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Your guide to Canada
Welcome to Canada
If you could design a country for the sole purpose of road tripping, you couldn’t do any better than Canada, where seemingly endless highways zigzag through evergreen forests, past towering peaks, and along rugged shorelines. From the Rocky Mountains in the west to thundering Niagara Falls to the east, the sprawling landscapes and natural wonders are the definition of wild. By land mass, Canada is only outsized by Russia. It’s so big that its three largest national parks — Wood Buffalo, Nahanni, and Quttinirpaaq — could each swallow smaller countries whole.
All of that open space in the Great White North makes outdoor recreation, from hiking trails in the summer to skating across frozen lakes in the winter, favorite national pastimes. Rafters ride the rapids of thrilling waterways like the Ottawa, Kicking Horse, and Chilcotin rivers. Ski towns like Banff in Alberta and Whistler in British Columbia have become synonymous with world-class snow sports. And while many of the 10 provinces remain sparsely populated, the largest cities pack a global punch: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are thriving cosmopolitan metropolises, each earning international acclaim for their arts and culinary scenes. Truly, Canada shows off its remarkable diversity at every turn.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Canada?
There’s a reason Canada was nicknamed the Great White North: Winters get icy and subarctic cold throughout much of the country. Unsurprisingly, winter sports such as ice hockey, ice fishing, skiing, and snowshoeing are widely popular activities. But even in the snowiest months of December, January, and February, Canada’s sheer size makes for varied climates. In general, the coastal areas of British Columbia, the westernmost province, remain the mildest throughout the year, with drizzly winters and balmy summers.
All of Canada’s major cities experience distinct seasons, with gardens blossoming in the spring, outdoor festivals booming throughout the summer, and colorful foliage in the country’s many urban parks luring out leaf peepers in the fall. In the great outdoors, summer is the high season, as mountain trails to dazzling alpine lakes finally become accessible when snow melts late into June at the highest elevations. And any trip to stay in one of Canada’s house rentals demands at least a few licks of maple syrup — even better at one of the many springtime festivals dedicated to the seasonal tapping of the sap.
What are the top things to do in Canada?
Historic District of Old Quebec
No other place in North America has quite the European flair of Old Quebec, the only walled city in North America north of Mexico. Today this historic district — dating from the early 16th century — forms the cultural center of Quebec City, the capital of the province of Quebec. Its charming French- and British-era architecture is so significant and well preserved it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you’ll find independent boutiques and little cafes filling pedestrian areas like the compact Quartier Petit Champlain, one of the oldest shopping districts on the continent.
Banff National Park
Canada’s world-renowned national parks preserve some of North America’s most scenic landscapes, with Banff being the first and arguably most dramatic of them all. This slice of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains is a year-round alpine playground. In the summer, hikers and bikers take to the trails lacing across the backcountry and circling turquoise lakes. Winter action turns to the slopes, when the resort town of Banff buzzes with skiers and snowshoers chasing the fresh powder.
Once you slip on your waterproof poncho and get a close-up look at this trio of thundering cascades, you’ll understand why Niagara Falls has wooed so many honeymooners here for centuries: The views of the rapids tumbling over the glacier-carved cliffs are magnificently poetic. The unmatched popularity of the falls certainly draws crowds, but it’s easy to get off the typical track with active side trips such as Niagara Glen, where you can hike trails through the scenic Niagara Gorge, and tasting tours in the surrounding wine country.