Are you looking for an escape from Montreal's famously frosty winters? While you may be tempted to book the first flight out to some tropical paradise, we think there's no time like the wintertime to hop in the car, enjoy your road trip playlist, and explore nearby hidden holiday gems.
We've compiled some of our favourite winter stops in Canada and the United States, ranging from cozy Christmas villages and snowy National Parks to luxurious ski resorts and historic holiday cities. Choose from one of fifteen winter road trips from Montreal and discover just how breathtaking winter can really be. Whether you're looking for something cozy and comfortable, an outdoor adventure, or a sunny escape, there's sure to be a trip for you.
You can reach Mont Tremblant and Ottawa in under 2 hours from Montreal; and Quebec City, Saguenay Fjord and Boston if you take a weekend. For a longer winter trip, New York City, Niagara Falls and Washington DC are under 10 hours away from Montreal.
Keep scrolling to discover our favourite winter road trips from Montreal, organized from nearest to furthest and ready to be programmed into your GPS!
Best winter road trips from Montreal: a quick overview
|Trip type||Some of our favorite road trips|
|Single day trips||Hit the slopes in Mont Tremblant; or see the famous Rideau Canal in Ottawa|
|Weekend trips||Get into the festive spirit at the Christmas Market in Quebec City; or be inspired by the scenery at Saguenay Fjord|
|Long-weekend trips||Complete your Christmas shopping in New York City; or marvel at the glistening beauty of Niagara Falls in winter|
|Longer trips||Visit the festive city of Bethlehem, PA on your way to Washington DC; or have fun at the theme parks of sunny Orlando|
Single day trips (under 3 hours each way)
Sometimes, the best things are the ones closest to home—read on to discover four winter road trips you can make in a day (or two)!
1. Mont Sutton, QC
1 hour 30 mins from Montreal (110 km)
Why you should visit: Just a ninety-minute drive from downtown Montreal, Mont Sutton is the nearest destination on this list. In less than two hours, you can find yourself skiing down the slopes of one of Québec's most trafficked ski slopes.
Ever heard of glade skiing? It's a form of alpine skiing that takes you along solitary trails through dense forests. Mont Sutton is famous for this type of skiing, and we think this might just be the best way to discover the beautiful woods of Québec!
How to get there: First, you'll cross the St. Lawrence River via the Samuel de Champlain bridge to get out of Montreal. Then, take the A10 past Chambly and across the Richelieu River; catch Exit 74 and in no time, you'll have reached your destination.
Our highlights: Mont Sutton is located on the largest private property dedicated to ecological conservation in the province of Québec.
This area is most well-known for its beautiful ski trails and slopes, so this is what we recommend you enjoy first. Whether you're a beginner or a slope aficionado, there are tons of different trails to choose from that accommodate your level!
If skiing isn't your thing, you can always cozy up in one of Mont Sutton's four chalet-style restaurants for a delicious dinner. Located right at the base of the mountain, these eateries are sure to serve up some comforting classics to warm you up.
Apart from being a wonderful winter sports destination, Mont Sutton also loves to support and promote local Canadian artists through a collection of art installations and sculptures installed directly on the mountain's slopes. We think there's nothing cooler than taking in high art while strapped to some skis.
Our travel tips: If you're thinking about heading to Mont Sutton for skiing purposes, make sure to check their website as well as local advisories to see what sort of weather and snow quality awaits you on the slopes.
2. Mont Tremblant Resort, QC
1 hour 40 mins from Montreal (130 km)
Why you should visit: Whether you're new to Québec or a local, you've probably heard of Mont Tremblant before. Tucked in the Laurentian Mountains, Mont Tremblant is unlike any other ski resort in Québec, boasting unmatched luxury and a wide range of activities.
The great thing about Mont Tremblant is that it's not just for winter sports fans. Don't get us wrong – if you're looking for a luxury ski experience, there's no better place than this world-class ski resort.
Tremblant also has lots of other experiences to offer, including luxury spas and the opportunity to explore the gorgeous Mont Tremblant Village.
How to get there: Tremblant is really close to Montreal. Simply take Autoroute 15 N through Laval and across the Prairies River, and then merge onto Autoroute 40 E via exit 70E. Within an hour, you'll have reached this stunning destination.
Our highlights: The first thing you'll see when you step foot on Mont Tremblant is its snowy village, which was inspired by the ski villages of Europe and which is sure to set you in the holiday mood. Go on a shopping spree or grab a bite at one of the village's highly-rated restaurants.
If you're looking to relax and indulge in some spa treatments, there's no better place than Mont Tremblant. You can either check out the offerings at one of the village's many luxury hotels, or visit a facility exclusively dedicated to pampering you, such as the Scandinave Spa Mont Tremblant.
Obviously, one of the best things to do when visiting this snowy paradise is to strap on some skis (or a snowboard) and try your hand at Mont Tremblant's celebrate slopes. Don't let a lack of experience dissuade you from experiencing these winter sports; there are tons of trail options for all levels of skiing, and if you're feeling a little rusty, you can always take a refresher class right on the slopes.
One delicacy to try in Mont Tremblant is “Tire sur la neige” (trans: pull on the snow). This sticky candy is made by pouring hot maple syrup on cold snow and letting it cool just enough to roll it onto a stick, at which point it's ready to enjoy.
Bonus: Curious about the origin of the name “Mont Tremblant”? Tremblant is French for “trembling”, and the mountain was so named because of an Indigenous belief that it was inhabited by a deity that would tremble when upset.
Our travel tips: Mont Tremblant is such a popular winter destination that we really suggest you book accommodations well in advance to avoid any disappointment.
While some of the other ski resorts on this list might be able to accommodate last-minute vacationers, Mont Tremblant's popularity makes it very difficult to book a last-minute room or suite.
If you enjoyed your time visiting Tremblant, you could always return in the summer, fall or spring as this beautiful resort operates year-round.
3. Ottawa and Parc Omega, ON (via Sucrérie de la Montagne)
2 hours from Montreal (200 km)
Why you should visit: This road trip offers two things that no other road trip on this list does: the first is a stop at the Sucrérie de la Montagne, where you can learn how Canada's famous maple syrup gets produced. And the second is an opportunity to skate along Ottawa's famous Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Known as the Festival Capital of Canada, there are few cities as picturesque in the winter as Ottawa, whose Parliament Buildings light up in celebration of the winter holidays.
If you're an animal lover, then there's no better experience than a visit to Parc Omega, which allows you to meet and feed local animals from the comfort of your car.
How to get there: Getting to Ottawa from Montreal is a breeze. Take the Trans-Canada Highway out of the city, then take exit 17 to stop at the Sucrérie de la Montagne. Once you've had your fill of maple treats, get back on the Trans-Canada Highway and follow it all the way to Ottawa.
Our highlights: Taking place during the first three weekends of February, Winterlude is one of Canada's most famous winter festivals that boasts tons of activities including live ice sculpting, a gigantic snow playground called Snowflake Kingdom, and much more.
One of Ottawa's most unique offerings is the Rideau Canal, which freezes over during the coldest weeks of winter and is then opened to the public for ice skating activities.
You can also simply walk along this frozen UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is dotted with shacks where you can enjoy hot chocolate or poutine, Canada's most famous dish.
Take a walk through the Byward Market and indulge in a Beaver Tail, a flat fried dough (like a donut) on which you can add a variety of sweet toppings including Nutella and cinnamon sugar. Once you've had your sugar fill, you can shop in the market's many adorable stores boasting artisan goods.
Bonus: Ottawa is uniquely situated on the provincial border of Québec and Ontario; this location was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1867, who felt the halfway point between Toronto and Montreal would be an ideal location for trading and business and therefore the ideal choice for Canada's capital city.
Our travel tips: If you're thinking about visiting Parc Omega while in Ottawa, keep in mind that the average visit takes about 3 hours. This is the ideal time to enjoy the company of the many native animals housed in this park.
It's only possible to skate on the Rideau Canal once it freezes enough to ensure visitors' safety. This typically occurs in late January or early February, however, the best way to ensure that the Canal is open is by checking the city of Ottawa's website.
4. North Hatley and Parc National du Mont Mégantic, QC
2 hours 30 minutes from Montreal (230 km)
Why you should visit: This road trip has the best of both worlds: a visit to a Canadian National Park (the only one on this list) as well as a picturesque Eastern Township. Perfect for those looking to get to know outdoor Québec as well as the signature small towns that this region is famous for.
Charm and serenity are what await you on this road trip. Expect small town coziness, quaint boutiques, and historic sites in North Hatley, which is known as one of the most beautiful small towns of Québec. And in Parc National du Mégantic, you'll have ample opportunities to discover the snow-laden forests of Québec, which you'll be able to explore in a variety of ways.
How to get there: Located just south of the town of Sherbrooke, QC, North Hatley is quite easy to get to from Montreal. Cross the St Lawrence River via the Samuel de Champlain bridge to exit the city, then take Québec Autoroute 10 past Chambly and across the Richelieu River. You'll then take exit 29 and continue along Autoroute 55 S until you reach North Hatley, right on the shores of Lac Massawippi. The National Park is just 30 minutes of this small town, close to the US-Canada border.
Our highlights: North Hatley is filled with cute and accessible activities that are sure to make your experience incredibly memorable. For example, you could visit L'Auberge La Chocolaterie, a 19th-century icehouse that has since been converted into an inn and boutique, offering local sweets as well as scrumptious gourmet eats.
If you're feeling daring (or partial to an equestrian experience) then we suggest you trot on over to the Jacques Robidas Equestrian Center. There, you'll have the chance to take a quick horseback riding lesson before exploring North Hatley's snow landscapes entirely on horseback.
Once you've had your fill with this adorable town, you can make your way to Parc National du Mégantic, where you can explore it's beautiful snowy landscapes in a variety of ways. With over 13 kilometres of cross-country skiing trails and 23 kilometres of snowshoeing trails, you'll definitely have the opportunity to get your cardio in.
One experience we really recommend you enjoy is night snowshoeing at the National Park. This awesome experience allows you to explore a relatively manageable trail (1.2 kilometres) at night and under the light of torches, spread throughout the park.
Bonus: Did you know North Hatley has always been a gathering place for those looking to escape into nature? In fact, the town has been a favourite resort destination since the end of the 19th century when wealthy Americans from the Southern United States would visit in the summer.
Our travel tips: If you're looking to snowshoe and don't have your own pair, make sure to book your rentals at least twenty-four hours in advance through the park website. Also, make sure to check whether the trains in Mont Mégantic are open for visitors as some trails are only available to enjoy later in the winter.
Weekend trips (3-5 hours each way)
Have a free weekend and looking for an escape? Choose from one of the trips below to make the most of a few days by exploring some nearby treasures.
5. Québec City, QC (via Trois-Rivières)
3 hours from Montreal (270 km)
Why you should visit: This road trip is the perfect opportunity to discover French Canada's rich and storied past. Start at the second oldest French-speaking city in North America, beautiful Trois-Rivières, before continuing on to the oldest Francophone city on the continent: historic Québec City.
There are few cities in Canada that are as beautiful in the winter as Québec City. This architectural gem is picturesque when covered in a thin (or sometimes, thick) layer of fluffy snow; additionally, Québec, which boasts a world-famous Christmas Market as well as tons of festivals that are sure to cheer you up during the colder months.
How to get there: Exit Montreal using Autoroute 40 E, which you can follow until Exit 199 which takes you to Trois Rivières. Once you've finished visiting this historic town, get back on Autoroute 40E which will take you all the way to Québec City.
Our highlights: Trois-Rivières is full of historical gems and has recently invested a lot of funds into making this history accessible to tourists and locals alike. We recommend a stroll through this city's historic district before visiting Trois-Riviere's iconic monastery, as well as the adjoining Musee des Ursulines (Museum of the Nuns).
Once you're in Québec City, make sure to visit their stunning German Christmas Market, which runs from late November until December 23 and which was conceptualized to resemble as much as possible the European equivalents. There, you'll have the opportunity enjoy stunning decorations, delicious German treats, and some Christmas shopping.
If you're visiting between January and March, then check out the Québec Ice Hotel. This attraction is unlike anything else in Canada and is comprised of a hotel built entirely out of ice. You can either enjoy the hotel as a visitor or splurge to stay in one of this hotel's icy rooms.
Also taking place in the later winter months is the world-famous Québec Winter Carnival, the largest carnival of its kind in the world. Expect ice slides and mazes, parades, snow cultures, and delicious food.
Finally, there are few cultures that know how to do winter comfort food as well as the Québecois; make sure to try Québec's signature winter dishes, including Poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds), Tourtière (meat pie) and Pudding Chômeur (loosely translating to "pudding of the unemployed", this sticky treat is made up of a cake drowned in a warm maple syrup).
Bonus: There's no way to miss the majestic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel, a fully functioning hotel and historic site that holds the Guinness World Record for the most photographed hotel in the world.
Our travel tips: Make sure to check snow levels and weather before making the trek to Québec City. While the city generally receives tons of snow during the winter season, some activities require that temperatures fall below a certain threshold before they can open (i.e. outdoor skating, the Québec Ice Hotel)
It is essential to dress very warmly for the weather in this region, which often dips below freezing. Expect lots of snow, and make sure to pack sunscreen as the sun reflecting against the white show can result in a bad sunburn.
6. Cote-de-Beaupré and the Laurentians, QC
4 hours from Montreal (350 km)
Why you should visit: Rather than aiming for one specific destination, this road trip takes you along the banks of the St Lawrence River on the New France Route where you'll have the opportunity to discover the collection of small towns that make up the Cote-de-Beaupré region.
This road trip takes you along one of Canada's oldest routes, the Route de la Nouvelle-France. Dating back over three hundred years, this road was once trafficked by farmers bringing their crops to Québec City.
As a result, there are tons of heritage structures scattered around this route, making this trip a wonderful opportunity to get acquainted with Québec's religious history, as well as to discover the Laurentians, a defining characteristic of the province's natural landscape.
How to get there: Cross the St Lawrence River via the Samuel de Champlain bridge to exit Montreal; then, take the Trans-Canada highway before exiting on 312N to Autoroute 73 N toward Québec City.
Once past Québec City, continue along the banks of the St Lawrence River, where you'll find a collection of towns along the Nouvelle France Route that make up the Cote-de-Beaupré region.
Our highlights: One of the heritage sites you'll find along the New France Route is the Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine, the oldest pilgrimage site in Canada and the first in North America. Every year, thousands of visitors from around the world flock to this shrine to pay their respects or say a prayer in honor of this saint.
This part of Québec is celebrated for its many art and cultural creators, so there's no better place to check out some unique and beautiful artworks. We recommend Atelier Paré, a museum and shop that is celebrated for its wood sculptures.
The Laurentians are certainly one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Canada; all along this route, you'll be able to see them from afar, but if you're looking to get better acquainted, make sure to check out some of the nearby mountains. Nearest to Beaupré is Mont-Saint-Anne, one of Canada's most popular skiing destinations.
If you're feeling adventurous, then make sure to check out Mont-Saint-Anne's winter sports offering. This ski resort happens to be the only place in North America where you can try your hand at ice canyoning, a thrilling sport that involves climbing frozen waterfalls, similar to the way you would climb a canyon.
Bonus: Cote-de-Beaupré is lovingly referred to by locals as "Québec's breadbasket", probably stemming from the many small towns that make up this region and which lead to Québec City. This nickname also refers to this region's deep agricultural routes.
Our travel tips: Just like for any Québec destination on this trip, it is essential to dress very warmly for the weather, which often dips below freezing. This is especially true if you plan to explore the nearby mountains, or if you're engaging in winter sports while travelling.
Cote-de-Beaupré is made up of a variety of towns along the Route de la Nouvelle France, meaning that you'll be stopping frequently along this short but attraction-filled route.
7. Saguenay and the Saguenay Fjord, QC
4 hours 50 minutes from Montreal (460 km)
Why you should visit: While lots of the trips on this list include visits to beautiful mountains and parks, none offer the opportunity to get acquainted with a body of water as majestic as the Saguenay Fjord, one of Canada's most breathtaking natural attractions.
The seventh largest city in Québec, Saguenay is a wonderful destination for a winter road trip. The city itself boasts tons of unique cultural attractions, while the nearby parks are great for winter sports and general exploration.
How to get there: Getting to Saguenay is relatively simple. Once out of Montreal, take the Trans-Canada Highway before exiting on 312N to Autoroute 73 N toward Québec City. Once past the city, follow the QC-175 N which should take you directly to Saguenay.
Our highlights: Saguenay derives its name from the Innu word “Saki-nip”, which roughly translates to “where the water flows out”. Measuring over 126km long and boasting rocky cliffs that are over 350 meters high, the Saguenay Fjord measures among the longest in the world.
The dark waters running through this body of water contrast beautifully with the snow and ice that accumulate along its shores; it's no wonder that the Saguenay Fjord was recently ranked by the Micheline Guide as one of the must-see attractions worldwide.
Scattered around this area, you'll find a variety of cozy and quaint Québecois towns that are sure to get you into the holiday mood. Our recommendations are the nearby municipalities of Petit-Saguenay, Riviere-Eternite, Ferland-et-Bouilleau and L'Anse-Saint-Jean (a member of the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Québec).
Nearby Lac Saint-Jean, which feeds into the Saguenay River, is known for its ice-fishing offerings. There's no better place than this lake to bundle up and experience this sport typical of the area.
The city of Saguenay lights up during the Christmas season, boasting a European-style Christmas Market. Featuring artisans, local products and delicious treats amongst a wooden house village, the Saguenay Christmas Market offers free admission and opens sometime in early December.
For the animal-lovers, we highly recommend checking out Adventuraid, a sanctuary and reserve that offers visitors the opportunity to interact and play with arctic wolves. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Our travel tips: While many cities and towns are equally French and English speaking, expect for the fact that there to be less English in Saguenay due its removed location from Anglophone Canada.
It is good to keep in mind that "Saguenay" can refer to both the city of Saguenay as well as the surrounding Saguenay region.
Long weekend trips (5-8 hours each way)
These destinations are a little further from Montreal, offering the perfect opportunity to discover something new. Read on to discover three road trips we think you could manage in the space of 3-4 days.
8. Boston and Cape Cod, MA (via Stowe, VT)
6 hours 30 minutes from Montreal (610 km)
Why you should visit: If you're looking to cross international borders and get out of Canada but aren't looking to venture too deep into the United States, then this road trip to Boston and Cape Cod is the one for you.
Easily reachable by car from Montreal, Bostonian culture is unlike anything in Canada; furthermore, nothing beats a trip to beautiful Cape Cod, a summer favourite that's worth a winter visit.
One of the most historic cities in the entirety of the United States, Boston truly comes alive during the winter; discover the unique experience of visiting these two cities when the crowds dissipate, and locals come out in droves for indoor and outdoor winter activities.
How to get there: Take the Samuel de Champlain bridge out of Montreal, continuing south along Autoroute 35 S until you reach Québec's border with Vermont. Once you've entered the States, continue along I-89 S through New Hampshire until you enter Massachusetts, where you'll find historic Boston and beachy Cape Cod.
Our highlights: There's nothing quite like the combination of history and the wintertime when cozy historic buildings are covered with twinkling lights guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit. Take a walk and explore Boston's snow-dusted historic district, truly at it's best during the colder months.
Looking for some outdoor fun? We suggest ice skating on the Boston Common Frog Pond or sledding at Flagstaff Hill, wintertime favourite activities for Bostonians.
The Taza Chocolate Factory, located in the nearby Sommerville, is certainly worth a visit. Here you'll be able to indulge in a variety of chocolates, which are all produced using this factory's famous stone-ground method.
Cape Cod's signature lighthouses may be at their most picturesque in the winter, when they get covered in a light layer of snow. Make sure to check these out—many offer tours or the opportunity to climb up and view the Bay from up high.
Or, take part in the Christmas Stroll, a winter festival in Chatham (near Cape Cod) which boasts a tree lighting ceremony and horse-drawn carriage rides
Bonus: Boston is a city of firsts; it's home to America's first subway system, the country's first chocolate factory, and the first ever Dunkin' Donuts.
Our travel tips: Boston's proximity to the water means that while it can get quite snowy, it typically won't get terribly cold (especially in the earlier winter months). It's essential to dress warmly for this weather, and to wear sunscreen when going outside.
Cape Cod's main tourism season is the summer, so expect some attractions to be closed if visiting in winter.
9. New York City, NY (via Stockbridge, MA)
6 hours 30 minutes from Montreal (610 km)
Why you should visit: Visit the Big Apple in the wintertime to discover this beautiful metropolis in a whole new way. There's nothing quite like New York City during the holidays, when the city's most famous attractions get covered with glittering lights and Christmas decorations, and holiday entertainment abounds.
How to get there: Take the Honoré Mercier Bridge over the St Lawrence River and out of Montreal. Then, follow Autoroute 15 all the way to the US-Canada border; once in New York State, take the I-87 straight to New York City. If you're looking to stop in Stockbridge (we definitely recommend it!) then you'll want to take exit B3 from the I-90 E.
Our highlights: Nothing says "Christmas" like the massive Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which is installed and lit towards the end of November (sometime after Thanksgiving) and taken down during the first week of January. Fun fact: the tallest Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree on record was mounted in 1999, towering over 100 ft and decorated by over 25,000 Christmas lights.
If you're looking for the wildest way to countdown the New Year, look no further than the Times Square Ball Drop, which brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. While you can catch this ceremony on your TV, there's nothing quite like experiencing it in person.
New York City is one of North America's premiere entertainment destinations, and this is no less true than during the holiday season, when you can enjoy some truly amazing performances. Classics include the world-renowned Radio City Rockettes in their Christmas Spectacular, or Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet at the Lincoln Center.
On your way to New York, you can stop in Stockbridge where you can get a taste of small-town New England before driving into the big city. Stockbridge is truly the quintessential New England town, coming alive during the winter months; expect picturesque village views and lots of opportunities for outdoor winter sports.
Bonus: There's no shortage of holiday movies that take place in New York. Some of our favourites include Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and It's a Wonderful Life.
Our travel tips: Winter in New York City tends to be on the wetter and snowier side—make sure to pack plenty of layers and waterproof clothing.
Crowds in New York are steady year-round, so make sure to book accommodations and attractions early if possible.
10. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, ME
6 hours 40 minutes from Montreal (540 km)
Why you should visit: Wintertime may be the best time to visit National Parks in the US and Canada, as crowds tend to significantly dwindle, allowing you to enjoy these picturesque natural attractions completely solo.
Bar Harbor is a popular vacation spot that we believe also makes a wonderful winter destination, especially given that most of the same attractions you'll find in the summer are available during the colder months and Acadia National Park is especially beautiful during the colder months.
How to get there: Taking the Samuel de Champlain Bridge, cross the St Lawrence River and exit the city of Montreal. Then, taking the A-10 Towards Sherbrooke, traverse the US-Canada border into Maine. Cross through Maine using the ME-27 S and I-95 N, after which you can follow the ME-3 E to Bar Harbor. Acadia National Park is just a short drive from there.
Our highlights: We really can't think of a better way of discovering New England's winter nature offerings than by cross-country ski and snowshoe. Gear up and enjoy the nearly 45 miles of carriage roads and unplowed park roads at Acadia National Park.
If braving mountains of snow isn't your thing, we suggest renting some skates in downtown Bar Harbor before enjoying a picturesque skating trip on Eagle Lake or Jordan Pond, also located in Acadia National Park.
Get into the holiday spirit with a visit to Village Green, Bar Harbor's central square and home to the town's Christmas Tree, annually lit by Santa Claus who rides in on a firetruck and leads the onlookers a Christmas story.
This little town offers tons of additional Christmas activities, including a Gingerbread House Contest and a “Midnight Madness Sale” when local stores offer deep Christmas discounts.
Enjoy the soothing sounds of the Atlantic Ocean's rolling waves on a walk along the Bar Harbor Shore Path, arguably at its most beautiful in the wintertime.
Bonus: Did you know that Acadia National Park offers the highest view on the United States East Coast?
Our travel tips: While there are many Bar Harbor attractions that stay open during the winter months, some hotels and restaurants will close during the off-season.
Most closures occur at chain hotels and restaurants, while locals will typically keep their businesses open for savvy travelers visiting in the wintertime.
If choosing to explore Acadia National Park, dress warmly and in waterproof and snow-proof layers.
11. Niagara Falls, ON (via Toronto)
6 hours 50 minutes from Montreal (670 km)
Why you should visit: This road trip takes you through Canada's largest city, Toronto, before visiting the country's most recognizable natural wonder, Niagara Falls. It's the perfect combination of big-city winter vibes and heart-stopping nature experiences.
Discover Canada's largest free and vehicle-friendly outdoor light festival, the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, at Canada's premiere natural wonder, Niagara Falls. This is just one of many festivals that make Toronto and Niagara Falls wonderful winter road trip destinations.
How to get there: Take Autoroute 20 O out of Montreal, which will turn into Highway 401 once you cross the Québec-Ontario provincial border. Follow the 401 all the way to Toronto, about 530 kilometres; once you've enjoyed this city's many offerings, you can exit via the Gardiner Expressway West before taking Queen Elizabeth Way to Niagara Falls.
Our highlights: One of the quintessential Toronto winter activities is skating at Nathan Philips Square, right outside of Toronto's massive City Hall. Nearby you'll also find the “TORONTO” sign, perfect for a photo-op; once you've had your fill of skating, head on over to Toronto's famous Eaton Center where you can enjoy some holiday shopping.
Visiting in the later winter months? Catch the Winterlicious Festival, Toronto's premier prix-fixe food event that offers deep discounts at some of the city's most fabulous dining spots. Make sure to book reservations at participating restaurants in advance, as this festival is very popular amongst visitors and locals alike.
Look no further than the Christmas Market in the historic Distillery District for Toronto's premiere holiday market. Complete with tons of boutiques and stands selling holiday goodies, you can also catch a theatre performance at the Young Centre for Performing Arts.
Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, right by Niagara Falls, to discover an adorable winter-wonderland village complete with a store entirely dedicated to selling Christmas décor.
We think that Niagara Falls may be at its most beautiful in the winter, when parts of the falls freeze over, creating a layer of crystalline ice over the majestic falls.
Bonus: Did you know that Niagara Falls actually consist of a collection of three falls? There are the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls, both entirely belonging to the United States, as well as the largest and most recognizable Horseshoe Falls, shared between Canada and the US.
Our travel tips: Toronto's quietest season is winter, so expect smaller crowds than in the summer and the possibility of more affordable accommodations
There are two sides to Niagara Falls, the American and Canadian sides. If possible, visit both to get the full Niagara Falls experience.
12. Cap-Chat, QC (via Québec City)
7 hours 20 minutes from Montreal (740 km)
Why you should visit: Cap-Chat is probably the most secluded out of all the destinations on this list, located all the way near the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Eastern Canada. If you're looking for quiet and beautiful natural landscapes, this trip is for you.
Cap-Chat is a truly unique vacation destination, boasting the world's largest vertical-axis wind turbine as well as tons of opportunities to enjoy outdoor winter sports in the area's wooded winter landscapes.
How to get there: Exit Montreal via the Samuel de Champlain Bridge before continuing along the Trans-Canada Highway all the way to Québec City. Once you've finished exploring this winter favourite, get back on the Trans-Canada Highway until it meets Autoroute 20.
Continue along Autoroute 20, which will meet QC-132 E and which you can follow to Cap-Chat
Our highlights: While passing through Québec City, make sure to stop at the German Christmas Market, taking place every December. If visiting in January, you'll have the opportunity to visit the Québec Ice Hotel, one of the city's most unique winter offerings.
Finally, taking place in February is the world-famous Québec Winter Carnival, the largest carnival of its kind in the world.
Winter brings abundant snow to this small town in Gaspésie, which is celebrated for its magnificent slopes. Check out the Centre de plein air de Cap-Chat, where you can enjoy a variety of winter sports including skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing and more.
Our travel tips: Cap-Chat is quite small and secluded, with a population of just over 6,000 people. Expect a small-town vibe and fewer crowds, allowing you to take the festive vibe in without worrying about high prices that are usually associated with the holiday season.
If looking to enjoy winter sports, make sure to check the weather prior to arrival and to dress appropriately in warm and waterproof layers
Longer trips (over 8 hours each way)
Sometimes, a short escape just isn't enough. We think these next three road trips are the perfect place to visit if you're looking for a longer winter vacation.
13. Frankenmuth, Saginaw and Bay City, MI
9 hours and 40 minutes from Montreal (1,000 km)
Why you should visit: Often looked over during the wintertime, the Great Lakes Bay Region is a wonderful road-trip destination any time of year. We love that this route takes you to two of the five great lakes: Lake Huron and Lake Ontario.
The jewel of the Great Lakes Bay Region is Frankenmuth, an idyllic Bavarian-style town that hosts Zehnder's Snowfest, one of the top snow and ice sculpting events in all of North America. If you'd like to experience that European Christmas vibe without breaking the bank, this road trip is for you.
How to get there: Take Autoroute 20 O out of Montreal—this highway will turn into the 401 once you cross the Québec-Ontario provincial border. Follow the 401 all the way past Toronto, until you can merge onto the 402.
The 402 will then take you to the Canada-US international border in Sarnia, after which you can take the I-69 W to Frankenmuth. From Frankenmuth, the surrounding Great Bay Region cities are all nearby.
Our highlights: Get ready for jaw-dropping ice sculptures at Zehnder's Snowfest, one of the major draws for this area during the winter season. This festival usually takes place during the last week of January, at which point ice and snow sculptors from around the country flock to present their beautifully detailed and larger-than-life artworks to an eager public.
Check out Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world's largest Christmas store which celebrates this holiday year-round. We're sure you've never seen anything like this Christmas-lovers dream, boasting over 50,000 tree decorations to choose from as well as tons of holiday gifts.
Frankenmuth is most photo-worthy during the winter, when its Bavarian-style buildings get covered with a nice layer of crisp white snow. We think the best way to discover this town center is via an old-fashioned carriage ride, available at a reasonable rate.
For those looking to get a little active on their trip, we recommend gearing up and going on a snowshoe walk or a cross-country ski trip through the nearby forests of Michigan. Or, you can experience ice fishing at Saginaw Bay, beginning in mid-January.
Bonus: Frankenmuth was settled in 1845 by a small group of German Lutheran immigrants; this is where the town got its nickname of “Little Bavaria”.
Our travel tips: Out of all the towns in the Great Bay Region, Frankenmuth is the city most celebrated for its winter and holiday appeal, and this is where you'll probably find the most indoor holiday activities
Michigan is known for its freezing winters – make sure to dress warmly, with several layers and water-proof clothing.
14. Washington, DC (via New Hope, Bethlehem and Bernville, PA)
10 hours from Montreal (1,060 km)
Why you should visit: With a travel time of just over ten hours, this road trip takes you through various small towns in Pennsylvania before arriving at the US Capital, Washington, DC. There you'll find tons of museums and historical buildings but without their usual crowds.
With its many grand government buildings and historical monuments, Washington DC is positively picturesque during the snowy winter and holiday seasons. Along the way, you'll discover Bethlehem (a.k.a. Christmas City) as well as quaint Bernville and New Hope.
How to get there: Cross the St Lawrence River via the Samuel de Champlain Bridge to exit Montreal, then follow Autoroute 15 until you reach the US-Canada border, where you can get on the I-87.
Once on the I-87, continue past Albany before taking the I-287 S westbound. After stopping in Bernville, New Hope and Bethlehem, you can easily continue to Washington DC via the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Our highlights: Skate along the Washington Harbor Ice Rink in Georgetown, which features light-up snowflakes, and is open every day between November and March.
There's no better way to get into the holiday mood than by visiting the White House, where you can take in the National Christmas Tree as well as an additional fifty-plus trees, each representing one of the country's states.
You can also check out the Willard Intercontinental Holiday Display, known for its gingerbread house replica of the hotel and its gorgeously decorated lobby.
Washington DC is host to a wonderful Downtown Holiday Market, which boasts live performances and tons of stands featuring holiday goodies.
New Hope, Bethlehem, and Bernville are all individually celebrated as wonderful places to spend the winter/holiday season due to their picturesque centers and festival offerings. Bethlehem especially is known for its wonderful German-inspired Christmas Market, Christmas City Village.
Bonus: Bethlehem PA, founded in 1784 by a group of German Missionaries, is known as America's “Christmas City”.
Our travel tips: Remember that the Smithsonian Museum in Washington is free to visit.
Washington is slightly warmer than some other locations on this list, but still experiences cold winters. Make sure to pack accordingly, wearing warm layers (though you needn't necessarily worry about waterproof clothing unless you plan on enjoying winter sports).
15. Orlando, FL (via St. Augustine)
22 hours 40 minutes from Montreal (2,330 km)
Why you should visit: Every winter road trip list must have at least one option for a summer getaway, and this is our favourite by far! Take a drive down to Florida to discover coastal St. Augustine and exciting Orlando, where you can experience the iconic Walt Disney World Resort and the Universal Studios theme park during the holiday season.
Orlando is the perfect escape from a snowy Montreal winter, with its many themed amusement parks and sunny weather, as well as for its proximity to Atlantic and Gulf Coast beach towns.
How to get there: Exit Montreal and direct yourself towards Canada's border with New York State. Continue along several interstates through New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia until you reach Florida.
Just past Jacksonville you'll find St. Augustine, and from there you can easily continue to Orlando via the I-95.
Our highlights: While Orlando's theme parks, including Disney World and Universal, can be busy during the holiday season, they're markedly less busy in early-December, January, and February. Visiting during this time is a great way to see these famous attractions without worrying about massive crowds.
There's little more magical than Disney World during Christmas. In addition to its usual Christmas activities (i.e. the famous Disney Santa Parade), Disney's Magic Kingdom offers an after-hours Christmas event called Mickey's Verry Merry Christmas Party, featuring live singers and gingerbread cookie bars.
St. Augustine Beach is a highlight on this trip; one of the most beloved beaches on the east coast, this stunning spot is much less crowded in the winter. Take a stroll along the coast or grab a seat along the sandy beach and enjoy the sunset.
Make sure to visit ICE! at Gaylord Palms, a unique ice sculpture experience interactive exhibits and the opportunity to meet Santa.
Bonus: St Augustine is the oldest city in North America, having been established by Spanish settlers in 1565.
Our travel tips: Make sure to book tickets to theme parks well in advance. It's also possible to purchase fast passes to Disney and Universal, which helps if looking to avoid dealing with long lines.
Be sure to pack clothing for both cold and warm weather, given the disparity between the climates of Florida and Montreal.
Weather in Florida can be somewhat unpredictable; make sure to check before leaving to see what awaits you in the South.
Best winter road trips from Montreal: a quick overview
|Trip type||Time from Montreal||Our favorite road trips|
|Single day trips|
Under 3 hours each way
1. Mont Sutton, QC
2. Mont Tremblant Resort, QC
3. Ottawa and Parc Omega, ON
4. North Hatley and Parc National du Mont Megantic, QC
|Weekend trips||3-5 hours each way|
5. Quebec City, QC
6. Cote-de-Beaupré and the Laurentians, QC
7. Saguenay and Saguenay Fjord, QC
|Long-weekend trips||5-8 hours each way|
8. Boston and Cape Cod, MA
9. New York City, NY
10. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, ME
11. Niagara Falls, ON
12. Cap-Chat, QC
|Longer trips||8+ hours each way|
13. Frankenmuth, Saginaw and Bay City, MI
14. Washington DC
15. Orlando, FL