Canada is rated #1 on the list of “Countries Americans Threaten to Move To” for good reason. It’s slightly larger than the USA — which means it’s huge — with vibrant food, drink, and art scenes on par with anything you’ll find in the U.S. or E.U. To try to jam it into a mini travel guide seems unfair, like summing up Hamlet with “A jerk gets revenge in fishy Denmark.”
That being said, here’s a (way too) brief set of reasons that everyone should try to visit our northern neighbors ASAP.
From sea to shining sea…to shining sea. Canada has coasts on three oceans. Therefore, if you love the sorts of seafood that thrive in cold water, Canada is your mecca. Salmon always comes to mind first. Have you tried Nova Scotia’s riff on lox, lightly smoked? It’ll change your whole perspective on things.
The bounty of Canada isn’t limited to the ocean, either. Massive prairies, towering mountains, and lush grasslands mean that there’s no shortage of diverse agriculture. Try local butter in the Fraser Valley. Feast on lamb that grazed high up in the Rockies. Discover some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the world in Vancouver, Toronto, and Quebec.
Don’t forget that Canadians invented split pea soup, poutine, and the ultra-rich and mega-sweet confection, Nanaimo Bars. You’ll want to experience all three.
First thing you need to drink when you get to Canada is a Caesar. It’s the same as our Bloody Mary, except for one key ingredient — Clamato Juice. The tomatoey clam juice gives the drink a nice funky kick to cut through the spice. It’s the perfect way to start a (boozy) day.
A winter favorite in Quebec is the Caribou. It’s a hot blend of brandy, port, and sherry topped with vodka sure to get you through those cold Montreal nights. Canada is also a notoriously big beer-drinking country, eh? There’s a huge tradition of brewing Belgian-style beers in the east part of the country — with some of them rating better than the real stuff in Belgium.
If you need a caffeine injection after one too many Caesars, check out Tim Horton’s, the Canadian Dunkin’ Donuts.
Canada has 165,000 miles of coastline and literally hundreds of mountains to climb, trek and stare at. There are endless plains and arctic tundras. For nature lovers, there are few countries more accessible to the great outdoors.
The government spends a lot of money making nature an everyday part of the human experience too, with green cities and well-kept and protected wilderness areas. If island hopping is your thing, the country has somewhere north of 30,000 to choose from. For true explorers, there are corners of the country which are still uncharted, or just emerging from the permafrost.
Traversing a country the size of Canada is a chore. Flying between coasts is probably the most frugal time-wise, but where’s the fun in that? The country boasts Trans-Canadian Rail and Highway systems — both viable options for traversing the southern edge of the country, while the coastal areas have excellent ferry services to assure access to some of those 30,000 islands.
If you want to head up north, you’re going to need to be more creative. Travel into the Arctic tundra requires small aircraft, snow-machines, and sometimes even a sled and dogs. Learning to run a crew of sled dogs on your next vacation would be a pretty rad way to spend your time, though.
Numbers-wise, Canada’s population is mostly made up of immigrants. There’s a huge South Asian population in BC. This means some of the best curry houses outside Asia (and England) just happen to be in Canada. Canada also hosts a massive East Asian population which means superb Chinese food. Celebrating this cultural diversity is a massive part of what makes Canada so awesome, and its food so good.
Canada’s indigenous cultures are very visible in the country’s art, storytelling, and food. Connect with the First Nations Canadians and witness their rich traditions, while gaining a deep understanding of how these unique cultures have evolved over time.
Basically, go to Canada for the butter masala and and the dim sum, and stay to learn how to carve your own totem pole and smoke some salmon.
Picking one thing about Canada to dub “something special” is hard, but for outdoorsy types, it’s most certainly the nature and wildlife. This is real, visceral, it’s-gonna-eat-you-if-you’re-not-diligent wildlife. It’s the only place that has original herds of buffalo and packs of wolves. The forests are second only to Russia in their vastness.
You can get lost in Canada. You can still become a mountain man in Canada. There’s something special about a place that’s still so wild in a world of smartphones and social media. Canada is there like a giant, green escape pod. It’s always ready to take us in and give us our preternatural roots back.
See you on the road.