1. BEYOND THE FRINGE
Edmonton is famous for its fringe festival but the city's folk festival looms large for serious music fans. This festival is so popular that tickets for the 2015 edition sold out in just two days. What makes it so attractive? Try an alluring line-up that might swing all the way from veteran singer-songwriter Richard Thompson to the Icelandic indie outfit Of Monsters and Men. Performances take place in downtown Gallagher Park – in 2016, it's on from August 4-7. The important date to remember, though, is the first Saturday in June when tickets go on sale.
2. TWO-STEP THIS WAY
So you've climbed into your hand-tooled cowboy boots, best jeans, belt buckle and checked shirt – now you've just got to work on the moves. Calgary, being a cowboy town, is home to the ultimate cowboy bar. Ranchman's – which featured in Brokeback Mountain – hosts dance lessons during the week. Beginners can learn the fundamentals of the two-step, which boils down to good posture, tireless arms, great timing, footwork and turns. If two-step's not your style, try line-dancing
or west coast swing.
3. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
Canada hosts one of the world's most influential film festivals. The Toronto International Film Festival generates early Oscar buzz – not through jury-awarded prizes but through its People's Choice Award. In 2015, the audience voted for Room. Shot in Toronto, the drama is about a captive mother and son who hatch an escape plan. The 2016 festival takes place from September 8-18. At other times, inspect Canada's Walk of Fame in the Theatre District (it includes Ottawa-born actor Lorne Greene) or see what's on at the year-round
cinematheque at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
4. THEATRE ON THE MOVE
The Magnetic North Theatre Festival is a little different to other festivals. The showcase of contemporary Canadian theatre takes place in its home town of Ottawa every second year; on in-between years, it goes travelling. In 2016, it's heading to Whitehorse in the Yukon. From June 9-18, a program exploring the theme of navigating new dimensions will be staged at the Yukon Arts Centre. The festival also runs a signature series called Magnetic Encounters – these free events might include a roller-skating party, a cooking demonstration or
a poker night with cast and crew.
5. JOIN THE CLUB
If only the walls of Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom could talk. The Art Deco venue, with its sprung dance floor, has hosted Count Basie, Blondie, Tom Waits and Australia's Boy & Bear over the years. When artists kick on post-show, they probably head to the Roxy. Toronto's hip venues include Bovine Sex Club and the Horseshoe Tavern, which opened in a former blacksmith's shop in 1947. Willie Nelson, The Ramones, Wilco and the Rolling Stones have all played the H-Shoe.
commodoreballroom.ca, roxyvan.com, bovinesexclub.com, horseshoetavern.com
6. MONTREAL AND ALL THAT JAZZ
Montreal's annual jazz festival embraces more than a single genre. The jazz-centric celebration has jazz greats rubbing shoulders (at least on the program) with other acts such as soul sister Erykah Badu and veteran rockers the Steve Miller Band. The festival takes place in the downtown Quartier des spectacles but there are a ton of gigs in other venues. See what's on at cosy jazz clubs such as Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill and Diese Onze. If you're not in town for the 2016 knees-up (June 29-July 9), check out the Jazz All-Year Round concert series.
7. YOU'VE READ THE BOOK …
… now see the musical. Anne of Green Gables – The Musical has played more than 3100 times for millions of people in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI). The island is the setting for the 1908 book about the red-haired orphan sent to help out on a farm. The musical is a much-loved feature of the annual Charlottetown Festival. In 2016, the musical plays from June 29 until August 27. Time your visit to PEI just right and you can also catch a country-music hoedown – the Cavendish Beach Music Festival (July 8-10).
Four more cool things about Canada
FOOD Canada's best new restaurants are in surprising places – one is even tucked into the woods on an island between Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia.
DESIGN Browse avant-garde designs in Canada's only Monocle magazine store in Toronto or pick up a piece of bold statement jewellery fashioned from bison horn in Yellowknife.
ARCHITECTURE See cutting-edge projects such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg or Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry's contribution to his home town.
HOTELS Stay in a bold island inn that's singlehandedly reviving a local economy or snuggle into a cosy nook within a boutique Toronto hotel that's a magnet for the neighbourhood.
Explore Toronto's cultural side while taking Venture Holidays' independent five-day tour that pairs the city with Niagara Falls. Insight Vacations' 12-day Landscapes of the Canadian Maritimes tour gives guests a night off to see the Anne of Green Gables musical. Trafalgar's 10-day Secrets of Rockies and Glacier National Park tour begins and ends in Calgary – stay on to delve into cowboy culture. See ventureholidays.com.au, insightvacations.com, trafalgar.com
Cirque du Soleil premieres a new production, Luzia, in Montreal from April 21.
This article brought to you in association with Destination Canada.
Canadian culture: Edmonton's folk festival (main), Montreal's Jazz festival (top), Toronto International Film Festival (middle, courtesy of TIFF), Anne of Green Gables, Charlottetown (bottom).
See also: Canada's best shopping
See also: Canada's coolest stays