8 great Canadian destinations to put on your travel list this year
Coast to coast, here’s where to head in 2020
This time of year, many of us are reviewing our travel bucket lists and planning for future adventures — after all, it's a brand-new year, and there's a fresh set of vacation days to use up.
Staying close to home, there are lots of great reasons to travel domestically in 2020, whether you're seeking an artistic experience or an outdoor adventure. From a dinner pop-up with the promise of aurora-viewing in Churchill, Manitoba, to a new cultural centre in Nain, Labrador, these are the timely, beautiful sights to consider for your next Canadian getaway.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
As you may have heard, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent the holidays on Vancouver Island; Harry and Meghan were spotted hiking in Horth Hill Regional Park and jogging in the town of North Saanich. We wouldn't be surprised to see tourism to the region skyrocket following the international coverage. Celeb sightings aside, Vancouver Island was recently named to CNN's list of the best travel destinations for 2020.
The home of Contemporary Calgary, Centennial Planetarium, has been undergoing renovations for a few years, and the first completed phase of the renovation and expansion project will be unveiled to the public on January 23. Planned exhibitions in the modernized space include Luke Jerram's lunar-inspired Museum of the Moon installation, and an exhibition by Yoko Ono, Growing Freedom: The Instructions of Yoko Ono and the Art of John and Yoko.
This is the perfect year to make a trip to Manitoba, which is celebrating Manitoba 150 throughout the year with special programs including an outdoor concert, a 300,000 LED-light display and educational resources.
In addition to the provincial celebrations, the Winnipeg Art Gallery is planning to open its much-anticipated Inuit Art Centre in November. On show will be the world's largest public collection of Inuit art, which includes prints, drawings, sculptures and more. The museum entrance will feature a 3-storey Glass Vault showcasing some of the gallery's 7,500 Inuit stone carvings.
This northern Manitoba destination, known as "The Polar Bear Capital of the World," offers incredible wildlife encounters and is also a popular destination for travellers hoping to see the Northern Lights. And, it made the New York Times' influential 52 Places list this year. New in town is a buzzy culinary experience, Dan's Diner, that serves regional, local dishes along the banks of the Churchill River in a heated, pop-up restaurant (dinner also includes a ride in a custom-built Tundra Buggy and an aurora-viewing opportunity).
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Thunder Bay is celebrating its golden anniversary in 2020, and there are a number of special events planned throughout the year to mark the occasion. The Northwestern Ontario city is already popular with outdoors-adventure seekers, and there are farm tours and food adventures for those with culinary and cultural interests. In 2022, Thunder Bay is set to become a cruise hub, too, as Viking Expeditions plans to use the city's port for its upcoming Great Lakes cruises.
From wineries to luxury spas, this region just 1.5 hours north of Quebec City offers numerous year-round attractions for visitors. There's a popular Flavour Trail for foodies, and the area's geography makes it ideal for skiing and winter sports. Plus, in 2021 Club Med will be opening its first Canadian mountain resort in Charlevoix.
Magdalen Islands, Quebec
National Geographic included the small Quebec archipelago on its travel must-see list for this year, recommending that visitors go now to "see a beautiful but diminishing world of ice — and the harp seals that depend on it." Expect to see harp seal pups up close… but also Greenland sharks, walruses, narwhals and polar bears.
Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador
If you have an opportunity to explore the remote north coast of Labrador, you'll want to add this small Inuit town (pop: 1,125) to the itinerary. Just opened in November 2019 is the stunning Illusuak Cultural Centre, designed by Newfoundland-born architect Todd Saunders, who also designed the iconic Fogo Island Inn. The 13,700-square-foot, $18-million building houses permanent exhibitions highlighting Nunatsiavut communities, a theatre, a craft shop and more.
Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.