Show of hands – who's for winter in Canada? What is wrong with you? Just kidding. If you know where you're going, those long, cold and dark months up north can be pretty great. Look at it like this: If Canadians waited for summer to have fun, they'd lose their minds trying to pack a year's worth of good times into just a few short weeks. Some parts of the country most definitely go into something close to hibernation, hiding out in their homes and various Tim Hortonses and praying for the return of warm weather, sometime in early June – not Montreal. Quebec's big city parties so hard, it's a safe bet you'll forget to be miserable. Here are just a few great reasons to get up there before spring.
Do a little urban snowshoeing. (It's a thing!)
Rising up above the centre-ville, Montreal's namesake – lovely Mount Royal – offers miles of cross-country trails perfect for snowshoeing at this time of year. On weekends into March, guided evening walks are offered, hot chocolate is provided and the city views can be terrific. Don't want to wait until after dark? Popular local outfitter Fitz & Follwell offers guided winter excursions into the park, most afternoons.
Take the waters
The old-school, European-style bathhouse concept gets a stunning update on a converted ferry boat at Bota Bota, a year-round Nordic bath (indoors and out) in the city's Vieux Port. Finnish saunas, whirlpool tubs, the works – you'll find it all here. Want to continue the fun? Spa Scandinave offers an equally transportive experience, a five-minute walk away. Okay, so it's all a little more expensive than, say, Budapest, except you didn't have to fly overnight to get there.
Not a big fan of the long, dark, winter nights? Light up your life with Luminotherapie, an annual art installation splashed across multiple sites throughout the city's Festival Quarter – it's a celebration of color and light when both are needed most. Hurry, though – the show wraps up at the end of January.
Hard cider – cidre – flows like water across Quebec. Where you come from, cider may be more closely associated with the fall harvest, but here, the annual festival (Le Mondial des Cidres) celebrating the good stuff is held March 3-5. Fans of a good Breton will feel right at home here, and then some – of course, Quebec has put its own stamp on the genre – the province is famous for ice cider, made with late harvest apples, after winter has set in. Like the ice wines you find next door in Ontario, this stuff is intense – in a good way.
Spend a day in the tropics
Need a little warmth? Even on the worst Canadian winter day, it's always 73 degrees, sunny (and humid!) inside the tropical rainforest at Montreal's see-worthy Botanic Garden, just a few subway stops up from most downtown hotels. The rainforest is only one of 10 indoor exhibition spaces showcasing everything from orchids to desertscapes. Tip: Make sure to plan a return visit at the height of summer, when thirty more themed outdoor gardens will be in bloom.
Additional Winter Activities in Montreal