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.
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.
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.
Outdoors & Adventure
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.
Take a look at all the amazing destinations we have selected for you and your group, read our experiences and advice in our blog, and check what’s people saying about us too!