Guides to our neighbors to the north, those lovable Canucks north of the 49th parallel, Canada
Take the United States and make the wilderness vaster, the cities cleaner, and the people more polite. Now add a daub of French culture and you've got Canada.
Whether skiing Whistler, hiking the Rockies, dining on fine French cuisine in Quebec, or driving the dramatic Atlantic coastline, you'll often find our northerly neighbor a fantastic place to visit.
Canada is Viking villages and Victorian towns to the east, and North America's largest ski area to the west. It is bustling cosmopolitan cities and a massive amount of Great Outdoors populated by moose, grizzlies, and other fun Discovery Channel critters.
Life north of the 49th parallel can be both foreign and familiar.
Quebec City looks and feels like it was plucked fresh out of France and dropped wholesale into the New World, while in Calgary each July brings the Stampede into town for a rip-roarin' rodeo right out of the Old West.
Most everyone in Canada speaks English (though an attempt to dust off your high school French will be appreciated in much of Quebec province), and they even use dollars up there—currently worth roughly the same amount as U.S. dollars.
What to do in Canada
Canada, like its neighbor to the south, offers a bit of everything from the U.S. border to well beyond the Arctic Circle and from sea to shining sea.
You can go dog-sledding or sea kayaking or skiing.
You can sip wine in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, or take in a comedy show in Montreal (let's face it, for every hilarious professional yuckster born in the USA, there are probably three Canadian imports who are twice as funny).
Cultural capital Toronto shares more in common with Chicago than just the Second City comedy troops (this is the hallowed humor homeland of such greats as Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, John Candy, Martin Short, and Eugene Levy). It’s got some of the same style and liveliness, that sense of solid, mid-country rootedness combined with urban chic and sizzle—great places to eat, a hipping June jazz festival, and more.
Your Canadian inclination may be to snuggle into a Eastern Provinces B&B and follow the trail of Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island or that of E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News in Newfoundland.
The Canadian wilderness
Or maybe you'll head to Banff or Jasper national parks to strap a pack on and tackle the more than 6,000 uninterrupted miles of protected parkland strung along the spine of the Rocky Mountains.
In fact, one thing that invariably strikes most folks from the U.S. who make it outside of Canada's cities is the sheer amount of space. Sure there are the cultural capitals—the theater scene of Toronto, the fine dining of Vancouver—and the popular eastern coast (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia) and southern Ontario are pretty densely built-up.
But get into the back woods and the enormity of Canada boggles the mind.
Not only do they beat the USA in sheer acreage of national parkland by almost 6,000 square miles, but even the land that isn't set aside for mighty Mother Nature is more open than even the gleaming wheat fields of Kansas or Montana's Big Sky country.
Put is this way: as of 1999, the USA had roughly 29 people per square kilometer.
Canada had 3.3 people per squre kilometer.
Reinventing the Okanagan - British Columbia's Okanagan Valley is where the Lake District meets Napa Valley meets the Wild West, a formerly sleepy retirement haven of orchards and vineyards being reinvented by dream-chasing Canadian entrepreneurs who are turning their hobbies and obsessions into successful tourism businesses...
The unsung parks of Western Canada - Troop 116 takes a quick spin through the Western Canada provinces of BC and Alberta: Biking Mt. Revelstoke National Park, hiking in Yoho National Park, driving right through Glacier National Park unawares, and clambering over the Continental Divide somewhere in the Canadian Rockies...
Canoe tripping in Ontario - A few weeks ago, I spent six days tracing a rough circle of about 50 miles across 32 lakes and 21 portages (ranging from 130 yards to 1.25 miles) through the backwoods of the Great White North. We were paddling some of the 2,955-square-mile Algonquin Provincial Park of Ontario, Canada, a heavily timbered wilderness bigger than the state of Delaware, roaming with moose and black bear and home to more than 2,400 lakes, and 745 miles of rivers and streams...