Canada — Overview
Former American president John Adams once declared, ‘Canada must be ours; Québec must be taken,’ during the 1776 Continental Congress. However, the United States never did take Québec or the rest of Canada, which instead grew into an amazing independent nation with its own distinct cultural identity. Although Canada may appear at first glance to be merely a colder, friendlier offshoot of its American neighbor, its locals will quickly point out all the things which make their country unique.
Many people immediately think of the beaches along Atlantic Canada’s coast, the magnificent Rocky Mountains, or miles of isolated forests where caribou roam when conjuring up visions of Canada’s landscape. However, Canada also includes some of the world’s most sophisticated cities, from multicultural Toronto to scenic Vancouver. Québec City contains nearly as many centuries-old buildings as several European staples, with Montréal being the planet’s most populous predominantly French speaking city outside of Paris.
Most of Canada’s tourists arrives in the summer months simply for warmer temperatures and greater variety of activities, but those who brave Canada’s cold winters will be rewarded with some of the world’s finest skiing in the Rocky Mountains, which form much of the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Winter is also the season for some of Canada’s most famous festivals, such as the world’s biggest winter carnival in Québec City and the Winterlude celebration in Ottawa, Canada’s national capital.
Accommodations in Canada vary drastically in terms of location, availability, and affordability. Historic landmark hotels are just as plentiful as luxury hotel chains in most Canadian cities, also offer plenty of budget options in the forms of university residences and bed and breakfasts. Cottage rentals, campgrounds, and fully-equipped log cabins are all popular places to stay in rural Canadian regions. Poutine, tourtière, and fiddleheads may be some of Canada’s most unusual delicacies, but the most ubiquitous Canadian dining experience may be Tim Horton’s, a donut and coffee franchise found alongside American fast food chains in most Canadian communities.
Driving and flying are the most common, and often the only, ways to travel to and across Canada. Although some Canadian cities, such as Calgary and Edmonton or Montréal and Ottawa, are within reasonable driving distance of each other, air travel is often the cheapest, fastest, and most practical way to traverse this vast country. Rail, however, may be the best option for visitors who would rather take the scenic route across Canada than simply getting from point A to B. The Rocky Mountain view from the VIA Rail observation car alone is said to be worth the price of a cross-country train ticket between Toronto and Vancouver.
Driving, however, can offer equally breathtaking scenery along routes such as Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail, Alberta’s Icefields Parkway, and the Sea to Sky Highway linking Vancouver with the ski resort of Whistler. Several of Canada’s far northern communities are accessible only by air, while many islands along the country’s east and west coasts can only be reached by ferry.
- Stroll along Old Québec City’s 400-year old streets
- Soar down the Rocky Mountain slopes
- Glide across Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, which freezes into the world’s longest outdoor ice skating rink each winter
- Gaze up or down the Niagara Falls
- Enjoy the view from the world’s highest observation deck at Toronto’s CN Tower
- Watch the daily Changing of the Guard at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill
- Visit the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park
- Follow in the footsteps of Canada’s first European settlers at Newfoundland’s L’Anse Aux Meadows historic site