18 Experiences to Have in Western Canada Before You Die

1. Slurp a Froster Swirl and eat a dozen deep fried perogies at Manitoba’s local convenience stores
Slushies and deep fried perogies are popular items at Manitoba’s Macs and 7-Eleven convenience stores. Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of Canada, selling more than 188,000 drinks each month. A unique twist on the slush drink is the Mac’s Froster Swirl, a combination of soft ice cream with any flavour of the frozen drink. Deep fried dough wrapped around mashed potatoes are served with a side of ranch in Dauphin’s 7-Elevens, a testament to the local Ukrainian heritage.

2. Take in a hockey game with Canada’s newest NHL team

Full disclosure, this a Calgary Flames photo. They're an equally awesome Canadian NHL team though!

Full disclosure, this is a Calgary Flames photo, but they’re also a fantastic Western Canadian hockey team.

Playing and watching hockey is a national pastime for most Canadians. In fact, it’s one of the country’s two national sports (lacrosse is the second).  The latest NHL team to join the league, the Winnipeg Jets, calls the capital of Manitoba home at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. A trip to the Gateway to the West is worth it to support the team and experience Canadian hockey culture.

3. Get centred in the middle of Manitoba
The longitudinal geographic centre of the country happens to reside in Manitoba along the Trans-Canada Highway, about 30 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg. Two matching brown road signs in both national languages alerts those unaware to the special meaning attributed to the geographical coordinates of 96° 48’ 35”.

4. Kick it country style at Craven Country Jamboree or Dauphin’s Countryfest

Dressing up in plaid, denim and a pair of rubber boots to two-step to world-class country music at Craven or Countryfest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is all a part of the experience for festival attendees. It’s hard to know what’s more entertaining though: the on-stage concerts by Country’s biggest names or the twenty-something partiers attempting to navigate the mud pit the festival grounds are infamously known for becoming.

5. Experience the outrageous green pride of Roughrider fans in Saskatchewan

Win or lose, 13 men or 12, Saskatchewan bleeds green when it comes to Rider Nation. CFL experiences in other major cities in Canada can’t compete with the melee of fanatical watermelon-helmet-and-pilsner-cape-wearing fans from Saskatchewan that flock to the Queen City for every game.

6. Float down the Saskatchewan River near Saskatoon

Only three items are needed for a fun day along the South Saskatchewan River: floaty toys, friends, and refreshments. Bare Ass Beach or the Berry Barn are two great spots to splash into the river and ride the current back into the city of Saskatoon. Where the water runs deep enough, cliff jumping is also a possibility from the soft sand dunes along the shoreline.

7. Admire the stars in one of North America’s largest dark sky preserves

The wide-open space of 651, 036 square kilometers and small population size of just over one million residents in Saskatchewan means there is little light pollution. It also means the billions of stars sparkling overhead in the Milky Way can be seen clearly in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, one of Canada’s dark sky preserves.

8. Visit a beef/dairy/grain/chicken farm

From fields to forks: appreciating where food really comes from is best realized by visiting one of thousands of farms across the prairies. Programs like Workaway and WWOOFing also offer opportunities to work on a farm and learn more about the passion and effort it takes to get wholesome food onto the plates of millions of people around the world. Fun fact: one in every eight jobs (2.2 million) in Canada is part of the agriculture and food industry.

9. Road-trip across the prairies

Beyond the Trans-Canada Highway slicing through the prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are surprising adventures that belie the common misconceptions of flat and boring in Canada’s “Gap.” Yellow, blue and gold blooming fields of canola, flax and wheat are just a gateway to lodgepole pine forests, the fossil-filled soft clays of the Badlands and a wild-west history of horse thieves and outlaws.

10 Experience Cowtown culture at the Calgary Stampede

Hailed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” white-collared Calgary unbuttons its suit jackets for two weeks in July to party all night with cowboys and cowgirls in wide-brimmed hats and wrangler jeans. During the day, however, it’s still fast-paced Calgarian business for fans and competitors alike with high stakes rodeo events such as bull riding, barrel racing and chuck wagon racing.

11. Feel like a kid at West Edmonton Mall

An entertaining weekend at the largest shopping mall in North America includes amusement rides at Galaxyland, ice skating on the indoor rink and waterslides. The water park has the world’s largest wave pool as well as a slide with a collapsible platform that drops riders into an almost 360-degree loop before launching them back into the pool.

12. Ring in the new year snowboarding in Banff, Alberta


A little throwback from my personal files of New Years in Banff circa 2008-2009.

Banff and its encompassing national park are leaders in the Canadian tourism industry hosting more than four million visitors annually from around the world. Pair daytime powder shredding at any of the three nearby ski resorts with ringing in the new year at night on the mechanical bull at Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon.

13. Work a Ski Season in Whistler

Those that work a ski season in Whistler or one of the dozens of other ski resorts in Western Canada are affectionately dubbed seasonnaires. The opportunity to work a job scheduled around skiing fresh power on the slopes with après ski cocktails is a worthwhile way to embrace the cold winter in Western Canada while still getting paid.

14. Party on a houseboat with friends in the Shuswaps

It’s a four day party onboard a triple-deck houseboat with a hot tub, multiple speaker systems and a top deck waterslide on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia. Located next to the resort town of Sicamous, the houseboats can pack up to 24 people onboard for lounging and cruising on the lake. During the evening, dozens of other houseboats anchor on the sandy shoreline for one big party. Beware of roman candles zinging into the dark, purchased by enthusiastic pyromaniacs at the floating liquor and convenience store in the middle of the lake.

15. Experience “Shambhalove” at the Shambhala Music Festival
Shambhala Music Festival, Canada’s version of America’s Burning Man, is the largest electronic dance music festival in the country. Located on the Salmo River Ranch less than 50 kilometres from Nelson, B.C. the festival is more than percussive beats and costumed party-goers. It’s also progressive, refusing corporate sponsorship while offering free drug testing and a psychedelic first aid tent for those who may find themselves on a ‘bad trip.’ It’s all to encourage guests to be safe and smart when immersing themselves in the music and art at the festival.

16. Learn to surf in Tofino

Only 200 kilometres further north along the coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is considered the surf capital of Canada. The water is a cool 8 to 12 degrees Celsius so wetsuits are recommended in the 35 kilometres of beach break. The waves are surfable year round however, and beaches like Long Beach and Chesterman Beach have waves well-suited for beginners.

17. Hike the West Coast Trail.

A 90 minute ferry ride across the Georgia Strait connects the metropolis of Vancouver with the temperate rainforest of Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island. The 75 kilometre, seven-day West Coast Trail hike is often ranked as one of the top multi-day treks in the world with opportunities to spot Gray whales and orcas, camp next to waterfalls and navigate the forest, bogs, and beaches along the route.

18. Move to Vancouver to explore diverse opportunities

Canada’s west coast seaport is a welcoming city of opportunity (and consequently, high-priced real estate.) With roots grown from many different cultures, more than half of its two million residents speak a language other than English. The city is also well known for its very distinct ethnic neighborhoods and communities so the chance of learning something new from the city’s multicultural history is likely.

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