Canada boasts over thirty national parks so you have no excuse not to visit at least one because wherever you are you should be a short bus or train ride away. Once there, you can enjoy several leisure pursuits including canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting.
The parks are run by a federal body known as Parks Canada and representatives provide information locally in their park information centers. Entry to the parks is free but if you require a permit for anything from hunting to camping you will have to pay for it. Also, if a park contains a particular attraction you will probably have to pay a small fee. So, they are professionally run, free in most cases and provide some of the most spectacular scenery you are likely to see while visiting the country. Some of the more popular parks include Ovens in Nova Scotia, Fundy in New Brunswick, Pacific Rim in Vancouver and Banff in Alberta.
The good news for visitors is that despite the size of the country, when it comes to skiing, each of the major cities is relatively close to a leading ski resort. Vancouver is about an hour and a half from Whistler, one of the top three resorts in the world, Calgary is about the same distance from the six big ski centers in the Rockies, Ottawa is only thirty minutes from Camp Fortune and Mont Cascade and Montreal is about an hour from over four hundred different slopes in the Eastern Townships.
If you are going to Canada on holiday, it is recommended that you book ski packages well in advance, particularly in the more popular resorts. Once there, food accommodation and ski passes are not extremely expensive, a day pass in one of the resorts in the Rockies will cost you about C$4. For your assistance, tourist offices in the relevant areas are open in winter and nearby towns have ski shops where you can rent equipment. These areas also publish regional ski and sports directories which are available in the UK and US from state or provincial tourist offices.
Hiking is another activity which proves popular among those visiting Canada and is yet another activity which is available throughout the country. This is another bonus of visiting the aforementioned national parks as they usually have well marked trails for you to explore. Of course you can always get a map from the local tourist office if you do not feel like wandering aimlessly about for hours on end. The only thing you need for a hiking expedition is to go properly prepared. Wear good walking boots, waterproof clothing and expect sudden weather changes because you will probably experience them. Other than that all you have to do is enjoy the fresh air and the exercise. Now what could possibly be more enjoyable?
A trip to the Niagara Falls is a holiday all by itself. Spanning the border between the US and Canada, the falls offer a multitude of activities to the visitor. You can take a cruise on the world famous Maid of the Mist which will take you right to the base of the American falls and the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. The journey through crashing waters surrounded by huge rock formations is not one for the faint hearted but is certainly one well worth making. Or, if you do not fancy taking to the water then why not take to the air. Niagara Helicopter Ltd. has been flying passengers over the falls for over thirty year and offer a unique view of the attraction of this natural wonder. After just five minutes at the falls you will see why it has earned its well deserved place as one of the natural wonders of the world.
If all this talk of hiking and skiing is making you tired just reading it you might want to check out some of the activities where all you have to do is sit and watch. As you have probably gathered, Canadians love sport and ice hockey, baseball and Canadian football are among the most popular. The rivalry is notorious, the skill is exceptional and you are guaranteed to enjoy whichever one you decide to watch.
While lacrosse is the official national sport (wonder how that happened) ice hockey is the unofficial one and probably a little more exciting to watch too. If you are a fan and are in Toronto you should check out the Hockey Hall of Fame where you an even get in on the action with the selection of interactive exhibitions.
No guide to Canada would be complete without a reference to this remarkable building – the largest free standing structure in the world. Once you make it inside you can check out the view form a variety of lookout points. On nice days, if you are feeling brave enough, you can even go outside. If you decide not to avail of this option, however, you can try the view through the glass floor which looks all the way to the ground. While inside you can also visit the SkyPod. Situated one hundred and forty five stories above the ground, this is the highest public observation tower in the world. Before you get inside you should know that you will feel the tower sway a little but apparently it is designed to do so. Yes, the view through the glass floor sounded really good didn’t it!
Once you step into Vancouver's Chinatown you could be forgiven for wondering where it was that you decided to go on holiday. The sights, smells and sounds of an alien culture completely take over this part of the city. The streets are crowded and noisy and packed with vendors selling products straight from the Orient, or so they say. Find out how to balance your yin and your yang energies, watch the hawkers selling trinkets and potions, follow the authentic signs and above all let your imagination run away with you. You will also see one the worlds narrowest buildings at the corner of Carrall and Pender. Toronto may have the tallest but Vancouver has the narrowest. Then, at the end of all of this try Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens, the only Ming Dynasty garden of its kind outside China. The weekend is the best time to head to Chinatown and make sure you get to see the Saturday night market, you never know what you might come across.