Winter sets in properly in Canada in December, with milder fall temperatures left behind. As a huge country with coastlines and landlocked areas, mountains, and plains, weather conditions vary throughout the country, even in winter. However, you can guarantee that temperatures will be cold, with northern and inland areas generally colder than their coastal counterparts, which are milder and wetter. Another consideration for travel in December is the short days, with the shortest being late in the month. The further north you travel, the shorter the days, which can limit your ability to get out and explore.
Wherever you travel in December, the temperatures will be cold, but some cities are colder than others. For example, eastern Québec City, not too far inland, has an average minimum temperature of 16°F (-9°C) and a maximum of 26°F (-3°C). Toronto, a little further inland but on Lake Ontario, is a little warmer, with a minimum temperature of 25°F (-4°C) and a maximum of 35°F (2°C). On the other side of Canada, inland Calgary is similarly cold, with a minimum of 14°F (-10°C) and a maximum of 30°F (-1°C). Coastal Vancouver, however, is milder and generally stays above freezing, with a low of 36°F (2°C) and a high of 43°F (6°C).
Crowds & Costs
December is the peak season for skiing and other winter sports in resort towns in Alberta and British Columbia and other smaller snow sports areas in Québec and Ontario. In popular resorts—such as Whistler, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, and Banff—it's important to book accommodation in advance, especially if you're traveling later in the month when many people take Christmas and New Year vacations. Expect to pay high prices for accommodation in and transport to such areas.
Outside of ski resorts, December is the low season for travel, though the winter activities available in cities might come at a discounted rate. Note that smaller inland towns and cities that don't offer winter sports activities may not have many tourism facilities open this month. You're more likely to find a good deal on accommodation and decent winter conditions on the coast and in the big cities.
Where to Go
Despite the frigid temperatures, Toronto is lively in December as the city prepares for the holidays. The city's Distillery District hosts a winter market throughout December. Enjoy warming food and drink, shop for local crafts and souvenirs, and admire the huge lit-up Christmas tree. As well as the market, you can enjoy many other activities in Toronto, including city-center ice skating, views from the CN Tower, and galleries and museums, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum.
On the other side of Canada, Vancouver is a good base for travel in December. As well as experiencing milder (though still cold) temperatures, the city is near many great ski resorts in the mountains. Head north or southeast to Whistler, Grouse Mountain, or Cypress Mountain, among other popular ski resorts. When you're not hitting the slopes, enjoy Vancouver's city attractions, including the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
You don't need to be into downhill skiing or snowboarding to make the most of the snowy conditions in December. Snowshoeing is a fun outdoor activity that gets you active and allows you to appreciate the winter landscape. Snowshoeing can be done in many places throughout Canada, and because it's done on flat land, you don't need to be in a mountain resort area. Some great places for snowshoeing adventures include Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park, Québec's Gatineau Park, and Saskatchewan's Moose Mountain Provincial Park.
If you have a generous budget and want to combine many winter activities into one epic adventure, consider taking a tour far north to the Yukon. This northwestern province is wild and sparsely populated. Visitors can go dog sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing, watch the aurora borealis, spot wildlife such as bison and musk ox, and warm up in thermal springs. Fly to Yukon's capital, Whitehorse, from Vancouver.
Events in December
Distillery Winter Village, Toronto. Each year, starting in early November and continuing until late December, the Distillery District in Toronto hosts a festive winter market. As you stroll the vendors' market and art galleries, aromas of mulled wine and warm cooking infuse the crisp air.
Traveling to Canada in December? Check out these great itineraries
Yukon Winter Adventure - 5 Days. Spend five days in Canada's far north and experience snowmobiling, dog sledding, the northern lights, and a sightseeing flight above the frozen Yukon.
Kootenay Rockies: Hot Springs Circle Route - 12 Days. Perfect for those looking for an active holiday, this 12-day itinerary covers the best of the Canadian Rockies with the hot springs and lakeshore communities of the Kootenays.