Our country is an impressive expanse of unique landscapes, and distinctly different towns and cities. With so many wonderful places at our front door, why leave Canada when looking for spring travel destinations? On TheStar.ca, I posted this article with tips for exploring 7 Canadian cities, coast-to-coast. Whether you want to try a road trip with the kids, fly to a new destination with your partner, or explore your own backyard, this is a great how-to article for exploring our wonderful country. Read the original article here.
Start here: St. John’s.
Act like a tourist: Book yourself into the Great Viking Feast at L’Anse aux Meadows. Expect moose stew, roasted capelin and dinner alongside a costumed Viking interpreter in a typical sod hut.
Feel like a local: Skip the big hotel chains in St. John’s and opt for a bed and breakfast or locally owned inn instead. Get to know your host and it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself invited to a kitchen party you’ll write home about.
Start here: Halifax.
Act like a tourist: Listen for the noon firing from the Halifax Citadel, then head out for a scenic drive along the Cabot Trail or detour to Louisbourg — which celebrates its 300th anniversary this year — and let a costumed interpreter show you around the fortress.
Feel like a local: Shed the big city for the smaller communities along the south shore. Park the car and take in the shops and cafes of Lunenburg and Mahone Bay Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local. Most are happy to point you to a scenic spot or local hotspot.
Prince Edward Island
Start here: Charlottetown
Act like a tourist: Get to know the fathers of Confederation in town then head for Cavendish and explore the roots of that famous red-headed girl. Daily trips to Cow’s Creamery for a “Mooey Gooey” cone are also mandatory.
Feel like a local: Check into Shaw’s Hotel in Brackley Beach. The oldest family-owned hotel in the country offers cottages where back doors open up on rolling hills, perfect for picnics and kite-flying. Pick a pub and a pint on Victoria Row to find local conversation.
Start here: Montreal.
Act like a tourist: Rent a bike at one of the Bixi kiosks in downtown Montreal and set out exploring. Routes and bike-friendly paths abound. In the summer, a host of festivals and gatherings, such as the Just for Laughs festival and the International Jazz Festival, mean no matter what time you visit, you’ll be in the heart of something fabulous.
Act like a local: Hop aboard the new Maritime Shuttle and explore the Saguenay region north of Quebec City. Make your way up the shores to Tadoussac for whale watching and local hospitality in a town small enough to know quickly.
Start here: Winnipeg
Act like a tourist: Head down to The Forks. Four million people visit the city’s gathering place each year and are rewarded with a craft market, aboriginal powwows, a children’s museum and more. More time? Board the train or plane for Churchill and alternate between watching for polar bears and swimming with beluga whales.
Act like a local: Book a trip out onto the Red River with City Cats, where Todd Longley, the Rock and Roll fisherman, will teach you all you need to know about cat-fishing. For the kids? Assiniboine Park won’t disappoint and offers the chance to chat with local families as well.
Start here: Calgary
Act like a tourist: Come for Stampede! Bring your boots and hat, or pick them up when you get here. But you’ll stand out if you aren’t dressed for the part. Before, or after, consider an adrenaline-boosting ride on Grade 2 to 3 rapids with the Canadian Rockies Rafting company.
Act like a local: Take some time outside the city. If it’s calm and quiet you’re after, make the effort to drive out to the Kananaskis Valley. If you can spend a night at Mount Engadine Lodge, you won’t regret it. Managers offer great advice on how to best enjoy the trails in the area and the large wrap-around porch at the main house is the perfect perch from which to spy on moose, your morning coffee in hand.
Start here: Vancouver
Act like a tourist: Join the lineup of cars heading for Stanley Park, the sea-to-sky highway, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s cliché but it’s true: visits are worth the wait. Your best bet: Start early and don’t rush. Each holds gems worth savouring.
Act like a local: Run the seawall and then head to Granville Market. Sign up for a class or join a tour with the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and you’ll get an insider’s look at foodie heaven.
Where will you this Spring?
You might also like to read more about Canadian travel from our archives:
Globetrotting Kids: Dinosaur Provincial Park
Enjoy a Whistler Winter (Even if You Hate the Cold)
This article is all about where to vacation in spring in Canada, and under Manitoba recommends heading to Churchill to see the polar bears and swim with the whales. To clarify, the bears are out on the ice through winter and spring and don’t come ashore until breakup (typically July but with some variation year to year), congregating at Churchill through fall and peaking toward mid November awaiting the freeze. July is also when the belugas come into the estuary. Definitely worth a visit but if you’re coming in spring it’s northern lights earlier in the season (and they are spectacular), and a world class destination for birdwatching later on.