Canada, America’s friendliest backpack, is where you’ll find smiles, miles of pristine natural scenery, and a delightful place to escape. At first glance, Montreal and Toronto might be the ideal cities for fleeing Americans looking to get away, but there are so many other amazing (and underrated) places that our northern neighbor has to offer!
Read on to discover 10 destinations where you can delve into the beauty of Canada!
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s most scenic maritime provinces, is arguably one of the most Canada-y places a person can visit. The people here are super friendly (even by Canadian standards) and are unmistakable by their smiles and twangy accents. The Halifax landscape is dominated by a 300-year-old Citadel that was founded the same year as Halifax itself. With ghost tours and a beautiful view of the Bay of Fundy, the Citadel is truly unique and a must-see.
Found at the northernmost tip of Quebec, Gaspé is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is also surrounded by four wonderful national parks. The region is known for camping, hiking, and whale-watching. While Canada remains one of the few places where visitors have the luxury of accessing multiple whale-watching sites, Gaspé’s Chaleur Bay — French for “Bay of Warmth” — is unique for a number of reasons. It’s one of the only places where visitors can see North Atlantic right whales, and it’s also famous for the century-old legend that a phantom ship sits in its waters, which appears to the naked eye when the climate and light are a certain way. But don’t get your hopes up — you’re more likely to get told off by an elderly Quebecois man than captured by a ghost pirate!
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
If you haven’t clued in yet, Canada’s coastal cities need some long overdue praise and attention. St. John’s, known as the City of Legends, is not only the most easterly point in North America but might also be the oldest English city in North America (take that, Roanoke!). The city has the laid-back feel of San Francisco with lighthouses and tons of bike paths, but it still maintains small-town vibes with a population of only 200,000. If you’re looking to sit back with a warm cup of mulled wine and watch sails coast in and out of a harbor, St. John’s the place for you.
If you want to go local-local Canada, go to Barrie. Here you’ll find stressed-out Torontonians trying to escape the city life for the weekend at the number of cabins and rental spaces available. The city was a crux during Canada’s most famous tiff with the United States — the War of 1812 — and its namesake was actually a British naval officer, Sir Robert Barrie. With plenty of shops offering zip lining, kayaking, canoeing, and off-roading gear, Barrie is the outdoors lover’s dream. Better be quick though — Barrie’s popularity has been growing and so has its population, putting all that wonderful nature at risk.
Nearly synonymous with Canada’s robust mining and oil industries, Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and definitely has more than just tar sands to offer. The city is home to a number of festivals, Canada’s largest mall, and a variety of professional sports teams. Notably, Edmonton’s rodeo scene is huge, drawing cowboys and cowgirls from around the world to raise dust and ride bulls. The Edmonton Fringe, Folk, and Shakespeare Festivals draws in innovative artists from around the world, adding to the already colorful cityscape.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Surrounded by wilderness, perpetually warm, and located on the breezy and wonderful Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is one of Canada’s loveliest spots. The city boasts the ability to offer visitors skiing in the morning, jet-skiing in the afternoon, and pub-hopping at night. Vancouver is incredibly diverse, and its shops and restaurants reflect this, offering visitors opportunities to dine on some of the best Chinese and Indian food in the Americas. Vancouver is especially beautiful in April, when Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park explode with cherry blossoms, giving the entire city a warm pink blanket. You’ll definitely want to check out the Capilano Suspension bridge, where you can walk above and through forest canopies.
Following massive efforts by the Canadian government to revitalize downtown Winnipeg, the city has begun to draw a greater number of visitors and residents alike. Its main attraction, known as The Forks, is the intersection of two major Canadian rivers: the Assiniboine and the Red River of the North. This was one of the major routes traveled by First Nations before European settlement. Best of all? Winnipeg’s mascot — Winnipeg the Bear — is said to have been the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.
There’s a lot that’s great about Saskatoon. The first of which, is probably just how fun it is to say Saskatoon, Saskatchewan! Others include the city’s preservation of its vibrant and diverse First Nation population and its commitment to preserving its history. For those who are looking to experience and understand First Nation history, a visit to Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a must. The Park is run by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members, and provides visitors with an authentic and insightful look at the culture and history of Canadian First Nations.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
The first thing you need to know about Yellowknife is that it’s really cold in the winter. Like -30°F, snot freezes in your nose, your joints hurt, kind of cold. So unless subarctic camping and hiking is your thing, we recommend visiting in the summer, when your face won’t hurt. During the summer you’ll be able to see how the city itself is a testament to the sheer tenacity and willpower of the early settlers. Because the city itself is quite young — less than a hundred years old — a lot of the ‘historical’ sites worth checking out either are still in operation (like the Wildcat Cafe and the Gold Range Bar). If adventures and “roughing-it” are your thing, stepping into Yellowknife will feel like a visit to an 18th-century trading post.
Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick
Even though the bulk of Grand Manan’s economic stability depends on its robust herring industry, besides the smell, there’s nothing really fishy about the island. It’s home to some of Canada’s friendliest people who are more than willing to describe their latest heron spotting and because everyone knows everyone, crime is basically non-existent. Like most of Canada’s maritime cities, canoeing, whale watching, and kayaking are all popular activities. Grand Manan has possibly one of the least spoiled seascapes, with native Mananers fiercely preserving their culture, lands, and community.
Did we miss your favorite Canadian destination? Let us know what it is in the comments below!