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20 Best Places to Visit in Canada in Winter

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Looking for the best places to visit in Canada in winter? We got you covered. From snow capped mountain getaways, world class ski resorts to Christmas markets and Ice & Lights events, a winter break in Canada is a must add to your travel bucket list. 

Saint Albert Christmas Glow celebrations
Saint Albert Christmas Glow celebrations Edmonton Canada

In this post, we will share some of the top picks for winter destinations in Canada, sorted by provinces in an alphabetical order! Happy Reading.

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ALBERTA

Banff National Park

Banff Downtown
Banff Downtown

Banff National Park is one of the best places to visit in Canada in winter. Enjoy the stunning Canadian Rockies, sprinkled with snow dust and beautiful winter wonderland. One of the amazing things to do in the winter in Banff is to head to the Sulphur Sightseeing Gondola and soak in views of the mountains.  On certain nights, Banff Gondola also organizes a stargazing event, along with Christmas celebrations.  

There are tons of seasonal activities held here in the winter, from Christmas on Mountain Top to Santa Claus parade and other leisurely activities.

For those looking for winter sports, Banff welcomes you with natural and man-made ice rinks, cross country skiing and snowboarding, all with amazing mountain backdrops. Mount Norquay and Banff Sunshine Village are great options for skiing at the mountains. 

Winter is also amazing for Banff hiking and ice walks. Although not all trails will be open (like it’s open in the summer months), winter hiking in selected trails is possible. Always ensure you are taking a guide on winter hikes if this is your first time. 

Johnston Canyon Hike In Winter
Johnston Canyon Hike In Winter

Romantic winter activities from fairytale castle staycations, horse sleigh rides to fancy dining, Banff has it all for a winter holiday! Be sure to wear warm clothes, as it can be pretty windy in Banff on the mountain-top.

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Calgary 

Calgary on a snowy day

One of the prettiest cities in Canada to visit in winter is Calgary. Calgary is usually the first stop for those travelers heading to Banff from overseas or out of province. 

The majority of the city attractions are open in the winter in Calgary. Ensure you visit the Calgary Tower observation platform to soak in the views of snow-covered city-scape. Tons of festive concerts, markets, and restaurants menu pop up to keep you delighted throughout the stay.

Calgary Tower Glass floor in winter
Calgary Tower Glass floor in winter

During this time, you must visit museums like the Glenbow Art Museum, Fort Calgary Park to name a few. This is also a good time to shop at various retail locations in Calgary, which are normally filled with Holiday decorations and sales. Find how to spend a day in Calgary here

If you are into outdoor activities, include a trip to the Olympics Park and enjoy winter activities at the world-class facility. Another option is the Fish Creek Provincial Park. You can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing here. 

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Edmonton 

Alberta Legislature, Edmonton in winter

Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, and it has been our home for the past 5+ years. In the winter Edmonton beams with amazing activities. Our absolute favorite is the Ice Castles festival that takes place from late December to early February (ice castles are canceled for 2020, likely to return in 2022). 

The city is filled with other festivals too like the amazing Luminaria Lights festival, where the Botanical Gardens are decorated with festive lights for two days. Not too far from Edmonton is the Elk Island National Park, where you can chase Northern Lights in the winter, or go snowshoeing.

Devonian Gardens Edmonton winter
Devonian Gardens Edmonton winter

We love to take a walk at the Legislature Grounds in the winter, as it lights up for Christmas festivities. Shopping is huge in Edmonton too. Here you can shop at the largest indoor shopping mall in the country – West Edmonton Mall.

Winter Igloos – Riverside Bistro Edmonton

The Riverside Bistro (Courtyard by Marriott in Edmonton) sets up winter igloos for you to dine in. We had a great time, cozying with our loved ones in an igloo, overlooking the river valley.

Lake Louise

Frozen lake louise winter
Frozen lake Louise winter

Located inside the Banff National Park is the turquoise blue waters of Lake Lousie. During winter, the frozen lake is like a little town in itself. You can ice skate in the natural rink, against the mountain backdrop. 

Located close by is the Lake Lousie Chateau – stay here for stunning winter views from your suite. There are ice skating rentals and indoor rink at the chateau. You can also hop on a shuttle to head to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from here! Book a skiing lesson in Lake Louise

Ice Magic festival Lake Louise
Ice Magic festival Lake Louise

In January, Lake Lousie hosts the Ice Sculpture Festivals, which delights visitors every year. This event is free to enter and enjoy. 

If you are planning to embark on a road trip to enjoy the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Lousie, ensure you check the weather forecasts/road conditions before travel. Always add car insurance for the duration of your trip.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA

Vancouver 

Vancouver in Winter
Vancouver Canada in winter

Vancouver is one of the best places to visit in Canada in winter for those who love ‘not a lot of snow’. Considered one of the warmer places for Christmas breaks, Vancouver glows with festive colors and lights all winter long.

There are many Christmas lights events held across the city, and our absolute favorite is the lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The park looks like pretty postcard-like lights shining in the middle of the woods. 

Enjoy ice skating at the Robson Square Ice Rink. This is seasonally operated and open for visitors. Or head to the St. Paul’s Foundation’s Lights of Hope, where you can soak in the festive glow with over 100,000 bright lights, and shining stars.

As the weather is not very cold, you can wander Downtown Vancouver with hot chocolate in your hand, while you enjoy the urban jungle, 5-star hotels, waterfront area, and art museums. Highly recommend adding a food tour in Gastown.

You can also enjoy a day full of skiing activities by taking a day trip to the Grouse Mountains. It hosts 24 Hours of Winter event, where the slopes are open from sunrise to sunset.

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Squamish 

Winter is Squamish, British Columbia

By Eden from Rock a Little Travel

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada in Winter is Squamish, British Columbia. The town of Squamish is located along the Sea to Sky Highway about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler. 

It is situated next to the mountains, the Squamish River, and Howe Sound, creating an abundance of outdoor adventure opportunities for winter visitors. 

One of the most popular things to do in Squamish in winter is to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola. Once at the top you’ll be greeted with stunning views of Howe Sound and the snow capped mountains off in the distance. The surrounding trails are perfect for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. 

Squamish is also a popular winter destination for backcountry skiing, sledding, zip lining, rock climbing, and snowmobiling. 

For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Squamish is known as a prime area for Bald Eagle viewing. The Bald Eagles return to the area each November and can often be seen flying around near the Squamish River.  Head to Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park for your best chance at spotting the Bald Eagles. 

If you’re looking for a hotel in the area, we recommend the Howe Sound Inn located in downtown Squamish. The hotel is located just upstairs from Howe Sound Brewing, which has a fantastic restaurant and makes an excellent place to end your day. 

Victoria

Looking at Victoria Harbour
Victoria, BC. Photo by Stephanie from Flytographer

By Marcie from Marcie in Mommyland

Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is one of the cutest little winter wonderland towns, especially during the holidays. The European-inspired city is all dressed up with Christmas lights and decorations. 

While many people flock to The Butchart Gardens during the warmer months, they are pretty awesome during the winter. They host a Magic of Christmas event with more lights than you can ever imagine plus an outdoor skating rink. 

Around town, you can take the Hop On Hop Off tour or hitch a ride in a horse drawn carriage for a romantic ride through the festive streets. The Royal BC Museum is a great place to explore on cold days and Father Christmas himself even makes appearances. They also have an impressive lineup of IMAX films running all day long. 

When it’s time to warm up, head to Floyd’s diner for some amazing hot chocolate and tasty diner food. Or head up to the Dutch Bakery to fill your tummy with delectable treats, including traditional gingerbread cookies! 

Of course, there’s no better place to stay at Christmas in Victoria BC than the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel. They have one of the most gorgeous lobbies decorated for Christmas and they host some amazing high tea events. Victoria makes an awesome winter weekend getaway in British Columbia!

Whistler 

Snowmobiling in Whistler Canada winters
Whistler Snowmobiling

By Rachel from A City Girl Outside

Whistler is the skiing capital of North America and one of the most perfect places to visit during the winter season. But there is far more to this skiing resort town. Snowmobiling has been one of the most exhilarating activities that you must do, outside of the Whistler Blackcomb resort, and something you definitely need to try once in your life! 

Snowmobiling tours are offered through Canadian Wilderness Adventures, and they offer tours for different skill levels, including families! You can choose to share a snowmobile with a friend and tae turns or for an extra fee, have individual snowmobiles.

The guides at Canadian Wilderness are fantastic and will have you trying new things in no time. You don’t need to worry about having the right attire, Canadian Wilderness supply helmets, and boots for the ride! Tours can be booked online through the Canadian Wilderness website or you can visit their kiosk downstairs in the Carlton Lodge.

For exceptional rooms and service during your stay in Whistler, the Fairmont Chateau is one of Whistler’s most prestigious hotels and one of the resorts only ski in-ski out hotels. With stunning views of Blackcomb mountain, a spa and several dining options, the Fairmont has everything you’d need to complete your winter trip to Whistler. Book your stay here!

MANITOBA

Churchill 

Polar bear in Churchill
Polar bear in Churchill

Churchill is a small town located in the province of Manitoba. It is widely known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”. Yes, this is where cute polar bears await you for winter fun. 

Churchill is located on the shores of Hudson Bay, and is home to polar bears, beluga whales, and a variety of birds. It is like a winter wonderland like no other. In the lap of nature, and far north, Churchill is one of those places in Canada where you can witness wilderness and beat winter blues by chasing green dancing lights aka Aurora Borealis. 

Plan a trip to Churchill for an amazing winter break for wildlife and nature lovers. To get to Churchill, you can fly to Winnipeg, and then travel there. Another option is to take the Winnipeg–Churchill semi-weekly train. 

NOVA SCOTIA

Halifax

Halifax in winter
Halifax in winter

Winters in Halifax are long. But it is a good thing as due to snow and ice you can indulge in winter activities. 

Tobogganing on Citadel Hill is very popular, so is ice skating at the Emera Oval. Winter activities range from skiing, winter hiking, sledding and ice tubing in various parks across the city.  And attending all the lights festivals is a must. 

The Atlantic Fashion Week Pop-Up Christmas Market pulls tourists for festive souvenirs and culinary delight. You can also visit the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market for local produce and baked goods.

If you prefer indoor festivities, head to the Student Art Gallery, and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for seasonal events, while you stay warm and toasty inside. Another option is to head to Sugar Moon Farm to enjoy our maple syrup and a comfort winter meal. 

Winter in Halifax lasts till February, and if you are visiting during this time, don’t forget to attend the Festival of Whisky. 

ONTARIO

Great Lakes

Frozen Lake Erie Canada winter destinations
Frozen Lake Erie

By Slavka from On2Continents.com

Canada is charming in winter. No wonder it’s called the True North. Frozen Great Lakes add to the country’s winter charm. If you get a chance to get to one of the large lakes in winter, you’ll be surprised by how different they look. Summer lake beaches are fun, but the frozen beauty of glittering snow and ice on the lake during a sunny day is unforgettable.

The best places for trips to frozen lakes are small towns along the shore such as Port Stanley on Lake Erie or Grand Bend on Lake Huron. Lakes are frozen solid many metres from the beach, and you’ll see people walking towards the open space. The weather conditions for walking on frozen lakes are best in February and early March after several weeks of frost or cold snaps.

Before you set out, make sure you choose a sunny day with no wind. Wind can ruin your day more than the grey sky. Also, be sure to wear layers of winter clothing, warm hat, mittens, good boots, and sunglasses. And don’t forget your camera because you sure will want to snap the winter fairy tale landscape.

After a nice fresh walk on the magical glistening landscape, it’s a good idea to warm up in a cozy coffee shop. A cup of hot chocolate will be a perfect touch to a nice winter lake trip. 

Read: More places to visit in Ontario in winter

Niagara Falls

The Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls taken from above on the Canadian side.
The Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls taken from above on the Canadian side.

If you have visited Niagara Falls in the summer, you must re-visit in the winter to see how strunnung the falls look in a Narnia like scenario. Although many of the attractions like the boat tours are closed, the falls and observation platform for viewing is open. 

Take a walk along the pathway by the side of the falls and enjoy the mighty falls glittering in white snow. It is common to see ice formations in and around the falls and the cliffs. 

Close to Christmas and New Years, you can expect fireworks and festive lights over the Falls. The Skylon Tower on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls is open during winters and you can book a ticket to soak in the white washed falls. 

For most of the winter, Niagara Falls is not super crowded, but on Christmas eve or New Years’ Eve finding affordable hotels might be a challenge, so reserve your stay early. 

Toronto 

Toronto in winter
Toronto in winter

Toronto is one of the best places to visit in Canada in winter. Toronto gets a lot of snow, and the entire city is lit with festive lights and decorations.And truly the city is never dull at any time of the year.

Festive activities begin at the historic Distillery District. This is where Christmas Market is set up. Wander through the markets and sip in hot cocoa while you shop souvenirs and Christmas ornaments. 

Toronto Light Festival is a must-visit, here the annual lights fest will leave you spellbound and in the festive spirit. Guide to exploring Toronto in a day

For winter sports, enjoy skating and live music at the epic Nathan Phillips Square. This is where the City Hall is located too. 

Waterfront is one of our favorite spots in the city, whether summer or winter. There are festive decorations and stalls at the waterfront. At the Harbourfront Centre, you can also enjoy skating on a natural ice rink, whilst soaking in the city views.

For those looking for an indoor winter experience, ensure you visit museums and theatre halls for concerts and Christmas choir. Casa Loma is an amazing place to visit this time – stay inside, take a tour of the castle and take photos with Santa Claus.

Another item to add is the CN Tower, it is open in the winter for festive dinners (at the revolving restaurant) and the viewing platform to admire the waterfront and Downtown Toronto from up above. Book hotels in Toronto here!

Blue Mountain Resort

Blue Mountain Village in winter with mountain background
Blue Mountain Village

By Manpreet from YourVeganAdventure.com

The Blue Mountain Resort is located within driving distance from Toronto and although it is an amazing place to visit all year round, winter is when it becomes magical.

Once the winter season starts, the ski lifts begin operating and work all day taking guests up to the top of the slopes. However, there is more to Blue Mountain than just skiing in the winter. The wood view mountain top, becomes home to an 1100m ice rink loop, with stunning views over the Niagara Escarpment. 

Ice skates can be rented for $6, and you are allowed to take your own to be more comfortable. The other popular activity is hiking through the many trails with snowshoes. Again with views of the Escarpment, the resort provides free hiking tours on this quiet tranquil route through nature and see a completely different side to Blue Mountain. 

Oh, and if you feel tired at the top, you can get a tube to slide your way back to ground!

Blue Mountain truly is a resort, with plenty of eateries and hotels on site. You can spend a few nights there without having to drive anywhere outside of the area. 

The hotels on-site are the Village Suites, the Resort Inn, and the 5* luxury Westin Hotel. No matter what your budget, there is something for you. Traveling by road is highly recommended and there is plenty of free parking at all the accommodations so there is no stress on that front. The restaurants within the resort cater to all taste buds, ranging from a coffee shop bakery to a dine-in Japanese experience. 

Ottawa 

Ottawa Rideau Canal

Ottawa is Canada’s capital city, and it is one of the must visit places in the winter. Do visit the Parliament building and admire all the festive lights lit for Christmas and the New Years. 

Ottawa is home to the world’s longest natural ice rink aka the Rideau Canal. The frozen Rideau Canal Skateway awaits you, so get ready to enjoy a fun filled day with friends and family. This is one of the most popular attractions in the winter in Ottawa. 

As with most Canadian cities, festive lights are common and Ottawa is no different. All of Ottawa is decorated with thousands of lights.

Parc de la Gatineau

Parc de la Gatineau in winter
Parc de la Gatineau in winter

By Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog

Even Canada is one of the most amazing countries in the world for downhill skiing, there are also other activities to do in winter, such as hiking or snowshoeing. 

A place easily accessible from one of the main cities in Canada is Parc de la Gatineau very close to Ottawa. It’s less than a 30-minute drive from Ottawa downtown and it’s impressive how quickly you can enter a snowy winter wonderland with nothing more than just 100% nature around you. 

The three main lakes of the park, Lac Meech, Lac Phillipe, and Lac Mousseau, are adding their share to this beautiful and idyllic scenery.

The main winter activities at Parc de la Gatineau with more than 150km of trails are hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. All trails are divided into separate categories (easy, medium and difficult) and are marked on a big comprehensive map which makes it easy to get around in the park. 

The idyllic setting and the gorgeous views of the lakes and the Ottawa Valley are making any activity here very pleasant on a sunny winter day. One of the possible trails with some steep inclines and three viewpoints on the way is the Wolf Trail, which we did last winter.

When visiting Parc de la Gatineau, we recommend staying right in Ottawa as is it so close, which means you can enjoy the advantages and attractions of Canada’s capital as well. If you would like to splurge a bit, Andaz Ottawa Byward Market is a great pick and if you are looking for a more affordable downtown option, The Carleton Suite Hotel is your place to go.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Charlottetown

Charlottetown in winter guide
PEI in winter

The capital city of PEI/Prince Edward Island – Charlottetown is one of the unique places to visit in Canada in the winter. This winter getaway is perfect for both indoor and outdoor activities from fine dining, skating, cross skiing to children’s festival.

The small city has the perfect combination of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy. Firstly, warm up with a hot drink from one of the city’s cafes in the downtown area. Then head outdoors and skate at the Founder’s Hall Rink is one of the popular places to hang out in Charlottetown.

Another option to enjoy winter fun is at Victoria Park. Activities include cross country skiing, outdoor winter yoga, and snowshoeing. 

Winter festivals in Charlottetown include something for everybody from young and the old. Jack Frost Children’s Winterfest for young adults, Winterdine for foodie lovers, and Festival of Lights – for everybody.  

QUEBEC 

Montreal 

Montreal winter skating
Montreal winter skating

The stunning city of Montreal is even more amazing in the winter. From staying at an Ice hotel, listening to Christmas carols at Notre Dame to enjoying underground shopping, Montreal welcomes you to a fun-filled winter getaway. 

Ice Hotel in Montreal is a special hotel, which gets built each year (depending on winter conditions). It is open from January to late March/early April. Visitors can wander through the hotel, and enjoy a drink or two at the Ice Bar, and can also book a room to stay for the night. 

For those visiting on Christmas Eve, visit the Notre Dame Basilica in old Montreal and chime in the carols. Old Montreal, especially the port area is filled with festivities, and markets to warm your heart.

Montreal in winter
Montreal in winter

Marché de Noël is a popular event in Montreal, where you can shop for traditional foods, handcrafted items – ornaments and souvenirs, etc. 

Montréal’s Christmas Village is held every year in the winter, starting in late November to early January. This winter/Christmas village is home to 50 cottages filled with bakeries, cafes, stores selling souvenirs and local produce. Santa Claus is also present to welcome the kids. 

If you prefer a German Christmas Market, head to the Weinachtsmarkt. This market ambiance will teleport you to Europe. Shop handmade Christmas goodies, eat sausages, sauerkraut, and sip mulled wine, while you wander the market. 

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant in Winter
Mont Tremblant in Winter

By Danni from Danni In The Desert 

This beautiful little village is located in Quebec, Mont Tremblant was built especially for tourists who want a European resort-style ski experience with hotels, shops, restaurants and more! 

They offer a range of slopes from beginning to advanced along with ski instructors for those who are novices or wish to improve their technique. Don’t have any ski gear? Not to worry! Everything can be hired from their ski shop!

Once you’ve finished skiing, you’ve got lots of ways to unwind with a wide range of restaurants and hotels serving an array of food and beverages. 

One of the best spots for food and drink is close to the village resort called Hotel Quintessence. Their fine dining bistro has stunning views over Lake Tremblant or lounge in their pretty cool cellar style bar. If you’re not wanting to go too far from the action of the slopes, within the village there is everything from pizza to poutine!

Similar to the restaurants, there are a wide range of hotels available closeby. Everything from hostels to 5-star boutique hotels. Despite being a skiing resort, one of the best parts of it is possible to experience skiing whatever your budget!

Another must is to check out the spas! Depending on your budget, the more budget-friendly option is Aquaclub in the middle of Tremblant village. You can enjoy sitting in an outdoor warm jacuzzi with skiers whizzing by. If you’re wanting the full luxury option, there are several spas in the surrounding areas offering various packages for a fully relaxing experience.

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Trois-Rivières (Ice Trails & Winter Hiking)

Quebec in winter

By Brianna of Curious Travel Bug

Quebec is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a winter destination in Canada. While Quebec is known for its skiing, it’s also a fantastic destination for ice skating trails and winter hiking.

Domaine Enchanteur is a skating trail that winds its way through a forest only 20 minutes away from Trois-Rivières. With 15 km of trails to explore, it’s easy to spend a couple of hours here. This is not your typical ice rink experience. Trails here take you to secluded parts of the forest and by different animals on the farm like alpacas and emus. Along the trails there are also warming rooms and places to buy hot chocolate.

After skating, take a scenic drive towards La Mauricie National Park. The drive here feels more like you are driving through snowy European towns with cute villages that dot the sides of the Saint Maurice River. 

At La Mauricie, there are several options for exploring the park during winter. The service centre at Rivière à la Pêche offers up equipment rentals of snowshoes, cross-country skis, and crampons for hiking. Hiking through the forest here is a magical experience. With deep snow drifts, and views from up on cliffs to the river below, this is the perfect winter activity.

This trip can be done as a day trip from Montreal, Quebec City, or Trois-Rivières. To immerse yourself in this winter wonderland you can rent a cabin at La Mauricie National Park. If you want a bit more luxury than that, check out Hotel Oui Go in Trois-Rivières.

Final Thoughts on Canada Winter Destinations

Canada is a great destination to spend your winter holidays. Yes, it is cold, but it is also the perfect place to enjoy this season – bring out your winter jackets, lace up warm boots, put on a pretty beanie/torque and welcome the snow with wide open arms!

We hope you enjoy spending winters here, as much as we do!

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21 Comments

  1. I’m usually against traveling in the cold, but omg, these photos make it look worth hit! It really looks and sounds incredible. Pinning for later!

  2. I would love to visit Banff National Park in winter. It looks so beautiful, just like a fairy tale. I have actually been to Toronto in December in a layover, and I’ve seen it cover in snow. So pretty!

  3. I’ve only ever visited Canada in the winter time and I’ve loved every single visit! I think there’s something magical about the snow and the beautiful scenery. Thanks for this list, there are still quite a few places I haven’t visited.

  4. I’m in Vancouver and can vouch for all the BC places on this list. It’s a great place for winter, and not too cold. I’d love to visit Churchill though and see the Polar Bears and I do really like the Rockies. Great list

  5. Omg it looks so cold! My family used to go to Niagara Falls every year around Christmas — it was a really great time to see the falls with fewer tourists!

  6. Love all these winter Canadian ideas! Sadly I’m Canadian and haven’t done any of them. I need to get on it soon!

  7. I want to go to Banff so bad!! I also love Toronto in the winter. I would enjoy seeing Montreal in the wintertime when there are Christmas markets.

  8. These are all amazing ideas! Canada sounds magical in the winter!!! I’d love to see the ice sculptures and Banff and Nova Scotia where my grandpas family was from!

  9. Also a cool idea on just sitting down and doing a bit of people watching, I can imagine that with the amount of people living in Canada there really is a mix of cultures and styles.

  10. I haven’t been to Canada in about 2 decades but Banff is superrrr high up on my travel bucket list! Can’t wait til it’s safer to travel again! <3

  11. Beautiful images. Now I am more excited to visit Canada this Christmas. Thank you for sharing some amazing places to visit in Canada

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