people canoeing on a crystal clear lake in front of mountains and a giant forest
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada | i viewfinder/Shutterstock
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada | i viewfinder/Shutterstock
Travel

Canada Is Finally Reopening to Americans. Here’s Where You Should Go First

Oh, Canada! How we missed you.

We have good news, Americans: You’ll be allowed to visit Canada very soon. After 16 long months of being closed to non-essential travel, the world’s longest land border is set to reopen at last. 

As of August 9, fully-vaccinated Americans will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks, as reported by CBC. The land border will reopen and international flights will be allowed into Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Edmonton. Travelers from all other countries can enter as of September 7.

If you aren’t vaccinated or have only one shot of a vaccine that requires two, you’ll still need to quarantine for 14 days, though you won’t be required to stay three days in a hotel as previously mandated.

Canada is ridiculously beautiful as well as unbelievably massive, so there’s a lot to know before you go hang out with our good friends in the Great White North. Here’s what to expect from Canada’s official reopening, plus what to do across the country between bites of poutine.

How to get into Canada

You’ll need to provide proof of full vaccination with one of four approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson—via the online portal ArriveCAN. If approved, you’ll be permitted entry to Canada. You’ll also need a negative Covid-19 molecular test result before departure. Get more info here and here.

Keep in mind that you may be tested again when you arrive, but only if you’re randomly selected. If chosen, you’ll need to give authorities a contingency plan for where you’d quarantine for two weeks, even if you ultimately test negative and it’s deemed unrequired.

Current restrictions to know

Canada’s Covid-19 restrictions vary from coast to coast but are generally relaxed at this point. For instance, in Quebec you can eat in a restaurant, check out museums, and go shopping; bars are also open, though they have to stop serving booze at midnight instead of the usual 3 am. In Ontario, you can dance to your heart’s content in a club, but masks are still required and there are capacity limits. You’ll need to sign up for a PEI Pass before you’re allowed entry to Prince Edward Island, while in British Columbia, you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re fully vaccinated.

Suffice to say, be sure to check out local restrictions wherever you’re headed. Then dive headfirst into these Canadian staples, from the major metropolises of the east to the sweeping nature of the west. 

people sitting on benches with view of city and Toronto tower
Toronto is Canada's best city for international food and culture | Sandro Schuh/Unsplash

Eat like a king in Toronto

Don’t you dare sleep on Toronto. Wander around its eclectic neighborhoods to experience one of the world’s most multicultural cities; check out its awesome parks and beaches (pro tip: the Islands are where it’s at); and freely partake in the city’s glorious legal cannabis scene. Hungry? Toronto is also the best place in Canada to try food from around the world: oxtail, Egyptian brunch, boozy egg tart ice cream...the list goes on.

Feel Montreal’s joie de vivre

Canada’s artsiest, hippest city is finally ready for a renaissance after one of the harshest lockdowns in the country. Citywide, Montreal has transformed into a walkable wonderland with sprawling “terrasses” that splay out onto pedestrianized streets and huge parks like Mount Royal, Lafontaine, and Jarry always ready for chillaxing. Plus, awesome festivals like Pride (August 9-15), Jazz Fest (September 15-19), and POP (September 22-26) are all a go, and the weekly festival Piknic Electronik is in full swing, though with some social distancing restrictions in place.

highway winding through forests and mountains and a lake
Road trip up to Abraham Lake in the Canadian Rockies | kavram/Shutterstock

Road trip through the Great White North

Canada’s landmass is roughly the same size as the States’, but with 10% of the population. That means there are miles and miles of open space to explore and some epic sights to see. Go to the Bruce Peninsula, a sublime coastal park with hidden caves, turquoise waves, and underwater shipwrecks. Combine a trip to Toronto with a full-on Ontario road trip for huge canyons, waterfalls (not just Niagara!), and some great canoe camping. Oh, and there’s also that little thing out west called the Canadian Rockies—arguably one of, if not the, most amazing mountain ranges in the world.

Plan a snowy escape

Canadians learned long ago that the only way to survive the notoriously brutal winters is to embrace them. Be like them and plan a winter trip ahead of the crowds. Check out the world-class ski resorts in Banff, Alberta and Whistler, British Columbia for some of the best slopes around. Feeling brave? Head to Churchill, Manitoba (aka the polar bear capital of the world) for a 4x4 bus excursion where the bears walk right up to your vehicle. Just do us a favor and don’t wander around Churchill alone at night. As much as you might like those old Coca-Cola ads, we promise you don’t want to meet a polar bear after dark.

woman walking across long skybridge toward forest and mountains in Canada
The Golden Skybridge in Golden, British Columbia | Photo courtesy of Golden Skybridge

See what Canada's been up to while you were gone

Canada has kept busy while its neighbors to the south have been away. Out west in Golden, British Columbia, the country’s highest suspension bridge was recently built at 426 feet above Hospital Creek Canyon; it’ll soon be joined by a brand new 4,000-foot zipline and tandem bungee swing. Ottawa’s also betting on adventure with a new 1,400-foot zipline that’ll take you across the water to Quebec with epic views of Parliament Hill.

Cultural attractions got a big boost, too. Winnipeg opened the $52.4 million Qaumajuq Inuit art museum with 14,000 works from 2,000 artists. And Montreal’s Biodome—a science center built in the velodrome from the 1976 Olympics where you can experience environments from a tropical rainforest to a subpolar region—just completed a $25 million renovation.

Maybe just straight up move to Canada

Canadians know very well how many Americans have panic-dreamed of moving up here over the last few years—but let’s be real, Canada is a great place to live regardless of who’s in the White House. You get to keep the big cities and big nature of the US, but you gain free healthcare and nationwide legal weed. What’s not to love?

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Joel Balsam is a freelance journalist and travel guidebook writer whose work can be found in National Geographic Travel, Time, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, and Travel + Leisure. Follow him @joelbalsam.
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