14 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Canada
Canada is rich in history and natural beauty, with deep forests, tall mountains, lush prairies, sparkling lakes, and some of the world's best skiing and hiking. But in Canada, the history and beauty are everywhere and, rather than being seen as tourist attractions, the natural wonders are commonplace and taken for granted.
However, Canada is not one giant national park. While the glaciers of the north, the forests of the east, and the mountains of the west are big draws for tourists, they are surrounded by smaller provinces and regions that provide plenty of other highlights for visitors. The country is peppered with UNESCO World Heritage sites, and has some of the best Canadian beer, wine, and food you will find anywhere.
Whether you are in the fishing village of Newfoundland, a seasonal home of bright wildflowers, or an expert whitewater rafting center, the adventures await and a first-time visit to Canada is the perfect chance to plan your dream vacation. From top sights, shopping, and food to the best places to visit, the top attractions in Canada have been carefully selected to give you the best of the country.
On August 19, 1846, hundreds of years after First Nations people began to settle the region, the Humber River rushed over Niagara Falls, creating one of the world's most famous natural wonders. The most popular, and dramatic, view is from Canada's Niagara Falls-- an incredible 75 meters (260 feet) of sheer natural power. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls have a top speed of 225 kilometers per hour (140 mph) and can create waves that hit visitors up to 6 meters (20 feet) high. Niagara Falls has three parks: the Canadian side is in the town of Niagara Falls, the American side is in the town of Niagara Falls, New York, and Goat Island is on the Niagara River in between. But visitors won't have to look far to see the falls -- a walkway, the Skywalk, gives visitors a dizzying view of the water below, while the Maid of the Mist rides show visitors up close to the spray.
Vancouver, the largest and most populous city in British Columbia (BC), is a great vacation spot with lots to see and do. Best known for its lively arts and culture scene and lovely scenery, Vancouver is full of outdoor activities, shopping malls, parks, sports venues, hotels and restaurants. An excellent place to see the city is Stanley Park, which has some of the most beautiful walkways in the world. This is the city's largest park and is great for strolling, picnicking, boating and playing sports. There are two amusement parks, the Vancouver Aquarium and the Science World, and the handsome Museum of Anthropology. A small, free zoo, a number of bird sanctuaries, a coral reef aquarium and a little steam train run within the park. An architectural highlight is the Gothic architecture of the city's oldest buildings, including the Parliament Buildings, an art deco structure built in 1931. Among the contemporary landmarks are the Centre Theatre and Pacific Centre, two very classy shopping malls. There is an impressive War Memorial, and a number of art galleries and museums.
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Toronto, nicknamed the City of Entertainment, is the capital of Canada and the largest city by area in Ontario. A vibrant multicultural metropolis, Toronto has more than 7 million residents, some of whom have been part of the world-famous Toronto International Film Festival for over 25 years. Among the many famous landmarks of this beautiful and popular city are the Royal York Hotel, designed by the famous architect, Howard Singer; the CN Tower, the world's third tallest structure; the Suncor building, which is the world's first purpose-built automobile assembly plant; Billy Bishop Airport, the largest in Canada; the National Hockey League's Scotiabank Arena; and, of course, the world famous Eaton Centre, a world-class shopping mall. Toronto is also a great base for sightseeing in Canada, thanks to its great tour companies and the effort of those who work for the city. Besides touring the cities of Toronto, Niagara Falls, Vancouver, Quebec City and Ottawa, the best activities are the Toronto International Film Festival, the Great Blue Heron Park, Port Lands, Harbourfront, National Ballet of Canada, Sun Media and Cabbagetown. The whole city is extremely beautiful. Much of Toronto is heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance and American influences, with a large collection of famous art and cultural institutions and museums. Toronto is located on the shores of Lake Ontario in Canada's Western Hemisphere.
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Vancouver's Stanley Park
Vancouver's Stanley Park, in the eastern end of the city, has been protected for more than a century as a public recreation space. The park is bisected by a natural inlet that is encased in a distinctive arch, surrounded on all sides by trees and wildlife. The waters of the inlet are home to Pacific salmon, which spawn in these waters every year, with hopes of reproducing their life cycle back in the inlet. After touring the park's scenic pathways, visit the superb specimen trees and plants, including towering redwood trees. Be sure to visit the Robert Murray MPA office, which has a large selection of magnificent Douglas Fir and other rare and beautiful trees on display. Stanley Park is a favorite among Vancouverites because it offers plenty of recreation, and in the wintertime is especially pleasant as it is snow free. People who enjoy skiing, bicycling, hiking, and other sports are well served here, as is lovers of wildlife.
Named for the founding town of Calgary, Canada's second largest city, this Alberta town is most famous for its sports, most of which are related to hockey. It's not a hockey town, however, as you'd expect for a Canadian city. It's called a “City of Champions” because it has six professional teams, and most of those teams are owned by the city itself. Two of those teams, the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampeders, are the city's hockey teams and are popular with Canadians from elsewhere in the country and the rest of the world. Although the Flames haven't won the Stanley Cup in the last 16 years, the Stampeders have won the Grey Cup in three consecutive years. There are plenty of other sports in this major Canadian city, including CFL, rugby, and soccer teams and a vibrant arena football league. The Whitecaps and Eskimos are the city's two pro soccer teams. Skateboarders and BMX bikers flock to this international city of 100,000 in the summer.
A capital of French Canada, Quebec City is the most historic and beautiful city in the French-speaking country, not to mention the political heartland of the province of Quebec. For three centuries, the city of more than 400,000 has had a strategic significance as a bastion of French rule and a refuge for Catholics exiled from other parts of France following the French Revolution. Despite its excellent transport links, historical significance, and lovely downtown area, not to mention a brilliant food scene, Quebec City is a tough destination to get to, and even harder to get out of. There's a strong French vibe that's best experienced through immersion, and that means exploring the city streets and landmarks at your own pace. As well as being a historic city, Quebec City is a cultural hotspot. Thousands of French, English, and even Japanese tourists descend on the city each year for its heritage festivals, museums, and breathtaking architecture. A visit to the most prominent monument of the city, the Citadelle de Québec, offers visitors a glimpse of the city's age-old fortifications and a taste of its past military glory. Other must-visits include the Musée d'Histoire de Québec, a great choice for kids, and the Musée de la Civilisation, where a visit will put you in the hub of international action, exposing you to the top-notch contemporary art and design culture that's flourishing in Quebec City.
Montreal's Old Port
The city's Old Port is known for its light rail transit, shopping and nightlife. Its futuristic-looking Lavalette arch, designed by French architect and engineer Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine in 1873, is a monumental building that rises 6 stories in the air from the water's edge. There is a pleasant boardwalk running along the River des Galettes, where views of Notre-Dame Basilica, as well as the Laurentian mountains, are also available. The Old Port is home to a series of cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. It is one of the city's major landmarks and Montreal's best-known tourist attraction.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the most prestigious museums in Canada. Its strong temporary exhibition program represents an eclectic array of artists from all over the world. As a testament to the history of the city, the permanent collection features a well-documented timeline tracing the evolution of Canadian and Western art from the 17th to the 21st centuries. The Vancouver Art Gallery was among the first Canadian museums to include exhibitions by established international artists, including Joan Miro, George Dureau, Egon Schiele and Pablo Picasso.
Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park, a relatively unspoiled, world-renowned wilderness park situated on the northern shore of the Great Slave Lake, has been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The park is known for its outstanding scenic beauty, containing all four ecological zones of temperate rain forest, boreal forest, glacial park, and tundra. Although the park's attractions are mainly on the east side, activities can be experienced on the west side of the park too, along a short snowmobile trail leading from the parking lot at Hidden Valley Inn. Highlights of a visit include the beautiful location of the province's only butterfly sanctuary. A species of monarch butterflies live in the butterfly sanctuary, and displays inside this open-air pavilion teach visitors the biology of the butterflies, along with a host of other information about these fascinating creatures. The only obstacle to exploring the park is the two-day highway closure from May to September to protect the arctic ground squirrels, who eat plants important to forest regeneration.
Centrally located in a park of forested hills and valleys in a state capital city in Canada's North-West Territories, Edmonton (population 940,000) is surrounded by a mix of modern and historical architecture. Today, the city has a good collection of museums and natural attractions. A Royal Canadian Air Force museum contains a number of aircraft, including the first helicopter in the world, built in 1932. The Canadian Museum of Civilization hosts an amazing array of Canadian history with Native American, French, and English exhibitions as well as a good understanding of the country's colonization, including a large section on Canadian Aboriginal history. The Scottish Daffodil Garden at Edmonton, in the new millennium, continues to display about 5,000 daffodils, grown by the city's own flower-loving citizens. The Edmonton Hall of Fame and Planetarium is housed in a beautiful museum. Most people stay in Edmonton for three to four days and visit the city's main attractions, including the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Museums of Alberta, the Richardson-Cadwell Planetarium, and the Northlands Arts Center. The main square, Jasper Avenue, is lined with museums and bookstores. Edmonton is served by Edmonton International Airport.
Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum
A major draw for visitors, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) covers more than 70,000 square meters and holds 13 million objects. In addition to displays and exhibits, the museum offers information and activities for children. There are a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Special themes and events are held on an ongoing basis and include travelling exhibitions, film screenings, fashion shows, and live shows.
Banff is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, on the shores of Lake Minnewanka, south of the much larger city of Calgary. Known for its stunning glaciers, and beautiful river and forest trails, this is one of Canada's top attractions. The Canadian Rocky Mountains and foothills are home to countless lakes and abundant wildlife, from bear and moose to golden eagles and marmots. Banff also contains more than 80 km of world-class hiking trails, as well as restaurants, hotels, and other tourist facilities.
Canadian city Winnipeg is often overlooked by tourists, but is well worth visiting for its big skies, natural beauty, and prairie charm. Known locally as "The Big White Pile" because of its stark, snow-covered mountain backdrop, Winnipeg is home to Canada's most historic and impressive city landmarks, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the National Hockey League's raucous MTS Centre, and the Palliser Hotel. The first "true" city in Canada, Winnipeg was founded in 1870 by the Hudson's Bay Company. Its location made it a natural crossroads, with two major railway lines running through the city, and its population ballooned in the 20th century when settlers flocked to the prairies. Winnipeg is an affordable place to live, with a modern economy, excellent public transit, and average wages, and its neighborhood parks and bike paths make it a pleasant, walkable place.
A haven for nature lovers, Gatineau Park offers visitors an impressive and unspoiled setting, with an abundance of water, mountains and woods. A natural park in the heart of the city of Ottawa, it is Canada's oldest provincial park. It is one of the largest urban parks in the world, covering more than 24,000 acres, and is the home of around 1.2 million hectares of trees, spruces, pines, firs, hemlocks and rhododendrons, with stands of old-growth forest. Part of the park's unique character is its spatial layout. It is divided into nine sections: north, east, west and the South Woods, with four other open spaces at the foot of the Gatineau River. Families enjoy these open spaces, as well as the free-range ducks, grouse and birds that roam the park, but there is also plenty for serious sports-minded visitors. Some areas are ideal for hiking, while canoeing and fishing are other popular activities.