Walking through the cobblestone streets of Europe, relaxing oceanside on a Caribbean island, or eating your way through an Asian night market – these are some of the scenes you might picture when thinking about travel. I’m no different, I dream about hiking the mountains of Patagonia, photographing the rich history and architecture in Portugal, and snorkeling the crystal-blue waters in the South Pacific. But sometimes international travel just isn’t an option. Whether it’s financial restraints, time limitations, or ,yes, even a pandemic, international travel might seem out of the question. However, for those of us living in Canada, you don’t actually have to travel abroad to have similar experiences right here in our own backyard.
Don’t believe me? I called upon some of Canada’s top travel bloggers to share experiences you can have right here in our home and native land that’ll make you feel like you’ve traveled abroad. Below are 32 ways you can travel the world without leaving Canada.
Wines of Napa Valley, California – Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
By: Murissa Shalapata – thewanderfulltraveler.com
When you think of the great wine regions of the world images of Napa, Tuscany or Bordeaux are conjured up. However, Canada has its own wine region that has been getting serious acclaim within international circles. The Okanagan wine valley in British Columbia has been appearing on lists like “The Best Wine Regions You’ve Never Heard Of” and “Top Wine Destinations”.
The Okanagan has its own sub-appellations allowing for bold reds to be grown in the southern portion of the valley while Pinot Noir and Riesling thrive in the central and northern pockets. The Okanagan valley is also home to Canada’s only 100-point Chardonnay, the perfect score awarded by wine critic and writer John Schreiner.
As with any wine region, the food scene in the Okanagan has been quickly evolving over the last decade with farm to table, local produce at its core. Just as in Italy, local and seasonal ingredients are valued with each chef putting their own spin on dishes developing a regional style.
Aside from great food and critically acclaimed wines, the views across the Okanagan valley are incredible. Wineries are plotted next to orchards of cherries, apples and various stone fruits, white limescale cliffs and hoodoos characterize the Penticton area and forested mountains and lakes are neighbours from Kelowna to Vernon. I’d be remiss not to mention Canada’s only desert defines southern Okanagan wines. The heat produced in the arid area is ideal for developing bold reds like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Taiwan’s Food Markets – The Richmond Night Market
By: Will Tang – goingawesomeplaces.com
If you’ve ever been to Taiwan, you know that one of the biggest highlights of the trip is the food. You might be surprised to hear that you can have a similar experience in Richmond, British Columbia. It’s called the Richmond Night Market. Every year, food stalls, shopping booths, and carnival games and rides are packed together to create the largest of its kind in North America.
Whether you have a sweet tooth or crave savoury options, there’s something for palete. You’ll find classics like juicy skewered meats and bubble tea, authentic Asian snacks like Shanghai hairy crab and hand-made mochi, and fantastical creations such as rainbow grilled cheese and deep-fried watermelon.
You likely won’t be able to try all 100+ food stalls but you’ll come away from it with full bellies and the feeling like you were just transported to Taiwan.
Central Park NYC – Stanley Park, Vancouver
By: Nicole Hunter, gofargrowclose.com
I live in Vancouver, British Columbia where you can find one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Like Central Park in New York City, Stanley Park is a huge urban park adjacent to the hustle and bustle of Vancouver’s downtown core. Within minutes of entering Stanley Park, you are completely enveloped into another world filled with nature and peacefulness.
One of the best things about both parks is that you can spend hours or days exploring different areas totally unique to each other, participate in countless activities that are free or budget friendly, and almost never run out of things to do. In the summer in Central Park, this includes renting a rowboat; running, walking or riding a bike in a loop around the park, and even visiting a zoo. In Stanley Park, the choices are even more endless.
Stanley Park has a 10km seawall for walking, running and biking that completely navigates the park. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of not only downtown Vancouver, but the majestic North Shore Mountains and the Pacific Ocean that borders most of it. There are beaches, an enormous swimming pool steps from the ocean, an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, tennis courts, and a free water park for the young and the young at heart. With a world class Aquarium and a free exhibition of Totem Poles and art produced by a number of different First Nations groups from all over British Columbia, Stanley Park has something for everyone.
California Surfing in Tofino
By: Claudia Laroye, thetravellingmom.ca
It may come as a surprise to some from outside British Columbia, but the tiny, storm-swept village of Tofino, perched on the western edge of Vancouver Island, is in fact the surfing capital of Canada. The roiling Pacific Ocean waters here are nearly the same temperature as those popular surfing waves off the coast of Santa Cruz or Huntington Beach in sunny California. The early winter or spring wave action makes for ideal cold-water surfing conditions, for those brave enough to test the waters.
Tofino’s surf culture has blossomed and matured over time, attracting newbies and professionals alike to Canada’s top level surfing scene. The Rip Curl Pro National and Queen of the Peak surfing competitions celebrate achievements and foster new talent. As a result of great surfing conditions and the supportive community, Tofino has produced some incredible world-class surfers who’ve qualified as Canada’s representatives for the sport’s inaugural appearance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, in 2021.
But you don’t have to be a pro to surf in Tofino. The community welcomes visitors to give their surfing skills a try at a variety of local surf schools. For those adventurous enough to test their mettle against the whitewater off of Cox Bay or Long Beach, surfing in Tofino will provide an unforgettable and memorable experience.
Iceland’s Hot Springs – Hot Springs in British Columbia
By: Erin Elizabeth, pinatravels.ca
There are incredible hot springs all around the world, from the famous Blue Lagoon of Iceland to the Banjar Hot Springs of Bali, and the Arenal Hot Springs of Costa Rica. All of these spots attract tourists for their natural settings and thermal waters. But you don’t need to hop on a plane to another country to experience nature’s hot tubs. We’ve got them right here in Canada, too.
Western Canada is home to a number of popular hot springs, including Banff’s Upper Hot Springs and Whistler’s luxurious Scandinave Spa. These soaking spots are easily accessible, but have a commercial feel to them. For naturally formed hot springs in the middle of British Columbia’s forests, head to Sloquet Hot Springs. About two hours north of Pemberton, British Columbia, these naturally formed hot springs are found in the traditional territory of the Xa’xtsa First Nation who have been using the hot springs for generations – and to this day perform spiritual and cleansing ceremonies here. They’ve graciously shared this incredible place with visitors, making a trip to Sloquet Hot Springs an opportunity to enjoy nature and support Indigenous tourism. Because the hot springs are spiritually significant to Xa’xtsa First Nation, it’s important to show respect while visiting them. This means leaving no trash behind, taking nothing, and not drinking alcohol in the springs.
To reach Sloquet, drive approximately 2 hours down the in-SHUCK-ch logging road from Pemberton or Harrison (enjoy the views!) and bring some cash to camp overnight. The bumpy drive is best done in a 4WD, and is very worth the refreshing soak and serene views!
Tibetan Religious Sites – the Highway to Heaven, British Columbia
By: Asif, v2.travelark.org
Canada is known for its multiculturalism and wealth of international cuisine. However along with diverse ethnic communities comes an equally diverse cross section of the worlds religions. Vancouver’s suburb of Richmond exemplifies this along Highway 5 in what is known as ‘The Highway to Heaven’. Though the exact reasoning for this geographic cluster is unclear, it provides a unique opportunity to experience a cross sections of Asia’s religious heritage.
Starting from the intersection with Blundell, the Thrangu Monastery is an impressive Tibetan style hall with hanging tassels and large drums in the main Buddha hall along with spinning wheels outside. Adjacent is the Vedic Cultural Centre, a Hindu Temple. Next to this is the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, a Japanese-style hall with kneeling prayer mats. The Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre comes next, a Shia Mosque, followed by a Sikh Gurdwara. There is a Jewish Day School before leading to the Ling Yen Mountain Temple further down. You can observe Monks kneeling in prayers who have also taken a vow of silence and are not able to speak with visitors. This has a larger complex and several outbuildings in the rear similar to Confucian centres in Asia. The International Buddhist Society is the largest and most impressive site on Steveston Highway past No 4 Road.
Despite their religious or political differences, all co-exist side by side on this municipal road. They can easily be visited by foot, car, bike, or bus from the Metro as I did. All are open to visitors outside of regular prayer times.
Cappadocia – The Canadian Badlands
By: Dalene & Pete – roadtripalberta.com
Turkey remains one of our favourite foreign countries, and lucky for us, just an hour’s drive of where we live in southern Alberta, we can sample a small slice of the Cappadocia region of Turkey by visiting Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
The photos from Cappadocia’s vast valleys are iconic and the area is on many traveler’s aspirational lists. It is known specifically for its distinctive “fairy chimneys” – stone pedestals that have been worn into a unique shape by erosion over many thousands of years. Those same structures, more commonly known around these parts as “hoodoos“, can be found throughout the Canadian Badlands. While the Canadian Badlands are more famouly known for it’s massive concentration of dinosaur fossils, it’s this same environment which created the hoodoos.
Hoodoos can be found throughout the Badlands, but Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is the most scenic spot we’ve explored. Cappadocia’s concentration of hoodoos is vast and impressive, but visiting Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park gives visitors the opportunity to inspect a hoodoo up close and even hike among them.
Patagonia – The Canadian Rockies
By: Audrey Bergner – thatbackpacker.com
While travelling across Argentine Patagonia in 2019, there were many times where I found myself taking in the surroundings and thinking, “this looks a lot like Canada!” The snow-capped peaks off in the horizon, dense forest canopy covering the valley below, and a lake whose hypnotizing waters went from cerulean to cobalt blue as my eyes moved further away from the shore, took me back to my Canadian Rockies road trip, which I had done a year earlier. I was reminded of walks down wooded trails, glaciers draped across mountain slopes, and the way the turquoise waters of Lake Louise twinkle when the sun’s shining just right.
As I was standing in Argentina, thousands of miles away from home, I felt a deep sense of familiarity, like I had found a little slice of home amongst the mountains of Patagonia.
Rafting in Central America – Whitewater Canoeing in Ontario
By: Mikaela – VoyageurTripper.com
Feel the adrenaline rush of plunging over rapids without joining a rafting trip in Central America. Ontario and Quebec offer dozens of amazing rivers for whitewater canoeing, and with the support of a guide, even novice paddlers can enjoy running rapids.
If you only have a long weekend, join a 4-day canoe trip on the Petawawa River in Algonquin Provincial Park. Only a 5-hour drive from Toronto, this river offers excellent whitewater paddling (especially for new paddlers) on the lesser-traveled east side of Algonquin.
Have a bit more time and care to venture a little further? Consider a 7, 10, or 14-day trip on the Missinaibi River. Although 13 hours from Toronto, this river offers exhilarating whitewater and exquisite wilderness. It’s also so remote, you’re unlikely to see another group for your entire trip. I guided a whitewater canoe trip along the Missinaibi in 2017 and this river remains my favourite destination in Ontario and all of Canada.
Whatever river you choose to explore, your days will be spent paddling and your evenings filled with delicious food, campfires and new friends. Stay out late and you’ll surely be able to see the milky way. If you’d like to learn more about canoe camping in Ontario’s wilderness, check out my Ultimate Guide to Canoe Camping.
Norway Cliff Top Trails – Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
By: Stephanie Mayo, ladystravelblog.com
Is Norway on your travel bucket list? Maybe you’ve always wanted to hike the incredible fjords in Norway, like their most popular hike, Preikestolen, also known as Pulpit Rock. Well, you can have a very similar experience right here in Canada! Norway is known for its spectacular natural scenery but you can find some of that right here in Ontario too, particularly in Thunder Bay. There are countless things to do in Thunder Bay, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. And one of those things is hiking Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is home to the largest trail system of all Ontario’s Parks with around 100 kilometers of trails to choose from. And if you’re looking for that Norway hiking experience then try the Top of the Giant Trail. This trail is similar to Norway’s Pulpit Rock trail in many ways. Both hikes take between four to five hours, are moderate in difficulty, and rise to over 500 metres. But the best part is when you reach that epic clifftop view over Lake Superior, the sweeping views over one of Ontario’s highest cliffs are outstanding.
Grottos of Portugal and Italy – Tobermory Grotto
By: Liliane Fawzy, mytorontomyworld.com
When you think of water grottos and caves the stunning ones in countries like Italy and Portugal usually spring to mind. Makes sense since they’re world famous, but you can have a similar experience right here in Canada!
Located about 4 hours north from Toronto lies Tobermory and Bruce Peninsula National Park. The area is known for its stunning shoreline and crystal blue water and in the Grotto, commonly referred to as the Tobermory Grotto, you can get a combination of both natural beauties. The grotto has a large opening which makes the crystal blue waters visible from the cliffs above it and within it. You have two options for making your way into the Tobermory Grotto. You can either climb down the cliff (which is easier than it sounds!) or you can swim into it from the nearby shoreline.
The Tobermory Grotto is fairly accessible and outside of paying for the parking and entrance to the national park, there are no additional fees to access it. It’s important to note that the spot is incredibly popular. During the busy season (early May to end of October) you have to reserve a parking spot that gives you a 4-hour access window. The parking spots do sell out ahead of time, so if you’re interested in exploring the Tobermory Grotto make sure to reserve your spot early!
Caribbean Beaches – Sauble Beach
By: Natalie Preddie, nattyponline.com
I often dream of sun, sand, sea and epic sunsets, a vacationer’s Caribbean paradise. Thankfully, when international travel isn’t possible, I can find this beach lover’s dream only a few hours away.
Among her many unique assets, Ontario boasts a number of beautiful beaches. My favourite, by far, is Sauble Beach on the Great Lake Huron. Here, the white, fluffy sand stretches for kilometers, and sunseekers dot the shoreline in sun chairs and under umbrellas. The water is crystal clear and sparkles as you wade toward the horizon. The lake seems never-ending and looking out, you can understand how people may have thought the earth was flat.
The lake warms up during the summer and even I, fearful of the cold, find myself first paddling into the beautiful blue, before diving into the waves for a refreshing and relaxing (salt-free) swim. And did I mentioned the sunsets? In my travels around the world, it is rare that I come across a sunset as spectacular as those on Lake Huron. As the sun moves from East to West, it paints the sky with the post awe-inspiring pinks, purples and oranges, a watercolour that will take your breath away.
Stockholm’s Archipelago – Ontario’s 1000 Islands
By: Lauren Yakiwchuk, ontariohiking.com
If you’re dreaming about traveling to Stockholm’s archipelago and looking for a similar experience in Canada, look no further than the Thousand Islands in Ontario. The Stockholm archipelago of 30,000 islands extends into the Baltic Sea and is a popular place for visitors to spend their summer holidays. Similarly, though on a smaller scale (about 2,000 islands), the Thousand Islands, located in the Saint Lawrence River between the Canada-USA border, is also a popular destination to spend a summer vacation.
Both archipelagos are enjoyed during all four seasons and are popular for boating, kayaking, hiking, camping, and glamping. While the weather is best for outdoor adventures in the summer, you can savour the fall colours in the autumn. In Canada, a large region is part of the Thousand Islands National Park, which features protected lands and hiking trails on both the mainland and many of the surrounding islands. The Thousand Islands is a spectacular place to immerse yourself in nature without having to hop on a plane.
A fun fact about the Thousand Islands: to be counted as an island, the land must have at least one square foot visible above water all year long, and it must support at least two living trees.
A Taste of Scotland – The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games
By: Olivia Rutt, mywanderingvoyage.com
Flashes of tartan kilts, a wail of bagpipes, the pounding of feet doing a highland dance. The sights and sounds may place you in Scotland, but instead, you’re in Fergus, a small town in rural Ontario known for its fiercely proud Scottish heritage.
Every year over the second weekend in August, Fergus plays host to the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. People from all over the world come to participate in the lively three-day event. Starting in 1946, this is the oldest festival of its kind in North America and one of the largest, attracting 35,000 annual visitors. It also holds the Guinness World Record for the most cabers overturned simultaneously.
At the Scottish Festival and Highland Games, you can find clans wearing their colours, men and women testing their strength at caber toss, hammer throwing and tug of war, girls and boys showing off their skills at Highland dancing, and pipe bands marching to the beat of their deafening drum. Oh, and don’t forget the bagpipes. You can hear them practicing or performing from dawn till dusk.
You can also wander the festival where you’ll find heritage specialists, vendors, events like teatime, storytelling, musical performances and even a Jacobite reenactment camp. The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games were also host to author Diana Gabaldon and actors from the popular book and TV series Outlander.
If you’re looking for a taste of Scotland and the high energy of Highland Games, then don’t miss the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which returns for its 75th anniversary in 2021.
Japan’s Cherry Blossoms – Kariya Park, Mississauga
By: Mary Chong, calculatedtraveller.com
Japan is one of my favourite travel destinations in the world for Asian culture, food, and scenery. When travelling to Tokyo is impossible, and I need a little bit of calm in my life, I make my escape to Mississauga’s Kariya Park in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada.
Kariya Park gets its design inspiration from the City of Kariya in Japan – Mississauga’s sister-city. Once through the wooden fence, a visit to this little park is like stepping directly into a garden in Japan. Kariya Park features a rock-and-gravel kare sansui garden, koi fish and duck ponds, wooden bridges and walkways, stone sculptures, and a tea house pavilion complete with bronze bell.
To make my little journey to Kariya Park complete, we often pick up some take-out sushi and picnic under the cherry blossom trees. Peaceful, and serene, if you close your eyes you can imagine Geisha strolling along the pathways.
The Flavours of India – Brampton and Mississauga
By: Mariellen Ward, breathedreamgo.com
Toronto and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is one of the most multicultural places on earth — and to me, this is one of the best things about my hometown. Waves of immigration has brought people from all the corners of the globe, giving the city a rich tapestry of cultures, ideas, and flavours. One such wave brought a lot of immigrants from India, and specifically from Punjab in North India. Many of these people have settled in Etobicoke and Rexdale, in the northwest corner of Toronto, as well as in Mississauga and Brampton, cities just outside Toronto’s borders.
In all of these localities you will find a lot of Indian restaurants, stores, cinemas, and cultural festivals, plus Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Etobicoke is an incredible architectural masterpiece that was carved in India and shipped to Canada in pieces.
On any given day, you can stop in to an Indian grocer to pick up packaged Indian spice mixtures, fresh produce such as green chillies and mangoes, henna (for mehndi “tattoos”), jars of various chutneys, and prepared foods such as samosas and barfi, a favourite Indian sweet. You can eat at an Indian restaurant — usually rich, hearty Punjabi fare that includes butter chicken, spicy chana masala, and thick naan bread. And you can go to a cinema that shows the latest Bollywood hits. You can even visit a clothing store that sells traditional clothes such as saris, lehengas, salwar kameez, and stunning jewelery that has some real bling!
There are typically several big festivals each year, too, usually in the summer months. Taste of India is a food event held in Brampton in August. Mosaic is an annual South Asian Festival held in Mississauga in August that showcases dozens of dancers, performers, and musicians. There are also festivals that celebrate Diwali, Holi, and other Indian occasions. All are welcome. When you dive into these festivals on a warm summer day, with the intoxicating scent of Indian food in the air, and crowds of people swirling around you, you can really believe for a moment you are actually in India.
Promenade Plantée, Paris – St. Thomas Elevated Park
By: Raymond Cua, travellingfoodie.net
Located in Paris, the City of Love, is the world’s first elevated park walkway, Promenade Plantée (or the Coulée verte René-Dumont). Hovering ten metres above street level, this linear park was built in 1993 spanning 4.7 km on top of the obsolete Vincennes railway viaduct.
In Canada, you can have a similar experience by visiting St. Thomas, Ontario. One of the things I learned in my trip to the Railway Capital of Canada is that it is home to an Elevated Park. Much like the Promenade Plantée being the first elevated park in the world, the St. Thomas Elevated Park, which opened in 2019, is the first elevated park in Canada. At 29 meters high and 250 meters long, the St. Thomas Elevated Park is built on top of the iconic Michigan Central Railroad Kettle Creek Bridge. It’s a great place to stroll, run or bike, showcase public art and has beautiful views of the Kettle Creek Valley below.
The Shakespeare Experience – Stratford, Ontario
By: Diana Tarasca, torontodiana.com
Located in southwestern, in Perth County, Stratford is a town that shares the name of Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The town is known for being home to the Stratford Festival, a 7-month long festival of live theatre productions of Shakespearean plays. Recognized worldwide, the festival attracts many tourists from outside Canada, most notably British and American visitors.
The Stratford Festival runs from April to October and has four permanent venues, and features music concerts, readings from major authors, lectures, and discussions with actors or management. Amy Alipio of National Geographic Traveler summed it up best “Stratford is like nirvana for theatre fans like me. During the festival—which stages everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim to new Canadian plays—you can stay in theatre-themed B&Bs, hang out with actors post-show at local bars, go on backstage tours, and attend dozens of other events with other theatre-mad folks. Stratford itself is the type of walkable wholesome town Rodgers and Hammerstein might write a musical about.”
Athens, Greece – The Danforth, Toronto
By: Christopher Rudder, rudderlesstravel.com
Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, which is due primarily to its neighbourhoods. Toronto’s communities can transport you to a different country through culture, clothing, food, music, language and festivals. From Little Italy, Little Portugal and Little Jamaica to Little India, Chinatown and Koreatown. But when you want to visit Greece without boarding a plane and flying to Athens, you head over to Toronto’s Greektown.
I should preface this by saying that I may come across a little bias as I’ve lived there for a few years. By there, I mean the Danforth, a popular neighbourhood centered around Danforth Avenue in the east-end of Toronto, widely known as Greektown. The community has been made famous by the Taste Of The Danforth Festival. This yearly festival, which began in 1994, takes place on a single weekend in August and attracts about 1.6 million attendees. It is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to experience Greek music, culture, traditions and customs.
One of the best ways to experience a culture is through its food. If you’re craving something sweet or savoury like Loukoumathes (honey puffs), Bougatsa (cream pie), Galaktoboureko (custard pie) Spanakopita (spinach pie), Tiropita (cheese pie) or Kreatopita (meat pie), head over to Athens Pastries and Akropolis Pastries & Pies. If lunch and dinner is your thing, then hit up one of the OG’s of the Danforth (and by OG’s I mean Original Greeks). Christina’s on the Danforth, Pappas Grill, Astoria Shish Kebob House, Pantheon Restaurant, Megas Restaurant, Souv Like & Mezes. They have been forever serving up classics like chicken, pork and lamb souvlaki, with rice, potatoes and Greek salad loaded with feta cheese. If you’re in a rush, grab Gyros from Alexandros Take-Out or Messini Authentic Gyros while Anestis Taverna & Kalyvia recently moved into the neighbourhood offering rustic, classic dining options. The Greek people are some of the warmest, most caring and funniest people I know with a fantastic outlook on life. Their community is that of a family and is always ready to lend a hand, something living on the Danforth has allowed me to experience.
Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival – The Toronto Caribbean Carnival
By: Davindra, goatrotichronicles.ca
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is a spectacle that has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime. It takes place every year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The festival kicks off early Monday morning for J’ouvert with revelers hitting the street fueled with local rum and dancing to soca while covered in oil, paint or mud. Monday afternoon is when the masqueraders in large bands hit the streets in part of their costumes but Tuesday is the big day. On Tuesday people don their full costumes decorated with feathers and beads and dance the entire day in the streets throughout the island. Carnival isn’t unique to Trinidad though, many of the islands throughout the Caribbean have their own version albeit on a much smaller scale.
One of the biggest carnivals that’s patterned after Trinidad is the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. The parade itself takes place on the Saturday of the Civic Holiday weekend and the energy and vibe is almost as high as Trinidad’s. There are many related events that take place in the weeks leading up to the big parade such as The King and Queen Showcase, multiple fetes (parties) and calypso competitions.
The festival started in Toronto in 1967 and was originally known as Caribana. At that time, many West Indians had immigrated to Canada and this festival started with the aim of sharing their culture with the local community. Since then there has been immense growth and the annual celebration is now North America’s largest street festival.
Nightlife in Seoul – Toronto’s Koreatown(s)
By: Christopher Mitchell, travelingmitch.com
I spent a year of my life living in Korea, and I sometimes miss the life I led there, what with the abundance of delicious food and how ubiquitous the noraebang (karaoke) culture was.
The good news is that when I want to return to Korea, it’s not a plane that I have to board, but rather the subway. One minute I’m sitting in my Toronto apartment, and the next I’m speaking Korean and eating delicious Korean BBQ in Koreatown.
What I think of as the primary “Koreatown” in Toronto exists on Bloor between Christie and Bathurst Streets. It almost always transports me right back to my days in Seoul – right down to the bright flashing lights. If you can do it in Korea, you can do it in Koreatown, and I love that. If I’m really hankering for it, I can put back some soju and sing my heart out until the wee hours of the morning at one of the many karaoke rooms in the neighbourhood.
I’d be remiss to not also mention “Koreatown North.” That’s the stretch in along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Steeles Avenues. It’s a two block neigbourhood that is an absolute cornucopia of Korean culture.
So, not only can you visit Korea here in Toronto – you can visit both Koreatown and Koreatown North.
17th Century France – Quebec City
By: Matt Bailey, mustdocanada.com
France is a destination that makes it on to many bucket lists. Perhaps it’s the food, the architecture or simply the Eiffel tower. Then again, maybe it’s the history. From Medieval France to the Renaissance and everything in-between, France is steeped in history. But you can also get a taste of Old France in the relatively new country of Canada.
Nestled along the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City is the only fortified city north of Mexico and is a charming place to get a taste of medieval France. Founded in 1608 by French navigator Samuel de Champlain, the city features many well-preserved, multi-centennial homes along charming cobblestone alleys and a few romantic car-free streets. It’s also home to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which is now the most photographed hotel in the world, thanks to its stunning castle-like look. Right next to the hotel is the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec, which transports visitors from the upper to the lower town, and is one of the very few funiculars on the entire continent, another nod to the history of this incredible city. Quebec is also the only officially French province in Canada and has a rich selection of French food. So whether you’re looking for things to do in Quebec City in winter or summer, Quebec City is the perfect place in Canada to get a taste of Medieval France.
Norwegian Fjords – Fjords in Quebec
By: Margarita Ibbott, downshiftingpro.com
Who knew that you could find yourself in a Norwegian fjord in Canada? I first heard the word fjord as we went for a whale watching tour in Tadoussac. In my mind, I pictured schooners and remote fishing villages in a desolate part of Norway, not in ‘la belle province’ of Quebec. But a fjord is exactly what I saw as the narrow Saguenay River cuts through a mountain range of pristine and virgin forests. From Lac St. Jean to the St. Lawrence River, the river flows through a deep gash in the Precambrian rock, about 2 km wide and over 275 m deep in places. It is breathtaking to travel through this majestic waterway in peaceful silence.
These cold, deep Saguenay waters provide breeding grounds for the beluga and minke whales. The shallower confluence where the Saguenay River meets the St. Lawrence support plenty of krill and small fish such as capelin for other marine mammals to feed on. You will see harbour seal, harbour porpoise, fin and even blue whales in these waters.
There is plenty to do on the water in the beautiful regions of Quebec Maritime and Saguenay Lac St. Jean. Whether you are in a sea kayak, a zodiac (pontoon boat), on a large touring/cruise boat or a simple canoe, you will love seeing the cliffs rising 500 m above the river. I encourage you to see these stunning Canadian fjords located just 3 hours north of Quebec City.
Swiss Alps – Mont Tremblant
By: Kristin, vacation-couple.com
Just 130 km northwest of Montreal is Canada’s answer to the Swiss Alps, the iconic Mont Tremblant. Its towering peaks are one of the tallest in the Laurentians and holds more than 60 acres of ski and snowboarding trails to enjoy. This picturesque ski village is akin to the majestic mountains, mind-clearing air, and stunning blue vistas of Europe.
At the base of the mountain, the Pedestrian Village holds cobblestone streets lined with colourful roof topped buildings that mimic the charm of its Swiss counterpart. If you’re not into skiing, Tremblant is packed with après-ski activities that will keep you warm and cozy. Prepare for slopeside chalet cocktails and European-inspired spas that can be enjoyed no matter the season. And you can’t forget the food. Cafes, bars, and restaurants line the village streets offering both local and European-influenced cuisines. The signature Raclette cheese can be found in abundance here!
Just like the Swiss Alps, this winter oasis turns into a nature-lovers’ dreamland once the snow melts. Visiting Mont Tremblant in the summer gives access to gorgeous hiking trails with ample opportunities to see wildlife along the way. The trails range from easy to extreme so there’s a path for everyone. In fact, both Switzerland and Mont Tremblant have a range of activities from zip-lining, access to gorgeous lakes and beaches, to panoramic gondola rides. Each place will leave you with moving experiences that connect you to Mother Nature, prioritizes your wellness, and delights your taste buds with fine dining. A visit to Mont Tremblant makes you realize that visiting the Swiss Alps is closer than you might have believed.
Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice – St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal
By: Michelle Gilfoyle, sustainableplanet.ca
St. Joseph’s Oratory is a basilica at the highest point of Montreal. This beautiful location has often been compared to the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice. Both are fantastic examples of architecture and art despite the difference in age between the two sites. Both sites are also high on the list of places to visit for devotees of Catholicism. These two places show the care and hard work of thousands of artists and workers who brought them to life over an extended period of time. While St. Joseph’s Oratory is built on a park and the Cathedral Basilica is built in the city, both offer beautiful surroundings that cannot be found in many other places on earth. St. Joseph’s and the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica were both originally smaller churches that the present buildings grew up around over time. The locations both also display unique and world-famous works of art telling the stories of patron saints. St. Joseph’s has a rare, black marble tomb for Saint Andre inside of it and the Cathedral Basilica is the home of the Pala d’ Oro which is made of gold and thousands of precious stones and pearls. If you are looking for a way to be transported to another time and place, St. Joseph’s Oratory is the perfect way for you to experience the magic of Venice without ever leaving Canada.
Northeast Coast, USA – Roadtrip New Brunswick
A trip along the northeast coast of the United States will bring you to mountain ranges, jagged coastlines, lighthouses, lobster feasts, and classic Victorian architecture. The same can be said for a roadtrip through the Maritime provinces of Canada, specifically New Brunswick. A 2-week road trip through New Brunswick will give you the perfect amount of time to explore the province. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoying hiking Mt. Carleton, kayaking around the Hopewell Rocks, and ziplining and repelling at Cape Enrage. Urbanites will enjoy a visit to one of the provinces three main cities, Fredericton, Saint John, or Moncton where Victorian architecture, craft breweries, and street art abound. You can join a lobster cruise and learn all about lobster fishing, chase waterfalls in Fundy National Park, and step back in time and learn about the Acadians at the Acadian Historical Village. So whether you choose to travel by car or RV, and stay in B&Bs or campsites, New Brunswick makes for an incredible roadtrip destination.
The Scottish Highlands – Cape Breton Island
By: Yashy Murphy, parentingtogo.ca
Cape Breton is home to many decedents of highland Scots, and Gaelic is still the first language of a number of elderly Cape Bretoners. Dream of Scotland as you drive through Cape Breton’s lush and curvy Cabot Trail. Named after John Cabot who landed in Atlantic Canada in 1479, this scenic drive is touted as one of the best road trips in the world. Whether you spend 5 hours or 5 days exploring the Cabot Trail, you’ll always feel like there’s more to explore. From quaint fishing villages to beaches, there’s something for everyone in Cape Breton. We love having Ingonish as our home base as there’s plenty to explore within easy driving distance of this fishing village. You’ll most likely start off in Baddeck learning all about Alexander Graham Bell. You’ll also want to catch a sunset at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and swing by Chéticamp for hooked rugs and fiddle music. Be sure to enjoy some whale watching in Pleasant Bay and attend a Ceilidh. Similar to Scotland, Cape Breton also has some great breweries like Big Spruce and distilleries like Glenora who make Scottish style single malt whiskys. When it comes to food, Cape Breton is known for its succulent seafood like fresh lobsters off the boat and traditional baked goods like fat Oatcakes. Don’t forget that there are plenty of great beaches on the Cabot Trail and you could even swim in gorgeous turquoise water IN a gypsum quarry in Chéticamp!
Small Town England – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
By: Cailin O’Neil, novascotiaexplorer.com
The old town of Lunenburg is one of the most visited destinations in all of Nova Scotia. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a popular spot for its colourful homes with unique architecture. Lunenburg got its UNESCO status as it is said to be one of the best surviving examples of British Colonial settlements in all of North America. So in a way, visiting Lunenburg is a bit like stepping back in time in England.
The town dates back 250 years and many of the current homes were built as far back as the 1800’s. The homes are largely made of wood, and are painted in many beautiful colours by the locals that own them. Some are also known for a unique local architectural feature known as the Lunenburg bump, a unique five sided dormer that juts out over a home’s main entrance.
Lunenburg’s iconic waterfront area and wharves and a picture-perfect spot for a stroll and is also home to the Bluenose II, a fishing schooner that appears on the back of the Canadian 10-cent coin. While visiting you can also learn about the history of the local fishing industry at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. And once you’re done sightseeing, head up to Montague Street for some shopping or a delicious lunch of fish and chips or oysters while looking out over the harbour.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – Newfoundland
By: Lora Pope, explorewithlora.com
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2,500km coastal route in Ireland that takes you through the country along the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately for us Canadians, we have a very similar driving experience along the coast of Newfoundland. Like Ireland, Newfoundland is an island surrounded by the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Driving along the coast, you will experience much of the same scenery that you would see on the Wild Atlantic Way including towering cliffs, colorful villages, and stunning peninsulas. The two places share a similar culture, where you can find lively pubs with traditional music playing inside. On a visit to Newfoundland, you’ll also be treated to world-class hospitality and the tastiest and freshest seafood you’ll ever eat.
With over 29,000 kilometers of rugged coastline, there’s no shortage of amazing east coast road trips to go on in Newfoundland. One of the most scenic places to drive through is the Bonavista Peninsula. Here you’ll find puffin nesting grounds, epic humpback whale watching opportunities, and dazzling white lighthouses. During the springtime, you can even see 10,000-year-old icebergs. So next time you’re thinking about a vacation to Ireland, look closer to home instead.
The Colourful Houses of Burano, Italy – Jellybean Row in St. John’s, Newfoundland
About a 45 minute boat ride from Venice is the island of Burano. Known around the world for having colourful fishing houses, Burano is a picturesque island found on many travel itineraries. Here in Canada, we too have an island home to colourful houses, specifically Jellybean Row in St. John’s, Newfoundland. These vibrantly coloured row-houses can be found throughout the downtown centre of St. John’s, and not a single street as its name may suggest. Unlike its counterpart in Burano, where the buildings were painted distinct colours so the fishermen could easily find their homes during foggy weather, the idea to paint the houses in St. John’s a colourful hue started in the late 1970s to help infuse a cheerful character to a dwindling city-centre. Today, Jellybean Row has become an iconic image for the city of St. John’s, and is a fun way to kick-start a visit to Newfoundland.
Experience Greenland through Nunavut’s Icebergs, Wildlife and Tundra
By: Mikaela – voyageurtripper.com
Experience an expansive wilderness akin to Greenland without even grabbing your passport. The territory of Nunavut features over 2 million square kilometers of rocky shoreline, jagged mountains, lush tundra and abundant wildlife. Representing 20% of Canada’s landmass but home to just 39,000 people, words cannot articulate just how vast Nunavut is.
This land has never been more accessible. Hop on a direct flight from Ottawa and you’ll find yourself in the capital city of Iqaluit less than four hours later. This quirky city will treat you to beautiful tundra hikes, kayaking on the arctic ocean and colourful houses dotting the landscape – all without breaking the bank. You’ll find a great museum and visitor’s centre and even Canada’s most northerly brewery, Nunavut Brewing Company. Looking to splurge? Join an arctic wildlife safari and camp out on the floe edge or along the rocky coastline. Depending on the location and time of year, you may be spotting narwhal and beluga whales or watching polar bears navigate the tundra in search of food. Further inland you could be watching the caribou migration. The eastern arctic is unlike any other place in Canada, so you’re sure to have an other-worldly experience here.
Mongolia’s Landscape – The Dempster Highway, Yukon
By: Dave & Deb, theplanetd.com
While driving down the Dempster Highway from Inuvik, Northwest Territories to Dawson City, Yukon, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Canada’s north and the Mongolian Steppe. The open skies, vast landscape and lack of people reminded me of the beauty of Mongolia. Both destinations had a particular shade of green blanketing the valleys that led to stark rolling mountains. In Mongolia, we saw herds of yaks and camels. In the Yukon and North West Territories, we saw caribou and moose.
We traveled both destinations in similar fashion doing a road trip through the isolated landscapes of each. While driving in the Yukon, I commented how I hadn’t noticed such vast and endless skies since our drive through Mongolia a few years earlier. People don’t think of Canada as being as wild and untamed as places like Mongolia, but when you venture to the far north of the country, it is one of the most isolated places on earth. If you are looking for a true adventure, add the Dempster Highway to the top of your travel list.
North West Territories
Iceland’s Northern Lights in the North West Territories
By: Lindsay Davies, ivebeenbit.ca
Iceland is one of the biggest destinations in the world for Northern Lights viewing. Many Canadians flock to the country to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder, but did you know Canada is actually home to the Northern Lights capital of the WORLD? It’s true! On average, you have a chance to see this elusive natural phenomenon for over 200 days of the year. The Northwest Territories covers a wide area though, so where should you go to see the Northern Lights?
Yellowknife is the capital of the territory and also the easiest to access. You don’t have to go far to escape the city’s lights and get a fantastic view of the stars for some prime Northern Lights hunting conditions. However, if you really want the best conditions for seeing the aurora, you’ll want to head to Wood Buffalo National Park. Not only is it Canada’s largest national park but it’s also the world’s largest dark sky preserve! An hour south of the town of Fort Smith, you’ll have no light pollution to contend with as you capture the beauty of the night sky. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, you need to visit Wood Buffalo at least once in your lifetime!
Do you have another example of how you can travel the world without leaving Canada? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!