Summer feels so short in Canada, but everyday life doesn’t come to a halt during the summer months—no matter how much we’d like it to. Even so, there are still a ton of ways to make this summer one for the books.
Read on for travel ideas, fun activities, and some of the best ways to do nothing at all.
1. Get your groove on at music festivals across the country
Whether you’re into folk, rock, blues, country or Icelandic death metal, there’s a music festival for you somewhere. (Okay, we’re not 100 percent sure about the Icelandic death metal…) Don’t feel like you’re obligated to be crowded and muddy for three days, either—stay off-site or check out a one-day fest for a slightly less immersive experience.
2. Revisit childhood with a ride on a giant slip and slide
Slide the City transforms city streets across Canada into enormous waterslides. Check out the website to register or get on one of their waiting lists.
3. Ride a historic carousel (then go to the beach)
Carved between 1898 and 1905, the Lakeside Park Carousel in St. Catharine’s, Ontario is 5 cents a ride (yes, really) and is a stone’s throw from Lake Ontario. Plan a picnic and ride all day!
4. Explore the Butter Tart Trail
Butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian treat. Whether you like your filling gooey or firm, with or without raisins, you’re sure to find a favourite at one of the bakeries on the trail, which winds through Wellington North county, close to Elora, Guelph, and Fergus.
5. See (or swim) the Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park
It’s chilly, but you might find its clear blue waters irresistible. Hike to the Grotto, a cave carved out of the Bruce Peninsula by thousands of years of wave action.
6. Bike ride from Toronto to Niagara
It’s a long ride from Toronto to Niagara, but it’s doable and much of the route is on either paved trails or quiet roads. If you’re up for a big trip, do the whole thing or start in Hamilton, Grimsby or Fort Erie for a smaller chunk. Stop at wineries throughout Niagara for a taste of the region’s famous wines—just don’t drink and ride.
7. Eat one of every colour of popsicle
Because nothing compares to sticking your blue/purple/red tongue out at everyone you see.
8. Go bubbly
Break out of the chardonnay mold and try a glass of sparkling wine, either on its own or in cocktails. Alternates to pricey champagne include cava from Spain, vinho verde from Portugal or prosecco from Italy.
9. Pick your own berries
Summer is berry season, and whether you head out to your favourite picking spot on the roadside or go to a farm, take the opportunity to a) make jam, b) make pie or c) freeze your berries. Your tastebuds will thank you in February when you need to be reminded of summer.
10. Can your harvest
Learn the art of preserving and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labours all winter. If you’re feeling creative, check out 6 surprising things you can pickle.
11. See some great outdoor theatre
There’s outdoor theatre across the country: check out Toronto’s Shakespeare in High Park, Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars, Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre, or Halifax’s Shakespeare by the Sea
12. Eat corn on the cob as much as possible
It’s the quintessential summer side dish, and we can’t get enough of it!
13. Make watermelon for every meal
Another one of our favourites, it turns out this juicy fruit can be incorporated into lunch, dinner, and dessert!
14. Explore Canada by water
Canada is home to more freshwater than any other country, which is why canoeing and kayaking is the perfect way to see new regions. If you need a little guidance, here are some places to start.
15. Host the perfect potluck with friends and family
Don’t wreck your summer cooking for a crowd—get your guests to pitch in with some great food of their own.
16. Get creative over the campfire
Who says it just has to be marshmallows and wieners? Channel your inner caveman and cook a full meal over an open flame.
17. Try a new watersport
It’s not just the same old day at the lake when you break out some fun new water activities.
18. Spend the night outside under the stars
Get out your star maps, smooth on some bug spray, and take advantage of these great night sky views.
19. Explore a new park
Yes, you’ve probably got a favourite family campground, and that’s great, but consider beating the crowds and trying out a new spot just for fun.
20. Cook something new on the barbecue
We’re not telling you to abandon burgers, hot dogs, and veggie kabobs altogether, but why not amp up your grill skills with something a little more unexpected—grilled pineapple, anyone?
21. Go surfing
You don’t have to be a California girl or guy to go surfing—we’ve got some great spots right here in Canada. Try surfing the Great Lakes or hit-up Tofino, B.C., the country’s surfing mecca.
22. Actually learn how to dock the boat properly
Is docking the boat a secret source of stress? Are you convinced you’re going to crash every time you try and pull in? Learn how to dock properly and banish your boating anxieties for good.
23. Improve your grilling technique
Even if you consider yourself a master griller, chances are, there’s room for improvement. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make.
24. Learn how to maximize your downtime
Nobody wants to spend their entire holiday in the car or maintaining the cottage. Whether it’s cooking meals ahead of time or only focusing on the most essential chores, here’s how to ensure you spend less time indoors and more time on the dock.
25. Try more Canadian wines
We may not be France, but Canada has a thriving wine industry. With large regions in Ontario’s Niagara Region and Prince Edward County, and in BC’s Okanagan Valley (as well as smaller regions in Quebec and Nova Scotia), Canadian wines are as diverse as the rest of the country.
26. Visit a waterfall
Niagara’s the obvious choice, but check out waterfalls in Hamilton (there are 126 at last count), Quebec’s Montmorency Falls or BC’s Takakkaw Falls for something a little different (but equally awe-inspiring).
27. Challenge your fear of heights
Cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge, catch a zipline and rappel in Mont Tremblant or go rock climbing at Rattlesnake Point in Ontario for a heart-in-your-throat adventure.
28. Get over your claustrophobia
Take a deep breath and head into the dark with a caving tour. Check out Rat’s Nest Cave near Banff, or take a wander through Collingwood, Ontario’s Scenic Caves.
29. Take in a little history
Take a tour of significant places in Ontario history with the help of the Ontario Heritage Trust’s list of historic plaques throughout the province. With more than 1,000 to choose from, visiting them all may be a multi-summer project.
30. Find out how your family came to Canada
If you’re related to or descended from immigrants, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax has searchable ships’ manifests, so you can look up exactly where and when your family landed on Canadian shores.
31. Swim in the clearest water in Canada
Okay, so it’s a glacial lake, which means it’s cold, but Peyto Lake in Banff has some of the clearest water in Canada—on a good day, you can see 90 feet to the bottom of the lake. If you don’t feel like freezing, try canoeing.
32. Eat a different burger every single weekend
Yes, burgers are classic summer meals, but you don’t always have to stick to beef. Try out lamb, pork, bean or mushroom burgers for creative twists on your old favourite. Or, go a little crazy with toppings.
33. Spend time reading on your front porch/back deck
Get a drink, a snack, bug spray and a comfy cushion to sit on and settle in for a few hours of blissful escape.
34. Try something outside your standard lager
Check out any of the microbreweries that are becoming part of the Canadian beer landscape. There are more than enough to try a new (and delicious) one every weekend.
35. Spend as much time as possible in a hammock
‘Nuff said. If you have nowhere to hang a hammock, consider one of these stand-alone babies from Lee Valley.
36. Peer at petroglyphs
For an up-close look at some of the early cultural expressions of Canada’s First People, go to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta or Petroglyphs Provincial Park in Ontario. Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which has the largest concentration of stone carvings in Canada, offers night programs that feature an educational film and a starlit hike to the petroglyphs site, which is sacred.
37. Try some weird sports
Whether it’s zorbing, bubble soccer, axe throwing, trampoline dodgeball or indoor skydiving, there are a lot of oddball sports to try out across the country.
38. Tour some odd museums
Canada has a lot of quirky museums, including the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station in Vulcan, Alberta, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the Accordion Museum in Montmagny, Quebec, the Chocolate Museum in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and the Potato Museum in (of course) O’Leary, PEI.
39. Explore Canadian crime
Canadians aren’t always law abiding, and that becomes pretty obvious if you visit the Vancouver Police Museum, the RCMP Heritage Centre (casually known as the Mountie Museum) in Regina, the Huron Historic Gaol in Goderich, Ontario, the Tunnels of Moosejaw, Canada’s Penitentiary Museum in Kingston, Ontario, and the Toronto Police Museum
40. Spook yourself with a ghost tour
Many Canadian towns and cities have great ghost tours, combining historical facts with spooky stories.
41. Learn some new card games
There’s only so many times you can play Crazy Eights, so why not learn a new game to while away rainy days and late nights.
42. Find your favourite greasy spoon
Everyone knows the best breakfast spots are in quaint, small-town Canada. Where else are you going to get a hearty meal for as low as $3.
43. Make the perfect lemonade
Is there any more perfect summer beverage than tangy-sweet lemonade? Try out this basic recipe, then experiment until you hit your perfect mix.
44. Make homemade ice cream (with or without a machine)
Oh, ice cream! Have a little fun with it this summer: get some premium rootbeer and make rootbeer floats, experiment with different drinks and ice cream flavours, but most important of all? Stop worrying about calories. More info:
45. Get seaworthy at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Have a seat on a deck chair at this Halifax museum and imagine yourself on a luxury White Star liner crossing the Atlantic in 1912. Maybe don’t imagine too hard, because your boat—the Titanic—is about to meet a sorry end. The MMA features a large collection of Titanic artifacts, as well as historical info on seafaring through the ages.
46. Go to the drive in
They’re a dying breed, but there are still drive-ins across the country. Line your trunk with pillows and park backwards for a true summer movie experience.
47. Stay in your pajamas and watch movies all day
This works best on a rainy day, but really, any day is good to lounge in your jammies and eat popcorn all day. Consider movies on a particular theme, including Classic Disney, Make-You-Jump Thrillers, ‘80s RomComs, Dude-Friendly Road Movies, Historic Dramas or Weepy Tearjerkers.
48. Keep a summer blessings or memories jar
In the depths of winter, summer is hard to remember, so every time something amazing happens this summer, write it down and put it in the jar. Open the jar in, say, February when you can’t remember what being warm feels like.
49. Try geocaching
This grown-up scavenger hunting adds an exciting element to your basic hikes. Download a geocaching app, check out Parks’ Canada’s guidelines, and start searching!
50. Take lots of naps
Seriously. Chances are, you’re sleep deprived, so take advantage of summer’s slower schedule and figure out how to nap well. Whether you’re in bed, on the porch or swinging gently in a hammock, get some great nap hacks through Life Hacker’s popular post.