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First time in the east coast: where to go and what to do

posted March 16, 2017


The east coast of Canada

The east coast of Canada is full of picturesque, lighthouse-studded coastlines as well as legendary views across the Atlantic Ocean.

The best way to see the awesomeness of the area is by heading on one of our popular holidays to Canada, which takes you through the sheltered coves of pine-covered offshore islands, fascinating towns and cities and high rock cliffs moulded by the waves and the wind.

With so many places on the east coast, we’re here to give a helping hand by sharing some of our favourite places to visit along the way. We’ll share the different attractions you can visit, the restaurants to eat at and some awesome festivals you can attend.

Toronto

Toronto

This vibrant, eastern city is a great starting point for your East Coast adventure as it really demonstrates what modern-day Canada is all about. It is the most diverse city in the world with more than 140 languages spoken here and it is abuzz with activity.

If you are here for a few days, no matter whether you are flying to Toronto in the summer or during another part of the year, then read on to see what the top attractions, restaurants and events are.

Attractions to visit

Casa Loma

Casa Loma

This Edwardian castle was built in 1911 by well-known architect E.J. Lennox to help Sir Henry Pellatt, a Canadian financer and soldier, realise a lifelong dream. The dream became a reality and now Casa Loma sits on the top of a hill overlooking Toronto after 300 men took three years to build the 200,000 square foot castle.

This historic castle is now one of Canada’s most popular attractions with over 450,000 people heading to the estate each year.

During your visit you should also tour the estate’s gardens to see an array of flowering shrubs, trees and other foliage. This floral mosaic is full of a range of flowers and plants, meaning there is always something to see no matter what time of the year it is.

If you are flying to Toronto this summer then you may also get to listen to live music as the majestic castle often plays host to outdoor concerts.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium

Immerse yourself in a world of 16,000 aquatic animals by visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Here you can discover your own deep sea adventure. The aquarium features North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel with more than 5.7 million litres of water and over 100 interactive opportunities.

There are four touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks, cleaner shrimp and rays as well as daily dive shows every 2 hours.

CN Tower

CN Tower

At 553.33 metres high, the CN Tower certainly catches your eye and is most definitely a sight you do not want to miss when visiting Toronto.

The CN Tower celebrated its 40th birthday in 2016 and throughout its existence it has been a popular stop-off with over 1.5 million people visiting the tower every year.

The price of admission is well worth it once you get to one of the viewing decks. But if that isn’t enough you can get harnessed up and try the EdgeWalk at the top of the tower. Or, if you are not an adrenaline junkie then you can turn your trip into a fine dining experience by heading to the 360 Restaurant to watch the world go by.

Places to eat

The Black Hoof

The Black Hoof

This restaurant is currently undergoing some renovation, but if you’re lucky enough to be heading to Toronto in April then you will arrive just in time for the reopening of The Black Hoof.

Regarded as one of Toronto’s best eateries, The Black Hoof prides itself on making everything in-house, from the charcuterie to the cocktail garnishes.

It’s a meat and off-cut-centric menu to be sure, but there are fish and veggie options as well and every guest is bound to enjoy the casual atmosphere here.

Lee Restaurant & Lounge

Chef Susur Lee has created a venue that is not only a culinary destination, but a popular watering hole too.

You can enjoy small-plate dishes that have been influenced by Asian and French foods as well as tongue-tingling cocktails alongside your food.

Some signature cocktails include The Niagara, a drink filled with Prosecco, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Vidal Ice Syrup and rose tea. The Mandarin Monkee mixes Belvedere Vodka, Soho Lychee Liqueur, Golden Pear, Tangerine Medley & Foam.

Festivals

Taste of Toronto

If you have booked flights to Toronto this summer then you are in luck as one of the world’s finest food festivals is coming to Fort York National Historic Site this year.

Taste of Toronto will be heading to Fort York to transform it into a foodie wonderland for four days of summer eating, drinking and entertainment.

Restaurants from across the city will be dishing up their best meals for a feast that you will never forget. You can also browse through a huge food market, which boasts over 70 producers of food and drink.

Top-class chefs from around the world will also be in attendance, taking part in competitions and demonstrations.

Dates of festival: 15 – 18 June

Canada Day celebrations

This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary and at Nathan Phillips Square there will be a four-day celebration taking place for Canada Day.

Over the course of the four days you can see lots of musical performances. Prepare for big stars and local musical talents from all of Canada’s provinces and territories.

Dates of festival: 1-4 July

Kingston

Kingston

Located where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, Kingston is known as the Limestone City, home to the Thousand Islands and Canada’s first capital.

If you land in Toronto then Kingston should be your next stop on the east coast as it is only a three-hour drive away.

Kingston in its own right has it all; vibrant arts, year-round festivals, culture and an enviable culinary scene.

Attractions to visit

Fort Henry

Fort Henry

Here you can enter the realm of 19th century military life and experience stunning views, musical performances and military demonstrations.

Fort Henry itself allows you to fire a rifle, attend a Victorian school, go on a ghost tour and watch a sunset ceremony, which involves 1860s military music and artillery manoeuvres.

Grand Theatre

Visit Kingston recommends you head to the Grand Theatre as it is one of the main cultural venues in the Kingston area.

The Grand Theatre is the prime performing arts venue for hundreds of professional and amateur performances every year and these include shows in modern dance, ballet, musicals, theatre, comedy and more.

Kingston Penitentiary

Kingston Penitentiary

Another attraction that Visit Kingston recommend visiting is the Kingston Penitentiary.

After being locked to the public for over 180 years you can now go behind the walls of Canada’s oldest prison and learn about some of the most infamous inmates, escape attempts and previous riots.

If you are interested in law and order then a tour around this old prison, which opened in 1835, is highly recommended.

Places to eat

SIMA Sushi

Sushi in Kingston

This popular restaurant has been serving an assortment of sushi, sashimi, rolls and cooked Japanese dishes out of their cosy downtown Kingston location for years.

Their fresh and uncompromising Japanese seafood has made it the number one sushi place in Kingston.

The SIMA Sushi menu includes salmon teriyaki, sashimi lunch, regular sashimi, butternut squash tempura roll and lots more.

Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza

Another restaurant located in downtown Kingston is Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza, which is the place to go for delicious and unique wood-fired pizzas.

The selection of pizzas available are staggering. Common Margherita and Americana pizzas are available alongside unique pizzas like the Volcano, Santa Fe and Tiziana.

Festivals

Craft Beer Festival

Craft Beer Festival

If you like your craft beer then the Craft Beer Festival is one you won’t want to miss during a trip to Kingston.

It is the biggest beer event in the area and features famous brewers like Whitewater, MacKinnon Brothers and Beyond the Pale.

Date of festival: 8th April

Canada 150 events

Being the first capital, there are a whole host of events taking place for the 150th anniversary of the confederation.

Some events that have already been announced include the planting of 150 trees near Kingston, Victoria Day celebrations at Lake Ontario Park, and the opening of a 6.4 kilometre trail from Douglas Fluhrer Park to Binnington Court.

Date of festival: Throughout 2017

Montreal

This magnificent city is a must-visit on your east coast trip.

There is so much to do here! Wanderthrough photogenic 18th-century facades and a beautiful botanic garden, or satisfy your pallet by enjoying some world-class cuisine.

Attractions to visit

Montreal Botanical Garden

Montreal Botanical Garden

One of the jewels in the city’s crown, the Montreal Botanical Garden is regarded by many to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world.

With 22,000 different plant species, 10 exhibition greenhouses, more than 20 thematic gardens over 75 hectares and the renowned Frédéric Back Tree Pavilion, there is certainly something to see all-year round.

The gardens contain plants from all four corners of the globe. During your trip here, don’t be surprised to see a new exhibition or some kind of activity taking place.

If you have a thing for creepy crawllies then we would also recommend heading to the Insectarium, which is located inside the botanical gardens. It is one of the largest insect museums in North America and is home to a staggering 250,000 different insects.

Insectarium

Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

Built in 1829, the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal is based in the historic district of Old Montreal. Its Gothic Revival architecture is renowned for being among the most dramatic in the world.

If you love architecture and history then this is a must-visit. There are hundreds of wooden carvings and religious statues, plus stained-glass windows that depict scenes from the religious history of Montreal. The Gros Bourdon bell at the basilica is said to be the biggest in the whole of North America.

The basilica is used to the limelight, as singer Céline Dion tied the knot here in 1994 and Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro were pall-bearers in the basilica at the state funeral of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Montreal Biodome

Montreal Biodome

An oasis in the centre of the city, the Biodome showcases some of the most stunning ecosystems of the Americas.

The Biodome, which is known as the “house of life”, will show you the Laurentian Maple Forest, the subpolar regions of the Americas and if you want to keep warm during the Montreal winter then the humid tropical rainforest is where you need to head.

You will also get to see an assortment of animals during your visit such as capybaras, golden lion tamarins, Canada lynx and penguins.

Places to eat

Restaurant Manitoba

Restaurant Manitoba

Restaurant Manitoba has invented a cuisine that pays tribute to the territory, the native people and the family culinary history of Quebec.

Elisabeth Cardin, who works at Restaurant Manitoba explains the importance they place on using local produce.

She said, “We mainly use local products, wild edible plants and ancestral preserving and cooking techniques. We buy our meat, fish and vegetables from small businesses that share our concerns about the quality and the traceability of the food we eat.”

Le St-Urbain

Le St-Urbain offers modern cuisine that is inspired by the seasons. If you decide to dine out here then you can expect to eat products from local markets that are generally organic. The restaurant’s wine list is also extensive, so you can enjoy tasting a whole host of private imports.

Festivals

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

North America’s top music festival is constantly getting bigger and better with over-1000 concerts taking place over the 10-day festival.

If you are a music lover then seeing jazz legends share the stage with rock and pop stars will blow your mind.

In 2017 it will be the 38th edition of the festival and the city will be welcoming well-known artists such as Ibrahim Maalouf and jazz band 5 For Trio.

Date of festival: 28 June – 8 July

Alive 375

As 2017 marks the 375th birthday of Montreal, the city is putting on quite the spectacle with a whole host of events taking place throughout the year.

As part of Alive 375 the Biosphere is illuminated at night and the new lighting features gradual changes in colour and intensity to mark the passing of time itself.

La guirlande du 375 is another event taking place as part of the festival and will see the streets of the P-S-C neighbourhood decorated in a 1,400m-long garland. 50 workshops mean you can try various techniques of painting and printing on canvas completely free.

Date of festival: All year

Quebec City

Quebec City is one of North America’s oldest and most impressive settlements.

The city’s compact size make it ideal for walkers, and if you do choose to walk around the city then you will see Parisian-style cafes, beautiful architecture and a plethora of historical sites of international importance.

Whether it is the top-quality cuisine, the history or the designer boutiques, there is something for everyone on a Quebec City holiday.

Attractions to visit

Old Quebec

Old Quebec

A holiday to Quebec City absolutely must include a trip to Old Quebec. As soon as you step foot on the cobbled streets you’ll see why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The district’s famous Chateau Frontenac is the world’s most photographed hotel, but there are lots of centuries-old architectural structures and many other historic sites to enjoy.

Whilst walking around this area you will be greeted by horse-drawn carriages, street entertainers, singers and artists, which all add to its unique charm.

Fortifications of Quebec

Fortifications of Quebec

We would bet that, whilst planning your Canadian holiday, you wouldn’t have thought you could see a wall that lives up to the Great Wall of China.

Quebec is the only city in North America that is fortified, with over 4km of walls and impressive gates surrounding the city. These walls were built under the French and English regimes and boast cannon loopholes and even an artillery park.

Plains of Abraham

The Plains of Abraham is where the epic 1759 battle between Generals Wolfe and Montcalm took place.

Now it is the heart and lungs of the city, and if you want to go walking, cycling or even cross-country skiing in an urban environment, then this is the place to go.

The plains also have a history of welcoming world-famous artists, with the likes of Celine Dion and Paul McCartney performing here in the past.

Places to eat

iX pour Bistro

The iX pour Bistro might be a small bistro with just 9 tables, but it is somewhat of a hidden gem. Here, there is a wine list of over 130 entries written on the wall and a huge selection of spirits. The menu is concise yet creative.

It is so popular that you will have to reserve a table, although once you have a table you can keep it for the rest of the night.

Some popular dishes include the Lorette onion soup, the goats’ cheese lamb and a foie gras dessert.

The restaurant’s tagline of “iX pour Bistro is not just a restaurant, but a memorable evening out in itself” says it all.

Laurie Raphael

Laurie Raphael

 

Laurie Raphaël is a family business that has been open and running for 25 years and it’s located in the charming Old Port area.

The vision of the chefs, Daniel and Raphaël Vézina (father and son), is a hymn to the beauty of the products from our land and the importance of renewing and offering customers a scalable and authentic gourmet menu.

The decor and ambiance is favourable to the discovery, a yet unmatched proximity. Everything was thought to give a both visual and culinary experience to the client.

The success of Laurie Raphael in Quebec City has seen the brand expand to Montreal as well and that restaurant has been running for 10 years now.

Festivals

Festival d’été de Québec

Festival d’été de Québec, or the Québec City Summer Festival, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

50 musicians and groups have already been unveiled as part of this year’s line-up, including the Backstreet Boys, Pink and Kendrick Lamar to name a few.

The festival literally takes over,with gigs happening at sites throughout the city. The genres covered are diverse, with jazz, hip hop, electro and indie stars all playing their hits over the course of the festival.

Date of festival: 6-16 July

Le Carnaval de Québec

One of the world’s largest winter festivals is held in Quebec. Le Carnaval de Québec has been running since 1894 and it features fun for the whole family, including an ice palace, parades and an international snow sculpture show.

The Plains of Abraham are also transformed into a winter wonderland during the festival with dogsled rides, mini-golf on ice and snow rafting all open for you to try your hand at.

Date of festival: End of January to February

Ottawa

The capital city of Ottawa is another highlight of the east coast with its many museums, historical sites and national events combining to make it a true cultural hub.

Attractions to visit

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999, cast 2003, NGC, Ottawa

If you head to the National Gallery of Canada you will see the artistic treasures of this great nation.  Discover the remarkable stories that have shaped this country through the museum’s completely reinvented Canadian and Indigenous galleries.

In addition to the National Gallery of Canada’s exquisite national collection, you can take in world-class seasonal exhibitions and engaging activities for all ages. If you want to celebrate creativity then spend the day here to experience one of Canada’s most valuable landmarks.

Rideau Canal

National Gallery of Canada

This historic waterway is an iconic image of Ottawa.

In winter this UNESCO World Heritage Site turns into a frozen paradise, meaning you, along with thousands of other locals, can go ice skating on the canal.

The winding canal goes through downtown Ottawa and passes by Parliament Hill, making it the perfect place to go for a stroll no matter what the season.

ByWard Market

ByWard Market

If you like shopping for fresh produce then this public market should be on your bucket list.

Ottawa Tourism says that, for nearly 200 years, the market has attracted artisan farmers and craft merchants year-round to sell a whole host of items and wares.

The market is perfect for souvenir shopping, but the variety of pubs and restaurants mean that it is a great location for foodies as well. At night the market makes for a great place to grab a late drink and catch some live music.

Places to eat

NeXT

NeXT

NeXT is consistently one of Ottawa’s top signature restaurants, where British-born chef Michael Blackie has created a menu that reflects his best food memories presented in a sharing style. This isn’t Tapas, however, but rather a dinner presented in a family-style format!

The restaurant is located in the west end of Ottawa approximately 20 minutes from Downtown and mixes foods from Indonesia, Mexico and Hong Kong with a Canadian flair.

Fraser Café

The Fraser Cafe prides itself on making fantastic food at a reasonable price, in a casual and lively setting, and it is for these reasons that it has since become such a popular destination.

From house burgers and ploughman lunches to roast chicken and salmon, there are plenty of dishes to suit every taste bud.

If you keep your eye out you could even attend Fraser café’s popular wine and beer tasting events, which take place every few months.

Festivals

RBC Bluesfest

RBC Bluesfest

The RBC Bluefest is one of the largest international music events in the world, with over 220 different acts playing on a number of outdoor stages.

Each year the festival attracts 300,000 music fans. This year will be no different with the likes of 50 Cent, Muse, Pink, Flume, Toby Keith, Migos, Justin Moore, Fetty Wap featuring Monty and Jake Owen all performing at this year’s festival.

Date of festival: 6–16 July

Northern Lights: Sound and Light Show

You can take an unforgettable journey of sound and light in Ottawa throughout July to September by exploring Ottawa’s historical and cultural landscapes.

Against the backdrop of the Centre Block and Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, the nightly shows use bold digital technology and the architectural splendour of the Parliament Buildings to illuminate Canadian stories of nation-building, partnership and vision.

Date of festival: 11 July – 16 September

Charlottetown

Charlottetown

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island’s capital city, strikes a perfect balance, pairing small town charm with big city energy. With its romantic streetscapes, stunning water vistas and sun-dappled patios, this coastal city offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of bigger centres. While relaxation is a given, Charlottetown punches well above its weight with cultural and entertainment offerings too – incredible live music, inspired events, world-class theatre, and diverse festivals create a thriving urban vibe.

Downtown Charlottetown brims with history, artistry and energy. Built for exploring on foot, the area is filled with a colourful mix of independent shops, restaurants, elegantly restored heritage buildings and lush green spaces.

Take pause during your leisurely stroll to marvel at the public monuments that pay homage to the city’s proud history and unique role as the Birthplace of Confederation.

Attractions to visit

Peake’s Wharf Hostoric Waterfront

Peake’s Wharf Hostoric Waterfront

Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront is where the fathers of confederation landed in 1864 and today this area is one of the top attractions on Prince Edward Island.

There are over 20 iconic shops dotted along the waterfront, but if you are wanting to see the rugged and beautiful coastline that the island is famed for then you can get on a boat tour from the waterfront.

Peake’s Wharf Boat Tours allow you to cruise the harbour and watch wildlife like seals in their natural habitat. There are a number of tours on offer, including seal watching, sunset cruises and lobster haul tours.

Province House

Province House

Province House is the birthplace of Confederation and is Charlottetown’s most important cultural landmark.

Here you can walk in the footsteps of the fathers of the Confederation and at the same time learn about the birth of a country and the challenges that came with it.

St. Dunstan’s Basilica

Built from 1896 to 1907, St. Dunstan’s Basilica is a fine example of the High Victorian Gothic Revival style of architecture.

The architecture demonstrated here is truly stunning with soaring ceilings, graceful stained glass windows and a selection of beautiful paintings.

You can also attend a mass if you want to.

Places to eat

Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

The Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar is located in a beautiful heritage building in downtown Charlottetown, but it isn’t because of the stunning surroundings that you should come here.

Instead it is the ultimate dining experience that Sims Corner offers its diners. It is regarded by many to be Prince Edward Island’s premiere oyster experience as it offers the freshest oysters from different bays, coves and points from around the island.

Sims Corner’s steaks are also famed with all of their beef raised on Prince Edward Island. The steaks are classified as Canadian Prime and to enhance the flavour Sims Corner ages its steak for a minimum of 45 days.

The Brickhouse Kitchen & Bar

The Brickhouse Kitchen & Bar

The Brickhouse Kitchen & Bar has created a unique dining experience based on local products and culinary flare.

This downtown Charlottetown restaurant has a lunch, dinner and brunch menu. You can tuck into their famed steak, haddock, salmon or chicken dishes or if you want to share then the tacos, chicken nachos and crispy calamari are some good choices.

Festivals

PEI Burger Love

Discover Charlottetown say that you can forget April showers, in Charlottetown, as the month is all about PEI Burger Love.

You don’t want to miss out on this month-long celebration of Island beef that challenges restaurants to create amazing, one-of-a-kind burgers and lets eaters vote for the ‘Most Loved Burger’.

Dates of festival: 1 – 30 April

Canada 150 celebrations

Discover Charlottetown revealed that a whole host of events have been planned for Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

Make your way to the Confederation Centre of the Arts outdoor amphitheatre during the noon hour to take in The Dream Catchers (June 21 to Aug 19), celebrate Canada Day (July 1) in the Birthplace of Confederation, catch the free nightly Sound & Light Show (mid-June to Oct 1) showcasing Canada’s past, present and future or marvel at the tall ships in Charlottetown’s harbour to honour Canada 150 during Rendezvous 2017 (June 30 to July 2).

Dates of festival: Throughout the year

Other recommended destinations

The Maritimes

Halifax – the capital of Nova Scotia allows you to access stunning natural, coastal environments such as the Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, a wild and isolated 22 km stretch of coastline. There are so many outdoor activities you can try here; from cycling to kayaking, as well as whale watching tours and walking tours.

St. John’s – one of North America’s oldest settlement is a great destination for nature lovers. Humpback, minke, fin, sperm, blue, pothead, sei and right whales can all be seen in the coastal waters around St. John’s in the Newfoundland and Labrador territory. From vantage points in the city you can also see other marine life and icebergs, but at the harbour there are plenty of boat tours if you prefer an up-close look.

Image Credit: Casa Loma, Ripley’s Aquarium, A G Baxter, Dave Gillespie, Claude Lafond, Martine Larose, Maxyme G. Delisle, iX pour Bistro, Maman, Discover Charlottetown.

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