10 Ways to Be More Canadian

Learn wilderness survival skills in Vancouver, go camping in a national park or be a lumberjack for a day in Nova Scotia.

Photo by NadinPanina/Thinkstock

A singular Canadian identity may be as elusive—and perhaps as fictional—as Ogopogo, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to define it. Canadians are obsessed with being Canadian. Whether you live here or are a visitor to the country, here are 10 traveller-friendly skills sessions to boost your Canuck cred.

Get busy in a birchbark canoe

The classic definition of a Canadian, often attributed to historian Pierre Berton, is, “Someone who knows how to make love in a canoe.” Before you strike that activity from your bucket list, get to know your way around your craft. Paddle Canada offers beginner, intermediate and advanced programs on lakes and rivers from coast to coast. Finding a suitably adventurous paddle partner, however, is up to you.

Take an improv class at Second City Toronto

Canadians love pointing out how many Hollywood funny folks, including Seth Rogen and Mike Myers, are Canadian, so now the entire world assumes we’re all hilarious. Don’t let the country down. On Monday and Friday evenings, Second City Toronto offers drop-in improv comedy classes that are open to all. Balance is important, so offset the laughs with a healthy dose of tragedy: Shakespeare in High Park, also in Toronto, is staging King Lear.

Go to lumberjack camp in Nova Scotia

If your lumberjack skill set is limited to bellowing “tim-berrrr!” before tucking into a stack of pancakes, get to Wild Axe Park on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Fifth-generation logger Darren Hudson runs half-day camps on rolling logs, climbing trees and throwing axes. Afterwards, take a scenic drive up the coast and let your aching muscles give you new appreciation for the wonders of industrial automation at the Wile Carding Mill Museum.

Learn to survive in the wilderness near Vancouver

From May to October, Vancouver’s Canada West Mountain School offers two-day programs that teach essential wilderness survival skills, including how to recognize hazards, what to pack in an emergency kit and psychological tools to avoid going all Mad Trapper. The course includes a one-night backcountry sleepover in an emergency shelter of your own construction. For fun, see how your handiwork compares to a luxury riverside cabin at nearby Sunwolf Resort.

Go fly-fishing on Calgary’s Bow River 

On most Sundays during fishing season (check the Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations for dates), Hanson’s Fishing Outfitters runs fly-fishing boot camps on the Bow River, just south of Calgary’s city limits. Learn the mechanics of fly-casting, then round out your education with a guided tour of the Bow Habitat Station’s Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery. Just east of downtown Calgary, this is where millions of trout begin the circle of life every year.

Test your compass skills in a park in Toronto

Back when trailblazers were exploring the vast Canadian wilderness, orienteering combined a love of adventure with a fondness for not falling into crevasses. Today, the sport of orienteering is basically jogging with maps—all the fun and outdoor exercise with none of the danger. Celebrate this evolution, and brush up on your compass skills, at a Toronto Orienteering Club beginner clinic held in the city’s parks on Wednesday nights throughout the summer.

Take a blacksmithing class in Cape Breton

Without the noble metalworker, there would be no railroad linking this great land, and our horses would be barefoot. Pay tribute to the hard-core craft of blacksmithing by taking a two-day introductory class at metalwork design studio and art gallery FireHouse Ironworks in Cape Breton, N.S. Students learn the basics of blacksmithing including forge safety, tool use, hammer control and good smithing practice.

Go horseback riding outside Winnipeg

Horses hold a special place in Canadian mythology, from the Mountie’s steed to Alex Colville’s iconic paintings—there are even two horses in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame: show-jumper Big Ben and Kentucky Derby champ Northern Dancer. Saddle up at Trailhead Ranch on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park, northwest of Winnipeg, Man. Beginners and seasoned trail riders, alike, wind through wild forest, prairie and wetlands.

Climb a mountain in British Columbia

To shout your Canadian pride from the highest peak, you’ll have to climb up there first. Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures offers beginner mountaineering courses in both B.C.’s Coast Mountains and the Rockies. The two-day courses cover basic mountaineering skills and safety education needed to explore peaks as high as 3,350 metres. Then, soak in one of the alpine hot springs within an hour of Whistler (Meager Creek, Skookumchuck) or Banff (Upper Hot Springs).

Pitch a tent in a national park

Throughout the summer, Parks Canada and Mountain Equipment Co-op present “Learn-to-Camp” at national parks and historic sites. Learn how to set up a tent and cook alfresco. And don’t forget—to celebrate Canada’s 150th, admission to all national parks and national historic sites is free during 2017. But, if the great outdoors isn’t your (sleeping) bag, you can always order room service and watch The Great Outdoors starring Canadian comedy legend John Candy.



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