“In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations — it’s cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.”
James Keate

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers

Introduction

I (Paul Heller) love collecting Fun Facts about Canada for Travelers for my Fifty Plus Nomad blog. I spend hours searching to find facts that:

  • Are little-known
  • Add a new or exciting perspective to a discussion about a place or issue.
  • Make me laugh, cry, or smile.

I frequently post fun facts on my Facebook group: Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over 50.

In addition, I have added several fun facts I discovered while putting together this page.

I hope you enjoy these fun facts about Canada for travelers as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

Let me know if you have any fun facts to add to this page.

100 Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Cities

  • In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their legendary Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal.
  • Montréal and Toronto vie for the World’s Largest Underground City title. While I have only used the PATH in Toronto a couple of times, I love entering the Montreal subway station and not going outside in the cold of winter or heat of summer to visit many museums and attend plays, concerts, and movies.
    • Montréal’s “underground city” called the RESO has over 30 km (18 miles) of pedestrian walkways, indoor areas, and tunnels linking ten metro stations, two train stations, two bus stations, 62 buildings, seven major hotels, 1,615 apartments, 200 restaurants, 1,700 boutiques, 37 movie theatres and exhibition halls, two universities, one college, and 10,000 indoor parking spaces.
    • Toronto’s PATH connects metro stops and 75 buildings with over 3.7 million square feet of retail space (including 1200 restaurants) through tunnels and elevated walkways. Torontonians and visitors can use the PATH to visit the CN tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the City Hall, and numerous entertainment venues.
  • The CN Tower in Toronto was the world’s tallest free-standing structure until 2007. It is still the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. 
  • Rideau Canal in Ottawa transforms into the world’s largest skating rink every winter.
  • Ottawa is the world’s second coldest capital city. 
  • All 5 of Canada’s largest cities ranked in the top 40 cities worldwide in Quality of Life in the 2019 Mercer Report. (Vancouver is #3, Toronto, #16, Ottawa #19, Montreal #21, and Calgary #32). Only one US city ranked in the top 40- San Francisco (#34).
  • Quebec City is the continent’s only place tourists can see a walled city in Canada or the US.
  • Victoria, British Columbia, is home to the second oldest Chinatown in the whole of North America (after San Francisco, USA). 

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Food

  • Canadians drink more fruit juice per capita than any other country in the developed world. 
  • Canada is the world’s largest producer of ice wine. (It produces more ice wine than all the countries in the world combined). Ice Wine is made from pressed frozen grapes and served as a dessert wine. 
  • Baby Duck from Canada was one of the best-selling sparkling wines of the 1970s.
  • Hawaiian pizza came from Ontario in 1962. 
  • Canadians love Mac and Cheese, known in Canada as Kraft Dinner, and eat approximately 55% more mac and cheese than their American counterparts.  
  • The Jean-Talon Market in Montreal is the largest open-air market in North America.
  • Calgary host hundreds of pancake breakfast during the Stampede. Over 200,000 pancakes are served annually during the Stampede. 
  • The Nanaimo bar is named after Nanaimo, British Columbia. Nanaimo bars feature three layers:
    • Base: a wafer, nut (walnuts, almonds, or pecans), and coconut crumbs
    • Middle: custard icing in the middle;
    • Top: chocolate ganache.
  • Keith Downey and Baldur R. Stefansson developed canola at the University of Manitoba in the 1970s.
  • Canada has more donut shops per capita than any other country. (Canada has five times more donut shops per capita than the US).
  • One of Quebec’s most popular dishes is Pâté Chinois (Chinese Pastry in English), similar to Shepard’s Pie. No one knows the dish’s origin, but the most popular theory is that Chinese Railroad chefs invented the plate for the Railroad workers.
  • Montréal pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson obtained the first patent for peanut butter in 1884 to provide nutritious food for people with difficulty chewing solid foods.
  • The National Canadian cocktail is a Caesar, similar to (but I think a little better than) a Bloody Mary. The Caesar includes clam broth or replaces tomato juice with Clamato.
  • In 2015, I visited the León Courville winery in Brome, Quebec. I tried the wine and was surprised how it tasted like a fine wine from California or France. The winemakers explained that they used various techniques to keep the grapes warm in the winter, selected cold-resistant grapes, and harvested them using specialized techniques. As a native Californian, I have tried several wines from a cold climate which always tasted like a watered-down wines from California. I was pleased to discover that such great wine could be produced in Quebec.
  • Quebec manufactures more than 77% of the world’s maple syrup. The largest heist in Canadian history occurred in 2012, when nearly $18 million of maple syrup was stolen from a storage facility in Quebec province.
  • In Montreal, try the ¨smoked meats “and bagels. Schwartz’s deli is famous for its smoked meat, similar to Pastrami. (Cèline Dion is a co-owner of Schwartz’s Deli). Montréal and New York compete for the World’s Best Bagel city. I side with the Montrealers; their bagels are sweeter and crunchier than New York.
  • An entrée in Québec (and the rest of the French-speaking world) is an appetizer.
  • Poutine (French fries with cheese curds topped with gravy) is Canada’s closest thing to a national dish. While I like Poutine’s traditional recipe, I prefer the multiple flavors (including Moroccan Merguez Sausage) featured at the Frìtes Alors chain in Montreal. The battle for the title of the first Poutine creator is a subject of much debate. The only thing everyone agrees about is that Poutine came from Quebec in the 1950s.
  • McDonald’s in Eastern Canada has offered McLobster Rolls most summers since 1993. (They are also occasionally available in New England).
  • In Dawson City, Yukon you can drink a whiskey with a human toe (that have fallen off usually from frostbite) inside. The drink is called the Sour Toe Cocktail. Swallowing the toe will cost you a $2500 fine.
  • Newfoundland is famed for its tradition of ¨screeching in¨ visitors. ¨Screeching in¨ involves going to a bar and kissing a dead cod followed by a shot of rum (known as Screech).

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Demographics 

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Languages

  • English Speaking Canadians often finish a sentence with the word ‘eh’.
  • The Quebecois (French-speaking Quebeckers) use the word ¨fucké¨colloquially to say that something or someone is screwed up or off-kilter. Radio Canada (French public TV) does not bleep out the word;, but, Radio Canada’s English language equivalent -The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)- does bleep out the English-language equivalent (fucked).
  • Other fun words that seem to be English but Quebecois have adapted and changed the meaning slightly (like ‘fucké’ and ‘fucked’) include ‘chum’ (boyfriend) and ‘blonde’ (girlfriend).
  • Canadians use the British spelling for many words that end in the US with ‘er’ (centre versus center) and ‘or’ (colour versus color).
  • English and French are the two official languages of Canada. French is spoken by 22.2% of Canadians. 85% of the population of Quebec speaks French. French speakers outside Quebec vary from 0.5% in Newfoundland to 31.8% in New Brunswick. (French speakers do not account for more than 5% of the population in any other Canadian province).
  • French is the official language of Quebec; English is the official language in most of the other provinces. New Brunswick is the only Canadian province officially bilingual (English and French).
  • Calgary is the third most diverse major city in Canada. The Mayor from 2010-2021, Naheed Nemshi, was the first Moslem mayor of a major North American city.
  • Canada also has well over 7.3 million people whose maternal language is neither English nor French (note the numbers below do not add up to 7.3 million because of people with more than one maternal language), including
    • Nearly 2.4 million speakers of European languages other than English and French including.Spanish (458,000), German (384,000), Italian (317,000), Russian/Ukrainian (290,000), Portuguese (221,000), and Polish (181,000).
    • Over 1.3 million speakers of Chinese languages, including Mandarin (592,000) and Cantonese (585,000)
    • Nearly 1.7 million speakers of languages from the Indian subcontinent, including Punjabi (500,000) and Hindustani (321,000).
    • Approximately 900,000 speakers of languages from the Middle East and Africa, including Arabic (418,000) and Persian (214,000)
    • Approximately 900,000 speakers of Eastern and Southeast Asian languages (other than Chinese), including Tagalog (431,000), Vietnamese (156,000), and Korean (153,000).
    • Indigenous languages (213,000). Sixty-five languages from 11 different indigenous language groups. 
One of the Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers is that Halifax was instrumental in the rescue of the Titanic's survival, and the City had of the largest explosions in Canadian at the beginning of World War I. (Photo of the Halifax Harbor by By Keith Pomakis - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikipedia)
One of the fun facts about Canada for Travelers is that Halifax was instrumental in the rescue of the Titanic’s survival, and the City had of the largest explosions in Canadian at the beginning of World War I. (Photo of the Halifax Harbor by By Keith Pomakis – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikipedia)

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Daily Life

  • Canada was the third country worldwide to legalize gay marriage in 2005. 
  • The Calgary Stampede bills itself as the ¨Greatest Outdoor Show in the World¨. While I haven’t attended enough outdoor shows worldwide to know if this billing is over-hyped, I can say that the Calgary Stampede is a fantastic experience! I attended numerous agricultural and animal competitions, the parade, rodeos, stage shows, and concerts, and visited all the halls during the Stampede in 2014.
  • A “loonie” is a $1 Canadian coin. The name comes from the fact that the coin’s reverse side shows a loon, a waterfowl similar to a duck. A “toonie” is a two-dollar coin, a play on the word “loonie.”
  • Nunavut’s license plate was until recently in the shape of a polar bear. Following the announcement that the license will return to the more traditional rectangular shape, the polar bear license plate fetched up to $250 on eBay.
  • The Quebec license plate has the motto “Je me souviens” (I remember). The motto is also on the Quebec coat of arms. Interestingly, no one is sure if the slogan and license plate are referring to either:
    • the abandonment of the local population by the French after their defeat by the British in 1750 or t
    • The Quebecois received unequal rights from the British and Canadian before the Quiet Revolution (La Revoluton Tranquille) in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Around 60% of Canadians have a passport in “circulation,” and about one-third of Americans have a valid passport. I am unsure if this provides an accurate picture of passport usage in the two countries because many Americans have expired passports. Anecdotally, I would guess that I have met about 1/3rd to one-half as many Canadians traveling around the world as Americans, even though Canada has only 1/10th of the population of the US.
  • Some of the most famous Canadian entertainers include Bryan Adams, Sandra Oh, Michael J. Fox, Shania Twain, Keanu Reeves, Ryan Gosling, Seth Rogan, Mike Myers, Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, Alanis Morisette, Jim Carey, Celine Dion, Neil Young, and Drake. 
  • Canada has multiple grand hotels– including Banff Springs, the Royal York, Toronto, Chateau Frontenac, the Hotel Vancouver— with French Renaissance architecture. These “grand railway hotels” were built by railway companies to promote train travel. 
  • Lacrosse is the national sport of Canada. First Nations people in the 1600s first played lacrosse. Canada’s Anglophone middle classes picked up the sport in the 19th century. In 1997, the Canadian Parliament declared lacrosse as Canada’s national sport. Ice hockey has been designated the official winter sport.
  • The French Canadians have used the maple leaf as a symbol of Canada since the 18th century. 
  • Montréal is the tango capital of North America.
  • The customary greeting in Montréal is to kiss your friend on both cheeks.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh was named after a bear from Canada. The author, AA Milne’s son, Christopher, named the character after seeing Winnie (named after Winnipeg), a bear at London Zoo. 
  • Montréal is one of the world’s major centers of festivals. The Montréal Just for Laughs (Juste Pour Rîre) Festival is the largest comedy festival in the world. The Montréal Jazz Festival and the Francophone Music Festival (Francofolies) are also the largest in the world.
  • Canada places a high value on humor. Today’s best-known comics come from Canada, including Mike Myers and Jim Carey.
  • According to many experts, the world’s largest totem pole is in Alert Bay, British Columbia.

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Geography

  • Canada has ten provinces and three territories. 
  • Canada’s newest territory is Nunavut, Canada’s most extensive area by landmass. Nunavut makes up 1/5th of Canada’s total land area. 
  • Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada. It is only 225 kilometers long and 56 kilometers wide.  
  • Newfoundland, also known as “The Rock, was the last province to join the confederation in 1949. 
  • Quebec is the largest Canadian province in size. It is close to the same size as Alaska.
  • Canada is the 2nd largest country in size globally. It is bigger than the whole of the European Union, 30 percent larger than Australia, and three times larger than India. (Minus Canada’s lakes, Canada would only be the fourth-largest country in the world). 
  • The border between Canada and the US is the longest demilitarized border globally- over 5,500 miles (or 8,800 kilometers) long. 
  • Canadian has six time zones. Newfoundland’s time is 1/2 hour before the rest of the Atlantic Provinces. 
  • The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the longest highways in the world, nearly 7,604 km or 4,645 miles. 
  • Calgary is famed for Chinooks winds, which can increase the temperature by up to 10 degrees in a few minutes. 
  • Canada’s 243,977 kilometers (144,000 miles) of coastline is more than any other country on Earth. Canada also has more lakes than any other country. (Canada has so many lakes that there is no accurate count of the number of lakes).
  • Canada either completely has or shares seven of the twelve largest lakes on Earth with the US.
  • Wasaga Beach, along the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada, is the longest freshwater beach in the world. 
  • Canada is the only country in the world with three of the ten largest islands: Ellesmere Island (10th). Victoria Island (8th) and Baffin Island (5th). 
  • Due to low salinity, the freezing point of water is higher than in other seas in the world.
  • Canada has 48 national parks and national park reserves, 970 historic sites, and five marine conservation areas.
  • Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Yukon is the second-largest national park in the world. 
  • Alberta’s Banff National Park, the first national park in Canada, was established in 1885 and is one of the most visited parks in North America.  
  • The most potent part of Niagara Falls is in Canada. Though you can see Niagara Falls from both parts of the border, the Horseshoe Falls – the most potent fall – is in the Canadian section. Approximately 90% of the water that flows over the falls comes through Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Only 10% of the water flows through the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the US side of the border. 
  • The oldest pool of water in the world -two billion years old- is found around two miles underground in a mine in Timmins, Ontario.
  • -63 degrees Celsius (-85 Degrees Fahrenheit) in the Yukon was the lowest temperature ever recorded in Canada (as cold as Mars). 
  • In 1962 in Pitcher Creek, Alberta, the temperature went from -19 degrees Celsius (-5 degrees Fahrenheit) to 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) in an hour.
  • Calgarians enjoy 333 days of sunshine per year more than any other major Canadian city.
  • The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria houses the world’s largest blue whale skeleton (and an amazing collection of artifacts from Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities,

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Natural Resources

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: History

  • The Vikings settled at the L’Anse aux Meadow in modern-day Newfoundland in 1022 AD. Leif Erikson led the Viking expeditions that settled in Newfoundland. The Vikings called the area Vinland (named for its vines that produced great wine). The settlement only lasted a few years, but it is mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. 
  • A Venetian, John Cabot (Giovanni Cabotto or Zuan Chabotto) explored Canada’s Atlantic Coast in 1497 for King Henry VII of England. He claimed the area for the British crown. However, King Henry VIII had no interest in Cabot’s claim or discoveries.
  • Samuel de Champlain, known as the Father of New France, was Canada’s most essential French explorer and an amazing man. Skilled as a navigator, cartographer, diplomat, and geographer, Champlain established close trade ties with the indigenous people and founded the City of Quebec.
  • Many French fur trappers learned their trade from indigenous people and married local women. Their modern-day descendants are the Mètis.
  • Canada had several beaver wars between England and France in the 17th century. The battle, which was quite bloody, was fought over the domination of the fur trade in the region. The English aided the Iroquois, and the French assisted rival tribes. Beavers became the national animal of Canada in 1975. Beavers are even featured on the Canadian nickel, too. 
  • The US invaded Canada twice in 1775 and 1812, and made several minor incursions on Canadian soil in the 19th century. Fear of an American invasion played a decisive role in many significant events in Canadian history until Canada’s independence from Britain in 1867.
  • The name Canada comes from a Saint Lawrence Iroquois word, Kanata, which refers to a village or a settlement. Quebec comes from the Algonquin name for the narrowing of the Saint Lawrence river around Quebec City.
  • The British North America Act of 1867 made Canada a “federal dominion” with more autonomy than it had previously enjoyed. Canada was still legally dependent on the UK until 1982. The British Parliament could vote to amend Canada’s constitution until the passage of the 1982 constitution. Today, Canada Day, July 1st, commemorates this move towards freedom.
  • Canadian soldiers were heavily recruited in World War I but looked down on by the British military. Over 600,000 Canadian soldiers served in World War I, and 67,000 were killed. In addition to population, more than three times as many Canadians served in World War I than Americans, and nine times as many Canadians died in the war than Americans. While Canadians also played a significant role in World War II, World War I is considered the Great War’ by Canadians even today.
  • Canada is the most prominent member of the British Commonwealth with a British head of state. Though Canada became self-governing in 1867, Britain continued to play an active role in Canadian politics. Queen Elizabeth II is the official head of state in Canada. The Queen is represented in Canada by the Governor-General for most official occasions. Queen Elizabeth has visited Canada more than any other country. 

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Animals 

Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers: Inventions 

Note: Most inventions involve teams of people. The actual inventor is often controversial for many inventors. I tried to be as accurate and concise as possible but understand that these summaries are subject to interpretation.

  • Two of the most exciting places I have ever visited dealing with inventors are the Joseph Armand Bombardier Museum in Valcourt, Quebec, and the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
    • Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland but lived in New England and Nova Scotia. While he is best known as the inventor of the first practical telephone in 1875 (in Boston), he contributed to multiple inventions, including the cell phone, phonograph, hydroplane, tape recorder, floppy disk, and hard drive.
    • Joseph Armand Bombardier, the founder of the Bombardier Company, invented the snowmobile and Skidoo and contributed to developing multiple other related products, including the snowplow.
  • World War I veteran and Nova Scotian Walter Harris Callow developed the first wheelchair-accessible bus in 1947 while Callow was blind and quadriplegic. 
  • The Natural Research Council of Canada (NRC) physicist Hugh LeCaine invented the electronic synthesizer in the mid-1940s. 
  • Quebecer Arthur Sicard invented the first practical snow blower in 1927. 
  • George Retzlaff, a CBC Hockey night producer, created instant replay in 1955. 
  • Canadian Moses Nadler popularized the Wonderbra. Nadler made his first Wonderbra in 1939. The most popular Wonderbra Model 1300, the push-up bra with the deep plunge better known as Dream Lift — was designed by employee Louise Poirier in 1961. 
  • Alan Emtage created the first internet search engine, the Archie, at McGill University in the late 1980s. 
  • Three Canadian filmmakers invented IMAX — Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, and Robert Kerr — to produce large-screen films for Montreal’s Expo 67.
  • The first subcutaneous pacemaker was built in 1949 by Canadian engineers John Hopps, Wilfred Bigelow, and John Callaghan.
  • Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante developed the modern fiberglass goalie mask prototype because he was tired of getting hit in the face by pucks.
  • Canadians Frederick Tisdall, Theodore Drake, Alan Brown, Ruth Herbert, and Harry Engel developed Pablum to help curb infant malnutrition and rickets.
  • Toronto doctor Frederick Banting discovered Insulin in 1921 with the help of University of Toronto researchers Charles Best, John Macleod, and Bertram Collip. Two years later, Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The team patented their discovery but sold the rights to the university, which used the money to fund new research. 
  • Ontarian George Klein worked at the National Research Council from 1929–1969, where he developed 
    • the electric wheelchair (widely considered to be “one of the greatest artifacts in the history of Canadian science, engineering, and invention”), 
    • aircraft skis, 
    • the M29 Weasel army snowmobile/ATV, 
    • the microsurgical staple gun, 
    • the ZEEP nuclear reactor.
  • Canadian-born Reginald Aubrey Fessenden developed the first broadcast on the AM radio band in 1900,, and built two-way radio transmission towers — one near Boston and the other in Scotland — for the first transatlantic radio broadcast in 1906. and invented sonar (underwater communications and depth sounding). Additionally, he held hundreds of patents, including pagers, television, an X-ray machine, tea infusers, solar and wind power storage, turbo-electric drive for ships, motorized toothbrushes, and incandescent lamps.

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Want More Fun Facts About Canada for Travelers?

Check out this post from Canadian Crossroads and Planet D.

Additional Quotes and Fun Facts for Travelers’ Posts From Fifty Plus Nomad

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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