We’re excited to have launched Jayride.com in Canada, so in the spirit of celebrating this country of maple syrup, moose and mountains, we’ve put together our list of 17 unmissable experiences to have in the second biggest country in the world.
Canada consistently ranks in the top countries in the world to visit, and it’s little wonder why. With Attenborough-worthy wildlife experiences, cosmopolitan cities, accessible wilderness adventures, some of the world’s best skiing and hiking, food to make your mouth water, not to mention some really friendly folk, there’s no better time to experience Canada.
And even better is that we’ve now launched in Canada, so you can search, compare and book from private transfer and shared shuttle companies across Canada’s major airports on Jayride.com to get you straight to those adventures!
There’s something for everyone in Canada, so here’s our pick of 17 essential experiences to try, whichever season you decide to visit.
1. Take a walk on the wild side
First things first, let’s talk about the Canadian wildlife – this is the stuff of dreams. There are bears, and lots of them; black bears, grizzly bears, polar bears, Kermode bears. What about sea lions, sea otters, puffins, beluga whales, minke whales, blue whales, orcas, humpbacks, wolves, coyotes, moose, reindeer, bison, bobcat, lynx… oh my the list goes on. Seeing Canada’s cornucopia of wildlife in their natural habitat has to be the top experience of any trip here. From May to September, enjoy seeing around 30 species of whales play off Canada’s enormous coastline. Meanwhile, head to Hudson’s Bay from July to September and you’ll likely spot huge congregations of polar bears; Churchill is the ‘polar bear capital of the world’ after all, and also a great place to spot the ghost-white beluga whale. Grizzly bears catching salmon straight out of river waters? No it’s not a David Attenborough show, it’s a Canadian experience.
2. Eat local
From maple syrup (which you’ll find everywhere – Canadians love their sugary export) to poutine (thick chips with gravy and cheese curds – a French-Canadian speciality!), the creamy, chocolaty Nanaimo Bar (a three-layered, sugary delight) to fresh seafood (think scallop sandwiches and New Brunswick lobster), make sure to try some of Canada’s famous treats.
3. Immerse yourself in Mother Nature
In the same vein as the incredible wealth of wildlife is Canada’s looks, and boy isn’t she a beauty. Covering such a large area, this country is truly blessed. Travelling the entire country you’ll encounter everything from soaring mountain ranges, looming glaciers, endless plains, pinch-me-it-can’t-be-real blue lakes, dense forests, pounding waterfalls, otherworldly arctic tundra, majestic icebergs, dramatic coastlines…
But to really get to to know Canada, you need to experience the epic wilderness in one of the country’s nearly 40 national parks. The Canadian Rockies span the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and are home to five incredible national parks, including the ever-popular Banff (and also the country’s first national park), famous for its milky-blue Lake Louise and Moraine Lake fringed by mountains and dense evergreen forest, and the largest of the Canadian Rockies’ national parks, Jasper. But look outside of the headline-stealing Rockies and you’ll find even more treasures to explore.
Handy hint: National parks are free to explore on Canada Day (1 July)! But there are usually other free admission days too, so check out the Parks Canada website for more information.
4. Take a train trip of a lifetime
One of the best ways to experience Canada’s beauty is by train. Whether you want to try VIA Rail’s epic four-night cross-country journey linking Toronto and Vancouver aboard The Canadian on the Great Western Way, or add some luxury to your Rockies trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Or how about the Polar Bear Express? With a name like that, sign us up!
Looking for more bucket-list worthy railway journeys? Check out our blog post, All Aboard These Epic Train Journeys.
5. Stay in the ‘world’s most-photographed hotel’
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac not only dominates the skyline of Québec City with it’s beautiful French chȃteau-inspired architecture, soaring turrets and glistening windows looking back across the historic city, but it also holds the title of being the Guinness World Records’ “Most photographed hotel in the world”. Famous guests have included Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Grace of Monaco, Sir Paul McCartney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie, among many others, and more than 300,000 guests stay in the hotel’s 611 rooms each year. Will you be one of them?
6. Experience bright city lights
Canada isn’t all just Great Outdoors; its cities are pretty incredible too. Head to Toronto for world-class museums, great music, bars and restaurants, and the butterfly-inducing CN Tower; this 1,815-foot tower not only dominates Toronto’s skyline, but is also home to the EdgeWalk – not for the faint-hearted! Head to the French-speaking Québec City for a mix of old-world charm, cobbled streets, church spires, tiny cafés and cosmopolitan buzz, not to mention great food. Vancouver is a destination hot-spot that really has it all; vibrant city with great nightlife and an incredible food scene, plus being the gateway to some of the country’s most fantastic coastline and mountains. It really is true when they say that Vancouverites can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon.
7. Amaze at nature’s own light show
Canada’s northwest is one of the best places on earth to see Mother Nature’s very own light show, the aurora borealis, and the Yukon territory is a good place to start; the small town and territory capital of Whitehorse is the gateway for exploring this remote area, providing various options for heading out into the wilderness to chase the dancing and swirling northern lights, including snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
8. Did someone say ice hotel?
The only hotel of its kind in North America, Québec City’s Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel), is built entirely out of ice and snow and is open from December through to March. It is redesigned and rebuilt every year, so a trip to this glittering, magical, ethereal ice world will definitely be a bucket-list experience to remember.
9. Hit the slopes
Without a doubt, Canada is one of the world’s best winter sports playgrounds. Shred the slopes at famous resorts such as Whistler, Sun Peaks and Banff, satisfy your inner powder-hound at Revelstoke, show off your expert moves at Fernie, or enjoy the charm of smaller resorts like Tremblant. The choice is yours.
10. Ice skate on a canal
Each winter, the historic and UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal in Ottawa becomes the world’s largest skating rink. The 7.8-kilometre Skateway stretches from downtown to Dows Lake, and is usually open from January to early March – but this is natural skateway created when the canal waters freeze, so times can change. Access is free, you can bring your own skates or rent a pair, and there are changing huts and snack stations along the canal.
11. Witness the waterfalls
Canada is home to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls, Niagara Falls. The Falls are actually made up of three waterfalls (the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls) that straddle the border between Canada and America, crossing into the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. Collectively they pound more than six million cubic feet of water over the crest every minute. Though not the tallest waterfalls in the world, it’s this power and huge volume of water that draws tens of millions of visitors every year.
Niagara Falls are about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Toronto, and there are a few different ways to experience the monumental natural wonder: get an aerial view from a helicopter tour or from up the observation towers; get up close from the Niagara Gorge on the Cave of the Winds tour; or really experience the falls in all their the thundering might on the world-famous Maid of the Mist boat tour, where you’ll sail in the basin of the falls and get appropriately drenched (rain gear is provided!).
12. Catch an ice hockey game
Do as the Canadians do and catch a hockey game if you’re visiting during the season (usually October through to April) – it’s the country’s national winter sport, after all. Even if you don’t understand the rules, the electric atmosphere, sounds of the clattering sticks, puck and skates on the ice, and the power of the players pushing and shoving each other will draw you into this mesmerizing game.
13. Hit the water
If you’re visiting Canada in the summer, make sure to include some lake time in your itinerary. It’s thought that around 60 per cent of the world’s lakes are found in Canada, meaning escaping the cities for a lakeside retreat at the weekends or during holidays is a Canadian tradition. Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, swimming… whatever your water activity of choice, make sure to head to any lake you can find while in Canada. The lakes here come in many shapes, colours and sizes, so whether you want size (like the Great Lakes) or unbelievable colours (like to blue-hues of the glacial lakes), there will be a lake for you. If you’re here in the winter, then the activities don’t stop – you might even see a game of hockey on a frozen lake!
14. Get up close to icebergs
Canada’s most easterly province of Newfoundland and Labrador is said to be one of the best places on the planet to see icebergs. Watch these 10,000-year-old giants sail past in their mighty yet mystical glory from the northern and eastern coast of the province every spring down what’s called ‘Iceberg Alley’. The ‘Alley’ stretches from the coast of Labrador to the southeast coast of the island of Newfoundland, and you can either watch the icebergs from popular shore spots such as St Lewis, Battle Harbour and Witless Bay, or get up close to the giants on a boat or kayak tour. You’ll be amazed at the different colours, shapes and sizes floating past. Icebergs are actually parts of glaciers that have broken into the sea, and around 90 per cent of the icebergs seen in the area are from glaciers in western Greenland. If you’re very lucky, you might get the double sighting of icebergs and whales! Find out more about where and when to see the icebergs on the Newfoundland and Labrador website.
15. Practise your French
Parlez-vous français? Québec is the second most populous province in Canada and is predominantly French speaking; in fact, almost 20 per cent of the Canadian population list French as their first language. The French link to Canada lies in the country’s history, and a great place to learn about this on a visit to the Québec. The province capital, Québec City, and the largest city, Montréal, are fantastic places to experience some of la vie française, where authentic French food, culture and language abound.
16. Get cultured
World-class museums and art galleries can be found in the major Canadian cities, but experiencing the art and traditions of the Inuit and First Nation tribes is truly something else. Discover and experience traditional Inuit culture and art in the huge arctic territory of Nunavut. Or visit the Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) archipelago off the west coast of British Columbia to see the incredibly artistic and skilfully carved totem poles that are of important spiritual significance for the First Nations people. The totem poles can also be found in many coastal areas of BC.
17. Be amazed with some stargazing
Canada has some of the clearest and darkest skies in the world, so it’s an ideal place to do some stargazing. Visit one of Parks Canada’s 10 Dark Sky Preserves and learn about the celestial landscape above. Jasper National Park is one of the world’s largest and most accessible Dark Sky Preserves, while Grasslands National Park is the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Looking after the night skies is a priority here, and Parks Canada protects more dark skies than any other jurisdiction in the world. So look up in wonder at the millions of stars above.
Major international airports in Canada include Vancouver International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport and Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. For a seamless start to your trip, pre-book your Canada airport transfer on Jayride.com.