To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary on July 1, we’re bringing you 150 Travelzoo Tips — one per day until July 1 — to help you explore and enjoy this great land. Here, travel writer Jim Byers explains why Canada is an especially hot destination this year -- for visitors from around the world as well as those close to home.
Now is the Time
The drop in the Canadian dollar against most currencies, especially the American greenback, makes Canada more affordable than ever. Staycations are at the forefront of vacation planning as the country marks the 150th birthday of Canada as a nation. Additionally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday. It's shaping up to be a yearlong party with celebrations from coast to coast.
An International Destination, Then and Now
For years, "Moose, Mountains and Mounties" made up a large part of Canada's international appeal. The clean lakes and mountain air are still major draws and never more so than in 2017, when admission to all national parks is free.
These days, though, Canada's cities are tourist destinations, too. Millennials seeking cosmopolitan vacations flock to Toronto and Vancouver, plus there's the allure of French-speaking Montreal and Quebec City. The food scene is flourishing, with chefs at the forefront of major changes, embracing techniques and ingredients from around the world and pairing them with top-notch Canadian produce and locally-grown meats and cheeses. Plus there's no shortage of craft beer, wine and local distilleries with distinct products you won’t find anywhere else.
The Best of Both Worlds
If you're drawn to both city lights and country sights, Canada has you covered. You can find wilderness experiences such as hiking or winter sports within a short drive of every major city. About an hour’s drive from Toronto you’ll find amazing hiking along the Bruce Trail -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- which winds along a steep escarpment for hundreds of kilometres. Hiking around Lion’s Head yields incredible views of Georgian Bay, which feeds into Lake Huron. The Laurentian Mountains are within an hour’s drive of Montreal, making it a convenient option for skiers and snowboarders alike. The glories of the Rockies are only an hour from Calgary; while Whistler’s world-class skiing and outdoor scene is approximately a two-hour drive from Vancouver.
Check Out Canada's Capital City
Ottawa's Canada Day celebrations on July 1 are expected to be the biggest on record, with a massive 150th birthday party planned. But the nation's capital is worth visiting all year round. In winter, there's the chance to skate on the Rideau Canal. In May, over a million tulips bloom in Ottawa; the Canadian Tulip Festival is the largest of its kind in the world. Early autumn visits are ideal since you can indulge in mild temperatures, minus the summer crowds.
Explore the East
One of the more distinct areas of the country is the Atlantic Provinces, comprised of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador. They celebrate life in a way that other Canadians don’t quite match; with wild music and warm, welcoming personalities. Toss in long sandy beaches, succulent seafood and epic road trips, for a quintessentially Canadian summer vacation.
Canadians can benefit from an increase in service from the major carriers, while upstart New Leaf Travel, which is serving smaller cities translate into lower fares. VIA Rail's network provides frequent service between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, while the drop in gas prices is making road trips that much more affordable, too.