Canada is looking very good right now.

Bow Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

While global travel to the United States may be dipping due to recent actions by President Donald Trump’s administration, tourism numbers for Canada are climbing.

And it’s not just because Canada has the most donut shops in the world (per capita).

There are plenty of other reasons the tourism spotlight is pointing north right now, as I outlined for this story on NBC News:

The Lists

Both the New York Times and Lonely Planet put the second-largest country in the world (by area) at the top of their list of places to visit in 2017.

The Dollar

One U.S. dollar is currently worth about 1.30 Canadian dollars, making dining, shopping, lodging and admissions to attractions great deals for Americans taking their travel dollars north of the border.

The Parties

2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and there are sesquicentennialcelebrations and events taking place across the country. Consider planning a trip around some of the highlights, or time your trip to one of the activities in Canada’s handy (and constantly updated) Passport 2017 app.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, has some serious celebrations in store, from a four-day NHL Stanley Cup 125th Tribute (March 15-18) that will feature a hockey-themed concert, to La Machine — enormous mechanical creatures including a spider and a dragon that will do battle on the streets of downtown Ottawa July 27-30, to an underground multimedia experience (Kontinuum) from the end of June through September; and, on August 27, Canada’s Table, an open-air dinner for 1000 that will be set up right in front of the Parliament Buildings.

La Machine will bring fierce, gigantic mechanical creatures to downtown Ottawa July 27-30 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Jean Dominique Billaud

Nationwide, Parks Canada is offering free admission for the entire year to all the national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas it operates.

That includes Alberta’s Banff National Park, which is Canada’s first national park, and the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival is underway through February 12, with more than 200 activities, including snow sculpture contests, night parades, ice-skating, an ice palace and, for the very hardy, an end-of-festival snow bath.

When temperatures are warmer, between June 29 and August 20, about forty tall ships will be visiting coastal cities in Quebec to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary. The flotilla convenes in Quebec City July 18 to 23 for a celebration including ship tours and maritime activities.

Located at a National Historic Site that served as the gateway to Canada for one million immigrants between 1928 and 1971, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will be presenting an expanded version of “Canada: Day 1,” an exhibition about immigrants’ experiences on their first day in the country, from April through October, 2017.

2017 marks Montreal’s 375th anniversary and the city is celebrating with a year’s worth of events and celebrations, including Cité Mémoire, featuring a nightly display of characters from the city’s history projected on the walls, streets and trees of Old Montreal. Montréal Avudo, a multimedia program honoring the St. Lawrence River, includes installations and giant projections and will be performed 100 times between May 17 and September 2 in the Old Port of Montreal.

With its To Canada with Love line-up, Toronto is marking Canada’s 150th anniversary with a year-long schedule of celebrations, commemorations, horticultural installations, and exhibitions, including Doors Open Toronto (May 27 & 28), when about 150 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city open their doors and back rooms for tours and special events — all for free.

Canada Place in Vancouver hosts a major Canada Day (July 1) celebration each year and is planning an extended three-day celebration from July 1-3 with a fireworks show and other highlights to mark the country’s 150th year.

And from June 21 to July 1 Victoria, B.C. will present Spirit of 150 Victoria, which will include 11 days of free outdoor events in the Inner Harbor topped off on July 1 with a grand finale main stage programming and a giant fireworks display.

Ready to Head North?

The data crunchers at Priceline found that for weekends through the end of March (depending on your originating city) it’s possible to take a weekend trip to one of Canada’s major cities for under $500, including roundtrip airfare and 4-star hotel rates.

For example, New Yorkers can fly to Toronto for an average $183 roundtrip and stay at a 4-star hotel for $85 per night (total cost $438). Chicago-based travelers can fly to Montreal for about $300 and stay in numerous 4-star (and some 4.5 star hotels) for under $100 a night.

Canada lures travelers with low Loonie

Courtesy Travel Manitoba

Courtesy Travel Manitoba

If flying over Niagara Falls in a helicopter or coming face to face with a polar bear in Manitoba are experiences on your bucket list but not in your budget, now may be the time to recalculate.

The Canadian dollar – known as the Loonie – dropped 16 percent against the dollar last year and is now hovering at about 70 cents to the U.S. dollar.

That means that U.S. travelers heading north of the border for the Valentine’s Day/Presidents’ Day weekend or perhaps the NBA All Star Game (Feb 12-14) in Toronto will find everything from dining, shopping and lodging to attraction admissions on sale at 30 percent off.

Travel analysts say right now the exchange rate makes ski resort vacations in Canada especially appealing.

“At Blackcomb-Whistler, Revelstoke and Banff, 3-star hotel rooms for Presidents’ Weekend can be booked for under $50 U.S. per night, which frees up money for lift tickets and meals,” said’s Brian Ek.

“Multi-day Banff lift tickets cost less than Tahoe at par, and you’ll save even more with the exchange rate,” said Arabella Bowen, Editor-in-Chief at Fodor’s Travel.

Long before winter set in, savvy travelers were already taking advantage of the deals offered by the devalued Canadian dollar.

“In 2015 we saw an 8 percent increase over 2014 in inbound travel from the United States,” said Rob Taylor, Vice President, Public & Industry Affairs, for the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

According to group’s Summer Travel Snapshot, during the 2015 summer season alone (May to September) Americans added $1.9 billion to the Canadian economy.

“2015 was the best year we’ve had since 2008, when Canada saw a big dip in U.S. tourism because the United States began requiring Americans to show a passport to reenter the country,” said Wayne Thomson, chair of Niagara Falls Tourism. “More Americans have passports now and I’ve talked to people staying at some of the hotels who are amazed at the bargains they’re getting.”

The story is much the same across Canada.

In 2015, Tourism Vancouver recorded 8.7 percent growth in US visitation to the city over the same period in 2014, said Amber Sessions, Communications Manager for Tourism Vancouver, and “many hotels and tourist attractions here are taking advantage of the low Canadian dollar to reach out to U.S. travelers with special offers and targeted advertising.”

As of November, 2015 visits from United States to Ontario were up 9 percent over 2014. In November alone there was a 14 percent increase in visitors over November 2014.

And because it’s now more costly for Canadians to travel outside of the country, “more Canadians are traveling domestically,” said Andrew Weir, Tourism Toronto’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, “so it’s a win-win for cities like ours.”

Even Churchill (population: 813), the tiny town in the far north of Manitoba famous for polar bear and beluga whale viewing experiences, is seeing increased visitors.

“I’m hearing 30 to 40 percent increases year over year for our Polar Bear Viewing Experience, said Colin Ferguson, President and CEO of Travel Manitoba.

The trips range between US $6,000 and US $7,500 for a 5-day excursion that includes airfare from Winnipeg to Churchill. “But in Canadian dollars that’s almost free,” said Ferguson.

Being able to go on a bucket-list adventure at a huge discount is a big draw for some visitors heading to Canada right now. For others, it’s the increased value they get for their vacation dollars.

“The dip in the Canadian dollar means a $500 room at a resort in Whistler is really just US $350. And compared to a $500 room in the U.S, it’s just a way better value. And it extends to shopping, restaurants, activities and so on,” said David Lowy, President of Renshaw Travel, a Virtuoso-accredited travel agency in Vancouver.

“We’ve had a 17.8 percent growth in Whistler as a destination this year,” said Jack Ezon, President of Virtuoso member Ovation Vacations in New York,” with some clients heading to Canada instead of Vail, Colorado or Deer Valley, Utah.

“In some cases the airfare to Vancouver is less expensive,” said Ezon, “and I can get them a two or three room residence at the Four Seasons Whistler for the same price as two connecting rooms in Vail.”

South of the Canadian/US border, some businesses and cities have seen a drop-off in Canadian visitors due to the loonie’s decline.

“Canadian visitors used to be our some of our best weekend customers,” said Sarah Young, owner of the SaySay Boutique in Portland, Oregon, “especially when we reminded them there is no sales tax in this state. But now, if they’re even in town, they’re carefully checking the exchange rate and buying fewer items.”

But Seattle, for one, isn’t giving up.

Last week it issued a round-up of hotel packages with special perks and promotions only available to Canadian visitors, including a NW Resident Rate at the four Kimpton properties in town and, at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, a Weekend Rate Parity package that includes free self-parking breakfast for two and a rate that is the same whether paying in U.S. or Canadian dollars.

(My story about travelers heading to Canada lured by the dip on the Loonie first appeared on

Visit Victoria, B.C; see a bony-eared Assfish

Victoria Boney Eared Ass fish

Bony-eared Assfish from the Royal B.C. Museum

With the Canadian dollar currently worth just 69 US cents, now is a good time to take that vacation up north.

One of my favorite Canadian cities is Victoria, B.C., which is just a one-hour float plane ride or a 3 hour high-speed passenger ferry ride from my home base of Seattle.

And my favorite place to visit in Victoria is the Royal B. C. Museum, which is filled with world-class exhibitions and permanent galleries – and which has lots of treasures tucked away in the vaults.

There’s an admission charge to enter the museum (well worth it), but there’s a new gallery – the Pocket Gallery – that is free for everyone and filled with objects from the collection that are rarely or never put on view.

The first Pocket Gallery exhibition, Finding Fishes, features beautifully crafted replica fish and preserved fish collected from the BC coast and among the specimens on display is the Bony-eared Assfish, the first of its kind found anywhere in BC.