Canada No Filter
With its diverse landscape and natural wonders, dynamic food scene shaped by different provinces and celebrity exports such as Drake, The Weeknd and Feist garnering recognition worldwide, Canada is finally shedding its humble reputation – and isn’t one bit sorry about it. This year is an ideal time to visit as energy is high with the country celebrating 150 years since Confederation, but there’s never a bad time to explore its vibrant cities and breathtaking national parks. Here’s how to make the most of your trip.
1. Ride the Rails
Not long after the cross-country railway united the remote corners of the nation more than a century ago, grand castle hotels were opened along the line to welcome passengers. From the eastern Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City to the West’s storied Fairmont Banff Springs to the elegant Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, these majestic hotels soon became destinations in themselves, setting the foundation for the Canadian travel industry. As crowds flocked from far and wide, including politicians, presidents, musicians and the Hollywood elite, it was just as Canadian Pacific Railway president William Cornelius Van Horne had envisioned when he famously declared: “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.” Today, the train is still one of the most epic ways to see Canada, and experiencing the splendour of these hotels is like taking a trip through Canadian heritage. Travel from east to west in four nights on the Canadian, a VIA Rail train that journeys from Toronto to Vancouver, weaving through mountains and lake country. Prestige class means your own private cabin, a sofa that converts into a full bed, bar service, plus your own massive window for those prairie sunsets. Skip the planning with Fairmont and VIA Rail’s Great Canadian Railway Adventure package, which includes a custom itinerary, train travel and accommodations at several of the original railway hotels.
2. Hit the Slopes
Ski enthusiasts, pack your gear: With snowy winters from coast to coast, Canada has some of the best powder in the world.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Adrenaline-seekers, take note: Revelstoke has the highest vertical descent in North America (1,713 metres). Try lift, snowcat, backcountry or heli-skiing, all from the same base.
Banff-Lake Louise, Alberta
Every run here looks out at the picturesque, snow-capped Rocky Mountains, but the intermediate Sunset Terrace (run 23) gets top score for #NoFilter views. Pack your GoPro for this one.
Fun for all levels
Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia
Newbies can learn from pros at the ski and snowboard school, one of the best in North America, while seasoned experts can challenge themselves skiing on Horstman Glacier (offered from June to July).
Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Refuel with cocktails and casual fare (like duck poutine and tapas) at the new Axe Lounge Bar at Fairmont Tremblant, then head to nightclub P’tit Caribou, a local favourite steps from the hotel.
Presidents and politicians from Reagan to Thatcher have attended summits at Fairmont Le Château Montebello, the world’s largest log cabin. Curl up around the lobby’s six-sided fireplace after a day of cross-country skiing.
High tea at Fairmont Empress in Victoria
3. Follow in the Steps of Royalty
Generations of British royals have fallen in love with Canada’s rustic charm. In 1939, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth sat down to lunch at Victoria’s harbourside Fairmont Empress, one of the province’s most elegant spots for afternoon tea. In Toronto, Fairmont Royal York is the official hotel of the Royal family. During her stay, Queen Elizabeth II would take a private elevator to her 16th-floor suite and enjoy an afternoon cocktail of gin and Dubonnet. More recently, newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton stayed at a rustic Banff lodge with no electricity or running water as part of their 2011 Royal Tour.
The Oreo brownie cake at Holland’s Cake and Shake
4. Eat Local in Ottawa
Get a taste of the capital city’s food scene on Wellington Street West, where hip new openings have been drawing in foodies from around the country.
- At Holland’s Cake and Shake, order snack-size individual cakes in ever-changing flavours like Oreo brownie and cherry Kool-Aid.
- Bar Laurel is a moody, stylish spot where patrons come for the vermouth-laced cocktails and stay for the Spanish pintxos (think Iberico croquettes).
A view of the northern lights from Jasper National Park, the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve
5. See the Northern Lights
One of nature’s most remarkable light shows has inspired authors and artists (from Shakespeare to Tom Thomson) for centuries. See it yourself while travelling to the heart of the Canadian Rockies – Condé Nast Traveler rates Jasper as the country’s top spot to see the northern lights.
An order of fresh seafood in the Maritimes
6. Kiss the Cod
A traditional “screech-in” ceremony is performed at local pubs in Newfoundland and Labrador: Kiss a codfish, recite a sentence in Newfoundland English (a tricky dialect) and take a swig of local Screech rum.
7. …Or Catch your Own
There’s no shortage of cold-weather activities in Quebec City, but the latest must-try is urban ice fishing at the Village Nordik in the Port of Quebec. You can even lunch on your own catch of the day thanks to the on-site culinary team.
8. Love Vancouver, Rain or Shine
Botanist restaurant at Fairmont Pacific Rim
10 a.m. At Fairmont Pacific Rim, sit down to brunch at the pastel-clad Botanist restaurant for cinnamon bun pancakes (complete with cream cheese glaze and candied pecans).
2 p.m. With more than 70,000 creatures, from sea otters to sloths, the Vancouver
Aquarium is the largest in Canada.
7 p.m. Book tickets to a modern dance performance at Scotiabank Dance Centre, then dine at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s railway-inspired Notch8 restaurant.
10 a.m. Brave the lineup at Café Medina for Liège-style waffles and anything-but-basic egg dishes (try the spicy Moroccan meatballs).
2 p.m. Stop by the pixelated “Digital Orca” sculpture by Douglas Coupland, located outside the Vancouver
Convention Centre, then take a dip (and admire the views) in the heated outdoor pool at nearby Fairmont Waterfront.
7 p.m. Reserve ahead for the best Japanese-Italian dishes you’ve never tried (think Wagyu steak with fermented cabbage) at Kissa Tanto, a vintage-glam
space in Chinatown.
Montreal’s Palais des congrès convention centre has become an architectural landmark
9. Explore Multicultural Montreal
While 2017 is an important year for Canada, it also marks the 375th anniversary of Montreal, home to the stunning Palais des congrès captured on this issue’s cover. With the building’s kaleidoscope facade made up of 390 coloured and transparent glass panels, and its adjoining century-old edifices (such as the Rogers and King foundry and the Art Deco Tramways Building), there’s perhaps no architectural landmark more evocative of today’s Canada: vibrant, diverse and undeniably modern – yet still connected to its past. To admire more of Montreal’s architecture, take a short walk from the Palais to find the Notre-Dame Basilica, a gorgeous example of Gothic revival style. Or ride a Bixi (Montreal’s bike-sharing system) from Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, with its new design inspired by the 1960s, to Habitat 67, a unique cubic housing complex designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie as a pavilion for the Expo 67 World’s Fair. Whether you choose to tour the sites, practice your French or explore the multicultural food scene, Montreal is a melting pot that will capture your heart.
Elaborate Bloody Caesar garnishes are standard in Canada
10. Sip a Caesar
An amped-up version of a Bloody Mary, the Bloody Caesar is Canada’s best-selling cocktail (more than 350 million are ordered every year). It’s all about the garnishes – like the pickled onions, egg, stuffed olives, grilled veggies and half a grilled cheese sandwich that top the Caesar served at Tavern on Whyte in Edmonton.
Ryan Gosling at the Toronto International Film
11. Find Your Festival
Laugh ’til it hurts at various performances during the largest international comedy festival in the world, Montreal’s Just For Laughs, held every July.
Ottawa’s Winterlude (in February) is a favourite for all ages thanks to ice sculpting competitions, dragon boat races down the frozen Rideau Canal and plenty of tubing slides.
Catch outdoor performances every July at the Quebec City Summer Festival (Kendrick Lamar and P!nk performed in 2017). In January and February, enjoy giant bowling and parades at the Carnaval de Québec.
Come September, indie directors and Hollywood’s finest make their way north for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the largest cinematic events in the world.
During the legendary mid-July Calgary Stampede, a million-plus visitors flock to the city for rodeos, stage shows and barbecues.
Reflecting pool outside the Aga Khan Museum
12. Tour Toronto’s Exhibitions
From marine life to MVPs, the city has no shortage of inspiring museums and galleries.
- Aga Khan Museum
The permanent collection at this museum features ornate Islamic artifacts like painted ceramics and folklore manuscripts. Don’t miss HERE, an exhibit by over 20 Canadian artists.
- Moose Factory
Renowned Canadian pop artist Charles Pachter, whose contemporary works are inspired by Canadian icons, purchased an abandoned Chinatown property in the 1990s and turned it into a gallery.
- Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM’s diverse collections cover almost every facet of life: Size up a 270-kilogram blue whale heart, meet Mars rover prototype REX, or learn about Parisian couture
- Art Gallery of Ontario
The massive collection here includes more than 80,000 works from the first century to the present day. Catch exhibitions showcasing big-name artists like Japan’s Yayoi Kusama.
- Younger Than Beyoncé Gallery
With no fixed address, this nomadic gallery caters to a modern audience and displays works dealing with socio- political topics, all from emerging artists based in Toronto who are younger than 33.
13. Go Big
The numbers behind Canada’s one-of-a-kind attractions.
90: The number of Olympic skating rinks it takes to equal the size of Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, which becomes the largest skating rink in the world when it freezes over.
12.2: Gallons of maple syrup (in millions) produced within the country in 2016.
48: City blocks that would fit into North America’s biggest shopping centre: Alberta’s West Edmonton Mall.
2 271 247: Litres of water that gush from Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls – the most powerful waterfall in North America – every second
60: The percentage of the world’s polar bears that live in Canada. One of the world’s largest maternity denning regions is in Churchill, Manitoba.
14. Step on Set
Canada’s iconic hotels have set the scene for dozens of famous films throughout the decades.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Director Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller about a priest accused of murder features a scene at the hotel with then-manager Mr. Jessop, who plays himself.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The snow-capped mountains surrounding Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise stand in for a makeshift Russian winter in this love-triangle blockbuster.
River of No Return (1954)
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum stayed in Point Cabin at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge while they filmed this classic American Western film, which showcased the lake and mountainous backdrop.
Several scenes for this crime drama, based on Truman Capote’s non-fiction book In Cold Blood, were shot on streets surrounding the hotel.
50 Shades Of Grey (2015)
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Steamy scenes in this risqué flick were filmed in the hotel’s elevator and Lieutenant Governor’s Suite.
15. Bring Back a Piece of Canada
Find a chic memento inspired by Canadian culture, landscape and heritage.
1. Quebec artisan Pierre Chayer’s spalted maple bowl. chicbasta.com
2. Eeuwes handwoven cushions, inspired by Canada’s creatures. eeuwes.co
3. Authentic Sunshine moccasins by Indigenous-owned Manitobah Mukluks. manitobah.ca
4. Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2011 Cipes Blanc de Franc from Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. summerhill.bc.ca
5. Winnipeg’s Freed & Freed Brandy winter coat (stylish yet warm enough for Canadian winters). freedandfreed.com
6. Handmade painted canoe paddles from Toronto’s Norquay Co., functional on the water or as decor. norquayco.com
7. Fairmont leather CP Heritage bags pay tribute to the brand’s history with the Canadian Pacific Railway. fairmontstore.com
Written By: Renée Morrison
Photos: Grant Harder (opening spread); Daniel Kelleghan (train dome car); goldistocks/istock (Jasper National Park); PA Images/Alamy (Queen Elizabeth II); Sven Benjamins/StockFood (seafood); Michael Harding (habitat 67); Gregory Lorenzutti (Scotiabank Dance Centre); Michael Matthews/Alamy (Digital Orca); Michael Tremblay (Palais des congrès); styling: Florence Durand/judy inc; Hair and makeup: Sarah Leflochmoen/judy inc; Gabriel Cabrera (caesar); Janet Kimber (Aga Khan Museum); George Pimentel/Getty (TIFF); AF archive/Alamy (I Confess); MGM/Ronald Grant Archive/Alamy (Doctor Zhivago); Entertainment Pictures/Alamy (River Of No Return); Photo 12/Alamy (Capote); Entertainment Pictures/Alamy (50 Shades Of Grey)