Canada from West Coast to East Coast will you give you plenty of reason to consider Canada as your next destination. Canada is a vast land of rich natural beauty, rocky mountains and iconic wilderness. Complete with epic landscapes, polar bears, moose, and endless hiking trails at your fingertips. Canada’s allure is not just the great outdoors, Canada has cosmopolitan cities that are clean, safe, friendly and multicultural. In fact, Canada repeatedly is lauded as one of the world’s most livable countries. Whether your interests are river rafting or live theater, Canada won’t disappoint.
Canada has many modern, multicultural cities, each with its own distinct personality. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are possibly the best known, but there are so many others that highlight different aspects of Canada, such as its maritime culture, mountainous landscape, French history, or its indigenous people. Each city is delightful for different reasons.
French culture remains a prominent part of Canada, mostly in Quebec, but also in Ontario and the Maritime provinces. Canada is officially bilingual, although it’s certainly not necessary for tourists to speak French.
Settled by the French in the 1600s, Quebec, is where visitors can visit Montreal and the provincial capital, Quebec City. Quebec remains very European in feel. Its rich history and distinct heritage make it a unique tourist destination.
Here are the top 10 places to visit and experience during your first time in Canada.
1. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Situated on the international border between the United States and Canada, and renowned as one of the most beautiful natural sites in the world. Niagara Falls has everything that you will need for the trip of a lifetime. Whether you’re a traveling family, coming as a couple, tour group, or visiting Niagara Falls solo, there is always something to keep you and the crew entertained.
The Niagara Falls experience will only be complete when you board the Maid of the Mist and take the famed ride like thousands before you. This exciting boat ride takes passengers as close as can be to the base of the thundering Niagara Falls and is a must-do for visitors. This is truly an amazing way to see the Falls up close and feel the mist on your face. Yes, you will get wet, but isn’t that all part of the fun?
Credit: Matt Northam/Flickr
Credit: Jack Amick/Flickr
Credit: Nell Howard/Flickr
2. Ottawa, Ontario
If you only have one or two days in Ottawa, there is plenty for you to see and do. Canada’s Capital is home to most of the country’s national museums, many great restaurants and a busy shopping district. And as Ottawa is a pedestrian-friendly city with most attractions being within a 20-minute walk from many downtown area hotels, it’s possible to see many sites in a short amount of time.
Canada Day 2017 is the actual day the country turns 150 years old. Ottawa is THE place to be each Canada Day as Ottawa’s downtown core is shut down to motor vehicles, becoming the main place to celebrate. Enjoy special events on Parliament Hill, special performers, fighter jet flyovers and much more. Then at 10:00 p.m., a massive fireworks display lights up the sky! We’re not sure what the exact details for this extra special 2017 Canada Day are yet, but you can be sure that the celebration will be one of the epic proportions.
Credit: Joel bedford/Flickr
Credit: Andrew Moor/Flickr
3. Muskoka, Ontario
On several occasions, Muskoka has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler magazine as a special place to visit. Muskoka is one of their top 20 Best of The World – Must-see places and was chosen as the #1 pick for the Ten Best Trips of Summer. Just recently, Muskoka was recognized by National Geographic as one of the ‘100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life.” These endorsements from an iconic magazine are testimony to Muskoka’s tourism experiences and our quality of life.
Muskoka has an abundance of things to see and do. The list is long with something for every taste and interest. Visit a museum, hike a pristine trail, star gaze, relax in front of a bonfire, swim in sparkling waters, shop for that perfect piece of art, sip some local wine or beer on a dock, get up close and personal with wildlife, pamper yourself at a spa, give your taste buds a treat, photograph stunning vistas, or enjoy one of the many events and festivals which reflect Muskoka’s charm and uniqueness. Whether you feel like being outdoors or indoors, whether you are a beginner or an expert, whatever the season, whatever the budget, Muskoka has something for everyone.
Credit: Michael Gll/Flickr
Credit: Cord Cardinal/Flickr
Credit: Cord Cardinal/Flickr
4. Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff National Park is one of Canada’s great national treasures, attracting millions of visitors every year. Encompassing a portion of the Rocky Mountains, the park is home to beautiful turquoise lakes mirroring the snow-covered peaks, along with glaciers and forests. Since 1985, it has been included in UNESCO’s list of protected natural and cultural monuments.
Do you want to see snow covered mountains or the turquoise colored lakes? What activities do you enjoy, skiing and other winter sports or backcountry hiking? Are casual walks and easy to moderate trails more your style?
As far as hiking, scenery and warmer weather goes many would say the best time to visit is from late June to mid-September. Respectively this time frame has the largest crowds and highest accommodation and airfare prices.
Consider a trip during a shoulder season such as mid-September to mid-October when there are fewer crowds. It’s a good way to visit Banff on a budget, the accommodation and airfare prices will be somewhat lower compared to the summer months.
Credit: Dave Hensley/Flickr
Credit: Shane Lin/Flickr
Credit: Paul O’Malley/Flickr
5. Montreal, Quebec
Montreal is a city of neighbourhoods, and there’s always something around the corner waiting to be discovered. Wherever you are from, you are sure to feel at home in Montréal. Discover the stores and restaurants of Chinatown, explore Italian culture in Little Italy, or taste the world at one of our public markets. When you’re visiting, be sure to set aside some time to wander and explore the city and don’t be surprised if you fall in love with it, too.
With now more restaurants per capita than any other North American city, Montreal is nothing if not foodie. Dozens of food-related festivals like MTL à table and Burger Week take place throughout the year, highlighting the creativity and variety of the local chefs. Montréal en lumière, the city’s biggest winter festival, has a huge culinary aspect – which is entirely dedicated to Swiss cuisine this year.
Having been colonized by the French and the English, Montreal can certainly boast having extremely varied architecture. Throw in the mix a constant flow of immigration (Portuguese, Chinese, Jewish, Italian, Irish…) and you’ve got yourself a worldly mixture of architectural styles that finds balance in its diversity.
From the cobblestoned streets of Old-Montreal to the colorful townhouses of Plateau Mont-Royal and the mansions of Outremont, there is no shortage of sightseeing opportunities for as far as architecture buffs – who, obviously, should not miss a chance to visit the Canadian Centre for Architecture in downtown Montreal.
You know a city is festival-driven when it hosts festivals even in the dead of the blatantly harsh Canadian winter! From the Francofolies to International Fireworks, from Chinese Lanterns to Piknic Eletronik, from Just for Laughs to Igloofest… it goes without saying that festival-goers will not be bored in this metropolis, regardless of the season or their preferred neighborhood. Montrealers know how to enjoy the great outdoors, from June to January.
Credit: Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Flickr
Credit: Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Credit: Alessandro Grussu/Flickr
6. Quebec City, Quebec
Visitors to Old Québec soon see why UNESCO designated it a world heritage treasure! You will love Château Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel, the centuries-old architecture and the historic sites.
Québec City’s alluring setting atop Cape Diamond evokes a past of high adventure, military history, and exploration. Why go to China when you can walk a great wall right here! This French-speaking capital city is the only walled city north of Mexico. With close to 4.6 km of walls and imposing gates to explore. Cannons, loopholes, a star-shaped Citadel and its changing of the guard, Artillery Park, and fortresses are all part of this outstanding tour!
Visitors come for the delicious and inventive cuisine, the remarkable historical continuity, and to share in the seasonal exuberance of the largest Francophone population outside France.
Credit: Steve Leclerc/Flickr
Credit: Steve Leclerc/Flickr
Credit: John Cook/Flickr
7. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has a rich variety of scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities. Gros Morne is one of the first places where plate tectonics was proven, and remains a geological gem. It took Mother Nature 485,000,000 years to mold Gros Morne National Park into the geological and visual wonder we know today.
It is an area of great natural beauty with a rich variety of scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities. Visitors can hike through wild, uninhabited mountains and camp by the sea. Boat tours bring visitors under the towering cliffs of a freshwater fjord carved out by glaciers. Waterfalls, marine inlets, sea stacks, sandy beaches, and colourful nearby fishing villages complete the phenomenal natural and cultural surroundings of Gros Morne National Park of Canada.
8. Churchill, Manitoba
Called the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is also known as a beluga whale watching hotspot, a birder’s paradise, and one of the best places to experience the northern lights.
Churchill is one of the few human settlements where you can come face to face with the mighty polar bear from unique tundra vehicles that let you travel in comfort and safety over the snowy terrain. Follow the bears as they gather along the shores of Hudson Bay, waiting for the ice to freeze. Wilderness hikes offer a bears’ eye view of the stunning coastal landscape.
While in Churchill, take in some of its extensive fur trade history, adventure kayaking, hiking and outstanding cuisine. So get set for your once in a lifetime tundra experience in Churchill.
Credit: Alex Berger/Flickr
Credit: Alex Beger/Flickr
Credit: Charles Anderson/Flickr
9. Sea-to-Sky Country, British Columbia
Renowned for its stunning inlets, coastal mountains, glacier lakes and flowing rivers and valleys, Sea to Sky Country is one of British Columbia’s magnificent wonders. This pristine landscape surrounds the popular destinations of Squamish, Whislter and Pemberton and is truly a sight to see when visiting these areas.
Vancouver’s rugged wilderness is simply around the corner from the busy city core. Travel along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway, named within the top 10 best coastal drives in the world.
Visit the quaint seaside village of Horseshoe Bay for gorgeous views. For an adventure on the water, add the optional Deep Fjord Zodiac Tour and enjoy a 1-hour journey across the ocean from Horseshoe Bay to Britannia Beach. Both zodiac and bus travel up Howe Sound, the southern-most glacial fjord in North America.
Feel the spray from British Columbia’s third highest waterfall, Shannon Falls before ascending 885 metres (2,900 feet) to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola for stunning views of Howe Sound. Here you can cross the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and walk along forest trails to viewing platforms.
Explore underground mining tunnels at Britannia Mine Museum and learn about the amazing history of the once-largest producer of copper in the British Empire.
Credit: Michelle Lee/Flickr
Credit: Michelle Lee/Flickr
Credit: Matthew Grapengleser/Flickr
10. Victoria, British Columbia
Established in 1843 as a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Victoria’s British ancestry is apparent in the double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens and tearooms. The city is now a cosmopolitan centre with a lively entertainment scene and a wonderful array of attractions.
Home to beautiful gardens and perfectly restored nineteenth-century architecture, Victoria has long been known for its charm, but today there’s so much more than just its aesthetic appeal to enjoy. The city now possesses a dynamic energy thanks to its status as a thriving technology hub, one that has attracted young people and entrepreneurs from far and wide. Meanwhile, breweries and cafés are everywhere, access to nature couldn’t be easier, and the summer festival season adds arts and culture to the mix—all of which make for an ideal summer destination.
Perhaps due in part to its British heritage, Victoria’s brewery and pub culture is one of the best in all of Canada. While other cities are jumping on the craft-brewing bandwagon, Victoria stands as the pioneer, dating back to the 1850s, and there are several modern craft breweries that opened in the 1980s. They each have their own specialties and styles, most if not all offering seasonal brews, and best of all, they are easily accessible on foot in a one-mile loop.