Victoria sits just a 90-minute ferry ride away from the bustling metropolis of Vancouver. Though relatively close, the city feels like it’s a world—and century—away. Rather than innovating and modernizing as Vancouver, Victoria relies heavily on its deeply Colonial past, relishing distinctively British traditions like afternoon tea and British-style pubs. Though thousands of miles away from the United Kingdom, Victoria feels like an Anglophile’s dream.
Named for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings, the most famous of which are the Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897) and the Empress Hotel (opened in 1908). Nicknamed “The Garden City,” Victoria is stunningly green, boasting a thriving technology industry and a popular tourist destination. It is also in the top twenty of world cities for quality-of-life.
Victoria, which sits on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is not strictly reserved for the British lovers among us. Despite the city’s nostalgic tendencies, it attracts a wide variety of travelers with its excellent museums, charming architecture, and fantastic harbor views. To that end, there’s a lot more to this part of the country than English-style rose gardens and afternoon tea. Vancouver Island is known for its stretching beaches and prolific wineries. In fact, many tourists visit this part of the country to experience wine tours, attend whale watches, and stroll along the pristine beaches. Interestingly enough, Victoria’s Chinatown is the second-oldest in North America (after San Francisco’s).
Victoria is easily visited from several locations. Those traveling from Vancouver can easily access this part of the island via ferry, while those traveling from Seattle can take a ferry or the Victoria Clipper, a passenger-only ferry which operates daily and year-round between Seattle and Victoria. The city is also just 25 miles from Port Angeles, Washington
The Rocky Mountaineer Train is one of the most unique ways to experience Vancouver and greater British Columbia. The train line extends from Vancouver up to Banff National Park and features world-class service, sweeping panoramic views, and five-star accommodations. Train routes and ocean cruises can be mixed and matched to create wholly unique experiences. With stops in Vancouver, Whistler, Kamloops, Banff, Calgary, Jasper, Lake Louise, Quesnel, and Seattle, Washington, this is one of the best ways to experience Canada’s southwest.
The Rocky Mountaineer has four distinct routes. The Coastal Passage brings passengers from Seattle to Vancouver and up into the Canadian Rockies, providing stunning views of water for the duration of the journey. The Rainforest to Gold Rush route will bring you from Vancouver to Whistler, then through Quesnel and Jasper, tracing the area’s interesting history of mining through the rainforest. The Journey through the Clouds route runs from Vancouver through Kamloops to Jasper gaining significant elevation throughout the journey. Finally, the First Passage to the West runs from Vancouver to Banff, passing through Kamloops and Lake Louise.
This train is more than a way to get from Point A to Point B. Their onboard gourmet kitchen is fully stocked with exquisite food and B.C. wines to accompany you on the trip, and hosts entertain guests with fun and informative narration. Their open-air vestibule is a great way to experience the mountain air from the comfort of the train.
Most Rocky Mountaineer routes bring passengers directly to their hotels. Visitors experience the train by day, then stay in world-class hotels by night. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive and unforgettable way to experience Canada’s west, this is the package for you.
Vancouver, located in British Columbia, is a coastal seaport city in western Canada. It is the most populous city in the province; the 2016 census recoded 631,486 people in the city. The Greater Vancouver area has a population of around 2.5 million, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. The city is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life, ranking first among the top ten for five consecutive years.
Vancouver is home to hundreds of arts and culture outlets. From the Arts Club Theatre Company to Bard on the Beach, theater-lovers are bound to enjoy this stunning city. Similarly, the Vancouver International Film Center is one of the best in the world. The Vancouver Public Library’s main branch at Library Square was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and holds 1.5 million volumes. The Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 items and is home to a significant number of works by Emily Carr. Additionally, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performs year-round, and the city itself is home to a number of famous Canadian composers. Vancouver also has a large LGBTQ+ community, hosting one of the country’s largest annual LGBTQ+ pride parades.
In addition to being a thriving metropolis, Vancouver is also meant to be experienced outdoors. The city’s temperate climate and abundance of rain create an incredible abundance of lush, green outdoor spaces. The largest among them is Stanley Park, a 1,001-acre public park that is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. Adventure lovers will enjoy the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which sits 230 feet above Capilano River.
Vancouver is also remarkably accessible to visitors. Their rapid transit network is convenient and inexpensive, and Vancouver International Airport provides a gateway to the greater British Columbia area.
Toronto, the capital of the Canadian province of Ontario, is the most populated city in the country. One of North America’s largest cities, Toronto offers several unique districts—a Chinatown, Little India, and Little Italy. The city is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, housing more than 200 ethnic groups who speak close to 140 different languages. Moreover, Toronto houses one of the world’s tallest freestanding towers: the CN tower, which stands at 1,815 feet.
In addition to impressive landmarks and a culturally-rich history, outdoor lovers will delight in the availability of beaches and walking opportunities. The Toronto Islands, just a short ferry ride away from the main city, are the only islands in this section of Lake Ontario. Few vehicles are permitted, making this an excellent place for swimming, kayaking, biking, and Frisbee golf. A 1900s-style amusement park (for children) sits at the center of the largest island and includes a miniature railway and antique carousel.
Not in the mood for outdoor recreation? This city has you covered. From the Royal Ontario Museum’s natural history exhibits to Casa Loma’s towering peaks, there is never a shortage of activity in Toronto. Perfect for a quick weekend getaway, a week-long family trip, or a months-long work- or school-related stay, Toronto has it all.
In the southern third of Canada’s Alberta province sits Banff National Park. In addition to being the country’s first national park, it is one of the nation’s largest and most-visited. Full of breathtaking scenery, the park sits at the heart of the Canadian Rockies near the southeastern border. Visitors can glimpse black bears, grizzly bears bison, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, and bald eagles while climbing one of the area’s many dazzling peaks.
Banff National Park includes more than scenery and opportunities for adventure. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is an excellent place for visitors to begin their exploration of the Canadian Rockies. Originally housing a collection of paintings, this museum has grown to encompass the history of Banff and the culture of the Canadian Rockies. The Whyte Museum also includes four log cabins and two heritage homes.
When you’re ready to set out, be sure to carefully plan your routes and “to-hike” list; at 2,564 square miles, visitors should prioritize their expeditions. Not in the mood for hiking? Visitors can also mountain bike, rock climb, cross-country ski, and snowshoe.
If you want to experience the grandeur of this park without pulling on a pair of hiking boots, you have several options. The Banff Gondola brings visitors to and from the top of Sulphur Mountain, providing spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. The Upper Hot Springs are another great destination for those wanting to postpone the adventure; since 1880, visitors have visited these therapeutic mineral waters, which are maintained between 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most (likely all) Americans are familiar with Niagara Falls—a series of three waterfalls situated on the boarder between Canada’s Ontario and America’s New York. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls I known as Horseshoe Falls, and it offers some of the best views and the most attractions. The surrounding area is teeming with tourist life, full of observation towers, restaurants, souvenir shops, casinos, and several high-rise hotels.
In recent decades, Niagara Falls has been known as a romantic spot, a cheesy location, and a tourist trap. Now, the area is a felicitous combination of the three—in addition to stunning views of the natural landscape, there are several wineries, distilleries, a botanical garden, and a slew of quickie, pop-up wedding chapels and hotels. In becoming a tacky destination, the Canadian section of Niagara Falls has itself become an interesting piece of tourism and history.
With water speeds of up to 68mph, the sound of the falls can be heard for miles around. Whether you want to experience a typical family vacation, a romantic honeymoon, or an ethnographic study of American/Canadian tourism, this is a wonderful place to visit.
Though the capital of the Canada’s Quebec province, Quebec City’s appearance is more like that of a French village. Perched on a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River, this French-speaking and French-looking city is equipped with a booming financial district, cobblestone streets of an Old City, and more than 400 years of history. It has been ranked the #1 best place to visit in Canada, the 1# best ski destination, and the #1 best place to visit during the month of December.
Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec) is the only old city north of Mexico to have remaining fortified city walls. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, and it remains one of the city’s best-known attractions. Similarly, the Chateau Frontenac dominates Quebec City’s skyline; the “most photographed hotel in North America,” this was previously the residence of the British colonial governors of Lower Canada and Quebec. Visitors do not need to be guests of the hotel to take a tour of its most stunning rooms.
Art fans will delight in Quebec City’s offerings—home to the Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec (the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec) and the Musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization), there is no shortage of cultural icons and relics. Though you do not need to speak French to pay a visit to this charming city, it is a wonderful opportunity for language immersion; though most Quebec City residents speak English, French is the primary language.
Quebec City is an excellent alternative to an expensive trip to Paris. Visitors will inevitably save money on flights, lodging, and food, while maintaining comfort in the ability to speak English in all public settings.