So I'm planning a trip to Canada.

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RoyaleWifCheese

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#1  Edited By RoyaleWifCheese

I'm pretty aware of the Canadian presence within this community and I would like to solicit some advice. I'm an American planning a trip to the Great White North sometime in early September (hopefully when it isn't so white). I'm stuck between choosing Vancouver or Toronto (possibly Montreal or Ottawa/Gatineau) and would like to know some pros, cons, and things I should do while I'm there. What ya got?

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Ennosuke

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I lived 2 months in Toronto! I absolutely love this city, but it depends on which kind of city you like. What are you looking for?

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davo

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Just remember that there are Canadians in Canada. Enjoy.

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MildMolasses

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#4  Edited By MildMolasses

Depends what you want to see and how far your willing to travel while you're here. You could very easily do an Ottawa/Montreal trip as they are only two hours apart and there is plenty to see in both cities. I live in Ottawa and Montreal is probably my favourite city. The benefit of Ottawa is that most of the important things to see are all fairly close together because it isn't a very big city, so you could to touristy stuff very easily in two days. The downfall of Montreal, as beautiful as it is, is that is has the worst intra-city highway system I have ever seen. So if you are driving around, have a really good gps system with you.

Never seen Vancouver myself, though I would really like to and I really dislike Toronto, as I find it way too big and weird to navigate through. But it could just be that I'm conditioned to hate Toronto like all other Canadians that don't live there

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Zella

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Don't go to Toronto, even setting aside my hate for the city it is still one of the most American cities in Canada. I would say Vancouver but I live in the area so I'm biased. I'd say it depends where in the US you are from, because if you are from the west coast Vancouver probably won't be a huge change while Ottawa would be more significant. I would also recommend Montreal because while with it being in Quebec there is a lot of french it is heavily anglicized and you'll be able to get by most likely.

If you do choose Vancouver just know that in September it's either gonna be gorgeous weather or raining non-stop.

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theveej

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#6  Edited By theveej

Go visit Montreal, it is a fun city and generally cool (be prepared for 99% frenchness). Vancouver is cool too, but I would say Montreal is more fun while Vancouver is more nice.

edit. also Montreal has the best strip clubs in North America (I have been told this as my personal sample is small), even if you are not into that stuff you have to at least go to club Super Sex just cause.

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mellotronrules

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@zella said:

Don't go to Toronto, even setting aside my hate for the city it is still one of the most American cities in Canada. I would say Vancouver but I live in the area so I'm biased. I'd say it depends where in the US you are from, because if you are from the west coast Vancouver probably won't be a huge change while Ottawa would be more significant. I would also recommend Montreal because while with it being in Quebec there is a lot of french it is heavily anglicized and you'll be able to get by most likely.

If you do choose Vancouver just know that in September it's either gonna be gorgeous weather or raining non-stop.

i'll take exception to the anti-toronto sentiment in this thread. toronto is a fantastic city with an identity all it's own. i lived there for 8 years and plan on returning to fully settle as soon as i can. i've also lived in san francisco and nyc, so i'm not just talking from a lack of comparison. it's true that it has a bit of an inferiority complex, but when it comes to multiculturalism and a little bit of everything, toronto really is great. i haven't been to vancouver or ottawa, but montreal is also fantastic- i've found it to be the perfect 3-day-visit city (but that has more to do with a lack of french-ability than the city's shortcomings).

so here's my tl;dr version-

toronto- if you want to eat a little bit of everything (all types of ethnic food), enjoy distinct neighborhoods and enjoy the amenities of a large city that's pretty easy to get around.

montreal- if you want a city with a little european flair and identity unlike anywhere else.

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Bwast

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Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

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FunkasaurasRex

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@mellotronrules said:

@zella said:

Don't go to Toronto, even setting aside my hate for the city it is still one of the most American cities in Canada. I would say Vancouver but I live in the area so I'm biased. I'd say it depends where in the US you are from, because if you are from the west coast Vancouver probably won't be a huge change while Ottawa would be more significant. I would also recommend Montreal because while with it being in Quebec there is a lot of french it is heavily anglicized and you'll be able to get by most likely.

If you do choose Vancouver just know that in September it's either gonna be gorgeous weather or raining non-stop.

i'll take exception to the anti-toronto sentiment in this thread. toronto is a fantastic city with an identity all it's own. i lived there for 8 years and plan on returning to fully settle as soon as i can. i've also lived in san francisco and nyc, so i'm not just talking from a lack of comparison. it's true that it has a bit of an inferiority complex, but when it comes to multiculturalism and a little bit of everything, toronto really is great. i haven't been to vancouver or ottawa, but montreal is also fantastic- i've found it to be the perfect 3-day-visit city (but that has more to do with a lack of french-ability than the city's shortcomings).

so here's my tl;dr version-

toronto- if you want to eat a little bit of everything (all types of ethnic food), enjoy distinct neighborhoods and enjoy the amenities of a large city that's pretty easy to get around.

montreal- if you want a city with a little european flair and identity unlike anywhere else.

I'm with this guy, T Dot is dope as hell. There ain't anywhere in Canada I'd rather live.

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laserbolts

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#10  Edited By laserbolts

@bwast said:

Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

This. St. John's is great and the people are generally really friendly.

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RoyaleWifCheese

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I'm from California originally, but I currently live in Texas. I've heard good things about Montreal and, by proxy, Quebec, though I wouldn't consider myself too much of a Francophile. I've gotten that Vancouver would be appealing to someone from the west coast, but mixed opinions about Toronto.

Toronto is appealing because I don't intend to rent a car while I'm there. It seems like a city I could easily explore on foot or via public transportation.

@ennosuke: I'm mostly just looking to explore a new place that I've never been. I've lived in Texas for too long. No matter where I go, I just wanna spend some time away.

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LordAndrew

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You should come over here. It's awesome.

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RoyaleWifCheese

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@bwast said:

Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

This. St. John's is great and the people are generally really friendly.

I'd totally consider it. Newfoundland isn't off the table either.

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MildMolasses

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I've heard good things about Montreal and, by proxy, Quebec, though I wouldn't consider myself too much of a Francophile..

Montreal is a lot more English than people seem to be letting on, so while there may be occasions where it could be a hassle, most likely it won't come up. Mind you I have a lot of experience dealing with heavily accented English, so that may be something that I've just gotten accustomed to. However if you were to go off the island, that would be a different story altogether.

It also has a totally fine subway system to help you get around

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RoyaleWifCheese

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#16  Edited By RoyaleWifCheese

@grantheaslip: That's all great advice, but in truth, I'm not looking for a city as ornate as New Orleans or Paris or anything. I'm mostly just looking for a new city to go and clear my head for a week. Toronto definitely seems like that kind of city.

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MildMolasses

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I haven't been to Ottawa in a while, but being the capital, it's going to have more touristy stuff, although in most other ways its a pretty boring, second-rate city (no offense to Ottawa residents!)

No, you're right. I like living here, but considering it's a "major" city, it's really boring unless you like looking at old government buildings. Unless someone were to come here during our Bluesfest, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do as far as nightlife goes. It just isn't built up the way that Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver are. Hell, the reason it was chosen as the capital was because it wasn't a port city and thus easy to access should someone want to invade. But if you want an authentic Beaver Tail, it's the only place to go

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mellotronrules

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#18  Edited By mellotronrules

@royalewifcheese: what sort of stuff are you into? i was fairly involved in the music scene whilst there, so i can recommend some good record stores/venues to check out if you're into that sort of thing. i also have some picks for bars and craft beer if that's your thing. another good resource is this site:

blogTO

check out their "best of toronto" link at the top- it's user voted, so it isn't necessarily the most bleeding-edge or critically acclaimed picks, but it'll give you a good sense of some of the most popular spots for stuff you might be into. and if you do end up choosing toronto, i can offer some of my favourite neighbourhoods.

edit-

if you just want to get a sense of what's going on in the city, here's a link to the city's ubiquitous free newspaper. good for event listings, theatre, concerts, etc.

NOW

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the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG

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Vancouver is the best canadian city on the westcoast. Ive only been to Toronto once but all I can say about T Dot is that its a bigger city. It has more stores and shit. The downside about visiting Vancouver in september is that it could rain a lot but if it doesnt there are a lot of outdoor places that are 10 minutes away from the core of the city. We have mountains and beaches that are super close to each other. Our most popular beach is 10 minutes away from Grouse which is a pretty popular mountain. Its somewhat small relative to Whistler but Whistler's 3 hours away from the city. We also got lots of ethnically unique food in the city. We have alright Japanese food (Im japanese so I might be biased but all of my friends say that our japanese food is really good). Chinese food is awesome here, Indian food is too, and we also have lots of "hip" restaurants here.

If you want to go to a city that's "different" then you should come here for sure. Oh yeah, Van City also has a shitload of trees.

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chrissedoff

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#20  Edited By chrissedoff

I would go to Quebec City if I were you. It's one of the oldest cities in North America. Old Quebec City is a UNESCO heritage site and the city has been continually inhabited since the beginning of the 17th century. I've never been there mind you, but if I was taking a trip to Canada like you, I think that would rank near the top of my list of things to see.

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ProfessorEss

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#21  Edited By ProfessorEss

Toronto is awesome (lived there for ten years). It is very much a cultural melting pot like New York but it is more similar to America than most Canadian cities.

Montreal will give you a totally different flavour, the french flavour, but it is much more easy going than some of the other, more hardcore french cities.

I've never been to Vancouver but I hear it is a sight to see.

Check flight prices and availability before you say "Newfoundland isn't off the table".

I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Being born and raised here I don't see it as anything special but I've met a lot of tourists who love it so much that they have made it a yearly vacation destination.

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pr1mus

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Montreal and Quebec City are great. Quebec is a beautiful city. As for getting by in English, at this point its probably easier to do so in Montreal than it is in French. It's no problem in Quebec City either.

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#23  Edited By LiquidPrince

Out of your list of cities, the only one I wouldn't reccomend is Ottawa. Every time I've gone there I've been bored out of my wits. If you want to go for some touristy action, try Montreal. I'd say that is the most fun. If you wanna go to a lot of art galleries and explore the city, Toronto is good for that. Not sure what's up with Vancouver. They film a lot of TV shows there so maybe you wanna go on location to a set from Smallville? Supernatural?

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RoyaleWifCheese

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#24  Edited By RoyaleWifCheese

@mellotronrules: This is all really good information. Bars and craft beers? Please, go on.

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MideonNViscera

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#25  Edited By MideonNViscera

@royalewifcheese said:

I've heard good things about Montreal and, by proxy, Quebec, though I wouldn't consider myself too much of a Francophile..

Montreal is a lot more English than people seem to be letting on, so while there may be occasions where it could be a hassle, most likely it won't come up. Mind you I have a lot of experience dealing with heavily accented English, so that may be something that I've just gotten accustomed to. However if you were to go off the island, that would be a different story altogether.

It also has a totally fine subway system to help you get around

The only thing that fucked me up in Montreal was trying to buy Canadian Classic cigarettes only to be sternly told that "In Quebec we call them Quebec Classics" haha Fucking weirdos.

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uniform

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#26  Edited By uniform

I've lived in Ottawa and Toronto. Based on those experiences, I'd suggest giving Vancouver a shot. Better yet, don't go to Canada. There's so many better places to see in the United States. USA-USA-USA!

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darklight

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@pr1mus:That's mostly untrue. Yeah Montreal is the place in Quebec where you'll have the less trouble if you're only speaking english. For example, Downtown is mostly english. Even so, I never had any trouble going there and getting a service while speaking french. Also, all the road sign will be in french. Sometime menu will have both french/english in them but I think there's a law that force people to write french sign/publicity and be able to serve someone in french if need be. (? that one I'm not sure)

Anyway, that was just to say that I don't believe french people have more difficulty than english speaker. It's just the most mixed city culturally in Quebec.

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Ben_H

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#29  Edited By Ben_H

Go to the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, PEI). It is such a nice area with really friendly people and tons of history (my family has roots there from the early 1800s). My uncle lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia and decided to move there after going on a two week trip there. If not there then go to Vancouver or somewhere in the mountains. Ottawa is really nice too with lots of neat museums and sites to see. I didn't really like Toronto when I was on a school trip there. Too big for me. The prairies (where I live) are kinda dull, especially the cities. The boreal forest parts of the prairie provinces are really nice, especially with all the freshwater lakes. Great fishing and hunting. You can definitely lose yourself for a few weeks camping or at a cabin in the forest. That is what I do each summer for a couple weeks.

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Chop

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Go to Vancouver. While I don't care for the city itself, I think British Columbia is incredibly beautiful and perfect for tourists.

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Ekami

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#31  Edited By Ekami

Although all the Canadian major cities are totally with a visit, Vancouver has incredible access to natural beauty plus almost to many mountains to ski down.

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Kidavenger

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#32  Edited By Kidavenger

I don't think September is the best month for visiting Ottawa, you'd want to come for July for Canada day/Bluesfest, or during the winter for Winterlude, there are some good museums but they won't occupy more than a few days.

Toronto has the film festival in September, that may tip the boat in Toronto's favour for me http://tiff.net/thefestival

If you are bringing a car/renting a car you could probably do the majority of what's worth seeing in Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto all in a week.

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#33  Edited By uniform

Toronto has the film festival in September, that may tip the boat in Toronto's favour for me http://tiff.net/thefestival

I love film more than any hobby, yet this sounds like a con. Any major event that makes it difficult to get around the city (sea of people, traffic congestion) sounds like a nightmare. That's not even factoring hotels being booked up long in advance.

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BoG

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I'm planning a similar trip, to either Toronto or Montreal. This topic helps me, too!

I've only ever been to Canada once, when some friends and I drove to Vancouver. It was a 15 hour drive from Salt Lake, and it was totally worth it. I live in a place that people praise for how beautiful it is nestled into the mountains. Vancouver is essentially the same, but I was still impressed by its beauty. The people were all nice, and the food was great.

The main drawback is, as others have stated, it's not too different from the Western US. If you've been to Portland or Seattle, you've been to Vancouver. Nearly everyone I spoke to in Vancouver said that theirs is the least Canadian of all the country's major cities. The roads are also a problem. Traffic was awful. If you're driving (and you're from Texas, so I assume you aren't) the traffic from the border to the city is nightmarish.

Still, it's a gorgeous city.

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RoyaleWifCheese

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#35  Edited By RoyaleWifCheese

@bog: Nope, not driving. I met someone down here who makes frequent trips to and from Dallas and his home in Calgary. Takes him two days to drive.

I'm thinking Montreal or Toronto. As nice as it would be to go to a place that's "more Canadian," I'd just like to visit some place I've never been. Toronto and Montreal both have enough going for them that makes a week in either place seem like a good idea.

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BisonHero

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@royalewifcheese said:

@bog: Nope, not driving. I met someone down here who makes frequent trips to and from Dallas and his home in Calgary. Takes him two days to drive.

I'm thinking Montreal or Toronto. As nice as it would be to go to a place that's "more Canadian," I'd just like to visit some place I've never been. Toronto and Montreal both have enough going for them that makes a week in either place seem like a good idea.

If it matters to you, Toronto's subway system is underdeveloped, compared to just about any other North American city in the "millions of people" range. So if you're taking transit around, you may have to rely on buses and also yo dog we got streetcars.

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mellotronrules

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@royalewifcheese:

so- bars and beer. this is by no means exhaustive, and limited to my experience (it's west-end-centric). anyone else feel free to chime in if you have advice.

BARS

the victory cafe - in an old converted house in an area called the annex (or more specifically mirvish village). food is good for pub grub, and they have a rotating list of seasonal beers and cask conditioned ales they frequently change up. probably my go-to in the city, and has a fairly large capacity, so finding a seat shouldn't be an issue.

bar volo - a bit more upscale than your typical pub, but if there's a good beer you've heard of, chances are they have it here. ridiculous selection of ontario and quebec beers, as well as those from all over the world. you'll spend a bit more, but if beer's your thing, it's worth checking out.

bellwoods brewery - full disclosure: haven't been there personally, but all my friends are saying good things. it's a brewery, and the beer is supposedly very good. and if you wanted to dabble in the scenester, it's right on the ossington strip (which is where a lot of the trendier bars and restos have gone).

and then there's sweatty betty's, red light, and communist's daughter - not really special in terms of food or drink, but these are my sort of joints. slightly divey, smaller, and a good place to relax and take it in. sneaky dee's is a classic as well, but since it's a wannabe texmex joint (and you coming from texas), i'd say you probably don't need that. but scott pilgrim got it right when they said it's the sort of bar everyone ends up in at some point.

but it also goes without saying that just about every neighbourhood has good bars, those are just a few i used to frequent.

BEER

obviously it's subject to personal taste, but here are a couple that you'll see on tap that are good (IMO). and yes, there are rarer types, but here are a few you'll mostly likely see...

mill street - one of the larger local breweries. they make a bunch of different types (organic ale, coffee porter, pilsner, etc). and if you check out a neighbourhood called "the distillery" they have a brewpub with all the different kinds on tap. my go-to tap beer (when i'm not feeling adventurous) in toronto is mill street tankhouse- it's an amber, and hoppy, but not nuke-you-in-the-mouth hoppy. it's a great middle of the road beer.

steamwhistle - a dependable pilsner. it isn't the most creative, but it's a fine pilsner if you're into that. great on hot days.

hockley - a smaller, rarer brewery that makes a stout and dark ale. also a black and tan combining the two. if you see any of these, drink them down. it's the best.

ADVICE UNRELATED TO BARS AND BEER

if you're going to be looking to go in september- consider the end of september/early october. there's a big evening festival called nuit blanche- it probably isn't the greatest in the world, but it's a fun night where they extend last-call, and most of the younger people in the city are out in full force brown-bagging and taking in ridiculous art installations. also many of the city's significant buildings (schools, skyscrapers, etc.) open up and allow access.

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VarkhanMB

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#38  Edited By VarkhanMB

I can't get the quotes to work properly but here's just some stuff to think about if you choose Montreal.

The subway system stops quite early. Around 00:30 during the week, around 01:00 (AM) on Saturday. There's an app and a website to keep track of all the night buses, so it's not too hard to find your way, but you might have to walk a lot (it's often less long to just walk than wait for a bus)

From July 18 to August 6 is the Fantasia Film Festival. There's usually a lot of genre films. Horror, action, drama and a fair amount of Asian cinema. They also have worldwide or north-american exclusives. The lineup hasn't been announced but if you're interested, keep an eye out.

English can be a concern sometimes, but it usually isn't. A lot of people speak both French and English, and if you're like me and enjoy eating foreign cuisine, usually the staff's secondary language will be English (but not always).

A nice little chain of breweries is called Les 3 Brasseurs (The 3 Brewers). The locations, according to the website, that are closer to downtown are "St-Denis", "Ste-Catherine" and "Crescent".

As for strip clubs, let me just posit this: I've never been to any of them in Montreal, but I'm sure none of them will compete with Club Pigale in Gatineau/Ottawa. I went on a Monday night and it was packed, we had tons of fun.

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Nickieroonie

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Come to Sydney, Nova Scotia! We have a hazardous waste site that contains 700,000 metric tonnes of contaminated sediments produced by coke ovens. Also we have the Cabot Trail but whatever.

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mosespippy

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@laserbolts said:

@bwast said:

Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

This. St. John's is great and the people are generally really friendly.

I'd totally consider it. Newfoundland isn't off the table either.

The problem with travelling to Newfoundland is that you need to know a local in order to get any moose or seal based meals. It's generally not available in restaurants or stores.

One option for a holiday in Canada is taking a train from one side to the other. It takes 8 days to go from Halifax to Vancouver on VIA Rail but you could add nights in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, etc.

@ben_h: Newfoundland is not a Maritime Province.

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Damian

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#41  Edited By Damian

By your criteria, I think you'll find a fine time in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, or Vancouver. There's no reason you couldn't find the time you're looking for in either city.

I'll still put my vote in for Montreal though. I was born and raised in T.O., and have lived in Ottawa for years (I've only visited Vancouver, but had a really good time there as well). But while there's nothing wrong with any of those cities there's still nothing quite like Montreal.

Go there. There's old. There's new. There's nightlife. There's debauchery. And the most naturally beautiful people in the world (IMHO).

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TheHumanDove

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Montreal or Vancouver.

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mozzle

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#43  Edited By mozzle
Loading Video...

Vancouver. I live here though, so I am biased. However, Vancouver has everything.

Also, start the video at 1:30, and watch it in HD.

EDIT: Also, Vancouver is great for public transit. We have three Skytrain lines, along with a terrific amount of buses that will take you just about anywhere.

Loading Video...

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deactivated-5c5cdba6e0b96

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@bwast said:

Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

As someone from Labrador and have been living St.John's for the last two years. I haven't seen the appeal, it's usually a bunch of drunk assholes cluttered into the smallest area possible.

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mellotronrules

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#46  Edited By mellotronrules

@grantheaslip: bah! i love that video. thanks for making me homesick, jerk (jkjkjk)!

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DonutFever

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#47  Edited By DonutFever

Toronto is always a fun time.

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alexpiercey

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#48  Edited By alexpiercey

@bwast said:

Go to St. John's and experience George Street.

As someone from Labrador and have been living St.John's for the last two years. I haven't seen the appeal, it's usually a bunch of drunk assholes cluttered into the smallest area possible.

Exactly! What's not to love? :D

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@mellotronrules: Not exhaustive, but still incredibly thorough. I'm researching and printing everything. Thank you! You probably just filled about two days of my itinerary.

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#50  Edited By unequivocable

I feel it's my Canadian duty as a proud prairie dweller to shout "Come to Saskatchewan--we exist!!"

Lol, that being said--listen to the folks above--Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver--they'll probably be more interesting for a first-time visitor.

But if you ever decide you're tired of people and cities, then move to Saskatchewan, it's nice and relaxing that way!