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Weather in Canada

When’s the best time to visit Canada?

Weather is a favourite topic of polite conversation in Canada.¬†There’s just so much of it, and it’s often so dramatic: every Canadian has at least one favourite story about the climate extremes, whether it’s getting married under cherry blossoms in February or digging out after a snowstorm in May.

Cherry blossoms in Vancouver: February 2010

Canada has four distinct seasons and only one of them–summer–is reliably warm. But it doesn’t arrive reliably across the country.

In the North, for example, summer shows up sometime in July and ends with the first frost in early September.

And on the west coast, people in Vancouver don shorts in March when the cherry blossoms pop and don’t take them off again until closer to Halloween at the end of October.

Tourists should know that Canadians will take any excuse to get outside in the weeks between Victoria Day (mid-May) and Labour Day (early September), and beaches, parks and other outdoor playgrounds fill up fast.

But Canada also has beautiful shoulders.

Consider visiting in spring (April to June–or ever earlier on the milder west coast) and fall (September to late October) to make the best of lower prices, fewer crowds, and plenty of opportunities for blossom-watching or leaf-peeping.

Winter (typically November to March) requires a certain fortitude and is best left to committed snow enthusiasts–skiers, ‘boarders, polar bear-seekers and the like.

You’ll certainly need the right wardrobe to enjoy winter in Canada (down is good for snow and cold, and Gore-Tex is best for the wet west coast).

But it’s worth the effort, especially if you want to party like a true Canuck at the nation’s great winter festivals: Quebec’s Carnaval, Ottawa’s Winterlude and Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur.

For reliable up-to-date weather information about Canada, see Environment Canada’s Weather Office.

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