What to do in Canada?
Are you planning to visit Canada on your next trip?
The wide open spaces, the wild nature, the gigantism of North American cities are yours , not forgetting the harsh winter and the magnificently colored autumn!
To help you organize your stay, I have prepared a list of places of interest, activities and top things to do in Canada. And no matter the season of your trip, you will find something to marvel at in caribou country!
So what’s the top things to do in Canada?
Visiting Canada: the essentials
We start our top things to see in Canada with the city of Montreal , a practically obligatory passage during your trip!
Very cosmopolitan and multicultural city , having lived there for 3 years, I can tell you that there are a host of activities to do in Montreal !
Here are the places of interest that you should not miss:
- The Mont-Royal plateau with its typical houses with colorful facades and long exterior stairs
- Mount Royal Park and its famous belvedere to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city
- Old Montreal , the historic district
- The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal and its impressive interior
- The Old Port for a walk along the St. Lawrence River
- Saint-Joseph’s Oratory , an imposing building located on one side of Mount Royal
Direction then the second city of the province of Quebec after Montreal, Quebec.
Here, no buildings like in Montreal, Quebec is a small old-fashioned city , more European in type than its big sister. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , it has retained all its charm and has a unique cachet given by its old houses and narrow streets.
Personally, I loved the very warm atmosphere that reigns there. Maybe also at that time it reminded me a little of my country of origin, France.
Overview of the places to see during your visit to the city:
- The Château Frontenac , the city’s icon and one of the most photographed hotels in the world
- The promenade of the Dufferin terrace offers a breathtaking view of the castle but also of the Saint-Lawrence river, the island of Orleans and the Lower Town of Quebec
- The Petit-Champlain district, the oldest in North America, with its pedestrian streets illuminated in all seasons and its Place Royale where the city was founded in 1608
- The citadel of Quebec and its fortifications
- The Plains of Abraham , a huge green space where the Festival d’été de Québec is held every summer. It’s the biggest music festival in Canada, and you can find great international artists such as the Rolling Stones, Muse, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga etc… There’s something for everyone!
A few minutes by car from Quebec, I also advise you to go see the Montmorency Falls. You probably don’t know it but they are higher than Niagara Falls .
Their flow is really impressive and they are just as beautiful in winter when frozen. A footbridge located at the very top allows you to cross them, sensations guaranteed !
To better organize your visit to the city, read our article: The 15 things to see absolutely in Quebec.
3. Niagara Falls
Well even if the Montmorency Falls are impressive, it must be recognized that they are still less famous than the famous Niagara Falls.
For me, it is without a doubt one of my most beautiful memories in Canada and one of the attractions not to be missed during a tour in Canada .
Niagara Falls can be admired from every angle and in different ways:
- By boat of course! put on your poncho (smurf blue the year of our visit!), climb on the boat and off you go for a nice cold shower! The boat takes you to the foot of the falls where the roar of the water is striking and where you can feel all the power that emanates from it.
- In elevator. You will descend just behind the immense curtain of water to benefit from an unprecedented view. Here too you risk getting a little wet.
- From the top of the Skylon Tower and its panoramic terrace
- And for the “luxury” version, in a helicopter. It is certainly not cheap, but it is undoubtedly an experience that you will remember all your life!
Toronto is not far from Niagara Falls , a good reason to visit Canada’s largest city.
Toronto looks a lot like New York with its skyscrapers, many shopping areas and some with a more bohemian vibe.
Toronto ‘s major attraction is undoubtedly climbing to the top of the CN Tower, so I tried it. Knowing that I have vertigo, you can imagine that I found it impressive. First you have to take the elevator and on leaving a transparent glass floor you can admire the view 1 13 floors below . Floor-to-ceiling windows also offer an exceptional panorama of the entire city.
If you need more to be impressed, no problem, I suggest you test the highest promenade in the world . You can walk on the edge of the tower simply attached by a harness. It’s a shame, it didn’t exist yet when I visited it *sigh of relief*
List of other places of interest to see in Toronto:
- The Royal Ontario Museum, Canada’s largest natural history museum
- Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and its 16,000 marine animals
- The historic Distillery District with its restaurants, art galleries and trendy clothing shops
- The Art Gallery of Ontario
- The Toronto Islands with their charming 1920s vacation homes
5. The Thousand Islands
During my visit to Niagara Falls and Toronto, I took the opportunity to take a boat trip to the Thousand Islands , a little less known place in Canada.
The best way to visit them is to opt for a cruise of one or more hours. Boats depart from the towns of Rockport, Gananoque or Kingston. Most are tourist boats (about fifty people on board) but you can also take a private boat.
The cruise will allow you to navigate in the middle of some of the 1865 islands.
All of different sizes, some house cabins or more luxurious houses , or even a castle!
Mont Tremblant is one of the most famous places in Canada to admire the colors of Canadian fall.
And yes, this is where you will find the emblematic postcard landscapes, with the trees in warm and colorful tones. The colors range from yellow to intense red. If you are lucky enough to be in Quebec in the fall, it is to be included in your circuit!
A hike starting from the bottom of the village and climbing to the top of the Mont allows you to admire the lake and its colorful trees from different points of view. It climbs quite a bit!
In winter, Mont Tremblant becomes one of the best ski resorts in Canada and is a delight for winter sports enthusiasts. There are a hundred runs and a 7-hectare snowpark , with ramps and slide bars.
Finally, in summer, you will find a summer toboggan run , a mini-golf course and you can of course enjoy many water activities on the lake.
What if you did like me and visit the capital of Canada, Ottawa , during your stay?
A short list of sites to see in Ottawa:
- Parliament Hill where the seat of the federal government of Canada is located.
- Climb to the top of the Peace Tower for a 360° view
- Walk along the banks of the Rideau Canal, known to turn into the largest natural ice rink in the world in winter
- Discover the BY market district, a very lively area all day long
- Visit one of the many museums : the Canadian Museum of History, the Aviation and Space Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Museum of Fine Arts of Canada, the Canadian War Museum .
8. Banff National Park
Banff National Park offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. No doubt it has its place in my top things to do and see in Canada!
This natural park is located in the Canadian Rockies, a range of mountains known to be among the most impressive in the world. The landscapes are simply extraordinary.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , Banff National Park is home to the 2 most photographed lakes in the world: Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Thanks to the silt carried by the water of the glaciers, their color is indeed an intense turquoise blue. You have to see it to believe it !
Another lake to see in the national park, that of Minnewanka, which with its 21km long is the largest in Banff.
Around each of the lakes you will find many hiking trails to admire them from all sides and try to take the perfect souvenir photo.
9. Icefield Parkways / The Icefield Parkway
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Canada , and for some, in the world. I strongly advise you to integrate it into your program during your stay.
Over nearly 230 km it connects the cities of Banff and Jasper passing through national parks. Many car parks and belvederes have been set up to allow you to stop and admire the magnificent natural landscapes and take beautiful photos. Waterfalls, canyons, glaciers, rivers, lakes, nature lovers will be delighted!
On the road, you will be able to see in particular:
- Bow Lake, one of the most popular
- Peyto Lake has the particularity of being in the shape of a fox or a wolf (according to opinions)
- Waterfowl Lake
- The Columbia Glacier
- Tangle Falls
- The valley of the 5 lakes
All the information is on the site of the promenade des glaciers.
10. Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the largest of the Rocky Mountain parks.
One of the main sites of this natural park are the Athabasca Falls , fed by the melting of the same glacier. You can also explore the glacier on foot or by taking a bus with huge wheels specially designed to roll over it.
Also not to be missed in the park:
- The Maligne Canyon 50 meters deep
- Maligne Lake and Spirit Island located in the middle
- Medicine Lake.
For hiking addicts, I recommend the Skyline trail, which will allow you to discover the superb landscapes of the Rocky Mountains over nearly 43 km.
11. Rocky Mountaineer
In Canada, you can enjoy an unusual activity, the Rocky Mountaineer . Embark on one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world and also one of the most expensive – I prefer to warn you right away!
The train allows you to admire all the beauty of the Canadian Rockies passing through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. You will be able to explore places inaccessible by car during the day and at night you will sleep in splendid hotels because the train only runs during the day so as not to miss any of the landscapes. And as it is a luxury train , excellent meals are served on board!
Several itineraries are possible with different departure cities ( Vancouver , Jasper) and varying lengths of stay (from 2 days to 3 weeks). The cheapest package, with 2 days of train starts at 1050€.
To plan your Rocky Mountaineer adventure, visit the official website.
12. Visit Canada’s Other National Parks
I told you about the national parks of Banff and Jasper which are the 2 best known in Canada . But did you know that in Canada, there are more than 45?
For all outdoor and hiking enthusiasts, Canada is just THE ideal destination.
I offer you a small overview of the most beautiful so that you can include some of them in your program of things to see:
- Prince Edward Island National Park offers swimming on one of its many sandy beaches
- The Pacific Rim nature reserve known for hosting one of the best surf spots in Canada
- The Bruce Peninsula National Park renowned for its turquoise waters
- Gros Morne National Park and its 100 km of wilderness hiking trails
- The Parc national des Hautes-Terres-du-Cap-breton whose Skyline trail will allow you to admire the sunset on the St. Lawrence River
- La Mauricie National Park between Montreal and Quebec
- Wood Buffalo National Park , the largest in Canada
Vancouver is a super pleasant city to discover during a trip to Canada, it is also regularly in the top 5 of the most pleasant cities in the world. Cleverly blending an urban center with beautiful natural landscapes, the city is full of things to do.
I give you some ideas to discover it well:
- Take a walk in Stanley Park
- Go to Granville Island to stock up on local produce
- Cross the Capilano suspension bridge , 70 meters above the river
- Explore the Seawall, a 22km seafront promenade, a paradise for cyclists and joggers
- Visit the VanDusen Botanical Garden
14. The Gaspé Peninsula
The Gaspésie is a flagship region to visit, it is also more and more touristy. Perhaps it is because the National Geographic has ranked it for years as one of Canada’s must-see destinations.
Here are the main attractions that make Gaspésie famous:
- Parc national de la Gaspésie , an ideal territory for hiking
- The pierced rock in front of the village of Percé (original, isn’t it?)
- The colony of northern gannets that has taken up residence on Bonaventure Island and which you can get up close to
- Forillon National Park of Canada and its magnificent landscapes of cliffs plunging into the sea
- The Reford Gardens occupying more than 100 hectares
15. Whale Watching in Canada
One of the most memorable activities to experience during your stay in Canada is to go whale watching.
The best place to try to see them is at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, in Tadoussac more precisely. The whales find plenty of food there and therefore come back every year.
In Tadoussac, you will have the choice between several types of cruises: by big boat, by zodiac and even by kayak for the bravest.
The most favorable period for this type of observation is from mid-May to October , but the whales are in greatest numbers in September and October , so if you are lucky enough to be there at that time you can definitely see some.
Calgary is a good stopover city for anyone wishing to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks. Its location between the Canadian Rockies and the prairies gives it a unique appeal.
The city itself is very effervescent in all seasons even if it is especially famous for its annual rodeo competition, the Calgary Stampede which takes place every summer in July for 10 days.
The festival attracts over a million people and is broadcast across Canada. On the program, rodeo of course , but also shows, concerts and a carnival.
And above all, every morning you can enjoy the pancake breakfast : everywhere in the city, pancakes are cooked and served for free and at will ! For that alone I love Calgary!🙂
Other than that, in Calgary, don’t forget to:
- Go to Winsport to take a bobsled ride or experience the longest zipline in North America
- Visit the historic village of Heritage Park where you can board a steam train or paddle steamer
- Walk along the Bow River and stroll around Saint Patrick’s Island
- Eat in Kensington Village which has lots of good restaurants
- Climb to the Calgary Tower ‘s observation deck to enjoy the 360° view and walk on the glass floor
- Discover the Glenbow Museum to learn all about the history of the region
- Take a photo of the Peace Bridge which lights up at night
To find all the things to do in Calgary, it’s in our article: Visit Calgary, Top 10 things to see absolutely.
17. Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is a beautiful region of Canada that has retained all of its authentic charm.
Renowned for its splendid natural landscapes but also for excellent food based on seafood, you will not be bored for a second by visiting this region located on the east coast of Canada.
Overview of the main attractions of the region:
- Drive the 300 km Cabot Trail to experience some of Nova Scotia ‘s finest coastal vistas
- Visit the city of Lunenbourg , listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It is the most preserved colonial city in North America
- Explore the region’s capital, Halifax
- Hike in Cape Breton Highlands National Park to the top of the cliff to admire the sunset (high place of marriage proposal!)
- Go to Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, a red and white lighthouse overlooking the bay to take the famous souvenir photo, emblematic of the region
The Yukon is a less touristy destination in Canada . On the other hand, it is the dream if you wish to make a stay off the beaten track in the country!
The region offers wild landscapes of great beauty where you will also have the impression of being alone in the world. It is also an opportunity to discover peoples with fascinating cultures and traditions, the First Nations.
A short list of top things to see in the Yukon:
- Kluane National Park is home to Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada
- Whitehorse , the capital, the ideal starting point to visit the region
- The Yukon Wildlife Preserve to observe caribou and bison in their natural environment
- The Miles Canyon with the hiking trails that border it
- The thermal springs of Takhini Hot Springs and their pools at 40°
19. See the Northern Lights in Canada
Your trip to Canada will give you the opportunity to discover a fascinating and marvelous spectacle: the Northern Lights which adorn the sky with colorful hues.
For this, you will have to go to the North of the Country, closest to the magnetic pole, that is to say from 60 degrees latitude. Winter is the season when you will have the best chance of seeing them because the sky must be clear and total darkness. And of course you will have to watch because most of them occur between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
The most famous places to see the Northern Lights are in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories (around Yellowknife) . You can also go northeast to Nunavuk and Nunavit on Inuit territory.
To put the best chance on your side of witnessing this breathtaking phenomenon, you can consult this site which gives forecasts of the aurora borealis in real time.
20. Snowmobiling in Canada
One of the most popular activities and a must on a trip to Canada is to take a snowmobile outing ! (Also called Skidoo there).
Canada has a whole network of marked trails where you can practice this sport in complete safety. You will have the choice between several organized excursions, whether for a few hours or even a few days.
Most provinces in Canada offer this activity. However, if you are a beginner, choose the shores of the St. Lawrence River and the Charlevoix region, which has easy trails.
The Laurentians, Lanaudière, La Mauricie, Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, the Eastern Townships and Gaspésie are all places where you can have fun snowmobiling.
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