Canada is becoming more attractive by the minute. Ten geographically and culturally diverse provinces, plus three territories, make the world’s second-largest country prime for exploration; and with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gallivanting through British Columbia and the Yukon recently and Cape Breton offering refuge in the event of a post-Trump apocalypse, the world is learning even more about America’s northern neighbor. As if these facts aren’t a reason alone to visit, 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. To celebrate, Parks Canada is offering free admission to national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas for the entire year, creating a prime excuse to explore the ice fields, glaciers, and alpine trails of Alberta’s Banff National Park and the bogs and barren bluffs of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Gros Morne National Park. No matter where your journey leads, here are five more reasons why you should visit Canada now.
From Wilderness to City, Trail Hop Your Way Through British Columbia
Bordering Washington State to the south and Alaska and the Yukon Territory to the north, British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province, known as a haven for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. Furthering this acclaim and after nearly seven years of development, the Hudson Bay Company Heritage Trail officially opened this May, routing over 45 hikable miles through the Cascade Range, extending from Hope to Tulameen. Lace up your trekking boots for this journey: Dotted with wilderness camps and food caches throughout, the trail honors the historic First Nations’ route, once the only connection from British Columbia’s coast to the interior. After sufficient time in the wilderness, head back into the city for the most delicious way to experience British Columbia. Try 15 restaurants along the the Dumpling Trail in Richmond, where you can sample an array of the pot-sticking, deep-fried treats. Wash your meal down at the newly launched BC Ale Trail, a guide and trail map of the best purveyors in British Columbia’s craft beer community.
See the Northern Lights and Fulfill Powder Daydreams in Alberta
Situated adjacent to British Columbia in Canada’s interior is Alberta, home to two of the world’s largest dark sky preserves. During the fall and winter months, both Wood Buffalo National Park and Jasper National Park provide the ideal locations to view the illustrious northern lights, and operators like Kananaskis Outfitters can take you on a starlit snowshoe journey, culminating with a full-moon fondue feast. While in the area, don’t miss your chance to partake in the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival in October: Dive into the celestial by day during keynote speeches from Bill Nye and George Takei, and join a group of avid astronomers and photographers by night to stargaze at the aurora borealis. But if your idea of adventure involves barreling down slopes of fresh, snow-packed mountains, get your tri-area ticket for Banff National Park’s top three ski resorts. Combined, Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise Ski Resort offer 8,000 acres of ideal ski and snowboard terrain. And just this month, the Banff Gondola completed a $26-million renovation to its upper terminal building. Relax and enjoy an aerial view of six mountain ranges on the all-new observation deck.
Take an Art Crawl Through Downtown Montréal
Start your art-inspired getaway at the DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montréal: Beginning on October 15, a month-long virtual reality exhibition by artist Björk will feature digital and video collaborations with the world’s best filmmakers and programmers, and audiences will even be able to see the musician in a simulated performance. Also in town in the fall is the Red Bull Music Academy, which will host a series of events, club nights, and special lectures from now until the end of October. The series will explore topics regarding distinguished Canadian and international music culture. When you’re not event hopping, visit the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace opening on November 9, officially marking the newest pavilion at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, an addition that makes it the 18th largest museum in North America. End your stay with a viewing of Montréal’s urban art with Art Public Montréal to tour some of the city’s more than 600 public art works.
Reserve Your Spot at Manitoba’s Wilderness Pop-Up Restaurant
October and November mark the annual high season for polar bear viewing in Canada’s subarctic, luring travelers from all over the world to admire the wild animals in their natural habitat. Although Frontiers North Adventures is famous for its seasonal journeys into Cape Churchill in the northern reaches of Canada’s Manitoba province, opt to book your trip on the spring itinerary instead. In the second iteration of RAW Churchill, feast on dinners organized by top chefs under a triangular dome as the northern lights dance in the sky (this location has auroral activity over 300 nights per year). The annual event is capped at just 20 participants, and the outfitter’s heat-insulated tundra buggy will transport you through the wild stretches of frozen terrain to the trip’s home base at Prince of Wales Fort, a national historic site originally built by the Hudson Bay Company as a fur-trading outpost. Enjoy spending time amid northern, dog-sled-inspired design on this nine-day journey.
Savor Sweet Snacks on a Food Tour of Toronto
Cotton candy and s’mores are having a moment in Toronto. Eat your way through the city and live out your Instagram dreams with a food crawl to the Toronto vendors creating the best renditions of these classic treats. To begin, take your morning coffee up a notch at Taiwan-inspired Light Café in Baldwin Village: Here, your hot brew is served alongside steamed milk and a heaping pile of cotton candy. Afterward, venture to Lisa Marie for breakfast, where a stack of chocolate-and-marshmallow topped pancakes await. In the afternoon, head to The Empanada Company for a Nutella, banana, and graham cracker stuffed snack, a twist on the classic Chilean empanada. And when the sun goes down, start your evening at Good Fortune in North Toronto with the Straight Flossin’ cocktail: A layer of cotton candy is placed at the base of the drink, dissolving once Dillon’s gin, melon liqueur, and vermouth are mixed and poured on top.