October is the middle of the fall in Canada. Temperatures are significantly colder, especially in northern areas, which may receive their first snow later in the month. In southern and coastal parts of Canada, the weather is still largely comfortable for getting out of doors. The trees change color dramatically in October, and wherever you go, you'll likely find orange, yellow, and red autumn leaves. It's not an exceptionally wet month but be prepared for a cold shower or two.
The biggest cities, which also all happen to be quite far south, see similar temperatures in October. For example, eastern Québec City, which isn't far inland, has an average minimum of 41°F (5°C) in October and a maximum of 53°F (12°C). A bit further inland, Toronto sees similar temperatures, with a minimum of 44°F (7°C) and a maximum of 55°F (13°C). On the other side of Canada, inland Calgary is a bit colder, with a minimum of 39°F (1°C) and a maximum of 53°F (12°C). Coastal Vancouver is milder, with a minimum of 46°F (8°C) and a maximum of 55°F (13°C).
Crowds & Costs
October is low season for travel to Canada, as the weather becomes colder and the days shorter. Smaller inland towns that are popular in the summer may close many tourist facilities for the winter. However, places that cater to both summer and winter travelers (such as mountain resorts in the Rocky Mountains or outside Vancouver) are less likely to shut up shop for the season entirely, and you may be able to grab a bargain on accommodation.
Where to Go
October offers some of the best wildlife-viewing opportunities around coastal British Columbia. Orcas and humpback whales can be seen on tours from Vancouver and Vancouver Island. For a good chance of spotting a bear foraging for a pre-hibernation meal, including fresh salmon, head to the Great Bear Rainforest. This huge temperate coastal rainforest is on the coast of British Columbia, north of Vancouver Island. Look out for white Kermode bears (spirit bears); only a minority of this sub-species are white, but many live in this rainforest.
Lovers of good food and drink might also want to visit the Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia. The region is known for its vineyards and fruit orchards and is a great place to visit in early October when it's grape harvest time. Winery tours and tastings run out of the town of Kelowna, which also hosts the Kelowna Fall Wine Festival in late September and early October. Visitors to the Okanagan can also enjoy farm tours and local farm-to-table meals at top-notch restaurants.
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What to Do
Leaf peeping is a must-do activity in Canada in October, whether you take a stroll in a city park or head out to parkland. Canada's largest provincial park, Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park, is a beautiful area between Toronto and Ottawa. The fall colors can be seen in all their glory throughout the month, with various tree species changing colors at different times.
For a more remote leaf-peeping experience, consider visiting Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park. This vast expanse of mountainous parkland north of Brandon stands in contrast to the surrounding prairie. The fall colors are spectacular here, and, as a bonus (or perhaps even the main event), there's also the chance of seeing the northern lights.
Whichever province you focus on while traveling to Canada this month, head north, and you'll likely find somewhere to watch the northern lights. The longer nights and clearer skies make conditions ideal for this activity. Ontario's Manitoulin Island is a popular place to see the lights and is easily accessible from Toronto. If you have the time and the budget, consider heading to one of Canada's three territories further north, like Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Fall and winter are the best times to see the lights in this town on the western shore of Great Slave Lake.
Events in October
Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, Okanagan Valley. British Columbia's primary wine region celebrates harvest time with its annual Fall Wine Fest, with more than 100 wine-focused events, including tastings, seminars, wine-stompings, and paired dinners.
Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, Sunshine Coast. Fall is an excellent time to visit the Sunshine Coast region northwest of Vancouver to see fall foliage and check out the more than 300 artists showcasing their works in galleries, studios, and street venues in small coastal towns.
Canadian Thanksgiving, nationwide. This annual Canadian holiday and harvest festival is held on the second Monday in October. It's a public holiday in most parts of the country.
Traveling to Canada in October? Check out these great itineraries
Aurora Viewing in the Yukon - 4 Days. Based in the Yukon's capital of Whitehorse, you'll spend each evening at an idyllic location called the AuroraCentre for relaxed viewing beside a cozy wood stove or roaring campfire. Meanwhile, daylight hours are free for winter sports and hot springs.
Okanagan Valley Road Trip: Wine & Outdoors - 5 Days. Weave your way alongside the Similkameen River and through the forested parklands of the Crowsnest Highway to reach the "Napa of the North," British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.