With the strength of the United States dollar, Europe and Great Britain are affordable travel destinations right now. Canada, with an even better exchange rate, is a veritable bargain. With Canadian dollar rates hovering at 75 cents to the United States dollar, your travel budget will go a long way in the country.
As an expat, I lived in Toronto for five years and traveled throughout Canada. It is a beautiful country with every experience imaginable to satisfy the most discriminating traveler. Whether you are seeking the Rockies, a big city, fabulous museums and culture, a taste of Europe with a primarily French-speaking province, a British influence, culinary delights, gorgeous lakes, or charming islands, Canada has it all.
Fun facts about Canada
- It is the second largest country in the world in area.
- It has more lakes than all the world’s other lakes combined.
- It has the largest coastline in the world, bordering the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific Oceans.
- It boasts the longest border in the world, between the United States and Canada – a border with no military defense.
- There are ten provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
- The Province of Ontario has over 250,000 lakes, which is approximately 20% of the world’s fresh water.
- Ice hockey is the national winter sport.
My favorite destinations
Montrèal, a modern city situated on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, has a rich history and European feel, and it's the perfect place to visit in 2017 as it celebrates the 375th anniversary of its founding. Stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal, admire the 18th-century buildings, and enjoy the fabulous cuisine, strongly influenced by its multicultural population.
Montrèal is a bilingual city with approximately 56% of the population speaking both English and French; it ranks second to Paris as the largest primarily French-speaking city in the world. Montrèal, taking its name from Mount Royal (some say more of a hill than a mountain, but set in a beautiful park), has everything a fine city offers.
Don’t miss the local markets, botanical gardens, outdoor sporting opportunities, festivals, parks, the waterfront, outstanding museums, and “the Underground City,” a network of pedestrian walkways below the city where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and access to museums, hotels, subways, trains, and buses. Don’t leave town without enjoying delicious French pastries.
Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia and located on the Pacific west coast, is a walkable city bordered by mountains. It is home to Stanley Park, a stunning 405-acre public park that is surrounded by Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. Granville Island is home to a fabulous public market, artsy shops, and wonderful restaurants.
Other exciting spots are the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and more. Its moderate climate and access to nature make it perfect for outdoor and sports activities.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is situated on the rugged southern end of Vancouver Island and is accessible by ferry from Vancouver and Seattle, Washington. Its British influence is evident in the architecture and afternoon high tea. Highlights include the iconic Butchart Gardens -- with 55 acres of breathtaking gardens, Craigdarroch Castle, Canada’s oldest China Town, wonderful museums, outdoor activities, culture, and even whale watching.
My first experience with the Rocky Mountains was in Canada. I traveled from Calgary along the Trans Canada Highway, stopping in Banff National Park and Lake Louise and then going north up the Icefields Parkway into Jasper National Park. There are many ways to view and spend time in the Canadian Rockies, including the Rocky Mountaineer railroad with glass domed coaches.
Toronto, the capital of the province of Ontario, is a big city with a beautiful skyline dominated by the CN Tower, a must visit. Bordering Lake Ontario, Toronto has everything you would expect in a cosmopolitan city: fabulous museums, cultural venues, wonderful entertainment, a melting pot of nationalities, excellent and varied cuisine, plenty of green space, a walkable downtown (even in the cold), and underground spaces that host restaurants and shops, connect through tunnels around the metro and city.
One of the many things that will surprise you is that it’s clean. Not to miss: the hands-on Ontario Science Centre, the 98-room Casa Loma in midtown Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, charming Yorkville, and Kensington Market.
Canada’s eastern provinces -- Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island -- make up the Maritimes, also known as the Maritime provinces or the Canadian Maritimes. Together they are loaded with charm, rugged coastlines, rich maritime culture, whale watching, all types of boating excursions, and fabulous seafood.
New Brunswick, bordering the province of Quebec and the state of Maine, is the gateway to the Maritime provinces. St. Andrews, in the southwest, is Canada’s oldest seaside resort town with access to Passamaquoddy Bay and a horticultural work of art, the 27-acre Kingsbrae Garden. The Bay of Fundy separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia.
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and it is here they brought the remains from the Titanic disaster. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has an interesting Titanic exhibit and Fairview Cemetery is the final resting place for over one hundred Titanic victims.
Peggy’s Cove is just one of the picturesque fishing villages, and Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail are a few of the province’s highlights. Confederation Bridge links New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (PEI), the setting for the Anne of Green Gables novels. Visit Cavendish, the green gable house and museum, relax on a beach, or tour Charlottetown, the capital of PEI.
You won’t find a city in North America with more European charm than French-speaking Quebèc City. It was the perfect place for our honeymoon and we took our daughters there for ski lessons – in French. Old Québec is a walled city, the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico.
The city boasts wonderful museums, government buildings, plenty of history, outdoor activities, breathtaking views of the Saint Lawrence River, and delicious cuisine (do as the locals and eat your fries with mayonnaise). Take a horse-drawn carriage through the cobblestone streets, find a watercolor in the open-air art gallery, Rue du Trésor, and check out the majestic Chateau Frontenac, claiming to be the most photographed hotel in the world.
This is just a sampling. For more information on Canadian tourism, check out https://us-keepexploring.canada.travel/.