We love the Great White North. The people are friendly, the food is warm and the winters are brutal. But we’re more than just the place with the maple syrup, or the next best choice for discouraged Americans. Canada is a friendly northern nation with a rich history, diverse landscapes and it deserves to make your 2021 travel bucket list. Here are 17 reasons why:
1. See the Eighth Wonder of the World (Niagara Falls)
The Eighth Wonder of the World cannot be missed on any trip to Canada. With 150,000 gallons of water crashing down per second, these horseshoe-shaped waterfalls coat the nearby town in a refreshing mist year-round. In the summer months, you can take a ride on the Maid of the Mist and get intimately close to the power of the falls. Keep your passport on hand because you can walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the United States and view the falls from another impressive angle in Niagara Falls State Park.
2. Hike through Banff National Park
Canada’s oldest national park, Banff, has plenty to offer even seasoned hikers. The park is over 6,000 square kilometres large and has mountainous terrain, countless glaciers, ice fields, alpine landscapes and a thick, beautiful forest to boot. Whether you’re seeking to reproduce your own version of the iconic image above or simply wish to dip your toes in the pristine waters of Lake Louise, climbing the pathways of Banff National Park is breathtaking all year long.
3. Take Via Rail across the country
There’s really no better way to take in Canada’s varied landscape than by train. Live the Canadian dream and book your train ride across the country and glide through “gentle prairie fields, rugged lake country and picturesque towns to the snowy peaks of the majestic Rockies.” There are three different styles of rooms to choose from onboard (prestige, sleeper plus and economy class), and the entire journey takes 4 nights and covers 4,466 kilometres. You’ll see the beauty of the Canadian countryside from the comfort of a Via Rail cabin while enjoying live music and carefully curated menus.
4. Skate down the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
As if ice-skating wasn’t already a Canadian enough thing to do, a skate down Ottawa’s Rideau Canal makes for a really unforgettable experience. The Skateway is 7.8 kilometres long and begins steps away from Canada’s Parliament Buildings and extends all the way down to Dows Lake. Skaters can warm up at the rest stations that are scattered throughout the canal where they can enjoy toasty fires, hot drinks and yummy snacks.
5. Wander the grounds of Butchart Gardens in Victoria
The Butchart Gardens are 55 acres of impressive floral displays located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and are open 365 days a year. The brainchild of Jennie Butchart, the gardens began being landscaped in 1906 and benefited from the combined efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Butchart who filled the lands with beautiful floral beds and custom-built statues of all shapes and sizes. Nowadays you’re guaranteed to be inspired, romanced and carried away to a place where imagination becomes reality. You can ride a hand-designed carousel, see fountain displays, go ice-skating and enjoy live music.
6. Walk above Toronto with the CN Tower Edgewalk
The CN Tower is already an iconic Canadian image to locals and foreigners alike and recently the famous landmark kicked it up a notch by adding the Edgewalk experience. The Edgewalk experience starts on the ground level of the CN Tower where you’ll receive an orientation, next you’ll take an elevator up to the Tower’s main pod, which is more 116 storeys above the ground. You will be attached to a trolley and harness system before you take the first big step out onto the edge of one of the world’s tallest freestanding structures.
7. Explore the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia
Canada’s entire east coast is worth visiting but the Cabot Trail, located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, absolutely needs to be at the top of your list. The whole trail loops in either direction and takes about 8 hours to drive from start to finish but you should really take 3 to 5 days to enjoy it to its fullest. You can expect everything from dramatic ocean vistas, dense and impressive forests, delicious seafood, celtic celebrations and so much more. Be sure to stop at one of the many quaint family-owned restaurants along the way and enjoy the freshest lobster that will ever touch your lips. During winter, enjoy outdoor skating trails, ice fishing, snowmobile and snowshoe trails and more.
8. Visit the hot springs in the Canadian Rockies
There’s nothing like a hot soak after a long day of hiking through the Rockies. British Columbia and Alberta both offer a truly tantalizing selection of steamy, crystal blue waters scattered between national parks and staggeringly tall mountains. Bring the whole family and chill out in Radium Hot Springs, Miette Hot Springs or Banff Upper Hot Springs located in Kootenay National Park, Jasper National Park and Banff National Park respectively. Allow the rich minerals found in these hot springs to invigorate your body and leave your skin feeling brand new.
9. Walk over the Capilano Suspension Bridge
This one isn’t for anyone with a case of acrophobia. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is truly a sight to behold as it stretches over a beautiful river, suspended 70 metres above. To put that into perspective if you dropped the Statue of Liberty into the river, the bridge would sit at shoulder height of Lady Liberty. You also don’t need to worry about the bridge giving out — it can withstand the weight of more than 90 full grown elephants! Once you’re done taking in the sights and conquering your fear of heights, feel free to explore the area’s other great amenities from its guided history and nature tours to its cliff walk and treetop adventures.
10. Go snorkeling in Tobermory Bay
There’s no better place to get your Indiana Jones on then Tobermory Bay, Ontario. Only about a 3 hour drive from the City of Toronto, Tobermory Bay is an incredibly popular destination for swimmers and nature lovers alike. The startlingly clear waters of Georgian Bay almost make snorkeling unnecessary, since the waters are so blue and transparent that you can easily see to the lake’s bottom. Tobermory Bay is a particularly interesting snorkeling destination because it’s also the Shipwreck Diving Capital of Canada. Check out over 20 shipwrecks up close and also enjoy submerged forests, canyons and underwater waterfalls that date back to a time before modern man. View the remains of ancient coral in this once tropical sea or watch the modern inhabitants, crawfish, bass and sculpin.
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11. Watch the tide roll in at the Bay of Fundy
Another gem of the east coast, the Bay of Fundy (located in New Brunswick) is so great it was designated one of North America’s Seven Wonders in 2014. Why? You just have to see it to truly understand its coastal charm and wonder. With the highest tides on earth, the rarest whales in the world and precious fossils and minerals scattered throughout the area, the Bay of Fundy is amazing. When the tide is at its highest, it’s more than 9 storeys tall. Other activities in the area include impressive hiking trails, kayaking and boat tours as well as tidal rafting expeditions.
12. Visit the polar bear capital of the world in Churchill, Manitoba
When you’re planning your great Canadian road trip you might not think about adding Churchill, Manitoba to your list of stops — but you’d really be missing out. Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild. Thousands of visitors from around the world visit each fall to see these magnificent animals in person. To ensure your best chance of seeing these fuzzy bears in action make sure to stop by in October or November, when the bears begin their move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to seal-hunting territory – the solid ice that forms every winter over Hudson Bay.
13. Chow down in Montreal
Montreal is a little piece of Europe tucked away in Canada that people both north and south of the border can enjoy. If the city’s bustling comedy scene and dramatic European architecture isn’t enough to entice you then let your stomach do the talking. The Montreal-style bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser than your standard New York bagel, and has the advantage of always being baked in a wood-fired oven. If you’re in the mood for something even more delicious then of course, poutine is a must. Every Canadian will know what this is but for the uninitiated poutine is the coming together of crispy french fries, slathered in savoury homemade gravy and topped with chewy cheese curds. What more could you ask for? This culinary masterpiece is so popular that it inspired an entire chain of poutine themed restaurants that let you put everything from a full egg breakfast on your fries to lobsters and crab.
14. Shop at the West Edmonton Mall
Even if you wouldn’t define yourself as a shopaholic the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta is guaranteed to impress you. It was known as the world’s largest mall until 2004 and we have the Ghermezian brothers, who emigrated from Iran in the 50s, to thank for its creation. There are over 800 stores to choose from as well as an indoor amusement park (with 24 rides and attractions), a water park (featuring the world’s largest indoor wave pool), an 18-hole miniature golf course, movie theatres and more! There are so many different attractions and “themed” areas scattered throughout the mall that you’ll be left wondering if you’ve suddenly teleported to New Orleans when you’re walking down Bourbon Street or if you’re in Paris while strolling down Europa Boulevard. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never be bored.
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15. Watch Shakespeare in the Park
Do you enjoy live theatre? Was Shakespeare your favourite unit in high school? Then spend some time in Toronto during the summer and head over to High Park to watch a great Shakespearean tragedy or comedy on the park’s outdoor stage. Torontonians absolutely love this summer tradition as there’s really nothing quite like watching one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces under the stars as the warm summer air brushes past your shoulders. Performances typically run from the end of June to the first weekend of September and is the perfect date night for the cultured couples out there.
16. Explore the Canmore Caves
Should you find yourself looking to tap into your adventurous side then a visit to the Canmore Caves in Canmore, Alberta should be firmly situated on your bucket list. The caves maintain a consistently chilly temperature of 5 degrees celsius, making it a perfect activity year-round. Prepare to crawl, slither and climb through a complex cave system and explore stalagmites, stalactites and clearwater pools filled with fossils and interesting formations. If this sounds up your alley then pack some hiking boots, layers of warm clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and some energy bars to maintain strength while you’re caving. Don’t worry if you don’t have spelunking experience, you’ll have a guide helping you throughout the excursion.
17. Drive along Confederation Bridge
The Confederation Bridge joins the eastern Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, creating a seamless and visually stunning connection between them. The bridge is 12.9 km long and is considered one of the country’s top engineering achievements. Originally conceived to replace the existing ferry service, the bridge offers drivers a truly unique view of the Nothumberland Strait and the ever changing weather systems that roll in throughout the day. A round trip journey will run you $45 per vehicle but there’s no better way to reach Prince Edward Island so it’s worth the moolah.
If you’re looking to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday then it’s time to get exploring with TourRadar.
Featured image by Daniel Foster