Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to traveling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.
Thanks to Tamara Elliott, Ali Inay, Jason Fitz, Julia Weber, Jeff Frenette, Stoked for Saturday, and Kael Rebick for their local tips.
With cutting-edge fests, indie venues, eclectic shops, and museums, Canada’s music scene has never been brighter or bolder. Make it a point to stop by one of these local spots for an unforgettable music experience.
Divan Orange - Montreal
Catch emerging acts before they blow up
No matter what night you stop by Divan Orange, you’re likely to find a live concert. The bar and venue hosts electronic, indie, and rock performers from all over the world. If you’re looking for a bite after the show, swing over to Patati Patata for a tasty late night slider.
National Music Centre - Calgary
Canada’s interactive music museum
Calgary’s authentic cowboy spirit has made it an obvious destination for Canada’s top country stars, making it a sort of Nashville North. The National Music Centre serves as a local hub of musical discovery. Visitors are encouraged to interact with fun exhibits that let you belt it out in a recording studio, play DJ, or bang on some drums. The Centre has been a catalyst for other local music events, like the Calgary Folk Music Festival, X Fest, and Sled Island.
Piknic Elektronic - Montreal
Where Montreal lets its hair down
C’mon you can figure out the translation. Piknic Elektronic is the summertime festival where Montrealers shake off the winter doldrums and party outside at the iconic Expo structure in Parc Jean-Drapeau. It’s an indispensable annual escape for locals.
Lyle’s Place - Victoria
For the record collector
Record collectors, take note! Lyle’s Place is a vinyl and CD institution in Victoria where you’ll find tons of people browsing rate and out of print music every day of the week. The staff are experts and can help you find (almost) anything you’re looking for. Plus, this spot is also one of the best places to pick up tickets to any live show worth seeing in Victoria.
Nocturnes at MAC - Montreal
Bumping art exhibits
Every Friday, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal opens its doors for Nocturnes — a perfect combination of music, art, and drinks where DJ sets serenade patrons as they tour current museum exhibits. Check your calendar to see what’s showing when you’re in town.
Drake Hotel Rooftop - Toronto
Charming boutique hotel with a twist
Did you know Drake has his own hotel in Toronto? Kidding (it dates back to the 19th Century), but the Toronto native probably loves the Drake Hotel’s hip aesthetic that features boutique rooms, a rooftop patio, a delicious restaurant, and live music shows in the basement venue.
Casa Del Popolo - Montreal
Local avant-garde venue
So Casa Del Popolo has burritos, a zine vending machine, art exhibits, and — to top it all off — an underground music venue (whoa). It’s one of Montreal’s raddest, most authentic spots to hear live bands and DJs. The half-concert hall, half-bar is as much a local hotspot as it is a cultural attraction.
Winnipeg Folk Festival - Winnipeg
Where music meets community
Head to Birds Hill Provincial Park each summer and you’ll be treated to more than just a lovely green space. Instead, you’ll be in the thick of Winnipeg Folk Festival, a five-day musical and culture event has been around since 1974, so you know they’re doing something right. Stop by for everything from bluegrass, indie, folk, and Celtic music. Then stay for the food.
Phonopolis Record Store - Montreal
Rockin’ record shop
Vinyl has made a comeback in Canada. Phonopolis Record Store carries the best and rarest vinyl records in Montreal. It’s a great place to stop in and browse when wandering through the very cool Mile End neighborhood.
SAT - Montreal
Montreal’s performance and art epicenter
You know that conundrum about what you would bring with you to a deserted island? Well, our local tipster says they’d try their hardest to bring Montreal’s SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques). SAT is a multipurpose space says that serves as a performance venue and marketplace for local artisans. It also features an experimental kitchen — known as Labo Culinaire — where there is always something unconventional on the menu. SAT hosts indoor and outdoor shows and installations, always breaking ground in style.
Canada’s music scene truly has it all. From record shops to venues to events, there will always be something to keep your ears entertained while you're up north.