Our neighbor to the north sparked our imagination this year. Read on to find out why we named Canada the Travel + Leisure 2017 Destination of the Year.
In the lead-up to last year's election, both sides threw around a lot of empty threats of moving to Canada. There's always been something a little funny about the Canada line — perhaps because even the best of us have occasionally regarded our northern ally as something of a precocious younger sibling, a preternaturally cheerful and polite nation where everyone plays hockey and rocks out to Bryan Adams between visits to the local Tim Horton's. (Yeah, okay, we were pretty stuck on stereotypes.)
But this year, as we watched our own country grow more and more divided, Canada suddenly seemed to come into its own. Maybe the birthday helped: Canada turned 150 this year, and celebrated the sesquicentennial with a full year of events and celebrations across the country. There were new murals revealed in Vancouver, commissioned from First Nations artists, performances of Canadian works by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and light shows in Montreal to fête its own 375th anniversary. And across the country, Canada's national parks offered free admission all year long, which, coupled with the favorable exchange rate, compelled American travelers to venture north to see the glacial lakes of Banff and the polar bears of Churchill.
We've watched in recent years as Canada became a leader in innovation, investing resources and time in AI, biotechnology, and efforts to attract major global tech companies. They've doubled down on their efforts to slow climate change, and this year established a new infrastructure bank that will start with $35 billion to fund new public works across the country. There's a brand-new Arctic highway, a light-rail system in the works for Montreal, and pilot research being done into a potential high-speed rail link from Vancouver to Seattle. Air Canada is planning to add more planes in response to increased passenger demand, and a new terminal in Arctic Canada will ease travel to its most northerly stretches.
Selecting T+L's Destination of the Year is not an exact science. Yes, we look at data like arrival statistics and poll our favorite travel agents for trends, but we also consider cultural relevance and that elusive quality known as buzz. In 2017, all signs pointed north. It's clear that travelers have become fully aware of the country's exceptional blend of world-class cities and epic natural wonders, its rich culture and eclectic cuisine.