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The Most Popular Travel Destinations in Canada

The Great White North is the second largest country in the world based on acreage but number 38 by population, which means there's plenty of wide-open space to explore.

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Located in the southwest corner of British Columbia, and surrounded by water on three sides, Vancouver is an irresistibly vibrant, diverse, and verdant coastal city, which makes it one of the more exciting Canada destinations. Its mild climate and natural beauty lure visitors year round. This picturesque seaport also has thriving art, music, and culinary scenes. On the itinerary: Explore Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre urban oasis featuring lush forests, beaches, and trails; stroll through VanDusen Botanical Garden; take a thrilling walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge; visit the storied sites from the 2010 Winter Olympics; and enjoy a sophisticated evening at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The one draw back? Vancouver is expensive.

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The Sea to Sky Highway, otherwise known as Hwy 99, connects Vancouver to Whistler. Famed for its awe-inspiring mountain landscape, world-class skiing and snowboarding, storybook pedestrian village, and sprawling resorts, this alpine paradise is the perfect vacation for people who love winter activities. You might be surprised to learn that the number of summer vacationers now rivals that of their cold-weather counterparts. No doubt due to Whistler’s prominence as a major mountain biking destination.

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One of the overlooked Canada destinations, Victoria, a hop, skip, and a jump away from Vancouver, is a jewel. It balances a colonial past with a contemporary present. A guided tour is a great way to take in the neo-baroque British Columbia Parliament Buildings. The stately Craigdarroch Castle is another must. And you could easily spend an entire day strolling around its pictorial Inner Harbour. Just make sure to leave enough time for Butchart Gardens and Goldstream Provincial Park.

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Surfing and rainforests may not be the first things that come to mind when you think about the Great White North, but Tofino is about to change all that. Set at the tip of the Esowista Peninsula in Clayoquot Sound in British Columbia, this hippie-haven-turned-relaxed-resort-town surprises and delights with its beautiful beaches, lakes, inlets, west coast-style eateries, quaint cabins, and stellar swells.

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Québec City

Québec City is the epicenter of French Canadian culture, not to mention one of North America’s oldest settlements and one of the most historic Canada destinations (400 years’ worth!). A UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Québec conjures the nostalgic charm of Europe with its narrow cobblestone streets, 17th-century homes, churches, cafés, bistros, manicured squares, and heritage landmarks such as Château Frontenac. Before you go, brush up on these essential French phrases.

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Situated on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montréal is the largest city in Québec. Considered the cultural capital of Canada, this French-speaking metropolis is a sophisticated urban escape with a romantic, European-esque vibe. It’s also blessed with an exciting food scene, chic boutiques, galleries, museums, and marvelous architecture. No passport? No problem.

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Canada’s attractive capital, Ottawa, impresses with its Victorian architecture, acclaimed museums, and public parks. The core of downtown is Parliament Hill, where you’ll find the grand National Gallery. The tree-lined Rideau Canal offers boating in the summer and a chance to glide across its seasonal (frozen) stage in the winter.

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Nestled amid the Canadian Rockies within the sprawling Banff National Park, this tiny resort town has something for everyone. Downtown is distinguished by its scenic beauty, lively nightlife, boutiques, restaurants, and museums. Those with a taste for luxury will love the five-star lodges, spas, and fine dining, while proximity to mountain recreation is sure to appeal to outdoorsy types. And the Banff Hot Springs are an all-around crowd-pleaser.

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Lake Louise

A 40-minute drive northwest on the Trans-Canada Highway from Banff is Lake Louise––one of the most naturally beautiful Canada destinations, with its emerald waters, majestic glaciers, and rugged peaks. Travelers can take advantage of superb skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in the winter and canoeing, fishing, and hiking in the summer. And when it comes to where to stay, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is in a league of its own. Here are more destinations that are even better in the winter.

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Peter Ustinov once characterized Toronto as “New York run by the Swiss” and Margaret Atwood called it “Canada’s Big Apple.” Such descriptions paint a picture of this dynamic, multicultural city its modern skyline dominated by the CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. Over 140 languages are spoken and the cuisine is equally diverse. And Toronto is the headquarters of major sports franchises such the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptor, which means you can almost always catch a great game. Check out these domestic destinations that you’d swear were from Europe.

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Calgary is a magical mix of cosmopolitan and cowboy. The center of Canada’s oil industry, it’s teeming with corporate offices, towers, and skyscrapers. And with upwards of 1.2 million residents, it has the highest population in Alberta. Even with all this growth, Cowtown still retains its traditional stetson-esque spirit. For a true western experience, head to Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall, where you can kick up your heels to country tunes and try your luck at the mechanical bull. Or time your trip to the annual Calgary Stampede, a rodeo and farm festival held every July.

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Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, one of the most iconic Canada destinations, beckons with its rushing waters and mesmerizing mist. One of the coolest places to watch this hypnotic natural wonder is the 520-foot Skylon Tower, which touts indoor/outdoor observation decks and a revolving dining room. For an up-close vantage point, don your poncho and head down to the subterranean caverns behind the falls. And while the splendor of the iconic cascades is certainly the biggest draw, there’s plenty to see and do beyond on dry land. Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, the Bird Kingdom, and Niagara SkyWheel are just a few of the family-friendly attractions. Don’t miss these vacations that kids of all ages will enjoy.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay is an avid traveler and travel writer who has visited 46 countries across six continents. For Reader's Digest, she covers both domestic and international travel, and her byline also appears in Travel + Leisure, InsideHook, Hotels Above Par, Well + Good and PureWow. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with her son, doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.