America’s neighbour to the north, Canada is a massive North American nation renowned for its French and English cultural influences, diverse wildlife, stunning natural scenery, vibrant urban centres in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and maple leaf national flag. Shaped by waves of immigration from cultures around the world, Canada is still a relatively young nation and although it became a self-governing dominion in 1867, it was only officially declared an independent nation in 1982. Despite its short history as an independent nation, Canada has played a major role in North American and Western pop culture for centuries prior.
What is Canada known for? It’s credited with many inventions, including ice hockey, the Caesar cocktail, poutine and the snowmobile. Several of Hollywood’s most famous actors, musicians and performers, including Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Ryan Reynolds, Jim Carrey and Ryan Gosling, are Canadian. And with such spectacular scenery across Canada, it’s easy to see why Canada is a travel destination that delivers unique attractions, bucket list-worthy experiences and politeness famous the world over.
What Is Canada Known For?
Recommended tour: For a tour that will show you the best of Canada, check out this 5-day tour from New York for a multi-day exploration of Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
1- The Maple Leaf
First appearing on Canadian coins in 1850, the maple leaf is a recognisable symbol of Canada in pop-culture as well as on the Canadian national flag.
The maple leaf was adopted as the national symbol in the 1700s by French Canadians living along the Saint Lawrence River, slowly spreading to Canadians across the nation before appearing on the coat of arms of both Quebec and Ontario by 1868.
Valued by native Canadians for its sweet sap, the maple tree and the maple leaf are as representative of Canada as any other feature or landmark, officially appearing on the national flag starting in 1965.
Ice hockey is a popular sport in Canada, with virtually every Canadian growing up playing the sport either as an organised pastime or with a group of friends in their backyard.
The sport can trace its roots back to 19th century Montreal when basic European stick-and-ball games morphed from the organised sport of bandy to create the first semblance of contemporary ice hockey.
Referred to simply as ‘hockey’ by both English and French-speaking Canadians, the sport has developed into one of North America’s most popular professional sporting codes and has been exported to countries throughout Europe.
Hockey is big business in Canada, with the nation being home to seven professional NHL hockey teams and the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams seemingly perennial contenders at every Winter Olympic Games since the event was first added to the games in 1920.
3- The Rocky Mountains
Stretching from Canada into the southern United States, the Rocky Mountains are as much an iconic Canadian natural feature as it is an American one, with about half the entire mountain range situated within Canadian borders.
The Rockies is one of the major mountain ranges in North America and spans an area of more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km), with many prominent peaks found along the British Columbia and Alberta sections of the Rockies.
One of the range’s most unique features is the enormous Rocky Mountain Trench, which runs through British Columbia and Alberta.
4- Niagara Falls
Situated on the border of the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls is one of the most recognisable waterfalls in the world and has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America.
Split into three distinct waterfalls, Niagara Falls is made up of the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the trio and the only of the three falls partially situated in Canada.
Niagara Falls is among the most visited natural landmarks in North America and regularly attracts more than 20 million visitors every year, with floodlights illuminating the Horseshoe Falls for a daytime and nighttime sightseeing experience.
- Niagara Falls in 1 Day: Tour of American and Canadian Sides
- Niagara Falls Luxury Day Tour – from Toronto with boat and helicopter
With one of the largest landmasses of any nation on earth, Canada’s wide open plains, icy northern provinces and unnavigable mountain ranges are the perfect hiding spots for Canada’s diverse wildlife.
Grizzly bears, moose, beavers, whales and lynx are a few of Canada’s wildlife animal species that visitors to America’s northern neighbour can expect to come across throughout Canada, and even near major urban areas such as Toronto and Vancouver.
The Arctic Circle spills over into northern Canada and is an excellent spot to catch a glimpse of majestic animals native to boreal and Arctic climates such as endangered caribou or even polar bears, which visitors to Churchill in Manitoba can spot in the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”.
6- Maple Syrup
One of the largest and most popular exports from Canada is maple syrup, with Canada producing more than 85% of the world’s entire maple syrup supply every year.
Canadian maple syrup was first produced by the country’s indigenous people, with European arrivals picking up the tricks of the trade and changing production methods to produce maple syrup on a larger scale.
Rated and graded based on its taste and colour, maple syrup can be enjoyed with porridge, on waffles and drizzled over French toast.
One of the best ways to taste maple syrup is at a sugar shack in Quebec.
7- Multicultural Cities
First inhabited by Canada’s indigenous people, large influxes of European immigrants followed by more recent waves of immigrants from Asia, Africa and South America have populated Canada’s growing cities and urban areas.
Toronto and Vancouver are two of the largest cities in Canada, with both with large immigrant and immigrant-descent populations that have brought the world to the streets of Canada.
Another fascinating city is Montreal, the second most-populated city in Canada and a destination that is home to a French-Canadian population that provides the city with a distinctly European feel despite being one of the largest cities in North America.
- History Walking Tour of Old Montreal
- Vancouver City Sightseeing Tour: Granville Island and Stanley Park
8- The Northern Lights
With several northern Canadian provinces spilling over into the Arctic Circle, Canada’s far north is one of the best places on earth to gaze at the Northern Lights, which is a dazzling display of colours and shapes in the night sky between September and March.
The Northern Lights are a stunning phenomenon unique to the Arctic Circle and occur when electrically charged particles of the sun interact with oxygen and nitrogen gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Best experienced in the Northwest Territories and provinces of Manitoba, Yukon and Nunavut, the lights can illuminate the sky anywhere in Canada when conditions are perfect, so look out for them no matter where you are.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, better known as the Mounties, are one of the most recognisable cultural icons in Canada, having made countless appearances in media such as films, TV series and theatrical productions.
Apart from being easily distinguishable from police forces from elsewhere in the world thanks to their Red Serge ceremonial uniforms, the Mounties are highly trained and serve as the national police force of Canada across all of the nation’s provinces and territories.
Established in 1920, the Mounties have even played active roles in military positions during times of war, most notably during World War I and the War in Afghanistan.
10- Banff National Park
Canada’s favourite destination for some outdoor fun and adventure, Banff and the Banff National Park in the province of Alberta are renowned for their stunning beauty and are popular outdoor destinations when it comes to enjoying skiing, snowboarding and hiking.
Banff National Park became Canada’s first official national park and the third in the world in 1885, and is neatly tucked beneath the striking peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
The park is also home to the town of Banff, which became the first municipality to be incorporated inside a Canadian national park and has grown in popularity thanks to its hot springs and excellent outdoor recreational opportunities.
Book your ticket for the Banff Gondola ride and to enjoy the best views of the Rockies.
Poutine is an authentically French-Canadian dish typically made from French fries, cheese curds and gravy.
Poutine originated in the Centre-du-Québec region in the province of Quebec sometime during the late 1950s, however, the dish’s exact origins and who invented it remains a hotly contested topic throughout Canada’s predominantly French-speaking regions.
Poutine is so popular throughout Canada and some cities in the United States that several poutine festivals celebrating the culinary delight are organised annually, including large poutine festivities in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa and even Chicago!
Recommended tour: Montreal Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours
12- CN Tower
CN Tower in downtown Toronto has been an iconic landmark of the Toronto skyline since its completion in 1976, holding the record for the tallest freestanding structure in the world for 32 years until it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2007.
Soaring above Toronto on what was the Canadian National Railway Company’s land, the tower was built by the railway company to provide the rapidly expanding Toronto metro area with a communication tower for radio and television broadcasts.
With a height of about 1,815 feet (553 m), CN Tower features multiple observation decks, a fully-fledged entertainment complex and a revolving restaurant 1,150 feet (350 m) above the ground.
You can’t miss it no matter where you are in Toronto.
The tower symbolises the strength of Canadian engineering and is an awe-inspiring structure.
Recommended tour: Best of Toronto Small Group Tour with CN Tower and Harbour Cruise
With one of the largest landmasses of any country on earth, Canada’s interior is dotted by countless freshwater lakes, so much so that Canada is recognised as the nation with the most freshwater lakes in the world.
Of the approximately 1.42 million freshwater lakes in the world, Canada is home to roughly 879,800 of them, which means that Canada has about 62% of all freshwater lakes in the world and more lakes than all other countries on Earth combined!
A major source of pride among Canadians, the nation’s freshwater lakes are not just natural features but the also serve as vital navigation routes, with four out of the five Great Lakes of North America bordering Canadian land.
Recommended tour: Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway – Full-Day Tour
14- The Caesar Cocktail
The Caesar is a Canadian cocktail made from vodka, clam juice, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, served with ice, with a celery stick and a lime wedge in a salt-rimmed glass.
The Caesar cocktail was first concocted in 1969 by Walter Chell, a restaurant manager at the Calgary Inn who was tasked with creating a new signature drink for the hotel’s Italian-themed restaurant.
A spicier variation of the typical Bloody Mary, the Caesar cocktail can be ordered in most bars throughout Canada and is a drink that will remind you of Canada wherever you are.
Recommended tour: Toronto Legendary Cocktail Tour
15- Justin Bieber and Celine Dion
Canada has produced several world-class artists and musicians throughout the years but none as famous on the international stage as Justin Bieber and Celine Dion.
Born on 30 March 1968, Celine Dion rose to fame for her powerful and technically skilled vocals during the 1980s and represented Switzerland at the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest.
The “Queen of Power Ballads” was responsible for introducing francophone music to non-francophone nations across the world throughout her illustrious music career.
Separated by nearly three decades, Justin Bieber, born on March 1, 1994, is Canada’s most recent international music superstar, first bursting onto the music scene with his breakthrough album “My World” in 2009.
Both Bieber and Dion have won several Grammy awards throughout their successful music careers, with both considered to be among the two biggest musical and pop-culture icons in Canadian history.
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