It’s not an understatement to call Canada a big deal. It’s the second-largest country on the planet by area, and it offers the gamut of travelling experiences, from incredible culture and historical sites to serene beauty to wild excitement on a huge expanse of land that really does feel like it goes on forever.
Trying to see all of it on a trip is not really possible, so it’s important to travel smart and break up your vacation into manageable chunks. Consider what kind of travel really excites you, and plan around that. There is plenty in the great white north to enjoy, so take these tips to heart.
The Rich History of Montreal
Canada is one of the few countries that is officially recognized by its government as being bilingual, and this nowhere more true than the largest city in the province of Quebec, Montreal. In fact, it is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, and like the City of Lights, it remains the cultural capital of the nation (but don’t tell Toronto that).
A giant island in the middle of the St. Lawrence waterway, ‘Mount Royal’ has one very large hill in the middle from which the city’s name is derived. The Old Montreal area still has some extremely old historical buildings and cobblestone streets, with plenty of shops and restaurants.
In the downtown core and along Golden Square Mile you’ll find the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which is one of the largest art galleries in all of Canada, and certainly one of the most respected. From outdoor sculptures by Henry Moore to the fascinating grime of Goya to the impressionist work of local legend Jean-Paul Lemieux, there is certainly something that will make you stop and appreciate just how wide the spectrum of (very) fine art can stretch.
Crescent Street is a great place for dancing in clubs and raising a glass of beer at a gastropub, and, of course, there are more than a few Michelin-Star rated restaurants like Joe Beef that might require you to win the lottery or become a trans sugar baby to really get the full course experience.
Even if you want to step out of city life for an afternoon, Mount Royal Park is a massive, sprawling green-space designed by Fredrick Olmstead, the same man who designed New York’s Central Park.
The Expanse of The Northwest Territories and Nunavut
On the exact opposite end, there are these two massive areas of land in northern Canada where getting there is an adventure all by itself. Even flying to the largest city in the entire region (Yellowknife, population 20,000) doesn’t really encapsulate just how massive this tundra is.
It is so far north that seeing the Northern Lights in the winter months is one of the prime tourist draws (with the reminder that it will be dark for most of the day), along with polar bear sightings (ideally from a distance). During the summer months it ‘warms up’ to almost twenty degrees, so even if you’re a hearty camper you’ll find it to be quite the challenge.
However, if you are the sort that takes getting away from it all quite seriously (although don’t worry, there’s still internet access so you can spend time on social media, keep up to date on the news, and maybe visit a squirt gay site if you’re lonely).
Calgary and Banff
For a taste of Texas but with more of a ’sorry, eh?’, the largest city in the Western province of Alberta welcomes you heartily. You’ll find plenty of cowboy hats in Calgary, and that’s thanks to plenty of farmland that provides the nation and the world with some top-shelf beef. With that comes the Calgary Stampede every summer, which brings together classic events and attractions that would excite the modern Cowboy or Cowgirl.
Not too far to the west, on the border with British Columbia is the stunningly scenic mountain town of Banff (and nearby is the small village of Lake Louise with a famous body of water obviously nearby). What Calgary is to steers, Banff is to skiers, because there are some amazing mountains that offer plenty of Group Fun in the powder.
Sunshine Village requires a long gondola ride just to get to the base camp (so it really feels like the European Alps), and Mount Norquay is conveniently located just outside of town.
The Best of Both Worlds: Vancouver
For many years now Vancouver has been ranked as one of the best places to live in North America, and it offers tourists an experience that’s just as good. Not only is it a modern city with plenty of nightlife and exciting cultural attractions (and a wonderful Asian cultural influence found not only in the cuisine but in the Chinatown neighbourhood), but the mountains in the background of the skyline offer plenty of excitement if you venture up them.
Because the city is (almost) on the Pacific Ocean, you can find a wide variety of marine wildlife in the bays, and there are whale watching tours available.
When it comes to mountains, though, the real place to go is the resort town of Whistler, a two-hour drive north from the centre of the city. But the drive might take a bit longer because you will naturally take your foot off the gas pedal to admire the majesty of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, where the mountains seem to rise out of the water to create beautiful islands.
Whistler itself contains the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort, one of the largest in North America, which was home to many of the 2010 Winter Olympic Events. Their apres-ski nightlife is also top-notch.