From the cosmopolitan streets of Toronto to the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies, our neighbor to the north features a diverse set of vacation destinations that are beautiful year-round. Deciding which one is perfect for your next getaway can be difficult. That’s why U.S. News considered several factors, such as affordability, entertainment options and diversity of hotels and resorts, as well as user votes and expert opinions, to compile this list of the best places to visit in Canada. Vote for your favorite spot below to have a say in next year’s list.
Nestled amid the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, this tiny mountain town in Alberta appeals to both nature enthusiasts and luxury seekers. Visitors can spend their days skiing or hiking in Banff National Park (one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks and home of the glacier-fed Moraine Lake) and floating down the Bow River on a canoe before retiring to one of the area’s several opulent hotels for some spa therapy. Then, for incredible views of the Rockies, take a ride on the Banff Gondola. Meanwhile, daytrips to popular attractions like the Columbia Icefield, Yoho National Park and Lake Louise cannot be left off of your itinerary.
Jasper National Park
As the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is ripe for exploration. When you’re not hiking through Maligne Canyon, whitewater rafting down the Athabasca River or snapping photos of Spirit Island, you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the picture-perfect scenery from the Jasper SkyTram. Or, take in the beauty of Jasper National Park while driving along the Icefields Parkway. Keep your eyes peeled for the 53 species of mammals that call this Alberta park home, including black bears, elk and bighorn sheep.
A trip to this British Columbia city, which sits approximately 145 miles north of Seattle, is all about embracing the outdoors. Vancouverites spend their days skiing on Grouse Mountain, swimming at Kitsilano Beach and strolling through the sprawling Stanley Park. Plus, Vancouver offers plenty of cultural attractions, including museums, art galleries and outdoor markets (a tour of Granville Island is a must-do). If you’re not afraid of heights, walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is positioned 230 feet above the Capilano River.
Travel to this iconic destination in southeastern Ontario to see and capture photos of its namesake world-famous tourist attraction. View Niagara Falls from above during a helicopter tour, or see them up close on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Or, for a unique perspective, admire the thunderous falls from behind with the self-guided Journey Behind the Falls experience. After you’ve taken in the splendor, check out the area’s other top attractions, such as the Niagara Glen Nature Centre, which offers a variety of hiking trails. When you’ve had your fill of nature, head to nearby wineries or test Lady Luck at the casinos.
Referred to as the “small city with a big backyard,” Whitehorse – the capital of Canada’s Yukon territory – shines with all of its outdoor activities. Explore Miles Canyon, which is accessible from Whitehorse on foot (a nearly 10-mile loop trail connects the city directly to this natural wonder). After, head north to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where you’ll find all kinds of animals, including arctic foxes, elk, muskox and bison. Even though this region gets notoriously cold, you might want to time your visit around the first couple of weeks of winter for a chance to witness the northern lights.
A trip to Europe may not be in your budget, but a visit to Québec City could be. This Canadian city charms visitors with its picturesque centuries-old buildings that make up Old Québec – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the aromas of freshly baked bread and brewing espresso fill the cobblestone streets of the Quartier Petit-Champlain with the essence of Paris. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the city, take a trip to Montmorency Falls Park to marvel at its 272-foot-tall waterfall. Plan your visit for winter when the city comes alive with twinkling lights, festivals and cold-weather activities – just remember to pack your down jacket.
Take adventure travel up a notch with a visit to Whistler. In winter, this resort town in British Columbia (about 75 miles north of Vancouver) boasts everything from cross-country skiing and snowboarding to bobsled rides and bungee jumping. Travelers can spend their downtime in Whistler Village enjoying the après-ski scene, perusing locally owned shops or strolling through Whistler Olympic Plaza. Meanwhile, visitors in town when the weather is warmer can go hiking, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking and more. Plus, summer travelers will love exploring Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, home to the 230-foot-tall waterfall from which the park gets its name
Prince Edward Island
Home to rolling green hills, sandy beaches, red sandstone cliffs and a delicious bounty of seafood (this is where PEI mussels come from, after all), Prince Edward Island is the place to travel for a relaxing respite from Canada’s more adventure-driven destinations. When you’re not hiking the trails at Prince Edward Island National Park, perfect your swing at one of the island’s golf courses or visit the Green Gables Heritage Place, where the 1908 novel, “Anne of Green Gables” was inspired. And be sure to keep an eye out for PEI’s seal population (four kinds call the island home either full or part time).
Gros Morne National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses nearly 700 square miles of land on Newfoundland’s west coast. Its top activity is undoubtedly hiking through the Tablelands. Here, you’ll traverse exposed earth mantle, a rust-colored landscape that was created millions of years ago by a collision of tectonic plates. Also save time for a boat ride on Western Brook Pond, which is a glacier-carved, landlocked fjord that features cascading waterfalls measuring 2,000 feet. After getting a taste of nature, learn about the region’s history at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.
Montréal is a city of juxtaposition: Skyscrapers rub elbows with Old Montréal’s 17th-century architecture while the familiar sounds of English intermingle with the foreign buzz of French – the official language of Québec province. Visit Old Montréal to get a taste of Europe (think: beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets), including its own Notre-Dame Basilica, a grand Gothic Revival-style church that offers self-guided tours along with an evening sound and light show. Then head to modern attractions, such as the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, if you’re visiting during the warmer months, don’t miss out on the Montréal Botanical Garden and the scenic Mount Royal Park.
Victoria & Vancouver Island
While Montréal and Québec City honor Canada’s French roots, Victoria pays tribute to the country’s British heritage. Many pay a visit to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, for afternoon tea, a tour of the beautiful Parliament Buildings or a history lesson at the Royal BC Museum. Others are interested in visiting Vancouver Island’s wineries to sample local vinos. Meanwhile, animal lovers enjoy the abundance of marine wildlife that call the waters surrounding Victoria home. In fact, there are nearly 80 orca whales in Victoria’s waters. What’s more, since Victoria is one of the most sustainable urban destinations in North America, visitors can feel good about the impact of their trip.
“Big” doesn’t even begin to describe this Ontario city. With cultural pockets like Greektown, Little India and Koreatown all within city limits, Toronto has the ability to transport visitors around the globe. Take it all in with a ride up the 1,815-foot-tall CN Tower, or enjoy a quintessentially Canadian experience at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Then, head to the St. Lawrence Market to sample gourmet goodies before checking out the nearby Harbourfront Centre. And if the weather is right, plan a visit to the Toronto Islands, where you can relax on the beach, go kayaking or enjoy an afternoon bike ride.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
The star of this national park on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is the world-famous Cabot Trail – one-third of which runs through the park. As you drive the winding highway, which is considered one of the world’s most scenic drives, you’ll pass forested river canyons, rural fishing villages and plenty of lookout points for admiring Nova Scotia’s serene landscape. Prefer to explore the park on your own two feet? There are 26 hiking trails to choose from, as well as opportunities for kayaking, mountain climbing, camping and more.
Located a little more than 80 miles northwest of Montréal in Québec’s Laurentian Mountains, Mont-Tremblant is best known for its skiing, specifically Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, which occupies the highest peak in the mountain range. But warm-weather visitors are equally enchanted by its Parc national du Mont-Tremblant, which boasts six rivers and 400 lakes and streams, not to mention countless hiking trails and beaches. Water sports, fishing and mountain biking are all popular here thanks to the area’s diverse landscape.
Stretching across more than 150 miles, the Okanagan Valley is home to 86% of British Columbia’s vineyard acreage and features more than 200 world-class wineries. There are also a variety of subregions in the valley, each promising its own unique experiences and grape varietals. If you are looking to combine wine tasting with outdoor pursuits, visit the Naramata Bench. This area is packed with wineries and offers everything from kayaking to mountain biking. No matter which area you visit, you’ll enjoy spectacular views that rival those of the world’s best wine regions.