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Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

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oxford
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Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

We're travelling to Canada for 3 weeks to visit some family in Ottawa but can't decide where else to see.

We realise that given the size of the country it's unrealistic to take in any destinations on the west coast, despite the kinder weather. Our current thinking is to fly to Montreal, stay there a while then head on to Quebec City before moving on to Ottawa and ultimately Toronto before flying home (probably taking in a quick visit to Niagara falls). We'll be arriving in mid-december and departing early January.

Being a middle-aged couple we're not big on winter sports and appreciate that, given the likely temperatures, many of the famous sights will be hard to reach, but any advice and suggestions would be most welcome!

detroit
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1. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

Your travel plans sound good to me. Best to stick with the major cities during the winter, the resort areas are empty during the winter, expect Niagara Falls, there is always some groups of tourists around and the sidewalks are kept clean all of the time. Even when there no snow, the mist of the falls makes salting the pathway near the falls an every day job.

The restaurants won't be fill but they won't be empty. If your plans allow stay in Niagara on a Sunday-Thursday night, weekends are more expensive for a hotel room--unless you just do a day trip of Niagara.

Edited: 13 October 2013, 23:23
Toronto
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2. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

I also think it sounds like a good plan. Sure, it will be cold (really cold!), but there's something quite magical about Quebec City in the winter time. I remember sitting at the bistro at Auberge du Tresor (I think the restaurant is called 1640) having had a great meal, sipping a wonderful latte, looking over at the Chateau Frontenac and everything covered in snow and winter lights...so romantic, and just amazing!

Not sure if it's your thing, or how easily accessible it will be by bus, but I'd also visit Mont Tremblant...even if you're not into winter sports, I just find the little ski villages so charming and picturesque. Or perhaps you could do a day trip to Blue Mountain while you're staying in Toronto.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

I'd consider taking the train at least from Ottawa to Montreal and Montreal to Quebec City....with cost usually being cheaper by train and the timing of having not to be at the airport so early, train is a decent option IMO...

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

First things first. If you are coming from the UK in the middle of a Canadian Winter do not do what my brother did, and arrive with a lightweight bomber style jacket that might be suitable for a UK London winter!! Bring a good quality winter jacket that will keep the wind out if possible, or just lots of layers. It will get nippy if you are outside a lot visiting the sights.

Ottawa is nice in the winter though you might spend a fair bit of time inside visiting things like the War Museum and maybe the National Gallery if that is your thing. As for Toronto, well you have to go up the CN tower if you have never been before, and this week the Ripleys Aquarium opens up just south of the tower.

I have been to Niagara mid winter and it is quite spectacular especially if it is snowing. Also, if its a bitterly cold day make sure you wear a hat if standing close to the falls as the mist freezes on your head and will give you an instant brain freeze lol

Enjoy your trip. So far I haven't seen what Environment Canada are predicting for our Winter but in the last two years the UK has had more snow that we got over here.

Pete

Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

A good winter jacket from England may not be warm enough for Ottawa, Montrel and Quebec City. At least you are not coming in Feb.

If you have a good windproof outershell, a thick fleece along with a regular sweater will be good. Bring gloves/mits and a good warm hat (especially something that can cover your ears.

I like your idea of where to visit. with it being near Christmas there will be lots of lights and decorations to see. In Ottawa, I don't think the canal will be open yet, but the Byward Market is still fun. If you really like Christmas lights, in Orleans (east side of Ottawa) Taffy Lane is a street where most houses go crazy with lights.

Things like Parlement Hill and the Supreme court will be open, and not very busy. The best part of them is that they are free. There are museums for every taste in Ottawa, just look up the National Capital Comission for the list as a few are on the Gatineau (Quebec) side of the river.

Edited: 14 October 2013, 14:23
oxford
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6. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

Thanks very much indeed to everyone who's taken the time to reply to my post. Still a few days before we firm our flights so any more input or views greatly appreciated!

Calgary, Canada
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7. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

In Niagara Falls, you can get a fantastic fallsview room in the $100-$200 range which doesn't happen in the summertime. So get a nice room for a night and enjoy a glass of wine from the area all cozy and warm in your room at night. It will even be affordable to get rooms/suites with fireplaces and a jacuzzi as long as you aren't staying right at Christmas time. The Oakes hotel has great views of the falls and there are not other buildings in front of it. I've also stayed at the Hilton in the winter - the room was great but it is not as close to the Falls as the Oakes so the view is not as great.

Downtown Ottawa is beautiful in the winter time with the skaters on the canal. The canal doesn't open before Christmas every year though. They do ice sculptures a little later in the winter (February) so you'll miss that. There are lots of museums to visit.

As other posters mentioned, you might enjoy the cities more in the winter time as there are more indoor things to do and you'll be able to get around by foot and public transit. So all these are an advantage if you aren't used to Canadian winters.

Burlington, Canada
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8. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

I just saw the forecast for this winter in the Southern Ontario region. They are calling for a milder December and January (by 1 degree) but a little colder in February. Less snow as well although the preciptiation will come more in the form or rain. February is said to be the snowiest this year.

We'll see how right they will be....or should I say, how wrong they will be.

Ottawa
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9. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

If you are in Ottawa for a few days, the noon buffet($24 cold, $30 hot and cold) at Chateau Montebello, is excellent and the log building with it's very big 360 degree fireplace inside the entrance is something to see, at least once, although we never tire of a visit there. It's slightly over 1 hour from Ottawa.

Toronto, Canada
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10. Re: Where to visit in Ontario/Quebec in the depths of winter?

The weather is so unpredictable, they were calling for a heavier than normal hurricane season and all we got was two weak hurricanes, it is good when they are wrong in some cases, but usually the meteorologists seem to work against us!