Canada Coast to Coast

by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Which Canadian province should the two of you choose for your next romantic getaway? Here's a quick rundown of the places that make each destination special:

Major Cities: Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler
Recommended for: museums, botanical gardens, mountain scenery, outdoor adventure
Highlights: British Columbia or just "BC" offers some of the best city and natural attractions in Canada. Start with a tour of Vancouver, a picturesque city tucked between the mountains and the sea. Boasting a temperate climate, the waterfront city of Vancouver is home to Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the city's beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park, with its towering evergreens and multi-climate Bloedel Conservatory. This sophisticated city is infused with an international air, thanks partly to the strong business with the Pacific Rim. Shop for fine art in Granville Island, enjoy a panoramic view of the city with a skyride up Grouse Mountain, or meditate at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in bustling Chinatown. From Vancouver, it's a quick high-speed ferry ride to Victoria, a classically British city located on Vancouver Island. Stroll Government Street and shop for native crafts, learn more about totem poles at Thunderbird Park, and enjoy high tea at the elegant Empress Hotel.

Major Cities: Calgary, Edmonton
Recommended for: ecotourists, campers, shoppers, anglers
Highlights: Dedicated shoppers can put their skills to the test at the West Edmonton Mall, the world's largest shopping and entertainment complex with over 800 shops, the World Waterpark and the Galaxyland Amusement, and the Ice Palace skating rink. Activities range from a submarine ride to miniature golf to Atlantic bottlenose dolphin shows.

Man-made fun is just a small part of Alberta's summer offerings, however. With its soaring Rocky Mountains, Western Canada boasts some of the nation's most breathtaking scenery. Alberta is the home of Calgary, a western town that recalls its heritage with an annual rodeo.

The province is best known for its national parks: Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes, each tucked gloriously in the Rocky Mountains. Sports enthusiasts will find a full menu of offerings ranging from mountain biking to canoeing to golf on championship courses shared with elk and moose. Elk are stars of the show at Elk Island National Park, also a favorite with birders.

Major Cities: Yellowknife, Inuvik
Recommended for: ecotouristm, Northern Lights, wildlife viewing
Highlights: The northernmost reaches of Canada, where the land mass breaks up as it approaches the Arctic, are the Northwest Territories. This area, continuously carved by ice and water, is under political change as well. On April 1, 1999, the Northwest Territories was divided into two sections: the Northwest Territories on the western region and Nunavut, the Inuit lands on the eastern side.
The capital city of the Northwest Territories is Yellowknife, which can be reached by road from Alberta and British Columbia or by air from Calgary and Vancouver, connecting from the US.

The Northwest Territories attract summer vacationers in search of the Aurora Borealis, the hauntingly beautiful Northern Lights. During the lengthy days, travelers can take part in canoeing, rafting, fishing for great northern pike, and wildlife viewing for a chance to see caribou, Dall sheep, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and beluga whales.

Major Cities: Iqaluit, Pangnirtung
Recommended for: fishing, hunting, adventure travel, Northern Lights
Highlights: OK, got the "been there, done that" attitude? Then perhaps Nunavut is the answer. Pronounced "none-of-it," this remote destination is for those seeking Arctic adventure in the form of hiking, kayaking, Inuit culture, and incredible wildlife viewing. This territory is the home of the Inuit, tucked high in the Arctic near Hudson and James Bay Islands and the eastern Northwest Territories. The region can only be reached by plane (there are no roads).

Nunavut officially becomes a separate territory next year but already offers plenty of visitor attractions for those looking to get off the beaten path. Activities here include Floe Edge tours led by Inuit guides for a peek at whales and polar bears, visits with local craftspeople, fly-in visits to remote lodges, and a look at fjords, glaciers, and Arctic scenery.

Major City: Dawson City
Recommended for: historic attractions, ecotourism, Northern Lights, adventure travel
Highlights: Just the name "Yukon" stirs up pictures of rugged mountains, adventurous explorers, and gold rush fever. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush. Today travelers can still try their hand at panning for gold or look for activity in the form of whitewater river rafting, kayaking, or soaking in the Takhini Hot Springs. Wildlife spotters will have plenty of opportunities to spot some of the province's many residents: Dall sheep, moose, Arctic swans, and black bears. Summer visitors can also check out some of the Yukon's special events such as the Yukon Gold Panning Championships in Dawson City and the Yukon International Storytelling Festival in Whitehorse.

Major Cities: Saskatoon, Regina
Recommended for: bicycling, fishing
Highlights: Perched on the vast plains, Saskatchewan is home to the Prince Albert National Park, a favorite for spotting bear, moose, and many species of birds. Saskatchewan, with miles of roads stretching to the horizon, is excellent for bicycling as well.

Major City: Winnipeg
Recommended for: historic sites, multicultural experiences
Highlights: Manitoba offers both outdoor and city activities. In the fall months, the region's city of Churchill is best known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." Travelers will find opportunities for summer activities including swimming, scuba diving in area lakes, windsurfing, wildlife spotting, and more.

Manitoba is also home to one of Canada's largest summer festivals, Folklorama, held in August. The world's largest multicultural festival, this Winnipeg event features over 3,000 performers and more than half a million visitors.

Live entertainment fills the pavilions with song and dance. Fire breathers light up the night at the Caribbean Pavilion, Highland dancers energize the Scottish Pavilion, and crowds sing along to Sicilian tunes at the Italian area. You might even find yourself called up on stage to learn the Zorba the Greek dance at the Greek Islands Pavilion.

Exhibits at each area display the artistic and historic pride of each nation. Hungarian embroidery and antique costumes, traditional Korean dress, and Mayan paintings are just a few of the special displays that bring the artistic culture of these lands to visitors. Folklorama dining is as varied as the countries themselves: Belgian waffles, Bavarian wurst, Jamaican jerk pork, Australian shearers stew, Chilean corn pie, and Hungarian cabbage rolls.

Major Cities: Toronto, Ottawa
Recommended for: theater, museums, Niagara Falls, wine region, theatrical festivals
Highlights: Ontario is home to Toronto, the largest city in Canada, and a diversity of attractions to suit any interest. With half a million lakes (including several great lakes) within its borders, Ontario summer fun includes scuba diving among historic shipwrecks, fly fishing, the largest number of canoe routes in the world, and, of course, marveling at the beauty of Niagara Falls.

In Toronto, vacationers can spend a day at attractions such as the world's tallest building, the CN Tower (walk out on the glass floor to test your vertigo!), the Ontario Science Centre, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Royal Ontario Museum then relax that evening with a world-class theatrical performance, opera, or ballet.

Theater buffs will also want to mark their calendars for the Shaw Festival, held through October at Niagara-on-the-Lake on Lake Ontario. This special event showcases the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. Shakespeare fans can enjoy the bard's works at the Stratford Festival, a six-month even that runs through November.

Families can experience Wonderland, Canada's largest amuseument park, with 180 attractions ranging from Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters to live shows and thrill rides. Toronto's three Novotel Hotels (800-NOVOTEL) offer special hotel and Wonderland packages during the summer months.

Major Cities: Montréal, Québec City
Recommended for: Francophiles, gourmands, history buffs
Highlights: Looking for a European vacation but don't have the time or money? Then look no further than the province of Quebec. this French-speaking land bustles with a Gallic atmosphere that includes romantic chateaus in the Laurentian Mountains, sidewalk cafes, fine French dining, and more.

Montreal is the largest city in the province and offers a 19-mile underground city of entertainment including theaters, restaurants, and nightlife and the elegant Montreal Casino on Parc des Iles. Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds the title as the only fortified city north of Mexico, with a romantic atmosphere that invites lovers to stroll its cobblestone streets.

Summer travelers will find plenty of special events in Quebec. Montreal moves to a jazz beat for 11 days during the Montreal International Jazz Festival with performers from around the globe. Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival brings in comedians for over 1,000 shows. In Quebec City, the Summer Festival celebrates with singers and dancers from around the world.

Major Cities: St. John's, Labrador City
Recommended for: ecotourists, birders, history lovers
Highlights: The easternmost point in North America (and already making plans to be the first such sight to spot the dawn of the new millennium), Newfoundland and Laborador are excellent destinations for travelers looking for spring-like temperatures and excellent ecotourism attractions. Bring along your binoculars and a light sweater to enjoy whale watching, birding, and iceberg spotting. Home to a 1,000-year-old Viking settlement, at L'Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this region was also where European discoverer John Cabot arrived 500 years later. Summertime also means the Shakespeare by the Sea festival, a special event held July and August, when the rugged coastlines become a backdrop for outdoor dramas.

Major City: Charlottetown
Recommended for: beach walks, lobster dinners, Anne of Green Gables fans, birding
Highlights: Anne of Green Gables readers will know Prince Edward Island. Today Prince Edward Island National Park is home to Green Gables and through mid-September the town of Charlottetown hosts the musical version, now in its 34th year.

A bridge completed in 1997 now connects this small province with the mainland. Once on the island, you'll find a relaxed summertime atmosphere that invites long beach walks, quiet horse and buggy rides through the countryside, horseback riding, and just taking it easy. Bird lovers will be challenged by over 300 species spotted here.

Major City: Fredericton, Saint John, St. Andrews-By-the-Sea
Recommended for: whale watching, Bay of Fundy, Acadian heritage, birding
Highlights: Land and sea meet at this province that's home to the Bay of Fundy where the highest tides in the world are found. Another record: more kinds of whales are spotted here than any other place on earth. Adventure travelers can do some sea kayaking with friendly marine life, and birders can travel to St. Mary's Point in August for a chance to view thousands of semi-palmated sandpipers.

If you've experienced Louisiana's Cajun region, then don't miss the Acadian Historical Village. Here the culture of those early settlers is remembered along with the history of Evangeline and the long journey of the Acadians.

New Brunswick is also home to many resorts and lodges. The best known is one of its oldest, the Algonquin Hotel Resort (800- 441-1414) dating back to 1889. In those days, travelers paid just $3 (including meals) and sought relief for whatever ailed them in salt water baths at this resort. Termed "the Watering Place of the Dominion," the hilltop resort has long been an Eastern favorite.

Major City: Halifax
Recommended for: historic sites, museums, scuba diving, culture, adventure travel, birding
Highlights: This rugged province is a maritime dream, a place to wander along a quaint waterfront and contemplate the early seafarers. Titanic buffs will learn that rescue boats went out from Halifax when word first reached shore that the ship had hit an iceberg off Newfoundland. Today many artifacts are still on display in that area, many at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic with a new permanent exhibit on the ship, including the only intact deck chair from the vessel.

Wildlife draws many travelers to this region as well. Wild Icelandic miniature ponies are found on some of the uninhabited islands while whales can be spotted on many guided tours. Birders can spot bald eagles or sail out to an island preserve to add species such as guillemots and razorbills to their life lists.

For more information including contact information for Canadian destinations see the official Canadian Tourism site.