Bucket lists should be fun, inspiring and offer a way to make life more meaningful, and they are on trend with Canadians. A recent IHG survey revealed six in ten Canadians have – or plan to make – a bucket list, and among them, the majority seek out Canadian experiences.
That’s why IHG, together with internationally-recognized bucket list expert Robin Esrock, created a Great Canadian Bucket List that offers 25 experiences to inspire travel throughout Canada this year.
1. Go underground in the Diefenbunker
Not far from Ottawa is a bone-chilling relic from the not-so-distant past that was designed to exist literally below the radar. The Diefenbunker was built in the 1960’s as a top-secret shelter to relocate members of the Canadian government in the event of a nuclear war. The massive underground facility included a hospital, canteen, CBC studio, and various government offices. Decommissioned in the 1990’s, today it serves as a fascinating Cold War Museum. While you’re in Ottawa, why not explore the Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill and the iconic national museums too.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Ottawa East
2. Conquer the CN Tower Edgewalk
An engineering marvel, the CN Tower casts a shadow over the national landscape. The 1,168-foot high observation deck offers stunning 360-degree views of Toronto. Bucket listers will want to step outside. Safely harnessed and attached, the CN Tower Edgewalk invites you to casually stroll and physically lean off the tower, suspended over buzzing city traffic. Later, you’ll be able to proudly say: I conquered that!
Where to stay: InterContinental® Toronto Centre
3. Gaze across the Ouimet Canyon
Greenwich Lake Rd, Pass Lake, ON
A short drive from Thunder Bay is a canyon with knife-edge cliffs looming over a ravine so deep, dark and cold the native plants think they’re growing in the Arctic. The Ouimet Canyon is also home to neotropical birds, which breed in Canadian summers and winter in the tropics. It provides a spectacular backdrop for one of Canada’s longest and fastest ziplines.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Thunder Bay
4. Feel the mist at Horseshoe Falls
Each year millions of visitors are drawn to the spectacle of Niagara Falls, and who can blame them? The roar and awe of the Niagara River crashing more than 160 feet over a horseshoe-shaped cliff never fails to impress. If there’s a Canadian baptism ritual, it is aboard the Hornblower Cruise that takes plastic poncho-clad bucket listers into the thunderous white mist. Consider a scenic helicopter ride for a birds-eye view of the falls, and in the evening, don’t miss the magical fireworks.
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza® Niagara Falls – Fallsview
5. Experience the Shakespeare Festival
55 Queen Street, Stratford, ON
Sixty-five years ago, a modest theatrical festival was established in the small town of Stratford. Now the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has grown to become one of the most renowned theatre festivals in the world. During its annual April to November engagement, it attracts some of the world’s best actors, directors, designers and theatre talent. Remember: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza® Kitchener-Waterloo
6. Cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge
3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is the world’s longest suspension footbridge built with cedar planks in 1889 and fully restored in the 1950’s. Stretching more than 440 feet and 230 feet above the Capilano River, crossing it is rewarded with pristine West Coast rainforest trails, and a knee-knocking Cliffwalk balanced on the side of a granite cliff.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Hotel & Suites Vancouver-Downtown
Live simply and breathe easy on Canada’s Atlantic coast Unwind here
7. Go for Gold at the Richmond Olympic Oval
A legacy of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the Olympic experience at the Richmond Olympic Oval is an interactive museum that tests your sport skills. Bobsleigh, kayak, sit-ski, ski-jump and pilot a Formula One car with a series of high-tech simulators, while interactive hockey, soccer, high jump and reflex challenges assess your inner athlete. You’ll quickly realize that every journey begins with a dream.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Riverport Richmond
8. Witness the sockeye salmon run
Each year in one of nature’s great migrations, millions of salmon swim up the very tributaries from where they once hatched. Welcome to the world’s largest return of sockeye salmon to a single river. The Salute the Sockeye Festival on the Adams River attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® Kamloops
9. Cycle along Okanagan Valley’s wine route
Like all great wine regions, the caramel-coloured countryside of the Okanagan has the fragrance of a farmer’s market. With the sparkling 135km Lake Okanagan as a backdrop, it’s surprising just how beautiful this part of the world is. There are over two hundred vineyards in the Okanagan Valley, many opening their doors for tastings. Wine is a taste to be acquired, and the Okanagan provides ample opportunity to do so.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® Kelowna Conference Centre
10. See a fiesta of hot air balloons
Every February Vernon hosts the largest winter celebration in Western Canada featuring parades, a moonlit lantern ski and snow sculpture competition. A popular highlight is watching dozens of bright-coloured hot air balloons soaring in the crisp winter sky. The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta kicks off the Winter Carnival and is a spectacular event well worth booking ahead.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Vernon
11. Stomp your hat at the Calgary Stampede
1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary, AB
Billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, hold onto your horses for the hat-stomping, pancake-flipping, wagon-racing Calgary Stampede. It is more than just the world’s biggest rodeo; famous Albertan pride and community hospitality is on display too along with various events, concerts and a huge exhibition to give you a taste of the authentic western Canadian experience. Don’t miss the morning pancake breakfasts downtown.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Airport-Calgary
12. Try to spot Canada’s national animal
It is amazing that in a country with wolves, bears, wolverines, eagles and orca our national animal is the beaver. They’re usually difficult to spot, unless you head off to visit the 1.5km-long wooded Beaver Boardwalk in Hinton. It loops through an active beaver dam and includes an observation tower over the beaver lodge. Slapping their tails to scare you off – or say hello – toothy beavers are lovable and industrious, warm and homely, the perfect Canadian animal after all.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Hinton
Canada: Top 10 hidden gems for winter 6. Niagara Icewine Festival
13. Go back in time
They call it the River of Death. Seventy-three million years ago a flood trapped a herd of dinosaurs and buried them for eternity into layers of mud and rock. Today their fossils sit about a forty-minute drive from Grande Prairie at the Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, and are among the richest dinosaur bone beds ever discovered. Phillip J. Currie is the Canadian palaeontology legend that inspired the Sam Neill character in Jurassic Park. Dinosaur buffs won’t want to miss exploring his new namesake museum where you’ll see many fossil displays and fascinating exhibits about the distant past.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® Grande Prairie
14. Slip and slide at the West Edmonton Mall
Where else can you shop and swim? Covering nearly five acres, the World Waterpark inside the West Edmonton Mall is North America’s largest indoor amusement park. Beyond housing the world’s largest indoor wave pool, dare to take on the triple-loop Cyclone, probably the most extreme slide in Canada. The West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall in North America, with over 800 stores. After you shop and swim, consider stretching your legs at Elk Island National Park, a famous haven for free-roaming wild bison.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites West Edmonton-Mall Area
15. Devour a smoked meat sandwich in Montreal
There’s always a line-up at Schwartz’s. Sure, some Montrealers argue that Lesters, Dunn’s or the Main has a better smoked meat sandwich. Nevertheless, nowhere does smoked meat like Montreal; juicy cuts heated to dissolve on the tongue, and served with rye bread, mustard and a kosher pickle. A simple bite will have you lining up too. Enjoy your bucket-list sandwich in summer when Montreal hosts the world’s largest jazz festival.
Where to stay: InterContinental® Montreal
16. Ice canoe across the St. Lawrence
Each February Quebec City hosts the world’s largest winter carnival, a frosty equivalent to Rio’s Carnaval or Mardi Gras. Here you can dance in ice palaces, revel in street parades and watch paddlers race across the cracked ice soup of the St. Lawrence in a thrilling ice canoe race. Even better, why not join them? A local tour operator offers visitors the chance to slip on crampons, grab a spiked paddle and heave a boat across the ice. It’s physical but rewarding, and you simply can’t do it anywhere else.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® Quebec City (Sainte Foy)
17. Scale the Via Ferrata du Diable
Climbing promises epic views, pristine wilderness and a physical adventure. But who has time to learn the ropes? Via ferrata refers to a secure climbing route that clips one safely into iron rungs, allowing anyone to climb in spots even traditional climbers can appreciate. Via Ferrata Du Diable soars above Quebec’s largest national park, Mont-Tremblant. Supervised by a guide, make your way along a sheer cliff above a 650-foot drop with the glorious Laurentians on full display.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Tremblant
18. Celebrate Canada at the Canadian Museum of History
100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, QC
The most visited museum in the country has recently undergone a renovation to create the largest collection of Canadian history ever assembled. From the moment you enter the Grand Hall, with its towering centuries-old totem poles, you’ll know that you’ve not only entered the Canadian Museum of History, you’ve entered the living legacy of what it means to be Canadian.
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza® Gatineau-Ottawa
5 locals you must meet on every trip 5. Art gallery curator
19. Roll up Magnetic Hill
Put your car in neutral and roll uphill. Moncton’s Magnetic Hill appears to defy the laws of physics. This 1.5km-long, anti-gravity stretch is a quirky roadside attraction adjacent to a popular water park and the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada. The illusion is caused by the unusual contours of the surrounding landscape and the lack of a horizon, giving the impression that the car is rolling uphill — as if pulled toward a magnet — when in fact it is rolling downhill. Don’t try thinking about it too much, just enjoy the ride.
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza® Moncton Downtown
20. Arm a cannon in the Citadel
5425 Sackville Street, Halifax, NS
Located on Citadel Hill, the star-shaped Halifax Citadel was built by British forces in 1856 and was so successful that no foreign force even attempted to attack the important port of Halifax. Offering fantastic views over the city, re-enactors portray soldiers from the 78th Highland Regiment, giving visitors a glimpse into life in the Victorian British army. You can tour the barracks, watch firing practice, help arm a cannon or sign up to be a soldier for a day. Halifax’s famous harbour also offers plenty of outdoor activities for visitors, such as deep-sea fishing and seasonal whale watching.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express® & Suites Halifax-Bedford
21. Get screeched in
When you visit St. John’s locals will probably want to know if you’re going to see icebergs, and more importantly, if you’ve been screeched in. With origins that go back to salty-dog sailors, the modern ritual has more to do with clever marketing by the bars of St. John’s. A blustery local or barkeep will regale a ribald tale before challenging you to become an honorary Newfoundlander. Then you must shoot back a glass of screech (aka throat-scorching rum) and, depending where you are, kiss the lips of a stuffed cod or the backside of a toy puffin.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® St. John’s Conference Centre
22. Salute the RCMP Heritage Centre
5907 Dewdney Avenue, Regina, SK
Regina is home to the RCMP Academy “Depot”, the national training facility from which all new recruits emerge. Adjacent to the training grounds is the Arthur Erickson-designed RCMP Heritage Centre where you can discover the rich history of one of Canada’s most recognizable and endearing symbols. After learning about and trying on the Red Serge, head to the Sergeant Major’s Parade where new recruits are inspected and roll call is taken. While in Regina, it’s also worth catching a boisterous Roughriders game.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Hotel and Suites Regina
23. Embrace indigenous history
Surrounded by endless fields of shimmering wheat, one of Canada’s sunniest and fastest growing cities is a pocket of culture, vitality and welcoming prairie spirit. Discover six thousand years of First Nation history at the fascinating Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a national historic site. Beyond the exhibits and artifacts, the 600-acre grounds have various trails and a medicine wheel as old as Stonehenge. While in Saskatoon, you might also want to explore Meewasin Park’s extensive trails, indulge with numerous farm-to-table restaurants and take scenic road trips into the flat, fertile prairies.
Where to stay: Staybridge Suites® Saskatoon-University
24. Ponder big issues at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg, MB
The $351-million-dollar Canadian Museum for Human Rights has altered Winnipeg’s skyline and the Canadian conscience. The first national museum built outside of the capital region guides visitors into thought-provoking galleries, examining and discussing human rights issues in Canada and beyond. Spectacular architecture, art and interactive displays make for a powerful visit. You’ll have plenty to discuss as you walk down the road to The Forks, the city’s best food market and gathering space.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Hotel & Suites Winnipeg-Downtown
25. Stand beneath a polar bear
55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg, MB
Looking for an up close and personal encounter with a polar bear? The Journey to Churchill and Polar Bear Conservation Centre inside Assiniboine Park is home to rescued bears and other Arctic wildlife. Inside the Arctic Centre, a unique 10-foot wide transparent acrylic tunnel places you just inches away from swimming bears. A different spectacle occurs each summer in the park’s Lyric Theatre where you can watch free performances of the renowned Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn® Winnipeg – Airport West
Ready to embark on your bucket list journey? Get a head start on planning your trip and book your hotel accommodation.