Canada, America’s neighbor to the North, offers families a wide range of vacation opportunities. You'll find history, culture and extraordinary natural beauty. And polar bears.
Here are five regions to consider:
Home to super star national parks Banff and Jasper and more than 600 lakes, this massive western province is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. As it’s flag advertises, visitors can expect snowy mountains, golden plains, evergreen forests and endless blue skies. All that, plus more than 300 days of sunshine each year, enabling great days on hiking trails and ski slopes.
Canada’s fastest growing city, Calgary, a beneficiary of a cattle and oil boom, offers visitors plenty including the famous Calgary Stampede as well as the Heritage Park Historical Village where period clad staff spin tales of frontier life on the Canadian Prairies. Further north, along the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton serves as the provincial capital and is considered the cultural soul of the region. Expect galleries, theatre, live music and shopping.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Inside Passage. It’s that scenic chain of channels, bays and islands that create Canada’s diverse Pacific coastline. It’s popular with kayakers, whale watchers, birders,boaters and adventurers.
You’ll also want to put the cities of Vancouver and Victoria on your radar. Located on the edge of wilderness, both urban areas offer hip dining with fresh seafood and farm to table offerings as well as and museums of interest to every age group. Don’t miss the scenic drive from Vancouver to the mountain ski town of Whistler via the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Along what is also known as Highway 99, you’ll pass sheer rock faces, waterfalls, fjords, alpine forests and the snow-capped Coast Mountains.
If you yearn to see polar bears in the wild, Churchill, in northern Manitoba is the place to be. Located on the migration route between the bear dens and their feeding grounds, the town is ground zero for those who want the chance to learn about and glimpse the animals in their native environment.
Tundra buggies transport visitors into the vast landscape outside of town to photograph and observe the seal hunters. Helicopter tours are also possible. Slot the destination onto your list for viewing the northern lights and Beluga whale watching in the summer months.
Prince Edward Island
Published in 1908, the novel Anne of Green Gables, has played a major role in drawing tourists to Canada’s smallest province.
Today, literary fans make their way to P.E.I to see the sites portrayed in the book and to learn more about is author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Visit the old farmhouse, where much of the famous novel was set and take part in activities at the Green Gables Heritage Place that include ice-cream making demonstrations, safe races, hiking on nature trails, carriage rides and tours offered by rangers dressed as characters from the book.
This fabled territory, wild, mountainous and sparsely populated, attracts adventuresome souls eager for wide open spaces, outdoor adventure and quirky bits of history.
Make your way to Dawson City, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, to learn about the gold rush days and the great stampede of treasure seekers who hastened north in search of fortune. Visit the Dawson City Museum and stop by the Robert Service Cabin during the summer months for daily poetry readings. Hiking, fishing, cycling, canoeing and dog sledding are among the popular activities in the region. Contact: www.TravelYukon.com
As a child I loved to curl up with a good story. I still do. A good book can transport us to magical places and encourage exploration.
Here are five places with stories to tell and the characters that bring them to life:
1 A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A century ago, a Canadian soldier launched a literary legacy when he adopted a black bear cub and named it after his hometown of Winnipeg. The soldier took the cub across the pond and eventually donated it to the London Zoo, where Winnie became the inspiration for the well-loved character. Today, Winnipeg’s Pavilion Gallery Museum houses a permanent collection of Winnie the Pooh artifacts and memorabilia, including a painting by the book’s original illustrator.
2 Louisa May Alcott, Concord, Mass.
I can recall staying up all night reading Little Women. Today we can visit the home of this novelist who crafted a compelling story around the relationships within her own family. You’ll take a guided tour and get a glimpse into how the Marche family lived in the home known as Orchard House. Many of the family’s treasures remain in the well-preserved structure, including family china and photographs. You’ll find out why the Alcotts kept daily diaries and visit Louisa’s bedroom where the shelf desk, upon which she wrote Little Women, still remains.
3 Zane Grey’s America.
Best-selling novelist and avid angler Zane Grey created robust stories detailing the life and culture of the American West. Through titles like Call of the Canyon, Riders of the Purple Sage and The Thundering Herd, Grey’s tales of frontier character and romance inspired many to explore new country. His books involve every state west of the Missouri River except North Dakota. Visit his birthplace in Zanesville, Ohio, a town founded by his mother’s ancestors. You can also visit a replica of his Arizona cabin (the original burned in a 1990 wildfire), which served as his home base while exploring and writing.
Contact: zgws.org; rimcountrymuseums.com/zane_grey_cabin.htm;
4 Where the Wild Things Are.
My boys loved this book!
Why not use this creative tome as the centerpiece of a wild and wonderful weekend with the kids? Read Maurice Sendak’s book, then visit your local zoo or wildlife park, or walk through a nearby forest and discuss the adventures of young Max, the main character. Top off the weekend by streaming the Spike Jonze movie of the same name. The whole family will enjoy the mix of real actors, computer animation and live puppeteering, the combination of which brings the story to life. Let the wild rumpus begin! Contact: Netflix.com.
5 Jack London, Glen Ellen, Calif.
Channel the adventuresome spirit of one of the planet’s most inspired writers as you explore more than 26 miles of hiking, horseback and cycling trails across 1,400 acres in the stunning Sonoma Valley. Visit the stone barn and the home where London wrote his page-turners. The author of Call of the Wild and White Fang was laid to rest on this landscape that nurtured his creativity and drive. It is is now a National Historic Landmark.
Do you have a favorite literary location?