Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday this year, making it the perfect time to experience what it means to be Canadian.
To mark the occasion, the accommodation experts have compiled a list of seven quintessential Canadian experiences to try in the next 12 months that will take you from the crowded city to the natural wonders that define the nation.
To help you further plan your adventures, the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI) tracks what travelers have paid for hotel rooms in cities across Canada.
1. See the Northern Lights with your naked eye in the Yukon
In our light-polluted cities, we rarely see much of the night sky, but in Canada’s north, not only can you see the stars, but during most clear nights during the winter, you can experience the awe-inspiring spectacle of the aurora borealis. These ghostly, shifting streams of coloured light are caused by charged particles from the sun striking the earth’s atmosphere. On rare occasions, aurora are visible in Canada’s southern latitudes, but if you truly want to experience them first-hand, you should head somewhere north, like the Yukon. Northern Tales offers several viewing packages that let you see them in style.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Whitehorse was $126 in the first half of 2016.
2. Get soaked at the base of the Niagara Falls
Canada has no shortage of natural wonders, but one that remains accessible to a large percentage of the population is Niagara Falls in southern Ontario. This towering cataract never fails to impress visitors, even those who have seen it multiple times. The best way to experience it is to get up close and get wet on one of Hornblower’s cruises. Their boats take you to the base of the Horseshoe Falls where you are deafened by the roaring sound and soaked by the spray that is generated by the 600,000 gallons of water that tumbles over the top every minute.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Niagara Falls was $132 in the first half of 2016.
3. Look a polar bear in the eye in Manitoba
Few animals are as symbolic of Canada’s north as the polar bear. With climate change threatening the existence of these magnificent creatures, the time to observe them in their natural habitat is now.
The epicentre for polar-bear watching in Canada is Churchill, Manitoba and Churchill Wild is one of several outfitters who can get you up close and personal with these animals in an experience that will be seared into your memory forever.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Winnipeg was $133 in the first half of 2016.
4. Learn to play hockey in Canmore, Alberta
As much as Canadians love to watch hockey, the number of people actually playing it continues to fall due to rising costs and changing demographics, according to Hockey Canada statistics. If you’ve never strapped on a pair of skates to slap a puck across a frozen sheet of water, the professionals at Pinnacle Hockey offer the Canadian Hockey Player Experience for everyone curious about what it takes to play the game. As a bonus, Canmore is right on the edge of the Canadian Rockies so when the game is done, you get to explore some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Canmore was $167 in the first half of 2016.
5. Paddle a canoe through some rapids in the Northwest Territories
Long before we could fly or drive across this country, early Canadians crisscrossed the land by canoe, an invention borrowed from the First Nations peoples. Canoes remain a staple at many Canadian cottages, but actually navigating one down a river for days, portaging around rapids and living in the wild is something else entirely. There are numerous guides in every province that can bring you down any one of Canada’s magnificent rivers, but Canoe North Adventures has an experience you will remember when they take you down the pristine Keele River in the remote Northwest Territories.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Yellowknife was $162 in the first half of 2016.
6. Learn how to fish for lobster in P.E.I.
Lobster is best when it’s fresh and there’s nothing fresher than the ones that were caught the same day. What better way to be sure a lobster is fresh than to catch it yourself? Travel to Canada’s tiniest province, Prince Edward Island, to get on a boat to learn how to haul in a lobster trap and how to harvest these tasty crustaceans with the fourth-generation lobster fishermen that operate Top Notch Lobster Tours.
HPI average price for a 3-star hotel in Charlottetown was $166 in the first half of 2016.
7. Cross the country by train going from Vancouver to Toronto
You don’t realize how big Canada is until you try to cross it from one side to the other. VIA Rail’s trans-Canada journey aboard The Canadian only goes from Toronto to Vancouver, but the trek takes three days and four nights to complete. From the comfort of your seat, you can watch the window scenery transform from the forests of the Canadian Shield to rolling prairies then to mighty mountains. It’s an epic trip that is one of the world’s great train journeys.
HPI average price paid for a 3-star hotel in Toronto was $172 in the first half of 2016.