Instead of grousing your way through the season, why not embrace it with a fabulous cold-weather getaway?
Once the holiday presents have lost their fresh-out-of-the-box, most people spend the rest of winter counting down the days until they can escape to some warm tropical paradise…and then wistfully counting the days that relinquish it to memory.
Look, we love a good tropical getaway as much as anyone. But what’s the good in setting yourself up for (pardon us, Shakespeare) a winter of your discontent?
In our opinion the best winter vacations, far from helping you escape the cold, are the ones that surrender to its embrace.
And when it comes to winter vacations, no one does it better than the Canadians. After all, they do spend half the year with snow on the ground.
With all due respect to Europe’s northern cultures, the North Americans living above 40 degrees north latitude combine a hardy adventurousness with consummate gentility. And as their adorable prime minister demonstrates, the Canadians are second to none when it comes to smiling sincerity.
Our shortlist of Canadian luxury hotels will help you fall in love with the season. A stay at any of these destinations is sure to foster luxurious sense memories that make you smile every time you feel the kiss of cold air on your face.
Here are our favorite places to visit in Canada during the winter.
Fogo Island Inn – Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Despite its ultra-modern profile, this 29-room inn gives the unmistakable impression of an ancient ship round aground on the jagged coast. The inn’s ingenious design allows you to maintain an elemental connection with the wildness of nature around you while basking in the lux amenities. Example, you ask? How about a rooftop sauna where you can stargaze as you schvitz? Or a hot tub that affords paradigm-bending views of the North Atlantic?
The inn is surrounded by footpaths built on the foundation of historical trails used by indigenous people. Discover the startling beauty of the extreme northern landscape’s seven seasons, from the vivid colors of barren and bog flora to the sight of whales cresting on the horizon. The inn also arranges complimentary half-day orientations with a resident of the local village to serve as your docent in the island’s otherworldly culture.
As conscientious as it is deluxe, the Fogo Island Inn is meticulously rooted in its local economy, offering you the luxury of moral rectitude as well as physical comfort. Rooms are appointed entirely in natural materials, the bar serves cocktails crafted from foraged ingredients, and the inn features a contemporary art gallery and a state-of-the-art cinema among its plush gathering spaces.
Get lost in their labyrinthine website and you’ll be planning your vacation before you know it.
Château Frontenac – Quebec City, Quebec
So maybe you’re not the intrepid winter type. Maybe you just want to hibernate in sumptuous style. L’affaire est ketchup. The Château Frontenac has more than a century’s worth of experience welcoming travelers in from the cold. Built in 1893, this UNESCO World Heritage site curates a guest experience steeped in authentic quebecois culture, from cross-country skiing on the Plaines d’Abraham to carriage rides around the vieux cité. Perched at a palatial angle over the St. Lawrence River, you’ll be just steps away from all of the oldest city’s winter charms, such as the ice sliding on the Terrasse Dufferin and the medieval magic of Winter Carnival.
Quebec’s magical Winter Carnival runs through to 12th February.
Grail Springs – Bancroft, Ontario
The Toronto Star wasn’t making a cheap pun when they called this place “the Holy Grail of mind and body retreats.” Located on a spring-fed lake near Canada’s mineral capital, this award-winning resort guides you in using the season as an opportunity to unwind and renew. Daily trips to the infrared saunas and mineral soaking tubs are just the beginning; Grail Springs offers state-of-the-art technology to assist with detoxification, improve circulation and stimulate bio-energy. In addition to daily yoga, guided meditation sessions and holistic, plant-based meals, Grail Springs provides intimate workshops led by renowned specialists in spirituality, energy healing and integrative medicine. And let’s not even get into the volcanic healing bed or the peace cairns – those need to be experienced to be believed.
Not that it matters, but winter offers the best rates of the year, so you may want to book now.
Churchill Wilds Wilderness Lodges – Hudson Bay, Manitoba
One area in which Canada excels are its ecolodges. Sadly, many of them are closed during the winter months. (With good reason—who wants to glamp in sub-zero temperatures?) The Churchill Wilds family of luxury wilderness lodges is the exception. Chief among its charms are a wood-fired cedar hot tub, mouthwatering provisions, picture windows perfect for viewing the northern lights…oh, and did we mention frequent visits from polar bears? Three of the network’s four lodges are located smack in the middle of polar bear country on Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coast, and offer arctic safaris guided by professional biologists. All this, and banana-stuffed French toast in the morning? Yes, please.
The Fairmont Whistler – Whistler, BC
The Whistler Fairmont offers the golden mean of winter vacations. Spend all day ripping through the area’s champagne powder, then dive into après-ski with a vengeance. Both can (indeed, should) be done under the skilled guidance of Fairmont experts; staff instructors can offer you a backstage tour of snowy backcountry or simply shuttle you to the nearby Fire and Ice extravaganza to watch the exploits of professional winter sport daredevils, while mixologists at the fireside Mallard Lounge will pair your craft cocktail with a flight of handcrafted chocolates. (Yes, really.) Any aches and pains caused by outdoor adventures/indoor overindulgence are easily melted away in the cedar steam room at the hotel’s Vida Spa. Honestly, why aren’t you there already?
Bota Bota Spa – Montreal, Quebec
As if you needed another reason to visit Montreal, how about a floating spa? This former show boat is home to 40 different elite spa services (including a Finnish sauna, whirlpool baths and hammam) as well as an immersive, 360-degree view of the city.
RAW : Almond – Winnipeg, Manitoba
The most unique pop-up restaurant you’ll ever find is located only in the winter on Winnipeg’s frozen Red River. Tickets for this season are sold out…but if you’re lucky, you might score one of the skate/walk-up seats.
Rideau Canal – Ottawa, Ontario
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site becomes the world’s largest skating rink from January to February. Winding its way through downtown Ottawa for nearly 8 kilometers, the frozen canal is at its most festive during February’s Winterlude. (Google “Ice Dragon Boat Race” if you need to be convinced.)
Nova Scotia Icewine Festival – Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
Presented by seven wineries from the province’s Annapolis Valley, this event is like the classiest family picnic you’ve ever attended, bringing together the unique vintages of the Maritimes with the finest in food, music and culture.
The Connoisseurs are Chelsea Batten and Bryan Thompson, two global travel writers based in The United States. Find them at TheConnoisseurs.us