Tag Archives: canada

The Radar: Travel Lately

30 Apr

The mineral-rich Champagne Pool in Wai-O-Tapu thermal park near Rotorua. (Photograph by Francesa Onesti, My Shot)

The Radar – the best of the travel blogosphere – is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every Wednesday.

Here’s this week’s:  

  • New Zealand is known for its incredible natural beauty, and the geothermal wonder just outside Rotorua is no exception. Old Faithful, meet your match in Wai-O-Tapu. (If you’re wondering, that’s Māori for “sacred waters.”) @wanderlustersuk
  • São Paulo may be Brazil’s largest city (and the world’s eighth largest by population), but it’s often overshadowed by Rio de Janeiro, its sister city to the north. Find out why this South American metropolis is a treasure in its own right. @thismyhappiness
  • This time of year, visitors swarm Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. But with crowds as unrelenting as a filibuster and lots of ground to cover, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Check out this guide to the best eats in “the District.” @packDsuitcase
  • Lyon is located halfway between grande-dame Paris and the seaside swank of the Cote D’Azur. Though other French destinations have more star quality, this cultural center has its own brand of charm. @InspirngTrvlrs 
  • Only have a day to spare in Montreal? There’s no way to see everything anyway, so why not embrace it by trying the immersive approach? Check out this 24-hour guide to the heart of French Canada to get off on the right foot. @atlasobscura

The Radar: Travel Lately

10 Best Places to Hike in the World

28 Apr

Whether climbing Everest is at the top of your bucket list or you’d prefer a gentle hike through the British countryside, the world is full of jaw-dropping natural landscapes that beg to be discovered on foot. From Iceland’s otherworldly topography to unveiling the real Middle Earth in New Zealand, here are 10 of the best places to hike in the world.

New Zealand

Mount Cook in New Zealand

Mount Cook in New Zealand

Immortalized on film as the magnificent backdrop to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, New Zealand’s many attractions and dramatic scenery have had a revival of late, with Peter Jackson’s most recent offering, The Hobbit, reminding travelers what they’re missing. It’s no surprise that hiking – or tramping as it’s known to New Zealanders – is one of the best ways to take in the scenery, and well marked routes traverse the length and breadth of the country, served by a wide network of government-run campsites. Most popular are the nine Great Walks including the one-day Tongariro Alpine crossing, passing by the famous Mt. Ngaurube volcano (otherwise known as ‘Mt. Doom’ from the Lord of the Rings films); the 82km Heaphy Track, which passes a varied terrain from dense rainforest to rugged coastal cliffs; and the 53km famous Milford track, which offers spectacular views of New Zealand’s tallest waterfall.


Nepal

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

Nepal’s legendary Annapurna Circuit tops many a hiker’s bucket list and the 230km loop is renowned as one of the world’s most impressive treks, tracing the awe-inspiring Annapurna massif and crossing the Thorung La pass at a breathtaking 5,416 meters. Nepal’s other famous challenge is, of course, the mighty Everest, and trekking to the base camp of notorious peak has become a popular undertaking even for non-climbers. Nepal’s appeal isn’t just the challenging trekking and ruggedly beautiful Himalayas though – the Buddhist country is noted for its unique hospitality and soaking up the culture is as much a part of the experience as the hike itself. Hire a local Sherpa guide, bed down in a traditional mountain village, visit serene mountaintop temples and sip yak butter tea with the locals, as you uncover a whole other world thriving in the wilderness.

UK

With short walking trails and rambling long distance treks running to every corner of the British isles, the United Kingdom makes the perfect location for hikers to test out their navigation skills, with well marked routes doing away with the need for a guide.  Head to one of England’s world renowned National Parks like the Lake District, the Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where the vast moorlands and sweeping hills are dotted with cobblestone villages and traditional pubs, or attempt the 182km Coast to Coast trail, spanning the entire length of England. It’s not just British soil that’s well trodden – you can also visit the Scottish Highlands which are home to the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis and a vast network of footpaths provide dramatic views over the windswept glens and glistening lochs of the northernmost county.

Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

From scrambling through the volcanic valleys of Cappadocia to trekking the vast Taurus Mountains, Turkey has plenty to offer lovers of the outdoors away from sun and sand of the Mediterranean coast. The 500km Lycian Way, running along the coast from Fethiye to Antalya, and the St Paul’s Trail, following in the footsteps of the legendary evangelist from Perge and Aspendos to Yalvac, are the country’s two main long distance hiking routes, passing a number of key historic sites and showcasing the country’s incredibly diverse terrain.

Iceland

Hiking in Iceland

Hiking in Iceland

With majestic glaciers, bubbling hot springs and looming volcanoes, hiking through Iceland’s otherworldly landscape offers some of the world’s most unique photo opportunities. Hiking is possible almost anywhere, but most adventurers head for one of the national parks – Skaftafell national park is a wonderland of shimmering ice caps and jagged mountains, whereas Landmannalaugar’s striking rhyolite mountains provide the focal point of the celebrated 4-day Laugavegurinn trail.  Another popular trek is scaling the country’s highest peak Hvannadalshnúkur, at 2110 meters, where you’ll be afforded spectacular views over the Vatnajokull glacier – one of the world’s largest.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

The gateway to Antarctica has fast become a popular destination in its own right – a wintry playground of glaciers, penguin colonies and snow-dusted mountains. Stretching across the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile, visiting Patagonia means seeing some of the continent’s most magnificent surroundings – swollen glacial valleys, pristine lakes and towering mountain peaks. The UNESCO biosphere reserve of Torres del Paine National Park, on the Chilean side, is a hotspot for hikers with well-marked trails offering expansive views of the famous pink granite Paine towers, or else make the pilgrimage to see the wondrous Perito Moreno Glacier, the ‘smoking mountain’ of Chalten volcano or the windswept archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, the ‘Land of Fire’.

California

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Hikers could spend a lifetime exploring the US on foot, but the varied terrains of California make the perfect place to start. While there are few pockets of wilderness left undiscovered, America’s third largest state still has plenty of jaw-dropping hikes up its sleeve, including some of the country’s most iconic landscapes. Hikers can choose from exploring the epic canyons and dunes of the Death Valley desert; the granite cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and vast rivers of Yosemite National Park; or visiting the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park. The world famous parks aren’t the only options – the Joshua Tree National Park, Redwood National Park, Big Sur and the Golden Gate National Park all lie within Californian borders, with the landscape ranging from snow capped peaks to arid desert basin.

The Alps

Chamonix, Switzerland

Chamonix, Switzerland

Hikers traveling to Europe will find it hard to miss a walk in the Alps, Europe’s principal mountain range, sprawling across eight countries. Throughout winter the Alps play host to some of Europe’s glitziest ski resorts but as the snow thaws, hiking the alpine slopes becomes one of the region’s most popular pastimes. Color-coded signposts mark out routes throughout the Alps, Europe’s open border policies means hiking between countries isn’t a problem and there’s such a high concentration of peaks over 4,000 meters that you won’t have to walk far to get a view. Explore the traditional villages and cheese factories in the Swiss foothills; follow one of the acclaimed tracks through the lush valleys and glacial passes of the French Alps; or tackle the hugely popular trail encircling the iconic peak of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, straddling the border between France and Italy on a Half-Day Trip to Chamonix and Mont Blanc from Geneva.

Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies in Banff

Canadian Rockies in Banff

Taking the famous train journey through the towering Rocky Mountains are one of Canada’s most celebrated attractions but to truly experience their magnitude, you’ll need to don your hikers and take to the hills. The vast Rockies harbor myriad opportunities for hiking but the best-marked trails and a network of alpine huts lie within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site. Notable trails include the famous Berg Lake Trail, running through the Mount Robson Provincial Park and scaling the highest peak in the Rockies; the Mount Fairview trail in Banff National Park, offering panoramic views of the dazzling Lake Louise; and the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit in Yoho National Park, a scenic route through lush woodlands and shimmering glacial valleys.

Kazakhstan

Ticked the other nine off your list? Now’s the time to get truly off the beaten track and discover some of the world’s most inspiring and least-visited landscapes – hikes long overlooked by the tourist hoards. Kazakhstan has been steadily building a reputation among serious hikers for its remote and unspoiled wilderness, and with a number of reputable trekking companies operating in the country, it’s easier than ever to explore. The Tian Shan and Altai mountain ranges hold the most popular routes, with ancient pathways tracing the borders of Russia, China and Mongolia. Just make sure you take a local guide.

10 Best Places to Hike in the World Argentina , banff , California , canada , Chile , England , featured , France , Geneva , Iceland , Kazakhstan , Nepal , New Zealand , Patagonia , Switzerland , turkey , United Kingdom , Yosemite National Park

Finding Europe in North America: Cities with International Culture

6 Apr

People who write travel guides love to find easy points of comparison to give would-be travelers a reference point. Consequently, you’ll hear about cities all over the world being declared “the Paris of” or “the New York of” that country. While clearly no city is a cookie-cutter copy of the places to which it might be compared, there are some places in North America that bear enough of a resemblance to European destinations that you can fool yourself into thinking you’re on a European vacation – if only for a little while.

What makes a city European if it’s not actually in Europe? Well, that depends on what each traveler thinks of as European. For the purposes of this article, we’re looking at places in North America that have a Euro-style look, and that will give you the sense that you’ve landed in Europe when you actually haven’t. To really experience Europe, of course, you have to go to Europe – but these places offer the next best thing.

Here, then, are our picks for North American alternatives to European destinations.

Quebec

Quebec City; European cities in North America

Quebec City

In one very important way, the entire Canadian region of Quebec can make you feel like you’ve stepped off the plane at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris – French is the official language. Residents speak English widely, too, but those who are francophone first are proudly so. Expect to get much further with your attempts at French than you would if you just assumed everyone spoke English.

Visitors to the regional capital of Quebec (Quebec City in English) are especially apt to feel transported to France. The city is one of the oldest in North America, it still has some of its fortified city walls around the old city center, and much of the architecture in the historic parts of the city is French. The iconic Chateau Frontenac even makes Quebec look like it has a French castle at its heart.

And although the French you’ll hear in Quebec isn’t the same as the one you’ll hear in France, untrained ears will still feel like they’ve had a Parisian getaway in Canada.

San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts; European cities in North America

San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco has a real diversity in its residents and neighborhoods that helps to make it a popular tourist destination, but did you know that in many ways it’s just like a major European city?

Europeans love San Francisco, often for its similarities to cities they’re used to. It’s a city where a devotion to quality of life is paramount, and Europeans work to live instead of living to work like their American counterparts. The historic architecture in much of the city helps to give it an older feel. San Francisco’s excellent public transit system means it’s a walkable city, not one that requires residents to have cars.

The city’s diverse neighborhoods offer some of the culture and food of different parts of the world, including Italy (in Little Italy/North Beach), the French Quarter (a tiny square of land with several French restaurants in Union Square), and even Russia (in the Inner Richmond district). What’s more, there are world-class wine regions in nearby Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley to make you feel like you’re taking a day trip into the vineyards of Italy or France.

And as it turns out, San Francisco bears more than just a passing resemblance to the Portuguese city of Lisbon – right down to its cable cars, crazy hills, and bright orange bridges. Some of the city’s streetcars (trolleys – not to be confused with the cable cars that go up and down the hills) were actually built in Milan.

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria; European cities in North America

Victoria

Victoria, the beautiful capital city of British Columbia, seems almost tailor-made for tourism – a pretty waterfront, gorgeous natural surroundings, historic architecture, and some great tourist attractions. The fact that it’s often referred to as a mini-England doesn’t hurt, either.

The city was named for Queen Victoria and founded in 1843, so the ties to the former monarchy date back to Victoria’s origins. The historic English feel of the city has been enhanced over the years, often in a calculated way, to further drive home the point – and of course the British features are alongside distinctly Canadian features, making Victoria utterly unique.

Still, you can pretend you’ve awakened in Merry Olde England with high tea at the famous Empress Hotel, a stroll through the nearby Butchart Gardens, and sampling dishes like Welsh Rarebit or fish and chips from local pubs. It might feel a tad contrived at times, but Victoria’s many genuine charms are good enough reasons to visit anyway.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston waterfront; European cities in North America

Charleston’s waterfront

Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on why a city outside Europe reminds you of the old country – especially when it’s a combination of several factors adding up to an overall feel. Such is the case with Charleston, South Carolina.

This sweet southern city has an historic center with shorter buildings, several old (and grand) churches, well-kept (and sometimes quite small) homes, a walkable downtown that encourages both sightseeing and shopping, and lots of great places to eat. Charleston’s historic attractions include Civil War landmarks as well as nearby beaches. Overall, the scale of the city and relaxed atmosphere is more reminiscent of a small European town than an American city – despite the fact that Charleston is also quintessentially southern.

The word “charming” is so overused in travel guides that it’s hard to find any real meaning in it anymore, but Charleston is a genuine Euro-style southern charmer.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan; European cities in North America

Old San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital city, might feel more Caribbean when you’re making the short walk to the gorgeous beaches and soaking up the spectacular sun. But the city’s historic center, founded as it was by the Spanish in the early 1500s, still resembles a European city.

Old San Juan is the former colonial part of the city, where you can still see historic buildings like the Fort San Felipe del Morro, the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, and the Governor’s house (La Fortaleza) – as well as most of the ordinary homes and other buildings, which date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The old fortified city walls still partially surround Old San Juan, the streets are made of cobblestones, and the entirety of Old San Juan is an historic UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of course, the fact that all of these European influences are within walking distance of Caribbean beaches doesn’t hurt.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Like San Juan, the Mexican city of Guanajuato owes much of its European vibe to the fact that its colonial center is largely intact. In this case, it’s well-preserved Spanish architecture from the 17th century that gives Guanajuato its European feel.

A street map of old Guanajuato, like the street maps of similarly old cities in Europe, looks a bit like an upended plate of spaghetti. The streets are narrow, many are paved with cobblestones, and yet the nearby silver mines poured enough wealth into the pockets of the Spanish that they left behind spectacularly beautiful buildings. There are three churches in Guanajuato noted by UNESCO as some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the New World.

What makes Guanajuato particularly interesting is the combination of all of these European features with the region’s important place in the story of Mexican independence. Visitors can enjoy both sides of the city in equal measure.

Boston

Boston Faneuil Hall Marketplace; European cities in North America

Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston

Boston is another city in North America that is said by many to have a European feel – without having any specific-enough elements of any one European culture to make it easy to say why.

What are those elements? There is history here, and not only does it include a critical piece of American history, it’s inextricably tied to colonists from England. (Remember all that British tea that Bostonians dumped into the harbor?) There are also significant ties in Boston to European countries like Ireland and Italy – Irish American and Italian American communities in Boston have very strong identities and their own neighborhood centers. In a more general sense, the historic city center maintains its low skyline, and many of its older structures are brick buildings.

Boston is undeniably American, but the overall feel of the city is somewhat familiar to anyone who has an affinity for Europe. Plus, you get to go to the original Cheers bar, too.

Finding Europe in North America: Cities with International Culture boston , canada , Charleston , featured , Guanajuato , Mexico , Quebec , quebec city , San Francisco , San Juan , Victoria

Okay Blue Jays

5 Apr

For the first time in twenty years there is genuine interest and excitement for major league baseball in Canada. It’s hard to believe that it was exactly two decades since Joe Carter’s historic homerun to give The Toronto Blue Jays their second world series title. I was a sophomore at Brock University and suddenly I am feeling old!

Since 1993, the Blue Jays have been just an average team with no appearances in the post season. The attendance has suffered and only the hard-core baseball fans have stayed connected and involved with the team. This year however it has all changed. A deal to bring in a plethora of talented players with a new manager and suddenly the Jays are the favourite to win the American League East.

 

The entire country is excited and tickets to the games have become a hot commodity! Legions of fans will follow the teams every move including hitting the road with the Jays.

Here a few great options to combine a weekend getaway with your beloved Blue Jays.

Mother’s Day in “Beantown”
May 10 – 12
Spoil all the Moms out there with a trip to historic Fenway Park in Boston to catch the Jays take on the Red Sox. Best Western has 19 hotels in the Boston area to choose from! As they say, there is one just right for you!

California Dreamin’ in San Diego
May 31-June 2
Often noted for the best weather in North America, Jays versus the Padres in a great West Coast option. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the US and Best Western has 26 hotels in the area to choose from! Wake up, enjoy a free breakfast and dip your feet in the Pacific Ocean and head to the ballpark!

Houston! We have an option.
August 22 – 24
The Astros are at the opposite end of the expectation scale with most experts picking them to finish dead last. This weekend should be successful for the Jays and a great excuse to visit Texas! Not to be outdone by San Diego, Houston also has 26 Best Western properties to choose from!

It’s great to see and feel the excitement for baseball again. Are you planning to see any games and if so where? I am heading to my first game of the season this Saturday and can’t wait!

Okay Blue Jays California , canada , toronto blue jays

An Unforgettable Experience: Niagara Falls in a Barrel

5 Apr

Do you ever feel like you’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to most adventure activities? If ziplining and white-water rafting just don’t get your adrenaline pumping anymore, you may want to check out Viator’s most exclusive new activity, Experience the Falls: Niagara in a Barrel.

This tour is so exclusive that it’s only offered on one day of the year*. Talk about once-in-a-lifetime! This unforgettable plunge will knock the socks off even the most intrepid travelers, who will join the ranks for the very few who have experienced it before them.

prod-photo-final

Your day starts with complimentary hotel pickup. You’ll arrive at the Falls early for a shot of Canadian Whiskey – a little liquid courage if you need it – and then climb into your steel reinforced barrel. A boat will tow you out into the raging rapids that lead to Horseshoe Falls and then you’ll travel anywhere between 25 and 60 miles per hour along the river, finally arriving at the precipice of the Falls, which drop 170 feet at a rate of 600,000 gallons of water per second.

You’ll see the Falls in a way only 14 people have,  including the very first person to go over the Falls in a barrel, Annie Edson Taylor, who afterwards said, “Nobody ought ever to do that again.” As your barrel emerges from underneath the thundering water, you can decide if you agree with her or not, but don’t get too lost in thought, as once your barrel comes to a stop on the shore in front of  all of the astonished onlookers you’ll need to move quickly. First a photographer will snap some photos of your triumphant emergence from the barrel, and then your getaway car will arrive ready for you to hop in and make your getaway. Unfortunately, going over Niagara Falls in a barrel isn’t exactly legal and carries some hefty fines. But the bragging rights that come with this once-in-lifetime adventure might just be worth it.

An Unforgettable Experience: Niagara Falls in a Barrel April Fool’s , canada , Niagara Falls , toronto

A Four-Season Guide to Niagara Falls

4 Apr

What’s the best thing about Niagara Falls, which attract more than 10 million visitors a year? With its quirky mix of stunning natural beauty, historic and cultural sites, and honky-tonk tourist attractions, Niagara is a destination you can visit at any time of year.

Niagra Falls

Niagara Falls

Here’s a four-season guide to the best of the Niagara region.

Getting Oriented in Niagara

The Niagara region straddles the border between Canada and the United States, roughly equidistant between Toronto, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York. Niagara’s larger Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side (and yes, they’re shaped like a horseshoe). The American Falls are across the Niagara River on the New York shore.

Most of the region’s attractions are on the Canadian side of the river. From Niagara Falls, Ontario, it’s a short drive north to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is filled with B&Bs, wineries, and a popular summer theatre. To the west is another wine region, known as the Twenty Valley.

Summer Activities at Niagara Falls

Summer is Niagara’s peak season. From late June through early September, everything is open, and most attractions keep long hours, from 9 am until at least 7–8 pm.

If you visit in summer, start your trip to the Falls with the Maid of the Mist boat tour that ferries you to the base of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. You get a plastic parka to protect you from the spray, but warning – you will get wet. The Maid tours, which operate from April through late October, last about 30 minutes.

You see the Falls from a different perspective – and really feel their power – on the Journey Behind the Falls. After taking an elevator 150 feet below the top of Horseshoe Falls, you walk through a network of underground tunnels to two observation decks, where the falls crash just beside you. If you thought you were wet on the Maid of the Mist, you’ll get drenched here; you’ll want to protect your camera, your lunch, and anything else that you don’t want deluged by the spray. While it’s open year-round, you’ll enjoy this “journey” best on a hot day. That water is cold!

A two-part multimedia show, Niagara’s Fury explains how the Falls were created. In a short cartoon, you learn how the Falls emerged from the Ice Age many centuries ago. Then you enter a circular theater, where lightning flashes, the earth shakes, and water pours from the ceiling as you “experience” the birth of the Falls. Kids may think Niagara’s Fury is cool (and they may even learn something), but the real Falls are far more dramatic.

North of Horseshoe Falls, the Niagara River churns through a section of whitewater known as the whirlpool rapids. At the White Water Walk, you can follow a quarter-mile boardwalk along the river’s edge for an up-close look at the rushing rapids slicing through the deep gorge.

If you plan to visit several of these attractions, consider a package like Viator’s Niagara Falls Summer Adventure Pass, valid from mid-April through mid-October. It includes admission to the Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury, and the White Water Walk.

Niagara Outdoor Adventures

Beyond the Falls, the Niagara region offers lots of ways to enjoy the outdoors. One of the most unusual is a ride in the Whirlpool Aero Car, a quirky-looking red cable car that transports you across Niagara’s “Great Gorge.” As the Niagara River cuts through this gorge, it makes a sharp turn, which forces the water into a counterclockwise spin. It’s difficult to make out this atypical churning whirlpool from shore, but you can easily see it from the Aero Car, which swings you over the gorge. You might think that cable cars are relatively modern inventions, but the Aero Car, which is attached to overhead cables by a bright yellow contraption that looks like half of a giant bicycle wheel, was built back in 1916. Although the Aero Car ride lasts less than 15 minutes, you’ll have great views of the whirlpool and along the river.

Aero Car

Aero Car

For more river views, visit the window-lined Nature Centre at the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. While you take in the vistas, the kids will enjoy exploring fossils and animal skulls at the centre’s “touch table.” The nature reserve is also a good base for hikes into the gorge, whether on your own or on a guided walk with park naturalists, who’ll tell you about the area’s history, plants, and wildlife. Admission to the Nature Centre is free.

If you’d rather explore on two wheels, rent bicycles and follow the 35-mile Niagara River Recreation Trail, a paved, mostly flat path that extends from Niagara-on-the-Lake through Niagara Falls and south to Fort Erie. Zoom Leisure Bikes is a centrally located bike rental shop in Niagara Falls, with another location in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Play’s The Thing

A short drive north of Niagara Falls, one of Canada’s major professional theatre festivals takes to the stage in Niagara-on-the-Lake from April though October. The Shaw Festival performs works by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, and more recent writers. If you have time, take a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, where you’ll get to peek into the dressing rooms, check out the wardrobe shop, and learn something about how the theatre staff designs and builds the sets.

Oh Canada Eh?

Oh Canada Eh?

As long as you don’t mind some corny jokes about beavers and Mounties, the Oh Canada Eh? dinner theater in Niagara Falls makes a fun, family-friendly evening. The enthusiastic performers take you on a cross-country journey of Canadian music, from Newfoundland sea shanties to more contemporary songs by Canadians like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, while you stuff yourself on Quebecois pea soup, Alberta beef, and other stick-to-your-ribs dishes from across the country.

Fall at the Falls

One of the best times to visit the Niagara region is in autumn when the trees take on their red and golden hues, and the crowds of summer begin to thin. With crisp, clear weather, fall is still a busy season, especially on weekends when the leaf-peepers descend, but it’s quieter mid-week. Most of the summer activities, including the Maid of the Mist, the White Water Walk, and the Whirlpool Aero Car, stay open until late October.

September and October are harvest season for Niagara’s vineyards, making it an especially popular time for wine touring. Niagara is Canada’s largest wine district, with dozens of wineries around Niagara-on-the-Lake and in the Twenty Valley, both an easy drive from Niagara Falls.

A good place to start your wine tour is just outside the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake at the Niagara College Teaching Winery, Canada’s only licensed wine college. At their Wine Visitor and Education Centre, you can pick up information about area wineries and sample wines that the students make. Their top-scoring reserve wines get the “Dean’s List” label.

Nearby, you can taste more wine at the posh Stratus Vineyards or the organic Southbrook Vineyards, or at smaller properties, like family-owned Marynissen Estates or the Ice House, one of many wineries that produce Ontario’s signature “ice wine,” a sweet dessert wine made from grapes harvested just after they freeze on the vines. Try their tasty ice wine slushies.

In the Twenty Valley, many of the wineries are smaller properties where the winemakers themselves may be pouring your samples in the tasting room. Visit the laid-back Flat Rock Cellars in the town of Jordan or the cozy Good Earth Food and Wine Co., which has a café and also runs a small recreational cooking school on their Beamsville vineyard.

Why Visit Niagara in Winter?

Why should you visit the Niagara region during the winter, when it’s often freezing and snowy? The Falls themselves are (obviously) still there, and you can save a bundle on accommodations. Most hotels offer significant discounts from November through March.

The Falls are especially beautiful during the Winter Festival of Lights, when they’re illuminated nightly from November through January. Bring your skates if you’re in town from December to February. You can ice skate overlooking the Horseshoe Falls at the TD Rink at the Brink.

In winter, after you’ve had your fill of the Falls, you can explore the region’s indoor attractions. One of the best winter destinations is the tropical Butterfly Conservatory, where more than 2,000 butterflies flit around, alighting on colorful flowers and on visitors’ arms and heads. Most kids love the butterflies, and children under six are admitted free.

For winter visitors, Viator offers a Niagara Falls Winter Magic Pass, valid from mid-October to mid-April, which includes admission to the Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury, and the Butterfly Conservatory.

It’s also warm year-round in the Bird Kingdom, the world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary, housed in a former Niagara corset factory. Nearly 400 birds from roughly 80 species, from multicolored macaws to brilliant scarlet ibis, fly all around you as you wander the paths. If you’ve brought the kids, check the daily schedule of snake handling demonstrations, bat feedings, and other fun animal encounters.

Spring Savings

When you’re trying to balance moderate prices, mild weather, and plenty of activities, consider visiting Niagara in the spring.

Most seasonal attractions reopen in mid-April or early May, and as temperatures warm, flowers bloom everywhere. It’s a lovely season to visit the free Niagara Botanical Gardens, where walking paths crisscross the manicured grounds. Rhododendrons and irises typically peak in June; roses start blooming mid-June and continue into September.

At the Shaw Festival, you can often purchase less expensive tickets for early season preview productions in April and May.

Spring lodging prices, while not as low as in mid-winter, are generally cheaper between April and mid-June than during the busier summer and fall seasons. Visiting the Falls during this spring “shoulder” period can also mean fewer crowds and shorter waiting times at the most popular attractions.

The other best thing about Niagara Falls? While there’s lots to do in any season, standing in front of these majestic cascades of water and feeling the spray on your face is always free.

A Four-Season Guide to Niagara Falls canada , Niagara Falls , USA

Powder Highway Road Trip – Stop #6 – Golden Alpine Holidays, BC (Photos Video)

2 Apr

Skier Lynsey Dyer at Golden Alpine Holiday, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Skier Lynsey Dyer touring with Golden Alpine Holidays, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

See previous dispatches from the Powder Highway Road Trip >>

A remote lodge trip may be the signature experience of the Powder Highway. Enough of my friends have returned home, minds blown, from a weeklong trip to interior B.C. Few regions in the world are blessed with so much cold, dry snow; and when you’re sequestered for a week surrounded by fine, mountain-loving people who want to shred pow, it’s likely gonna be a REAL good time!

Powder Highway dispatch #6 / Golden Alpine Holidays from Stellar Media on Vimeo.

A ten-day mission to the Vista Lodge in the Esplanade Range proved no different. Just off the Powder Highway are numerous remote lodges. Helis or snowcats service some of the lodges, but several others are meant for good ol’ fashion self-powered backcountry touring.

Golden Alpine Holiday, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holidays, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holidays‘ Vista Lodge is part of a system of huts in the area. A few valleys away from Rogers Pass, Vista sits just above tree-line on a bench overlooking the Columbia trench that divides the Selkirk Mountains from the Canadian Rockies.

Golden Alpine Holiday, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holidays, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Every good hut trip has a ring leader to bring all people together. Photographer Will Wissman rallied a group of ten, pieced together from Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming—some old friends, a few new—all like-minded souls with a passion for getting out and about in the mountains.

Golden Alpine Holiday, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holidays, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holiday Local Vitals
Why Golden Alpine Holidays rocks: Surrounded by Canada’s highest mountains and two national parks, this place is a ski-touring mecca!
Snowfall: The Esplanade range at the northern end of the Selkirks has an average annual snow fall of about 10-12 feet. (Can you say POW!?!)
Don’t miss the terrain at Vista Lodge: Above the Vista Hut, an alpine cirque has a variety of aspects and picturesque vistas. At and below the lodge offers tree skiing and pillow land galore.
Gourmet casual: It’s a special treat to bring in a chef. Good food always tastes better in the mountains after a big day of earning your turns.
What to bring that might not already be on your packing list: Dark Chocolate, mini speakers, essential oils for pillows and the sauna, and ear plugs
Most valuable item in the lodge: Non-slip lodge slippers
Hut highlight: Drinking water straight from the lake and taking afternoon saunas
Golden Alpine Holiday, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Golden Alpine Holidays, British Columbia; Photograph by Will Wissman

Powder Highway Road Trip – Stop #6 – Golden Alpine Holidays, BC (Photos Video) backcountry , british columbia , canada , Golden Alpine Holiday , huts , Reggie Crist , skiing , snowboarding , touring , Vista Hut , Will Wissman , Zach Crist

I Heart My City (in the Spring)

29 Mar

Hanami cherry blossoms outside the Tokyo National Museum. (Photograph by Rob Towell, Flickr)

There’s still a chill in the air here in Washington, D.C., but the days are getting longer, the cherry blossoms are starting to pop, and residents are beginning to shed those cumbersome winter coats. Spring is upon us (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), and we’re embracing it with open arms by highlighting seasonal must-dos from our amazing I Heart My City community.

From ice cream to air shows, palaces to train rides, here are 20 ways to make the most of the next few months in 20 cities around the globe:

Shelly’s Oxford (United Kingdom): Head to nearby Wytham Woods to see the bluebells at their finest.

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

Megan Natalie’s Seoul (South Korea): Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace’s gardens to experience a piece of paradise you’d swear couldn’t exist in Seoul (make sure to watch the changing of the guards).

Ewelina’s Krakow (Poland): Take a walk to Krakus Mound at Podgórze; a nice, green hill where you can take a blanket and relax.

Annie Fitzsimmon’s NYC (United States): Celebrate the bounty of post-winter produce and eat anything with ramps on it because they’re only in season for a few weeks! Motorino has a great ramp pizza, and ABC Kitchen never fails with its in-season menu.

Keith Bellow’s Montreal (Canada): Hang around near McGill and Prince Arthur, soaking up the sun and the street life.

Anya’s Istanbul (Turkey): Visit Topkapi Palace. The flowers are in bloom and it’s positively stunning.

Katherine’s Athens (Greece): Take a bus to Cape Sounion, the ancient ruins of Poseidon’s temple. On the short bus ride from Athens, you’ll wind along the coast and enjoy some of my favorite views.

The Boxi-Platz flea market in Berlin. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Berlin’s Boxhagener Platz flea market is open on Sundays. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Madeleine’s Annapolis (U.S.): Check out the Blue Angels air show at the United States Naval Academy commencement.

Maja’s Belgrade (Serbia): Go to Zemun in Old Town and have lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the Danube.

Colleen’s Beijing (China): Fly kites by Houhai Lake.

Zain’s Amman (Jordan): Pack a picnic and visit the Hellenistic site known as Iraq Al Amir.

Shannon Switzer’s San Diego (U.S.): Check out the wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): Explore Berlin’s many flea markets to find great vintage clothes, furniture, books, and local art.

Sylvia’s Tokyo (Japan): Go for hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing parties) in a park with a big group of Japanese friends, some beer, and some sushi.

Jessica’s Barcelona (Spain): Experience a traditional Catalan calçotada which consists of getting together and eating large quantities of local green onions known as calçots along with romenesco sauce, regional wine, and good company.

Vienna's MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Hang out outside Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Jennifer’s Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates): See Abu Dhabi from the water. Hire a dhow (traditional wooden boat) for a tour, charter a speedboat to take you to one of the 200 islands off the main island, or kayak amongst the mangroves.

Karen’s St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada): Watch the last ice depart from the Atlantic from atop Signal Hill National Historic Site. Check out the on-site gift shop where local music, books, and culinary delights make excellent gifts.

Isabel Eva’s Madrid (Spain): Take a trip on the Tren de la Fresa to Aranjuez. During the 50-minute ride, you will be served fresh strawberries. Once in Aranjuez, you can take a tour of the Museo del Ferrocarril (the railway museum) and the Palacio Real (the royal palace).

Lea’s Vienna (Austria): Do as the locals do and head to the MuseumsQuartier to hang out on one of the over-sized flexible furniture elements called Enzis.

Nat Geo’s Washington, D.C. (U.S.): Check out the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, two of D.C.’s hidden gems.

Wherever you are, what’s your favorite thing about your city in the springtime? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

I Heart My City (in the Spring) Abu Dhabi , annapolis , athens , austria , belgium , Belgrade , California , canada , d.c. , England , France , Ghent , Gouda , Greece , Iceland , Istanbul , japan , krakow , Madrid , maryland , Montreal , netherlands , New York , new york city , oxford , Paris , Poland , Reykjavík , san diego , Seoul , Serbia , South Korea , Spain , St. John’s Newfoundland , tokyo , turkey , United Arab Emirates , United Kingdom , United States , vienna , washington

Powder Highway Road Trip – Stop #5 – Skier Lynsey Dyer on Kicking Horse Resort, BC (Photos Video)

28 Mar

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Most powder junkies know there are a few regions around the globe that seem to get more than their fair share of cold smoke. For North American shredders, one of those legendary deep-snow destinations is the Powder Highway, a 680-mile stretch of road that winds through the southeast corner of British Columbia, Canada. Kicking Horse Resort near the town of Golden is one of my favorite stops along the Pow Highway.

Powder highway dispatch #5 / Kicking Horse from Stellar Media on Vimeo.

Kicking Horse Local Stats
• Vertical: 4th highest vertical in North America, 4,133 feet (6 feet less than Jackson Hole)
• Once named Whitetooth Ski Area, the resort was bought out, expanded, and reopened as Kicking Horse in December of 2000.
• Annual snowfall ranges from 254 cm (100 inches) at the bottom of the mountain to 700 cm (275 inches) at the summit.
• Terrain: Kicking Horse has 75 inbound chutes and limitless bowls ranging from advanced to expert skiing.
• Backcountry Access: With a 15-30 minute hike one can access amazing backcountry options. South of the resort, you’ll find Super Bowl by hiking up Terminator Ridge. Or head North of the resort to Rudi’s Bowl and many more.
• Best Place to Stay: The Vagabond Lodge is a luxury boutique hotel just steps away from the gondola with a great community atmosphere.
• Bo, the Grizzly Bear: Can sometimes be seen in his 22 acre pen from the gondola in winter and most certainly in summer months.
• Summertime means Kicking Horse is open for downhill mountain biking, offering Canada’s longest downhill decent off the Golden Eagle Express Gondola.
• While You’re There: Try an ice wine martini. It’s a special treat.
• Kicking Horse Coffee: Canada’s number one organic, fair-trade coffee is roasted here and makes a great gift to bring home.

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Lynsey Dyer at Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

After an 18-hour driving adventure from Jackson Hole, we finally pulled up to the Vagabond Lodge at Kicking Horse Resort. It had been dumping for weeks and the lure of a sunny day, spectacular accommodations, and good friends had us white-knuckling through blizzard conditions. I was welcomed with fresh cookies, cold Kokanee, and friends Lexi duPont and Jacqui Edgerly. With four days of shredding to look forward to, the trip promised to be one to remember.

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

I first discovered this place six years ago and have been in love ever since. A rockin’ gondola shuttles skiers up 4,000 vertical feet to one of the most breathtaking mountain vistas I’ve ever seen. The terrain offers a bit of everything from steep chutes to wide open bowls and unrivaled tree-skiing. Kicking Horse truly is a skier’s paradise, and when it snows like it did when we were there, let’s just say it’s “ALLLL time!”

What I love most about the Powder Highway is the potential to find that authentic Canadian culture. If you’re the kind of skier looking for a cookie-cut village with big brand name shops, best stay in the sates or head to Whistler. Most towns on the Powder Highway are still primarily old mining and logging towns with a few quaint restaurants and hippie coffee shops. As long as you’re in it for real deal skiing and down to earth resorts, the Powder Highway is a sure bet to keeping your legs tired and your soul burning.

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

One thing you won’t find at any other resort is the once-rescued cub and now adult resident grizzly bear, Bo, who can sometimes be spotted in his 2-acre pen from the gondola. Once you get off the gondola you can dine at the mountain top restaurant with incredible views and fine cuisine. As for accommodations, we fell in love immediately with the ski-in, ski-out Vagabond Lodge. The lovely couple who owns and operates the beautiful bed-and-breakfast felt like family. With 4 pm fresh cookies after a big day of skiing and pillow-top beds to rest our tired bodies, we didn’t want to leave.

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Kicking Horse Resort; Photograph by Will Wissman

Powder Highway Road Trip – Stop #5 – Skier Lynsey Dyer on Kicking Horse Resort, BC (Photos Video) british columbia , canada , Kicking Horse , Lynsey Dyer , Powder Highway , Reggie Crist , road trip , skiing , Will Wissman

Toronto Business Travel Summit

28 Mar

toronto.jpgMonday, March 11th marked the 7th annual Business Travel Summit in Toronto, held once again at the Board of Trade. The annual event that is coordinated by Best Western has become a barometer for corporate in travel in Canada. I was honoured to once again be the moderator for another engaging discussion from a very impressive panel.

This year’s panel included Summit veteran’s Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing as well as Tanya Racz, President of the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) for Canada. The panel also included two rookie’s Brian Robertson, COO of Vision 2000 Travel and Michael Koetting, Executive Vice President of Supplier Management for Concur and Trip It.

 

By all indications the state of corporate travel in Canada is looking very positive according to all the panelists. Number of trips, room nights and even rates are all up. Corporate Canada is back on the road and in some industries even setting new records.

Much of the discussion revolved around the changing travel behavior particularly with more women and more “Millennials” travelling than ever before. Businesses are much more aware of their “duty of care” when it comes to their employees and their well being while away from home.

The travel industry also has to react to these behavioural changes with much focus on mobile use, peer reviews and social networking as well as new online players like Google, apple and Facebook.

Dorothy Dowling from Best Western made a real important distinction between loyalty and frequency programs that landed with everyone in the room. Although Canadians love and embrace these programs, including the very popular Best Western Rewards program, they reward frequency and not necessarily loyalty. These programs do indeed continue to influence behavior but Brian Robertson opined that “recognition and service benefits, like easier check in, are as if not more important than points.”

The panel concluded with everyone’s outlook for the next twelve months and without exception the forecast is optimistic. In a turbulent and ever changing industry it’s nice to see the industry leaders all on the same page and bracing for growth.

What do you feel will be the hot corporate travel topics in the next year?

Toronto Business Travel Summit canada , millennial travel , toronto business travel summit