Red door, Christmas letter.

The winter break is almost here, so it’s the perfect time to start planning your holidays. If you are staying in Canada this winter, read on for some ideas about how you can explore your second home. No matter what your budget is, we’re sure you’ll be able to find an activity or adventure that appeals to you! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page for information about on and off-campus events over the holidays as well as important university dates!

Big Spender ($500+ budget)

See French Canada
Francophone regions of Canada are those areas with large concentrations of French-speaking residents. The province of Quebec is one of Canada’s most distinct Francophone regions and is known as the epicenter of French Canada. If you go to northern Quebec, you may even find it difficult to meet others who speak English! If you are feeling adventurous and want to see something completely different- a visit to French Canada is a great idea!

Montreal is a great city full of history, major universities, and great restaurants and nightlife. Montreal is also rich in culture and is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in Canada (some people call it the Paris of Canada!).

How to Get There:
Greyhound Bus: Takes 12 hours; cheapest option; around $150 round-trip
Via Rail: Takes 7 hours (plus layover in Toronto); around $180 round-trip
Drive: Takes about 8 hours if you drive non-stop
Group Travel: with ISX Canada or similar tour companies

What to do:
Visit the Biodome
This building, previously used to host the 1976 summer Olympics, has now been converted into a Biodome with an indoor tropical rainforest and other Canadian climates. You can learn more about biodiversity and the native flora and fauna in Canada.
Jean Talon Market
If you’re interested in local food, this is the place for you. Make sure to go there on an empty stomach, because some of the sausages and gourmet items are too hard to resist! Reminiscent of traditional European markets, the products at the Jean Talon Market are entirely Canadian with maple syrup stands and exotic meats including deer and bison.
Old Montreal and the Notre Dame Basilica
This part of Montreal goes back to its European roots. The historic centre has retained the cobblestone streets and old buildings from when Montreal was first settled. The Basilica is a must-see in this area with colourful stained glass windows and ornate decorations and carvings. With horse-drawn carriage rides and walking tours, it’s a great area to explore. Just be careful, because it is a popular tourist destination; so, food and souvenirs can be expensive!
Visit a Sugar Shack (Cabane à Sucre)
Sugar Shacks are maple syrup farms – a quintessential part of a Canadian culture. In the winter, people pour boiled maple syrup over snow and quickly roll the sticky caramel around a popsicle stick to create a maple lollipop. Sugar Shacks often offer tours of the facilities and show you how they make their maple syrup. They also usually have restaurants serving authentic maple-inspired dished. Sugar cream pies are an absolute must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Go skiing
Only an hour away are the Laurentian mountains. If you have the time and can rent a car, your could spend a day or two on the ski slopes.

What to Eat:
• Perhaps, the most famous Quebecois dish is their poutine! It’s hard to go wrong with this delicious mix of gravy, French fries, and cheese curds. Poutine can be found almost anywhere, but student favourites are Alto’s, La Banquise, and La Belle Province – all three deliver until 4am.
• Montreal is also famous for their bagels and smoked meat. The best bagels are highly disputed, but most people agree it’s either St. Viateur Bagels or Fairmont Bagels. Both of these places are within one block of each other, so you can taste both and decide for yourself! At less than a dollar each, the bagels are usually fresh out of the oven and – even better – available 24/7. As for smoked meat, without a doubt, the best place to go is Schwartz’s on St. Laurent. Delicious!

Getaway ($300+ budget)

See the Falls
One of the seven wonders of the world, Niagara Falls is a must-see natural attruaction if you’re in the area. Not to mention, if you’re 19+, the Niagara region is home to some of the best wineries and jam shops in Canada!.

How to Get There:
Greyhound Bus: 5+ hours (with layover in Toronto); approximately $100 round-trip
Via Rail: 5+ hours (with layover in Toronto); approximately $140 round-trip
Drive: approximately 2 hour drive
Group Travel: with ISX Canada or similar tour companies

What to do:
Explore the Falls
There are lots of ways to see the falls. You can go on a boat and approach the falls from the bottom on the Hornblower, walk behind the falls, or, in the winter- experience the falls via a simulator.
Awaken the animal lover
Niagara Falls is home to a Butterfly Conservatory where you can walk amongst the delicate insects and, if you’re lucky, one might land on you! If insects don’t interest you, perhaps the aviary at Bird Kingdom might be a better option. The birds walk freely around the aviary and you get to explore their natural ecosystem. There’s even a chance for you to feed some of the parakeets.
Arcade Games and Haunted Houses on Clifton Hill
Clifton Hill is filled with tourism attractions. Many of these can be expensive, so choose two or three options and explore the rest on your next visit. If you enjoy arcade games, fun houses, haunted houses, and wax museums, there is endless entertainment on this strip.
• Indoor Waterparks
Escape winter with a visit to an indoor water park! With massive wave pools, giant waterslides, and tons of children running around, these parks are fun for all ages.
• Go on a wine tour
If you are over 19 years old, the Niagara-on-the-Lake area offers some phenomenal tours of Canadian wineries. From the famous ice wine to the sweet Riesling, this area produces some of the finest grapes.

Where to Eat:
• If you want a great view of the falls and don’t mind spending a little more on dinner, try making a reservation at Skylon Tower or one of the hotel restaurants on the Falls (e.g. Hilton, Sheraton, etc.). These restaurants offer amazing views and great pictures of the late night light shows.

Excursion ($100+ budget)

Visit friends in Toronto
A large majority of Western students call Toronto home, so why not take the break and visit friends in their hometown? Often referred to as “Canada’s New York”, Toronto offers the excitement of the big city with endless areas to explore including downtown, Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy, Distillery District, and so many more!

How to Get There:
Drive: get a ride with a friend; the drive is about 2 hours
Greyhound: 2 hour bus; $50 round-trip if you buy early
Via Rail: 2 hour trip; approximately $100 round-trip

What to do:
Visit the CN Tower
The CN Tower is a must-see in Toronto. From walking on the glass floor to seeing the city’s horizon from above, it is a popular tourist attraction. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, make a reservation at the restaurant on the top floor. The dining room rotates and within an hour, you get a full 360 degree view of the city. Included in the price of the meal is a visit to the glass floor and the lift to the top ($75 for the meal and lift vs. $50 for a regular admittance ticket). For daredevils, there’s always the EdgeWalk– get the information and remember to go back and do this adventure in the summer!
St. Lawrence Market
A great indoor food market, St. Lawrence is filled with lots of fresh produce, fish, meat, cheese, and specialty items (like the famous mustard!). Some of the best chefs in the city can be found shopping here at 6 am to get the best products for that night’s dinner service. If you feel like having a more hands-on experience, the market also offers cooking classes upstairs!
Distillery District
Founded in the 1800s as a whisky distillery during prohibition, this old factory area has been converted into a series of galleries, restaurants, and shops. Most of the galleries are free and the shops are among the most unique in the city. One of the best chocolate shops is nestled in the corner of an alleyway – Soma. So, if you decide to go on one of the historic walking tours and need some warming, try a cup of Mayan hot chocolate before heading back outside.
Eaton’s Centre
Eaton’s Centre is the largest mall in Toronto, so as you can imagine, it’s always busy hosting locals and tourists alike. Most of the shops are large brand name stores. If you’re looking for boutiques, try Queen Street West and Bathurst area, but remember that prices do tend to be higher in that area!
Free Concerts at Nathan Phillip Square
Each year on New Year’s Eve, there is a free concert at Nathan Phillip Square at Dundas and Bay streets. You may want to spend the afternoon skating so that you can grab a spot early. The featured artists are usually famous Canadians. Past performers have been Kanaan, Hedley, These Kids Wear Crowns, and Keisha Chante.

Where to Eat:
• Toronto is known as the most multicultural city in the world, so take advantage of it and try some new cuisines!
o Try Nazareth for Ethiopian food (bring friends, because the food is served family style!)
o Pho Saigon for some Vietnamese noodle soup
o Mexican food in Kensington Market
o Chinese food in Chinatown (College and Spadina; some of these places are open until 4am!)
o Korean food at Bloor and Bathurst
o Italian food on College Street or St.Clair

Saving up (less than $100)

If you’re not looking to travel outside of London or just want to get to know the city better, here are some ideas for what you can do this winter break:

Outdoor Skating Rinks (here)
Ice skating is a favourite Canadian winter activity, so you’ll finding skating rinks around the city. Grab a friend and head to Victoria Park downtown where you can rent skates for only $5!
Explore Wortley Village (here)
Grab a cup of coffee and relax with a book in some of the cozy cafes in Wortley Village
Snow Tubing or Skiing at Boler Mountain (here)
A short bus-ride away from downtown London, this little ski hill is perfect for beginners. They also have tobogganing and snow tubing if you want to start with an easier winter sport!
Have a snowball fight or build a snowman
Put on your best waterproof mittens or gloves and get outside for some fun and exercise! Work as a team and build a snowman, or get competitive and have a snowball fight with friends!
Play inside (here or here)
Get in from the cold and spend the day indoors! Fleetway offers 5 and 10 pin bowling, a rock climbing wall, mini-golf, and pool tables so there is something there for everyone! With 2 locations in London, you can also bowl, play pool, and even try out Laser Tag at Palasad.
See a movie or live show
Lots of new releases hit theatres during the holidays. Grab a bag of popcorn and check out the new seats at Silvercity Masonville. If you are more interested in live theatre, documentaries and independent films, also check out Palace Theatre and Grand Theatre for some unique options!

On Campus Events

IESC’s Global Café
Dates: November 27, December 4, December 11
When & Where: 3-5pm, IGAB Atrium
Check your e-mail and follow IESC on Facebook for updates about our annual gingerbread house event at Global Café!

Holiday Networking Tea @ IESC
Date: December 18, 2014
When & Where: 1-2 pm, IESC (2nd Floor IGAB)
Join us for an informal holiday gathering complete with festive treats, hot chocolate, coffee/tea & holiday music. This will be a great opportunity to connect with others & make plans for the holidays!

Off- Campus Events

The Festival of Trees
Date: November 26- December 6, 2014
When & Where: 8:00 am- 6:00 pm, Covent Garden Market, 130 King St.
For more information click here.

Lighting of the Lights @ Victoria Park
Date: November 28, 2014
When & Where: Victoria Park (Downtown), 6:15pm- 7:15pm
For more information click here.

Old World Christmas Market
Date: November 30, 2014
When & Where: 11:00 AM – 5:00 pm., Bellamere Winery 1260 Gainsborough Road
For more information click here.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
Date: December 1, 2014
When & Where: 8:15 pm, Richmond St. railway crossing (near Molly Blooms)
For more information click here.

35th Christmas Craft Festival
Date: December 4-7, 2014
When & Where: Hours vary. Western Fair District – Progress Building (900 King St)
Admission: $6
For more information click here.

London Devilettes vs. Team China (Olympic Team)
Date: December 12, 2014
When & Where: 7:00 pm, Western Fair Sports Complex
Admission: $3.00

Important Dates
December 3: Fall/Winter Term classes end.
December 4-5: Study Days.
December 5 – 17: Mid-year examination period.
December 17: Hanukkah begins
December 18: First term ends. Residences close.
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day
December 31: New Years Eve
January 1: New Years Day
January 5: Classes resume (second semester begins).

Most Canadian Banks will be closed on December 25, 26 and January 1.
TD Bank will be closed on December 25 and January 1.

Regardless of what you’re doing this holiday season, remember to be safe and have fun! If you have any questions, please contact us anytime at From all of us at IESC- we wish you the very best for the holiday season and for the year ahead!