27
06/2017

Highlights on The Great Canadian Bucket List

I’m often asked about my favourite experiences on The Great Canadian Bucket List, but the truth is, the book (and website) are all my favourites. Not everything I did made it into the bucket list, and each experience is as unique as the person who will be experiencing them. Should I say heli-skiing to someone who loves food more than mountains? Or a winter festival to someone who doesn’t do cold? With this in mind, here’s a list of highlights that will appeal to different tastes, no matter what you’re into.

If you’re a foodie…

Wine regions offer more than just wine. They are the ultimate gastronomic promise, heading the charge of the farm-to-table shebang, with fresh meals curated by world-class chefs. Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario), the Okanagan Valley (BC) and the Annapolis Valley (NS) deliver on this promise, where vineyard restaurant experiences can be exceptional. Seafood available in Atlantic Canada – clam, lobster, oyster, mussel – is a different planet from your big city seafood joint. Yes, they get that big! For sauces, cheese, oils, spices and other edibles to salivate over, don’t miss our world class markets like Granville Island (Vancouver), The Forks (Winnipeg), St Lawrence (Toronto) and Ottawa’s ByWard market.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie…

Follow US politics? No, that’s way too crazy. Perhaps try bungee jumping in Whistler BC, or North America’s highest plummet with Great Canadian Bungee outside of Wakefield, QC. Tandem skydiving is still my all-time favourite adrenalin pickle, the higher the better. Edmonton Skydive has a 14,000ft, 60 second freefall, which I guarantee will be a lifetime highlight. Fear knows no bounds outside Grand Falls, New Brunswick, where Open Sky Adventures introduces North Americans to the art of deepelling (that is, front-facing rappelling) off a cliff. It’s like bungee jumping in slow motion. Via ferratas in BC, Alberta and Quebec offer all the thrills of mountain climbing with none of the danger. Other highlights from The Great Canadian Bucket List: raft a genuine tidal bore on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River, cave swim in the Magdalen Islands, race a stock car in Saskatoon, ice-canoe across the frozen St Lawrence in Quebec City, heli-ski in BC, zipline in Whistler, and dunk yourself in a waterfall somewhere in the high Arctic. All of which are far more interesting than any house senate investigation.

If you’re a nature-lover…

Our incredible National Parks, just choose your pick. Banff or Jasper, containing the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world (where you don’t have to battle altitude sickness and require a Sherpa to get around). Prince Edward Island National Park, with its striking red shores? Newfoundland’s Gros Morne, with its moonscape Tablelands and jaw-dropping inland fjord? Fundy National Park, where you can watch the world’s highest tides flush into a beautiful bay? Tidal pools and battered coastal rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park are yours alone when conquering the West Coast Trail. Further north is Canada’s very own Galapagos: the archipelago known as Haida Gwaii. Grasslands or Prince Albert National Park sparkle under an overwhelming prairie sky, and then you get the mighty parks of the north – Wood Buffalo, Kluane, Ivvavik, Auyuittuq – impossibly remote and staggeringly beautiful.

If you’re a cultural connoisseur…

You’d expect the culture vultures to be perching in Toronto, which makes Winnipeg all the more rewarding and interesting. Home to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the boisterous Winnipeg Folk Fest, art, music and culture flow through the very pipes of this city. For something a little cooler, try the world’s largest winter festival in Quebec City each February, when the temperature plummets but the romance of a walled city in North America heats up. Heading west, you can’t appreciate the prairies and Canada’s agricultural lifestyle without a visit to the Calgary Stampede, when the whole city gets behind pancake breakfasts, white hats, rodeos, and the local wildlife dancing away in Nashville North. Personally, I travel to learn as much about the world as I do about myself. For example, I learned that watching an outdoor CFL game in sub-zero temperatures makes Canadian football fans as insane as any around the world, and also: it’s easy to snuggle up to Roughrider fans when it’s -10C in Mosaic Stadium. Saskatoon’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park is an insightful and moving glimpse into the cultural tapestry and immense challenges facing Canada’s First Nations. Fiddle me timbers in Cape Breton, explore the great national museums of Ottawa, and give a standing ovation at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Bravo Canada, Bravo.

A Winning Photo by Fanny Vincent

If you’re into quirky Canadiana…

A cocktail served with a severed human toe? A delicacy that consists of raw baby beluga skin? Floating downriver among tens of thousands of migrating salmon? A hair freezing contest? A crooked aspen grove attributed to aliens? Or perhaps a cold sauna in a glitzy resort that promises it will only freeze you half to death? Canada is weirder than the world gives it credit for.

If you’re a history buff…

Located in Cape Breton, Louisbourg is the largest historical reconstruction project in North America. It’s like a Disneyland for people who enjoy 17th century colonial fortresses. Beyond the national museums in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights not only dominates Winnipeg’s skyline, it weighs heavy on Canada’s past too. The RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina illuminates the history of Canada’s most recognizable symbol, and after trying on the Red Serge, drive to Moose Jaw to explore the tunnels where Al Capone’s men were rumoured to have run their racket. Going further back, you can also visit the outlaw caves of Saskatchewan’s Big Muddy Badlands. Lift the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and blast a cannon at the Halifax Citadel. Learn how and why Columbus was not the first European to visit Canada in Newfoundland’s L’anse Aux Meadows, and going even further back, visit ancient Thule sites in the Arctic. Further still, touch the the 70 million-year-old dinosaur bones on display in and around Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Photo: Bhaskar Krishnamurthy

If you’re an animal lover…

Churchill Manitoba has two unique wildlife experiences: polar bears in fall and beluga whales in summer. Further north, I trekked among muskox, Arctic fox and caribou in the Arctic, even snatching a glimpse of a rare wolverine. I recently took my daughter to Saguenay, where we stayed at Fermes 5 Etoiles, an eco-farm with a who’s who of (rescued) Canadian wildlife. She went nuts for the fox and a large grey wolf named Jacob. Exceptional whale watching to be found off the coasts of Vancouver Island, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, and in the Bay of Fundy. Track wolves in Prince Albert National Park, where you can also sneak up on a herd of bison by horseback. There’s only two islands in the world where you can encounter the mythical Spirit Bear, and they’re both in northern British Columbia. Stare down a grizzly bear at bear-viewing lodges nearby. A more canine highlight is dogsledding outside of Whitehorse. As your pack slides you along the frozen Takhini River, you’ll quickly learn it all comes down to teamwork, and that a Yukon mutt can truly be man’s best friend.

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