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Introducing Canada

Sighs alternate with gawps at the white-dipped mountains, mist-cloaked seascapes and epic northern roadways. And with more festivals than you can swing a moose at, you'll even forget it's cold.

Sublime Nature

The globe's second-biggest country has an endless variety of landscapes. Spiky mountains, glinting glaciers, spectral rainforests, wheat-waving prairies – they're all here, spread across six time zones. Expect wave-bashed beaches, too. With the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans gnashing on three sides, Canada has a coastline that'd reach halfway to the moon, if stretched out.

It's the backdrop for plenty of 'ah'-inspiring moments – and the playground for a big provincial menagerie. We mean big as in polar bears, grizzly bears, whales and everyone's favorite, the ballerina-legged moose. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one of these behemoths when you leave the city behind.

Active Endeavors

Winter or summer, grand adventures lurk throughout Canada. Whether it's snowboarding Whistler's mountains, surfing Nova Scotia's swell, hiking Newfoundland's Appalachian Trail or kayaking the Northwest Territories' white-frothed South Nahanni River, outfitters will help you gear up for it. Gentler adventures abound, too, like strolling Vancouver's Stanley Park seawall, swimming off Prince Edward Island's (PEI) pink-sand beaches, or ice skating Ottawa's Rideau Canal. Before you know it, you'll be zipping up the fleece and heeding the call to action (and maybe having a go at dog-sledding, walleye fishing, snow-kiting…).

Cuisine (& Poutine)

Rarely do you hear people sigh over Canadian food the way they do, say, over Italian or French fare. So let's just call the distinctive seafood, piquant cheeses and off-the-vine fruits and veggies our little secret. Ditto for the bold reds and crisp whites the country's vine-striped valleys grow.

Canada is a local food smorgasbord. If you grazed from east to west across the country, you'd fill your plate like this: lobster with a dab of melted butter in the Atlantic provinces, poutine (golden fries soaked in gravy and cheese curds) in Québec, a bulging slice of berry pie in the Prairies and wild salmon and velvety scallops in British Columbia (BC).

It's best to leave the belt at home.

Cultural Flair

Let's see: Okanagan's icewine festival in January, Quebec City's winter carnival in February, Regina's powwow in March, Whistler's ski and snowboard fest in April, Ottawa's tulip fest in May, Montréal's jazz fest in June, Calgary's stampede in July, New Brunwick's Acadian fest in August, Toronto's film fest in September, Kitchner's Oktoberfest in October, Hamilton's Aboriginal Fest in November, Niagara's winter festival in December – yep, Canada parties all year long. Even places you might not automatically think of – say Edmonton, Winnipeg and St John's – rock with fringe festivals, live music clubs and shiny new art museums.

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