6 Sunny Places for an Off-Season Solar Recharge in Western Canada
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As winter wears on towards spring, our minds and bodies begin to crave Vitamin D – the sunshine supplement – to get us through the rest of Canada’s longest season. The happiness-inducing nutrient has been proven to stave off the winter blues and boost your mood. With the lengthening days into March and April, that yearning for the sun's rays just increases.
If one of your 2022 goals is to get off your screen and get outside more – a worthy wellness goal – then here are six sunny places in Alberta (home to the country’s largest solar farm) and British Columbia that will give you the solar recharge your body is craving.
Visit these six sunny places
If sun is what you're seeking, then Alberta is a great place to do it. It may not be as warm as coastal BC but the province gets lots of clear sunny days year round that soak into the very fibre of your being.
Northern Alberta gets its fair share of sunny days in winter and early spring, and there is no shortage of things to do that will bring a smile to your face, indoors and out in Grande Prairie. Half the remedy to keeping the fun in winter is staying active.
Grande Prairie has some terrific cross-country ski trails at the Wapiti Nordic Ski Club or you can get a perma-grin with some tubing thrills or skiing at Nitehawk Ski Area (open through March 28). Of course, a little art therapy always helps boost your mood. Be sure to check out the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, one of the larger galleries in Western Canada – and it’s free admission.
This southern Alberta city also basks in winter and year-round sunshine – by some reports as much sun as Calgary. Medicine Hat, however, has a whole different vibe than the big city. You could take a self-guided tour of the heritage buildings in this laid-back city, survey its many murals and sample its robust coffee culture and craft brewery scene any day of the year.
You’ll find Edmontonians flocking to get a front seat at the city’s more than 15 #YEGWinterPatios, like Culina by the Lake in Hawrelak Park, or at Café Bicyclette. Both have fires to warm you as the sun wanes into the evening.
As spring comes on, it's also the prime time to take advantage of the trails. Grab your bike out of hibernation and head to Hawrelak Park or the North Saskatchewan River Valley for a spin.
Here’s some inspiration to build your own winter patio crawl in Edmonton.
With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Canada’s most westerly province isn’t known for its sunny days in the winter and early spring seasons. To understand why, check out this story about what’s behind Alberta and B.C.’s weather conditions.
But take heart! The weather gurus identify these areas as the sunniest spots in B.C.
B.C.’s capital city on Vancouver Island is the sunniest spot in the province. It is blessed with oceanfront beaches and a stunning inner harbour, and the sea-side location is ideal for kayaking, picnics and beachcombing. On some balmy spring days you can even go golfing. Many golf venues offer heated stalls where you can practise your swing.
If you really want to feel like spring is in the air, head to beautiful Butchart Gardens (re-opened Feb. 7, 2022) in winter, a time of year when the glorious plant life outnumbers the humans.
Known as the gateway to the Powder Highway in the Kootenay Rockies, Cranbrook gets just a bit less sunshine than Victoria, but equally mild temperatures. On the doorstep of seven ski resorts in less than two hours for some amazing spring skiing, plus several heli-skiing operations. It’s the perfect place for the fair-weather winter lover.
There are around 70 kms of trails at the Cranbrook Community Forest and South Star Recreation Area in town for fat biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
OK, we might be making a bit of a reach here. B.C.’s Sunshine Coast – which doesn’t necessarily mean, well, you know, that it’s sunny here between November and April – does have mild temperatures, ranging from 2 to 10 C. We’ll take it! Grab a ferry from Horseshoe Bay to explore the region.
Although it is teeming with people in summer, you’ll pretty much have it to yourself in the off season.
P.S. You might be wondering how the Sunshine Coast got its name. Chalk it up to a marketing campaign from the early 1900s. A pioneer family who was trying to lure tourists for the summer holidays, painted the moniker “The Sunshine Belt” on the wharf at Roberts Creek. The label stuck around more than the sun.
Vitamin D is the happiness drug served up best from the sky. These locations in Alberta and B.C. can help you get the sunny fix you need to thrive through until summer, and all while experiencing great outdoor activities, too.