Canada is a pretty great place. It’s a great place to live and a great place to visit. There are some things that are just so Canada because you can either only get them here or they were invented here like Smarties, ketchup chips, butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, the list could go on. While it would be easy to only talk about the food here, there are a few things to do in this great country that are just so quintessentially Canadian it would be crazy not to experience them.
Explore Vancouver’s Stanley Park
They don’t call it “Beautiful British Columbia” for nothing. While Vancouver is a sprawling urban metropolis, Stanley Park is one of the most well-known urban parks in all of Canada. The Seawall surrounds most of the park, which is on a peninsula, and you can see both the gorgeous mountain and city views. You can walk the entirety of the 8.8 kilometre route, which was created in 1917 and took 60 years to complete. Canada’s rich (and sometimes conflicted) history is also reflected in the totem poles and other First Nation’s art throughout the natural West Coast rainforest. Both past and present artists are represented in the totem poles and other installations. However, the most visited are the nine totem poles at Brockton Point.
Experience the Calgary Stampede
It’s the “greatest outdoor show on earth” and you get the chance to experience it in the heart of Alberta. While its history dates further back to the late 1800s, the Calgary Stampede officially started in 1912. While not everyone in Canada struts around in cowboy hats and boots, the Stampede is an iconic 10-day celebration of our agricultural roots and the western heritage in the country. Approximately 70 million people have attended the Stampede since its inception in 1912 and they can’t all be wrong. Take in the rodeos, stage shows, agricultural competitions, chuckwagon racing, the midway, and the famous parade.
Go to the top of the CN Tower
At 553 meters, the CN Tower is one of the tallest free-standing structures in the world – as well as the most iconic and recognizable things in Toronto’s skyline. It almost feels like it’s visible from everywhere in the city. Climbing the steps of the CN Tower is quite the feat (you can actually do it, or just take the incredible glass elevator to the top and say you did like most people). The most important thing is that you take in the breathtaking views of Ontario’s capital city. You can brave the heights by looking down through the glass observation floor and the floor to ceiling windows, or you can test your fears and do the Edge Walk where they essentially strap you to the outside of the tower and let you hang out for a bit.
Feel the mist on your face at Niagara Falls
If CN Tower is Canada’s most well-known landmark structure, Niagara Falls in Ontario is our most famous natural attraction – and one of the wonders of the world. They are incredible to look at from the walkways near the falls, but you can get up close and personal on a 40-minute boat tour aboard the Hornblower Niagara Cruises or even a walk behind the falls. Both are incredible experiences with very different vantage points of the more than 6 million cubic feet of water falling per minute. It gets loud behind the falls and you should prepare to get wet in either case – but so does everyone else and no one really cares.
Visit Ottawa’s Parliament Hill on Canada Day
In the country’s capital city (no, it’s not Toronto) sits Parliament Hill in all of its architectural glory. You can take a tour of the gardens, sculptures, and the buildings themselves, or you can explore certain areas on your own. Quintessentially Canadian with their red and black uniforms, each day in the summer you can catch the Changing of the Guard on the lawn in front of the Parliament Buildings. If you are lucky enough to be in Ottawa for Canada Day, it is the largest celebration in the country!
Skate on the Rideau Canal
Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa freezes in the winter to become an 8 kilometre long skating rink – the world’s largest! Skate through some of the city’s different neighbourhoods 24 hours a day during the winter (it’s lit at nighttime). No skate on the Rideau Canal is complete without trying a Beaver Tail. No, it’s not an actual beaver tail – it’s a delicious, flattened, deep-fried doughy pastry that you can choose to top with a variety of toppings. Check it out during February and you’ll catch Winterlude, the city’s lively winter festival.
Eat Poutine in Québec
You will find many poutine offerings across Canada, but it was invented in Québec in 1957. Many will say that you will still get the best poutine you have ever tasted in Québec and it’s well-worth the visit. This French-Canadian classic is made with French fries (we could argue for hours about the best style), cheese curds, and drenched in brown gravy. There are different flavours you can add to it with things like pulled pork, or other toppings, but the classic Canadian poutine is a must if you have never tried it.
Eat fresh maple syrup poured onto snow in Montreal
While it sounds really simple, there is nothing better than hot maple taffy on fresh snow and the cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) in Québec know how to do it better than anyone else in the world. It could be that Québec produces (and consumes) more maple products and syrup than anywhere else in the world. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t make it to one of the sugar shacks that are an hour or more outside of the city because there are pop up maple taffy stands throughout the city in the winter. If you do happen to make it to one of the traditional sugar shacks, let yourself indulge in a full “sugaring off” meal. You won’t regret it.
Get Screeched in on George Street in Newfoundland
It’s the stuff of movies, but you can’t go to Newfoundland and not get screeched in. Newfoundlanders are notoriously great people, so why wouldn’t you want to become an honourary Newfie? Steeped in local history and folklore, you’ll have to recite a phrase, take a shot of Screech (local rum), and kiss the (frozen) cod. It’s fun and it will kick off a night of even more fun!
Visit Peggy’s Point Lighthouse
Built in 1915, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is one of the most famous lighthouses in the world. Nova Scotia has over 160 lighthouses, and this one is located in Peggy’s Cove. Steeped in folklore, it’s said that the village was named after the sole survivor of a shipwreck in the 1800s. It’s a perfect day trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia and if you can explore even a fraction of the thousands of kilometres of the east coastline, you will be lucky. The highlight is definitely the picturesque Peggy’s Point Lighthouse.
Whether you live in Canada and you are simply exploring home or you are visiting, make sure you check out these quintessentially Canadian experiences in your travels!