For many years, Canada’s been far too polite to openly brag about its friendly cities and incredible wilderness. But in 2017, our northern neighbor is using its 150th anniversary to step into the limelight and finally show off.
Hundreds of events and festivals have been planned all over the nation for the big birthday, which will undoubtedly lure thousands of travelers across the border for a fun-filled visit. But when you dig just a little bit below the visitor veneer, you may want to stay a little longer… And you wouldn’t be the first to ponder an extended stay —let’s not forget that Canada’s immigration website crashed due to excessive clicking the day after the American presidential election!
Below are seven standout destinations across the country—each of them an incredible holiday, as well as an ideal spot to stay awhile.
Although not one of Canada’s largest cities, Winnipeg—the capital of Manitoba—is certainly one of the country’s most progressive. With an openly gay mayor (1998 to 2004) and one of the country’s largest LGBTQ communities, the city is poised to be a favorite for gay travelers, attracting a steady stream of tourists with a compelling food and arts scene. The recent addition of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights further bolsters Winnipeg’s cutting-edge flare, documenting stories of oppressed peoples from all over the globe. The museum's collection is housed in Canada’s newest piece of sculpture-meets-architecture that fits in with buildings like the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Whistler, British Columbia
Known as one of the best ski hills in the world due to its incredibly long powder season (seven months!), Whistler shot to global stardom during the 2010 Winter Olympics, showing off its perfect, snowy peaks. And over the last few years, the mountain has also earned a reputation as the go-to spot for LGBTQ destination weddings. 2017 marks the 25th annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival at the end of January—one of the biggest events of its kind on the planet. Don’t miss a visit to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre to understand Whistler’s Aboriginal past, and for more about other regular goings on check out GayWhistler.com.
Boasting two of the most livable cities in Canada, Calgary and Edmonton, and some of the most rugged beauty on the planet, the province of Alberta is the perfect destination to spin a short stay into a long adventure. Edmonton, a bastion of festivals in its own right, surprises with a hipster vibe in Strathcona (the city’s “Brooklyn”, if you will) and a surprisingly refined food scene considering the city’s size. Calgary is a heavier hitter that has—over the last decade—grown way beyond its Stampede vibe to become a cosmopolitan cultural hub. Pair your city adventures with trips to the rugged peaks of Banff, or the laid-back mountain village of Jasper, and you’ve got the very best of both worlds: big city living and small town vibes.
Victoria, British Columbia
Often the sleeper hit among travelers who are seduced by the perfect blend of local flavor and oceanfront views, Victoria boasts more upscale restaurants per capita than other city besides San Francisco. Pair your meal with tipples from the emerging beer and spirits scene or take things even further with an on-property stay at Merridale Cidery (about an hour outside of downtown) where you can sleep in a yurt and enjoy pizza from the woodier oven. While visitors often stick to the Inner Harbour of Victoria, we recommend getting out into the smaller neighborhoods, like Oak Bay, to get a feeling for the diverse communities and beautiful scenery surrounding the city.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The gateway to some of Canada’s most acclaimed attractions, like the Cabot Trail, the large Maritime city of Halifax is an incredible home base for visitors and locals alike. One in five Canadians can trace their roots to Pier 21 (like Canada’s version of Ellis Island) and even today, Nova Scotia boasts more Gaelic speakers than Scotland. Even more interestingly is that modern-day Nova Scotia also does a lot of exporting: shipping out more lobster and, surprisingly, Christmas trees than anywhere else on the planet.
Easily one of the most compelling weekend destinations in North America, Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary in 2017 and promises countless festivals and events. Interestingly, the city boasts North America’s most diverse neighborhoods, offering everyone dozens of dozens of unique places to discover, each with their own food and art scene. Navigate the city by BIXI bicycle, stopping along the Lachine Canal or riding up to the top of Mount Royal to check out the checkerboard of dazzling streets below.
All eyes were on Toronto last year during the annual Pride Parade when Justin Trudeau became the first sitting world leader to participate in the LGBTQ event. Trudeau’s actions rightfully reminded the world that Toronto is not just one of the most multicultural cities on the planet, but one of the most liberal and tolerant as well. And all the progressiveness is mirrored in the kaleidoscope of culinary offerings, the incredible displays of public art, like Graffiti Alley near West Queen West and a network of museums like the Royal Ontario Museum that rival any other global center.
Want to know more? Check out Destination Canada's LGBT travel page for more awesome travel experiences.