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 Scott Bakken, Joann Pai, and Tamara Elliott for their local tips.

 

Canadians savor every day as an extraordinary occasion. And we know there’s nothing like celebrating special milestones surrounded by friends, family, and really awesome food.

Mercato - Calgary

Handmade Italian charm

Mercato is one local’s favorite restaurant in all of Calgary. It’s a bold claim they back up by taking all of their out of town guests to sample the eatery’s authentic Italian meals. Every noodle, gnocchi, and ingredient is handmade in house with the finest ingredients. With all the Italian gourmet available, you might miss the steak on the menu, which locals rave is the best you’ll ever have and perfect for any special occasion.

Auberge du Pommier - Toronto

European charm in the city

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This charming cottage-like restaurant is an absolute dream for Instagram photographers and foodies alike. Besides being incredibly beautiful (the fireplace is especially cozy) Auberge du Pommier is a welcome European getaway from the bustling city. They offer up delectable French fare  — try out their fixed price menus to sample a variety of favorites including foie gras and rabbit prepared using simple yet refined techniques.

Juno Kim Catering - Vancouver

The only caterer with groupies

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Juno Kim’s pop-up dinners around the city have quickly gained a cult following throughout Vancouver. The delicious — and beautifully-plated — food has garnered accolades throughout Vancouver’s food scene, making it one of the hottest tickets in town. You never know where Juno might show up so follow along on social media @Jun0k.

Start with a special meal, then end your night with one of Canada's big festivals or events. Here are some top choices.

NOtaBLE - Calgary

Made-in-Calgary goodness

NotaBLE is a friendly local restaurant that is passionate about serving some of Calgary’s best food. Headed up by talented local chef Michael Noble, this delicious spot offers an impressive and eclectic menu from brunch through dinner. The dinner menu is especially tantalizing for meat-lovers, but vegetarian and gluten-free options make it a great pick for friends and family to celebrate together.

House of Jazz - Laval

Jazzed up Cajun

The atmosphere at the House of Jazz in Laval really sets the tone for any special occasion. Locals often describe the space as eclectic and it’s truly just that with a unique and quirky decor and lighting shaping the space. Stay for dinner and a show where you can enjoy Cajun and American food while taking in the seven-days-a-week entertainment. There is a mandatory cover charge, but it’s for a special occasion after all! Try to book a table towards the back so you can enjoy both the music and conversation.

The Nash - Calgary

Communal dining made gourmet

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Another restaurant from Michael Noble, The Nash is a great spot for large groups to congregate together in a festive (and dare we say delicious) atmosphere. With stylish cocktails, gourmet fare from the kitchen, and an open and inviting interior that features large harvest tables, The Nash has everything you need for memorable celebrations.

RAW:Almond – Winnipeg

Frozen fine dining

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On the rivers of Manitoba, you’ll find RAW:Almond, one of the most unique dining experiences in Canada. With big tables set up in a tent-like space, you’ll quickly learn this dinner is as much about food as it is experience.  Share with your neighbors, stay warm, and make some new friends by the end of your meal. They also offer a skate up brunch and feature guest chefs so there’s always something special about visiting.

The Curious Café - Kelowna

Comforting curiosity

The Curious Café in Kelowna is a local favorite for its comfortable vibe and delicious pizza. Casual enough for a weekday dinner, but tasty enough for a special night, this multi-room space serves up 16 craft beers alongside a selection of dinner options while also killing the breakfast game. Try their Apple Pie Pancakes with bacon to start off your day right. Other bonuses? Their amazing wood fire oven and community tables.

CHARCUT Roast House - Calgary

Award-winning regional cuisine

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Housed in Calgary’s Le Germain Hotel, CHARCUT Roast House is a sophisticated, urban-rustic restaurant with some seriously decorated chefs, including Connie de Sousa, a finalist on Top Chef Canada. CHARCUT is a popular place for gatherings and dining over creative regional dishes like Bison brisket.

 

In Canada you never have to settle for ordinary when celebrating life’s big moments. With award-winning chefs, hip pop-up phenomenon, and handmade gourmet across the country, you don’t have to.

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