The Best of Canada

Later this week, we’ll celebrate our own independence and the establishment of our country as the United States of America. There will be fireworks and cookouts and, for the fortunate among us, a four-day weekend. July 1 is when our neighbors to the north celebrate Canada Day, marking the unification of different British colonies into the Dominion of Canada. We thought we’d mark the occasion by praising some of our favorite spots in the Great White North.

Lake Louise

A spectacular emerald color thanks to glacial and rock runoff, Lake Louise in Alberta is a picture-perfect sight to behold. You could spend hours just gazing from the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. At almost 6,000 feet of elevation with mountains and trails all around, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise year-round. In winter, there’s world-class skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog-sledding and sleigh rides. In summer, there’s canoeing, hiking and horseback riding, plus the ski gondolas remain in operation to whisk visitors over alpine meadows and babbling brooks.

Vancouver

The host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics serves as a launching point for cruises to Alaska and for the Rocky Mountaineer, one of the great train rides in the world. Nearby Whistler is a world-class ski destination. With all that going for it, Vancouver wouldn’t need much more to be considered a great city. But Vancouver has a lot more going on. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and has views for miles. Granville Island’s food scene has the best from all the cultures that have come to call this international city home.

Churchill

This Manitoba town is the Polar Bear Capital of the World and is also a great spot to see beluga whales and is a birder’s dream. If you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Polar bear tours like the ones offered by Natural Habitat Adventures put you in the center of the action, visiting a den and watching the bears go about their daily routine from the comfort of the Polar Rover. There’s also ample opportunity to meet with First Nations cultures on the western shore of Hudson Bay and see an older way of life firsthand.

Quebec

About as close to Europe as you can get without crossing the Atlantic, the French Canadian province features two great cities in Montreal and Quebec City, separated by 160 miles of the St. Lawrence River. The old cities call to mind the charms of Paris, and in between is Trois-Rivieres, one of the first European settlements in North America. There are few sites as striking as Quebec City during the “blue hour” when evening sets in or dawn is on its way and the indirect sunlight makes the sky a dreamy shade of dark blue.

Toronto

Canada’s biggest city is a melting pot of cultures and sits just across Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. At more than 1,800 feet, the CN Tower is the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a stroll on the EdgeWalk atop the 36 Restaurant. For a dose of culture, head over to the Royal Ontario Museum with its mix of Romanesque and modern styles. Sports fans can get their fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame.