Story by Vacay.ca Staff
A great wonder of the world, no matter what anyone says. The most fantastic winter celebration on the planet. A commemoration of the historic events that helped keep Canada strong and free 200 years ago. And the biggest, best party you can have with a cowboy hat on. Those are some of the amazing Canadian experiences our team of travel experts recommends you enjoy in the new year. Here is the list of Vacay.ca’s Top 12 Best Places to Travel in Canada in 2012 (be sure to tell us what you think):
1. Calgary – The Stampede is celebrating its 100th anniversary, meaning it’s a good bet this will be the biggest edition yet of “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” Attendance could top 1 million for the 10-day event that kicks off July 5. Of course, right now is a great time to be in Calgary too, with the World Junior Hockey Championships taking place in Alberta.
2. Bay of Fundy, Maritimes — It didn’t make the final New7Wonders list, but the Bay of Fundy is spectacular nonetheless. With lots of tourism infrastructure surrounding the bay in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, there’s plenty to enjoy beyond the sensation of witnessing the highest tides in the world.
3. Quebec City – From January 27 to February 12, more than 1 million people will arrive to frolic at the world’s second-largest carnival (after Rio). In 2011, the Quebec Carnival won Event of the Year at the Canadian Tourism Awards, and you know the pressure will be on to win again.
4. Niagara Region, Ontario – The bicentennial of start of War of 1812 will mean plenty of historical tourism in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines and elsewhere in this region that’s 90 minutes south of Toronto. Along with remembering the only war on Canadian soil that involved a foreign invader, the bicentennial also gives visitors the opportunity to discover the bountiful delights of Niagara, including the wineries, boutique hotels and numerous outstanding restaurants.
5. Vancouver – Visitors usually clamour to reach Vancouver for the scenery, outdoors fun and waterfront relaxation. These days, you should also go for the food. Canada’s Olympic city has upped its culinary greatness in the past year with the debut of some of the most notable restaurants in the country, including Hawksworth, L’Abattoir, Ensemble, Chinois and Nicli Antica Pizzeria. They join Vij’s, Tojo’s and West as Vancouver standouts.
6. Toronto – With its first CAA five-diamond hotel (the Ritz-Carlton) and a lot of acclaim from international visitors over the past couple of years, the Big Smoke isn’t blowing any these days. While the annual Film Fest in September is always a hit, Canadian Music Week (March 21-25) is also getting better and better each year. Plus, David Chang’s Momofuku franchise will expand into Toronto when it opens alongside the Shangri-La and Daniel Boulud will have a restaurant in the new Four Seasons in August.
7. Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut – A lot of talk about the end of the world will take place in 2012, so why not take the opportunity to journey to the end of Canada? This difficult-to-pronounce park on Baffin Island is at the northeastern edge of the country. Although you won’t find any hint of Mayan archeology here, you will discover jaw-dropping scenery and catch sight of more than a few whales.
8. Haida Gwaii, British Columbia – If Nunavut isn’t for you, then head to the westernmost point in Canada, where these pristine islands dubbed the Galapagos of the North have captivated artists, hikers and historians for years. Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, has a rich First Nations heritage that includes some of Canada’s finest artisans. There’s also fishing opportunities galore.
9. Ottawa – Canada celebrates its 145th birthday on July 1 and the nation’s capital will be abuzz as it usual is during the summer. The ByWard Market remains one of Canada’s liveliest party spots and the Ottawa Bluesfest, despite the disastrous end of its 2011 show, is among the top musical festivals in the world.
10. Little Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan – You don’t have to fly all the way to Israel or Jordan to marvel in an experience like the Dead Sea. With nearly as much salt-water content as that famous body of water in the Middle East, Little Manitou Lake, which is 120 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, treats visitors to the surreal feeling of floating in mineral-rich waters. Like the Dead Sea, the lake’s high salinity content makes it nearly impossible for you to sink.
11. Nelson, British Columbia – Hailed as the “best art town” in Canada by art critic John Villani, Nelson is a little town with a ton of power. Its annual electronic music festival, Shambhala, draws more than 10,000 people each summer. Throw in heritage buildings, cool cafés and beautiful scenery amid the Selkirk Mountains in the Kootenay region of B.C., and you have a little gem worth a visit.
12. Montreal – Sure, you know about this fun-loving city’s love of festivals and its fantastic music scene, but do you also know it’s home to the National Circus School? And perhaps the best museum in the country? And the best lobster burrito anywhere? You’ll never be bored in Montreal, which may be the easiest city love in North America.
Have you got a place that didn’t make the list? Email us and tell us why it should be on there.