Even though I’ve lived overseas on and off for five years now, I’m still Canadian. That will never change and my first loyalty is to my country!

Which is why I think everyone on this planet should visit Canada. Here’s a lowdown of five popular destinations that all first time travelers to Canada should include as they plan a trip.

1.  Vancouver, British Columbia

Image by Andrew via Trover

In winter time, the best place to see is Whistler, located about two hours from Vancouver proper. Whistler has world-class skiing and many of the 2010 Winter Olympics events took place there. But there’s also a quaint village full of cozy restaurants and cafés serving hot cocoa or local coffee.

An area that is often missed, but easy to get to, is North Vancouver. Since Vancouver is a port city, waterways are part of life. There are water taxis and ferries to take you around, a really fun way to travel. To get to North Vancouver, catch the SeaBus from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay, a historic port with shops and amazing seafood restaurants.

2. Winnipeg, Manitoba

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I used to think very little of Winnipeg, until I did my Via Rail trip two years ago and fell in love with the city.

For winter life, check out the pub culture there. It’s thriving and lively, with many tasty beers on tap to sample. After the pub, partake in the plethora of gastronomy experiences found in Winnipeg, like French, Irish or Polish cuisine.

Scope out free things to do in Winnipeg, too, like doing an art walk to all the galleries, or checking out Canadian history by touring the remains of the St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica. Visit the church’s cemetery because the gravesite of Louis Riel is there. He’s considered one of Manitoba’s founding fathers.

3. Halifax, Nova Scotia

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Halifax is the cultural epicenter of Atlantic Canada, and though winter is a little bitter there, you can still enjoy the surroundings.

In Halifax, it’s always about local flair, so watch a hockey game, tour some historic properties on the waterfront, or ride the ferry in the harbour to get a real feel for one of the oldest ports in Canada. Don’t forget to eat your body weight in seafood, as that is what Halifax is known for!

4. Niagara, Ontario

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Niagara is mostly known for the famous falls that divide Canada and the United States, but there’s way more to do in the winter.

The  CAA Winter Festival of Lights is at the Falls, which includes illumination of the water, along with trees and displays in the area. A real magical way to enjoy winter, the best time to see the festival is during December and January.

Another popular thing to take part in is the Niagara Icewine Ffestival. Celebrate the cold with local wineries as you sample glass after glass of icewine. And of course, Niagara Falls is still spectacular to visit, even in winter!

5. Windsor, Ontario

Image by Tony Creech via Trover

Not many tourists consider Windsor on a tour of Ontario, but reconsider your decision.

When its snowy out, you may want to stick to more indoor pursuits in Windsor, but the Odette Sculpture Park is something to tour all year round. Imagine 3-D sculptures of elephants, a huge apple core, and bendy swans necks. A bit of trippy fun for the family.

Another safe indoor bet is the Art Gallery of Windsor, featuring contemporary Canadian paintings and sculpture.