Canada measures more than 9,000 kilometers from coast to coast, so it should come as no surprise that nature plays a huge role in Canadian identity and the collective psyche. Here, there’s no shortage of heart-stopping landscapes or face-to-face encounters with nature — you can discover some of the world’s best national parks in Canada. But dig deeper and you’ll also uncover a layered identity, proud culture, and some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Between beaches and glaciers, skyscrapers and heritage buildings, French and English, mad Montréal events and laid-back things to do in Quebec City, Canada is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, and one that should be experienced in full. Here are 44 of the absolute best things to do in Canada:
Things to do in Montréal and Québec, Canada
Soaring Gothic churches, horse-drawn carriages (watch your step!), and cobblestone streets – you’d be forgiven if you mistook Montréal for Europe in the 17th century. Overlooking the rushing St. Lawrence River, this Parisian-style quarter is filled with authentic character and culture, including the Basilique Notre-Dame, Old Port, and Château Ramezay. Formerly the town’s main street, the picturesque Rue Saint-Paul is lined with local shops, art galleries, high-end restaurants, and the best of Montréal Airbnb. If you just have one weekend in Montréal, spend it here.
Each summer, the Montréal Jazz Festival brings more than 1,000 joyous concerts to the heart of the French-speaking city. It’s one of Montréal’s best events, regularly hosting living legends, up-and-comers, and the biggest contemporary names. The concerts are hosted in a variety of places, including free outdoor stages that line the Place des Arts, historic concert halls, and modest jazz clubs. Beyond the music, there are plenty of things to do in Montréal during Jazz fest. Take your time and soak up the atmosphere as the downtown district is flooded with street performers and buskers.
Few things are as intrinsically linked with the image of Canadians as the sport of hockey. Any visit during the NHL season (October to April) means that attending a game is nothing short of mandatory. Toronto and Montréal draw the most crowds as two of the league’s founding franchises (with a century-old rivalry symbolic of anglophone Toronto and francophone Montréal), but Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg also boast their own rabid fans and passionate atmosphere. Minor league teams fill out smaller cities across the country, whereas local ponds and ice rinks everywhere host free puck shows during the winter months.
While recognized all over the world, the spectacular Cirque du Soleil traces its humble roots back to the streets of Quebec. Provocative, enthralling, and inspiring, the experience is housed in its distinguishable tent and incorporates fantastical acrobatics, original live music soundtrack, and mind-blowing creativity, even more so when the show hits their hometown. If you’re looking to add a night of fun and fantasy to your Montréal itinerary, look no further than Cirque du Soleil.
Consisting of french fries, cheese curds, luscious gravy, and endless combinations of toppings, poutine is easily one of Canada’s most emblematic dishes on an international level. The recipe remains a hallmark of Quebec cuisine, and there’s no better place to stuff your face with poutine than in Montréal. In fact, a visit to La Banquise— a restaurant famous for its radical poutine scene— is easily one of the best things to do in Montréal.
Perched atop a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. It’s the only walled city north of Mexico, with its cobblestoned Old Quarter designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. North America’s oldest French-speaking city makes for a trip through time with its atmospheric old streets, all-around views, and 400-year-old buildings. While Montreal may be the modern face of the province, Quebec City is the heart and soul, fiercely embracing and protecting its Quebecois heritage. There are endless things to do in Québec City from festivals to fabulous restaurants, and more.
Did you know that around 75% of the world’s maple syrup supply comes from Quebec? Visiting a maple farm is an essential Quebecois experience where you can witness the process first hand and indulge in pure, unadulterated sweets along the way. These sugar shacks are only open for a couple of months in the springtime when the sap begins to flow and the maple tradition begins. Staying true to local traditions, the Quebecois celebrate nature’s reawakening in these festive sugar shacks with plenty of activities, dancing, and folk songs.
Located at the entrance of Gatineau Park in Quebec, Le Nordik Spa offers visitors a serene escape at the heart of nature. Comprising of several saunas, baths, pools, and relaxation areas, it’s the largest spa in North America where you can come for mental and physical bliss around the year. The treatments are inspired by Nordic traditions, offering centuries-old treatments such as thermotherapy, banyä, and aufguss that magically work all the senses. Elsewhere, there’s a bistro restaurant, cafe, panorama lounge, and biërgarden, as well as lodging options for those who want to stay overnight.
Things to do in Toronto and Ontario, Canada
There’s no better way to eat and drink your way through Canada than by visiting some of the best snack bars in Toronto. These hip establishments are often slightly hidden with their own limited menu of light nibbles and strong drinks. Combining their own artful culinary concepts with a fashionable atmosphere, snack bars across the city are full of good times and surprises that go well into the night.
Nowhere is Toronto’s diversity more evident than its eclectic food and dining scene. Bringing together cultures from around the world, Toronto is home to some of the most dynamic ethnic enclaves that include Greektown, Little Italy, Koreatown, Portugal Village, Chinatown, and even Little Malta. Venturing through these areas gives an authentic taste of what makes this metropolis one of a kind. Even outside these neighborhoods, this is a city where you can find a cozy Cuban café wedged between a beloved Indian restaurant and Italian sandwich joint and nobody bats an eye.
To sip drinks in the sky, look no further than Lavelle, one of the best rooftop bars in Toronto. Combining great weather and sunshine with the city’s insatiable appetite for all things trendy, glamorous, and contemporary, these establishments take patio season to another level entirely and provide a sweet escape from the busy city life. Whether you’re after incredible views of the skyline, an upbeat atmosphere, or an Instagram-worthy cocktail, there’s a Toronto rooftop bar out there for you.
Viewable from just about anywhere in the city, the CN Tower is the indisputable defining feature of Toronto and one of Canada’s most recognizable icons. The giant needle-like structure pierces the sky at 553m and was once the world’s highest freestanding building when it was built in 1973. The ride up the glass elevator is a thrilling experience in itself, whereas floor-to-ceiling window walls and see-through floors allow for panoramic views of the skyline and waterfront. In addition to a new perspective on the city, you can enjoy regional fare at the revolving 360º restaurant. For adrenaline junkies who want to take it a step further, the CN Tower also offers the Edge Walk, where you can walk along the ledge of the main pod that sits 116 stories above ground.
The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the crown jewels of the international film circuit, attracting A-listers and cinephiles alike every summer. As one of the world’s largest film festivals, you’ll have access to advanced screenings for a wide variety of films, from big-budget Hollywood movies to independent filmmakers. During TIFF, the city is abuzz with high-profile events and street festivals that embrace its ultra-glamorous Hollywood spirit. Make sure to check out the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the dazzling downtown facility that acts as the festival’s headquarters and contains five cinemas, two gallery spaces, film archives, restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Exploring things to do in Toronto? A cornerstone since its inception, St. Lawrence Market has played a special role in Toronto’s history every step of the way. It once acted as city hall and later a prison before it was transformed into a market that traded everything from war canoes to the day’s freshly-caught salmon. Today, it’s home to over 120 specialty vendors that span from butchers, grocers, cheese makers, food stalls, and more. The Carousel Bakery is famous for its original peameal bacon sandwiches, whereas St. Urbain was the first place to introduce Montréal-style bagels to Toronto decades ago. Whether you’re looking to snack on pastries or you’re in the mood to sit down and dine, St. Lawrence Market is where you can get a taste of Toronto’s food scene all in one centrally-located place.
Spectacular from the inside out, the Royal Ontario Museum is among the largest museums in North America. The museum dates back over a century and houses a world-class collection of natural history specimens, cultural objects, and artwork from around the world. From South Asian artefacts and ancient Egyptian treasures to life-sized dinosaur skeletons, the ROM is a magical learning experience.
Canada’s only castle, Casa Loma, dates back to 1914 and stands in its Gothic grandeur and grit. While it’s no longer inhabited, it’s now used as a museum and treasured landmark. The staggering architecture and manicured gardens make for one of Toronto’s most unique backdrops and private events. Inside, you can take a self-guided tour of the castle and dine at the upscale BlueBlood Steakhouse.
Spread across 65,000 feet in a heritage building of Old Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a must see for any sports enthusiast. The place houses historic artefacts that date back to the origins of the game, tests your skills at the simulation games, has exhibits dedicated to the sport’s greatest players and teams, and displays an unrivaled collection of hockey memorabilia. The museum also houses the most important pieces of silverware of the NHL: the Stanley Cup and Calder Memorial Trophy.
Located a stone’s throw away from Old Toronto and the downtown core, the Distillery District is one of the city’s most delightful attractions. The neighborhood has revamped the Gooderham and Worts distillery left over from the British Empire, with its Victorian-era industrial warehouses having been converted into trendy boutiques, lofty art galleries, fashionable pubs, and coffee shops. The red brick and cobblestone provide one of Toronto’s most recognizable backdrops and the district hosts regular events throughout the year, ranging from live jazz concerts and yoga classes in the summer to the festive Toronto Christmas Market in December. If you’re looking for fun first date ideas in Toronto, the Distillery District is it.
Extending for 14 km along Toronto’s eastern waterfront, the Scarborough Bluffs are one of the city’s premier summer hotspots. The park along the base offers spectacular views of the jutting cliffs and Lake Ontario, as well as hiking trails, meadows, gardens, forests, and beaches rounding out the outdoor activities. Thrill seekers should head on top to the grassy lookout points for some of Toronto’s most Instagram-friendly photo opportunities. The best part of all? The park is located just 20 minutes away from the downtown core with a plethora of public transit options to get you there.
An hour-long drive from Toronto will get you to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. During its daily peak, more than 168,000 cubic meters of water thunderously passes through the crest every minute, shrouding the surrounding area in a hypnotic mist. Once you’ve finished marveling at one of Mother Nature’s great wonders, the town has been transformed into a mini Las Vegas of sorts with a collection of casinos, upscale hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks springing up nearby. In the summer, the Falls hosts a dazzling fireworks show every night, as well as regular live entertainment throughout the year.
Itching to dive deep into Canada’s rich heritage? There’s no better place to do so than in the nation’s capital: Ottawa. Highlighting the list is the striking National Gallery of Canada, an architectural marvel in itself that houses a remarkable collection of classic and contemporary artwork from both Canadian and international artists. Just down the road lies the fascinating Canadian War Museum, where you can (literally) place yourself in the trenches of Canada’s engrossing military history. Finish the tour off at the Canadian Museum of Nature, which traces all the way back to the prehistoric era with an impressive collection of fossils, lifelike creatures, and interactive exhibitions. It’s also worth noting that all museums in Ottawa are free every Thursday evening between 5pm and 8pm.
In the heart of downtown Ottawa lies the majestic Parliament Hill. Not only does this suite of neo-Gothic buildings house the country’s federal government, it’s also perched upon a hill that overlooks the Ottawa River and makes for one of the most gorgeous sights in the country. Free tours and programming are available year round, whereas the outdoor courtyard is the site of many events throughout the year, including summer Sound and Light shows, 420 events, and Canada Day festivities. Walk past yawning archways, tidy gardens, and iconic buildings on your way to see the changing of the guard, an important Canadian tradition.
Each winter, the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, freezes over and becomes the largest skating rink on the planet. Generally open from January until around March, the canal begins downtown and winds 8 km through the heart of Ottawa. On any given winter’s day, the massive skating rink welcomes some 20,000 visitors, where you’ll witness students traveling to the pubs, businessmen commuting to the office, and couples taking in the scenery. Stalls are set up along the canal offering warm beverages, such as hot chocolate and soups. Make sure to try a classic Beaver Tail, a local deep-fried delicacy topped with cinnamon and sugar.
Roughly four hours north of Toronto, you’ll find the Bruce Peninsula National Park, where dramatic cliff formations appear to rise from the turquoise waters of the Georgian Bay. Between the rocky bluffs, rare orchids, old-growth cedar forests, and wetlands, the park is made up of a mosaic of unique habitats. Around the park, scenic sites such as the Little Cove, the Grotto, and the Singing Sands are some of the most picturesque sites in all of Ontario.
Things to do in Manitoba, Canada
The city of Churchill in northern Manitoba is the proclaimed “Polar Bear Capital of the World” as it’s one of the only human settlements where you can come face to face with these powerful and majestic creatures. There are plenty of opportunities to observe polar bears through specially-built vehicles that move smoothly over tundra, snow, and frozen water, whereas protected wilderness lodges are stationed along the migration routes. The best viewing times fall between October and November when the bears begin their move from their summer habitat on the tundra and towards seal-hunting territory on the Hudson Bay.
Things to do in Alberta, Canada
Firmly one of Canada’s most iconic sights, Lake Louise is sure to leave you mesmerized with its emerald green waters set to the backdrop of chiseled peaks and thick pine trees. This glacier-fed lake is the crown jewel of Banff National Park and presents a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the great outdoors with wildlife sightings ranging from elk and osprey to grizzly bears. Beyond enjoying the view, Lake Louise is also a popular spot for its year-round activities that include hiking trails, scattered teahouses, and paddling in the summer, whereas the winter brings about world-class skiing, sleigh rides, and dog sledding. If you’re looking to find the best national parks in Canada, this one is a must-see.
Itching to get your yee-haw on? The Calgary Stampede is the spirited ten-day celebration of Western Canada’s heritage, culture, community, and spirit. Throwing it back to the Wild Wild West, the annual rodeo and festival features daily shows that consist of steer wrestling, bucking broncos, chuckwagon races, a midway, and grandstand show. Every year you can expect to see live country music performances and high-energy attendees from all over the province.
Things to do in Vancouver, Canada and British Columbia
Comprising of 37 lifts, more than 200 marked runs, 16 alpine bowls, and 3 glaciers, the adjacent Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in British Columbia represent one of the world’s premier skiing and snowboarding destinations. Chosen as the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Whistler Blackcomb Resort is truly in a class of its own with exceptional facilities and a staggering 3,200 hectares of incredibly diverse and beautiful terrain.
While Whistler has certainly built its name off its legendary ski and snowboard runs, the European-style alpine Whistler Village provides the perfect all-around experience when you’re not on the slopes as well. The pedestrian-only streets are lined with designer boutiques, artisanal shops, and thriving art galleries, whereas the range of après-ski bars and upscale eateries ensure that there’s something to satisfy just about any craving. There’s also a wide selection of lodging and hotel accommodations, making for a great place to refresh and refuel for the entire family throughout the year.
Few places are more aligned with Vancouver’s identity than Stanley Park, the massive green space at the northwestern edge of the downtown core. It’s no secret that health-conscious, athleisure-wearing, Vancouverites love outdoor activities, making a bike journey around the 9 km Seawall the city’s quintessential experience. The Stanley Park seawall circles along the oceanfront for hypnotizing views of the waters and mountains, with lovely beaches, bridges, and landmarks along the way. The ideal starting point is at the Coal Harbour entrance, which takes you all the way to English Bay beach. The paved path ensures a smooth ride the entire way and there are plenty of bike rentals in the area.
Located just a short drive from downtown Vancouver is Grouse Mountain. The Grouse Grind trail, also known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” is the ultra-steep trail that climbs more than 850m in less than 3 km, traversing wooden steps, rocky terrain, and bridges along the way. The trail is a rite of passage among Vancouverites and the challenging ascent is rewarded with stunning views of the Vancouver skyline below. At the summit, there’s a mountain resort with a few restaurants and cafes to help you refuel and the Skyride Gondola to the bottom provides an opportunity to really soak in the beauty of the mountain, making Grouse Mountain one of the best things to do in Vancouver.
Dating back to 1867, Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in the city and retains its historic charm with heritage architecture and red-brick cobblestone walkways. Combining the old and new, today the district is home to a thriving fashion scene, independent boutiques, hipster coffee shops, and local art galleries. Not only is Gastown just a short walk away from the downtown core, it’s also small enough to be completely explored on foot in an afternoon.
Once a grungy industrial hub, Granville Island has been completely revitalized and transformed into a haven of theaters, artisan workshops, and craft studios. This Vancouver neighborhood sits just south of the Vancouver downtown peninsula. Highlighted by the Granville Island Public Market is the island’s coveted jewel, housing delicious stalls of cheese, fruit, treats, cafes, and restaurants. You’ll also have the opportunity to dive into some of Canada’s best microbreweries and get insights into the brewing process.
For decades, the residential neighborhood of Kitsilano Beach Park has been Vancouver’s beachside hippy hangout spot. The relaxed atmosphere stems from its buzzing beach, where you can find volleyball players, young families, and chilled-out yoga groups on any given day. Whether you perch upon a log or sprawl out on the sand, enjoy the energetic atmosphere and beautiful views of the downtown skyline and soaring mountains. Nearby, you can find quaint shops, sandy cafes, and casual restaurants to explore.
Easily accessible from Vancouver via a short ferry ride, Victoria is one of the best cities in Canada. Small and compact, this old-fashioned town has everything within walking distance, including a picturesque waterfront that’s lined with bohemian shops, Victorian homes, and seafood restaurants. Afternoon tea at the looming Empress Hotel is a local tradition, as are the lively pubs and craft breweries below. Perfect for escaping the mayhem of the mainland, Victoria maintains its own laid-back holiday atmosphere throughout the year.
Comprising of 55 breathtaking acres of well-tended blooms, over-the-top fountains, and lush greenery, the Butchart Gardens makes for one of the most scenic places in British Columbia. This national historic site sits on Vancouver Island, 30 minutes outside of Victoria, and makes for a peaceful escape away from it all. In the summer, you’ll find nightly firework shows and street performers that inject a new source of life into the serene experience.
Nestled within the rugged grandeur of British Columbia on the banks of the Pacific Ocean, Tofino has transformed itself into Canada’s unquestioned surf capital. Although the tiny Vancouver Island town has a permanent population of just 2,000, thousands flock here every summer in search of some of the world’s most epic waves. After you’ve finished on the waves for the day, the village itself harbors a legendary surf culture with a wealth of great cafes, restaurants, bars, and lodges at your disposal.
Tucked into the lush interior of British Columbia lies the Okanagan Valley: home to one of the world’s best wineries. The picturesque region sits halfway between Vancouver and Calgary and comprises of rolling hills, sparkling lakes, and plenty of sunshine. More than 100 wineries use the diverse climate to their advantage and foster everything from crisp whites to bold reds, rounded out with relaxed tasting rooms and vista-hugging restaurants.
Things to do in Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Provinces
Looping around the northern part of Cape Breton Island, the Cabot Trail offers visitors unforgettable scenery in the form of dramatic coastline, rolling hills, vibrant bays, secluded beaches, mountain passes, and thick forests. The route extends nearly 300 km, and it’s certainly worth taking your time by stopping at the many roadside lookouts and hiking the hidden trails. Get into the nooks and crannies of this breathtaking Canadian tradition and you’ll uncover quaint artisan shops, picturesque harbors, and family-run restaurants along the way.
The Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick boasts the highest tides on the planet with as much as a 53-foot swing between high and low tides. This natural phenomenon has led to the unique erosion and distinctive sandstone formation of the Hopewell Rocks, said to resemble flower pots springing from the earth. During the low tide, you can walk along a 2km stretch of ocean floor, scour for seashells, and explore hidden coves. The high tide comes twice per day and turns the Hopewell Rocks into small islands waiting to be explored on kayak or simply marveled at from one of many elevated viewpoints.
The maritime province of Nova Scotia draws large crowds with over 160 historic lighthouses, but none are more famous than the one at Peggy’s Cove. Just 30 minutes away from downtown Halifax, this vibrant fishing village is pressed upon the scenic shores of St. Margarets Bay. The postcard-perfect setting exudes a seaside tranquility with its surging ocean waves and smoothened rocks, making it one of the best things to do in Canada.
Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province and the only one without any land borders, making for one of the country’s prime beach destinations. Not only are they ubiquitous, but thanks to the high iron content in its soil, the beaches stand out with their beautiful rust-red sand – a truly unique sight. The enchanting maritime province rounds out the postcard-perfect scenery with soft blue skies, grassy hills, sandstone cliffs, and active lighthouses, whereas dramatic dunes and nearby seaside villages are simply waiting to be explored.
Things to do in the Northwest Territories, Canada
Up in the Northwest Territories, the city of Yellowknife remains one of the best places to see the Northern Lights thanks to its flat landscape, lack of light pollution, and position directly under the auroral oval. There are a number of viewing areas and special-made resorts scattered throughout the town where Aurora hunters come to watch lights of green, red, and mauve magically move through the sky. November to April tend to be the best months to witness this amazing natural phenomenon, while forecasts can help you plan the best times.
Things to do in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
The inland fjord of Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park is one of Canada’s truly unique sights. After an easy hike towards the pond, the best way to immerse yourself in the spectacular landscape comes via boat tour. Carved out by glaciers over millions of years ago, you’ll pass through gigantic cliffs on either side that stagger more than 700m, cascading waterfalls, rock slide sites, and a diverse array of wildlife.