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Canada in January: Guide to visiting Canada in winter

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Planning a trip to Canada in January? You will find our complete guide useful in preparing for an awesome winter break in the Great White North.

January marks the coldest month in Canada.  Most of Canada is blanketed in snow, making it the perfect time to enjoy winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding.

However, if you’re not a fan of the cold weather, don’t worry! There are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy as well. Check out our guide for everything you need to know about Canada in January.

Visiting Canada in January: Guide to visiting Canada in winter

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What season is January in Canada? 

January is winter in Canada. The weather is cold and most of the country is covered in snow. If you’re planning on visiting Canada during this time, make sure to pack your warmest clothes!

January is the coldest winter month in Canada. The average temperature in Canada in January is -15.5°C (59.9 F). However, temperatures can vary depending on which part of the country you’re visiting.

Wildlife in Banff winter

For example, if you’re planning to visit Toronto during this time, the average temperature is -4.9°C (23.18 F). If you’re heading to Vancouver, the average temperature is a milder 6.3°C (43.34 F).

When is winter in Canada? 

The months from December to February are the official winter season in Canada. 

Canada seasons: Canada has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The monthly breakdown is as follows

Canada in January weather and temperatures

January in Canada is in the middle of winter.  There is snow in most parts of the country, even the west coast which is usually warmer than the rest of Canada will experience some show showers.

Saskatoon in winter

The weather in January is cold and gloomy and the wind chill makes it difficult to venture outdoors without proper gear. On the other hand, this is a great time to hit the valley for skiing and snowboarding-related activities.

Here is what temperatures look like in various places in Canada in January,

PlaceAverage
High
Average
Low
Average
Rainfall (days)
Toronto0 C
32 F
– 7 C
19.4 F
9
Ottawa– 7 C
19.4 F
– 14 C
6.4 F
9
Vancouver7 C
44.6 F
3 C
37.4 F
15
Edmonton– 7 C
19.4 F
– 16 C
3.2 F
4
Banff National
Park
– 4 C
24.8 F
– 14 C
6.4 F
4
Quebec City– 7 C
19.4 F
– 15 C
5 F
13
Montreal– 2 C
28.4 F
– 12 C
10.4 F
11
Saskatoon– 11 C
12.2 F
– 21 C
– 5.8 F
4
Halifax0 C
32 F
– 9 C
15.8 F
11
Charlottetown– 4 C
24.8 F
– 12 C
10.4 F
11
Weather data source: Weather.com

What to pack for a trip to Canada in January?

Canada is quite cold during this time, so make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes.

A few items we recommend packing for Canada in January are:

To stay warm and comfortable in Canadian winters, it is important to layer your clothing. Wear long-sleeve tops and bottoms with fleece lining (called thermal baselayers or long johns). This layer is meant to provide warmth while keeping moisture at bay.

The next layer is a lightweight jacket or cardigan which acts as a mid-layer. This is perfect for indoors, or when you get inside a restaurant or your vehicle. 

Lake Louise winter activities
Parka, beanie, gloves, scarf in winter in Canada

The outerwear is a waterproof and warm jacket such as a parka. These jackets are insulated with (responsible) down feathers that provide you protection against winter elements. 

When you are out and about in the city or at a national park, you do need to wear a warm jacket. Opt for one with a hood that you can use to cover your ears and head.

Winter accessories not only protect you, but they also make you look cute and nice against the snowy backdrop (or all-black outfit). Pack gloves, colorful beanies, and scarves to style your look!

All of the items listed above are available on Amazon Prime so they can be at your door in two days or less!

And last but not least, don’t forget your camera to capture all the beautiful scenery!

What is the best way to get around Canada in January?

In Canada, the best way to get around during winter is by car. This is because public transport can be unreliable due to the weather conditions, and many attractions are located at a distance. 

Canada Road Trip Planning: Canmore Alberta
Canada Road Trip Planning Tips in winter

Winter road trips are a fun way to explore the winter wonderland that is Canada, without having to step outside in the cold!

If you’re renting a car, make sure to have winter tires and an emergency kit with you in case you get stranded. 

Driving in Canada in winter can be challenging, so make sure you’re prepared before setting off on your journey.

What can you expect to see in Canada in January?

January is a great time to visit Canada, for winter sports lovers. Yes, the temperatures are cold, but everything is also quite beautiful and lovely under the white wintery snow – like Narnia of sorts!

Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise Ski Resort

Winter is the next peak season after the summer months. But still, you won’t see HUGE crowds in indoor attractions like museums, restaurants, or shopping malls. 

Skiing resorts and parking at the nature parks might be a challenge – partly due to the weather, and crowds, but you can plan ahead, and make reservations for an effortless getaway. 

In the winters, particularly in January, you can experience shorter days, and the possibility of northern lights is also great in places like Yukon, Alberta (north), and NWT. 

Cities celebrate New Year with a great show with fireworks on the night before. But keep in mind many restaurants and attractions might be closed on January 1. 

Here are some of our favorite winter activities to do in Canada,

  • skiing and snowboarding
  • ice skating (indoor and outdoor)
  • sledding
  • snowshoeing
  • cross-country skiing
  • visiting museums and art galleries and,
  • shopping

Festivals in Canada in January

Here is a list of popular festivals in January across the country

Ice Magic festival Lake Louise
Ice Magic Festival Lake Louise
  • Snow Days Festival in Banff National Park (Banff, AB): Don’t miss this winter festival that has been ongoing for 9 decades in Canada’s oldest national park. This event brings in activities like ice-skating, ice hockey, ice statues and related exhibits, theater shows, etc to visitors!
  • Ice Magic Festival (Lake Louise, AB): This free event takes place in Lake Louise, where you can see world-class ice sculptors showcasing their best creations on display at the frozen lake. 
  • Fete des Neiges Montreal Snow Festival (Montreal, QC): This winter festival takes place in downtown Montreal every year at the Jean-Drapeau Park. You will find ice-skating, snow games and amusements, ice hockey, and various cultural shows, at this paid festival. Note that it’s an open-air event, so make sure to dress warmly. 
  • The Toronto Fringe Next Stage Theatre Festival (Toronto, ON): Indoor theatre festival in the largest Canadian city, Toronto.
  • Winter Festival of Lights (Niagara Falls, ON): Organised on multiple days in Niagara Falls, this Winter Festival of Lights is a delightful event to participate in with snow and lights!
  • Coldsnap – The Prince George Winter Music Festival (Prince George, BC): Join Coldsnap, a music festival that takes place in the province of British Columbia. It takes place in multiple locations in Prince George so do check out the listing before you go. 
  • Winnipeg New Music Festival (Winnipeg, MN): Another music festival, and this time it is Classical music which is organized in the province of Manitoba. This event features a week of live performances, panel discussions, art, food, and more.
  • Igloofest (Montreal’, QC): A premier outdoor dance party, considered to be the world’s frigid dance party. This music and dance event is completely held outdoors, under the stars in Montreal’s ‘Vieux Port’. Isn’t it wild (and freaking cool)?
  • Whistler Pride and Ski Festival (Whistler, BC): Enjoy a week of fun, pride, and skiing at one of Canada’s premier ski resorts. Whistler and Blackcomb are two majestic mountains that provide the perfect setting for an epic winter getaway! 

Where to go in Canada in January? 

If you are visiting Canada for winter activities, we have a list of resorts and national parks that we highly recommend. Keep in mind that it will be busy, so make preparations in advance.

Girl at the Ice Castles event in Edmonton in Canada in January
Ice Castles in Edmonton Canada in January

But don’t forget the cities. Cities are not super crowded in January. In fact, you might get lucky with hotel deals, near-empty museums, and malls. 

Most cities will have one to two festivals (winter lights, snow, music, wine/food related) in January, so definitely check out local listings prior to your visit. 

Some of the best places to visit in Canada in January include Banff National Park, Whistler, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Vancouver. 

We have all the sightseeing and festival-related information compiled below. 

Alberta: Banff National Park, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park

Alberta is well-known for its winter festivals and activities, and stunning landscapes including the epic Canadian Rockies.  

Alberta is cold in the winter, which makes it ideal for a snowy getaway, winter sports, and other activities.

Banff National Park and Lake Louise are the major crowd pullers to Alberta. Crowds arrive there to soak in the snowy landscape, winter hikes, wildlife sightings, and skiing, and skating opportunities.

Frozen lake louise winter
Frozen lake Louise winter

Lake Louise is frozen this time, and yes you can walk, and skate here. Just ensure you dress right, and wear winter boots with cleats. For skating, you can rent equipment from the nearby Fairmont Lake Louise.

Lake Lousie Ski resort is also one of the popular resorts in the country, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Other than skiing, you can go snowshoeing, or enjoy winter hikes. Ice walks in Johnston Canyon are also popular.

Ice walk at Maligne Canyon
Ice walk at Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Apart from these two iconic areas, you can surely hit Jasper National Park in winter and hit the trails, or go skiing at the Marmot Ski Resort. 

In the winter, you can chase the northern lights in Alberta in places like Jasper, or Vermillion Lake in Banff. 

British Columbia: Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, and others

British Columbia on the west coast has milder winters as compared to its Alberta neighbor. But you can still enjoy winter sports in places like Whistler, Squamish, Revelstoke, and Yoho National Park.

Whistler is ideal for skiers. The resort town of Whistler is only 2 hours by car from Vancouver and it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. You’ll like Whistler if you love winter sports.

Whistler Canadian Bucket list

Vancouver and Victoria are spectacular getaways if you wish to escape the snow. For the holiday season, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is illuminated, making it a must-see. You will be able to witness this event in January as well.

Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown and the second oldest in North America, and you can enjoy some fantastic food here. You will also love it if the Chinese New Year is in January. 

Don’t miss the Butchart Gardens that are illuminated during this time as well.

Ontario: Toronto, Niagara Falls, Blue Mountains, and more

Toronto is a massive city, Canada’s largest and most populous. If you like city travel, don’t miss out on Toronto. 

During winter, indoor attractions like art galleries, castles, and museums won’t be crowded. You can also book a movie or theatre show during your trip.

Do add a day trip to the Niagara falls, which is epic in the winters too! Plan to check out the Winter Lights Festival during your visit. 

Niagara Falls Lights event
Niagara Falls looks festive and elegant in winter

Ontario is also home to Canada’s capital city – Ottawa. Ottawa is picturesque in winter and you can explore the Parliament buildings, museums, and more. Plus go skating at the longest canal – Rideau Canal!

In Ontario, there are numerous ski areas to select from. If you’re searching for a family-friendly ski resort, look no further than Mount St. Louis Moonstone in Barrie. This ski area is adjacent to Barrie and has over 35 runs that are suitable for all skill levels. 

Blue Mountain Village in winter with mountain background
Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Ski Resort is another popular spot for locals and visitors alike.No matter what ski resort you choose, you are sure to have a great time skiing in Ontario.

In addition to skiing, you can also go snow tubing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and ice skating in Ontario. 

There is no shortage of things to do in the province during the winter, including trying out ice wine. Ontario (and British Columbia) is known for its ice wine production, which is a dessert wine. 

Quebec: Montreal, Quebec City 

From fairytale cities to charming winter accommodation Quebec is a must-visit in Canada in winter. 

For one, explore Montreal, which is a beautiful city in winter with its quaint streets and historic buildings. The outdoor ice skating rinks are a must-visit, and if you plan it well you can even join the IglooFest, which is an outdoor event held at the Old Port. 

Scenic view of downtown Montreal in winter from Mount Royal Chalet in January in Canada
Scenic view of downtown Montreal in winter from Mount Royal Chalet in January in Canada

During the winters, visitors flock to Quebec City in droves. Although the city’s prime festival – Quebec Winter Carnival – takes place in February, the city is still beautiful in January particularly the old town, and with views of the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.

There are snowshoeing trails in and around the city, so you can have the best of both worlds – city sightseeing and snowy outdoors! 

If you’re seeking a unique winter getaway that isn’t like the others, head to Gatineau. This city is located on the banks of the Ottawa River and has several parks and trails. 

During the winter, you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, and ice skate in Gatineau.

Other than that, Quebec is home to the Hôtel de Glace aka the Ice Hotel, the only ice accommodation in America. This is a popular spot and is located about 2 hour drive from Montreal, so making reservations ahead of time is key. 

Manitoba: Winnipeg

Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba, and it is Canada’s coldest capital. You can enjoy winter activities like cross-country skiing, tobogganing, indoor skydiving, and more. For the adrenalin junkies, there’s nothing like dog sledding to get your heart pumping.

Winnipeg New Music Festival takes place in January. Although Manitoba is known for Polar Bear Safaris (in Churchill), in January, the possibility of sighting them is rare.  

More Travel Tips for Canada in January: FAQ

Is January a good time to visit Canada?

The answer to this question largely depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation. If you enjoy winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, then Canada is definitely the place to be in January! However, if you’re not a fan of the cold weather, you may want to consider visiting Canada at a different time of year.

But one of the biggest advantages of visiting Canada in January is that accommodation prices are typically lower than they are during the peak season. So if you’re looking to save some money, January may be a good time to visit Canada.

What is the weather in Canada in January?

January is the coldest month in Canada. On average, you can expect a high temperature of -2.3°C (27.9°F) and an average low temperature of -7°C (19.4°F) in January.

Is January a good time to visit Toronto?

January is considered off-season in Toronto. If you love cities, you can expect fewer crowds, and also cheaper deals for hotels and other accommodations. Almost all the attractions (musuems, art galleries, etc.) will be open.

Just like most of Canada, Toronto does experience colder temperatures. So do pack warm clothes and layer on when you head outdoors. Check public transit timings and alerts, so that you are not stranded in the cold.

You can expect the temperatures to be similar to New York City in the United States.

Is Niagara Falls fun in the winter?

Niagara Falls is amazing in the winter as well. In fact, as soon as summer and fall come to an end, crowds disappear from this popular attraction, making it perfect heaven for visitors to check out the falls, minus the crowds. 

The snow-dusted falls, and the snowy landscape looks epic in the winter. You can also check out Winter Lights Festival in January at Niagara Falls. 

How is Vancouver in January?

Vancouver experiences milder temperatures as compared to most of the other popular destinations in Canada in January. Daily high temperatures are about 7 degrees C (44 F), with a low of 3 degrees C (37 F). There is some snow or showers, but it doesn’t last long.

Can you go to Banff in January?

Yes, Banff National Park is open in January. If you love winter activities, you will love visiting Banff in winter. It is the perfect time to hit the slopes, go skating in natural ice rinks, go on winter hikes, do ice walks, and go wildlife sightseeing. 

Although some of the hiking trails and road access might be closed, you can still enjoy winter drives from Lake Louise to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway, or in around Banff town as they will be still accessible in winter. 

Where should I go in Canada in January?

Here are some of our favorites for January, 
Quebec City
Montreal
Banff National Park and Lake Louise
Vancouver
Victoria
Whistler
Toronto 
Niagara Falls
Ottawa
Winnipeg

When is the best time to visit Canada?

The best time to visit Canada depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to enjoy winter activities, then January is a great time to visit. However, if you don’t like the cold weather, we recommend visiting Canada during the summer months.

Canada is a beautiful country no matter what time of year you visit!

More Canada travel guides:

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