Before every holiday comes an argument — sometimes with oneself. Should you spend your days soaking in the natural wonders of a new place? Or should you pick a destination with massive art galleries? What’s a holiday without trying new cuisine? Or a new adventure? As ideas and possibilities whir and crash around your head, you wish there were a place where you could get it all? Intrepid ‘wanderlusters’ know just the thing — Canada, which meets the demands of all kinds of traveller. Here are a few glimpses of the wonders on offer:
It is one of the greatest landmarks of Canada and among the seven wonders of the modern world. It is 1,815 feet tall and offers a 360-degree view of the city. An elevator takes up, and up, and up, and up; until you stop thinking and just look at the mesmerising wonder of the city reaching below you. The interiors are bustling with excitement. Bravehearts, some of them little children, walk across the glass floor, which is only 2.5 inches thick and 113 storeys above the ground. If that isn’t even of a thrill for you, go up another 33 storeys to the Skypod lookout.
Strap on a harness, head outside and walk along the building’s edge with nothing but air between you and the ground, in the not-for-the-faint-of-heart Edge Walk experience. This adrenaline-inducing activity is the world’s highest ‘hands-free walk,’ so you can brag about that one to your friends.
Here’s where you watch fish watch you watch them. A shark swims by, separated from you only by a pane of glass. At Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, you get an unforgettable experience that involves meeting 16,000 marine animals, including from southern stingrays to 65-year-old giant lobsters, to giant Pacific octopus to nettle jellyfish. It takes 5.7 million litres of water to keep all these animals happy. Children and adults can watch life on the reef, walk under a dangerous lagoon, stick their head in an underwater viewing bubble, or take in a stingray dive show. Open 365 days a year, the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada promises an experience that is educational and entertaining at the same time for grandparents and grandchildren.
Beautiful, cultured, and filled with power players, Ottawa is Canada’s bustling capital city on Ontario’s Ottawa River. When you visit, it’s tempting to try to pack it all in because there’s just so much to do and see. Don’t. Instead, dive fully into a few of the city’s top offerings clustered in one area so you don’t waste time zipping here and there. You’ll get a better sense of the real place — and more importantly — relax and have a terrific time doing it.
One of Canada’s greatest statement of power is also the country’s most captivating. The Parliament Buildings rises magnificently from a hill that overlooks the Ottawa River. Its neo-Gothic signatures in the form of gargoyles and grotesque reliefs stare out at the people gathered on the grounds making merry while politicians conduct debates inside. Canada’s federal seat of government is Ottawa’s most-visited attraction, and Parliament Hill stages national celebrations year-round — most of which are free. In summer, there’s the daily morning Changing of the Guard, a large-scale formal ceremony with pipers and a brass band, and evening historical Sound and Light Show. You can also take a guided tour of Parliament.
Notre Dame Basilica
In the beginning, you see the large towers rising over the skyline around the Old Port neighbourhood of Montreal. Step inside and you are confronted by the dazzling beauty of the stained-glass windows and the paintings. The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, closely tied with the history of the city, is the first church of the Gothic Revival style in Canada. The Basilica, completed in 1829, is still an active place of prayer, and you can experience mass with the people of the city. Wandering through its interiors is like stepping back into history and feeling enriched by the aesthetics of religion. Admission to the Notre-Dame Basilica includes a 20-minute guided tour that introduces you to its history, architecture and art.
Old Quebec City
The best way to see Old Quebec is on foot. The walls of Old Quebec hold 400 years of history and culture. This UNESCO world heritage treasure is the cradle of French civilisation in North America, a little taste of Europe with all the architecture, cuisine and charm that comes with it. In just a few hours, you can visit the site of world-changing battles, enjoy an authentic Canadian meal overlooking cobblestone streets or the St Lawrence River, and browse the works of generations of local artists. Every corner, stairwell, doorway and alley hides a unique feature.
The eclectic atmosphere is made up of culture, heritage and celebration the year round. The shops, restaurants, concert halls, and historic buildings are buzzing but you can take a break, catch your breath here. Even after ‘doing nothing’. you realise you have taken in enough joy and cheer to last you a long time. Take a short walk and you will get to Séminaire de Québec, which was founded in 1663 and is the oldest educational institution in Canada. It is a hidden gem, even if this architectural marvel was turned into a national historic site of Canada in 1929.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
Of the 160 or so lighthouses you can find in Nova Scotia, Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse might just be the most famous — or at least the most photographed. Built in 1915, the red-and-white lighthouse sits on a granite outcrop overlooking a large bay. The recognizable structure is what postcards are made of, and countless visitors trek to the site every year, often while travelling the lighthouse trail. Pay a visit to the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, take a photo with this icon, and then head into the nearby fishing village for some fresh lobster and souvenirs.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy coast is as popular with whales as it is with people. Many species – including the rare right whale – come to mate, play and feast on plankton in the rich waters off Digby Neck, Long Island, and Brier Island. Experience a whale watching adventure by boat or zodiac and enjoy getting an up-close view.
Listen to the cracking rumble of 10,000-year-old enormous icebergs breaking up from the deck of a boat, paddle past what locals call “bergy bits” in your own kayak on a guided tour, or spot them from shore. They don’t call Newfoundland’s coast Iceberg Alley for nothing.
They don’t call Calgary Cowtown for nothing. Same for the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” aka The Stampede. This annual July citywide phenomenon is a huge part of Calgary’s identity and is not to be missed. Expect 10 days of high-adrenaline rodeo events and chuckwagon races, pancake breakfasts, concerts, a First Nations Village, and boot-stomping Western-style entertainment. Pack your jeans and join the hoopla.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Fossils are what you’ll find in the unusual badlands of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, about two-and-a-half hours outside Calgary near Brooks. Archaeologists have unearthed some 300 fossils here — the world’s biggest source of Cretaceous fossils. Hike, camp, or tour an active dig site.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Overcome your fear of heights in style, with the help of the 450-foot Capilano Suspension Bridge, which hangs 70 meters above the rushing Capilano River in North Vancouver. Once you’ve conquered the big bridge, the Cliff walk — a series of cliffside suspended and cantilevered walkways above the rainforest — won’t seem so daunting, right? And after those two experiences, the Treetops Adventure — seven bridges suspended by 250-year-old Douglas firs 110 feet above the forest floor — will really be a piece of cake.
Grouse Mountain is another ski resort in the famous North Shore mountains close to Vancouver. Whether you’re heading up the famous Grouse Grind hiking trail, riding the gondola, or snowboarding down a few runs, you’re going to have incredible views of the city to the south.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is a hive of activity year-round. The Harbour was once used by local First Nations to launch their canoes. Today yachts, small cruise ships and ferries have since come to call the area home. You can rent a kayak, sign up for a whale watching tour or hop in a float plane all from the Harbour. On dry land, kill an hour watching musicians, performers and artists as you walk along the waterfront, or visit the near-by legislative buildings and historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Best of all, you can take a ferry into the Inner Harbour directly from Washington, via Port Angeles, Bellingham or Seattle.
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