The 19 Best Things About Traveling in Canada

Beautiful lake in British Colombia

Last summer, I discovered that traveling in Canada is a dream. The scenery is gorgeous, the locals are over-the-top friendly, and many parts of the country are practically deserted. What’s not to love?

Here’s the backstory of how I fell in love with Canada: last July, my friend Jessica and I drove from Calgary, Canada, to Anchorage, Alaska, in a 12-person van. It was a 2,000-mile, eight-day journey crossing Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon. Many Caesars were drunk, pictures were taken, and reggaeton songs were listened to.

And now that I know how wonderful Canada is, I foresee many trips back in the future.

Here are the absolute best things about traveling in Canada:

12-passenger van in Canada
Our trusty 12-person van. We took the seats out and slept in it every night.

1. The Caesars – A Caesar is the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary. And dare I say, the better version? Instead of tomato juice, a Caesar contains clamato juice and is rimmed with celery salt. Unlike Blood Marys, Caesars aren’t relegated to brunch; we saw people drinking them at the bar at 5 pm. You can even buy Caesars in cans at the gas station.

A caesar in Canada

A caesar in Canada

2. The super friendly locals. This will come as a shock to no one, but Canadians are really, really nice. Everyone we met seemed to genuinely care about what we were doing in Canada.

3. The cowboy culture – Did you know there are cowboys in Canada? The province of Alberta is basically the Texas of Canada, resplendent with cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and country music. If you don’t believe me, watch Heartland on Netflix.

Horses in downtown Alberta
Canadian cowgirls rolling up to the bar in Calgary.

4. The poutine. How do I love thee, poutine? Let me count the ways. As you probably know, poutine is fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Though the dish originated in Quebec, it has thankfully been adopted all over Canada. We had it at least four times on our trip.

5. The incomparable natural beauty – Sky-blue lakes. Thundering rivers. Untouched swaths of pine forests. It’s impossible to deny that Canada is spectacularly beautiful. I found British Columbia to be especially gorgeous.

6. The lack of humans – Canada is very sparsely populated, especially as you go further north. In many parts of Canada, you’re more likely to come across a bear than another person. God knows what we would have done if our van had broken down.

The 21 best things about traveling in Canada

7. The road-tripping opportunities. Canada is the ideal country for a road trip. It’s safe, there’s little traffic, and if you get in a car accident, you might be able to afford the medical bills. #notbitter

8. The lack of billboards – Canada has virtually no billboards. Driving around Canada, you won’t see ads for egg McMuffins or 1-800-Call-Jesus signs. America, can we please follow suit ditch the billboards? Driving is so much more pleasant without them.

Road tripping in Canada
The Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Canada

9. The hot Canadian lumberjacks. It turns out that Candian lumberjacks are not just a cliché – they actually exist! Though the ones we met weren’t bearded or wearing plaid, they were manly, outdoorsy, and had lots of interesting stories about exploring the Canadian wilderness.

10. You might see a moose. We saw lots of warnings for moose, especially in swampy areas, which apparently moose enjoy. Just don’t aggravate them – they may charge if provoked.

11. The bear sightings -The further north you go in Canada, the more bears you’ll see. One day while driving in the Yukon, we saw 11 black bears by noon. 11! If you’re really lucky (or really unlucky), you might even see a grizzly bear.

A black bear on the side of the road in Canada
A black bear we spotted on the side of the road. The main reason we slept in the van, not in a tent.

12. Spotting all kinds of wildlife – But you won’t just see moose and bears: you may also see stone sheep, coyote, fox, porcupine, caribou, bison, and ptarmigan, which is a partridgelike grouse that lives in cold climates.

A bison on the side of the road in Canada

13. The photo opportunities. In Canada, you’re never far from an Instagram-worthy photo op.

Beautiful breakfast in Banff
Case in point – our stupidly gorgeous breakfast spot in BANFF.

14. It’s bilingual. Canada has not one but two official languages. And as we all know, being bilingual is sexy.

15. The hot springs are insane – On our trip, we visited Liard River Hot Springs, the largest natural hot springs in Canada. It was spectacular, with gorgeous surroundings, beautiful facilities, and a free-flowing river. Honestly, it trumped all of the hot springs I’ve ever been to.

Liard Hot Springs
P.S. there’s a secret waterfall if you swim all the way to the end of the creek.

16. The gold-rush towns – If you go really far north in Canada, you’re bound to stumble upon some gold-rush towns. Visiting Dawson City, Canada, felt like traveling back in time. A boomtown during the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City had frontier-style wooden buildings, unpaved roads, and a saloon with a can-can show. Jack London even lived in Dawson City for a time, after which he wrote White Fang and The Call of the Wild.

P.S. one tradition in Dawson City is to take a shot with a petrified human toe (called a sourtoe cocktail). It was just as disgusting as it sounds.

Downtown Dawson City, Canada
Dawson City, Canada
Downtown Dawson City, Canada

A few hours before taking a “sourtoe shot”. Still somewhat horrified I did that.

A cancan show in Dawson City, Canada

The famous can can show in Dawson City

17. The immaculate campgrounds – The campgrounds in Canada were extremely well-maintained. Some even had food stands, which was a nice touch.

18. The vibrant cities – But Canada’s not all wilderness; it’s home to sophisticated cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Vancouver is a dream for foodies, with some of the best Asian food I’ve had in North America.

19. The adorable outhouses – I mean, how cute is this out-house we saw in the Yukon? I loved the moon cut-outs.

A Canadian outhouse

And there you have it! All my favorite things about traveling around Canada.

Muncho Lake in British Columbia

Have you ever spent time traveling in Canada? What were your favorite things about it?

A special thanks to Jess for doing all the driving on our trip!

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

6 thoughts on “The 19 Best Things About Traveling in Canada”

  1. Living so close to the (B.C.) border my whole life, I guess I never really thought twice about Canada at all but this post is really making me want to move back to North America and really spend some time hanging out there! Looks like you had an absolutely incredible trip. Why did you start in Calgary and end in Anchorage? (just out of curiosity)

    • BC is so stunning! That’s awesome you grew up so near. My friend Jessica is a tour leader, and she had to drive from Calgary to Alaska because she was doing a tour in Alaska. Hence why we started/stopped there :)

  2. I’ve never been to Canada, but this post really makes me want to go! What was your itinerary when you went? Banff is definitely on my list, but I want to check out other things Canada has to offer.

    • We started in Calgary because my friend is a tour leader and had to drive her truck from Calgary to Alaska, where she was leading a tour. She had a ton of friends who had done the same drive before, which was nice because we knew the best places to stop :)

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