Exploring the best of Canada – With its beautiful unspoiled landscapes, its multicultural society, and bilingualism, Canada is a delight for all who decide to travel around the country or move there permanently.
Thanks to its multiculturalism policy, put in place back in the 70’s, communicating across cultures is one of the things that make The True North so attractive for travelers and expatriates. Inspiring Places in the World
Here’s what to expect when exploring the best of Canada.
So, what exactly is there to visit in Canada?
Welcoming around 250,000 newcomers each year, Canada is one of the most popular places for foreign residents.
The largest country in North America and the second largest in the world – right behind Russia – offers you something new and exciting to see at every turn.
- Exploring The Best Of Canada
Exploring the Best of Canada
First of all, if you have the luck of actually moving to Canada, you will have plenty of time to explore its wonders.
But if you are there on vacation, you might have some sort of time limit.
The best cities to visit are, of course, the ones that are well-known; yet surprisingly enough, you might find something of interest when visiting some lesser known towns, like Winnipeg, the center of the Canadian Prairies, or Whitehorse in Yukon Territory, starting point of the legendary Yukon Quest race.
Places like these might show visitors a completely different side of Canada.
Top Cities to Visit in Canada
Want to see what Canada is all about, although you only have about one week or so for your visit?
Here are the highlights you shouldn’t miss out on:
One of the country’s largest and most popular cities, and often mistaken for Canada’s capital, attracts a huge number of tourists for multiple reasons.
Located only a couple hours from Niagara Falls and the US border, Toronto boasts, for example, a world-famous film festival: Its vibrant cultural life and the landmark CN tower are only a few reasons for its fame.
In recent years, Toronto has become known as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world, with over half the city’s residents being born outside Canada.
This has resulted in a great diversity of cultures to explore, from cuisine to events.
Toronto is also nicknamed “the city within a park” thanks to its miles of parkland around the streams and rivers that flow through the city.
Ranked as one of the most livable cities in Canada, will dazzle you with its French and English influences.
Whether you want typical Canadian specialties or a Québec experience with a quaint French feel, Montréal has it all.
A “Parisian New York”, “City of festivals”, “City of a hundred bell towers” – there are many ways to describe Montreal, a city which is unlike any other in the world.
In Montreal 17th century architecture and beautiful cathedrals rub elbows with typical 1970’s skyscrapers.
Montreal is famous for its European flair. Despite being one of Canada’s largest cosmopolitan cities, the city has a nice a laid back attitude.
Montreal was named the second best city to dine in North America. It is a food lover’s heaven with cuisines from all over the world mixing with European influenced local specialties.
Montreal is also famous for its many festivals and events, which ranges from the Jazz fest which is held in different places around town, to Montreal International Auto show which is held in the Palais des congrès convention center.
When visiting the city, make sure to check what events will be on while you’re there.
Host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver thrives in terms of visitors wanting to ski, although the city is also conveniently located on the sea.
Thus Vancouver offers you the opportunity of going for a walk on the coast and racing down a snowy slope on the very same day.
With its laidback attitude and unique beauty, Vancouver charms every casual visitor as well as every expat who moves there permanently.
With such a diverse nature surrounding Vancouver, it’s not a mystery why the city is all about sports and the outdoors!
Vancouverites spend all their free time skiing on Grouse Mountain, surfing at Wreck Beach and kayaking in English Bay.
If they can’t leave the city, there is always Stanley Park, a 400-acre park which is the city’s pride and joy.
Going to Canada for a little bit longer?
Why not take the lovely drive across the country from coast to coast?
This way, you will not only be able to see other wonderful cities like Quebec City, Winnipeg, or Calgary, but also its gorgeous scenery, which makes Canada such a special place.
- Top 5 Cities To Visit in Canada
One of the most visited cities in Canada, Quebec is known for its breathtaking surroundings and unique history.
Quebec’s Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage site and the city walls surrounding it are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico.
Although not as buzzing as Montreal, it’s a great city for a relaxing romantic weekend
Although Whistler is more a village than a city, it is still one of the most popular destinations in Canada, both in summer as well as winter.
Whistler is one of those places where people come for a weekend visit and somehow end up staying for 25 years – a story which is far from uncommon there.
Many locals who have moved to Whistler say they came for the awesome skiing, but stayed because of the summer.
Winter is the most popular time to visit Whistler; however, summer has a lot to offer.
For example, the mountain biking is some of the best in the world.
Exploring the best of Canada will lead you to unexpected places and no doubt, amazing scenery.
(photo credit: 1 – 1)
Lake Agnes Tea House and Hiking Trail, Lake Louise, Canada
It was 32 F/ 0 C, but I wouldn’t have known it had there not been snow covering the trail.
I was drenched in sweat after hiking a little over two miles, gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation.
That’s when I smelled it — the smell of freshly baked goods coming from the Lake Agnes Teahouse.
If you are ever in the area, make sure to check it out.
Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901, the Lake Agnes Tea House is the closer of the two tea houses, and is situated idyllically on the shores of Lake Agnes.
A great option for adventurers of all kinds, the hike to this cabin will take you along a forested trail, past Mirror Lake and the waterfall that cascades out of Lake Agnes.
This now family-run tea house offers over 100 loose-leaf teas, as well as homemade soup, sandwiches, cookies, apple crumble and more.
From Lake Agnes you can hike to the top of the Little Beehive or Big Beehive.
Where is Lake Agnes Tea House
The Lake Agnes Tea House sits next to — you guessed it — Lake Agnes.
Except Lake Agnes is at an elevation of 7,000 feet. There’s no running water or electricity.
Everything has to be carried up on workers’ backs, trotted in via horse, or flown in on a helicopter.
Which probably explains why the PB&J sandwich was so expensive!
The tea house staff are mostly university students who sleep in one of two teensy cabins next to the tea house.
Besides making outstanding tea and biscuits, they are also responsible for cleaning the outhouses and grey water system (yuck).
- inside the tea house
Lots of tea
But the tea house serves over 50 varieties of tea, homemade tea biscuits, cookies, sandwiches, soup, and other tasty goodies.
I can personally attest to the maple tea and tea biscuits with honey.
Nothing tastes better after a hike uphill.
I was just glad to get a spot inside because it was chilly next to the lake once we stopped hiking, though I imagine the porch is wonderful on a summer day.
What else can I do at Lake Agnes?
The hike itself is not extremely strenuous.
It’s just a constant uphill trail.
Hiking trail at Lake Agnes
There are amazing views overlooking Lake Louise, and the glacier-fed lake looks even bluer the higher you climb.
Mirror Lake is a great stop along the way, but be careful once you get past it.
The small lake marks the point where the hiking trail merges with the horse trail — watch your step!
Tips for your trip to Lake Agnes Tea House
Remember to pack an extra change of clothing and to dress in layers.
Depending on the time of year, you can expect a temperature change as you will be in the mountains.
If you make it to Lake Louise, definitely take the time to hike the Lakes Agnes Hiking Trail.
The tea house is a great stop and if you feel up for it — we did after some rejuvenating tea — the Little Beehive Trail provides a stunning view overlooking the the valley below.
Have you been to the Lake Agnes Tea House?
Dog Sledding in Okanagan Wilderness, Canada
Five hours’ drive north from the US-Canadian border lies a city called Kelowna, BC.
Tucked into the Monashee mountain range nearby, you’ll find Big White Ski Resort, home to some of the most family-friendly skiing, snowboarding, and outdoor winter activities my family and I have ever experienced.
At the top of our Big White activity list: the Dog Sled Tour experience, run by musher and tour company owner Tim Tedford.
I arrived for my Big White dog sledding experience with my mom, a long-time follower of the Iditerod and dog-lover.
From the minute we met Tim’s kennel full of happy, wagging, enthusiastic sled dogs, we knew we were in for an unique experience dog sledding in Canada.
These were not the large, mostly-wild Siberian huskies we had envisioned.
In fact, most of Tim’s team are of mixed breed, rarely aggressive, and small in stature.
This does not mean they aren’t equipped for the job: in fact, many of his team, including the lead dog during our tour, are past Iditerod athletes.
While selecting and harnessing his team, Tim described sled dog culture to us, the science behind team selection, and the distinctive kinesiology behind what makes a great sled dog.
Some dog sledding ventures will simply put you on a sled and take your money, but as soon as we started talking to Tim, it was obvious that he cares as much about educating guests as he does about ensuring you have a great ride.
After teaching us what the dogs eat (let’s just say they probably eat better than you and me), where they sleep (in cozy crates nested with straw), and whether they get along with one another (better than my kids), Tim finished preparing the team (and us) for departure.
My mom and I learned how to load and unload the sled as the previously calm and quiet kennel area erupted with excited barking.
“No matter if they just ran, they want to run again,” Tim explained.
Their unbridled joy was contagious: when we finally took off, Tim on the runners and my mom and me in the sled, I was grinning ear-to-ear.
The first thing I noticed was how fast we were going.
The second: how silent the previously barking dogs had become.
We could hear a pin drop (or more accurately, only our own shrieks of joy) as we sailed over the packed snow.
The sight of the graceful, united dogs combined with the beautiful Monashee mountain scenery would have brought tears to my eyes had I not been wearing ski goggles.
Halfway through our 5K (3.2 mile) run, Tim slowed the team and stopped them, offering me a turn at the back of the sled.
He warned me that ‘there’s nothing quite like being on the runners’ and he was right.
I could truly feel their power as they pulled.
Before we knew it, we were arriving back at the kennel, where we praised the dogs one by one (a ritual at Big White) and Tim rewarded the eight dogs with a tasty frozen meat snack.
We appreciated how clearly Tim loved his animals, and we came away from the experience with a greater respect for this species, this sport, and the humane people who give it the heart it has.
What you need to know before booking
Each sled has a weight limit (rather than a person limit) of 340 pounds. Up to two sleds can depart together most days.
The dog sled experience can be booked nearly any day during the ski season, and reservations can be made ahead of time at the Village Centre Mall Activities Desk and through Central Reservations.
Cost is $195 CAN per sled.
Kids as young as age 3 are welcome, but if some family members would rather not ride, they could come (supervised) with you to visit with the dogs before departure.
Wear ski gear (snow pants, warm gloves, jacket, and googles).
A hat or helmet is also recommended, and you’ll need snow boots.
Have you been dog sledding?
What was your experience like?
As I disclose whenever applicable, we were hosted for our dog sledding experience, for the purpose of review.
Niagara Falls Eco Tourism: How to Enjoy the Niagara Gorge
Niagara Falls is one of North America’s most stunning and magnificent natural wonders, and well-worth a visit whether or not you’re a fan of eco-tourism.
But, if you’re looking for a destination that has a lot to offer an eco-tourist, know that the Niagara Gorge is home to some of the most ruggedly beautiful terrain on the continent.
You’ll find trail heads, great fishing, picnic facilities, viewing platforms, and more on both sides of the border.
See Niagara Falls Gorge
Of course, if you’re like most people who visit the Niagara Gorge, the first item on your agenda will be seeing the waterfalls themselves!
Niagara Falls sits on the American/Canadian border, with American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the U.S., and Horseshoe Falls in Canada.
Many visitors want to make the most of their experience by visiting Niagara Falls in both countries.
If you’re looking forward to rustic camping as part of your eco-tourism experience, you’ll find comfortable and unique campgrounds in the New York countryside surrounding the Falls as well as on the other side of the border.
But even if you like camping, it’s worth spending at least one night in one of the riverside Niagara Falls hotels.
Rent a room with a view of the falls to take in the nighttime light displays and fireworks shows that occur over the water.
You’ll want to spend an entire day taking in the power and majesty that is Niagara Falls.
Don’t forget to don your waterproof poncho!
Afterward, visit the Journey Behind the Falls, where you can enter tunnels cut into the rock behind Horseshoe Falls more than a century ago.
From here, you can peer through observation windows cut in the rock to observe water rushing over the Falls at a rate of 600,000 gallons (2.8 million liters) a second.
At the end, you’ll reach a viewing platform that allows you to observe the 13-story-tall waterfall from behind.
Explore the Trails on the American Side of Niagara Falls
You’ll find peaceful parks full of trails, picnic areas, hiking and fishing spots on both sides of the border.
On the American side, visit Devil’s Hole State Park, a park that overlooks the Devil’s Hole Rapids on the Niagara River.
Devil’s Hole is a popular fishing spot, with a stone staircase leading visitors down to the water.
You’ll see great views of the rapids and get an up-close glimpse of the geological strata of the gorge from Devil’s Hole Trail.
Whirlpool State Park, also on the American side of the border, offers scenic overlooks of the Niagara River Whirlpool and rapids, as well as hiking and fishing on the lower level of the park.
The Whirlpool Rapids Trail connects to the Devil’s Hole Trail.
Canadian Side of Niagara Falls Trails
You’ll find even more opportunities for hiking on the Canadian side of the border of Niagara Falls.
Hardcore hikers will appreciate the Bruce Trail, which follows the Niagara Escarpment for 550 miles (890 km).
The Bruce Trail also has more than 250 miles (400 km) of side trails.
Trail users will see a wide variety of local flora and fauna, including centuries-old coniferous trees growing on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment.
The trail also offers views of numerous waterfalls and rapids, as local waterways pass over the escarpment.
For a hiking experience of moderate difficulty that can be had without leaving the city of Niagara Falls, head to Niagara Glen Nature Preserve, where you can learn about the geology of the Niagara Escarpment, and the animals and plants that live within it, on one of the preserve’s twice-daily guided tours.
Explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, or rent bouldering equipment at the Nature Center.
The Whirlpool Trail is the most difficult one in the park, but it’s worth the effort to sit by the water and take in the scenery.
The nearby Upper Whirlpool Trails also offer great views of the water.
Closer to downtown, the White Water Walk provides multiple viewing platforms from which you can gaze upon the power of Niagara River’s Class VI rapids.
If getting the opportunity to explore a new ecosystem is an important part of traveling for you, you’ll love Niagara Falls.
With miles of hiking trails, boardwalks overlooking the white water, and tunnels carved into the rock behind the Horseshoe Falls, you’ll find plenty to do outside on both sides of the border.
Just don’t forget your rain jacket!