08/12/2013 03:36 EDT | Updated 08/16/2013 06:53 EDT

Canadian Travel Ideas: 13 Alternatives To Big-City Summer Tourism


Summer's the perfect time to escape the busy urban lifestyle in Canada. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying fine dining in Vancouver’s swankiest restaurants, shopping for high-end fashions on Toronto’s Bloor Street, or parading through elite nightclubs in downtown Montreal. But there’s much more to discover in this huge, diverse nation.

You might have a taste for wine or yen for dinosaurs. Maybe you have a fascination with gangsters or a desire to drive through remote wilderness. Whatever your dream is, fulfil it in one of Canada’s 10 provinces or three territories – just by venturing off the beaten path. Ready to explore?

13 Canadian Alternatives To Big City Tourism. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.

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Tour The Okanagan Wine Country: British Columbia

With lush vineyards and endless sunshine, the Okanagan region could easily seduce you into believing you’re in California. Where to start? Sample more than 600 local wines at the VQA (Vinters Quality Alliance) Wine Information Centre in Penticton, less than a five-hour drive from Vancouver.

In nearby Kelowna, Mission Hill Family Estate, repeatedly named Canada’s Winery of the Year, is famed for both its Oculus red wine and its award-winning Terrace Restaurant.

Looking for a delight in the desert? Head to Osoyoos, B.C.. Nk’Mip Cellars, Canada’s first aboriginal-owned and operated winery, produces fantastic Chardonnays and Pinot Blancs in the northern Sonoran Desert. Everywhere, horseback riding, golfing, boating, and spas beckon when you’re not sipping something intoxicating.

Visit Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta

Take your dinosaur-obsessed kids on a fun fossil-finding mission in the badlands. In Dinosaur Provincial Park, about two and a half hours east of Calgary, paleontologists have found the remains of 30-plus types of dinosaurs.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the park is renowned for guided hikes. Take a Fossil Safari and learn how to identify such species as the Lambeosaurus lambei and Chasmosaurus belli, along with the bones of fish, turtles, and lizards.

If your kids get tired of fossil-gazing, there are also dino-themed amphitheatre shows, special children’s programs, and on-site camping that add to the park’s allure.

Roam The Tunnels Of Moose Jaw: Saskatchewan

You might think of Al Capone as Chicago’s premier Prohibition-era gangster, but legend has it that the notorious mob boss also hung out in Saskatchewan. Here in Moose Jaw, you can go underground and learn about the 1920’s bootlegging era.

Tunnels connect the basements of many of Moose Jaw’s downtown buildings, which were heated by steam a century ago. Reportedly, Capone exploited the tunnels to sell booze. Two 50-minute tours, one about bootlegging and one about Chinese immigrants, bring this colourful epoch to life with costumed interpreters. The gift shop offers whimsical souvenirs like bottles of “El Capone’s Gun Fire: Gut-Wrenchin’ Hot Sauce.”

Visit The Mennonite Heritage Village In Steinbach: Manitoba

The spirit of the Mennonites, a Russian religious group that emigrated to Manitoba in the late 19 century, endures at the Mennonite Heritage Village. At this 17-hectare living museum, view art exhibitions on prairie barns and windmills, shop for handcrafted art at the General Store, and devour pork sausages and rhubarb pie at the Livery Barn Restaurant.

Take The Agawa Canyon Train Tour From Sault Ste. Marie: Ontario

This is one of Canada’s great day trips: a 184-kilometre odyssey through northern Ontario. Trains depart at 8:00 a.m. from Sault Ste. Marie and chug through the granite Canadian Shield landscape contoured by the last Ice Age. While admiring the grand sweep of lakes, rivers, and woodland, travellers can listen to audio commentary in five languages and learn about native history and the European fur trappers. There’s also an hour and a half-long stop in Canyon Park before heading back.

Enjoy Regional Cuisine In The Iles De La Madeleine: Quebec

Who’d suspect that an eight-island archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence would boast such a thriving food and beverage scene? This hidden Quebec gem features L’Abri de la Tempete, a microbrewery known for mingling home-grown ingredients as algae and wildflowers with smoked malt. The artisan cheeses at Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent are another highlight. Local restaurants also feature traditional smoked herring and lobster for travelling seafood lovers.

Cycle The Confederation Trail: Prince Edward Island

Love to bike? The Confederation Trail is a genuinely picturesque and relaxing way to explore Prince Edward Island. Out in the countryside, you’ll bike past old railway stations, quaint villages, eagles perched in trees, and fertile farmland. Cover up to 400 kilometres, mostly on easy gravel surfaces. B&B’s and hotels on this stretch of the Trans-Canada Trail welcome cyclists.

View Wildlife In Kouchibouguac National Park: New Brunswick

An hour northeast of Moncton, Kouchibouguac National Park is a superb place to spot grey seals romping in the ocean – sometimes by the hundreds. Take a guided three-hour Voyageur canoe tour, and you’ll also spot colonies of common terns in Northumberland Strait. The sand dunes offer great hiking, while kids can enjoy the park’s puppet theatre shows and programs for budding naturalists.

Explore The Fortress Of Louisbourg On Cape Breton Island: Nova Scotia

The Fortress of Louisbourg is North America’s biggest rebuilt 18th-century town of French origin. A day trip to this Nova Scotia landmark recaptures the exciting period when this continent’s fate was still up for grabs. Cannons loom atop stone ramparts. Actors portray soldiers and merchants. The King’s Bakery burgeons with fresh-baked loaves. A dozen historic buildings invite exploration. If you’ve ever wondered about life in 1744, this is your chance to time travel.

Discover Canada’s Viking Legacy At L’Anse Aux Meadows: Newfoundland

Today, Newfoundland’s known for friendly folks and sea shanties, but it once hosted the best-known Viking settlement in North America. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, L’Anse aux Meadows sits on the northern tip of the island. Guests can encounter Viking-costumed interpreters in sod huts, check out replicas of the site’s original Norse artifacts, and hike to neighbouring bays and lakes.

Drive The Dempster Highway: Yukon

Think highway driving is bland? Not when you’re crossing the Arctic Circle. The Dempster Highway offers a magnificent 736-kilometre run from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. When you’re not admiring the Richardson, Ogilvie and Tombstone mountain ranges, you’ll be spotting caribou, bears, and wolves along this isolated highway.

Paddle The Nahanni River: Northwest Territories

Barely 1,000 visitors a year come to the Nahanni National Park Reserve. When paddling the Nahanni River, your adventure starts from the Dene native village of Fort Simpson. Viewing Virginia Falls (around twice as high as Niagara Falls) braving the wild waters of Figure 8 Rapids, and relaxing at the natural sulphur Kraus Hotsprings are all on the menu. Budget up to two weeks for a guided whitewater raft or canoe tour in this mountainous Northwest Territories region.

Investigate Inuit Art In Cape Dorset: Nunavut

Established in 1999, Nunavut is Canada’s newest territory, but this vast northern area has an artistic tradition that dates back centuries. In the village of Cape Dorset, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative is an ideal spot to check out beautiful soapstone carvings, tapestries, and prints. Colourful depictions of everything from owls and ptarmigans to goddesses and snowmobiles abound at this local mainstay.