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Travel In Canada

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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

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

The velodrome built for the 1976 Games was re-purposed for education in 1992
and is now known as the Biod™me. 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

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

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, 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

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

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 dŽcor 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 (MusŽe d'Art Contemporain de
MontrŽal); 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

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:

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

GaspŽ 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 PercŽ
Rock, the far northern end of the Appalachian mountains.

PercŽ 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 percŽ, "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 PercŽ Rock is to take one of the many boat tours that
go around the rock.

The village of PercŽ 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

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

For more information on Halifax's role in the Titanic aftermath, visit the
city's Titanic web page at

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

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

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

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 .

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

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

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,

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

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

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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