There are countries that offer jungles, deserts, savannahs and tropical islands. Canada has just about everything else, in mind-numbing abundance. Few mountains can compare to the sheer scale of the Rockies, the beauty of Cape Breton’s Highlands, the ruggedness of the Yukon and northern British Columbia. What about our glaciers, endless boreal forest, dramatic coastlines, prairie flats, the Northern Lights, sweeping taiga, cherry blossoms, fall foliage, and the world’s largest collection of sparkling freshwater lakes? Our wildlife is rich, and diverse: bear, moose, wolf, elk, caribou, otter, seal, whale, Maple Leaf fans. Through Parks Canada, the world’s first parks service, Canada is a pioneer in protecting and managing public spaces for all to enjoy. Best of all, our natural bounty can be appreciated in all four seasons.
With our abundant natural spaces, it’s no surprise that adventure-seekers find their home in Canada. During winter months, we have some of the best ski resorts in the world, scattered around the country. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, skating, pond hockey, ice fishing and dogsledding prove you don’t need mountains either. During summer, Canada offers some of the world’s best hiking, fishing, climbing, camping, boating, kayaking, biking, whale watching, cold water diving, and canyoneering. We surf the Pacific in Tofino, the Atlantic in Lawrencetown, take to the skies in floatplanes, hot air balloons and paragliders. Adrenalin seekers can find activities in Canada you simply can’t find anywhere else, like tidal bore rafting in Nova Scotia, jet boating in New Brunswick, doing the Edgewalk on the CN Tower, or tracking bears in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Pacific or Atlantic salmon are not our delicacies, they’re part of our staple diet. This is a country blessed with delicious natural resources. Healthy AAA Alberta beef is prized around the continent. Our urban centres offer world class restaurants, while areas like Ontario’s Niagara, BC’s Okanagan and Nova Scotia Annapolis Valley are revered for their high quality fruit, wine and produce. In Turkey, you eat Turkish food. In India, you eat Indian food. In Canada, you eat the world, as our ethnic diversity is reflected in our tastes. Meanwhile, you simply cannot get fresher seafood than what you’ll find on the East Coast, where fishing is a centuries-old tradition. In Quebec, smoked meat, cheese, bagels, maple syrup and poutine are world famous, while one in every French fry consumed in the world has its origins in humble New Brunswick. Farmer’s markets and local producers are prized wherever you go. As for the biggest fast-food outlet in Canada, it isn’t MacDonalds. It’s the distinctly Canadian Tim Hortons.
For much of the world, Canadian culture seems pretty easy to grasp. Friendly, English, French. Unless they explore further, chances are they won’t experience the richness of our First Nation cultures, from Alberta’s Blackfoot to the Arctic Inuit. They won’t hear the fiddle of the Acadians in Nova Scotia, the Scottish-infused Cape Breton dialect, or experience ranch lifestyles in Alberta. Who would expect one of the world’s best ballet companies to be headquartered in Winnipeg? How to explain that Canada – a large country with a population smaller than California – has given the world some of its most famous artists, actors and comedians? Canadians are friendly, cheery, and positive. Travel around the country, meet them, and you’ll see why.
Canada is a country that loves to celebrate. Montreal hosts the world’s largest comedy and jazz festivals, while Quebec City has the world’s largest winter carnival. Thousands flock to the summer folk festivals, in Edmonton, Vancouver, and especially in Winnipeg. The glamorous Toronto International Film Festival is second only to Cannes with its high profile attendees, while the Calgary Stampede is the world’s richest rodeo. The Rideau Canal lights up for Ottawa’s annual Winterlude, attracting more people than any other festival in the country. Come July, Parliament Hill celebrates Canada Day, while in Vancouver, over one and a half million people gather for the annual Festival of Light fireworks extravaganza. Shakespeare festivals, literary festivals, fringe festivals, religious festivals, music festivals, cultural festivals, food festivals, children festivals, Pride parades – there’s always something going on, no matter where you go.
It’s telling that a list of Canada’s top attractions is heavy with the natural spectacles. Niagara Falls, the Northern Lights, the Bay of Fundy, the Rockies. Yet a popular attraction like Victoria’s Butchart Gardens differs remarkably from Iceberg Alley in Newfoundland. A humpback whale might be a humpback whale in the Haida Gwaii and the Gulf of St Lawrence, but the surroundings in which you encounter it are radically different. Those who live on the East Coast are struck how different things are in the west, and vice-versa. Outdoors and culture buffs folks will relish visiting one of Canada’s 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including L’anse Aux Meadows, Dinosaur Provincial Park or the Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg. Whether you’re into nature, history, or just shopping in some of the world’s biggest malls, each province and territory has plenty of attractions to keep you busy.
Canada’s cities are energetic, multi-cultural, and most importantly, distinctive. You don’t drive from one to the other expecting the same. Vancouver and Victoria’s lifestyles are always at the fore, and while it may be wet, it doesn’t stop people from enjoying the natural surroundings of each city. Booming Calgary and Edmonton reap the benefits of our natural resources. Regina and Saskatoon proudly bring vibrancy to the prairies. Winnipeg is a definite cultural centre at the heart of the country. Toronto and Ottawa are the corridors of business and politics. Montreal enjoys a reputation as the coolest city in the country, if not the continent, while the streets of old Quebec City feels like they’ve teleported from Europe. The history is everywhere in Halifax and Charlottetown, and the charm thick in Fredericton and St John. In Newfoundland, St John’s witnesses the first sunrise of the continent, its brightly painted houses as animated as its people. Lets not forget Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit, our vibrant outposts of the Great White North.
When I looked at Dawson City’s Sourtoe Cocktail, I just didn’t think a country like Canada had it in her. A drink served with a severed human toe? What about getting screeched in Newfoundland, where tourists pay money to shoot back rum and kiss the lips of a cod? Spending the night in Quebec City’s ice hotel, exploring a haunted aspen grove in Saskatchewan, walking headfirst off a cliff in New Brunswick, running tidal marathons on the ocean floor in Newfoundland, making a seaweed pie in PEI, howling at wolves in Ontario’s Algonquin National Park, watching the world’s largest collection of snakes in Narcisse Manitoba, snorkelling with salmon on Vancouver Island – Canada has plenty of quirky activities you simply cannot find anywhere else in the world. Finding them is half the fun.
Canada is a sports mad country, and you don’t have to travel far to discover why. Whether you participate or cheer from the stands, this is a country of fiercely contested rivalries. Toronto vs Montreal, Edmonton vs Calgary, Vancouver vs…anyone really. The Yukon Quest is the rightfully known as the toughest race on Earth, pitting one man and his pack against 1000 miles of wilderness. Canadian Football has three downs, adding to the excitement and urgency of the CFL. 30,000 fans will pack into Mosaic Stadium in Regina to support their Roughriders, the wildest fans in the country. Canada has produced champions in skiing, snowboarding, boxing, lacrosse, curling, tennis, swimming, wrestling, athletics, MMA, skating, cycling and golf. Our immigrant heritage is responsible for the explosion of support for local soccer teams. Looking for something to do? Find out what sporting event is taking place near you, and get your cheer on
When Europeans visit Canada, their biggest impression is our space. Think of Germany, where 82 million people are packed into 357,000 square kilometres. We have 34 million people in almost 10 MILLION square kilometres. If you want crowds, we have our lively cities. Yet Canada is a place of space – a land for reflection, for connection, for being outside in our natural surroundings. It means we have to be resourceful, as anyone who has driven the Dawson or Trans-Labrador Highway will tell you. It means we have to be neighbourly, because everyone needs a helping hand, and next time it could be you. It means we might have seen much, but we surely have not seen it all. People are always striving for a getaway, a break from life’s stress and pace. We live in a country where it’s particularly easy to do exactly that.