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Things to Do in Canada

From the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Lake Louise to Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains, Canada offers a wide variety of the great outdoors to adventure-seeking travelers. But away from the open wilderness, Canada’s bustling cities showcase thriving arts scenes, bars and restaurants featuring cuisine from across the world, museums explaining First Nations history, and a maritime heritage that stretches back centuries. Multicultural Toronto and Vancouver deliver visitors an international feel, while French-Canadian cities such as Montreal and Quebec City boast a strong flavor of France, and Victoria retains its British charm. Skiers and snowboarders can practice their turns in popular resorts like Kicking Horse and Whistler (seven and two hours from Vancouver, respectively), while wildlife lovers take to the water on whale-watching cruises. Thrill-seekers can tackle swirling rapids on white-water rafting trips or sightsee by helicopter or seaplane. Back on dry land, visitors spot native animals like bears, beavers, elk, and moose on wildlife safaris in Alberta or British Columbia. Pristine countryside and spectacular scenery abound in Banff and Jasper National Parks (one and three hours from Calgary, respectively), and travelers headed into the expansive Yukon, take northern lights tours to increase their chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis swirling over the rugged territory.
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Kamloops BC Wildlife Park
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Dedicated to the rehabilitation and protection of Canada’s native wildlife, the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops is home to over 200 animals, including Arctic wolves, bison, and cougars, most of which have been rescued. Visitors can engage in activities ranging from observing grizzly bear feedings to holding a snake.

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Porteau Cove Provincial Park
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Stretching over 56 hectares of Howe Sound, North America’s southernmost fjord, the Porteau Cove Provincial Park makes a tranquil retreat from nearby Vancouver, and is renowned for its diverse array of marine life. Taking its name from the French ‘Porte d’Eau’ or ‘Water’s Gate’, the protected area offers a serene expanse of ocean, fringed by a pebble beach and dotted with campsites, swimming spots and lookout points.

While holidaymakers come for the glittering waters and dramatic sunsets, the star attraction lies beneath the ocean – an underwater playground for scuba divers, with artificial reefs, sunken shipwrecks and a diver’s float providing habitats for a colorful population of starfish, anemone and octopus. Windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing and boat tours are also popular activities.

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Rideau Canal
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Built between 1826 and 1832 to offer secure passage for British ships from Montreal, the Rideau Canal—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an engineering masterpiece. It extends for 126 miles (202 kilometers) between Ottawa and Kingston. Ottawa’s most visited stretch lures boaters, cyclists, and strollers in summer, and ice skaters in winter.

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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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The powerful border-straddling Niagara Falls is actually composed of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls). Combined, these cascades have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world—more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over the edge every second. While they’re wildly impressive from the US, here’s how to explore the Canadian side.

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Ottawa Parliament Hill
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A concentrated cluster of grand government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is the centerpiece of Downtown Ottawa. At the heart of the complex is Centre Block, a neo-Gothic riot of greening copper turrets, stone-carved gargoyles, and pointed arches built around a soaring central campanile (bell tower) known as the Peace Tower. Parliament Hill is not just a pretty sight; it’s also home to Canada’s most important democratic institutions, including the Library of Parliament and the chambers of the House of Commons and the Senate.

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Montmorency Falls Park (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency)
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Higher than Niagara Falls, the impressive Montmorency Falls stand 272 feet (83 meters) tall and serve as the centerpiece of Montmorency Falls Park (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency). The site is a year-round destination for visitors to Quebec City and Montreal, offering an array of outdoor activities and the stunning sight of the falls themselves tumbling into the St. Lawrence River.

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Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains
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The biggest ski resort in North America and mountain host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains feature 8,171 acres (3,306 hectares) of terrain and over 200 trails. With lift-accessed mountain biking, hiking, and more in the spring, summer, and fall, Whistler-Blackcomb is a world-class resort year-round.

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Old Port of Montreal (Vieux Port de Montréal)
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Once a busy shipping hub, the Old Port of Montreal (Vieux Port de Montréal) is now an entertainment center stretching along the St. Lawrence River. In addition to the promenade, the port is also home to the Montreal Science Centre, La Grande Roue de Montréal, an observation wheel, a boat spa, and seasonal outdoor attractions including an urban beach and an ice rink.

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Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec)
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With its narrow, cobbled streets and historic 17th- and 18th-century homes and monuments, there’s no place else in Canada that feels quite like Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec). As the only existing fortified city north of Mexico, it’s full of living history, rich Quebecois culture, and European-style charm. The historic district of Old Quebec—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is a must-see when in Quebec City.

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Prince Edward Island National Park
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Stretching along the rugged north coast of Prince Edward Island, this national park features some of the province’s most dramatic scenery. It encompasses red sea cliffs, sandy beaches, towering dunes, salt marshes, and sprawling birch forests inhabited by red fox, muskrat, and mink.

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More Things to Do in Canada

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

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Lake Ontario, the 14th-largest lake in the world but the smallest of the five Great Lakes, is divided in half by the U.S.-Canadian border. Its shores are home to two popular Canadian destinations: Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Known for its islands, beaches, wildlife, and waterfront trails, this beautiful body of water offers something for everyone.

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Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

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Butchart Gardens, established in 1904, treat visitors to an enchanting floral show that changes with the seasons. Covering 55 acres (22 hectares) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the botanical space is intricately laid out into separate themed gardens with landscaping that impresses and inspires gardeners and nature lovers alike.

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Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

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Named for its intense shades of emerald green water, it’s no big surprise that Emerald Lake is considered a must-see destination along Yukon’s southern Klondike Highway. It’s easy to access, too, as it’s literally best viewed from a roadside pullout just 12 kilometers north of Carcross.

Unlike many lakes in the Canadian Rockies that are colored jade-green by glacier silt suspended in the water, Emerald Lake’s brilliant color comes from beneath its crystal-clear waters. A layer of white ash, deposited after a huge volcanic eruption nearly 1,500 years ago near the Yukon and Alaska border, reflects light in varying intensities depending on both depth and time of day. The result is an ever-changing liquid landscape set amid the spectacular mountains of the southern Yukon.

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Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail

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Cabot Trail comprises 185 miles (298 kilometers) of cliff-edge roadway weaving around the northern half of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. It offers epic views of the whale-inhabited waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence, and access to quaint towns and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

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Okanagan Valley

Okanagan Valley

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British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is bursting with vineyards, orchards, outdoor activities, and charming small towns. The latter offer wine-tasting rooms, fantastic restaurants, vibrant arts scenes, and resorts that serve as jumping-off points for adventures around the area. It all combines to make for a deservedly popular year-round destination.

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CN Tower

CN Tower

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For many visitors to Toronto, this needle-like telecommunications tower—often seen from the airplane window—is their first glimpse of the city. When it was erected in 1976, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest freestanding structure. Though it no longer holds that title, it is still the tallest tower in Canada, and the spectacular views from its observation decks are second to none.

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Floral Clock

Floral Clock

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While Niagara Falls is justifiably famous for the force of nature that is the falls themselves, the Floral Clock is one of several other impressive attractions in the area. Comprising thousands of colorful plants and flowers, the clock blooms from spring to fall. It’s a fun photo opportunity, especially for nature lovers and avid gardeners.

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Montreal Olympic Park (Parc Olympique de Montréal)

Montreal Olympic Park (Parc Olympique de Montréal)

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Built for the 1976 Olympic Games, the Montreal Olympic Park (Parc Olympique de Montréal) now houses several attractions that form Montreal’s Space for Life museum district. There’s the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, the 56,000-seater Olympic Stadium, the Biodome, an indoor zoo with around 4,500 animals, as well as the Botanical Gardens and Insectarium in neighboring Maisonneuve Park.

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Yukon River

Yukon River

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The Yukon River stretches nearly 2,000 miles (over 3,000 kilometers) from its source in British Columbia, across the entire width of Alaska, before emptying into the Bering Sea. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the river was one of the few transportation routes for gold prospectors and many historic gold rush sites and relics can be viewed along the river today.

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Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower

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Standing sentinel over the city’s downtown since 1968, Calgary Tower features an observation deck with a glass floor and a revolving restaurant 627 feet (191 meters) above ground. Both afford 360-degree views across the city to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance.

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Halifax Public Gardens

Halifax Public Gardens

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Open to the public since 1867—the year Canada achieved confederation—the Halifax Public Gardens is one of the oldest Victorian gardens in North America. This National Historic Site of Canada was built on two formerly adjacent gardens, and today the idyllic urban green space is home to a variety of trees, flowers, and even tropical plants.

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Stanley Park

Stanley Park

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Vancouver’s Stanley Park enjoys a stellar natural setting, surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped North Shore Mountains. At nearly 1,000 acres (405 hectares) in size, it offers a combination of coastal red-cedar forest, lakes and lagoons, and scenic meadows. A walk along the public park’s seawall is an essential Vancouver experience.

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Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

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Overlooking Downtown Halifax, this strategically set hilltop fortification has presided over the capital of Nova Scotia since 1856, with earlier versions of the fort having stood here since 1749. Today, the former British citadel remembers the military history of Halifax, with exhibits focusing on life within the 19th-century fort.

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Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

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Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) charms visitors with its picturesque squares, grand old-world architecture, and winding cobblestone streets. Whether in the Old Port or walking down the main street Rue Saint-Paul, it’s easy to feel transported back in time—in fact, some architectural remains date back to New France. The historic site is considered to be the best preserved Old Town in North America.

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