When the mercury hits 10 C in Canada, it’s time to bust out the swim trunks and start sunbathing. It’s a sweet, sweet time of year, when the days get longer and you can finally see a little bit of grass under all that melting snow. You start imagining all the fun stuff you’re going to do over the summer-but why wait that long? Put all your excitement about the above-freezing temps to good use by planning a trip!
In 2016, we brought you six amazing spring destinations, from Nunavut to Newfoundland. (You can check out these towns at the end of the article.) This year, we took it up a notch, bringing you ten of the best vacation spots for spring, whether you’re into adorable animals, gorgeous gardens, or the freshest seasonal food. When the first day of spring hits on March 20, you’ll be totally prepared.
What better way to celebrate spring than a stroll through some spectacular gardens? Windsor has not one but three gardens that you simply must visit. Dieppe Gardens lies along the waterfront, with views of the Detroit skyline and walking paths lined with colourful tulips and annuals. To the north, Coventry Gardens is also a waterfront paradise, with breathtaking flowers and the soothing Peace Fountain. And while the Windsor Sculpture Park features more art than flowers, its green slopes still stun. Bonus: Windsor is one of Canada’s more southern locales, making it one of the best places to travel in March, before the rest of the country thaws out. Kick off springtime at the 20th annual Easter Egg Hunt for Dogs, which takes place on March 30. Hey, dogs love the warmer weather, too!
See the top places to stay in Windsor
Nokomis lies just 30 km north of Last Mountain Regional Park, making it a great home base to explore the park’s excellent fishing, camping, canoeing, golfing, hiking, and, well, you get the idea. It’s a year-round wonderland, but in the spring, the park is home to a truly special-and exclusive-experience. From May 8 to 31, everything really goes to the birds: Thousands of them migrate through the park’s Bird Observatory, where the public can observe the process of catching and banding them. It’s the province’s only migrant bird banding area that’s open to the public. After you drink in all that nature, drink in a nice, crisp pale ale at Nokomis Craft Ales. You can practically taste springtime.
Speaking of tasting the springtime, there’s no better place to literally do that than southern Manitoba’s farm country. Located 125 km southwest of Winnipeg, the town of Morden is smack in the middle of it, and a great place to get a taste of the season’s first herbs and veggies, fresh out of the ground (well, they wash them first). Spring-seeded peas are a classic veggie of the season, and Peas Out Farms does it one better by selling tasty microgreens you can use in salads, stir fries, and more. And once the Farmers Market starts in June, you can taste the freshest kale, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, and more from Oak Valley Vegetables. Of course, Manitoba is known for its wheat, too, and you’ve gotta get a piece of it at the brand-new As Told in Legends Bakery. You certainly won’t be left hungry on this trip.
See the top places to stay in Manitoba
Annapolis Valley, NS
If it’s a festival you’re looking for, look no further than Annapolis Valley. The Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival takes place from May 23 to 28 this year. Celebrate the area’s favourite fruit with apple dessert baking contests, cider at the Blossom Brew Night, and the Grand Street Parade on May 26 in Kentville. Of course, travelling the roads of the valley through the apple orchards is the festival’s top draw, as the trees have just begun to bloom. Can’t get enough flowers? The area has several gardens that are worth a visit, like Wolfville’s Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens and the award-winning Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. There is even the Kentville Bird Sanctuary, where you can see migrating birds and soak up the springtime sunshine. Hello old friend, it’s been a while.
Marsh Lake, YT
Marsh Lake is another mecca for migration-but this one is special, because it’s for swans only. This town near Whitehorse is a great place to visit in April, as thousands of these graceful birds flock to the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre. They’re on their way from winter feeding grounds in southern BC and Washington state to summer nesting grounds in the arctic. Marsh Lake is the first open water in the area, and it’s a veritable bed and breakfast for tired swans. You can catch the Celebration of Swans on opening weekend the first week of April, or visit anytime that month. Then, with the music of swan honks ringing in your ears, make your way into Whitehorse, 50 km north. The bright spaces and riverfront views at The Wheelhouse Restaurant are fitting of a celebratory spring meal. That’s springtime done right.
See the top places to stay in Whitehorse
Spot prawn season starts in early May and lasts just six to eight weeks-which begs the question: How many spot prawns can you eat in that amount of time? The residents of Richmond make it their mission to find out. The delicate, sweet prawns from the Salish Sea are famous throughout the North American west coast and all the way to Asia, where 80 to 90 percent of them end up-so get yours while you can. Eat them on the waterfront at Blue Canoe Restaurant and take in the best view in town. Eat them totally casual at Steveston Seafood House, with just a little garlic and butter and a crisp sauvignon blanc in hand. Eat them in sashimi at Kiyo Sushi, or eat them fried at Sun Sui Wah. We weren’t kidding when we said you’re about to find out how many spot prawns you can eat.
See the top places to stay in Richmond
There’s another crustacean that makes an appearance in the springtime, but this one lives on the other coast. Early May to late June marks the first lobster season of the year on Price Edward Island (the second is in the fall). While you can get fresh lobster anytime on this seafood-centric island, there’s something about ’em in the spring. Georgetown is a picture-perfect village on the east coast of PEI, and your first stop should be the working wharf to see the lobstermen bringing in the day’s catch. Head out on the water yourself with Tranquility Cove Adventures-their deep sea fishing package includes hauling a lobster pot, just like the real thing. End the day at Eden’s Gate restaurant to dine on the day’s catch. You’ll feel like a local in no time.
See the top places to stay in Georgetown
If we’re talking springtime and gardens, we can’t skip Grand-Metis, home of the International Garden Festival. It’s one of the largest in North America, with a hundred gardens and designers from fifteen different countries. This year’s festival starts on June 22, but you can visit the gardens anytime in the spring for a gorgeous burst of colour. The Azalea Walk, Primula (Primrose) Glade, and the gorgeously landscaped Long Walk are just a few of the spots you should explore. Stop at the museum for a look at flowers throughout history, say hello to the resident sheep, then enjoy a light lunch of local produce amongst the blooms in the Garden Café. Make sure you snag a gazebo for the ultimate garden experience. You’ll leave Grand-Metis feeling uplifted and refreshed-that’s the power of spring.
Fort Saskatchewan, AB
While other towns have flowers and birds, Fort Saskatchewan is busy celebrating its local ungulate (that’s a hoofed mammal). Just 30 km outside of Edmonton, this town is a gateway to Elk Island National Park, where spring is baby bison season. Starting in early May, you can see the adorable calves frolicking and playing all over the park. (Friendly reminder: Don’t get too close! Mom can be quite protective.) The town celebrates an ungulate of its own, too: The Legacy Park Family Festival on June 2 sees the annual “return of the sheep,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The hoofed heifers parade through town on their way to Peter T. Ream Historic Park, where they have a summer job-as lawnmowers!
See the top places to stay in Alberta
Some might say we saved the best for last, but no matter what your opinion of Toronto, there’s no denying it’s a spectacular spring destination. Wondering where to go in March? Toronto kicks off spring early, with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s Spring Festival the first weekend of March. In late April, the cherry blossoms in High Park start to bloom, drawing travellers from all over the province. (Insider tip: There are cherry blossoms on Centre Island too, if you want to avoid the crowds.) The month of May is a busy one, with Canadian Music Week taking place from May 7 to 13 and the massive dog “paw-ty” Woofstock on May 26 and 27. Rather relax with a beer and just enjoy seeing the sun again? Rorschach Brewing is happy to oblige, with craft beer, a tasty lunch menu, and a gorgeous patio.
See the top places to stay in Toronto
If you’re feeling the cabin fever creeping in, rest assured: Spring will be here soon, and there are loads of fun things for you to do when it gets here. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Canadians know how to kick back and relax once the warm weather finally arrives. We’re looking forward to it!
Top right: Flickr/David Stanley
Bottom middle right: Yelp/Wheelhouse Restaurant
Bottom right: Flickr/Mavv.Rick – “The Yukon Wild” – Travel Writer
Bottom middle: Flickr/Lars Plougmann
Bottom right: Flickr/Stefan Krasowski
Click here to see our 2016 list
It’s time. Spring has sprung, my lovelies! Well, almost. It’s still a few weeks away, but it’s too exciting to hold off any longer. Yes, that sweet euphoric high you’re riding can only be induced by one thing: the promise of summer and its short sleeves just around the corner. Even if there is still a bit of powder on the ground, you’re on the precipice of throwing your snow pants into storage with abandon. And you can finally go on vacation without your pipes freezing over! That means it’s time to get out there and explore the top destinations in Canada. Here are some of the best places to visit this spring:
People are always saying you should stop and smell the roses, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a nose-full of tulip. In fact, I recommend it (just pop a Claritin first). When you visit Ottawa during mid-May, the annual Canadian Tulip Festival greets you with colourful blooms and international dancers. After your dose of Dutch blooms, a hike in Gatineau Park is a peaceful way to spend a warm afternoon. If you’re feeling peckish after your trek, a smoothie should tide you over until the dinner bell clangs. But don’t spend six bucks on an overpriced concoction from a zinc and ginseng peddling shop (you know the one). Stop by one of the area’s blueberry farms–such as Canaan Blueberry Farm–to pick your own antioxidant-rich ingredients straight from the bush.
A quick day trip from Ottawa this spring is a shutterbugs’s dream. Hello, perfect holiday card picture, fancy meeting you here. Drive 90 km south to the heritage farm community of Upper Canada Village, or turn your compass NE and go to Parc Omega nature reserve, where the wildlife are out in throngs this time of year. You can finally figure out what the fox says (if it really is, “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding,” please let me know)! Save your outdoorsy activities for the day time, and spend the night relaxing in luxury at sleek and modern ARC The.Hotel or the palatial charm of Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Plan your trip:
Read the Ottawa City Guide
View Ottawa Hotels
Waterloo Region, ON
Sometimes a walk on the quiet side is just what the doctor ordered. You want to feel like you’re meandering through a country song, not living la vida loca. Waterloo is the perfect place to abscond to when just such a mood strikes. Visit the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in April – the largest one day maple syrup festival in the world – to eat your weight in syrup-covered pancakes and chow down on old-fashioned toffee. Take a quick drive (less than 20 km) to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory where monarchs aren’t the only winged creatures around. Bat specimens are on display, and other bugs flutter their way inside. If you feel like a highbrow evening is in order, visit Kitchener and grab seats for the Centre in the Square theatre. Continue your odyssey into relaxation with a stay at the Langdon Hall Country House and Spa or Delta Waterloo.
Plan your trip:
Read the Kitchener City Guide
View Waterloo Region Hotels
Vancouver in the spring is a great place to get your romance on. Or, you know, hang out with the fam. It’s up to you. Whether you’re wooing someone or taking the kids on an adventure, don’t miss the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival between late March and mid-April. Blooms fill the air and light up local branches; it’s almost enough to make you throw your arms out and spin around beneath falling petals (rom-com montage style). We won’t stop you. April also brings Sakura Days, a two-day event that showcases Japanese performing arts, culture, and cuisine.
Spring is also whale watching season in Vancouver. Even if you don’t make it out for a tour, check out Jack’s Pub & Green Room Diner in Tofino and Starboard Grill in Port Alberni for spectacular water views and perhaps the distant splash of a massive fin. If you always envied Helen Hunt’s character in “Twister,” pack your best 90s camcorder and get ready to—sort of—recreate her storm chasing glory. We can’t promise the weather will be quite as exciting, but storm watching is a favourite Vancouver pastime in early spring.
Vancouver hotels make it easy to relax in style. Set up shop at the Pan Pacific hotel for the first glance of off-shore storms or at OPUS Hotel near the route of the Blossom Barge.
Plan your trip:
Read the Vancouver City Guide
View Vancouver Hotels
The snow may not be completely gone, but get ready to put away your snowboard and see a more colourful side of Calgary. The warmer season starts with the 4th Street Lilac Festival taking place each year in late spring or early summer. Street buskers, bands on stage, and parade performances are just some of the creative things happening here.
If the chaos of the festival makes you crave a little alone time, just shuffle off to the Glenbow Museum (pro tip: admission is free the first Thursday of the month between 5-9 pm). If you’re seeking a foodie affair, as you should, keep in mind that Poutine Week falls in mid-April and Calgary International BeerFest is in early May. Swimsuit season is still a few months off, so we say #TreatYoSelf.
Complete your spring time visit in Calgary with a stay at what experts call a “fancy schmancy” hotel. It’s easy to live the good life here. We suggest booking a room at Nuvo Hotel Suites, which is just a short walk from the lilac festival. Or stay at the Kensington Riverside Inn where tons of the best spring activities are a leisurely stroll away.
Plan your trip:
Read the Calgary City Guide
View Calgary Hotels
Spend even a day along the Newfoundland Coast, and you might feel like you’re living the life of cartoon royalty. When you go trekking along green hillsides and Newman Sound at Terra Nova National Park you’re practically in a magical forest. Meanwhile, you can also sail through Iceberg Alley while humpbacks jump in the distance. Bring your Instagram game, ‘cause you’re gonna need it. Iceberg viewing season revs up in March and continues through early summer. Small towns like St. Anthony, Twillingate, Bonavista, and more along the Newfoundland coast boast some of the best views of these majestic frozen masses. Fun fact: Newfoundlanders use icebergs in locally made vodka, gin, rum, and beer. Because why not? When it’s time to retire for the night, we recommend a waterfront room at the red-roofed Murray Premises Hotel.
Plan your trip:
Read the Newfoundland Guide
View Newfoundland Hotels
Iqaluit in the Nunavut Territory
The winter chill factor is real in Iqaluit, Nunavut. It’s really real. By the time spring rolls around, visitors and locals will be clamouring to get outside and rejoice at the sight of the sun. In fact, the Toonik Tyme Festival was invented to revel at the start of spring. This April’s celebration includes dozens of events that also show appreciation for the Inuit culture and traditions. Fashion, history, and food are just the beginning. Don’t forget to look up once in a while. The famed Northern Lights are visible until about April, and you don’t want to miss your shot at witnessing their spellbinding luminescence for yourself.
For a walk on the cool side of things, be sure to experience the floe edge. This dramatic10-km wide block of ice is controlled by the ways of the waves. While you’re visiting this special ecosystem from March to June, you’re likely to spot an abundance of arctic wildlife also soaking up the first sign of spring. Thanks to Hotel Arctic and Capital Suites, it’s easy to catch some shut eye, even as the sun begins to shine nearly 24 hours a day.
Plan your trip:
Read the Nunavut Guide
View Nunavut Hotels
Spring is calling your name all across Canada! Don’t wait for summer to stretch your legs and embark on an exciting adventure. Where will you shake off the cabin fever this spring?
This post was written by Lara Vukelich
Lara is a writer, runner, and advocate of all things chocolate. When she isn’t binge-watching a new Netflix series or exploring the world, she’s trying to convince you to get out beyond your own backyard. Her favourite place to be is a quiet corner of London’s Hyde Park, but she would (and has) also considered herself happy while eating her weight in Roman pasta and hiking the forests of Greece.
Canadian Tulip Festival
Thanh Nguyen, LOBO
Cynthia Wong, Wendy Cutler
Iceberg and Whale, Quirpon Island, Western – courtesy Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/Finn Beals
Whales, Quirpon Island, Western – courtesy Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/Benjamin Heath
Whale Watching in Bay Bulls, Avalon – courtesy Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/O’Brien’s Boat Tours
Whale Double Breach, St. Vincents, Avalon – courtesy Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/Dylan Furst
All other photos: courtesy Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Michelle Valberg/Nunavut Tourism