The Royal Canadian Mounted Police The bright red uniform jacket and broad-brimmed hat of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are a symbol of Canada recognized all over the world. The well-known red serge coat, black riding pants with their yellow stripe, and red-banded Stetson are not part of the regular daily uniform for these police officers. The red, white, and black dress uniform is, generally, only worn for civic ceremonies, public relations events, celebrations and memorials. The RCMP is a singular organization, since it is simultaneously a national, federal, provincial and municipal policing body. They provide total federal policing service to all Canadians. They are also under contract to provide policing services to eight provinces (all except Quebec and Ontario), the 3 Canadian territories, more than 200 municipal areas, 165 First Peoples communities, plus 3 international airports and several smaller airports. The RCMP Academy, Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan has been training "Mounties" for more than 120 years. Despite the fact that they are a national police force, all new Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruits undergo basic training in Regina. At 12:45 each day visitors can witness the daily Sergeant Major's Drill on the Parade Ground. Incidentally, women have been members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police since the first all-female class graduated from the Academy in March 1975. Until October 2006, the Academy was also home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Centennial Museum, where visitors could go to get a thorough account of the national police force's history. The Centennial Museum was closed permanently in October 2006 in order to begin moving its collections and artifacts to the new RCMP Heritage Center. The $40 million Heritage Center is scheduled to open May 23, 2007. A focal point of the new museum will be a ninety-eight foot (30 m) long three-dimensional sculptural timeline illustrating the roles and tools of the RCMP over the years. The Canadian Museum of Civilization Any traveler interested in Canada's history and aboriginal people will want to make a trip to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The Canadian Museum of Civilization is dedicated to the preservation and display of Canada's history and to the culture and art of the First Peoples (a common Canadian term for the pre-European native population of Canada). The Museum, in Hull, Quebec, is across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Douglas Cardinal designed the two massive curvilinear buildings that make up the museum and the curatorial department. The design was intended to be evocative of the formation of the North American continent and its subsequent reshaping by glaciers, wind, and water. The Grand Hall exhibit space is a little over 19,000 square feet (1,782 sq m) and contains six full-size reproduction facades of houses and totems. Each facade represents a typical chieftain's home in one of six Aboriginal communities from coastal British Columbia. The Museum is working with the Native people of each region represented to create a cooperative exhibit for the houses' interiors. The First Peoples Hall celebrates the contributions of Canada's First Peoples. Exhibits include works of art, audiovisual presentations, artifacts, and archival documents. The exhibit is self-guided or a guided tour is available for an additional fee. Housed on the third level of the Museum, the Canada Hall illustrates the history of the country for the last 1000 years with a series of life-size displays. Visitors may catch a performance by Dramamuse, the Museum's in-house theatre company. The troupe stages re-enactments of scenes from the country's past in the exhibit area and are available to answer questions. The Canadian Children's Museum, on the second level, takes children on an interactive adventure around the world. An art studio, puppet theatre, and game section round out the exhibits. The Calgary Stampede Calgary, Alberta is home to the Calgary Stampede, ten-day rodeo and agricultural exhibition held the second week of July each year that bills itself "the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". The first Stampede was held in 1912 and attracted almost 40.000 visitors its first year, far more than anyone expected. Attendance at the 2006 Stampede was a record-breaking 1.26 million people. Stampede organizers recommend that anyone who wants to attend the event make reservations well in advance. The Stampede is famous for its chuck-wagon race, reminiscent of the races cowhands would have in celebration at the end of long trail rides. Other rodeo events include pro and novice bareback competitions, bull riding, saddle bronco riding, both pro and novice, barrel racing, wild pony racing, and several roping events. Not even nightfall slows down the Stampede. When the sun sets, visitors enjoy the nightly Grandstand Show, a pageant that features Canadian performers and changes every year. Each evening, stages all over Calgary light up with performances from country music stars, comedians, dancers, and more. The Stampede's Midway keeps growing, too, and now averages over 30 adult rides and 20 kids-only rides each year. Midway guests can test their skill in one of 20 or more games. When they get hungry, attendees can find refreshment at one of the dozens of food and beverage vendors--and that is just on the Midway! Agricultural events have been part of the Stampede since it merged with the Calgary (Agricultural) Exhibition in 1932. Aggie Days is a family-friendly look at how milk gets from cow to table and wool from sheep to sweater plus other fun activities for kids. One of the Stampede's best-known events is the Caravan Breakfast. Each morning of the Stampede, a group of dedicated volunteers puts out a free breakfast for Stampede attendees, a tradition going back over 80 years. Olympic Fans International sports enthusiasts can visit the history of the Olympic Games in Canada, and get a glimpse of the future. Canada hosted its first Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec in 1976. The Olympic Stadium in Montreal features the world's tallest inclined tower--it is 574 feet (175 m) high. The vision of the architect who planned the stadium was nearly impossible to achieve, however. The stadium's retractable roof was not completed until 1987, more than 10 years after the event for which it was designed. The velodrome built for the 1976 Games was re-purposed for education in 1992 and is now known as the Biodme. Visitors to the museum will experience four typical indigenous American environments: the polar region, a tropical forest, the St. Lawrence marine, and the Laurentian forest. In 1988, Calgary, Alberta hosted the 15th Winter Olympiad and profited mightily from it (unlike Montreal, which is still paying for that stadium roof!). The Olympic Oval is a fully equipped training facility used by skaters, runners, hockey players, and athletes of all stripes. Nearby Canada Olympic Park is the home of North America's largest Olympic museum, the Olympic Hall of Fame. The Park is also home to Canada's only Olympic bobsled/luge track. Adventurous visitors willing to sign a waiver can even buy a trip down the track in a sled driven by one of the park's trained drivers. Canada will again be hosting the Winter Olympics, this time in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010. The city has already begun preparations for the big event. Omega, Official Timekeeper of the 2010 Games, unveiled a three-year countdown clock in downtown Vancouver on February 12, 2007. Construction of the Vancouver Olympic Village will begin in the summer of 2007. The Games facilities will be made available to athletes for training by Winter 2007/2008. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) in New Hope, Ontario, is unique because it is home to world's largest collection of flying vintage aircraft. The museum also houses an aviation art gallery, interactive displays, audio-visual presentations, and an assortment of aircraft photographs and memorabilia. The Museum began as a labor of love for four friends, Dennis J. Bradley, Alan Ness, Peter Matthews, and John Weir. The men did not just set out to restore just any planes, they specifically wanted to preserve and maintain a collection of the aircraft flown by Canadians and the Canadian military services from World War II to the present. In 1993, an inferno ripped through one of the hangars at the Hamilton International Airport that the Museum was using for storage and restoration and destroyed five of the restored planes. The museum reluctantly acknowledged the need to move to a single facility that could accommodate both the displays and the space needed to do restoration work. As a member of Canada's royal family and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's royal patron, Charles, the Prince of Wales officially opened the new building in April 1996. The Museum has over forty aircraft from the 1940s warplanes to jets from the 60s and 80s. Most of the planes are military and many of them are rare. Nowhere else will you find such a large collection of flight-ready vintage airplanes. The Museum flies one of their operational planes once a day during, the summer season, and Thursdays through Sundays in the spring and autumn, weather permitting. The Museum's ride program, Legends Flight, gives people the opportunity to reserve a ride in either an open-cockpit bi-plane or the Harvard Trainer. They also offer two different flight paths, the Niagara Escarpment Tour over Hamilton and the Lake Ottawa shoreline or the Grand River Tour. Yukon Yukon, formerly The Yukon Territory, is Canada's most northwestern province, bordered on the north by the Beaufort Sea and the west by the state of Alaska. Visitors to the region will need to be hardy and prepared for the sub-arctic climate. The temperature in the province goes over 50” F (10” C) less than four months of the year. The average winter temperature is between -4” F and -26” F (-20” to -32” C) but, since it is drier than many parts of southern Canada, the cold is considered more bearable than the same temperatures would be further south. The Yukon is so sparsely populated that it is the only Canadian province not subdivided for the Census. The entire province, all 186, 661 square miles of it (483,450 sq km), is a single Census division with an estimated total population of 31,500. The Yukon is best known for the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896. The rush to hunt to for gold ended 3 years after it began and by 1902 most of the hopeful miners had left. Gold production peaked in 1911 and the last dredge shut down in 1966. The Yukon capital of Whitehorse is the logical place to begin exploring the history of Klondike Gold Rush. Be sure to visit the Tourist Information Center before heading down the Klondike Highway to Dawson, ex-fishing village, ex-boomtown on the Yukon River; closest town in Canada to where the gold was found. Today the main industry in the Yukon is tourism. In the Yukon tourism is a $164 million per year business, a number that has grown steadily since 1996. The recent discovery, in the 1990s, of diamonds in the Northwest Territories has led people to wonder if the precious stones might not be the next big thing in the Yukon, too. Drumheller, Alberta Drumheller, Alberta, in the heart of Canada's prairies, proclaims itself"The Dinosaur Capital of North America", and has the fossils to back it up. Just northwest of Drumheller is the Dinosaur Trail, a 32-mile (50km) circular drive along Highway 838 that will lead visitors to, among other things, the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, and the World's Largest Dinosaur. The Royal Tyrell Museum has a wide array of exhibits. The Hexen Science Hall features an interactive display to demonstrate basic scientific concepts. In the Preparation Lab, visitors can watch scientists prepare fossils for study or display. The Burgess Shale and Devonian Reef exhibits offer a look at life under the waters of Canada's prehistoric oceans. In the Cretaceous Garden, Museum guests can walk through living history, a garden filled with the same plants the dinosaurs ate. The main attraction at the Royal Tyrell is Dinosaur Hall. The Hall is full of mounted dinosaur skeletons, and is the largest exhibit of its kind in the world. Walking, swimming, and flying reptiles are all present, including the Albertosaurus, first discovered by Joseph B. Tyrell. Farther down the Dinosaur Trail visitors will find themselves confronted by the World's Largest Dinosaur. The Dinosaur is an 86-foot (26.2 m) concrete and steel Tyrannosaurus Rex. He stands four times taller than the real thing did and visitors who climb the 106 steps to the viewing platform in his mouth will enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the badlands. For dinosaur lovers, the two-hour trip to the Tyrell Museum's Field Station at Dinosaur Provincial Park is a must-see. It functions as a base for continuing scientific study in the area and has skeletons on display in an exhibit building. Visitors can also make reservations for a bus tour to areas of the park being excavated, areas not available to the public any other way. The Empress Hotel, Victoria The Empress Hotel sits regally on the Inner Harbor of Victoria, capital of British Columbia, and is a joy to behold for both history and architecture buffs. The Fairmont Empress will be celebrating her one hundredth anniversary in 2008. The hotel was begun in 1904 after supporters of the city convinced the Canadian Pacific Railroad to establish regular ferry service to Vancouver Island and build one of the railroad's signature hotels in Victoria. The Empress, named for Queen Victoria, then the Empress of India, and designed by English architect Francis Rattenbury. The original, 116-room Edwardian chateau-style building opened with a great deal of fanfare in 1908. The hotel's magnificent architecture and opulent dcor are legendary. Built at the height of British power in India, it features a number of colonial India-themed areas. Most notable of these is the club-like Bengal Lounge, decorated with objects given to the hotel by some of its notable guests. An Indian maharaja donated the mounted tiger skin on the wall and the murals above the bar were a gift to the hotel from the king of queen of Siam. To take Afternoon Tea at the Empress is to take a journey back in time. This formal, high tea occurs daily and is enjoyed by over 100,000 people each year. Do not expect to take it lightly, though. High Tea is, in many ways, a meal, and you will pay accordingly. There were rumors that the owners were planning to demolish the property and build a new resort on the site in the 60's, but the public outcry caused against this plan led to the $4 million "Operation Teacup" renovation. Another, significantly more expensive renovation took place in the 1980's. The hotel is also home to Willow Stream Spa and affiliated with two local golf courses, for guests who want more than art architecture. Toronto - City of the Arts Toronto, capital city of the Canadian province of Ontario, is an art enthusiast's dream. The city, the fifth largest in North America, is home to several major galleries and museums. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is the largest in Canada with more than 40 galleries. The museum displays both art works and natural history items and has the largest collection of avian and mammalian skeletons in the world. The museum's Far East Collection, the largest collection of far eastern artifacts outside of China, is anchored by the Ming Tomb, a complete seventeenth century warriors tomb and the only complete Chinese tomb in the West. The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art was, at one time affiliated with the Royal Ontario Museum. This specialized museum is home to more than 2,000 pieces of ceramic art. Their collection features everything from pre-Columbian pottery to classic European porcelains of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Art Gallery of Toronto has strong collections of European and Canadian art. One of the main attractions of the Gallery is its collection of Henry Moore sculptures, one of the largest in the world. Henry Moore personally designed the exhibit space for this collection in 1974. For more than thirty years the Textile Museum of Canada has celebrated international fiber art. Their permanent collection contains more than 12,000 textiles, from pieces as much as 2000 years old to modern designs, with samples from more than 200 regions of the world. The Bata Shoe Museum is housed in a whimsical, shoebox-shaped building designed by architect Raymond Moriyama. The museum is home to a 4,500-piece, semi-permanent "History of Shoes" exhibit that highlights examples of footwear spanning time and the globe, from ancient Egyptian sandals to the sleekly sexy stilettos of 1990s. The Bata also has three additional galleries that display special exhibits throughout the year. Underground City - Underneath It All in Montreal The weather is a harsh mistress in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The natives have fought back by establishing a modern wonder, Montreal's Underground City. The underground, as the locals call it, is a remarkable pedestrian network of train stations, shops, hotels, restaurants, museums, and more, under downtown Montreal. The underground city got its start in 1962 with the building of the Place Ville-Marie office tower and underground shopping mall. That first mall connected to Central Station (subway) and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel via tunnels. Since then the underground has grown to more than twenty-two miles of pedestrian walkways. Residents of Montreal are extremely proud of their "inside city" (not all of it is underground), the largest underground complex in the world. There are more than 150 access points to the subterranean city and more than 60% of the businesses in downtown connect to the underground. Over 500,000 people traverse the belowground pedestrian walkways and subways of Montreal each day. Several residential towers connect to the underground as well, allowing some locals to go from home to work to play without ever going outside. Some of the most stunning features of the underground complex are the subway stations. Each station is, literally, a work of art. When the subway was built 1% of the budget for each station was devoted to procuring and displaying art in the underground. A different architect designed each station in a different style and no two stations are the same. A number of well-known tourist spots in Montreal are accessible from the underground city. Things to check out without going out include Olympic Park and the Olympic Centre (built for the 1976 Olympics); the Place des Artes, home to the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Muse d'Art Contemporain de Montral); and Molson Centre, home of Montreal's hockey team, the Canadiens.
Anne's Island, Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island, Canada, known for its scenic vistas and rich agricultural tradition, is best known to literary fans as the home of a little orphan named Anne Shirley. Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the "Anne of Green Gables" series, was born on Prince Edward Island and used the island as the setting for 19 of her 20 novels. Tributes to Anne, her world, and her author, are all over the island. During the annual Charlottetown Festival a musical version of Anne's story is presented twice daily, June-September. Check the festival's website to confirm show times at www.confederationcentre.com/festival.asp. Every August the L.M. Montgomery Festival takes place in Cavendish. The festival is a three-day tribute to Anne and her creator featuring events like an old-fashioned variety show, craft classes, carriage rides, writers' workshops, barn dances, and more. For information on the current festival, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. In New London, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace is open to visitors May-October annually. This small historic location is where the author was born. Special exhibits feature a replica of her wedding dress and scrapbooks containing some of the author's poetry. The Anne of Green Gables Museum is at Silverbush, the home of the author's aunt and uncle. Montgomery was married here in 1911 and the museum features a number of family heirlooms as well as a collection of first editions of her works. The ultimate site for fans of the series is, of course, Green Gables House in Cavendish. The house, built in 1830 and where the author spent many happy childhood visits with her cousins, was restored after being damaged in a fire in 1997. Managed by Parks Canada, it now features re-creations of scenes from the novels. Visitors can also stroll down Lover's Lane or explore the Haunted Wood, both are sites featured in the books. High Rollers in the Bay of Fundy The tides in the Bay of Fundy, the waterway between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are the highest in the world, with an estimated 100 billion tons of water rolling in and out of the bay twice daily. One of the best places to see this phenomenon in action is Hopewell Rocks Park. These "flowerpot" rocks are tree-topped rocks only partially visible at high tide. Low tide reveals their delicate, sculpted bases. During low tide it is possible to actually walk on the revealed sea floor. As the tide comes in, footprints left on the flats literally disappear before people's eyes as the water rises six to eight feet per hour. In some parts of the bay the difference between high and low tide can be as much as 46 feet (14 m). Whale enthusiasts will appreciate the bay area for the variety of marine mammals attracted to its krill-rich waters during the summer months. Up to fifteen different species of toothed and baleen whales make their summer home in the waters just outside the bay. Whale-watching tours depart daily from June to October each year. For a glimpse into the planetary past, make a trip up the bay to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. These sandstone cliffs are rich with 300 million year-old fossils of everything from invertebrates to lizards and the trees of the primordial forest they lived in. The powerful tides in the Bay of Fundy are constantly eroding the cliffs, constantly revealing more fossils. No visit to the Bay of Fundy would be complete without seeing the Reversing Falls of St. John. The St. John River flows into the bay through a series of rapids. When the bay's legendary high tide occurs, the flow of sea water forces the river water back up its course, reversing the direction of the falls. Piercing Interest at Perce Rock, Quebec Gasp Peninsula in Quebec, Canada is aptly named. Its name derives from the Mi'kmaq Indian word gespeg, meaning "end of land". It is the end of an eastern Canadian peninsula, and, more interestingly, just off the coast lies Perc Rock, the far northern end of the Appalachian mountains. Perc Rock is one of nature's true wonders, and one of the most photographed places in Quebec, possibly in all of Canada. The 375 million year-old rock is an enormous limestone slab, 295 feet (90 m) wide, 279 feet (85 m) high at its highest point, and an awe-inspiring 1476 feet (450 m) long. The rock's name comes from the French word perc, "pierce", so-called for the large opening that pierces the slab near the seaward end. Legend maintains that at one point the rock was pierced in as many as four locations, but historical records only mention two holes. The second cave, to the east of the one visible today, collapsed in 1845. The sea stack L'Obelisque at the end of the monolith is an artifact of this cave-in. For four hours each day the tide recedes enough to allow people to walk across to the rock. Tourists can walk to the cave, but it is an arduous trek. A better way to see the majesty of Perc Rock is to take one of the many boat tours that go around the rock. The village of Perc was once the largest fishing port on the Gaspe Peninsula. It is now devoted to catering to the tourists who come to see the rock and visit the bird sanctuary on Bonaventure Island. It is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with hike and bike trails, camping nearby, and even scuba opportunities for those willing to brave the cold waters of Gaspe bay. The Titanic & Halifax, N.S. The story of the doomed ocean liner Titanic has captured the imagination of people all over the world since the day it sank. Halifax, in Nova Scotia, Canada is a largely unknown part of Titanic history. After the Titanic sank, the White Star Line chartered four ships from Canada to search for survivors. Two of them, the MacKay-Bennett and the Minia, were from Halifax. Of the 328 bodies recovered from the disaster site, 119 were so badly damaged or deteriorated they were buried at sea. The remaining 209 were brought to Halifax for identification, where possible. 150 of those people were buried in one of three Halifax cemeteries, based on religion (Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish), giving Halifax one of the largest concentrations of Titanic passenger burials in the world. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax houses the largest collection of wooden Titanic artifacts in the world in their permanent exhibit, Titanic: The unsinkable ship and Halifax, which opened in 1998. One of the centerpieces of the collection is a wooden deck chair, one of the only intact ones in the world known to match those in photos of the ship. A grandchild of Reverend Henry W. Cunningham gave the chair to the museum. Reverend Cunningham received the chair in recognition for his services in conducting many of the sea burials for Titanic victims. One of the most moving items on display is the log of wireless operator Robert Hunston, from Cape Race, Newfoundland. It is a condensed log of all the distress calls from the ocean liner the night it sank. Reading the log brings home the reality of the disaster and the amazingly short time in which it occurred. For more information on Halifax's role in the Titanic aftermath, visit the city's Titanic web page at www.halifax.ca/history/titanicmain.html. Polar Pleasures in Manitoba Are you a wildlife enthusiast looking for something a little different? The a trip to Churchill in Northern Manitoba, Canada is just the thing. Indulge yourself in a little retro luxury with a sleeper ticket on VIA Rail's Hudson Bay, a 2-day and night trip from Winnipeg to Churchill. The indulgence is worth it, since the destination, Churchill, is a no-frills sub-arctic town. This train is another of VIA Rail's outdoor enthusiast routes and offers their unscheduled stop service to passengers who make advance arrangements for it. Churchill, a tiny village with a permanent population that fluctuates between 800 and 1100, is known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World. The town, sitting between the Churchill River and Hudson Bay, is on the polar bears' annual migration route. Peak season for polar bear sighting is from mid-October to mid-November each year. Polar bear viewing is best done by arrangement with one of the many tour operators in Churchill who will take out in a tundra buggy, vehicles specially designed for the safety of people, polar bears, and the local tundra. Manitoba's beluga whale population migrates to the Churchill River and Hudson Bay every summer during July and August. There are approximately 20,000 whales living in the area, and about 3,000 of them summer in the river estuary to give birth. Visitors have a chance to view, and, with many tours, swim with, these beautiful creatures. Bird-watching enthusiasts should try to make the trip to Churchill sometime between mid-June and mid-July. According to the Churchill Northern Studies Institute, birdwatchers can expect to see approximately 100 species, easily, over the course of a four- to seven-day trip. For more information on species commonly seen, or at least heard in some cases, check out the birdwatching page on the Instute's website at www.churchillscience.ca/index.php?page=ab_attrac_birds. Ride the VIA Rail in the west Travel in western Canada can be adventurous, romantic, and fun. All you have to do is take the train. VIA Rail, Canada's federal Crown corporation railway system, offers several routes to travelers who want to see Canada without having to drive through it. The Canadian is the western transcontinental train, a three-day journey from Toronto to Vancouver with stops along the way in Winnipeg, Jasper, and Edmonton, among others. Truly adventurous travelers who want to plan their own vacation can even request special stops anywhere between Sudbury Junction and Winnipeg, a service the rail line touts to outdoor enthusiasts. The Skeena takes riders for a breathtaking trip along the Canadian Rockies and out to the Pacific, traveling from Jasper to Prince Rupert in British Columbia with an overnight stop in Prince George. Be warned, though, the Skeena does not have sleeping cars and passengers need to take care of their own accommodation needs in Prince George. The Malahat is a four and half hour trip up or down Vancouver Island, from Victoria at the south end to Courtenay in the north central part of the island. Malahat only offers one class of rail travel, the comfort class, but this fare includes the unique privilege of getting on and off the train as many times as you want from one end of the line to the other. The train departs once daily from each end of the line and, at C$28 is a great bargain for the budget-minded traveler. In 2007 VIA Rail added the winter-only Snow Train Express from Edmonton to Jasper, departing Friday and returning on Sunday--perfect for a weekend ski getaway. Since this is a new route, and a seasonal one, check in advance to see if this service is still available before making your plans. Summer with Santa in Bracebridge, Ontario What does Santa do all summer? If you have been asked this question one too many times, this year travel to Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada and find the answer. Bracebridge, just north of Toronto, sits on the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. Since 1955, Bracebridge has been home to Santa's Village Family Entertainment Park, Santa Claus' preferred summer vacation spot. Not sure what to do first? After being greeted by Santa himself in Santa Square guests can catch a ride around the 50-acre park on the Candy Cane Express miniature train and use it to get your bearings. Santa is not the only one on vacation over the summer; the elves are too. The park is full of ways to amuse elves (and children). Enjoy net climbing excitement in the Elves Island Play Area. Ride Rudolph's Sleigh Ride Roller Coaster, the Christmas Ball Ferris Wheel, the Merry-Go-Round, and more. Children can create customized souvenir crafts in the Elves Workshop and Candy Cane Lane features a variety of skill games to hone hand-eye coordination. Live entertainers perform at the park throughout the season. Santa's Village also features a petting zoo complete with goats, sheep, and deer, though not reindeer since Bracebridge is too warm for those hardy animals. One of the attractions of this summer home away from the North Pole is warm weather and the chance to cool off in Santa's Splash Zone. Work up a sweat paddling around lemonade lagoon in one of Santa's Paddleboats or relax and let someone else do the work when you take Santa's Summer Sleigh Jetboat Cruise. The park is open 10am to 6pm from June to September. For more specific information about Santa's Village, or to make reservations, visit the park on the web at www.santasvillage.ca . Wolf Bluff Castle at Cortes Island, Vancouver If you are traveling in Canada near Vancouver, be sure to visit Cortes Island. The island boasts a number of attractions, but none is as unusual as Wolf Bluff Castle. Wolf Bluff is not your average castle. It is new enough that its age is measured in years, not decades or centuries. It is not crumbling or falling down--probably because it is made of cinder blocks. You can even meet the man who built it. Karl Triller, owner and builder of Wolf Bluff Castle (known locally as King Karl's Kastle), grew up in Hungary dreaming of castles. When he moved to Cortes Island, he decided to make his dream a reality. When Karl was building the castle wolves were abundant on the island, hence the name. Karl designed and built the five-story, triple-turreted, eight-bedroom castle from the ground up. He even made all 13,000 cement blocks used to construct the castle and spent 12 years completing it. In the past, Wolf Bluff Castle was a bed and breakfast, but age has forced Karl, a former professional chef, to stop preparing and serving guest meals. The castle's modern full-service kitchen is available for self-catering during longer stays. It is also a base of operations for caterers serving events in the dining hall, a room with space to seat up to one hundred people. What castle is complete without a dungeon? Karl's dungeon is also a torture chamber and features homemade dummies in various states of torment with placards announcing their sins. Karl himself, who does not charge admission but does ask for a donation, leads castle tours. Do you want to relive that childhood fantasy of being lord of all you survey or a damsel in a tower? It can happen - talk to Karl about staying the night in Cortes Island's Wolf Bluff Castle. Old School Mini Golf at Dinosaur Valley, Ontario If you're traveling in Ontario, Canada with your kids anytime between May 1st and September 8th and find yourself anywhere near Greater Sudbury, make some time, a day would be best, to detour to Dinosaur Valley Mini Golf for a unique experience in family entertainment. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, this singular attraction offers service in both English and French. The park began as a dream for owners Josee and Marcel Rainville, who, after five years of work, completed the first 9-hole course in 1998. Over the years five more courses were added as well as the amazing steel dinosaurs, all scaled to size. The park owners make all of the skeletal replicas. Dinosaur Valley offers a variety of amusement options ranging from a total of 54 unique holes of miniature golf to labyrinths and over 20 mammoth dinosaur and insect exhibits, plus their new Raptor and Dragon exhibits, added in 2006. It is fun with a purpose, too. The Rainvilles have dedicated the entire park to cancer families to honor of the memory of their son, Steven, who died of leukemia. Dinosaur Valley also hosted Canada's first Pro Mini Golf Tournament in which 100% of the proceeds were donated to charity (the Canadian Cancer Society). This family fun centre is reasonably priced, too, with labyrinth entry only C$2.50 per person and 18 holes of miniature golf starting at C$5.99 for children and C$7.00 for adults. While some of the exhibits may be a little extra, most of the extraordinary metal models are incorporated into the golf courses. The park accepts cash, debit, Visa, and American Express. For those of you who like to plan ahead, you can book your visit to Dinosaur Valley Mini Golf online via their website, www.dinosaursudbury.ca. Callebaut Chocolate While in Calgary, gastronomes and chocoholics alike should swing by the home office of Callebaut Chocolate, 1313 1st Street SE, for Canadian chocolates with Old World style. Bernard Callebaut grew up in Belgium next door to the factory where his family had been making chocolate for the previous four generations. In 1980, when the family decided to sell the Belgian chocolate business to Swiss chocolate giant Suchard Toblerone (they still owned, among other things, a brewery), Bernard decided to emigrate. We wanted to bring truly excellent, gourmet chocolate to the Americas. After touring cities throughout America and Canada, he fell in love with the mountains and culture of Calgary. There he began anew with Bernard Callebaut chocolates. His family was convinced he had gone mad, making high-quality chocolates for a people who, generally, would not know the difference between that and paper-wrapped bar from the gas station. They were wrong. The first day his chocolate shop was open he made $700 and by the end of his first year in business he had made $200,000. He doubled that the following year. What is his secret, the thing that will get North Americans to pay more for his delectable treats? There is no secret. Callebaut is happy to tell people how to make his chocolates and even occasionally teaches courses at his Calgary factory and world headquarters. The trick is to use fresh, organic ingredients with no additives. His chocolates do not contain preservatives or vegetable oils. He is so open about his methods he even has recipes for some of the things they sell in the shop posted on his website at www.bernardcallebaut.com. At Bernard Callebaut they are happy to give visitors a tour of the factory as long as it is arranged in advance. The tour is great and the best part is, of course, the free samples.
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