Knee deep in my research for an upcoming trip to the Maritimes, I have fallen deeply in love with my home and native land – Canada. It occurred to me that despite having criss-crossed the globe with my kids in search of all things weird, wild and wonderful, we have largely neglected our own backyard. With that in mind, I have put together a list of adventures that I would like us to experience in Canada over the next fews summers. Here they are.
An Epic Canada Family Vacation
1. The Highest Tide at Fundy’s Hopewell Rocks – New Brunswick
At this UNESCO heritage site you can walk the ocean floor and hours later kayak around the famed flowerpot rocks after the tide has risen as much as 16 meters. (www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca).
2. Whale Watching in Victoria – British Columbia
Only a short boat ride from Victoria’s vibrant harbour front city, you can be immersed in the West Coast’s rich marine ecosystem. This region is home to the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. Although they are on the endangered species list, the SRKW’s three pods have welcomed 4 new calves in the spring of 2015. While we have been lucky enough to see these pods from land several times, I would welcome a more intimate and educational encounter with my kids. (www.tourismvictoria.com).
3. Riding the Rocky Mountain Rails – British Columbia and Alberta
What could be more fun than taking the Rocky Mountaineer First Passage to the West train trip from Vancouver, through the Canadian Rockies, and on to Lake Louise and Banff. Although it follows the same route as the first trains that came out west in the late1800’s, this adventure is hardly rustic, with fine cuisine and nightly accommodation at iconic hotels. This is just one of many routes offered by this world renowned train service. (www.rockymountaineer.com).
4. Iceberg Alley – Newfoundland
I cannot believe that until recently I did not even know about the amazing iceberg flow that passes by Newfoundland in the early summer months. What could be cooler than kicking back in the picturesque town of Twillingate and watching some iceberg float by. (view short video in browser).
5. Searching for Bones Where the Dinosaurs Roamed – Alberta
In my home, I field a lot of questions about dinosaurs (my standard response is “Ask your dad.”). I have long wanted to take my kids to the large fossil fields near Drumheller, Alberta to unravel the mysteries. This region of the Canadian Badlands holds the world’s richest deposits of prehistoric dinosaur fossils dating back 73 million years ! (www.travelalberta.com)
A confession: As I wrote this section, all I could think of was what on earth would I wear to a fossil excavation? I was thinking I would use Juliette Binoche’s character from the English Patient (Hana) as my muse, by wearing lots of white linen, and perhaps a long gauzy scarf. For this, and other deep travel commentary, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter.
6. Red Sand Beaches – Prince Edward Island
In our family, we have a tradition of building a sandcastle whenever we are on a beach vacation. Something that we have never done, however, is build a red sandcastle. Prince Edward Island has over 800 kilometers of pink and red sand beaches owing to the island’s foundation of red sedimentary bedrock. And what is under that sand? Clams ! While on the island, we fully intend to spend an afternoon digging for some culinary treasure. Experience P.E.I. offers several tours including Happy Clammers to make sure you find the best digging spots. (www.experiencepei.ca).
Will we be pre-gaming our trip with a family viewing of the classic trilogy Anne of Green Gables? Absolutley !
7. The Montreal Jazz Festival – Quebec
In its 36th season, the Montreal Jazz Festival attracts 3000 artists from over 30 countries. Not only are many of the shows family-friendly, but two thirds of them are free. With ten outdoor stages it is a perfect way to expose kids to a wide array of music, without worrying about whether or not they can sit still. Let them freestyle it up front with the other dozen or so festival goers that tend to dance like nobody is watching at these public concerts. (www.montrealjazzfest.com) .
8. A Visit to a Dude Ranch – British Columbia
Although I can only barely sit on a horse, I long to spend a day rounding up some cattle with my kids, and returning to a can of beans over a warm fire. Thankfully, most of British Columbia’s dude ranches offer much more than that with activities ranging from fishing to river rafting and gourmet meals served with some of B.C.’s finest vintages. See this list of family friendly dude ranches in B.C.
9. Sailing on the BlueNose II – Nova Scotia
It wasn’t just a pretty boat. The original Blue Nose schooner (that is depicted on the Canadian dime) was, during its day, a fishing and sailing a legend and the pride of Nova Scotia. For 21 years it reigned as champion in the race to return to the coast after the fishing was done, beating all competitors on the East Coast (the first boat back would fetch the highest price for their fish).
I have a dream (and it might just be that), that I will be able to set sail with my kids – if only for a few hours – on the fully restored replica. This might be a stretch, as the most recent restoration project of the Blue Nose ll has been plagued with problems and the boat still has to undergo lengthy sea trials in 2015. Thankfully, Nova Scotia and the schooner’s home port of Lunenberg (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) have much more to offer should my plan get foiled. (www.bluenose.novascotia.ca)
My adventure plan B for Nova Scotia is to take my kids on a walking tour of nearby Oak Island, where a modern day search for pirate’s booty still persists (that began in 1795 ! ). No, I am not making this up. Learn about the mysteries of Oak Island in this short four minute clip (see video).
10. Canada Day Fireworks at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill – Ontario
I can’t think of a better place to celebrate Canada’s birthday than in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. A day of family friendly celebrations and activities is followed by a magnificent display of fireworks that lights up the sky and the parliament buildings. (www.ottawatourism.ca).