Where to vacation in Canada
By Michelle Boon
Posted on June 21, 2021
Quarantined in our homes, the weekly trip to the grocery can feel like a luxury getaway.
While travel is currently restricted due to COVID-19, planning an actual vacation might give you something to look forward to. As regulations ease up, consider staying close to home and exploring Canada.
Canada is one of the largest countries in the world but has a relatively small population. The result is a great depth of culture and food densely packed into cities and wide expanses of natural landscapes in between.
This article will give you an overview of must-see destinations across the country and close to home. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or looking for leisure, Canada is the place for you.
You don’t have to go far to have a great vacation. Ontario has a wide range of experiences to offer, from bustling cities to tranquil forest retreats. Here are some ideas for a local getaway.
The City Stay
Cities have endless activities to do, and you can usually get around on foot or use public transit if you do not have a car.
Ontario has many options for exploring a new city or even your own. Toronto is the largest city, and it offers attractions like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, and Casa Loma. There are usually festivals and events throughout the year as well. In spring and summer, you can enjoy a bike ride along the Waterfront Trail, a picnic in Trinity Bellwoods Park, or a ferry ride to the Toronto Islands. Toronto is also beloved for its variety of food. As a home to many newcomers and different cultures, you can find delicious cuisines at any price range.
For a different pace, consider visiting Ottawa or Kingston. As our nation’s capital, Ottawa is a great place to learn about Canada. Visit one of its many museums, including the Canadian Museum of History, or take a tour of Parliament. Shop at Byward Market and skate along the Rideau Canal in the winter for the full Ottawa experience.
Before Ottawa was Canada’s capital, there was Kingston. A smaller, historic city with a lot of charm. A tour of the Penitentiary Museum and a boat cruise around the Thousand Islands are some of the most popular tourist attractions. The limestone buildings in the downtown area and throughout Queen’s University campus make for a unique change of scenery. For a more relaxed city experience, consider Kingston.
One of the most iconic destinations in Ontario, Niagara Falls welcomes about 14 million visitors per year. You can view the falls for free from the observation deck, but if you want to get a closer look of the falls, you can book a boat cruise that takes you near the base of the waterfall. You can also try the Journey Behind the Falls experience, which is exactly what it sounds like. Other attractions include a dinosaur-themed mini golf course, a butterfly conservatory, and Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill features haunted houses, a wax museum, an arcade, and a fudge shop. Between Clifton Hill and the nearby Fallsview Casino Resort, Niagara Falls is a playground for both children and adults.
While you’re in the area, consider visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. This small town situated on the shore of Lake Ontario is a peaceful destination, and it is famous for its wineries.
It is common for Canadians to relax next to a lake at a cottage. Some people own cottages in rural areas of Ontario and spend most of their summers there. It is a great option for those who want to take a break from a busy lifestyle and slow down. Cottage life usually consists of swimming, kayaking, campfires, barbeques, and reading by the water. For a leisurely vacation, a cottage stay is an essential Canadian experience. You can rent a summer home with family and friends through rental companies, like Cottages-Canada. There are many regions in “cottage country” to choose from. Try searching for cottages in Muskoka, Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Georgian Bay, Tobermory or Ottawa Valley.
Venturing out of province
There’s a lot to discover in Canada. Some people do a cross-country road trip to experience everything. If you’re looking for just one province to visit, here is an overview of exciting places you might like to stay at.
Known for its lush forests, beautiful seaside, and mountains, British Columbia has some of the most beautiful natural sites in Canada. Here you can hike through ancient forests, surf the coast, bike along the Seawall, ski the mountains in Whistler, and explore the cities of Vancouver and Victoria. Take the opportunity to see local wildlife in their natural habitat. You can spot orcas on a whale watching excursion, snorkel with seals, or take a tour of the forest to see bears fishing for salmon. If you are travelling from Ontario, you can fly to one of the five major airports in B.C., take a VIA Rail train, or drive along the Trans-Canada Highway. To see the sights, renting or bringing your car is the most convenient option, but you can also book a bus tour.
Lakes, mountains, cowboys, and dinosaurs. Is there anything else you really need to know? Alberta is famous for its national parks, Banff and Jasper. The turquoise waters of Lake Louise encircled by mountains is one of the most iconic views in the country. This picturesque province is a beautiful place to hike, kayak, and enjoy the outdoors. If you visit in the summer, you can time your trip to catch the Calgary Stampede—an annual rodeo and festival held every year in July. For a unique experience, visit the world capital for dinosaurs, Drumheller and the Canadian Badlands. Just 90 minutes outside of Calgary, the landscape of the Badlands is similar to the Grand Canyon. In fact, Horseshow Canyon is basically the Canadian equivalent. It is also where many dinosaur fossils were discovered. To see them on display, you can visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Much like British Columbia, Alberta has a lot of ground to cover. Driving is the best way to get around, but bus tours are also available.
Our French neighbour to the east, Quebec almost feels like a trip to Europe. Québec City and Montréal are the most frequented destinations, and both have historic areas. The cobblestone streets and historic buildings create a European atmosphere exclusive to this province. In Montréal, you can climb Mont Royal, visit the botanical garden, and explore the science museum, the Montréal Biodôme. Québec City comes alive in the winter with the annual Winter Carnival. While visiting, feast on iconic French-Canadian foods. Quebec is the birthplace of poutine, tourtière, and butter tarts. Additionally, Montréal is famous for its fresh bagels. Other than driving and flying, Montréal and Québec City are accessible by VIA Rail train and bus from Toronto.
The maritime provinces, consisting of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador are known for their quaint small towns and friendly people. Each province has something special to offer: the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Cape Breton National Park in Nova Scotia, and the Anne of Green Gables house in P.E.I. In Newfoundland, tourists get “screeched in” to become honorary Newfies. This tradition involves kissing a codfish and taking a shot of Newfoundland rum, and it exemplifies the uniqueness and welcoming atmosphere of the East Coast. With beautiful beaches, fresh caught seafood, and colourful townhouses lining the harbours, any or all of the maritime provinces make an amazing vacation. If you visit Nova Scotia, consider stopping by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. It’s a great way to learn about the newcomers that entered Canada before you.
Where to stay
Expedia, Trivago, and Kayak are great websites to find hotels, flights, and car rentals all in one place. Airbnb is also a great website for renting apartments, private rooms, and entire houses for your vacation. This is the perfect place to find both central locations and unique stays in quieter neighborhoods. You can also book experiences and excursions through Airbnb. Search by location and date to find walking tours, cooking classes, photo shoots, and more.
This is just a taste of what you can look forward to when it is safe to travel. In the meantime, you can take a look at what these places are like on video. Check out Must Do Canada on YouTube for travel videos from all across the country. For activities to include in your future travel itinerary, you can read this article about arts, culture, and events.