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Tag: Canada Travels

Advice and tips about the great travel destinations in Canada, including Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and more.

What to Do in Calgary

What to Do in Calgary

Gateway to the West, Calgary is known for oil, as a launching point for the Rocky Mountains, and of course for its cowboys. Although it’s not a top destination for most world travelers, many in the West descend on it for the Calgary Stampede in the summer and skiing season in the winter. If the thought of a chilly Canadian winter isn’t your ideal holiday, the summer has many great events to enjoy and places to explore.

The Calgary Stampede

Calgary is known for its cowboy culture, so it only fits that the biggest rodeo in Canada (and possibly North America) takes place here. The Calgary Stampede is ten days packed full of rodeos, carnival rides, farm animal and equipment exhibitions, and more. The city gets into the spirit with street parties, parades, and pancake breakfasts, and everyone dresses in cowboy hats and jeans. A quick piece of traveler’s advice – if you want to see any of the rodeos book your tickets well in advance as they sell out quick!

Prince’s Island Park

On the northern edge of downtown is Prince’s Island Park. Located on the Bow River and connected to downtown by a bridge, Prince’s Island is popular with the locals as a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. The park boasts an outdoor amphitheater, a park, local theater acts performing on the grass, and live concerts and festivals during the summer months.

Calgary Tower

Once the tallest structure in town, the Calgary Tower was the top attraction for locals and travelers from around the world. At 1,228 meters above sea level, a trip to the top gives you a commanding view of the entire city, the Rocky Mountains to the west, and the prairies to the north, east, and south. Hungry? The tower has its own restaurant at the top that rotates 360 degrees while you eat!

Heritage Park Historical Village

A throwback to the days of yore, Heritage Park is a historical theme park complete with an old-fashioned steam train, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor (worth the price of admission right there), an 1860’s fur trading post, and staff dressed like it’s the wild west frontier. It’s Canada’s largest living history museum, so if you’re a history buff, this should be on your bucket list for Calgary. If you don’t like history, it’s still an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon.

View of Banff Alberta Canada from the gondola
View of Banff, Canada from the gondola

Head to the Hills

Calgary lies in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A short drive west and the foothills grow into majestic mountains, perfect for skiing in the winter and hiking and camping in the summer.

A scenic 60-minute drive west of the city lies Banff National Park, over 2,500 square miles filled with pristine forests, waterfalls, beautiful mountains, and Canadian wildlife. The town of Banff is reminiscent of an alpine village, with small specialty shops right next to ski and snowboard shops. It’s grown both in popularity and size in recent years, but it still has that small town feel. And in true Canadian fashion, you can sometimes see brown bears, elk, or deer wandering through town. A breathtaking way to see the whole city is by heading up the gondola. Within 8 minutes you’re at the top of Sulphur Mountain with a stunning view of Banff, the lakes, and six mountain ranges. The gondola ride itself is not for those with a fear of heights or anxiety problems.

Travel further along the Trans-Canada highway, and you’ll wind up in Lake Louise, a small town in the midst of the mountains with some of the most spectacular views in the Rockies. Known more for its hotel Chateau Lake Louise, the town itself is a small, laid back place nestled in amongst the majestic Rockies. If you’re into hiking, boating, kayaking, and mountaineering, then this is the perfect place to set up base.

A view of Lake Louise, Canada
A view of Lake Louise, Canada

Calgary Zoo

One of the best and largest zoos in Western Canada, the Calgary Zoo regularly has exhibits featuring some of the world’s more exotic animals. In addition to the special exhibits, they have many mainstays.

  1. The Penguin Plunge – an enclosed destination mimicking the cold environment of the Antarctic with icy water, snow-covered rocks, and chilly air. They even add flicking Aurora Australis to make the many penguins feel at home. The Gentoo Penguins, Humboldt Penguins, King Penguins, and Rockhopper Penguins seem to like it.
  2. Canadian Wilds – forget wandering across Canada to see the wildlife, the Calgary Zoo has them all there waiting for you. From wolves sunning themselves, eagles in treetops, and moose, cougars, bighorn sheep and bears splashing about in the ponds, it’s a great display of Canadian wildlife.
  3. Destination Africa – forget the long flights and expensive airline tickets, the Calgary Zoo has an excellent and realistic exhibit that goes from the grasslands of the Savannah to the hot and humid rainforests. From hippos to gorillas, from lions to giraffes, it’s like being on a safari in the midst of Calgary.
  4. Eurasia – Europe and Asia is a myriad of lands, climates, and environments. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, Eurasia is a wonderment of everything. The exhibit includes red pandas, Bactrian camels, Japanese macaques, tigers, and more.
  5. Prehistoric Park – don’t worry this isn’t Jurassic Park. The zoo has an exhibit that pays homage to when Alberta was populated by dinosaurs – Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus, and Stegosaurus to name a few. It’s a great way to see them in what would have been their natural habitat.

The zoo is right on the subway system (the C Train) and easy to get to no matter where you’re staying. If you want to see everything, plan on spending the better part of a day exploring.

From wildlife to natural beauty to your typical tourist attractions and the Rodeo, Calgary is a great city to spend a few days exploring. It’s long been a favorite travel destination in the west and prairies, and it’s now gaining attention from international travelers.

What to Do in Victoria BC

What to Do in Victoria BC

On the southern point of Vancouver Island lies the city of Victoria, one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. It’s mild weather, and laid-back vibe has made it a popular destination for seniors and college kids from across Canada, and if you’re traveling to western Canada, it should be on your itinerary.
It’s a compact city with most of the activities and landmarks within walking distance of the downtown core. The neighboring town of Esquimalt is the Pacific headquarters of the Royal Canadian Navy, so don’t be surprised if you see a warship steaming past.

Historic Architecture

Lining the streets of Victoria is architecture dating back to its founding in 1843. Named after Queen Victoria, the city’s architecture reflects it’s namesake’s style and Canada’s close ties with England – from the Parliament Buildings (now home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia) to the iconic Empress Hotel.

Historic Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, Canada
Historic Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, Canada

A short walk from the downtown core is Craigdarroch Castle. Built by Robert Dunsmuir, a coal baron in the 1890’s, the house turned museum is a fantastic way to catch a glimpse of what it was like to be part of society’s elite in the Pacific Northwest at that time. The self-guided tour takes you through 39 rooms spanning four floors (five if you include the tower) filled to the brim with period furniture and household items as well as family keepsakes gathered on travels abroad. The castle is also reportedly haunted, so keep your eyes open for Casper.

Victoria’s Chinatown

The city is home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco. The district was built in the mid-1800’s, is fronted by The Gates of Harmonious Interest and is a small area jam packed with beautiful historic buildings, great restaurants, and interesting stores. From the supposedly haunted Fan Tan Alley (a 5-foot wide street lined with one of a kind stores) to the Tam Kung Buddhist Temple and great authentic Chinese restaurants; you will leave full and happy.

Take in the outdoors

Victoria is known as the ‘Garden City’ due to it’s mild temperatures and mostly snow-free weather. Many traveling horticulturists and gardeners make their way to The Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site of Canada that’s internationally renowned for their beauty and diversity. With five different gardens (Japanese, Rose, Sunken, Italian, and Mediterranean), there are also numerous bronze statues, a children’s pavilion that is home to 30 hand-carved wooden animals, two totem poles, and a multitude of ornamental birds (a favorite past time of the original owner). During the summer there are fireworks and throughout the year musical entertainment – a throwback to the weekly symphony concerts The Butcharts would hold in the early 1900’s.

Like watersports? You’re in luck! With the Pacific in their backyard, Victoria has a multitude of adventures on the water. From kayaking to canoeing to sailing and scuba diving – there are lots to experience on the ocean waters.

You can’t travel to the Pacific Northwest without going whale watching. A popular past-time on Canada’s Pacific coast, there are many boat tours to take you out to seek the giants. Orcas are the most common species seen as three pods of over 80 killer whales call the waters around Victoria home, but you might also spy humpback, gray, or minke whales depending on the season.

The city is quick becoming a travel destination for travelers on two wheels. One of the best-known local trails is the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, a 34-mile trail between Victoria and the old ghost town of Leechtown. It’s also an excellent way to get some exercise and take in some of the sites outside of the city, including View Royal, Saanich, Sooke, and Metchosin.

The Royal BC Museum

The world-class Royal BC Museum draws people from all over the west coast for their exhibits. Located in the heart of downtown next to the BC Parliament buildings, the museum regularly has special exhibits and permanent displays on the history of the west coast as well as BC First Nations and Natural History.

The Inner Harbour of Victoria, BC, Canada
The Inner Harbour of Victoria, BC, Canada

The Inner Harbor

No trip to Victoria is complete without spending some time on the inner harbor. Surrounded by the city, the inner harbor is a favorite among locals and tourists for its stunning views of the mountains, sea, and old part of Victoria. It’s well worth a walk after dinner when the sun is setting, and the mountains turn a dusky grey-pink. Both the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings are adorned with white lights all year round – adding to the beautiful atmosphere of the area at night.

Foodies Rejoice!

For the traveling foodie, Victoria doesn’t disappoint. From fresh sushi and seafood to international fare, you will not go hungry in this town. The city has also embraced new food trends and started their own in true Pacific Northwest style.

Victoria has long been a favorite travel spot for Canadians but languished in the shadows of Vancouver with international visitors. Lately, the trend has been changing as more international travelers have bypassed the bright lights of the big city and opted for this laid back and historical travel destination.

Weekend in Haida Gwaii Travel Guide

Weekend in Haida Gwaii Travel Guide

There is no denying that Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with British Columbia (B.C.) having more than its fair share of natural wonders. Taking a little trip to the north coast of B.C. can open up a whole new world of culture and wonder, but you will have to step off the mainland in order to take it all in. We are of course talking about Haida Gwaii – sometimes referred to as the Queen Charlotte Islands – an archipelago of islands that sit a short 2-hour flight from Vancouver. The islands are close enough to be easily accessible to travelers, yet far enough away to make it feel as though you have stepped into a completely different world.

A big part of that comes down to the culture and history of the Haida people that is still very much active and on display throughout the islands. If you have a couple of days to spare, a visit to the islands is very much recommended, but the question you probably have is what you will be able to see and do over the course of the weekend. The answer is that there is a whole lot more on tap than you probably ever imagined.

The islands offer all kinds of different fun things to do, both on land and water. Let’s start on terra firma, though, and look at some of the activities in Haida Gwaii that take place on dry land.

There are all kinds of organized tours available, with some even designed to take you off the beaten path and into areas that the average tourist would likely otherwise miss. Bird watching is very big on the islands, as is biking, hiking, and camping. It’s a nature lover’s dream come true, with peace and quiet almost always on tap. Between hikes, you might consider taking out the clubs and for a round of golf. Choose between the Willows Golf Course, or the Dixon Entrance Golf & Country Club, both of which are stunning courses that deliver unique challenges to players of all levels.

As you might expect, there are plenty of activities in Haida Gwaii that require you to take to the water for fun. Canoeing and kayaking are very big, as are sailing and surfing. If you are looking to do a quiet spot of fishing, there are plenty of great spots to do so. You might also consider chartering a boat and going after some of the larger creatures that live below the surface.

You should plan on saving some time to do a little shopping, as the islands are littered with unique little stores and galleries where Haida art is readily on display and ready for purchase. There are also a number of great dining spots visit, with everything from casual pub grub to 5-star dining on offer. These are just a few things that you can do on a weekend visit to Haida Gwaii, although you might need to stay longer if you want to do them all.

To learn more about Haida Gwaii visit Go Haida Gwaii

Been to the Queen Charlotte Islands? Let us know if we missed anything. 

Enjoy the Outdoors in Western Canada

Enjoy the Outdoors in Western Canada

If you are looking for some great outdoor opportunities for your next holiday than you simply can’t get any better than Western Canada. For the outdoor enthusiast, this region provides some of the premier camping, hiking, skiing and sport fishing opportunities in North America.

Western Canada is composed of the four westernmost provinces: Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and BC. Every year, thousands of people descend on this area to enjoy its beautiful rivers, mountains, coasts and forests.

Sport Fishing in Western Canada

Without a doubt, those looking to “hook up” will not be disappointed with the opportunities available here. I am of course referring to hooking up with one of the region’s well known sport fish. Throughout the region, there are many different types of fish to be caught; both freshwater and saltwater. Among the fish available are:

  • Trout
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Bass
  • Sturgeon

Whether you are into fly-fishing or traditional bait and tackle, the opportunities are endless.

Land Management Ensures A Quality Outing

Canada’s use and stewardship of its lands and waterways ensure that travelers seeking to enjoy the outdoors, whether sport fishing, camping, hiking, or skiing, will be sure to find the land as pristine and as beautiful as it was centuries ago.

Western Canada may have miles and miles of uninhabited land to enjoy, but that does not mean that they take it for granted. Strict government regulations are followed to ensure that the land is enjoyed and preserved for future generations. Fishing is regulated to ensure that overfishing does not damage the local populations and ecosystem. Many of the fishing opportunities are guided tours, ensuring not only that you will have a successful and enjoyable trip, but that the travelers coming after you will enjoy the same beauty and experience that you have.

Fly-fishing in British Columbia

Perhaps one of the premier sport fishing opportunities can be found in British Columbia. Here, fly fishing opportunities abound on the Pacific coast, and there are various species that can be caught. Among these are:

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead
  • Char

British Columbia boasts of some of the best fly fishing opportunities in the world for trout and salmon. Be sure to check which fish are in season, or schedule your trip around the fishing season of your choice. The local sport fishing seasons are as follows:

  • Salmon: July – Mid November
  • Trout and Char: March – November
  • Steelhead: March -May

A really unique fishing opportunity is to charter one of the many helicopter fishing tours, and fly out to remote rivers, streams and lakes for a really great day of fishing.

An Outdoor Adventure Worth Having

So, if you are looking for a place to have your next outdoor vacation, we think Western Canada is worth your consideration. It is one of the few spots left in North America that offers access to clear rivers and streams, beautiful mountain trails, exhilarating ski slopes, and an opportunity to reconnect with nature in an unforgettable way. Whatever your outdoor enthusiasm is, Western Canada has got you covered.

Been to western Canada? Let us know if we missed anything that others should know about.