Eight Reasons Why Canada Isn’t Boring

Lists: The nation that brought us Don Cherry and seal flipper pie is anything but dull. Eva Holland explains.

01.28.09 | 9:21 AM ET

Canadian hockey authority Don Cherry. REUTERS

It’s time for me to acknowledge a painful truth: many people think that my country is boring.

A 2007 study showed that most young Americans view Canada as an “average” or “boring” place to visit, and this past summer, even an official from the Canadian Tourism Commission found herself describing Canada’s “vanilla pudding” reputation. Canada is seen as being “safe and nice,” she told Forbes Traveler, “like the girl next door—not the hot chick you’d want to go on vacation with.”

Well, setting aside my natural Canuck modesty, I’m here to tell you that Canada is that hot chick.

And that’s not just because of our sophisticated cities, United Nations-esque ethnic food offerings, important cultural contributions and friendly people. It’s also because Canada is home to some of the wildest, emptiest and most exciting wilderness areas in the world—meaning endless opportunities for the trip of a lifetime.

Not convinced yet? Read on.

1) We can road trip to the Arctic Ocean.

Stretching from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, the Dempster Highway is legendary—the first Canadian road to cross the Arctic Circle. If you’re a believer in bucket lists, then driving the Dempster should be on yours.

The road follows an old dog sled trail through the tundra for 475 miles, and is not to be attempted without a sturdy vehicle, a spare gas can, good weather reports and first-hand knowledge of how to change a flat tire. In winter an ice road extends the Dempster for another 120 miles from Inuvik, deep in the Mackenzie River delta, all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

2) We’re funny.

I can only assume that Canada has the highest ratio of famous-comedians-to-normal-folk of any nation in the world.

From SCTV greats like John Candy, Martin Short, Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy, to Saturday Night Live heavyweights Dan Ackroyd and Mike Myers—not to mention the SNL overlord himself, Lorne Michaels—Canada has dominated the past four decades of comedy.

Jim Carrey, Leslie Nielsen and Michael J. Fox? All pure-blooded Canucks. The Simpsons’ Phil Hartman? Canadian born. Tom Green is from my own hometown—though he’s not our proudest export. And how about Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill of “Superbad” and “Knocked Up”? They’re Canadian, too. “Arrested Development’s” Michael Cera and Will Arnett? You betcha.

Even British comedy superstar Ricky Gervais has Canadian blood in his veins.

3) Our local food is to die for—at times, literally.

Three heart-stopping reasons to visit Quebec? Easy: poutine, tarte au sucre and tourtiere.  All three are worth every bit of arterial damage they may induce.

The home-grown delicacies aren’t limited to Quebec, either. Outside of la belle province, head to the west coast for Nanaimo bars or way up north for caribou jerky. Feeling brave? Try Newfoundland’s (in)famous seal flipper pie.

4) In the Athabasca Sand Dunes, we redefine backcountry.

Talk about getting away from it all. This geographical aberration in Saskatchewan’s extreme north, protected by a provincial park, is one of the world’s most northerly sand dune areas.

The park takes “backcountry” to a new level. Its website warns:

“There are no communities, permanent residents, services, facilities or roads of any kind within or near the park. Independent visitors must be fully equipped for self-contained wilderness travel, and be aware of the potential hazards as well as their responsibilities in protecting this fragile environment; recommended for experienced wilderness users only.”

Arrival is by float plane. Once there, you’ll rely entirely on your paddle and your own two feet. Even the package tours are for veterans only; as one custom tour operator notes drily: “Whitewater canoeing experience is needed.”

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Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

36 Comments for Eight Reasons Why Canada Isn’t Boring

TambourineMan 01.28.09 | 1:12 PM ET

Tom Green, funny? No.

Eva Holland 01.28.09 | 1:59 PM ET

Well, Freddy Got Fingered almost broke even, so somebody must like him, right?

(Okay, you’ve got me on this one. Hey, I said he wasn’t our proudest export.)

TambourineMan 01.28.09 | 3:24 PM ET

Okay, fair enough. And I’m going to pretend I didn’t read your outlandish claim that “Canada has dominated the past four decades of comedy.” You do not want me to recite the LONG LIST of American comedians who blow away your precious Michael J. Foxes and Michael Ceras.

Roger 01.28.09 | 3:36 PM ET

I’m an American, and I’ve been to Ontario three times, and I live in Tennessee (drove up all three times through Detroit-Windsor). Don’t feel like you have to change to become popular. Canada is a great place, and I hope I can come back again.

Chris 01.28.09 | 3:59 PM ET

I’m from the American south and I love Canada! So far I’ve been to six of the ten provinces (no territories yet unfortunately). Toronto is my favorite big city on the continent (far and away better than New York or LA). You did forget to mention the red/green guys as comedy masterminds though.

Tim Patterson 01.28.09 | 4:26 PM ET

Montreal is a fantastic city.  I can’t wait to visit Vancouver.  Toronto has better ethnic food than any North American city besides New York.  Someday I’ll get to Halifax.  Even Ottawa is OK.

Canada rules - now if only you had a reasonable government.  Goddamn conservative oil-eating jerks in Alberta give you a bad name.

Eva Holland 01.28.09 | 4:34 PM ET

TambourineMan—Thank you for leaving my delusions of comic grandeur intact. You’re too kind to your poor northern neighbour. :D

Roger, Chris, and Tim - So glad you’ve all enjoyed my home country!

“Even Ottawa is OK.” - Ha, Tim, you just summed up how most people feel about my hometown, I think…

Perceptive traveler 01.28.09 | 4:53 PM ET

OK, I’ll chime in with two more: the Canadian Rockies are far more dramatic than our own Rockies and environmentalism extends beyond the west coast.

Nancy D. Brown 01.28.09 | 5:11 PM ET

I met some great Canadians on a roadtrip to Flathead Lake, Montana.  Add number 9#  Those Canadians sure can drink!  I’ve never laughed so hard than with a bunk of Canucks.
I enjoyed my visit to Vancouver, BC and Montreal.  Would love to explore more of the provinces. Oh Canada!

Eva Holland 01.28.09 | 5:37 PM ET

Wow, I’m so impressed by all the Canada-love from you US travelers! Is it possible that most of the respondents who called Canada “boring and “average” had never actually visited us?

Michael Yessis 01.28.09 | 5:49 PM ET

As I mentioned in that first blog post, you can add me to the list of U.S. Canada lovers.

Also: Don Cherry deserves that ! I love that photo.

Daniel Murdock 01.28.09 | 5:50 PM ET

Growing up in Seattle - there were a couple years where I would goto Vancouver about every other weekend. I love Vancouver!  Can’t wait to visit more of Canada.

Don Cherry cracks me up. I heard from my brother that most Canadians dislike him? I can’t see how that can be true!

Brona 01.28.09 | 6:13 PM ET

Couldn’t agree more with this post, Canada is a great place! I lived in Toronto for a year and loved it. Algonquin Park is amazing and Montreal is probably one of the most fun places I’ve been.

Eva Holland 01.28.09 | 6:28 PM ET

Re: Don Cherry, he’s a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy. I mean, he was voted into the Top 10 of the “Greatest Canadian” contest a few years back, so he certainly has his fans, but every now and then he’ll say something about women (should stay out of the rink) and/or Europeans (cowards) and/or French Canadians (yellow-bellied cowards) and get himself into trouble. Definitely controversial.

Personally, I love him the way you love the drunken, inappropriate uncle at the family gathering. Small doses is key.

Pauline Kenny 01.28.09 | 6:42 PM ET

I am a Canadian expat living in the US for 20 years (and I love it here). In my experience every American loves Canada. Everyone I have met who has been to Vancouver was there when it was sunny and beautiful (I used to live there - believe me, it is not always sunny). One American screamed at me for leaving such a paradise to come to the US!! I think the best thing about Canada is the wilderness. I had to move to New Mexico to get that same feeling here.

tara 01.28.09 | 7:27 PM ET

Jonah Hill is a full blown American. nice try though

Eva Holland 01.28.09 | 8:22 PM ET

Good catch, Tara. That’s weird—I’m sure I double-checked them all on IMDB! Ah well. He’s not that funny anyway. :)

Gennaro 01.28.09 | 9:15 PM ET

Montreal and Quebec City are favorites. Very tough winters though for non-snow activitiies. Friendly locals too.

Mitch 01.29.09 | 2:02 AM ET

I’m a Canadian living in China and you’ve just made me nostalgic. Nice Saskatchewan plug (I was born in La Ronge)!

Kelsey 01.29.09 | 10:20 AM ET

Are you angling for a position on the Canadian Tourism Commission?

I once wrote a not so well researched column about Kosovo’s love for Bryan Adams. I referred to the “Summer of ‘69” rocker as American.  That was a mistake.  I’m always amazed when I see lists of Canadian talent.

I’d like to propose a new motto for Canada: 1/10 the US population, 10x’s the talent.

Eva Holland 01.29.09 | 1:51 PM ET

Hey Mitch! Glad to bring back some memories. I’m a one-time Sask. resident, too. (Saskatoon!)

Kelsey—Ooh, I bet you got some angry feedback on the Bryan mixup! He’s all Canuck. I didn’t even get into the music stuff in this piece, but yeah, we produce a lot of musicians too. (Some more embarrassing than others… *ahem* Nickelback.)

Hal Amen 01.29.09 | 4:03 PM ET

Terrific list, Eva, with a lot of new info for me re: wilderness areas. They sound fantastic.

I heartily enjoyed my bike tour through the Maritime provinces this past summer, despite all the rain they threw at me. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Matt Stabild 01.29.09 | 5:48 PM ET

Four words: Kids In The Hall

And, oh yeah, I love Canada too (especially Quebec).

long island girl 01.30.09 | 3:05 AM ET

i was able to visit Canada last december and i really love their poutine.. It’s recipe is very unique. if you also wanted adventure, there a lot of places to go like having a road trip to the Arctic Ocean. You will not also feel afraid or uncomfortable because the people are very friendly.

Troy 01.31.09 | 5:41 PM ET

Can I add a number 9?

Where else in the world can you see it snow in August!?

Fight For Love Girl 01.31.09 | 11:33 PM ET

I am born and raised in Canada. I love Canada, and I would never want to move anywhere else. I have been to all of the provinces and territories, although I didn’t really like the territories as much because they are as cold as the rest of Canada. I love Canada, and it is definitely not boring.

Shawn Horwood 01.31.09 | 11:36 PM ET

I am born and raised in Alberta Canada. Last summer I took a 6 week road trip across Canada, and I have to say that I loved every part of it. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t have more time to enjoy it. I think 6 months would have been more appropriate, but the fact that I am in school kind of leaves that option out for now. I like the fact that we have a national park where the polar bears outnumber the people, and I love Cirque du Soleil!

Sue 02.03.09 | 3:53 PM ET

9) We’ve got one of the only remaining wilderness areas left in the world (the other 2 are in Brazil and Russia).  It needs protection from development, though: http://thebigwild.org

Chapter 11 02.04.09 | 12:29 PM ET

Having visited Toronto (my example of a clean New York), Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and many small towns along the way, I have to say I’ve always enjoyed my trips north of the border.

And when you talk about funny…how about the movie “Strange Brew,” eh?

Camels & Chocolate 02.05.09 | 4:25 PM ET

Eva, I am OBSESSED with your country and was just singing its praises on my own blog earlier this week. Love, love, LOVE Canada!

Cathy 02.05.09 | 8:31 PM ET

This American had the good fortune to play tourist (though only for 8 days) on a tour of the Canadian Rockies—starting and ending in Calgary.  Found the people we met warm and friendly.  My hubby is a vegetarian—he was able to stick pretty close to his preferred diet, thanks to actual vegan restaurants and many regular eating establishments with vegetarian selections.  The scenery was breathtaking and wildlife outstanding—bears, elk, etc.  We certainly would love to return to Canada someday—perhaps to take the train trip across country.  So much to do, so little time left.

Beijinger 02.18.09 | 12:07 AM ET

Dear bloger you are absolutely right, I have heard from my friends that Canada has many beautiful sceney and conveniences. So it is really worth travelling .

Jean 02.18.09 | 9:03 AM ET

“We’ve got a national park where the polar bears outnumber the people.”
This is really funny and worth paying a visit! :D

Melanie Waldman 02.23.09 | 7:48 PM ET

I call your glorious country three things:

1. The Canada
2. “America’s Hat”
3. Kind to the gluten-challenged

Per the last one, the hospitality industry in Canada takes food allergies really seriously.  My husband and I wandered all over Alberta and Vancouver Island last year, and no one ever had a problem accommodating my no-wheat-and-corn issues.  I even had a gluten-free high tea at The Empress Hotel in Victoria.  FAN-tastic.

dilshad massumov 03.13.09 | 2:54 AM ET

i love your country (Canada),but i had never been there,i saw in internet very.very beautiful natures in Canada.You know i made tatoo on my body (Canadian flag) in 2002.
From Kazakhstan. I am sorry for my bad english:)))

ivona 03.18.09 | 11:24 AM ET

I think that Canada is great place.. and everyone should see it !!!

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