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5 Places To Explore Another Culture Without Leaving Canada

There are serious upsides to living in a country made up of diverse cultures. A big one: people who come to Canada from other places bring their culture (and yeah, okay, their amazing food) with them, so others get to experience it, no travel visa required. To experience another world without crossing an international border, try one of these five destinations.

Get A Feel For Iceland In Gimli, Manitoba

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Little-known fact: Canada has the second largest population of Icelandic people in the world (Iceland comes first by default). Former Icelanders settled in Manitoba, built the most adorable Icelandic town, and named it using the mythological Norse word for paradise: Gimli.

Every year since 1932, the waterfront town has hosted an Icelandic Festival. There’s a 10th century Viking village, rooftop concerts, a midway, Icelandic food and art, and fireworks. It’s basically a four-day-long Viking party and it’s only an hour from Winnipeg. Gimli has a handful of hotels (including a Viking Inn) but you can also stay at a bed and breakfast or camp in the nearby Provincial Park.

Immerse Yourself In Acadian Culture On The East Coast

Chéticamp is a traditional Acadian fishing village on the west coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It’s crazy beautiful but it’s also home to a crazy festival only held in a handful of Acadian communities. Mi-Carême is a week-long celebration that dates back to the Middle Ages—it’s like laid-back-Mardi-Gras-meets-Halloween. Residents run around in ridiculous costumes all week and people have to try to guess who they are. 

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There are lots of hotels and chalets to rent in the area but if you want a really authentic experience, try booking yourself a cozy cabin on Airbnb or staying with locals at this organic farm.

Feel Like You’re On The Other Side Of The World In Toronto’s Chinatown

Toronto actually has multiple Chinatowns. Spadina Ave between College and Queen is the largest one. It’s packed with shops and restaurants that serve some of the best food in the city. Try Mother’s Dumplings for super authentic dumplings, savoury pancakes, and noodles, or check out the fusion food at the modern and cool People’s Eatery.

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Chinatown 2.0 is in the east end of Toronto with its centre at Broadview and Gerrard. It’s pretty similar to what you’ll find on Spadina. However, if you’re willing to travel 30 minutes to the edge of the city, you’ll see something different: Markham is a third hub for Chinese culture and home to Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese mall in North America. Stop in one or two of the imported candy stores and eat at Sun’s Kitchen and watch their cooks make handmade noodles right in front of you.

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Like The Ukraine, Only Much Further West

A pysanka is an intricately decorated Easter egg covered in traditional Ukrainian designs. Vegreville, a town an hour east of Edmonton, is home to the largest one in the world. The Ukrainian Pysanka Festival happens every year on the first weekend of July and reps the town’s strong Ukrainian heritage with food, music, folk art, and a make your own pysanka workshop. Buying an expertly decorated one and just telling people you made it is also an option. Use the festival/giant pysanka as a starting point for a road trip to see more of Alberta’s oversize attractions. There are nearly 300 of them.

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Because Vulcan is a culture, right?

Experience Canada’s Original Culture By Visiting Quebec’s Wendake Reserve

The newly-built Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations is less than a half-hour from Quebec City. For a full First Nations cultural experience, get a package for $184 per person. It gets you a one-night stay in the hotel, dinner, a tour of the museum, and an evening of First Nations entertainment in the longhouse.

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The hotel also has its own microbrewery and a spa with insane hot tubs that look like they’re carved out of rock.

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