As Air Canada revs up its expansion to U.S. airports, with three new destinations and six added express routes, Canada is shaping up to be the go-to weekend destination of 2018. From winter wonderland chalet towns to buzzy cities with strong cultural cores, the country has unique experiences for every type of traveler. Here are 7 destinations that deserve your attention.
This small ski resort town in Banff National Park was first settled in the 1880s and quickly became a go-to destination thanks to the discovery of natural hot springs and, eventually, the development of several grand hotels along the newly built Canadian Pacific Railway. Check into the Fairmont Banff Springs for magical alpine digs—stonewalls and turrets, drooping chandeliers, oversize fireplaces—inspired by the historic Baronial Castle. Nearby, there's the Banff Upper Hot Springs, where you can gaze at snowy peaks while soaking in the 100% natural, steamy hot mineral bath, and the Banff Gondola—the best spot to take in views of the areas's six mountain ranges.
One of the oldest cities in all of North America, Quebec City sits on the Saint Lawrence River and has swoon-worthy views from almost every corner. The city's narrow streets are lined with charming cafés and boutiques as well as historical landmarks like the Basilique Cathedrale and La Citadelle de Quebec. The Basse-Ville (Lower Town), set on the banks of St. Lawrence, provides an authentic look at what life was like in the early settlement days, while Haute-Ville (Upper Town) offers grandiose 17th-century architecture. We recommend a stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine by Relais & Châteaux for its cozy fireplaces and water-facing terraces.
Toronto is having a moment. The largest city in Canada, with more than 25 million tourists each year, has become a hot spot for music, food, and art, as well as modern design. Music fans won't want to miss a show at Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, where you can see the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform, or smaller indie venues like Opera House and Phoenix Concert Centre. If you're a contemporary architecture buff, swing by the Royal Ontario Museum, with its Daniel Libeskind–designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition, and the Sharp Centre for Design, which features Will Alsop's black-and-white domino installation held up by colorful struts. Or, climb the 116 stories to the top of the iconic CN Tower, one of the world’s highest standalone structures. Looking to feed your foodie soul? See what St. Lawrence Market and Ossington Strip have to offer (we love La Banane and Hawker Bar for cocktails).
Home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Whistler has made quite a name for itself in the world of winter sports. Take your pick of snowy excursions, from snowshoeing and ski jumping to dog sledding and winter zip-lining. If you’re approaching this Canadian adventure with an après-ski attitude, you're also in luck. The town's small, chalet-style village sits at the base of the mountains and offers plenty of high-end bars, restaurants, and shops along its cobblestoned pedestrian streets including the cozy Red Door Bistro and the Stonesedge, known for its great al fresco dining. For an once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a ride with Peak to Peak Gondola, where you'll get gorgeous views of the snowy peaks.
Named after Queen Victoria, this capital city occupies the southern end of Vancouver Island and is sprinkled with Victorian-style buildings and green sanctuaries. Take in the stunning architecture of this once-British settlement at the Parliament Buildings, Craigdarroch Castle, and iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, which stays true to the city's Victorian roots with afternoon tea service every afternoon on its veranda. For a more modern vibe, take a stroll down Lower Johnson Street, or LoJa, where you’ll find an array of brightly painted independent boutiques and restaurants. Other city highlights worth checking out include the Inner Harbour, Victoria Pier, and the manicured gardens of Abkhazi Garden and Beacon Hill Park.
With boho-chic neighborhoods like Mile End and Le Plateau, an ever-evolving food scene, and a very cool café culture, Montreal is Canada's cultural capital. In the heart of French Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal), you'll find Hotel Nelligan, a perfect jumping-off point for exploring nearby landmarks like the gothic-style Notre-Dame Basilica, the classic Place Royale, and the Old Port. Off the tourist landmark map, we recommend walking or biking through Parc Jean-Drapeau; admiring the street art on Saint-Laurent; visiting Habitat 67, a cubist housing complex designed by Moshe Safdie; and indulging in local eats (poutine! ice cider! maple syrup!) at Marché Jean-Talon.
RELATED: Next Stop, Montreal
On the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, bordered by piney mountains, Kelowna has something for everyone: relax on the sandy beaches, trek its hundreds of hiking trails, or go vineyard hopping all in one day. The area has more than 20 local vineyards in addition to multiple breweries, cideries, and distilleries. We love the Okanagan Villa Estate Winery, Summerhill Pyra, and Tantalus Vineyard for tours and tastings. Come sunset, don't miss the Okanagan Lake Dinner Cruise.