
Best Time to Go to Quebec City
The best time to go to Quebec City depends, like always, on what you want to do. The summertime is beautiful with sunshine along the river. The wintertime is a huge season full of events. Quebec City has some of the oldest parts of Canada (that predate the country itself). This means that you can find European-levels of history right in Canada. The Christmas markets in December in Quebec City are a beautiful attraction that draws many, many wintertime visitors. Price can be more expensive – but the Christmas markets are worth the price for the experience.
In February, the fun continues with the celebration of Carnival. This massive festival of snow and ice is celebrated each year and is complete with its own mascot, Bonhomme! The weather is cold, but there are plenty of ways to warm up and stay active at Carnival. If you are thinking of visiting during this time then be sure to book ahead in Quebec City! You can learn more about Carnival here!
Best Time to Go to Montreal
Montreal is a large city and so the best time to go is the shoulder seasons from May-June and then September-October. This is because the summer is beautiful and warm but can be very expensive. You can do all the same activities like hike up Mont Royal and/or explore along the river in Old Montreal in the warming spring or in the autumn.
Winter can be very cold but still enjoyable – with the cold weather not stopping life for Montrealers. We visited Montreal in the winter and while it was really cold, we still got to explore outside and made sure to go inside for warm-up breaks!
Montreal is home to many music festivals throughout the year. One of the biggest ones is Osheaga Music Festival that happens annually in August. Each year, the park grounds are filled with tens of thousands of people looking to enjoy dozens and dozens of huge name and smaller acts in the summer sunshine. You can read more about Osheaga at the official site. There are also events in the winter like Igloofest – an outdoor music festival at the end of January. Eric actually went once – make sure you are bundled up!
Best Time to Visit Ontario
Ontario, or home, as Eric calls it – has a wild climate and varying weather because of the Great Lakes. That said, you can generally expect the same seasonal temperature in southern Ontario and different ones across Northern Ontario. The short answer is Ontario summers can be hot and humid but July-August are worth the humidity and the crowds for the sunshine up at the cottage or at a beach.
Autumn brings the amazing fall colours and the popular wine countries like Prince Edward County and Niagara on the Lake come alive with harvests and visitors seeking to try wine in the cooler temperatures. Wintertime in Ontario brings skiing, snowmobiling, and lots of other activities in different cities like Ottawa and Toronto. Depending on where you go, spring is pretty miserable since the bugs are awful and generally really quite rainy.
Northern Ontario (Sudbury and above) has snow early, it can stay colder later into the summer, and has worse bugs (mosquitoes and black flies). That said, fishing is amazing and the wilderness is prime for camping and canoeing. Summer can be nice and warm, but it’s shorter than down south.
Best Time to Go to Toronto
Toronto has lots of different “best” seasons. Want patio season to enjoy a beer and the sunshine? It starts as soon as the sun shines and the ground is dry in May and continues through July and August – but people will extend it until the temperature drops in the fall. One time, Eric enjoyed a patio beer with friends in February because it was very warm and the bar decided to let people enjoy the weather! It was hilarious – very Canadian to have a patio beer in February!
Toronto gets cold but often doesn’t get too much snow because of the lake. However, snow can and does fall and it makes the city slushy in the winter. Now, there are Christmas Markets in the Distillery District and ice skating at Nathan Philips Square, but generally, people visit Toronto in the warmer months. You can learn more about activities in Toronto all-year around at the tourism website and read all about the neighbourhoods in Toronto to find a great place to stay!
Best Time to Visit Ottawa
Canada’s capital, Ottawa, is a great place to visit al times of the year. That said, the summer months from May to August are quite pleasant. The fall will give you the pretty colours of the leaves, but you can’t count out the winter. Although winter in Ottawa is VERY cold – like -30 with wind chill – Ottawa is a mecca for wintertime activities. Ottawa has the 2nd longest skating rink in the world on the frozen Rideau Canal that snakes through the city. The city also hosts a massive winter festival called Winterlude which runs for a few weeks in February!
Best Time to Visit Niagara Falls, Canada
Like with most of Ontario, Niagara Falls is best visited in the summer from May to September. The warmer the weather, the busier the attractions and accommodations can get – but it’s still a pleasant time to be outside. In the winter, the Falls still do their thing – it’s just a little colder. The ice buildup can be a fascinating thing to see. New Year’s Eve is also a big time at Niagara Falls since the fireworks show is world-renowned. Here is the information you need to plan a visit for the winter fireworks.
Best Time To Visit Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Weather in Manitoba can be complicated like Ontario. Generally, the summers are hot but not humid and very short. The best time to visit Manitoba for hiking, fishing, and camping would be July and August. Winter can get pretty cold with -40 degrees Celsius a common occurrence for overnight and daily highs of -15 Celsius or colder. You also have to remember that Manitoba is also massive – with the northernmost parts closer to the Arctic region. Here is the tourism website for Manitoba.
Saskatchewan has interesting weather. Because it’s so flat and far from major bodies of water, this makes the summers very hot and dry and the winters bitterly cold. While Saskatchewan experiences lots of sunshine in the summer, they also experience more rain in the middle of summer from June to August, with thunderstorms and tornadoes a semi-common occurrence. Winters can be bitterly cold and the temperature drops dramatically after dark in all seasons.
That said, most visitors still choose the summer months for their visits and activities. An alternative might be the shoulder seasons from April-May and September-October. Temperatures are pleasant and the drastic summer weather isn’t an issue then. Autumn even stays warm because of warmer winds specific to the area. You can visit the Saskatchewan tourism website to learn more.
Best Time to Visit Alberta, Canada
Alberta is full of fun landscapes and climate regions. From the plains for cattle farming to desert badlands, rich forests and the Rocky Mountains to the west, it can be hard to choose the best time to visit. Generally speaking, the warmer months make for easy transportation and lots of activities in the lakes and mountains.
That said, June through to September is a fine time to visit Alberta. That said, if you are looking for winter sports, you’d have to shift your visit more to the winter months of February to April since there is still snow (especially in the mountains without the bitter cold). You can read more about visiting Calgary on their website.
Best Time to Visit Calgary
Realistically, you can visit Calgary anytime between May and the end of September. You’ll get the warmer weather to guarantee the closer to the middle of the summer you travel. Keep in mind that in the summer, you will have higher prices. April and October are considered the shoulder seasons and could also do for a visit – BUT there is a chance you can have snow. The winter is snowy and unpredictable – but if you want snow for winter sports then aim for mid-late January at the coldest.
One of the biggest festivals that exists in Canada each year is the Calgary Stampede. Calgary in July is full of western-themed events, rodeos, and also lots and lots of people, high prices, and booked accommodations. Here’s the official Stampede website – be sure to book early in Calgary.
Best Time to Visit Canadian Rockies
The best time to visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains “The Rockies” is the summer months from June to September. Many of the popular outdoor area and national parks are bustling with activity during these time of the nicest weather in Alberta.
The best time to visit Banff follows the same timeline above for the summer – but the skiers will want to do February to April. Visiting other popular places like Jasper National Park is also done in the summer – but consider the shoulder season of May or October to avoid the crowds and higher prices. To get you started, here is the official tourism website for Banff and Lake Louise!
Best Time to Visit British Columbia
British Columbia (usually said as “BC”) is a large province like its neighbours. From inland mountains to a vast Pacific Ocean coastline, the best time to visit British Columbia is dependent on your activities. There’s quite a bit of snow up on the mountains during the winter. At the same time, there’s rain down on the coast. Inland, and more north the summer allows for hiking and exploring dense forests and canoeing vast rivers that cross the province. So, for BC, it really truly depends!
Best Time of Year to Visit Vancouver
The best time to visit Vancouver isn’t too complicated of an answer as compared to the rest of the country. This is because Vancouver has a very rainy maritime climate caused by the ocean and its unique geography both on the coast and with mountains so close by. So, summertime is the best to visit Vancouver.
The summers don’t get too hot (like Ontario) and hover around mid to low 20’s Celcius. Winters don’t get freezing like Ontario and stay around 0 degrees Celsius. Of course, there are fluctuations. A little bit of snow isn’t out of the question.
That said, winter in Vancouver (from November to March) is colder but mainly rainy. Eric imagines it would be similar to Scotland in the sense that you expect rain and embrace the sun. You would still wear a rain jacket (like Eric’s black Northface) out just in case. We’ve got a great post on things to do in Vancouver written by a local guide and also cover the best areas to stay in Vancouver!
Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a real anomaly when talking about British Columbia weather. However, that’s understandable – it’s an island and not even connected to the mainland. Of course, the climate is going to be different! Vancouver Island experiences mild and dry summers. The hot weather makes surfing and the beach great activities. The hot weather also means crowds of people who flock to the picturesque island to take it all in!
The best advice we’ve gotten from locals is to visit in the spring but mainly in the fall (September). This is because the temperatures are cooler but still hot, and you miss the crowds. In the spring (like April-May) you might get the odd shower but nothing a good coat won’t fix.
As mentioned, judging the best time to visit Vancouver Island isn’t just dependent on weather. You have to think about prices as well. Places Tofino and Victoria get busy in the summertime so waiting for fall can mean that you get the summer heat without the crowds. You also have to remember that peak seasons mean higher prices but you pay for good weather so that’s for you to decide!
As for events, here is another reason to choose September to visit Victoria. The Great Canadian Beer Festival is in September! This is the longest running craft beer-only festival in Canada – over 25 years and counting! So if you like craft beer, plan around this amazing event.
Best Time to Visit the Territories
The territories are the northernmost parts of Canada. While they have tourism and visitors, they aren’t the most travelled to – but we didn’t want to leave them out! Yukon, Northwest Territory, and Nunavut span a massive area and multiple climate regions. They cover thick, dense forest, snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, and ice cold arctic tundra.
Up there, summers can get hot and bring with them massive mosquitoes. Eric was in Northern Ontario years ago (which is wayyy lower than the Territories) and even there the mosquitoes were the size of small birds – and that isn’t even an exaggeration. Yukon summers are shorter and the snow can come early. The fishing, canoeing, and hiking are great, though. In the wintertime, Yellowknife and Whitehorse, the capitals of the Northwest Territories and Yukon are considered a top global spot for seeing the Northern lights.
The nice thing about the winter is that while the winter is COLD, any guided excursion or experience up there will keep you safe and warm BUT airfare can be increased since it’s all for tour-goers. It really but it really depends on the demand for northern lights tourism. Visiting in the spring and all will mean fewer bugs, cooler temperatures, and lower airfares than winter and summer. Just something to think about!
And there you have it – a brief but detailed breakdown of the top regions and best times to visit parts of Canada. As we mentioned, there is no easy answer – and the best time is very dependent on what you want to spend, see, and do. Hopefully, this guide is a good template to help you begin to plan your visit. Have you had a Canadian weather experience you didn’t anticipate? Have you travelled seasonally to catch a big event in Canada like Winterlude? Get in touch and let us know!
As always, Happy Canada Weather Waddlin’,