Whether you’re planning on visiting for outdoor adventure in the form of hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, or skiing—or you want to bask in the sun on a scenic stretch of sand, or maybe pitch a tent in a remote provincial park—there is no shortage of things to do across Canada or worthwhile places to go. It’s a welcoming country that makes it possible to carve out whatever vacation experience you’re dreaming of. For foodies, history buffs, families, couples or groups of friends, Canada has so much to offer, no one will feel left out. For those beginning the planning process or simply looking for travel inspiration, here are 25 of the best things to do in Canada.
See the Northern Lights in Yukon
There is a good reason that so many people have the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) on their bucket lists. That’s because they are a sight that is almost unreal, taking over the sky in brilliant vistas of shifting colors. Visible from mid-August to mid-April (best viewed between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.), the Yukon is one of the best places in Canada to get a glimpse. Your best option for optimal viewing is to drive outside the capital city of Whitehorse, or you can book a guided tour with a local company. Alternatively, another great spot to view the natural phenomenon is from the Takahini Hot Springs, not far from downtown Whitehorse, for a relaxing soak while you catch the light show. Check the latest Northern Lights forecast here.
Take a Stroll in Stanley Park
Vancouver's first and largest urban park is so much more than a simple green space. The hub of activity is bustling year-round and offers something to see and do for just about anyone. Get your bearings with a walk around the Seawall, Stanley Park's most famous feature, with its impressive 5.5-mile paved route that loops around the park. Visitors can also experience more than 16 miles of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, restaurants, and natural, cultural, and historical landmarks. You’ll also find a waterpark and picnic areas here to keep you busy.
Soak Stress Away at Banff Upper Hot Springs
If the thought of slowly lowering yourself into a steaming pool of natural mineral water surrounded by epic mountain views sounds like something worth doing, it’s well worth putting Banff Upper Hot Springs on your must-visit list. Open year-round (even in the winter), Banff Upper Hot Springs is the highest operating hot spring in Canada. Located near the top of Sulphur Mountain, a soak in the thermal pools is especially soothing after a day of hiking or skiing in Banff or surrounding areas. Or visit in the early morning before it gets busy later in the day.
Bike the Confederation Trail
Love exploring on two wheels? You won’t be disappointed with a ride along the Confederation Trail. The 270-mile walking, cycling and snowmobile trail (a former train line) that runs from one end of Prince Edward Island to the other. Set out on your own, or book a ride with several local guides and tours. Expect beautiful scenery as you ride as well as the chance to stop off at a number of waterfront villages that are worth stopping in for a local meal or simply to soak up some local PEI life.
Snap Some Photos of Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
There may be some 160 lighthouses in Nova Scotia, but Peggy's Cove Lighthouse (also known as Peggy's Point Lighthouse) is one of the most well-known in the province and one of the most photographed in Canada. Located in the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove along the South Shore, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse was built in 1915 and remains a steadfast beacon, painted in red and white and overlooking a large bay. Once you’ve taken the requisite photos, make a stop in the nearby fishing village for some fresh maritime lobster.
Take a Walk on the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
The Halifax waterfront is home to one of the world’s longest downtown boardwalks, the nearly 2.5-mile Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk. And this walk isn’t just to soak up some seaside scenery. Here you will also find many cultural and historical experiences like the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. You can also stop by the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (the longest continuously operating farmers' market in North America) for something to eat along the way. Or just meander in and out of the many little shops and boutiques along the way. End you day on the water with a meal at one of the boardwalk’s restaurants or pubs.
Traverse the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Envelop yourself in nature and get a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy with a walk along the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Take a deep breath as you make your way across the 459-foot expanse, which hangs nearly 230 feet above the rushing Capilano River. If that wasn’t enough, there are a few more adventures to check out once over the bridge. First up, the Cliffwalk—a series of walkways above the rainforest, and then there’s the Treetops Adventure, consisting of seven bridges suspended by 250-year-old Douglas firs, 100 feet above the forest floor
Experience the Calgary Stampede
Calgary is known for many things, and there are more than enough reasons to visit, but for 10 days in July, the Calgary Stampede takes over the city and attracts more than a million visitors from around the world. It’s a massive celebration that brings the city together. The Calgary Stampede Parade kicks things off, and then it's nonstop action. Visitors can watch cowboys and cowgirls compete at the Stampede Rodeo, enjoy live music nightly, fuel up with free pancake breakfasts, go on rides and play games at the Calgary Stampede Midway, and much more.
Float the Day Away at Little Manitou Lake
Can’t get to the Dead Sea? Don’t worry—there’s a comparable experience in Canada. Located in Saskatchewan, Little Manitou Lake is Canada’s answer to the Dead Sea as it is high in both salt and minerals, making it the perfect place to stop by for a float—and float you will (no effort required). Many people plan a weekend or overnight trip, and there are several hotels and campsites near the water.
Visit the Hopewell Rocks
The shores of the Bay of Fundy are where you will find the famous Hopewell Rocks. These are unique rock formations created by tidal erosion over thousands of years. Also known as the ‘Flowerpot Rocks,’ the majestic formations also boast vegetation-covered tops, making them look like massive flower pots. The best part is, you can experience Hopewell Rocks both at low and high tide. At low tide, walk among the rocks and look up—way up. While at high tide, kayak among the tops of the rocks for a totally different perspective. There are also two sandy beaches and walking trails to explore.
Camp in Killarney Provincial Park
There’s nothing quite like pulling your canoe up on the beach, looking around and seeing nothing but nature, and feeling the quiet of the landscape that surrounds you. If you’re looking to get off the grid, the 400-square-mile wilderness of Killarney Provincial Park should fit the bill. Here you will find over 50 crystal-clear lakes amidst the rugged Georgian Bay Coast and the white quartzite ridges of the surrounding La Cloche Mountains. The park offers extensive backcountry canoeing and kayaking experiences wherein you paddle or hike to your campsite or have a car camping experience at George Lake campground, with access to beaches, trails, and canoeing.
Try the EdgeWalk at CN Tower
Visiting the CN Tower is an iconic Toronto experience, but you can go a few steps further than a typical experience. Depending on your threshold for thrill-seeking, beyond the CN Tower’s LookOut Level or Glass Floor, there’s EdgeWalk. This adventure is the first of its kind in North America. It has participants doing a hands-free walk around the tower's central pod, 116 stories above the ground—truly a bucket-list-worthy experience.
Check out Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park (covering a whopping 27,841 square miles) and one of the world's largest. Here you will find the world’s largest beaver dam and one of the world’s largest herds of free-roaming bison. Birders, take note: The park is also where you will find the last remaining natural nesting area for the endangered whooping crane. Explore on foot or by canoe to get a sense of the many natural wonders on offer, of which there are enough to warrant an overnight (or longer) stay.
Explore Old Town Lunenburg
Take a step back in time with a visit to Old Town Lunenburg, the best surviving planned British colonial town in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scenic harbor-side streets are lined with shops and restaurants that easily blend with the well-preserved historic homes, so everywhere you look feels a bit like looking at history come to life. Spend some time browsing small art galleries, stopping by a café, or stocking up on one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Head Underground via Toronto’s PATH
While there is so much to see and do in Toronto above ground, the city is also home to what Guinness World Records notes as the largest underground shopping complex in the world. PATH is an 18-mile network that runs under the downtown core, stretching from Queens Quay in the south all the way up to the Eaton Centre. This maze of subterranean walkways is filled with shops, restaurants (from food courts to high-end dining), fitness centers, spas, and entertainment making it perfect for getting around on frigid Toronto days.
Explore the East Coast Trail
Grab your camera (or make sure your smartphone is charged) because you’ll be faced with some impressive scenery along the East Coast Trail. Depending on the amount of exertion you want to expend, you’ll find a wide range of wilderness hiking and walking paths from easy to more advance that take you past towering cliffs, rock arches, fjords, sea stacks, and the Sprout, a wave-driven freshwater geyser. In total there are 338 miles of developed and undeveloped East Coast Trail so finding the perfect route shouldn’t be too difficult.
Go Back in Time in Old Montreal
Beautiful architecture? Check. Historic buildings aplenty? Also check. Add to that an ultra-charming, yet laid-back vibe, cute cafes, and markets, and you have a recipe for a multifaceted experience. So, a visit to Old Montreal is a must for anyone visiting the city. Simply meandering the scenic cobblestone streets, taking photos, and people-watching is a worthwhile endeavor on its own, and when you need a rest, you have your pick of bars, restaurants, and pubs.
Eat Your Way Though St. Lawrence Market
Consider yourself a foodie? Or maybe you’re just feeling hungry. If you happen to be in Toronto, make your way to the city’s largest market—a definite must-do on any trip to Toronto. The market was even voted the best food market in the world by National Geographic. The South Market is home to over 120 specialty food vendors selling everything from fresh produce and baked goods, to prepared foods, dairy, meat, and seafood. It’s worth spending a couple of hours slowly taking in the sights and smells, stocking up on (and sampling) local goods as you go.
Stop by Little Limestone Lake
You might not think a body of water similar in hue to what you might find in the Caribbean can be seen in Manitoba, but Little Limestone Lake is worth the trip for the colors alone. Located around 275 miles north of Winnipeg, this lake is known as the biggest and best marl lake globally. Marl is a calcium carbonate-rich deposit, and when temperatures are high, it’s formed as calcite and separates out of the water. This process creates crystals that lead to a turquoise hue. When it’s cold, the calcite dissolves, and the water is perfectly clear. Little Limestone Lake can range from soft blue-grey to vibrant aquamarine to sky blue throughout the course of a single day.
Browse the Art Gallery of Ontario
Whether you consider yourself an art buff or simply enjoy spending time in galleries when you travel, wandering through the light-filled Art Gallery of Ontario, whether the permanent collection or a special exhibition never gets old. The AGO is one of the largest art museums in North America, home to over 90,000 works and collections comprised of Canadian, European, contemporary art, photography, and more. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 cemented the AGO as a must-visit cultural institution.
Spend Time in Prince Edward Island National Park
Whether you’re an active traveler looking for some fun things to do outdoors, or you simply want to hit the beach, Prince Edward Island National Park is a real Canadian treasure. Located on the north shore of the province, the park includes many scenic white and red sand beaches ideal for swimming—or explore the park by kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard. Visitors can also enjoy over 30 miles of trails for hiking. Keep your eye out for one of the park’s iconic “Red Chairs,” spaced at various vistas throughout the park
Visit Pond Inlet
Located in Nunavut, Pond Inlet is an ideal place to visit if you’ve ever wanted to catch a glimpse of the “unicorn of the sea,” otherwise known as the narwhal – those curious creatures featuring long tusks protruding from their heads. Large pods of narwhals frequent the area so there are many chances to spot some. But that’s not all – Pond Inlet is also situated near scenic fiords, glaciers and icebergs and surrounded by mountain ranges. You may also have the chance to see beluga and orca whales, ringed and harp seals, caribou, arctic foxes and wolves.
Do a Winery Tour in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wine lovers will want to think about planning a vacation to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Known by the locals as NOTL, this picturesque destination is packed with old town charm and just happens to be surrounded by wineries. Over 80 vineyards call the Niagara region home, and of those, nearly 30 can be found in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. The area is also world-renowned for its icewine, wine made from grapes frozen on the vine. Whether you book a guided tour or rent a bike to ride between tasting rooms, there are plenty of options for enjoying a tasting (or three).
Shop the Iconic Jean-Talon Market
In the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy neighborhood, you will find one of North America’s largest open-air public markets. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, just browsing the many stalls piled high with local goods is a must-do in the city. If you do want to pack your basket with goodies, you’ll find everything from fresh produce and flowers to cheese, meats, specialty food items, and much more.
Stay on Fogo Island
Remote Fogo Island is the largest island of Newfoundland and Labrador’s coast, and it really is a sight to behold. One of the main draws here is the architecturally stunning Fogo Island Inn, a luxury hotel situated next to the sea along the rocky coastline and feeling like something out of a very stylish storybook. The hotel itself is perched on stilts, and all 29 rooms come with floor-to-ceiling views of the sea and sky. There are rooftop hot tubs and woodfired saunas, and a library containing works about Newfoundland. When you’re not sitting in awe of the views from your room, take an island tour with a local or explore the many local artist studios.