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January 17, 2008 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me make my US friends jealous enough to visit me in Canada.

I live in Canada. Most of my friends live in the US. Being typical Americans, they also think that America is completely awesome and Canada is where it's cold and you drink maple syrup at every meal. What I'm looking for is a list of things that you can't do in the US but you can do in Canada, as a visitor. Either things that are legal here but not legal there, or sights/places that are completely, ineffably, *solely* Canadian.

posted by the dief to Travel & Transportation around Canada (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Outdoor shinny (pond hockey).

I dunno about Hamilton, but you can get away with smoking a joint walking down (most) streets or at the beach, in Vancouver.

Legal age to drink in most provinces is 19 (18 in Alberta).
posted by porpoise at 2:23 PM on January 17, 2008

Oh yeah, places/sights in and around the GTA preferred.
posted by the dief at 2:23 PM on January 17, 2008

POUTINE. zomg heart poutine.
posted by spec80 at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

Get married to your gay partner.

Well, that's why *I'd* want to visit Canada!
posted by headspace at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Clamato Virgin Caesar and All Dressed Chips. I made a grocery shopping trip before crossing back over just for those two things.
posted by pieoverdone at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2008

porpoise, you can get away with that where most of my friends live (SF, Bay Area) too -- afaik, it's still illegal to smoke a joint in Vancouver, even if enforcement is lax.

Shinny's good, though, thanks.
posted by the dief at 2:25 PM on January 17, 2008

Niagara Falls! Thousands of East Indians can't be wrong. Our side is so much nicer. Umm, I would never feel comfortable openly smoking a joint in the US but I've never felt nervous about it here (and haven't been hasselled either). I thought there was a pot-friendly restaurant in Kensington but it might have closed. If your visitors aren't from Vermont they probably haven't been to a Sugar Shack (in March, check out Halton Conservation especially Mountsberg). Actually speaking of Halton Conservation they have a cool Neutral village at Crawford Lake. It is part of the Bruce Trail (how does hiking from Niagara Falls to Tomermory along the escarpment sound to your friends)?

Ther are quite a few uniquely Canadian experiences but they aren't all in Golden Horseshoe unfortunately. Would you be willing to travel? A VIA train to Montreal/Quebec City is always awesome. A trip to see the Polar Bears in Northern Ontario is equally cool but a lot more expensive.

By, the way, I DO drink maple syrup at every meal. Are you saying there is something wrong with that?
posted by saucysault at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2008

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words and all, so why not start a Flickr account and start taking some pics of how AWESOME your area is, get pics of yourself having a blast, etc... Not sure if the idea of simply smoking a joint or a unique snack item would be enough for me. As an aside though, I usually try and visit my close friends regardless of where they live because, well, they're my friends and I like to see them. Maybe instead of trying the whole "my city is the shit, you need to see it" game, try telling them that you miss them and it would be great if they could come visit some time.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 2:39 PM on January 17, 2008

Your part (I was going to say "your half," but it's more than half) of Niagara Falls is better. But you can see that from the US, so I don't know if it counts.

Unibroue beers. Especially La Fin du Monde. But again, these aren't too hard to find in the States.

The Toronto International Film Festival, if that would appeal to your friends. I've heard it said that of the world's top-tier film festivals, TIFF is the most accessible to the casual (non-industry-conected) viewer. I haven't been to the others so I can't compare myself, but when I went in 2005 I was able to get into all the films I wanted to see.

...Canada is where it's cold...

Ah, but that's part of its attraction. Not in the winter, mind you, but much of Canada is quite pleasant in the summer. Most of the US is too warm in July/August for my taste.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:46 PM on January 17, 2008

Some soft cheeses aren't available in the US.
posted by milkrate at 2:52 PM on January 17, 2008

If your friends happen to like white mascots and loads of liquor during the parade, I think this will convince them! Plus it's Quebec's 400th anniversary!
posted by ddaavviidd at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2008

Where do your American friends live? Being an ex-pat now living in Vancouver, I've noticed that there's a lot more in common going north-south vs. east-west. If your friends are from Buffalo, most of Ontario isn't going to seem that different. If your friends are from Seattle, Vancouver's pretty similar. Emphasize the parts of Canada that are significantly different from where they're from. Figure out what's awesome there.

And if that doesn't work, poutine should. If that doesn't, you need new friends.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:58 PM on January 17, 2008

I have friends in St. Catharines, so I visit the Falls area at least once a year. I love the neon tackiness and kitsch that is the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (it's changed a lot since the casino opened, though). I also love Molson's Brador beer, Mr. Sub, Swiss Chalet, pizza with shrimp on it (hard to find in my area of the US, but readily available in Canada), Suisha Gardens, and riding the GO train or VIA rail.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:00 PM on January 17, 2008

It's going to be tough, yo. What with the dollar, I can't convince a damn soul to come visit. I've been trying to get peeps to visit me since I moved here 2 years ago, have only succeeded in one visit so far. My old roommate who hadn't ever been outside of the US drove up from the south before the dollar and gas prices went up.

If you take them to Toronto... heh, don't let them talk to anyone who doesn't live here, otherwise they'll hear about how much Toronto sucks. Indie shows, restaurants, shopping, the Islands, tourist crap like the CN tower.Eaton Centre.Second City, etc. Not just TIFF - there are over 80 film festivals in the city. And then all the other festivals - Luminato, Nuit Blanche, the jazz festival, The Fringe, etc. Fun public participation events like newmindspace puts on. Canada's Wonderland?

Be willing to travel...for some reason going elsewhere in Canada may be helpful. Many, many of my US-ian friends have asked me if I would go to Montreal with them, or Vancouver. The draws being, I dunno? Francophones and BC weed?

Legal/not-legal? Drinking + smoking at 19. Access to a lot of international foods/brands/candies. Cuban cigars. Some types of booze, especially beer, and some types of cigarettes.
posted by SassHat at 3:04 PM on January 17, 2008

Legal/not-legal? Drinking + smoking at 19

And even 18 if you come to the carnaval!
posted by ddaavviidd at 3:13 PM on January 17, 2008

posted by Marky at 3:17 PM on January 17, 2008

Camping or any outdoor activity for that matter. In Canada you have more moose than people around you. Where I grew up (Northern B.C) I didn't even have to get a permit to fish and the lakes are naturally stocked.

Mountain biking is better in the West than any place I have been in the USA.

Only Utah snow comes close to B.C. snow so snowboarding/skiing is ++. Any resort other than Whistler will have less people on the busiest day then any resort in the USA on a Wednesday.

I have been all across Canada and in my opinion the west is far superior both socially and environmentally...so send them out west!!
posted by birdlips at 3:23 PM on January 17, 2008

You can legally buy real no-shit Cuban cigars in Canada.

If they like books, the World's Bigg^H^H^H^HUgliest Bookstore is good. Especially because Canada straddles the US and UK book markets, so you can get things there that are harder to find in the US.

The various monuments to War of 1812 stuff in southern Ontario might be useful reminders that they're in a real foreign country and not just more Ohio with weird money. Or get them to come in wear-a-poppy season.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2008

Pharmaceuticals! If they have grandparents or other elderly people they care about, they should be enticed into visiting you and stocking up on the prescription meds that their grey-haired beloveds back in the blighted U.S. need to stay alive.
posted by mumkin at 3:35 PM on January 17, 2008

OMG yes Quebec Winter Carnival!

It is cold and you will find yourself hot warm maple syrup out of little plastic cups, but it's a hell of a lot of fun if you go with a bunch of friends. The food's great, there's booze everywhere, and you can go down a rickety wooden toboggan run you'd never see in the U.S. because of the liability insurance. And don't forget to check out the Ice Hotel while you're in the area!
posted by needled at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2008

French girls in Montreal. OMG !
posted by dawdle at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2008

In and around the GTA, eh? There's not much in Toronto that you couldn't one-up in Chicago or New York. But there is definitely something particularly Canadian about the near north. In the summer it can be paradise. Go to a cottage on a lake up in cottage country (this can be an idyllic retreat or a great big party, depending on what you go looking for - nothing like beer and barbecues and being outdoors) - or go camping in Algonquin Park. Also there are some great parks and beaches along the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. I once had visitors from Australia remark on how weird it was to swim in fresh water - that's something I take for granted!

I think a road trip to Montreal and/or Quebec City would be great. Montreal's nightlife is legendary and the culture is uniquely different from the states. It's an easy train ride from Toronto too.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:27 PM on January 17, 2008

Strip clubs that serve liquor and have really hot French-Canadian chicks that get totally naked.

And, now that Formula One has bailed out of the U.S. (again), The Canadian Grand Prix (every June in Montreal).
posted by wfc123 at 4:59 PM on January 17, 2008

I emigrated from the US to Canada in 1997, and lived in Toronto until 2000; I now live in Calgary.

You cannot take your friends to "attractions," no matter how pretty or how urbane, because they already live in one of the most spectacular cities in one of the most spectacular settings in North America. Hamilton will have nothing to offer them in this regard and unfortunately neither will Toronto. I'm sure that somebody from SF will find Montreal charming--who wouldn't?--but are they going to want to abandon the bay area? No. Not because of the city.

What left me enraptured on every visit (before I emigrated for good) was not CN tower or Niagara Falls. It was civility; it was politeness; it was seeing (even in 1995 when I first met my partner) that being a same sex couple here meant something like EQUALITY and not just "tolerance," which is the best one can hope for even in California. It was walking down a block and seeing "social housing" that housed people of every imaginable shade and speaking too many languages to comprehend, all literally across the street from beautifully tended Victorians, not one of which was for sale because of the "PJ's" across the street. It was listening enrapt as Canadians casually discussed having to find another "family doctor" without a single mention of PPOs or any other insurance nonsense. It was seeing an immigration system that not only welcomed new arrivals from around the world but sought after them with near desperation. It was seeing all these little Britishisms; the red Kit Kat wrappers along with Cadbury Flake, the Queen's picture here and there, "Boxing Day," cricket (played by West Indian and South Asian players) in city parks, the "zed" in my last name. It's the different form that social and cultural "diversity" take in a city like Toronto, where I remember walking by Jarvis Collegiate--a public high school--when school let out and being surrounded by hundreds of students who all seemed to be South Asian.

To appreciate all of the differences between a Toronto and a Chicago has to involve one's ability to understand nuances, and a lot of people can't see past the street grid and the architecture and the lake. This is a pity. I, having lived both places, don't consider Toronto remotely like Chicago except in ways that are superficial... I can say the same about Calgary and, say Denver.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I concur that since they are coming from an urban, multicultural area the GTA with its McDonalds and Walmarts won't be that different. You can't even bring them to the wineries without them rolling their eyes (but there is always icewine). So show them our nature. Do they have any hobbies you can tie in like "Around the Bay" for cyclists, or Canadian football vs American football? Maybe take them curling?

Are they coming in the winter? Up in Kleinburg you can go Dogsledding. There is also the group of seven at the McMichael Art Centre. Then there are posh boutiques along the main street.

Do you friends realise Santa lives in Canada? Have they been naughty? Go see Santa's Village, his summer home in the Muskokas (okay, it is aimed at the young and young at heart, they might be too cool).

In the warmer months: Tree Top Trekking has been raved about by several of my friends. There are a couple of different companies that do this so there are easier walk-only courses. Manitoulin Island is a bit of a trip (I think about three or four hours from Hamilton) that includes a nice ferry ride, millions of stars (it is a trying to be a dark sky community) and really neat pow wows courtesy of the different First Nations. There are quite a few smaller little museums they might enjoy, such as Uncle Tom's cabin. (Oakville was once a major stop on the underground railroad, if you can believe it). Over in Stoney Creek every June they do a re-enactment of the famous battle from the War of 1812. There is also day trips to St Jacobs to see the Old Order Mennonite and go through the kissing bridge. And in the autumn they can see the trees change colours (last fall sucked, I promise it will be better this year) and go to Oktoberfest.

Really though, they should be coming to see you 'cuz you are so fabulous not just because you can feed them kindereggs and take them on stoned walks of Haunted Hamilton or geocaching.
posted by saucysault at 5:39 PM on January 17, 2008

Fuck, dude, Hamilton?

Coffee Crisp, rye whiskey and a rural retreat (outside of the GTA). Oh, and full-nude strip clubs with booze.

Aside from that, you should take your mighty loonies here.
posted by klangklangston at 5:42 PM on January 17, 2008

(ps— I'm from Michigan. And I'd move to Vancouver in a heartbeat. Just not Midwest Canada. However, my boss is from Hamilton, so I'll ask her.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:44 PM on January 17, 2008

Quebec. Americans don't realize how special that place is (unless maybe you're from Louisiana).
posted by chinston at 7:44 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dunno about TO, but the Ottawa version of Canada Day is a blast.

And having that many drunk people being orderly, with Mounties riding around pretty much just smiling at the debauchery, should impress an American.
posted by kmennie at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2008

Invite them to visit on a day when you have to go to the doctor. Have them follow you around so they can see, firsthand, that Canadian healthcare isn't the third-world-like mess of long waits and sub-standard socialized care that some people down here like to paint.

Then show them the bill (if any).
posted by Thorzdad at 5:23 AM on January 18, 2008

1) It's always fun to play with different money.
2) A different culture right across a river. Wacky!
3) Angry Quebecois!
4) Having an excuse to switch your car to it's metric mode.
5) Tim Hortons.
posted by gjc at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2008

Potato chips in new flavours, but forget about the Shreddies.

And as for pharmaceuticals, don't forget about the aspiran- or tylenol-with-codeine available without a prescription.
posted by Rash at 1:24 PM on January 19, 2008

I'd like to point out that while Hamilton is a smaller city and I don't know how multicultural it is, Toronto is as multicultural or more multicultural than any American city. Canada has more immigrants per population than the United States, and most of them settle in the major cities. Visitors from other major cities might not find Toronto interesting, but that would be because it's too much like home, not because it is in any way unicultural. I live in a American city now, and though there is a very large black and hispanic population, I find it very culturally homogenous, because really there are only 3-4 large ethnic groups, nothing like the dense mosaic I was used to in Toronto.

Frankly, I would think they would like to come to see you, and I would sell the trip to them that way. That said, Toronto's Gay Pride is amazing, there is wonderful wilderness just a couple hours drive away - lots of things to do and see in southern Ontario.
posted by jb at 7:44 PM on January 19, 2008

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