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Blessed with a spectacular Pacific Rim location, Vancouver is a study in contrasts and cohesion. Set between the mountains and the sea, the city blends cultures and landscapes, allowing visitors to enjoy a modern, cosmopolitan city alongside the great outdoors. You could spend all weekend exploring Stanley Park, but you don't want to miss the panoramic vistas from the Capilano Bridge or the Sea to Sky Highway, or the opportunity to ski or explore a mountain trail. A temperate year-round climate makes Vancouver enjoyable in any season, though the winter months do bring a string of rainy days.
One of Canada's best-kept secrets, Toronto is on par with New York City, San Francisco and Chicago when it comes to cultural attractions and urban activities. The best place to start is at the top, and in this city there's no mistaking where that is. The landmark CN Tower is the tallest structure in the world and also an important telecommunications hub. Take the lift to the top for a breathtaking view of the city and its surrounding areas. Right next door at the SkyDome you can see a Blue Jays baseball game or just walk around the massive stadium. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest in Canada, with fascinating archeology and natural-history exhibits, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, with a fine collection of European and Canadian works. Don't miss the funky stores and ethnic restaurants on Queen Street West, or the elegant boutiques and fine eateries of Yorkville. Also head down to Harbourfront, a complex of unique shops and restaurants right on beautiful Lake Ontario. From Harbourfront you can hop on a ferry to the Toronto Islands for a picnic and outdoor recreation. Toronto is an especially great destination for families as most attractions are child-friendly. Plus, it is an incredibly clean, safe and easy city to get around either on foot or by public transport.
Quebec City may be the only fortified city north of Mexico, but it welcomes visitors with open arms. Explore the Citadel, where you might catch Canadian troops staging a military ceremony. As for food, you could splurge on afternoon tea at the Chateau Frontenac, or do as the locals do and snack on poutine—french fries with gravy and cheese curds.
Montreal, c’est si bon! This French-speaking city is considered the cultural capital of Canada, and is a cosmopolitan celebration of Québécois style. A horse-drawn carriage ride around the cobblestone streets and grand buildings of Vieux-Montréal will give you a taste of European flavour. The Basilique Notre-Dame is a confection of stained glass, and the Plateau Mont-Royal district will delight you with its quaint boutiques and cafés. Dig in to a massive plate of poutine to fuel up for a tour of the epic Olympic Park.
Niagara Falls is a top destination with a split personality of sorts, being a citizen both of the United States and of Canada. Views are generally accepted to be better on the Canadian side, with more to do and Ontario's excellent wineries adjacent. Visit the Clifton Hill District and enjoy a Las Vegas-style dinner show at Greg Frewin Theatre. See the Falls from below aboard the Maid of the Mist or on a helicopter tour above. For other ideas on how not to experience the Falls, visit the Daredevil Museum.
Victoria remains the most British of cities in North America; its picturesque location provides the perfect setting for an unhurried holiday or an active getaway. Visitors glimpse the Olympic Mountains in the background as bursts of colour from public and private gardens dot the landscape and boats sparkle in the harbour. Spend the afternoon on a whale-watching excursion, enjoying a leisurely stroll along the waterfront or browsing at the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Touted as the city by which all capitals should be measured, Ottawa is a compact, clean, cleverly planned centre of culture and politics. And it's an ideal choice for a weekend break because you can see so much in a short time. Start downtown at the architecturally stunning National Gallery of Canada. Other fine museums, such as the Canadian Nature Museum and the National Aviation Museum, await. The Gothic Revival-style buildings of Parliament Hill convey the political stature. A free, guided tour of the main building offers information on both the present-day government and important historical events. While Ottawa does have its fair share of lofty attractions, there are also lots of ways to relax and have fun. The lovely Rideau Canal, which cuts through the city, offers boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. Gatineau Park is always buzzing with cyclists and walkers. For an eclectic mix of old and new Ottawa, stop by the Byward Market. Whether you're in town for a few hours or a few days, Ottawa offers a gratifying taste of Canadian culture and hospitality.
Whistler, British Columbia, is a short trip from Vancouver by road or air. The stunning landscape, pedestrian-only Village and genuine, down-to-earth mountain culture make Whistler an unforgettable year-round destination. Winters provide reliable snow for skiing, snowboarding and Nordic sports while golf, mountain biking and hiking fill the warmer months. Festivals, spas, restaurants and bars combine with endless outdoor activities to make Whistler the ultimate place to escape and unwind.
Alberta's largest city is tucked away at the feet of the Rockies. The heart of the northern west is a city of one million. Several of Canada's finest parks are within easy driving distance. Shopping and the arts bring many to Canada's Cowtown, but Calgary trades most seriously on its Western appeal. The Calgary Stampede is a huge annual event. Ranches offer accommodation on the city's outskirts. Pioneer heritage is showcased at Heritage Park Historical Village, and Blackfoot culture is celebrated at Glenbow Museum.
Flanked on all sides by the Rockies, Alberta's favourite mountain town offers an irresistible combination of luxury lodges, perfect powder, renowned restaurants and energetic nightlife. With both summer and winter appeal, Banff lures visitors to its stores, spas and slopes year-round. A thriving arts scene, and proximity to Lake Louise and Kananaskis County, add to its allure. Don't miss the hoodoos, intriguing rock spires, in Banff National Park, Canada's first and the world's third - National Park.