I am always blown away by our homelands vastness, Canada’s enormous landscape stretches across six time zones! You can drive for hours in certain areas and see almost no one, of the two-legged variety anyway. Canada’s wildlife spotting is for real; majestic moose, bears of all kinds, and whales too. You are almost guaranteed to see some of them if you’re looking.
The world’s second-largest country has a seemingly endless variety of landscapes. Sky-scraping mountains, sparkling glaciers, spectral rainforests, and isolated beaches are all here- a huge backdrop for plenty of jaw-dropping moments- no doubt about it! The roominess and rugged terrain make an outstanding playground.
Here are five of Canada’s best family vacation ideas. Amazing destinations that offer everything needed to help families make incredible memories.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta
Everything that makes the Canadian Rockies an incredible year round destination merges perfectly in Banff National Park. Banff became Canada’s first national park after railway workers stumbled onto a thermal hot spring in 1885. Today the famous town sits amidst a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Families that travel to this special area of the world in the summer can explore more than 1,600 km of well-maintained trails on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. Then there’s all of the turquoise lakes, massive glaciers, stunning waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Families can get close to all of them in the summer.
Want to visit in the winter, your crew can ski and snowboard on some of the finest powder anywhere. There are so many fun ways to enjoy winter here! Families can snowshoe, snowmobile, sleigh ride, dog sled, or ice climb. There are activities for every age group and skill level all year round in Banff National Park. Both Banff Townsite and Lake Louise offer families all of the amenities needed to stay comfortably and enjoy this truly magical place.
Two great places for families to stay in Banff National Park are the HI-Lake Louise Alpine Center. It offers guests great value for money and excellent service right in the heart of Lake Louise. Another terrific choice is Baker Creek Mountain Resort. We stayed with them in the spring and loved every minute of our time there. The resort has a great location along the Bow Vally Parkway and the self-catering cabins are equipped with everything you need to enjoy a perfect family getaway.
2. Churchill, Manitoba
Churchill sits on the shores of Hudson Bay, in Northern Manitoba. The Town and surrounding area are steeped in history as old as Canada. Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence of human existence in the area dating back almost 4,000 years! Today residents and visitors to Churchill rely on modern technology, but there are aspects of life in this alluring subarctic area that will always remain “frozen in time.”
Called the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is also known for spectacular beluga whale watching opportunities, being a birder’s paradise, and one of the best places to appreciate the elusive northern lights.
There are three excellent times of year to visit Churchill. In summer, particularly July and August to swim and kayak with the belugas, do some bird-watching and see some of the native caribou, Arctic and red fox, wolves, and moose. Fall, October through November is prime polar bear viewing time as bears move from the Tundra back to their seal-hunting territory on Hudson Bay. Then winter, late November to early March is the best time to see the spectacular Northern lights.
3. Quebec City, Quebec
French Canada’s crown jewel is Québec City. It is one of Canada’s oldest and most magnificent cities. The exquisite Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A living fairy tale filled with narrow cobbled streets, quaint heritage homes and soaring church spires. It even comes complete with a castle; the stunning Château Frontenac is perched regally high above it all.
Québec City goes to out of its way to entertain families. In the summer, musicians, acrobats, and actors in period costume fill the streets. Vibrant festivals stimulate all of the senses with delicious smells, brilliant fireworks, and sweet music.
Quebec City is delightfully compact. This makes is easy to venture beyond the city limits to enjoy many exciting outdoor adventures! Families can hike in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier; ride the cable car up Montmorency Falls, or sample chocolate, wine and tasty maple treats on Île d’Orléans, a 26-mile Island aptly dubbed “The pantry of Quebec City”. All of these fun family activities are less than an hour’s drive from the city center.
In the winter, specifically January and February, Québec’s Winter Carnival is arguably the biggest and most colorful festival around. There is never a bad time to visit Quebec City. In the fall and spring outdoor splendor abounds with colorful foliage.The city buzzes with exciting local events as well. The dramatically reduced prices and thinner crowds make visiting during these seasons even more enjoyable.
4. The Pacific Rim Region, B.C.
Families can leave civilization behind and discover a completely new world on the farthest reaches of Canada’s west coast. The Pacific Rim region on Vancouver Island lets families get back to nature in the most incredible ways.
Explore deep-water ocean inlets and the wild places of the Alberni Valley, including Canada’s highest waterfall! Navigate undulating roads that lead to stunning surfing beaches and the dense coastal rainforest of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Families can visit the Pacific Rim Region year round.
In early spring, welcome migrating grey whales at the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. Or, wait until May and enjoy Feast Tofino, a boat-to-table seafood celebration. In the summer, hike Ucluelet’s spectacular Wild Pacific Trail. Highlights include the Amphitrite Lighthouse, Rocky Bluffs, and the Ancient Cedars loop. Families can experience fun activities on land; hiking, biking and fishing. Or take to the water and swim, surf or kayak. There is something for every interest and ability in the area in the summer.
Ucluelet Aquarium is an attraction not to be missed. The touch tanks, summer programs, and interactive exhibits dedicated to marine biodiversity are just a few of the things that make the aquarium a favorite with families.
Winter is amazing in this area as well. The storm watching opportunities are breathtaking to behold. Mother Nature puts on incredible shows with her wet, wild winter storms. Some say winter is the Pacific Rims most exciting season!
Two great B&B’s in the Pacific Rim area are the Seafarers Bed and Breakfast in Tofino and the Coast and Toast Bed and Breakfast in Ucluelet. Both accommodations offer families great access to activities and first-rate service as well.
5. Yukon Territory
Few places on Earth remain as unchanged over the course of time as has the Yukon. Aboriginal people have survived there for thousands of years. Today they hunt and trap as they always have. Throughout Yukon’s history, visitors have been welcomed warmly and that’s still true today. With thousands of heritage sites spread throughout the Yukon, there are so many opportunities for families to delve into the area’s colorful past.
Any visit will mean a lot of time outdoors. Canada’s five tallest mountains and the Earth’s largest ice fields below the Arctic are all within Kluane National Park. The largely untouched landscape is ideal for activities like river rafting, fishing, hiking, biking, camping, and canoeing. Take in the sights and sounds of Ivvavik National Park or experience a dog sled tour to get a feel for the unique northern lifestyle.
The range of wildlife is vast and amazing, especially in the spring. The Yukon has an excellent highway system that provides stunning views of the pristinely rugged terrain. Navigate your own family road trip or book a guided tour. There is a great selection of specialized tour operators to help you customize an unforgettable family trip.
Muktuk Adventures is located 20 minutes outside Whitehorse. It offers guests a great northern experience and great value for money as well. the George Dawson Inn in Dawson Creek is another great choice for families. All kids under the age of 16 stay free when using existing beds.
Canada is loaded with incredible family vacation ideas
I’ve only scratched the surface on great family vacation ideas in Canada in this article. Canada is so diverse and the arts play a big part in shaping its intricate cultural mosaic. That said there are way more than five places to enjoy amazing family vacations in this massive country!
Visitors can sip café at a bistro in Montréal, visit an Asian night market in Vancouver, or join a Celtic party and dance the night away on Cape Breton Island. Canada is the whole world all the way across and deep within its cities. Families will see it in the arts, hear it in the music, and taste it in the cuisine wherever they choose to visit.
Featured image by Michael Wilfal via Flickr