The 16 Best Places to Visit in Canada
Our neighbor to the north is a great alternative for those who can’t swing a trip overseas this year (and for those who prefer to keep things close to home). While we’re pretty sure Schitt’s Creek is not a real place, there are plenty of amazing cities and scenic destinations you can consider for a Canadian vacation. From cities like Toronto and Montreal to the vast wilderness of Jasper National Park, Canada has something for every type of traveler.
City lovers should head to Toronto, a vibrant but manageable city that’s easy (and cheap) to access from the East Coast or the Midwest. It has all the requisite tourist things to do, from the CN Tower to the Royal Ontario Museum to sports at the Rogers Centre, but it also has really interesting neighborhoods worth exploring. Don’t miss the Distillery District, Queen Street West, Graffiti Alley and the Bata Shoe Museum, which has an amazing array of historical footwear (as well as a pair of Justin Bieber’s sneakers). Toronto’s Chinatown is also really exciting, with tons of restaurants and shops. Opt for a food tour of the area with Toronto Food Tours to uncover the secrets of the neighborhood.
Where to Stay: The Drake Hotel
2. Lake Louise
Located in Alberta’s Banff National Park, Lake Louise is truly one of Canada’s most scenic spots. The blue lake, which is fed by glacier water, is surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and is a haven for nature lovers year-round. In the summertime, there’s boating and watersports, while the winters bring travelers hoping to experience the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort. The area is also extremely popular with hikers, with everything from short walks to overnight treks. One of the most fun is the trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, both of which feature seriously impressive views as well as treats. Be sure to purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass online before your trip.
Where to Stay: The Fairmont Lake Louise
If Europe is too far or too expensive, consider a weekend jaunt to Montreal, an effortlessly cool city that is best visited in the summer. Whether you want to climb Mount Royal, stroll through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or visit Parc Jean-Drapeau, the city has something for everyone, including families with young kids. Be sure to spend some time in Mile End, a hip neighborhood known for its cafés and bagel shops (seriously, do not leave Montreal without going to St-Viateur Bagel). There’s also a lot of nightlife, and the city welcomes numerous festivals every summer, including Osheaga Music Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
Where to Stay: Le Petit Hotel
4. Gros Morne National Park
Newfoundland’s remote Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring tall mountains and scenic fjords. Hiking is the thing in the national park, with more than 20 day-trip trails that explore both the coast and the forested areas, and one even takes fit visitors right over the top of Gros Morne Mountain. Plan your visit for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival or Gros Morne Summer Music, a collection of arts and music events. Gros Morne National Park is included in the Parks Canada Discovery Pass.
Where to Stay: Wild Flowers Country Inn
Located in Ontario on the Ottawa River, Ottawa is the capital of Canada and is known for its museums, architecture and markets. The National Gallery of Canada is a must-do, and Rideau Canal hosts boaters during the summer. Parliament Hill is also worth a visit, especially if you’re interested in the country’s parliament buildings, which have free daily tours. Don’t miss ByWard Market, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Canadian War Museum. In the evening, head to York Street, where the nightlife is vibrant and diverse (Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro is a good place to start).
Where to Stay: Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market
Venture far north to Whitehorse, the only city in the Yukon. Located on the Yukon River, it’s known as Canada’s Wilderness City and offers easy access to the surrounding mountains and hiking trails. Arrive by plane or car (or, sometimes, by cruise ship) and take advantage of the local fishing and winter sports as well as the nearby Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which is home to moose, caribou and even lynx. It’s also popular for camping during the summer if you prefer to immerse yourself in nature more fully. In the winter, be sure to embark on a dog-sledding adventure with Muktuk Adventures or Cathers Wilderness Adventures.
Where to Stay: Northern Lights Resort & Spa
7. Quebec City
Venture north of Montreal to discover Quebec City, a European-esque, French-speaking city on the Saint Lawrence River. The old city, Vieux-Québec, has cobblestone streets and historic buildings, while Montmorency Falls is only 15 minutes out of town and offers hiking, zip-lining and ice climbing. There are numerous museums and popular attractions worth visiting, including Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Aquarium du Québec and Musée de la Civilization, and it’s a notably family-friendly destination. It’s great for foodies as well—be sure to book a table at Légende par la Tanière, a farm-to-table spot that serves only ingredients from Quebec.
Where to Stay: Auberge Saint-Antoine
8. Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, and it’s one that shouldn’t be missed when in Alberta. There’s a lot to do year-round, from dog sledding to mountain biking to rafting, and there are also several high-end spas for those who prefer to relax. Don’t miss a ride up the Jasper SkyTram, and there’s also a planetarium that takes advantage of Jasper’s status as a dark sky preserve. Downhill skiing and snowboarding can be found at Marmot Basin ski resort, which has the highest base elevation of any Canadian ski area. Travelers can access the park from Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, and it’s best to rent a car for exploring.
Where to Stay: Glacier View Lodge
9. Okanagan Valley
Best known for its wineries, the scenic region of Okanagan Valley can be found in British Columbia. There are several small towns in the area, as well as picturesque Osoyoos Lake, which boasts numerous vineyards along its shores. Rent a car and tour a few, including Nk’Mip Cellars, La Stella Winery and Moon Curser Vineyards, and don’t forget to grab a meal at Front Street Brasserie Penticton. Nearby, Big White Ski Resort is a popular winter destination, and the Silver Star Mountain Resort is a smaller ski area with a cute downtown and a gondola that’s open during the summer for hikers.
Where to Stay: Shiraz Villa
10. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls has two sides, the American side and the Canadian side. It’s accessible from Toronto as a day trip, or you can opt for a full Niagara Falls experience (sort of like Jim and Pam’s wedding on The Office, but less chaotic). The area isn’t just about the iconic falls, either. There’s lots to do, from winter sports to hiking to cycling, and Niagara Parks Golf is famous for its three championship courses. Buy a Niagara Falls Wonder Pass to get affordable access to all the local attractions, including the Journey Behind the Falls boat tour.
Where to Stay: Hilton Niagara Falls/Fallsview Hotel and Suites
11. St. John’s
Newfoundland and Labrador may not be the most obvious destination, but the Canadian province’s capital town of St. John’s is actually pretty unique for a vacation, especially in the spring or summer. It’s quaint and colorful, with historic buildings like Cabot Tower, Quidi Vidi and Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Arrive by plane or ferry boat, and consider renting a car to more fully explore the area. St. John’s is great for whale watching, sea kayaking and fishing, and in the spring visitors can head out on boat tours to spot icebergs. The city also hosts several annual festivals, from the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival to the Royal St. John’s Regatta.
Where to Stay: Alt Hotel St. John’s
If you like to ski—or you’ve always wanted to learn—Whistler is the place to go. The mountain town, located north of Vancouver, is home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America, as well as the Olympic Park from 2010. It’s a prime winter destination, but you can also visit at other times of the year, especially if you’re into hiking and mountain biking. The gondolas are open all year, offering access to the dual peaks of the ski resort, and the town itself is great for dining out and local nightlife. Don’t miss après-ski at Dusty’s Bar & BBQ, an iconic spot with a patio and live music.
Where to Stay: Four Seasons Resort Whistler
Obviously you shouldn’t travel to Vancouver just to seek out Meghan Markle (although we wouldn’t blame you if you did). The coastal British Columbia city is a gateway to the great outdoors, as well as a solid choice for anyone who wants a weekend filled with good food, live music and art. Stop by Granville Island for galleries and shopping, and then head to the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge for a walk through the woods. In the summertime, the Richmond Night Market offers a vast array of global dishes and treats. There are also numerous beaches nearby, including Wreck Beach and Jericho Beach. Vancouver Island, where Meghan and Harry have made their new home, is also worth a visit by ferry.
Where to Stay: The Burrard Hotel
14. Prince Edward Island
Best known to literary fans as the setting of Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island is a remote destination that’s very much worth exploring. The artsy island is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and has scenic beaches, historic lighthouses and lots of great seafood. Start in Charlottetown, the capital, and then be sure to embark on a coastal drive to get a real sense of the area. Theater and live music are easy to find, and there are many annual festivals, including the Jazz & Blues Festival and the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. If you want to walk in Anne’s footsteps, head to Green Gables Heritage Place and the Anne of Green Gables Museum.
Where to Stay: The Inn at Bay Fortune
15. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Nova Scotia boasts Cape Breton Highlands National Park as one of its most beautiful places. One third of the famous Cabot Trail winds through the park, which has both mountain and ocean views. There are numerous other hiking trails, ranging in difficulty, and it’s best to go between May and October when the park’s full amenities are on offer. There are several local campgrounds, including Cheticamp Campground and Ingonish Beach Campground, which offer the area’s signature oTENTiks (canvas-walled A-frame tent/cabins). Golfers should be sure to play a round at the Highlands Links Golf Course as well.
Where to Stay: Keltic Lodge at the Highlands
16. Abraham Lake
If you’ve seen a photo of Abraham Lake, you know why it’s a recommended place to visit. The artificial lake, which is Alberta’s largest reservoir, freezes during the winter and magical bubbles appear in the blue ice, creating an almost alien-looking landscape. It’s a popular cold-weather destination because of this phenomenon, but you can, of course, visit at other times of the year. Drive to Abraham Lake from Edmonton or Calgary (it’s about three hours from either city) and opt for a guided tour when strolling out onto the ice.
Where to Stay: Aurum Lodge