Canada’s winter often upstages other seasons – but beyond the ski-resorts and snow-capped mountains, there’s another side to the country that comes alive in summer. Here are Daniel Hesford’s ideas to help you plan what to do in summer in Canada.
When you move to Canada, you’ll need to acclimatize to a variety of administrative and social experiences, such as sorting out a job, navigating the tax system, and exploring a new cultural landscape. But one of the most important things to get used to is the weather.
In Canada, lifestyle is closely linked to the seasons: with a global reputation for freezing temperatures and snowfall, you’d be forgiven for thinking Canada is very much a ‘winter’-focused country – but, rest assured, summer has just as much, if not more, to offer.
The Canadian summer experience varies from coast to coast, and province to province. To explore the possibilities in your part of the country, let’s take a look at the summer atmosphere, events, and opportunities, in some of Canada’s most famous cities.
As the largest city in Quebec, Montreal’s rich French heritage is unlocked by summer – and nowhere more than in Old Montreal, in the borough of Ville-Marie. Old Montreal is a place for lazy summer strolls along cobbled streets, and visits to historic bars and restaurants.
One of the city’s most sensational summer events, the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix comes to Montreal every June. The race takes place on the Île Notre-Dame on the St. Lawrence River, just minutes from downtown Montreal, and is accompanied by events and promotions across the city.
Beer, comedy & fireworks
Montreal’s summer season also means festivals. Events include the beer festival ‘Mondial de la Bière’, the huge ‘Just For Laughs’, comedy festival, and the International Fireworks Competition which lights up the skies above the city every Saturday.
Hit the beach
Toronto lies on the shores of Lake Ontario and, during summer, residents of the city head down to numerous lakeside beaches to soak up the sunshine. The city’s beaches do get crowded, but some of the best include Woodbine, Sugar Beach and Marie Curtis Park.
Toronto is less than a two-hour drive from Niagara Falls, right on the border with the United States. The falls can freeze over in winter but are a unique, breathtaking sight in the summer – and well worth experiencing up close on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat tour, which runs during the season.
Catch a game
Summer is baseball season – and Toronto is the home of the Blue Jays, Canada’s only MLB team. Blue Jays tickets are great value, and often available for in-season games: grab a snack and a cold beer, and while away a hot summer afternoon taking in the action.
Find a festival
Edmonton has a reputation as a summer festival city. From the ‘Fringe’ comedy festival to ‘Taste of Edmonton’, there are plenty of highlights but one of the city’s most famous summer events is ‘Folk Fest’, attracting some of the greatest folk musicians to the idyllic surroundings of Gallagher Park.
After the winter ice melts, the North Saskatchewan River becomes one of Edmonton’s most beautiful natural attractions. Running through the city, the North Saskatchewan is a popular summer boating and canoeing spot, while its River Valley trails promise hours of adventure for hikers.
Historic Edmonton can only really be enjoyed in the summer months. Old Strathcona lies on the city’s south side, and hosts a colourful variety of bars, restaurants, vintage stores and more. Whyte Avenue is the cultural centre of Old Strathcona, and makes for an ideal summer evening out.
The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s most iconic events, and a thrilling celebration of ‘cowboy’ culture. Running through July each year in the heart of the city, the Stampede features parades, rodeos, musical performances and pancake breakfasts – don’t forget to bring your cowboy hat.
Hike the Rockies
Calgary lies on the doorstep of the spectacular Rocky Mountains and the famous National Parks of Banff and Jasper. While the Rockies are full of ski resorts, in the summer they become a spectacular paradise for hikers exploring the Albertan wilderness.
Calgary’s parks are a great place to absorb the summer ambience. On the Bow river, just minutes from downtown, Prince’s Island Park stages the outdoor theatre experience ‘Shakespeare By The Bow’, showcasing the best of the Bard’s work against a relaxing summer backdrop.
Vancouver lies on Canada’s west coast, but the province of British Colombia extends to hundreds of nearby islands which promise a range of exciting summer adventures. Ferries to nearby islands leave regularly – you may even spot an orca whale or two on the trip over.
A historic seaport, Vancouver has developed a thriving waterfront culture around areas like Granville Island, Waterfront Park, and Coal Harbour. Summer is an opportunity to explore the city’s eclectic urban coastline of beaches, marinas, bars, restaurants, and markets.
Throughout Vancouver’s summer season, special events are never far away. The city’s summer calendar includes the distinguished International Jazz Festival, the beloved PNE Fair, and the spectacular ‘Celebration of Light’: a fireworks competition held in English Bay.