2011 marked a turnaround year for our colleagues Agness and Cez, both explorers at heart and best friends for always. These adventurers have been around the world, celebrating different cultures and experiences in a number of countries, from Madrid to Budapest, to New Zealand, and beyond. Their blogs and social media networks keep them connected with dedicated readers, while these explorers shell out knowledge of the places they visit and how others can travel to these places on a budget.
Next stop? Potentially exploring Canada; the lands of vast prairies, wild critters, dinosaur and pirate histories, and six unique time zones.
A Guide to Exploring Canada with Kids
Canada is often mis-viewed as the simply the land of craggy mountains, roadside moose, prideful flags in red and white with a predominant, centred maple leaf, and a mash-up of French and English-speaking locals. However, Canada is so much more than that. You have a clear-cut separation of Canadian terrains, with the lush forests to the south, the inter-connected Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans alongside the coasts, and the snowy mountains and near tundra-like conditions of the far north.
People-wise, dozens of different cultures converge in Canada, living with respect for their heritage through the continuation of their traditions, languages, and lifestyle practices. For example, descendants of the original Inuit People, or Inuk, still reside in Northern Canada, but they have traded their classic igloos for modern homes. Unacceptably called “Eskimos” at one time, these kind people would happily sit down to regale travellers with stories of their ancestors. And it’s this kind of interaction and friendliness that makes Canada an educationally rich, adventure-soaked place to bring your kids. There’s so much beautiful experience to be had.
Some Legal Need-to-Knows
and What to Bring for Your Kids’ Canadian Exploration
Travelling abroad, regardless of where you go, requires preparation through country-approved procedures. All travellers to Canada require a VISA to be in the country, which means you should plan your trip well ahead of when you want to be there.
When it comes to travelling with children, the Border Services Officers are diligent about asking questions and checking the credentials of each child in your party. In Canada, children have to have legal consent of both eligible parents or full-time guardians before they can enter the country. This means that divorced parents, or acting guardians, need to carry authentic notarized letters of consent to avoid delays.
Need help with your ETA Canada? The Canadian Border Patrols are sticklers for proper documentation, so strive to have your required VISA and paperwork readily available for each person in your party. You can apply for an application within minutes, list the details of your trip, then send your application off for processing by the Canadian government on the same day. It usually takes 3 days for the government to process, authenticate, and okay requests for VISAs, but be patient. You will likely receive your ETA* in less than a week.
Note: ETA means electronic travel authorization.
The Sands, Seashores, Snow, and Mountains of Vancouver
Regardless of age, kids that are raised to appreciate nature will find beauty, adventure, and fun in Vancouver. With mountains to one side and seashores to the other, families can have the best of both worlds—all in a single day.
You can stroll along the shorelines in search of seashells in the mornings, then sit for a few hours to listen to the waves, build sandcastles, watch for whales in the distance, and wriggle toes in the sands. Then you can plan a hike on one of the numerous mountain trails, where there are plenty of places for a picnic and enjoyment of the panoramic, cliffside views from rocky tip-tops.
The Must-Try Cuisine Made Legendary in Canada
While some of Canada boasts the same fast food fare that on-the-goers might be used to, there are some Canadian cuisine options that are must-tries; ones that most kids will love. Montreal bagels, for instance, are handcrafted from a dense dough, then wood-fire to a golden perfection with a touch of sugar for signature sweetness. Maple syrup is another Canadian must-try, as its locally sourced and goes well with the fluff of Vancouver pancakes.
For lunch, you and your kids can snack on poutine, which is hand-cut French fries topped with puddles of homemade gravy and mounds of shredded cheese. Or, you could opt for a sweet treat to Northern Canada called Nanaimo Bars; a crumbly, pie-like crust that’s topped with melted chocolate over a rich, thick vanilla custard. No doubt your family might put on a few pounds with the many indulgences of this yummy Canadian cuisine.
The Fun Festivals that Fill Canadian Calendars Every Year
Canada has long been a country of outdoor beauties, so, as expected, most of their family-friendly activities have an outdoors focus. Festivals are super-popular in Canada, and many of them are held in local parks to celebrate the changing seasons. Summertime in The Canadian National Park is cause for celebration among locals and travellers alike. Jazz festivals, movie nights, ginormous community BBQs, and rodeos are some of the festivals and events you can expect to stumble upon when you visit Canada in the heat of summer.
Autumn, and more specifically Halloween, is also a time when Canadians go big with their celebrations. Fall festivals pop up everywhere, from Toronto to Montreal, to the Canadian Rockies, all with scarecrow décor, the colourful changes of huge Maple trees, hayrides, and pumpkin-picking for the whole family. You might even come across a pie-eating contest or two around Maritime Provinces.
Sometimes the Best Exploration is Unplanned
Canada has an abundance of culture, history, and nature-made beauty that families can experience together. For animal lovers, local parks, like Gros Morne Park or wildlife preserves on Vancouver Islands, offer up-close, beautiful views of local critters, like moose, whales, orcas, bald eagles, and polar bears. Or, if your little one is obsessed with natural histories and dinosaurs, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta offer close-up perspectives of dinos in life-size replicas, found fossils, and loads of general prehistoric knowledge.
Oft-times, the best adventures if you want to go exploring Canada are those that go unplanned; the ones you stumble upon or hear about through the proverbial grapevine. However, there are pamphlets, people, and signs everywhere to steer you and your family in the right directions for the things you love to do.