CANADA IN WINTER IS PURE MAGIC. It’s a season when you can ski on island mountains and surf perfect waves in the Maritimes. It’s when big cities — Calgary, Montréal, Vancouver — buzz with world-class festivals, and when you can suddenly have Niagara Falls just about to yourself, you and a few others surrounded by swirling mist, looking out at the crashing water and sheets of ice. And as winter descends, the brightest Northern Lights on the planet make the country turn all kinds of Insta-worthy.

Canada, you’re amazing…and amazingly photogenic. Here’s proof.

1

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

An hour southwest of Halifax, Peggy’s Cove is extra beautiful in winter. With fewer visitors milling about, there’s a chance you might just get Peggy's Point Lighthouse all to yourself. And of course the muted hues of the natural landscape make those colorful fishing shacks pop all the more. November to May is also lobster season, so stop by Ryers Lobsters for dinner, or head to The Sou’Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop and stay cozy with hot seafood chowder and apple crumble.
Photo: Scotty Sherin

2

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories’ long, clear nights mean this is one of the best places on the planet for viewing the Northern Lights. And the capital—Yellowknife, population 19,234—has a unique way of letting people know when the aurora’s going off. Dotted around town are little green-and-white-striped Northern Lighthouses. If the lights are really active, the lighthouses flash red!
Photo: Destination Canada

3

Niagara Falls, Ontario

With six million cubic feet of water hurtling over the drop every minute, Niagara Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. But unlike other mega-falls, most of which are located in tropical regions and look roughly the same year round, Niagara is utterly transformed in winter. Think spires of ice, spray and mist frozen into intricate natural sculptures, all giving the coroful nightly illumination of the falls an even more magical effect. Visit between November 19 and January 31, 2017, for the incredible Winter Festival of Lights in Queen Victoria Park, which runs alongside the falls and river.
Photo: iStock.com/mirceax

4

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta

In Jasper National Park, you can explore the Athabasca Glacier—part of the largest chunk of ice in the Canadian Rockies—in a vehicle that wouldn’t look out of place in a certain series of Michael Bay movies. The giant, six-wheeled Ice Explorer (these definitely aren’t the tires you’d put on your Subaru) is super cool to look at…and to ride in. Just imagine crawling over 10,000-year-old ice that, at its thickest, is almost as deep as the Empire State Building is tall.
Photo: Destination Canada

5

Blue Mountain Resort, Ontario

North of Toronto on the shores of Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain Resort is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. With that much history under its belt, you know the place has something special going on. Night skiing is big here—they've been offering an adrenaline rush under starry skies since 1979. And with all that action at night, you know there’s going to be brilliant après. Worth checking out is Rusty's, a classic ski bar with a sunny (starry?) patio.
Photo: Starwood Asset Library

6

VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights, Vancouver, British Columbia

Fifty-five acres of perfect woodlands, lakes, and lawns in the middle of Vancouver make VanDusen Botanical Garden one of the best public gardens in the country. In winter the witch hazel, viburnum, and hellebore are all blooming, but the main reason over 100,000 visitors stop in every December is for the month-long Festival of Lights, when over a million tiny bulbs sparkle around the ponds and gardens. Livingstone Lake is where the famous dancing lights show takes place—head there for the cozy, sparkling evening the holidays are made for.
Photo: VanDusen Botanical Garden

7

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa in winter is beautiful, not just because it’s home to the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world (that’d be the Rideau Canal Skateway), but because you’ll see 400,000 lights brightening up downtown, and what must be tens of thousands of bulbs illuminating Parliament Hill and its historic buildings. It’s all part of Christmas Lights Across Canada, a mega light festival which takes place in cities across the country.
Photo: Neil Robertson

8

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

For 10 days every January, Lake Louise in Banff National Park sees pro ice carving teams create fantastical sculptures out of 300 pound blocks of ice as part of the Ice Magic Festival. But the events don't stop with ice carving. Lake Louise also hosts skating on the lake, skiing on the hill, dog sledding, horse-drawn carriage riding—and basically any other winter activity you can dream up.
Photo: Travel Alberta

9

Québec City, Québec

The perfect setting for a spot of Christmas shopping, Old Québec is ridiculously charming at any time of year, but it might just be at its prettiest in winter. That’s when the cobbled streets go full-on French Christmas village. The city’s Grande Allée is the place to ring in the new year, when revelers come together for a huge outdoor party complete with DJs, traditional singers and musicians, a Ferris wheel, and a massive pyrotechnics show when the clock strikes midnight (which, this year, means kicking off Canada’s 150th birthday).
Photo: Destination Canada

10

Harmony Bowl, Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler Blackcomb is one of the world’s most famous ski resorts for good reason: It's the largest—and one of the glitziest—ski areas in North America, with consistent snowfall averaging 38 feet every year. You’ll find dozens of black diamond runs in the high alpine areas, like Harmony Bowl on Whistler Mountain. Of course, with 8,100+ acres and 200+ runs across two mountains, there's ample terrain for all skill levels.
Photo: Tourism Whistler

11

Old Port skating rink, Montréal, Québec

In winter there are outdoor skating rinks across Montréal, but the best has to be Bonsecours Basin in the Old Port. Looking out on the city’s historic district and the St. Lawrence River, the views are as incredible as you’d expect. The rink also hosts fun theme nights, like Warmth on Ice Wednesdays complete with outdoor fireplaces, hot cocoa for sale, and complimentary marshmallows.
Photo: MTTQ Pictures Canada

12

Atlin Provincial Park and Recreation Area, British Columbia

Bordering Alaska in BC’s extreme northwest corner, Atlin Provincial Park is full of boreal forest, alpine tundra, lakes, and glaciers. So many glaciers. In fact, a third of its 301,140-hectare area is covered in the ice age remnants. There are no roads here—come and you’ll be in for a truly wild experience, like hiking on Llewellyn Glacier (preferably with a guide).
Photo: JF Bergeron for Destination British Columbia

13

Mont-Tremblant, Québec

Skiers don’t just come to Mont-Tremblant to take on the resort’s famous slopes. Set in the Laurentian Mountains, an hour and a half northwest of Montréal, the Parc Linéaire le P'tit Train du Nord turns into a brilliant cross-country ski path, and Lac Mercier gets its own illuminated ice rink. Add to that a historic resort village full of the type of charm you can only find in Québec, and you've got plenty of reasons to check out this region just north of the New York border.
Photo: Daniel Desmarais for Québec Original

14

Calgary, Alberta

Seeing the Nutcracker ballet and listening to the live orchestra take on Tchaikovsky’s magical wintertime tunes, catching literary events at the University of Calgary (last season, Zadie Smith was a Distinguished Visiting Writer), going wild for the Calgary Flames at an ice hockey match in the Scotiabank Saddledome—all winter, Calgarians have their pick of awesome events to check out. To be honest, we’re pretty jealous.
Photo: Jordan Dahl

15

Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Pond Inlet sits at 72° latitude (that’s farther north than most of Siberia) on Nunavut’s Baffin Island. Check it out in the middle of winter and you won’t see much of the sun, but you will have ample time to scope the aurora borealis, the moon, and the stars shining on the fjords, glaciers, and icebergs at this one-of-a-kind place.
Photo: Michelle Valberg

16

Emerald Lake, British Columbia

On the edge of the largest lake in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake Lodge couldn’t be more idyllic. Spend a couple of nights here and you’ll likely be snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the day (exploring the 60 other ponds and lakes scattered around the park), tucking into award-winning dinners at Mount Burgess Dining Room come evening, relaxing in the big outdoor hot tub surrounded by snow-laden fir trees once night falls, and—if you’re extra lucky—watching the Northern Lights dance overhead.
Photo: Jason Dziver for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts

17

Churchill, Manitoba

Covering nearly 850,000 hectares of alpine tundra, boreal forest, lakes, and open sea, the Churchill Wildlife Management Area is one of the best places in the world to view and photograph polar bears in the wild. Go on a Tundra Buggy adventure to view the carnivores in their natural environment, or head out to an Aurora Dome to see the Northern Lights at their peak, between January and March.
Photo: Emma Acorn for Frontiers North Churchill

18

Whitehorse, Yukon

A 1,000-mile dogsledding race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska in February may sound crazy, but it's the premise of the Yukon Quest. This year, more than 20 expert mushers are joining in this competition that would probably put even the hardiest ultramarathoner in their place.
Photo: Destination Canada

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Destination Canada.