Canada destinations


Canada destinations

about Canada Discover world-class national parks, epic scenery and vibrant cities bursting with culture on an action-packed adventure in awe-inspiring Canada.

Kick off your Canada trek by heading west, home to coastal Vancouver, for a taste of outdoor life. Feel the adrenaline pump as you mountain bike and zip line in the adventure capital of Whistler, or raft the wild rapids of Yoho National Park. In contrast, Wells Gray sets a more relaxed pace - the perfect spot to hop in a canoe; and the Okanagan Valley makes a great pit stop to test the local wine.

For the best chance to spot Canada’s iconic wildlife, keep your eyes peeled in Jasper National Park then hold onto your camera as you drive the epic Icefields Parkway. Take a soak in Banff’s hot springs after a hard days hiking and be left speechless by sparkling Lake Louise.

If it’s culture you crave, Eastern Canada is spot on. Put on your explorer’s hat and immerse yourself in Quebec and Montreal’s French-Canadian flair, with patisseries and chateaus aplenty. For a cultural experience of a different kind, Winnipeg offers a fascinating insight to Inuit life and you can’t go home without a stop in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, where you can soar 1,500ft up the CN Tower.

Finally, drop into Algonquin Provincial Park or head to the Great Lakes for your fix of nature and feel the spray of the mighty of Niagara Falls on an up close boat trip. Canada is a land of maple syrup, bears and epic scenery; but above all, pure adventure!
612577

Calgary will surprise you with its beauty, cool eateries, nightlife beyond honky-tonk and long, worthwhile to-do list. Calgarians aren’t known for their modesty; it’s their self-love and can-do attitude that got them through disastrous flooding in 2013 and, in 2016, saw them helping residents of wildfire-stricken Fort McMurray with unquestioning generosity. We mustn’t forget – Calgary also hosted the highly successful 1988 Winter Olympics, elected North America’s first Muslim mayor, and throws one of Canada’s biggest parties, the Calgary Stampede. Calgary was once known to forsake quality for quantity, but this trend is changing with fantastic results. Community activists in emerging neighborhoods like Inglewood and Kensington are finally waking up and smelling the single-origin home-roasted coffee, with new bars, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues exhibiting more color and experimentation. The city that to non-Calgarians long served as a somewhat bland business center or a functional springboard has actually become – ahem – cool.

Sights

Calgary's downtown has the Glenbow Museum and the new National Music Centre, but it's the surrounding neighborhoods that hold more allure. Uptown 17th Avenue has some of the top restaurants and bars and is a hive of activity in the evening. Inglewood, just east of downtown, is the city's hippest neighborhood, with antique shops, indie boutiques and some esoteric eating options. Kensington, north of the Bow River, has some good coffee bars and a tangible community spirit. Sleeping Calgary has recently found its independent spirit and established a range of boutique hotels across different price ranges. Downtown hotels are notoriously expensive, although many run frequent specials. Business-oriented hotels are often cheaper over weekends. Near the city’s western edge (next to the Banff Trail C-Train station), you’ll find every chain hotel you can think of.

During the Calgary Stampede (early July), rates rise and availability plummets. Book ahead. Eating In Calgary, the restaurant scene isn’t just fast-moving – it’s supersonic, with ever-better quality and greater variety. Where solitary cows once roamed, vegetables and herbs now prosper, meaning that trusty old stalwart, Alberta beef, is no longer the only thing propping up the menu. You’ll find good eat streets in Kensington, Inglewood, Uptown 17th Ave and downtown on Stephen St.

Sleeping

Calgary has recently found its independent spirit and established a range of boutique hotels across different price ranges.

Downtown hotels are notoriously expensive, although many run frequent specials. Business-oriented hotels are often cheaper over weekends. Near the city’s western edge (next to the Banff Trail C-Train station), you’ll find every chain hotel you can think of. During the Calgary Stampede (early July), rates rise and availability plummets. Book ahead.

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Entertainment

For complete entertainment guides, pick up a copy of ffwd (www.ffwdweekly.com), the city's largest entertainment weekly. The paper is free and found in numerous coffee bars, restaurants and street boxes in Calgary, Banff and Canmore.

Eating

In Calgary, the restaurant scene isn’t just fast-moving – it’s supersonic, with ever-better quality and greater variety. Where solitary cows once roamed, vegetables and herbs now prosper, meaning that trusty old stalwart, Alberta beef, is no longer the only thing propping up the menu.

You’ll find good eat streets in Kensington, Inglewood, Uptown 17th Ave and downtown on Stephen St.

Drinking & Nightlife

Hit 17th Ave NW for a slew of martini lounges and crowded pubs, and 4th St SW for a lively after-work scene. Other notable areas include Kensington Rd NW and Stephen Ave. Evenings bring out stretch limos and noisy stag nights in corporate bars. For Calgary’s gay and lesbian nightlife, pick up a copy of Outlooks (www.outlooks.ca).

Shopping

Calgary has several hot shopping spots, but these districts are reasonably far apart. The Kensington area and 17th Ave SW have a good selection of interesting, fashionable clothing shops and funky trinket outlets. Stephen Ave Walk is a pedestrian mall with shops, bookstores and atmosphere. Inglewood is good for antiques, junk, apothecaries, and secondhand books and vinyl.

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612577 Montreal

Witness a city that's in love with festivals, the arts, good food, living well and enjoying life to the hilt.

Montréal is a slice of old Europe in a pie of contemporary design. A day’s wander might take in the photogenic 18th-century facades of Old Montréal before a cycling tour of the lovely Canal de Lachine, or a wander through the glittering shops and restaurants of downtown before ending at the inviting terraced cafes of Plateau Mont-Royal. The architectural sweep of the city takes in a wealth of heritage churches such as the breathtaking Basilique Notre-Dame, as well as 20th-century icons like the Stade Olympique and Habitat 67. Montréal's hotels and museums additionally push the edges of contemporary interior design.

Sights

First on most itineraries is Old Montréal, where the heart of the city's history and grandeur can be chased through a labyrinth of winding lanes. Waterfront attractions in the Old Port have benefited immensely from recent rejuvenation, and across the water the attractions and trails of Parc Jean-Drapeau make a great summer escape from the urban jungle. Downtown encompasses stellar museums and universities, while the bohemian Mile End and Plateau Mont-Royal districts are perfect for meandering. The Village and Quartier Latin jolt awake at nighttime. Just outside the city, the Olympic Park and Lachine hold the greatest sightseeing appeal. From the panorama at Mont Royal it's possible to take it all in at once.

Sleeping

Montréal’s accommodation scene is blessed with a tremendous variety of rooms and styles. Though rates aren’t particularly cheap, they are reasonable by international standards – or even compared with Canadian cities such as Toronto or Vancouver. French- and Victorian-style inns and independent hotels cater to a variety of budgets.

During the Calgary Stampede (early July), rates rise and availability plummets. Book ahead.

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Entertainment

Montréal is Canada’s unofficial arts capital, with both French and English theater, dance, classical and jazz music, and all sorts of interesting blends of the above on stage virtually every night of the week. The city’s bilingualism makes it creatively unique and encourages creative collaborations and cross-pollinations that light up the performing-arts scene.

Eating

Montréal is one of the great foodie destinations of the north. Here you’ll find an outstanding assortment of classic French cuisine, hearty Québécois fare and countless ethnic restaurants from 80-odd nationalities. Today’s haute cuisine is as likely to be conjured by talented young African, Japanese or Indian chefs as graduates from the Académie Culinaire du Québec.

Drinking & Nightlife

Montréalers love a good drink. Maybe it’s the European influence: this is a town where it’s perfectly acceptable, even expected, to begin cocktail hour after work and continue well into the night. On a sunny Friday afternoon, the cinq-à-sept (traditional 5pm to 7pm happy hour) often becomes 5-à-last-call. One caveat: many bars have a table service rule, which means that if you're not sitting at the bar, you have to be seated and waited on by waitstaff. This is an annoying policy – well intentioned it may be, but it seems to limit customers' ability to move and mingle.

Shopping

Style is synonymous with Montréal living. The city itself is beautiful and locals live up to the standard it sets. Maybe it’s that much touted European influence, but most Montréalers seem to instinctively lead stylish lives regardless of income level, enjoying aesthetic pleasures such as food, art and, of course, fashion.

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612577 Québec

truly feels like a country within a country, an island of linguistic and cultural identity floating on the greater Canadian sea. Of course, this is Canada, with all the interplay of vast wilderness and cosmopolitanism implied, but Québec's embrace of terroir, its language, its passion for everything, from winter snow to wine to gastronomy, is something else, an 'else' that encompasses identities both distinctly North American and European.

Montréal and Québec City are bustling metropolises with a perfect mixture of sophistication and playfulness, and history-soaked preserved quarters tucked away around town. The rustic allurements of old Québec are scattered among the Eastern Townships, and produce from bucolic Charlevoix graces the tables of the region's stellar restaurants. Past these creature comforts is the raw outdoors: the jagged coasts of the unblemished Gaspé Peninsula, the vast taiga and tundra of the North Shore, and the windswept isolation of the Îles de la Madeleine.

Sights

This drive is most easily accessed from Québec. Rte 138 (the Québec incarnation of Labrador's Rte 510) runs down the Lower North Shore, the name given to the wild, remote chunk of La Belle Province that extends south of Blanc Sablon. From the ferry landing until the road ends abruptly 65km later at Vieux Fort, Rte 138 makes a beautiful swing past several roadside waterfalls and lookouts from which to see the crashing surf and offshore puffin colonies.

For those wanting to do more than just drive through the region, Tourism Lower North Shore (www.tourismlowernorthshore.com) provides information on attractions and accommodations.

Sleeping

Sleeping options in Québec run the gamut from five-star chic boutiques in Montréal to bare-bones campsites in provincial parks. Bed and breakfasts (gîtes) are the most common accommodation option in many smaller provincial towns and villages, where you'll also find many cottage rentals – www.chaletsauquebec.com is a good web resource in this regard. Seasonal rates climb from June to September.

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Eating

The clichés about the French and food can easily be applied to Francophone Québec, a province that loves a good meal. Locavore dining isn’t (just) an Instagram-able trend here; it’s just what people do, and have done, for generations. Québec’s cuisine is hearty and rich, if not always super flavorful, and often features fresh fish, game, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and, of course, sirop d'érable – maple syrup.

Travel with Children

Deciding where to go with your kids in Canada can be a daunting decision. Mountains, prairies, beaches and easy-going cities are strewn across six time zones. Between wildlife sightings, cowboy encounters, hands-on pirate history, hunting for dinosaur fossils and ice-skating on mountain lakes, it's impossible to make a bad choice.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Canada is tolerant when it comes to gays and lesbians, though this outlook is more common in the big cities than in rural areas. Same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country (Canada is one of only 21 nations worldwide that permits this).

Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver are by far Canada's gayest cities, each with a humming nightlife scene, publications and lots of associations and support groups. All have sizeable Pride celebrations, too, which attract big crowds.

Attitudes remain more conservative in the northern regions. Throughout Nunavut, and to a lesser extent in the aboriginal communities of the Northwest Territories, there are some retrogressive attitudes toward homosexuality. The Yukon, in contrast, is more like British Columbia, with a live-and-let-live West Coast attitude.

When to Go

Dec & Jan Head to Mont-Tremblant – one of North America's best ski hills.

Feb Bundle up and join in the frigid festivities in Québec City's fete of the year, Carnaval.

Jul Montréal's summer-long party gets under way with the Festival International de Jazz.

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612577 Descriptions of Ottawa read like an appealing dating profile: dynamic, gregarious, bilingual, likes kids and long walks on the river. In person, the attractive capital fits the bill.

Canada's gargantuan Gothic Parliament buildings regally anchor the downtown core, an inspiring jumble of pulsing districts around the Rideau Canal. A few days' worth of world-class museums are architecturally inspiring homes to a variety of intriguing collections.

Parks, gardens and wide, open public spaces pay an accessible and year-round homage to all four seasons. Average temperatures are well below 0°C from December to March, but locals celebrate the city's longest-seeming season with a bunch of outdoor pursuits. Many skate to work or school on the frozen canal, while the Winterlude festival sees fantastical ice sculptures. As spring clicks to summer, auspicious tulips cheer the downtown, followed by vibrant fall leaves that line the streets with eye-popping reds and yellows.

Sights

Capitalize on Ottawa's cache of fantastic museums with the Museums Passport, a discount card that grants carriers admission to seven of the city's best museums. Four other sights, including Rideau Hall and the RCMP Musical Ride Centre, are also included. The card can be purchased at any of the participating museums or the Capital Information Kiosk, and is valid for seven days from your first museum visit.

Sleeping

Ottawa has an impressive array of accommodations in all price ranges. Reservations are recommended during summer and over festival times, especially Winterlude.

Downtown and, sprawling south to Queensway (Hwy 417), Centretown offer numerous options, including boutique hotels, suite hotels, and hostels around ByWard Market. South of the market, the Sandy Hill district has pleasant B&Bs among its stately heritage homes and international embassies – all within healthy walking distance of downtown.

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Entertainment

Ottawa has a variety of publications (print and web-based) that offer the latest scoop on the various goings-on around town.

Nightlife venues generally cluster in three zones: the ByWard Market, along Bank St in the Glebe neighborhood, and down Elgin St about halfway between the Queensway and Parliament Hill.

Eating

Ottawa's cultural diversity is reflected in its culinary prowess: its smorgasbord of gastronomic goodness rivals those of Toronto and Montréal, but is more accessible. The capital's compact footprint makes finding great food simple, with a plethora of excellent dining options catering to most tastes and budgets. Look forward to a dynamic mix of flavors and aromas from around the globe, prepared using fresh, local ingredients.

Drinking & Nightlife

From cheap-and-crusty beery dives to cheery local pubs and plush, see-and-be-seen lounges, Ottawa has it on tap. Head south on Bank or Elgin Sts for local hangouts, and to the buzzing ByWard Market area for out-and-out revelry. For something a little different, descend the stairs to Union Local 613's underground speakeasy. Many people cross the river to party on in Hull (Québec) when Ottawa winds down around 2am.

Shopping

ByWard Market is the best place in town for one-stop shopping. Dalhousie St, a block east of the market, has been rising in popularity with a smattering of hipster boutiques and fashion houses.

The Glebe, a colorful neighborhood just south of the Queensway, bustles with quirky antique shops and charismatic cafes. Most of the action crowds along Bank St.

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612577 Welcome to Toronto, the most multiculturally diverse city on the planet: over 140 languages are spoken. It's estimated that over half of Toronto's residents were born outside Canada, and despite its complex makeup, Torontonians generally get along. When the weather is fine, Toronto is a blast: a vibrant, big-time city abuzz with activity. Some of the world's finest restaurants are found here, alongside happening bars and clubs and eclectic festivals.

Yes, winter in Toronto can be a real drag. Things get messy on the congested highways and archaic public transit system. But come with patience, an open mind and during the delightfully temperate and colorful spring or fall, and you're bound to have a great time.

There is a fresh international buzz about Toronto. Perhaps it's the influx of flush new residents from across the globe; or was it the Pan-Am Games that shone a spotlight on Toronto? Either way, this is a city that is waking up to its own greatness.

Sights

They're often mummified in winter layers, but Torontonians still like to keep fit. Outdoor activities abound: folks bike, blade and run along the lakeshore and hike up the city's ravines. Ice-skating and hockey are winter faves.

Sleeping

Toronto has no shortage of accommodations, but it can get expensive, especially in summer when rooms sell quickly at up to double their regular rates. It's essential to book in advance for stays from mid-May to late September.

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Entertainment

As you might have guessed, there's always something going on here, from jazz to art-house cinema, offbeat theater, opera, punk rock, hip-hop and hockey. In summer, free outdoor festivals and concerts are the norm, but Toronto's dance and live-music scene keeps grooving year-round. Gay life is also rich and open, with plenty of clubs, groups, bar nights and activities for the community.

Eating

Nowhere is Toronto's multiculturalism more potent and thrilling than on the plates of its restaurants. Eating here is a delight – you'll find everything from Korean walnut cakes to sweat-inducing Thai curries, New York steaks and good ol' Canuck pancakes with peameal bacon and maple syrup. Fusion food is hot: traditional Western recipes spiked with handfuls of zingy Eastern ingredients and cooked with pan-Asian flare. British influences also linger – fizzy lunchtime pints and formal afternoon high teas are much-loved traditions.

Drinking & Nightlife

The Toronto pub and bar scene embraces everything from sticky-carpet beer holes, cookie-cutter franchised 'Brit' pubs and Yankee-style sports bars to slick martini bars, rooftop patios, sky-high wine rooms and an effervescent smattering of gay and lesbian hangouts. Thirsty work! Strict bylaws prohibit smoking indoors in public spaces, although some outdoor patios are permissive. Taps start flowing around midday and last call hovers between 1am and 2am.

Shopping

Shopping in Toronto is a big deal. When it's -20°C outside, you have to fill the gap between brunch and the movies with something, right? People like to update their wardrobes and redecorate their homes, or just walk zombie-like around warm sprawling malls like the Eaton Centre. This habit continues through to summer, making boutique-hopping an excuse to hit the streets, or vice versa.

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612577 Welcome to Vancouver. Walkable neighborhoods, drink-and-dine delights and memorable cultural and outdoor activities framed by dramatic vistas – there's a glassful of great reasons to love this lotusland metropolis.

Downtown is just the start of Vancouver. Walk or hop public transit and within minutes you'll be hanging with the locals in one of the city's many diverse and distinctive 'hoods. Whether discovering the coffee shops of Commercial Dr or the hipster haunts of Main St, the indie bars and restaurants of Gastown or the heritage-house beachfronts and browsable stores of Kitsilano, you'll find this city perfect for easy-access urban exploration. Just be sure to chat to the locals wherever you go: they might seem shy or aloof at first, but Vancouverites love talking up their town.

Those snow-dusted mountains that are peeking at you from between downtown's glass towers? They're less than 30 minutes away by car. Vancouverites really can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon – although it's far more relaxing to chill out and take your time. The city's North Shore nature doorstep offers snow sports, mountain biking and leisurely rainforest viewing, while the city itself is studded with sandy beaches, forest trails, kayaking routes, seawall bike lanes and Canada's urban green-space jewel, the mighty and highly beloved Stanley Park.

Sights

It's hard not to hear the call of the outdoors on a visit to Vancouver; the forests, mountains and ocean will be whispering at you from the edges of the city wherever you are here. You'll find world-class nature-hugging attractions on the rising base of the North Shore mountains; sparkling city parks that operate like walk-though green dioramas; and manicured gardens bursting with cultivated floral charms. You can dive right in by hiking and cycling the area but Vancouver also offers plenty of ways to commune with nature, without having to work too hard.

Sleeping

Metro Vancouver is home to more than 25,000 hotel, B&B and hostel rooms – many in or around the downtown core. The city is packed with visitors in summer, so book ahead...unless you fancy sleeping against a damp log in Stanley Park. Rates peak in July and August, but there are good spring and fall deals, when you can also expect some accompanying 'Wet Coast' rainfall.

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Entertainment

You'll never run out of options if you're looking for a good time here. Vancouver is packed with activities from high- to lowbrow, perfect for those craving a play one night, a soccer match the next, and a rocking live music show to follow. Ask the locals for tips and they'll likely point out grassroots happenings you never knew existed.

Eating

Vancouver has an amazing array of generally great-value dine-out options: top-drawer sushi joints, clamorous Chinese restaurants, inviting indie eateries, tempting food trucks and a fresh-picked farm-to-table scene are all on the menu. You don't have to be a local to indulge: just follow your tastebuds and dinner will become the most talked-about highlight of your Vancouver visit.

Drinking & Nightlife

Vancouverites spend a lot of time drinking. And while British Columbia (BC) has a tasty wine sector and is undergoing an artisanal distilling surge, it's the regional craft-beer scene that keeps many quaffers merry. For a night out with locally made libations as your side dish, join savvy drinkers supping in the bars of Gastown, on Main St and around Commercial Drive.

Shopping

Vancouver's retail scene has developed dramatically in recent years. Hit Robson St's mainstream chains, then discover the hip, independent shops of Gastown, Main St and Commercial Dr. Granville Island is stuffed with artsy stores and studios, while South Granville and Kitsilano's 4th Ave serve up a wide range of ever-tempting boutiques.

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