Canada is more than its hulking-mountain, craggy-coast good looks: it also cooks extraordinary meals, rocks cool culture, and unfurls wild, moose-spotting road trips.

 Culture & History

One of the most obvious differences between Canadian and United States culture is how the country’s respective immigrant groups have integrated into their new homelands. While American immigrants were encouraged to assimilate into the melting pot of United States culture, their Canadian counterparts were encouraged to preserve their own native cultures as they created a multicultural mosaic. Vancouver and Victoria’s Chinese communities host their own dragon boat festivals each summer, while the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival is one of the largest street festivals in North America.

However, no group has successfully preserved its own unique culture for as long as the French speaking population of Québec, who celebrates its own national holiday, St Jean Baptiste Day, with just as much fervor as Canada Day. Canada’s far northern Inuit population has also managed to keep its culture more intact than most First Nations because of its homeland’s geographic isolation and harsh winter weather. Inuit soapstone carvings are popular souvenirs.

Handshaking predominates as the normal mode of greeting. Close friends often exchange kisses on the cheeks, particularly in French-speaking areas. Codes of practice for visiting homes are the same as in other Western countries: owers, chocolates or a bottle of wine are common gifts for hosts, and dress is generally informal and practical according to climate. It is common for black tie and other required dress to be indicated on invitations. Exclusive clubs and restaurants often require more formal dress. Smoking has been banned in indoor public areas in all provinces except Alberta.

Canada is socially bilingual (English and French). The use of the two languages reflects the country's mixed colonial history - Canada has been under both British and French rule. However, while the federal government must operate in both languages as much as is practical, use of each language outside government varies widely across the country. In almost all of the province of Quebec, as well as parts of New Brunswick, French is the dominant language; in most of the rest of the country, English dominates. Montréal, Ottawa and Moncton have large concentrations of fluently bilingual people. Immigration has also changed the language picture considerably; while not social languages, Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic and other languages are often heard on the streets of Canada's largest cities. 


Canada’s first cooks, the Indigenous Peoples, are known to have used more than 500 plant species for food. They cultivated and foraged a variety of plants, hunted animals in the air, water and land. They also used various tools to boil, smoke/preserve and roast their food. The arrival of the French and English brought in more ingredients and new cooking techniques. Today, many of Canada’s traditional dishes bear the mark of these Indigenous, French and English influences.

Canada is a smorgasbord of local food. If you grazed from west to east across the country, you'd fill your plate with wild salmon and velvety scallops in British Columbia, poutine (French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds) in Québec, and lobster with a dab of melted butter in the Maritime provinces. Tastemakers may not tout Canadian food the way they do, say, Italian or French fare, so let's just call the distinctive seafood, piquant cheeses and fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies our little secret. Ditto for the award-winning bold reds and crisp whites produced by the country's vine-striped valleys.

Although food in Canada grocery stores and restaurant menus contain almost all the same items as their American counterparts, each Canadian region serves up its own unique regional specialties to visitors. Québec’s best known signature dishes are tourtière meat pies and poutine, French fries topped with gravy and cheese curd. Lobster, seafood, and curled fern heads called fiddleheads are most likely to be found on Atlantic Canadian restaurant menus, while pierogies are now a western Canadian food staple thanks to the region’s sizable Ukrainian immigrant population.

However, one Canadian dining experience found on seemingly every street corner is a good and greasy coffee and donut chain called Tim Horton’s, which has expanded into the United States and even the Canadian military base of Kandahar in Afghanistan. Other Canadian restaurant chains frequently situated alongside their American counterparts include chicken and ribs franchise Swiss Chalet and Cora’s, which specializes in hearty breakfast and brunch meals.

Urban Experience

Sip a café au lait and tear into a flaky croissant at a sidewalk bistro in Montréal; slurp noodles or head to an Asian night market in the Vancouver area; explore Toronto's rich performing arts scene; join a wild-fiddling Celtic party on Cape Breton Island; and kayak between rainforest-cloaked indigenous villages on Haida Gwaii: Canada is incredibly diverse across its breadth and within its cities. You'll hear it in the music, see it in the arts and taste it in the cuisine.

The arts are an integral part of Canada's cultural landscape, from the International Fringe Theater Festival (the world's second-largest) in Edmonton to mega museums such as Ottawa's National Gallery. Montréal's Jazz Festival and Toronto's star-studded Film Festival draw global crowds. And did you know Ontario's Stratford Festival is the continent's largest classical repertory theater? Even places you might not automatically think of – say, St John's or Woody Point – put on renowned shindigs (an avant-garde 'sound symposium' and a big-name writers festival, respectively).

All Canadian cities and towns have their own recommended watering holes, but Vancouver and Montréal are two of the country’s liveliest cities in terms of nightlife. Many of Canada’s best bars are situated in Montréal, the largest city in Québec. The legal drinking age is 18 and watering holes stop serving alcohol at 3:00 a.m.. One of Montréal’s most notorious nightspots is Les Foufounes Electriques (87 Ste Catherine Street East, Montréal), which serves cheap beer on Tuesday. Dieu du Ciel (29 Laurier Avenue West, Montréal) is a more sedate Montréal brewpub near the city’s trendy Mile End district.

Outdoors & Adventure 

The globe's second-biggest country has an endless variety of landscapes, and nature is why many visitors come. Sky-high mountains, glinting glaciers, spectral rainforests, and remote beaches are all here, spread across six times zones. They're the backdrop for plenty of 'ah'-inspiring moments – and for a big cast of local characters. That's big as in polar bears, grizzly bears, whales and everyone's favorite, moose.

The terrain also makes for a fantastic playground. Whether it's snowboarding Whistler's mountains, surfing Nova Scotia's swells, wreck diving in the turquoise waters of the Bruce Peninsula or kayaking the white-frothed South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories, adventures abound. There are gentler options, too, such as strolling Vancouver's Stanley Park and swimming off Prince Edward Island's pink-sand beaches.

Banff National Park takes adventure hiking to a whole new level.  To truly get away from others, adventurous tourists can be whisked away by helicopter to remote areas where they can commune with nature.  Hikers can choose between easy strolls through meadows (great for taking photos), jaunts with a picnic near a waterfall or strenuous hikes along high mountain ridges.

Pacific Canada is teeming with wildlife and adventures that everyone can enjoy.  One of the most memorable experiences is to track otters on a 5-day kayak trip in Kyuquot, B.C.  Curious otters can be seen as well as puffins, bald eagles, sea lions, and the lucky kayaker will even get to experience floating alongside killer whales or humpback whales.

The name, Saskatchewan, comes from the Cree name for the Saskatchewan River, “Kisiskatchewanisipi” or “swift-flowing river.” Taking a canoe adventure on the Churchill River, along the shores of Otter Lake, is the perfect way to spend a week or more. 

The route is about 93 miles (150 kilometers) and can take anywhere from five to eight days.  Look for wildlife on the tours such as bald eagles, pelicans, moose and even the occasional black bear.