Canada is a relatively young country—in a few months, it will turn 150 years old. What better way to celebrate Canada’s birthday than by exploring this stunning country we are lucky to call home?
Every province has unique activities to experience, from the rainy West Coast across golden prairies to the colourful Maritimes and way up to the icy north. Take some time to cross a few must-dos off our ultimate Canadian bucket list, compiled especially for Canadian travellers like you.
Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort is a four-season, all-ages playground. Mountains, rivers and lakes mean a diversity of activities, including white water rafting, zip lining, hiking, lounging at the Scandinave Spa and—of course—skiing and snowboarding. Whistler is world-renowned for its mountain culture, legendary peaks and Olympic history.
Visit Haida Gwaii
Flavien Mabit, Courtesy of GoHaidaGwaii.ca
Temperate rainforests, hidden hot springs, First Nations culture and distinct flora and fauna create an otherwordly experience on this cluster of islands that lie off B.C.'s rugged coast. Kayak Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, visit traditional art galleries and explore seemingly endless beaches.
Go White Water Rafting on Kicking Horse River
(c) Dave Best via Tourism Golden
Golden, B.C. is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. The glacial Kicking Horse River -which streams right through town - offers some of the best rapids in North America. Take a raft excursion with a group of good friends (or meet some new friends) and be prepared to get wet!
Explore the Stanley Park Seawall
This 9-kilometre recreational path has scenic ocean views on one side and thick forest on the other. Cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and strollers take to the Seawall year-round, a testament to Vancouver’s outdoor lifestyle. Explore the park's interior via a horse-drawn carriage ride, peep the fish at the Vancouver Aquarium, or drink in the view at Prospect Point.
Paddle the North Saskatchewan River
Set aside three days for this epic canoe-camping trip from Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House. You will encounter Class I and II rapids and striking mountain views. Pitch a tent at any of the rustic camping spots found along the river's banks. Remember to sing some epic Canadian songs as you paddle, such as “Land of the Silver Birch” and “The Northwest Passage” to showcase your national pride.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
Stevin Tuchiwsky @stevint
One of the most picture-perfect drives in the world, this jaw-dropping route from Jasper to Lake Louise winds around lakes, rivers, glaciers and snow-crested mountains. The 232-kilometre highway is a haven for wildlife spotting; big-horned sheep, black bears and coyotes are frequently spotted on the shoulder or rocky terrain above.
Battle of Alberta
If you’re from Alberta, you’re either a Flames fan or an Oilers fan. And if there's a game in town, you'll be sure to know it. NHL fans get heated when the two Albertan teams are battling it out. Even if you don’t love hockey (and you call yourself Canadian?), the atmosphere in the rink is electric.
Go to the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede/Travel Alberta
Every July, city boys and girls from across Canada squeeze into their cowboy boots and don their plaid for the Calgary Stampede. Authentic rodeo games, including bull riding, chuck wagons and barrel racing, transpire all across the province throughout the summer and are one of the best ways to experience ‘Berta.
Watch the Northern Lights
Melfort, a small city located in the north eastern haunches of Saskatchewan, is nick-named the “City of the Northern Lights.” The rural setting makes the perfect playground for the fiery Aurora Borealis to light up the night sky.
Each summer a golden tide ignites Canada's central plains. The iconic fields of buttercup yellow canola sharply contrast the brilliant blue sky in Saskatchewan, known as the “land of the living skies.” Enjoy them by exiting off the highway and leisurely driving some scenic backcountry roads.
Wear a watermelon to Roughriders game
Football fans in Wisconsin are no strangers to wearing Cheesehead hats, but fans in Regina prefer wearing watermelons. Even if you're not well versed in the rules of Canadian football, game day fun at Mosaic Stadium contagious because the Roughriders boast the rowdiest and most loyal fans in the CFL.
Polar Bear Safari
Churchill has been dubbed the #1 place in North America to see polar bears. While they may look cute and fluffy, they are still bears. Rather than search one out for yourself, book an excursion with a tour company such as Great White Bear Tours. The best time to spot the bears in their natural environment is October through November.
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
Canada is full of culture—if you know where to look for it. Manitoba’s music scene is no exception. Viola, cello, piccolo, bassoon, trombone, harp and timpani players have been filling the capital with classical tunes since 1947. Catch a performance in the crimson-coloured Centennial Concert Hall.
CN Tower Edge Walk
Canadian Tourism Commission
356 metres above the Toronto skyline, the CN Tower has been enticing visitors with its glass floor lookout for years. Now you can literally take it a step further—by stepping outside the restaurant to walk the Tower's rim. A special “walk suit” and harnesses keep you securely attached as you precariously lean out over the city. Bonus: If you’re looking for a unique place to tie the knot, you can even get married up there!
Hornblower Niagara Cruises
These iconic, thundering waterfalls are Canada's most famous attraction - for good reason. On the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls gushes 2,271,247 litres of water per second, making it the most powerful waterfall in North America. Take a Hornblower Cruise boat ride for up-close views of all three waterfalls. Wear a poncho to save yourself from getting completely soaked!
Skate the largest ice rink in the world
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa is the largest ice skating rink in the world. The frozen Canal is equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized skating rinks (7.8 km long). It is also a beautiful place to skate: you travel past Parliament, Beavertail stands (yum) and snug chalets, where you can stop to warm up with a steaming mug of hot cocoa.
Tourisme Wendake (La Traite)
From freshly made cheese to First Nations dishes and traditional poutine, Quebec is the perfect place to get your feast on. Dine at La Traite in Quebec City for fresh game and harvested fruits. Sample every Quebecer’s favourite comfort food at Poutineville in Montreal. And then nibble on maple taffy at one of the many sugar shacks peppered across the province.
Escape to the National Parks
Quebec’s cities are chock full of culture, history, art, architecture and romance, but what this massive province does best is nature. Quebec’s 24 national parks feature oTENTiks, camping, kayaking, canoeing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, cycling and wildlife spotting. While every season is stunning, autumn is especially impressive for the changing leaves in hues of gold and cerise.
Go Whale Watching in Tadoussac
Every year, hundreds of visitors embark on whale watching cruises that depart from Tadoussac. These boats skim the waters of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers, in search of majestic marine life. On a single trip, passengers may spot up to 12 different species of whales, as well as seals and loons.
Newfoundland and Labrador
This abandoned island has been preserved as a National Historic Site and functions as a summer fishing spot. The permanent settlement began to dissipate following reductions in the cod fishery and a major fire in the 1930s. The renovated houses and early 19th century wharf are eerie reminders of Canada’s dependence on industry and natural resources.
Explore St. Johns
Canadian Tourism Commission
Newfoundland & Labradors’ capital city is a hub of Atlantic culture. St. John’s harbour was settled by the British in the 1600s and is shared by cruise ships, sailboats and charter boats alike. The downtown core is beloved for its bright, colourful buildings. Wander out to Cabot Tower on Signal Hill for a breathtaking photo opt overlooking the city and the ocean.
L’Anse aux Meadows
Go Western Newfoundland/Ron Hann
This is the site of the first-known presence of Europeans in the Americas. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been reconstructed to reflect its Viking past. There are archaeological remains and costumed Norse folk to introduce you to the rich history of the land.
St. Martins Sea Caves
Tourism New Brunswick/River Bay Adventures
The sandstone sea caves of St. Martins are a delight to explore—when the tide is right. The tide advances and fills the caves every six hours or so, erasing the footprints of previous explorers and creating a clean, fresh look for the next set of visitors. Gigantic archways lead into the caves, where walkers and hikers can explore the revealed ocean floor.
Hopewell Rocks (Flowerpot Rocks)
Tourism New Brunswick
Standing a shocking 12 to 21 metres high, these rock formations were formed by tidal erosion. “The Rocks” can be walked around then the tide is out, or kayaked beside when the water level is safe. The giant spires of orange stone are awe-inspiring.
Prince Edward Island
Eat a Lobster dinner
©Tourism PEI / Stephen Harris
Fresh seafood is a staple of island life in PEI. Embrace traditional cooking styles or try modern fusions at local restaurants for the juiciest, tastiest dishes. Lobster Beach Parties combine fresh food, surf, sand and local music. Go on a deep-sea fishing excursion, where you can catch and cook your dinner on board. It literally doesn’t get any fresher.
Visit Anne of Green Gables
©Tourism PEI / John Sylvester
Green Gables Heritage Site in Cavendish pays homage to the P.E.I. author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who chose this spot as the setting for her famous novel, Anne of Green Gables. You can explore the grounds, which have been reconstructed to replicate memorable locations from the book. If you’re lucky, you might even spot red-haired, freckled Anne running around the grounds.
©Tourism PEI / Paul Baglole
The Confederation Trail, part of the Trans-Canada Trail, travels the entirety of Prince Edward Island. The 435-kilometre trail winds from the northern tip to the south across lush farmland and alongside pounding ocean waves. The best way to experience the trail is on a multi-day cycling trip.
Bay of Fundy
In Nova Scotia’s waterways, you’ll find puffins, seals and boaters. The Bay of Fundy is famous for its extreme rock formations, coastal tides and excellent whale watching.
Visitors can paddle the highest tides in the world, which bring kayakers alongside Nova Scotia’s steepest cliffs, archways and magnificent geographical features, including the famous Three Sisters.
Those who prefer to explore on foot should see the incredible Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Pictured above.) Looking at this 15 kilometre rock exposure is to - quite literally - read a 300 million year old record of Earth's history.
Visit the Halifax Citadel
Canadian Tourism Commission
Back in 1749, this hill was chosen as a strategic defense zone by the British military. The town began as a fort before blossoming into the bustling city it is today. The star-shaped architecture and remnants of history at the Citadel continue to watch over the downtown core; although, now, the grounds are filled with history buffs, tourists and costumed actors.
Auyuittuq National Park
Christian Kimber/Nunavut Tourism
Strap on your backpack and follow a local guide through the Pass, crossing streams and keeping an eye out for polar bears. In the summertime, an unsetting sun ignites the landscape keeping it lit 24 hours a day. If you’re not up for the one- to two-week trip, there are incredible day hikes that take visitors to the unmatchable Artic tundra.
Visit Baffin Island
Baffin Island undisturbed by time, enveloped by icy Arctic waters and untouched by modernity. Most people will only experience Baffin Island from 35,000 feet above while transiting between Canada and Europe, but those who board intrepid cruise ships will marvel at imposing icebergs, snaking glaciers and untouched tundra. For a truly bucketlist Canadian adventure, go to Iqaluit for Inuit culture, traditional arts, incredible scenery and vibrant festivals.
The Northwest Territories
Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories (and the only city in the entire territory), is known as “the Aurora capital of North America.” The natural light show can be admired across the entire territory. Green hues are the most common. If you’re lucky, you might see purple, pink and red strands dancing in the sky above.
Go Dog Sledding
Greet an enthusiastic team of huskies and bundle up in a traditional sled for a dog sledding adventure. If you want, you can try your hand at mushing. The commands are simple: yell “gee” to turn right and “haw” to turn left. If you’d rather spectate than participate, visit in March for the 240-kilometre Canadian Championship Dog Derby, taking place in Yellowknife.
Join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club
There’s a tradition in Dawson City that is unlike anything else. The Sourtoe Cocktail Club is reversed exclusively for those brave enough to do quite possibly the strangest alcohol shooter in the world. Yukon Jack is the shot of choice, but what’s really unique is what’s dropped inside: a real, dehydrated human toe. To join the club, you have to follow the rules: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe.”
Kluane National Park
Government of Yukon/Fritz Mueller
Beautiful fishing spots, bear sightings, glaciers and mountains—need we say more? The striking landscape of the north is in full force at the largest lake in the Yukon. Stay at Cottonwood Park, a remote wilderness campground and RV park that overlooks the lake and mountains.
For more one-of-a-kind experiences, check out Robin Esrock's The Great Canadian Bucket List.