Everyone the world over seems to love Canada, regardless of whether they have been to the country or not. Canada does seem to have that kind of “kid brother” or “friend next door” kind of appeal to many around the world, and with its impressive collection of friendly people, amazing natural beauty and interesting foods to try, it’s easy to see why Canada is a favourite for travellers looking for a bit of everything. But what city should you head to? With several popular choices like Vancouver and Toronto in the fray, it’s easy to forget about those lesser known gems that provide a quirkier, more local view into Canadian life.
In the west everyone knows about the cities of Vancouver and Calgary, but very few talk about Calgary’s neighbour to the north, Edmonton. Edmonton is actually the capital of the province of Alberta, yet few seem to realise this fact. Home to numerous interesting attractions such as the living museum of Fort Edmonton Park, a look at Edmonton’s varied past back to its inception in 1795 as one of the most westerly fur trading posts in what was then known as Rupert’s Land, along with West Edmonton Mall – formerly the largest mall in the world, a visitor to this city can spend a week or two exploring all it has to offer. A trip in the summer months sees numerous festivals including the Fringe Theatre Festival, International Street Performers Festival, Taste of Edmonton food festival, Heritage Days Festival, as well as Klondike Days (Kdays), a 10 day fun fair that used to showcase some of Edmonton’s later history as a stop off for those heading to the Klondike to go panning for gold. Edmonton also has a long street known as Whyte Ave, known for its curious shops, restaurants and bars, along with a booming number of independent craft breweries. It’s also within easy driving distance of Elk Island National Park (30 minutes east on highway 16), as well as the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near to Elk Island.
In the province of Ontario, most people know about the cities of Ottawa and Toronto as well as Niagara, where Niagara Falls happens to be, but not many know about some of the impressive, welcoming cities in Northern Ontario, such as Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay is well placed on the shores of Lake Superior and is home to some impressive natural scenery – not just on the lake, but around the city as well. Hiking trails through vast woodland and forests give visitors the opportunity to catch a glimpse of wildlife such as deer and even the occasional moose. Sleeping Giant National Park is home to the rock formation known as the Sleeping Giant – it resembles its namesake when viewed from the north to north-west sections of the city. Fort William Historical Park is another living history museum which showcases Thunder Bay’s role in the fur trading and colonial eras. For those who just want to get out on the water, Lake Superior is a great place to take part in some great water activities like waterskiing, boating or just lazing away on the shore.
Ah, the Canadian Maritimes. Perhaps the most lesser visited region of all the country save for the North West Territories and Nunavut, the Maritimes is home to some of the most unique culture and scenery in all of the country. One could argue that many of the cities in the area are lesser visited, and it wouldn’t be far from the truth. Charlottetown is one such city that doesn’t receive many tourists at all, but it really should! While it may not have much in the way of attractions, its quaint nature, art scene, and small, intimate layout, strewn with quirky pubs, trendy restaurants and its beautiful stretch of street ‘Victoria Row’ make this the ideal place for those who like to explore the inner workings of beautiful cities. Add to this that Prince Edward Island is small enough to rent a car and drive from one side to the other during a stay here, and that makes Charlottetown, its capital, even more alluring.
So there you have a quick rundown on the lesser visited cities in Canada – or at least a couple of them. As with most countries it’s hard to remember that there’s more to it than the usual standbys, but with Canada, you can really experience some cool stuff if you look a bit further afield!