Of the many border reopenings we have seen both near and far, one right on our doorstep remained closed. But that’s all changing Aug. 9 when Canada opens to fully vaccinated American travelers. If you can’t get overseas for your next holiday, there will soon be a great opportunity to vacation in the Great White North.
About as close to Europe as you can get without crossing the Atlantic, the French Canadian province of Quebec features two great cities in Montreal and Quebec City, separated by 160 miles of the St. Lawrence River. The old cities call to mind the charms of Paris, and in between is Trois-Rivieres, one of the first European settlements in North America. There are few sites as striking as Quebec City during the “blue hour” when evening sets in or dawn is on its way and the indirect sunlight makes the sky a dreamy shade of dark blue.
For a more modern experience, Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and a melting pot of cultures that sits just across Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. At more than 1,800 feet, the CN Tower is the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a stroll on the EdgeWalk atop the 36 Restaurant. For a dose of culture, head over to the Royal Ontario Museum with its mix of Romanesque and modern styles. Sports fans can get their fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On the Pacific Coast, Vancouver serves as a launching point for the Rocky Mountaineer, one of the great train rides in the world. Nearby Whistler is a world-class ski destination. With all that going for it, Vancouver wouldn’t need much more to be considered a great city. But Vancouver has a lot more going on. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and has views for miles. Granville Island’s food scene has the best from all the cultures that have come to call this international city home. A short seaplane ride away is Vancouver Island and the provincial capital of Victoria, providing a mix of craft breweries, farm-to-table dining and Old World charm thanks to the magnificently manicured Butchart Gardens and afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress.
A journey into Canada’s Mountain West will take you to the spectacular Lake Louise. An emerald color thanks to glacial and rock runoff, Lake Louise in Alberta is a picture-perfect sight to behold. At almost 6,000 feet of elevation with mountains and trails all around, it’s an outdoor paradise year-round. In winter, there’s world-class skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog-sledding and sleigh rides. In summer, there’s canoeing, hiking and horseback riding, plus the ski gondolas remain in operation to whisk visitors over alpine meadows and babbling brooks.
On the shores of Hudson Bay, Churchill, Manitoba, is the Polar Bear Capital of the World and is also a great spot to see beluga whales and is a birder’s dream. If you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Polar bear tours like the ones offered by Natural Habitat Adventures put you in the center of the action, visiting a den and watching the bears go about their daily routine from the comfort of the Polar Rover. There’s also ample opportunity to meet with First Nations cultures and see an older way of life firsthand.
COVID entry protocols
Starting August 9, Canada plans to begin allowing entry to American citizens and permanent residents, who are currently residing in the United States, and have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel. Subject to limited exceptions, all travelers must use ArriveCAN (app or web portal) to submit their travel information. If they are eligible to enter Canada and meet specific criteria, fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will still require a pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test result. Fully vaccinated travelers will not need a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test. Fully vaccinated travelers who meet the requirements will be exempt from quarantine; however, all travelers must still provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet the necessary requirements.
Unvaccinated children under the age of 12, or unvaccinated dependent children (due to a mental or physical condition), can accompany a fully vaccinated parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor.
Where to stay
Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge
Vancouver Island’s celebrated luxury outpost Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge skirts the banks of its namesake ocean inlet, Clayoquot Sound, and offers an escape to the still, tranquil beauty of Canada’s remote wilderness. Set among magnificent conifer forests, the lodge offers guests an unforgettable experience of the landscape and its wildlife. Twenty-five canvas tents designed with contemporary interiors complement period and local artisan-designed pieces to offer a decadent retreat.
Guests have direct access to 600-acres of gloriously wild nature reserve where opportunities for adventure, education, natural enrichment and personal connection abound. Experiences span equestrian, marine-based, land-based, helicopter and fishing adventures.
1 Hotel Toronto
Toronto’s 1 Hotel is quickly becoming a fan favorite for sophisticated travelers and sustainability enthusiasts alike. Inspired by Canada’s natural beauty, you’ll find eco-friendly details throughout the hotel. Rooms boast custom organic cotton mattresses, hangers made from 100% recycled materials, HEPA filters, and live greenery, plus filtered water taps designed to eliminate single-use plastics. The main lobby even has a farmer’s market with local, seasonal produce available to all guests.
Fogo Island Inn
Fogo Island Inn sits on an island, off an island, at one of the four corners of the earth. Situated along Iceberg Alley, all 29 rooms feature floor-to-ceiling views of the North Atlantic Ocean. This is where locality is expressed when nature and culture come together through food, adventure, and community. The island has seven seasons, and its still-wild world has caribou to track, hills of berries to forage, nature trails to explore, and countless birds and marine species to behold. This award-winning inn is operated as a social business, and 100 percent of the operating surpluses are reinvested in the community.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the unrivaled symbol of Quebec City since 1893. Perch high on the cliff, it is said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. This impressive Renaissance-style château has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage treasure for its role in Canada's history. The towers and turrets of the hotel provide spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River and of the architecture of Old Quebec. The hotel has undergone numerous renovations and now is totally restored. Its a combination of ultimate comfort in 610 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants, and Moment Spa where history meets luxury.