Oh, Canada! The land we all want to call home. An expansive land mass with beautiful mountains and prairies, Canada has something for everyone. The Shaw Festival and Stratford for theatre lovers, Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise for wildlife and winter sports, the Rocky Mountain train trip just for the scenery, Montreal and Quebec City for that French city experience, and so much more.
What are the best places to see in Canada first?! This list of destinations in Canada you can’t miss is quite possibly a good place to start, or at least we think so.
1. Prince Edward Island
Many travelers are aware that the lovely, windswept Prince Edward Island was the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the classic Anne of Green Gables books. Lovers of those books will have plenty to see at Green Gables Heritage Place and the town of Cavendish where Montgomery lived, particularly in the month of July when there is an annual L.M. Montgomery festival. But for flower lovers, the time to go is mid-June when you will be delighted by the super-sized, gorgeous, and ubiquitous naturalized lupine that is all over the island. Patches of pink, purple, and white lupine bigger than you can imagine are all over and will keep you smiling in one of the coolest places in Canada.
Nicknamed “Cowtown,” the annual Calgary Stampede, a rodeo and festival held in July, is Calgary’s biggest claim to fame. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is situated at Canada Olympic Park which serves as a mountain biking trail in the summer months and is a major winter sports facility in the winter months. It’s not all cowboys and cattle though: Calgary is a cosmopolitan city with skyscrapers dominating its skyline. It’s this combination of country roots and burgeoning city that propels Calgary onto the unmissable list of best destinations in Canada.
Whether you come over from Vancouver or up on the ferry from Seattle, the well-named Victorian town of Victoria will make a good first impression with its baskets full of fresh flowers and the grand old Empress Hotel reigning over the harbor. An absolute must visit on your never-ending list of places to see in Canada is Butchart Gardens, which has been in bloom for 100 years and is absolutely brilliant no matter when you visit. The grounds themselves are lovely, with architectural features, gentle hills, valleys, walled gardens, lawns, flowers of every description to fit the season, and a lovely high tea service worth the splurge.
4. Quebec City
When you travel to the U.S.’s friendly neighbor to the North, be sure to include the French-speaking provinces on your list of destinations in Canada. Quebec has the largest population of French-Canadians, and the beautiful Quebec City offers travelers a glimpse of history with a variety of sites that recall the region’s French history from the 1600s. The Place Royale area offers museums and the historic Notre-Dame-de-Victoire Church. The shops and galleries of the Old Port area, Parliament Hill, and the Fortifications are other popular stops. You can find a number of quaint lodgings and restaurants in this unique city. This is also one of the best places to sample the famous poutine; whether or not this can be classed as cuisine is still undecided, but it is a staple part of any authentic Canadian experience.
The country’s most modern city, Vancouver’s extraordinary energy and diverse population make it one of the must-see destinations in Canada. The city is alive with festivals, cultural events, and a lively entertainment district. The nightlife is buzzing all year round, with a multitude of fun and cosy pubs that should make it into your itinerary. Eclectic cultural influences, a thriving craft beer scene, and a strong farm-to-table food movement making eating and drinking some of the best activities in Vancouver. But with the exceptional natural beauty of the area, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in and around the city. No wonder this is one of the coolest places in Canada.
No list of best destinations in Canada would be complete without Toronto. Toronto is known for its tall buildings and multi-ethnic neighborhoods that make the city so vibrant and interesting. The Harbourfront Centre, along the Lake Ontario, attracts many residents and visitors to the city, with its concerts and other entertainment events. But the city offers many other amusements, including museums, shopping districts, art galleries, parks, and sports venues. Toronto is known for its foodie scene: the city is overflowing with hipster eateries and celebrated restaurants.
One of the most popular places to see in Canada – and quite possibly the most beautiful city in Canada – Montreal lies on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, an important shipping route that has been used for hundreds of years. As a result, the city has developed an atmosphere of both historic and modern influences. The Basilique Notre Dame, Place d’Armes and Parc du Mont Royal are some of the best sites to experience the historic character of the city. To savor the city’s modern energy, try the city’s urban neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, festivals, and cultural events. Whether studying here or just passing through, you will never run out of fun things to do in Montreal.
8. St. John’s
One of the farthest eastern reaches of North America is the province of Newfoundland and Labrador (no, we’re not talking about a dog show here). The island of Newfoundland, and its city of St. John’s, just might be one of the most picturesque provincial capitals anywhere, and one of many destinations in Canada that can’t be overlooked. It may even be a contender with Montreal for the most beautiful city in Canada. The colorfully painted houses, set off against the blue sea, with an iceberg sitting in the bay in the month of June, is a fond memory for many a summer visitor. In true Canadian style, St. John’s also offers an unparalleled natural beauty. The rugged hills that enclose the town are ideal for hiking and more spectacular views you can’t miss when visiting Canada.
Got you inspired, eh? Ready to tackle adventures in the Great White North with your compass in one hand and some Tim Horton’s in the other? This list of best destinations in Canada can be your jumping off point for a grand adventure. So grab your boots and pants with a little extra room for all that poutine, and get scootin’!