Tag Archives: Canada

Top Leaf Peeping Destinations in North America

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While summer may be drawing to a close, the fall has plenty of attractions that make it a well-loved season in its own right. The oppressive heat and humidity that plagues us all will be departing, leaving behind cool and crisp mornings and pleasantly warm afternoons, the chill of the night will begin to kill off those pesky mosquitoes, and soon, farmer’s markets will be overflowing with healthy produce as the time to harvest the crops rapidly approaches.

The best part of all though, comes when the leaves on the trees begin to transform into a kaleidoscope of hot colors, breaking out in various shades of yellow, orange and red. With each succeeding weekend getting chillier than the next, high season for leaf-peeping in North America will soon be upon us.

Why not take to the roads and take in the splendor of this breathtaking time of year before the season’s first big storm blows this natural masterpiece away? The following three routes represent the top leaf peeping destinations in North America, so whether you decide to book an overnight or do it all in one big day trip, you’ll be taking in one of the aspects that make fall the great season that it is!

1) Agawa Canyon, Ontario, Canada

Our pick for Central Canada’s top leaf peeping destination of 2014 isn’t actually a highway like our other two selections, but a railway that runs within a river canyon that has carved out a spectacular route through the study bedrock of the Canadian Shield near Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

This train trundles alongside the Agawa River, and boasts incredible views of maple tree studded bluffs on either side, causing these steep slopes to catch fire with shades of crimson red.

2) Route 100, Vermont, USA

As a whole, New England has a world famous reputation for fall colors, but the best mix of leaves and rugged topography can be found in the charming rural state of Vermont. Route 100 takes you across this small but beautiful state, combining brilliant oranges and reds with bucolic farmland and the subtle but gorgeous Green Mountains (which by October, it will be anything but!).

3) Florence-Eugene Highway, Oregon, USA

Many people write off the western part of North America as a whole, due to the fact that maple trees aren’t native to this portion of the continent. However, the flora that can be found central portions of Oregon challenge the notion that leaf peeping can’t be done in the west.

Dogwoods take up the slack on the red portion of the color scale along the Florence – Eugene highway, which is a route that takes you from the farmland of the interior, to the misty and moody environs of the Oregon Pacific Coast.

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Living The Good Life In The Okanagan Valley: A Guide

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As the summer season north of the border moves towards its climax, the sense of urgency to enjoy its finest summer getaways while the weather is favourable is rising. One of these choice destinations is British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a semi-arid valley where a series of lakes left over from the last Ice Age are the centrepiece.

The cities, towns and rural regions between are home to a variety of top-shelf experiences, from some of the best wineries in Canada to houseboating expeditions that will allow you enjoy some of the best swimming in Western Canada in a very lively manner.

So that you might plan a journey that doesn’t cause you to accidentally miss out on something that you are passionate about, we will cover the primary centres of this region from north to south, listing the highlights that can only elevate your trip from great to extraordinary by doing them.

Vernon

If you are an avid golfer, then you will be pleased to know that the vaunted Predator Ridge Golf Course can be found here. Ranked as the #1 course in British Columbia by the Vancouver Sun, it boasts killer views of the valley and lakes below, as it is situated high in the benchlands above. If you’d rather play on the water, Kalamalka Lake is an ideal place to do so, as water skiing is a popular activity of this luminous glacial body of water.

Kelowna

The biggest centre of the Valley by far, Kelowna offers the best urban attractions of any city in the Okanagan Valley. A large selection of fine restaurants await, both in the downtown core, and in the many wineries found just outside city limits. Tasting tours can be done to these vineyards, found to the north and the south, an activity that will leave you positively tipsy at its conclusion.

Those looking for a wildly fun multi-day trip can rent a houseboat in town, taking to the waters with several days worth of booze and food with your friends. The real value of this experience is hooking up with fellow houseboaters to have epic parties out in the middle of one of Canada’s most spectacular lakes – whether it is 3 pm in the afternoon, or 2 am at night.

Osoyoos

If merely visiting a winery isn’t enough for you, why not stay at one? This can be done at the Burrowing Owl Estate near the desert town of Osoyoos, where 140 acres of wine grapes ensures that the good stuff just keeps on flowing. Orchards that produce fruit other than grapes sell their produce and baked goods by the roadside here as well, and if you always wanted to try your hand at sailing, lessons can be taken in town on Osoyoos Lake.

Lesser Known Destinations In Western Canada That Are Worth Your Time

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When you think of Western Canada, images of the Canadian Rockies and the mountains of British Columbia typically spring to mind. Additionally, one might imagine strolling the streets of Whistler or Banff, admiring the peaks with winter snow hanging on even in the first days of summer, as you hunt for the perfect souvenir that will define your trip in one sophisticated trinket.

If the touristy nature of these places is a turn-off for you, don’t despair, as there are many other places throughout the Canadian west where you can enjoy the timeless vistas that this corner of North America is famous for, without having to wade through a sea of fanny pack toting tourists to get the perfect photographic angle.

The following places are favoured by Canadian locals for their natural assets, views, and their access to amenities that ensure that you will have a relaxing getaway that won’t be disturbed by a massive wave of humanity. To really see this area at your own pace, consider traveling around in a camper. Let’s start by profiling…

1) Harrison Hot Springs, BC

Identified by Canadian Pacific Railway officials as a site for tourism in the late 1800’s due to the presence of multiple hot springs in the area, a picturesque lake, and mountain peaks that completed the area’s stunning backdrop, a hotel and community was established here. While the popularity of this place never quite reached the proportions of Banff to the east, it slowly built up a following from those living in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Today, commercial hot spring operations are complimented by a fabulous beach on Lake Harrison, boat cruises, sportfishing, opportunities for watersports, and much more.

2) Emerald Lake, BC

Of all the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper hog much of the attention and the press, leading many to overlook the stunning views and experiences one can have in BC national parks like Yoho and Kootenay. The former park contains the jade green gem that is Emerald Lake, which has an abundance of lush plant life due to its location on the windward side of the Rockies. Trails circle this under-appreciated lake, permitting views of the towering President Range, and they play host to excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.

3) Canmore, Alberta

While Banff is the most famous town in the Canadian Rockies, it comprises less than half of the population of the Bow River Valley. The town of Canmore, a former mining town that was reborn into an outdoor recreation and lifestyle destination after coal prices crashed in the 1980’s, is a place that most tourists blaze through on their way to its more glamorous cousin further up the valley.

However, the views of the front range of the Rockies are no less impressive here, as the Three Sisters make for many spectacular photos, and many trails can be hiked from town, and Kananaskis Country is a short drive away, where even more stunning treks can be embarked upon.

3 Dishes To Eat In Their Culinary Hometowns

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Around the world, there are many cities that have given birth to sumptuous meals that have gained fans the world over.  While restaurants abroad dedicated to foreign cuisines often do an admirable job emulating these recipes, there is no replacement for the countless years of experience in preparing these dishes that chefs in their home cities possess.

In this light, the foodie traveler is well-served by seeking out the birthplaces of the favourite food that they love best, and consuming them in the kitchens where they were likely first conceived. So that we may introduce a new wrinkle into your dual love affair with food and travel, we have highlighted three specific dishes that one will enjoy best when they are eaten in their respective hometowns.

Let us start this gastronomic journey by talking about…

1) Khao Soi, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Composed of dry crunchy noodles sat atop a sweet coconut broth, accented with a touch of lime juice, Khao Soi is the pride of the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.  Soft yellow noodles lie within this addictive soup, which can come with chicken, pork, or in vegetarian concoctions that contain tofu.

Fancy five star hotel restaurants, hole-in-the-wall establishments, and street stalls alike all proudly serve this dish … just don’t blame us for becoming addicted to this amazing curry after you come home and have trouble finding it in Thai restaurants there (honestly, it’s saddening!)

2) Poutine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

While it won’t win any awards as a miracle health food any time soon, there is no doubting poutine’s place as a comfort food, a 3 AM hunger killer, and as a meal that can stop a hangover dead in its tracks. This heart attack on a paper plate starts with a French fry base, which is then covered in cheese curd (NOT grated cheese, there is a difference!), and topped with a lava hot coating of gravy.

Primarily found in Quebec (though it is increasingly found in many other urban centres across Canada), the best place to have your first run in with poutine is after a long night living the high life on Saint Catherine’s Street in Montreal, a practice that will not only sop up all the craft beer, wine and Patron shots you been drinking, but will also put you in touch with the fun-loving Quebecois that make this city one of the primo party spots in all of North America!

3) Paella, Valencia, Spain

While this rice dish is primarily associated with the type that contains seafood such as mussels and shrimp, the original Valencian version of this dish was made with vole, a rodent during the early days when people in the area were quite poor.  As fortunes improved over the years, it was made with chicken, duck, and due to its position on the Mediterranean Sea, various types of seafood.  The aspect that gives this dish its Valencian appeal is the fact that it is cooked over a flame containing the boughs of orange and pine trees, whose smoke further infuses the paella with its distinctive flavour.

Elevate Your Foodie Travel Game

While it is awesome to experience the cuisine that a particular nation is famous for, niching down and trying dishes that specific cities have birthed will further your connection to the places that you visit.  Locals will impart their passion for said foods when you seek them out, leading to a much more authentic experience!

America vs. Canada: Niagara Falls Edition

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Niagara Falls is perhaps one of the most talked about natural beauties in the world. Now that I have finally visited the falls, I understand what all the hype is about and can’t comprehend why so many people are disappointed when they visit. I think all the naysayers are pathetic and if Niagara Falls can’t impress them, I’m willing to bet nothing in this world can.

Perhaps the greatest debate about Niagara Falls is which side is better: the American or Canadian side, so I am going to offer my opinion here.

I’ll be honest, I had no intent of visiting the New York side of the falls when my family and I were planning the trip. In fact, I insisted that we not even stop on the New York side because I had heard such awful things about it (words others used to describe it to me: grungy, filthy, deteriorating, rough area, sketchy, etc). I figured why waste time on the crappy side when I could go straight to the winning side? Thanks to a last-minute change in our trip, we actually visited the New York side and I am so glad we did.

Pros of the American side:

  • Has a gorgeous state park that I knew nothing about. The area has been kept very natural and green. There are a lot of tourists, but it didn’t seem like an icky tourist trap. There were a few souvenir shops, but not so many that it took away from the serenity of the falls.
  • Everything was very clean and well taken care of within the state park.
  • The Cave of the Winds attraction (just so happens to be a highlight of my trip). Cave of the Winds gives you the opportunity to experience the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from a rickety bridge that sprawls jagged rocks beneath the falls. The view seemed to be to good to be true as I looked up at the falls and at the rainbows created by the misty air. The falls showered me with cool water and made my makeup and hair a mess, but that was the last thing on my mind. It was an experience of a lifetime and allowed me to feel and hear how powerful the falls truly are. Cave of the Winds is an attraction you’ll want to spend your money on.
Cons of the American side:
  • The views are absolutely breathtaking; however, they are not nearly as extraordinary as the Canadian side. The views are fairly limited to side views. You simply can’t experience the falls the way you should if you only visit the New York side without at least going on Cave of the Winds.
  • Prior to Cave of the Winds, I felt like the whole experience of seeing the falls in person was a bit anti-climatic. I never felt that way on the Canadian side. Perhaps it had to do with the limited views.
  • There isn’t a lot to do on the American side, so if the whole “touristy” thing is what you’re into, you may be disappointed.
  • Less exciting than the Canadian side.
  • It didn’t seem like there were a lot of nice areas outside of the state park and the town seemed to be run-down.
Pros of the Canadian side:
  • Maid of the Mist is absolutely amazing (also offered on the American side, but I’ve heard it’s better on the Canadian, side which is where I did it). Nothing compares to a boat bringing you to the whirlpool area below Horseshoe Falls. It’s absolutely incredible to be surrounded by walls of rushing, roaring water.
  • Entertainment galore. Casinos, ferris wheels, water park, Hershey’s Chocolate Factory, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, etc.
  • Spectacular views of American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The views from the American side are simply pitiful compared to the Canadian side.
  • Extremely nice hotels. We stayed at Embassy Suites on the 10th floor and still had a view of the Horseshoes Falls. The view from breakfast was also amazing. Clean, friendly staff, nice pool, etc.
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake  is just a short drive away!

Cons of the Canadian side:

  • Almost too many people and too touristy. I suppose I appreciate the natural beauty of the falls more than I do the cheesy entertainment (I know some people enjoy that entertainment, especially if they have kids, so I included it in the pros).
  • Things are way more expensive, even though the United States dollar is only slightly weaker than the Canadian dollar. My typical Starbucks latte costs me slighty less than $5 in the U.S. The exact drink in Canada costed me slightly more than $7. Yikes.
  • Lacks the Cave of the Winds and it’s my favorite attraction.
Niagara Falls should definitely be on everyone’s travel bucket list. While I would recommend staying on the Canadian side, it’s definitely worth making a quick pitstop on the American side to experience the natural beauty and Cave of the Winds. I think a three-day trip would be ideal if you’re just doing the basic sight seeing. That should give you plenty of time to enjoy it without becoming bored.  If you are going to mix in entertainment and venture to Niagara-on-the-Lake, I’d recommend staying for 5-7 days. Add it to your list!
Photo credits: All photos in this post were taken by my beautiful and talented sister, Kassi. Her camera was nearly ruined by the water and mist ofthe falls, but luckily it dried out! I was tempted to share all 200+ photos, but I controlled my temptation (you’re welcome)!
~ Lyndsi

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