May is spring in Canada, and conditions can range from mild (southern cities) to wet (coastal areas) to cold (further north). With longer days, May is a good month to enjoy outdoor activities, even where the temperature is colder because there's more daylight in which to do it.
Canada is a huge country, so there's a lot of variation in the weather between northern and southern areas, inland and on the coast. However, May is spring, and the major cities don't experience big extremes. For example, Québec City in eastern Canada, not far inland, has an average minimum May temperature of 46°F (8°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C). Inland Toronto is similar, with a minimum of 48° F (9°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C), as is Calgary on the other side of the country, with a minimum of 41°F (5°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C). Even western, coastal Vancouver, which is often warmer than the other big cities, is pretty similar this month, with a minimum of 48°F (9°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C).
Crowds & Costs
May is shoulder season for travel to Canada. Snowsport season is over in most parts of the country; in popular places like the Rocky Mountains, there'll be little downtime between the winter and summer peak seasons, but you might find an in-between-season deal in resort towns like Banff or Whistler.
With mild-to-warm temperatures in Canada's towns and cities, you'll see a few other tourists around, especially in places like Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, where plenty of indoor and outdoor activities are available.
Where to Go
Jasper National Park is the northern neighbor of Banff National Park, and May is a great time to visit. Not only will there be fewer other visitors this month, but the wildflowers, waterfalls, and wildlife flourish in spring. Bird enthusiasts can look out for the eagles, waterfowl, and shorebirds that migrate to the area. Road trip between Jasper and Banff along the Icefields Parkway and stop at several impressive waterfalls that are at their best during spring. Soak your cares away in the Miette Hot Springs, open daily from late May.
On the other side of Canada, keen kayakers can head to New Brunswick's Hopewell Rocks National Park in May, which reopens during this month. Located on the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tidal range in the world, you can kayak around the rocky outcrops during high tide and then return a few hours later, on foot, to explore the shoreline at low tide.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
With snowmelt from the mountains entering the rivers in May, this is a great month to go whitewater rafting or kayaking—just be sure to don a wetsuit! British Columbia's Kicking Horse River has 7.5 miles (12 km) of rapids in its middle canyon alone, and as these are Class III, they're suitable for older kids as well as adults. For a more remote (albeit expensive) rafting adventure, head to the Northwest Territories to raft or kayak on the Slave River. Best suited to experienced paddlers, this river offers big waves, whirlpools, and the chance to spot pelicans.
Iceberg viewing can be done in eastern Canada throughout spring, but May is the best time to do so in Newfoundland. The sea freezes over winter and then thaws in spring, sending huge chunks of ice floating down the coast. Join a boat tour or watch the spectacle from land along Iceberg Alley, which stretches from Labrador to the southeast coast of Newfoundland.
Events in May
Ottawa Tulip Festival, Ottawa. This colorful annual festival in May celebrates the return of spring in Canada's capital city. More than 300,000 tulips bloom along the Rideau Canal for picturesque scenery.
Abbotsford Tulip Festival, Fraser Valley. Spring is flower time in the Fraser Valley, which is home to many commercial tulip-growing farms. Come see the fields in amazing multicolored bloom and celebrate the impending harvest with food, fun, and floral education.
Traveling to Canada in May? Check out these great itineraries
Alaska & Yukon Summits Road Trip - 5 Days. View the midnight sun and some of North America's grandest scenery and wildlife as you explore the Golden Circle route.
Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip: Banff, Revelstoke, Nelson & Osoyoos - 15 Days. This epic road trip features three of Canada's famed national parks—Banff, Yoho, and Revelstoke—that highlight the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You'll also get to see less explored national parks of the Kootenays as well as trace British Columbia's southern border to spend time in Canada's only desert, Osoyoos.