Beyond having a hunky prime minister with strong feminist views and a penchant for maple syrup and donuts, Canada is a peaceful, tolerant, and beautiful—albeit a little cold—country, not without its differences. When it comes to traveling to Canada, options abound—just choose your vibe. For example, would you prefer the quaint cobblestoned streets of Montréal, or the high rises of Toronto? Would you rather have the lakes of the east coast or the mountains of the west at your fingertips? Below, read on to discover your next favorite Canadian destination.
City Life with the Outdoors at Your Doorstep: Vancouver
As a city that sees more than 100 rainy days a year, summer is the ideal time to visit Vancouver, when you can take advantage of its natural surroundings nearby. For example, scale Grouse Mountain by cable car or jog along the Stanley Park Seawall. In 2018, The Globe and Mail reported Vancouver received high marks by Youthful Cities for its public spaces, walkability, and sports fields. In the city proper, take your pick of Asian restaurants (according to Thrillist, 40 percent of the city's population are of Asian descent).
A few not to miss neighborhoods include Gastown and Chinatown, where for example you can caffeinate at Nemesis Coffee and dine on Cambodian and Vietnamese fare at Phnom Penh. Then head to Olympic Village, once home to the 2010 Olympic Games. Today, it's lined with apartments, restaurants, and bars—like Craft Beer Market, home to 100 beers on tap.
Family-Friendly Arts and Culture: Calgary
As the third most cosmopolitan city in the country, Calgary boasts an interminable number of activities the entire family will enjoy (the average age is 36.) For example, during summer beeline for Calaway Park for more than 30 rollercoasters, carousels and other rides, or bone up on science at Telus Spark, the city's science center. Summer also plays host to Telus's Junkyard Playground, a playground for kids, designed by kids. There's also the Calgary Zoo, which offer close-ups of Penguins, Lemurs, Pandas and more.
Don't miss the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day rodeo with live entertainment and more, like Elbow River Camp. The Indigenous culture immersion experience offers "dancing demonstrations, storytelling with elders, and tastes of traditional foods," says Smarter Travel. Plus, Calgary's prime location at the base of the Canadian Rockies make it an ideal destination to live out all your winter sports dreams (see: Banff National Park, an hour's jaunt away.)
Global Cuisine for Every Palate: Toronto
In the most multicultural city in the world, according to travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, name your culinary craving (from Ukrainian to Jamaican) and your budget, and Toronto has an eatery for you. Downtown, all manner of eats converge at St Lawrence Market, which houses some 120 food and food-adjacent vendors, a Saturday farmers market, and cooking classes. Eat through neighborhoods like the Financial District to Baldwin Village, Little Italy to Little India, Greektown to Chinatown. A bit further afield, find wine country along the Niagara Peninsula and sample the region's specialty, ice wine (wherein "grapes are left on the vines after the regular harvest is over, growing even sweeter and more concentrated," per Lonely Planet.)
Inclusive, Bi-Lingual Vibes: Montréal
Montréal's Le Village Gai (or Gay Village) isn't home to the only LGBT-centric neighborhood in Canada, but it sure is vibrant. From rainbow-hued Beaudry metro station (scheduled to reopen from renovation in June 2019), to the lively eateries, shopping opportunities, night clubs and more along Sainte-Catherine Street, there's no shortage of round-the-clock fun. Time your visit to the city's premier, gay-specific events: Divers/Cité, an arts and music festival held in July, and on its heels is Montreal Pride (Fierté Montréal) a few weeks later, in August.
During fall, Image+Nation is an LGBT film festival, and reportedly the oldest festival of its kind in Canada.