When it comes to vacationing, many people head south to take advantage of the warm weather and sunny beaches. Why not look toward the northern skies?  There’s an equally close destination – Canada!  The country itself is quite large and the population is modest, giving the North American nation vast areas of untouched land as well a bustling city centers.

If you’ve been considering a trip north of the border but aren’t sure where you want to go, here’s a great list of five wonderful Canadian cities.

Montréal, Quebec

Montréal is amazing.  High fashion, European culture and world-renowned food are just a few reasons why people love this city.  While it is true that French is widely spoken in the entire province of Quebec, most tourists will find resources in English – including English-speaking people.  Like most of the country, it is very cold in the winter but the summer offers many major events including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Just For Laughs Festival and the Benson and Hedges International Fireworks Competition.  In addition to many outdoor green spaces and landmarks, Montreal is the site of the country’s only Six Flags amusement park.

Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa is the nation’s capital which, essentially, makes it Canada’s equivalent to Washington, D.C.  The Prime Minister and Parliament buildings are all located in this city which is just a short drive from Montreal.  Attracting visitors year-round, travelers may be interested in visiting any of the many local museums including the Museum of Civilization and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Toronto, Ontario

If you are wanting to visit Canada but still have a bit more of an American feel, Toronto is a great city.  The nation’s largest, Toronto showcases the multiculturalism of modern society which is evident in the food, neighborhoods and the people you meet on the street.  It’s a fast-paced environment and things tend to cost a little more but there really is a lot to see and do.  In the summer, travelers can visit attractions such as Canada’s Wonderland theme park and, beginning in summer 2013, Ripley’s Aquarium.

Calgary, Alberta

Alberta is currently the fastest-growing province with many Canadians moving from across the country to take advantage of the booming economy.  While the capital is Edmonton, located a few hours north, Calgary is garnering a lot more attention.  Anyone visiting in the summer should check out the Calgary Stampede, the “largest outdoor show on earth.”  For two weeks, the city celebrates their cowboy culture with daily free pancakes throughout the city, rodeos, chuckwagon races and outdoor concerts.

Vancouver, British Columbia

After hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver experienced a boost in its already impressive tourism.  Touted as one of the nation’s most “laid-back” cities (despite the high cost of living), Vancouver offers incredible views of the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Ocean, warmer weather than many parts of Canada year-round and, in addition to the food and shopping, travelers can really immerse themselves into a more natural, holistic lifestyle.

photo credit: Krazy Diamond via photopin cc