Whether you want to go skiing or storm watch, you have plenty of choices in BC for a fun winter vacation!
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Mt. WashingtonLocated on Vancouver Island, approximately 20 minutes outside of Courtenay, this beautiful alpine resort has activities for skiers, snowboarders and everything in between. With over 10m of yearly snowfall, Mount Washington has one of the deepest snowpacks in the entire country. They offer several downhill skiing hills, two terrain parks, cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails, and even a tube park for younger children or non-skiers. They even have a state of the art fitness center and signature massage treatments for those family members who prefer to spend their winters indoors.
Mt. Washington truly comes alive in the winter season with a number of special events, including photos with Santa, a full Christmas dinner, and a New Years Eve party and fireworks. For those looking to stay in their gorgeous alpine village, which borders Strathcona Provincial Park, Mt.Washington offers a number of reasonable packages in their slopeside condominiums. The mild weather and beautiful island scenery make this a perfect winter getaway.
2. Rossland Winter Carnival
Rossland is a small picturesque mountain city in the Kootenays, known largely for the world class skiing both downhill and cross country. The Rossland Winter Carnival is Canada’s longest running festival, first taking place in 1898. There are a number of events throughout the 3-day festival, which runs in January. There is a winter variety show, a parade which includes fire spinners, and a bobsled race that runs right down Spokane Street, one of Rossdale’s main streets. The entire weekend also includes plenty of musical performances, free ice skating, professionally carved ice sculptures and an ice slide for children.
Rossland also has some of the best skiing slopes in the country, including RED mountain, which was voted by New York Times Magazine as the 8th best place to visit in the world. If you’re a little more adventurous they also offer guided backcountry skiing tours for experienced skiers. No matter what your age or talent level you’ll find something to do in this beautiful BC city.
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3. World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival in scenic Whistler is a yearly festival combining music, arts, and high-level sports. If you’re looking for a getaway in late winter, this is absolutely the festival for you, as Whistler has some of the best early spring skiing in the world. However, the Ski and Snowboard Festival is about so much more than just downhill sports.
Last year some of the events you could take in included a roller derby, extreme dog sports (yes you read that correctly), a mascot challenge, and a relay race into a mound of slush. If sports aren’t your thing, the Ski and Snowboard festival also has movie showings, photography contests, stand-up comedy battles, and 10 straight days of the best musicians the world has to offer. If you’re looking for a high energy festival with tons of fun events for any age you can’t do any better than the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in one of the most beautiful locations in Canada.
4. Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival
Right in the middle of wine country is the Winter Okanagan Wine Festival. This ten-day festival takes place in January and boasts a number of events for amateur wine drinkers and true connoisseurs alike. Just a few of the exciting and tasty events the festival offers are a wine crawl, food and wine photography, a wine and grilled cheese dinner, and a moonlight snowshoe complete with, you guessed it, wine. There will be live music throughout the festival on the beautiful Sun Peaks resort.
In addition to the festival Sun Peaks has the second largest ski area in all of Canada, so that when you’re not sampling local wines, you can hit some of the best slopes in the country. Other activities around Sun Peaks include a dog sled ride, learning to ice fish, or shopping at the several boutique shops that line the streets of Canada’s Alpine Village. So, if you’re in the mood for wine and gorgeous snowy mountains the Okanagan Wine Festival is a can’t miss trip.
5. Nakusp Hot Springs
If you want a perfect winter getaway for the entire family the Nakusp Winter Hot Springs might be the perfect place. The Nakusp Hot Springs are in the Kuskanax Valley, about an hour outside of Revelstoke. The winter provides beautiful landscapes that allows for a number of winter activities including snowshoeing, cross country skiing, tobogganing, and snowmobiling.The hot springs themselves are relaxing and calming, surrounded by trees and mountains on all sides. You can also stay in cedar chalets, which make you feel like you’re truly staying in the outdoors, with all the indoor comforts of modern living. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway this might be the perfect place. Nakusp isn’t quite as well known as some of the bigger hot springs but they claim to have the cleanest and clearest water anywhere. For a low-key relaxing getaway Nakusp is a perfect spot.
6. Whistler Pride and Ski Festival
In January world-renowned Whistler, BC is home to one of the largest pride festivals on the entire planet. A week-long event, the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival has been taking place for a whopping 26 years. Not only do you get to take in the usual sites of Whistler, like snowy mountains and huge forests you get to take part in a week long party that celebrates all genders and sexualities.
There are live events every evening, with world-class DJs and performers. There are also a number of art galleries, restaurants, and of course plenty of parties to spend time at over the week long event. Pride festivals typically take place in the summer months, so if you’re looking for a great way to blow off some steam and celebrate Pride during the cold winter months, the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is a perfect match.
7. Fairmont Hot Spring Torch Light Parade
The Fairmont Hot Springs, near the BC/Alberta border, attracts tourists from all around the globe. The natural mineral hot springs are a legendary attraction, as they are the largest in all of Canada, and boast fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains. The hot water is especially soothing during the winter months when seasonal colds and aches and pains take over.Fairmont also has a stunning family-friendly ski area, where the yearly Torch Light Parade takes place. The parade takes place on Christmas Eve, as skiers carry blazing torches down the slopes. It has been a tradition for over 30 years at the Fairmont Hot Springs, and has a number of other surprises for families, including a visit from Santa and a fireworks finale. It is a truly wonderful event that can cap off a relaxing and therapeutic winter getaway to the scenic Fairmont Hot Springs.
8. Silver Star Mountain Resort
The Silver Star Mountain Resort, outside Vernon, BC, is one of the most remarkable skiing experiences in all of British Columbia. They pride themselves on being family friendly with an atmosphere that is both magical and exciting. They have a village halfway up the mountain that has cafes, restaurants, and shops, all painted in vibrant colours to delight adults and children alike.
9. Coldsnap Music Festival
Prince George is often known as the “Northern Capital” of British Columbia. Though perhaps not as well known as some other BC tourist destinations you will never be at a loss for things to do in Prince George. There are plenty of beautiful areas for winter activities, including snowshoeing, skiing, and skating, but Prince George also has a vibrant downtown, with a world-renowned theatre and many wonderful restaurants and shops.
The Coldsnap Music Festival is one of the many reasons to travel to Prince George. Taking place in January, the folk music festival runs for an entire week, and mainly features artists from Northern BC. Most music festivals run during the summer, so if you’re looking for some solid Canadian folk music in a beautiful locale the Coldsnap Music Festival is the festival for you.
10. Pemberton Winterfest
Pemberton is a small charming village, just north of Whistler. The village has a rustic, Old West look to it, which has resulted in it being used as a set for movies and commercials. There are a number of winter activities perfect for those just beginning or more experienced winter sports fanatics. These include snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and even fishing. Pemberton is actually one of the best places to catch fish in cold winter water, and there are numerous small family run businesses that will take novices on fish tours.Winterfest is an annual event held in Pemberton. This year the event will be held on New Year’s Eve, so you can ring in the New Year in this picturesque coastal village. Some of the events include a polar bear plunge, ice skating, and curling. The night ends with a magical fireworks display, the perfect way to spend a family New Year’s Eve together.
11. Ainsworth Hot Springs
If your idea of a winter getaway doesn’t involve skiing or getting bundled up to take in beautiful winter scenery, the Ainsworth Hot Springs is a good option. Located in the Kootenay Mountain region these natural hot springs are surrounded on all sides by glorious mountain ranges. The hot springs were visited many years ago by the Ktunaxa First Nations people, and the natural mineral water is said to have healing, restorative properties.
If you can’t get enough of the soothing springs, you can stay at the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, which offers a number of different sized rooms to accommodate all types of families. If you’re hoping for rest and relaxation on your winter getaway the Ainsworth Hot Springs is an absolute must-visit.
12. Coldsmoke Powder Fest
Located at the Whitewater Ski Resort, just outside Nelson, the Coldsmoke Powder Fest is the perfect stop for people who live, eat, and breathe skiing. They offer a number of ski clinics, which vary from beginner to expert level. You’ll absolutely come away from this experience a more confident skier. There are also many competitions that range from more serious ski races to silly races to see who can fry an egg outdoors the fastest.
Once you step out of your ski boots there are plenty of social events during the evening, which are a fun way to mingle with your fellow skiers. Some of the nights offer live music, film screenings, and even a poker competition. If you’re a major ski buff or looking to get more into ski culture the Coldsmoke Powder Fest is not to be missed.
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13. Living Things Festival
If you’re more of an arts person than a sports person, Kelowna’s Living Things arts festival is an ideal winter festival for you. The festival hosts a number of live performances from local artists, as well as artists from all around the world. Located on the beautiful UBC Okanagan Campus in Kelowna, all types of art will be on display over the month long festival. Some of the performances set to happen include spoken word poetry, animated film, interpretive dance, and jazz. This year has a particular focus on puppets, masks, and performing objects.If you’d love to spend time in the picturesque city of Kelowna, but aren’t particularly interested in skiing the Living Things Festival might be right up your alley. It takes place in January, which is the perfect time to take a vacation to get over your post-Christmas blues.
14. Canyon Lights
The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver is one of the cities major tourist attractions. During wintertime, the bridge and park come alive with the spirit of the holidays. The bridge, treetop adventure, cliff walk, and rainforest and canyon are all lit up with festive lights. There are also a number of activities for children, including a Snowy Owl Prowl, gingerbread decorating, and carolling.
Vancouver is a wonderful city to visit any time of the year. But it is especially pretty when the lights of the warm everything with their holiday spirit. If you’re planning on spending the holidays in Vancouver, a visit to Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a can’t-miss event. It’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
15. Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens
Though Vancouver Island is a tourist destination, most people aren’t aware of the towns and cities outside of Victoria and Tofino. The Comox Valley area is an enchanting and captivating area, surrounded on all sides by forest and located right on the ocean. Courtenay, the largest city in the Comox Valley region is home to the Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens, a picturesque forested area developed on one man’s property over several years. The garden has one of the largest rhododendron collections in all of Canada and is home to numerous animals and birds.During the Christmas season, the owner and creator of the park sets up a “Santa’s Barn” for the children, with garden lights taking over the rest of the property. It is truly a sight to behold, and one of the many reasons to visit the Comox Valley in the winter.
16. Cox Bay Beach Resort
Tofino is a popular tourist destination, and for those looking for a vacation right on the beach, the Cox Bay Beach Resort is an ideal location. Most people don’t consider winter the ideal season to hang out on the beach, but Cox Bay has some of the best year-round surfing in the world. With charming West Coast architecture, you can stay in charming wood lodges and then walk out to the beach with your surfboard, or just to sit and enjoy the ocean.
This is the perfect relaxation destination, as they have an outdoor hot tub and barbecue facilities. With the mild weather in Tofino, you might even forget that it’s the middle of winter when you’re relaxing in a hot tub and enjoying a freshly barbecued steak.
17. Poet’s Cove Resort and SpaPender Island, located just east of Vancouver Island is a small tourist destination, perfect for those people who enjoy outdoor pursuits. Even though it’s only a ferry ride away from Victoria, Vancouver, and Seattle it feels like a secluded slice of heaven that you’ll have all to yourself.
Poet’s Cove Resort and Spa, located on Pender Island, is a perfect winter visit. Prices are significantly lower than other spots on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver, but you still get a scenic beachside location. There is a private spa, a private marina, and you can stay in a cottage, villa, or lodge. Whatever you dream housing is for your winter getaway Poet’s Cove has you covered. With incredible views and immaculate facilities at an affordable price, Poet’s Cove is a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and settle down during the winter season.
18. Prestige Lakeside Resort
Nelson is a must-visit for those who prefer a quiet winter getaway. A quiet hippie town, tucked away in the Kootenays, it is a beautiful location to stay at during any season. The Prestige Lakeside Resort is located right on the waterfront. Directly out your window you can see trees for miles past the pristine waters. Nelson is a quick drive from many of the best ski hills in the entire country, or if you’d prefer to relax the resort has an indoor swimming pool and spa, where you can let the worries of life wash away.
Nelson is a truly unique town. With a number of small shops and organic grocery stores it is a perfect stop for the eco-conscious family. The winter is considered the offseason in this quiet little stop, so if you’re looking for a peaceful location where you can explore artisanal shops and markets, Nelson, and the Prestige Lake Resort is a perfect spot.
19. Storm Watching
While the rest of Canada is covered in snow, head to Tofino where temperature hovers around 8 to 15 degrees Celsius. And because to this interaction with warm ocean air with the colder upper air masses, Tofino becomes perfect place to watch the perfect winter storm. Take a trip to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve‘s the Kwisitis Visitor Centre that overlooks the large bay of Wickaninnish Beach to take the cold fury of nature or stay at the Long Beach Lodge Resort.
20. Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte IslandsHaida Gwaii is the perfect destination for the family that is truly looking to get away from their daily life. Located near Vancouver Island Haida Gwaii is a sparsely populated island, populated mostly by the Haida first nations people. The vibrant First Nations culture and art scene will make you feel right at home. The island has many national parks boasting a raw beauty seen in few other places. This is truly one of the last examples of an authentic First Nations village.
Given its mild oceanic climate Haida Gwaii is home to many unique species of flora and fauna. If you’re the type of person who loves to take long interrupted hikes and explore all that nature has to offer Haida Gwaii is the perfect destination for you.
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