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10 Unique City Tours Around the World

Posted May 5, 2014 by SmarterTravel.com

(Photo: Magic Bus)

See a completely different side of a city when you break away from the mob of tourists following the guide with the red umbrella. On these 10 unique city tours, you'll venture into the Bronx with an old-school rapper, see abandoned buildings in Portugal's second city, and go longboarding through Amsterdam's most famous park. You're sure to come home with a camera full of authentic experiences that most visitors miss.

 

(Photo: Bats Over Congress Avenue Bridge via Shutterstock)

Never Unpack Your Travel Items

Crowds gather from March through October on the Congress Avenue Bridge to see a natural spectacle that has earned the resident bat colony celebrity status in Austin. Each night at dusk, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the bridge, swirling like a black ribbon into the sky. For a unique perspective on the mass exodus, watch it from the water on a Congress Avenue Kayaks bat tour. With a small group of 10, you'll paddle under the bridge in sit-on-top kayaks. After encountering the bats, you can venture out on your own to see other sights on the water.

Details: The 90-minute kayak bat tour departs at sunset in season and is $30 for a two-person kayak.

Insider Tip: You can also watch the bats from the Four Seasons Hotel Austin's lobby lounge, which serves a "Batini" cocktail. Plan an August visit to coincide with the city's annual bat festival.

 

(Photo: Magic Bus San Francisco Tour)

1960s Summer of Love Tour, San Francisco, California

It's all peace, love, and bubble-spewing on this psychedelic hippie bus that takes you on a trip back to San Francisco's 1960s counterculture. The Magic Bus Tour stops at landmarks of the city's hippie movement; you can even join in a drum circle (this time without the purple haze). On the bus, a groovy guide/actor will share interesting stories and rock out with you to the music of the era. It's a multimedia adventure that evokes the decade's politics and attitudes through live action and video projections on the bus's retractable window screens. The tour hits Chinatown and the North Beach spot where Jack Kerouac hung out. You'll see Golden Gate Park and the crossroads of Haight and Ashbury streets, home of the Summer of Love, in a whole new light.

Details: The two-hour tour is $55 and starts at Union Square.

Insider Tip: Bring a jacket or sweater. It can be chilly at Golden Gate Park even if it's warm downtown at the tour's start.

 

(Photo: Rob Moody)

Downtown Yoga Tour, Asheville, North Carolina

Take your downward dog downtown in Asheville, North Carolina. On this Travelling Yogini Tour, you'll strike a pose and connect with your breath in several of the city's iconic spots. A yoga guide will start with beginner-level stretches and, as you move from Pritchard Park to the Flat Iron Building to the artsy Chicken Alley district, the poses will become more challenging. By the time you finish with a cooldown and meditation, you'll have heard about Asheville's history and architecture. Between flowing in and out of poses, you'll meet street performers, artists, and others who are out exploring the city.

Details: The 90-minute downtown tour is $20.

Insider Tip: Along the way, the yoga guide will point out funky boutiques and specialty shops, giving you interesting tidbits on the history and products so you can plan your apres-yoga shopping route.

 

(Photo: Berlinagenten)

Urban Home-Visit Tour, Berlin, Germany

Want an invitation to sit in a Berliner's flat and chat over coffee or beer? The Urban Living Tour, the ultimate insider's tour, will introduce you to three different Berliners in three different neighborhoods. You'll get to go inside their homes and spend an hour visiting and checking out their decor. The hosts you'll meet will depend on who is in town on the day you're visiting. It could be a set designer in an underground courtyard apartment or a photographer with an uber-luxe pad on a main thoroughfare built in the Stalin era. While you snoop around and see how they live, you'll hear about what drew them to the city and what they love about it.

Details: The 4.5-hour tour includes visits to three private apartments, drinks and sweets, sightseeing between the visits, transport, and a private guide. Prices vary based on how many people are taking the tour; see website for details.

Insider Tip: Keep an open mind and come with questions.

 

(Photo: Dominic Stevenson)

City Tour Led by Homeless Guide, London, England

See London through the eyes of someone who lives on the city's streets. Unseen Tours hires and professionally trains homeless and formerly homeless people to lead its walking tours of London Bridge, Camden, Shoreditch, and Convent Garden. See the stark contrast between historical landmarks and sites where the guides have slept, hear riveting personal stories, and discover tucked-away places few others ever experience. The tour ends at either a pub or a cafe, so you can carry on with your guide or group in a discussion that ebbs between the politics of street begging and the effects of gentrification on the East End.

Details: The tour runs $9 to $14 per hour and usually lasts about 90 minutes.

Insider Tip: On each tour, the company reserves two free spots for those who are either unable to pay or are accompanying someone as a caregiver. Wondering how much of the ticket sales goes back to the guide? About 80 percent. Unseen Tours was the winner for best tour operator for local experiences in the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2011.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

'Worst' Walking Tour, Porto, Portugal

This tour in Portugal's second-largest city is the antithesis of a tourist trap. Avoiding all of Porto's polished postcard-perfect sites, it takes visitors past decrepit homes and crumbling shops. Started by three out-of-work architects who stuck around after the country was hit hard by the recession, The Worst Tours will show you the not-for-tourists sites and guides will tell stories about the old markets and abandoned buildings, helping you understand what's behind Europe's economic crisis. Learn about Porto's architecture, history, politics, and urbanism from a few people who are "OK with not being popular or cool or the best in anything, least of all touring."

Details: Tours are two to three hours and are free.

Insider Tip: Let your guide know which parts of the city you've already visited and what your interests are, and he or she will create a route that shows you things you haven't seen.

 

(Photo: Urban Adventures)

Gwana Music Tour, Essaouira, Morocco

New this spring, the Gnawa Music Experience tour gives you a unique encounter with one of Morocco's off-the-charts popular trends: trance-like Gnawa music and its acrobatic dance moves. You'll be introduced to the addictive music's Afro-Moroccan culture and customs in the medina, where musicians will be jamming. Then, you'll step inside hidden domains typically inaccessible to visitors: You'll go into the home of a dancer to see him perform, watch a troupe master play a traditional lute-like instrument in his private quarters, and visit a temple where sacred rituals drive out evil spirits.

Details: The evening tour costs around $100 and lasts two to three hours.

Insider Tip: Both men and women should dress with respect, covering everything from the shoulders to the knees. At the end of the tour, your guide can recommend places to go dancing where you'll hear Gnawa music fused with Western and Latin music.

 

(Photo: TripAdvisor LLC)

Hip-Hop Tour, New York, New York

With a legendary hip-hop artist as your guide, Hush Tours will give you a truly entertaining experience in the Bronx and Harlem, the birthplace of the culture. Here, people on the street might recognize and give shout-outs to the Hush Tours guides—Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, and others—as they delve into four aspects of hip-hop culture: DJing, MCing, B-boy and B-girl dancing, and graffiti artistry. You'll see the important landmarks and check out where Biggie, Nas, and Jay-Z grew up on this fun tour.

Details: Tours range from two hours ($32) to four hours ($75).

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. At one point on the tour, you'll learn hip-hop moves and try them out on the streets.

 

(Photo: LiveToronto)

Date-Night City Tour with a Photographer, Toronto, Canada

Nothing against snapping a selfie with your iPhone, but on LiveToronto's Date Night Tour, you'll get enviable pics (without your arm) for posting on Facebook or printing in a photo book. Depending on your interests (sports, architecture, music, etc.), your personal paparazzo will plan a walking route to hit Toronto's key sites and set up photo ops. As you explore downtown's icons and hidden gems, your photographer guide will share interesting details about each landmark while capturing everything from classic poses to silly shots. Choose your own adventure: You can include the Harbourfront, the base of the CN Tower, Osgoode Hall, Roundhouse Park, and others.

Details: The 60-minute private tour is $100 to $200 per couple and includes 50 fully edited digital photos, which will be delivered within 24 hours.

Insider Tip: Don't surprise your significant other with this date-night tour—there are too many things to consider beforehand (including hair, nails, and a second outfit or pair of shoes for another look). The company runs tours for families and corporate groups, too.

 

(Photo: Vondelsurfing)

Longboarding Tour, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

You won't find this longboard tour through Vondelpark in your guidebook or officially operated by any local tour company. But check Vayable.com and there it is: Vondelsurfing, offered by a "semi-professional amateur" longboarder named Milan V. In the new sharing economy, websites like Vayable.com connect you with a vetted local guide. Here, Milan V. puts you on a long skateboard in the middle of Amsterdam's most popular park, hands you a rope, and pulls you behind a fixie bicycle for a couple of hours. It's a chance to see the park like a true hipster Amsterdammer, says Milan V., who has hosted beginners as well as seasoned longboarders.

Details: The two-hour tour is $24 and includes all gear, a drink, and photo/video of your ride.

Insider Tip: Vondelsurfing is fun in pairs of two, so you can switch and watch how the other is doing.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Truly Unique City Tours Around the World.

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10 Best National Parks Around the World

Posted October 18, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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National parks are kind of an American thing. After all, we established the first one (Yellowstone) in 1872. But it didn't take long for the idea to catch on overseas, and these days the international community can give even our most impressive parks a run for their money. If you love exotic wildlife, ancient ruins, and otherworldly scenery, you might want to add these 10 foreign national parks to your bucket list.

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Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Where else can you enjoy mountains, lakes, fjords, and rainforests in one park? Fiordland National Park, located on New Zealand's South Island, encompasses a massive almost 3 million acres (roughly 4,687 square miles) formed by glacial flows. The most famous of the park's 14 fjords is Milford Sound, which visitors can explore from all angles: Take a helicopter ride above it, cruise on the water, or go below (without getting wet) at the Milford Discovery Center's underwater viewing chamber, which offers 360-degree views of the ecosystem and rare black coral some 30 feet underwater.

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Tikal National Park, Guatemala

You'll feel like you've traveled back in time at Guatemala's Tikal National Park, where ruins of an ancient Maya city-state (which housed approximately 100,000 people from the 6th century BCE to the 10th century CE) lie deep in the heart of the jungle. Remains of more than 3,000 separate buildings (including temples, palaces, and tombs) are preserved here. The massive archaeological site feels even more otherworldly as it is surrounded by 54,610 acres (roughly 85 square miles) of rainforest, now inhabited by a wide variety of wild animals such as monkeys, jaguars, snakes, sloths, and armadillos.

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

Wildlife watchers, this is the park for you. Kruger National Park's almost 4.9 million acres (roughly 7,722 square miles) are home to an incredible variety of species: 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals—and of course that includes the "Big Five" of African game (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo). There are numerous ways to traverse the park, from the wilderness walking trails (where you'll be accompanied by armed guards) to traditional safaris and 4WD trails.

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Galapagos National Park, Ecuador

An astonishing 97 percent of the land area of the Galapagos Islands is part of this national park (the other 3 percent is the inhabited islands, on which tourists can find overnight accommodations, if they don't choose to do a cruise). To visit the park, you'll need to pay a $100 entry fee, and you'll have to be part of a tour that is accompanied by a Galapagos National Park certified guide—there's no doing this park solo. You'll be rewarded with one-of-a-kind wildlife spotting, including the giant tortoise, Galapagos Penguin, marine iguana, and blue-footed booby.

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Kluane National Park and Reserve, Canada

Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to Canada's highest mountain (Mt. Logan), more than 100 species of birds (including golden and bald eagles), glaciers, and grizzly bears. Visit in the summer when this park, located in the southwestern corner of the Yukon, experiences up to 19 hours of continuous sunlight per day! Although more than 80 percent of the park's landscape is comprised of mountains and glaciers (more than 4,000 of them), the park still has plenty of greenery—there are meadows and forests that house wide ranges of wildlife, from mountain goats to Dall sheep.

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Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan

This national park consists of four different regions: The Mt. Fuji area (home to the highest mountain in Japan, fields formed by lava flows, and five volcanic lakes), the Hakone area (famous for its hot springs and botanical garden), the Izu Peninsula area (featuring the Mt. Amagi volcanic mountain range and Atagawa Tropical and Alligator Garden, which houses 29 reptile species), and the Izu Islands (a group of islands formed by submarine volcanoes).

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world's most visually arresting places. Its glaciers, lakes, green forests, and rivers are framed by mountains and towered over by the Torres del Paine (granite pillars that rise more than 9,000 feet above the Patagonian steppe). Amid the beautiful scenery, you'll find more than 100 species of exotic birds (including parakeets and flamingos), guanacos (similar to llamas), pumas, and the endangered Chilean huemul (a species of deer).

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Canaima National Park, Venezuela

The star attraction of Canaima National Park is Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, which drops for more than half a mile before hitting the rapids. The park itself is roughly the size of Belgium (12,000 square miles) and about 65 percent of its terrain is tepuis—plateaus of rock that create the amazing cliffs and mountains that make this park so picturesque. This national park is actually inhabited—it's home to the indigenous Pemon Indians.

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

If you want to experience some of Africa's best wildlife viewing, Serengeti National Park is the place to do it. Every year, more than a million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and 300,000 Thomson's gazelles make their annual migrations from the northern hills to the southern plains, making for some amazing safari photo ops. Even if you come when the migration is not happening, you'll still likely see the Big Five, plus cheetahs, Nile crocodiles, monkeys, giraffes, and much more.

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Swiss National Park, Switzerland

Switzerland's only national park is one of Europe's best-protected natural environments—hunting, mowing, off-trail hiking, and tree cutting are all forbidden within the park's more than 42,000 acres. (You can't even bring your dog.) The park's landscape is classic Switzerland, with Alpine forests and meadows, The Sound of Music-esque scenery (including edelweiss flowers), and mountain lakes.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Best National Parks Around the World.

Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

 

A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Posted October 11, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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Breathe in the ocean air and let the welcoming smiles of St. Andrews' locals invite you into this charming seaside town. Whether strolling along quaint downtown streets, venturing out onto the ocean floor at low tide, or lingering over a meal of regional delicacies, there's no lack of beauty in this close-knit community. Here are some favorite discoveries from my summertime tour of St. Andrews.

Whale Watching

St. Andrews is set on the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the highest tides in the world—each day, the tidal cycle moves about 100 billion tons of water in and out of the bay. During the summer months, these waters are home to all types of whales, including minkes, humpbacks, and right whales, which some consider the world's rarest. Every year, they make their way to the Bay of Fundy to feed, fatten, and mate, and a visit to the region just isn't complete without venturing out for some face time with the majestic giants. Fundy Tide Runners, headed up by gregarious and knowledgeable captain David Welch, is the best game in town for thrilling, up-close animal sightings and even better storytelling. Welch spent his childhood summers on nearby Deer Island, and his intimate knowledge of the West Isles was on display during my excursion on the 24-foot Zodiac. We were miles from shore, yet Welch recognized every sailor and lobsterman who crossed our path; each time, he'd pull up alongside the neighboring boat and ask after their families, how the catch was that day, and whether they'd spotted the elusive minke that everyone was talking about. Each interaction was an illustration of the ties that bind this seaside community.

Kingsbrae Garden

Tear yourself away from the shops and restaurants along downtown St. Andrews' Water Street and you'll be richly rewarded with a vibrant display of plants, flowers, and sculptures in Kingsbrae Garden. Themed gardens, bridges crossing lily-pad-strewn ponds, pergolas draped with flowering vines, a working Dutch windmill, and a farm area with alpaca, pygmy goats, and peacocks are just some of the sights in this 27-acre horticultural masterpiece set on the grounds of a former estate. I could have spent all day taking in its serene beauty. Aside from the natural scenery, what struck me was its cheerful, beaming workers, each friendlier than the next: a gardener lovingly repotting herbs, another pushing a wheelbarrow filled with dirt and weeds, a craftsman painstakingly applying a fresh coat of paint to a life-sized metal horse in the sculpture garden. Maintaining the grounds is truly a labor of love, and it shows. The Algonquin Resort The pride of every St. Andrews resident, the iconic Algonquin Resort sits high on a hill like a grand guardian watching over town. During my visit, the resort was deep in the midst of a $30 million renovation, but I was lucky enough to get a private hard-hat tour of the site with the resort's general manager, Tim Ostrem. Although the grounds were host to construction vehicles rather than guests, it was easy to picture the elegant, historical property post-transformation. Ostrem's boundless enthusiasm helped; as we walked through room after room, he painted pictures of the grandeur that the Algonquin would reclaim when its now-skeletal rooms were brought back to life. The Algonquin Resort will officially reopen this fall, and recent photos show that it is well on its way to becoming the luxurious retreat Ostrem described. The hotel has preserved much-treasured architectural details, including Juliet balconies and a Tudor-style exterior, while expanding and improving existing offerings, such as the outdoor event spaces and spa. Don't miss locally sourced ingredients served up by executive chef Jasmin Kobajica at the on-site restaurant Braxton's, named after one of the Algonquin's original chefs who set the bar for uncompromising quality and inspired cuisine. The Rossmount Inn While taking advantage of a photo op—a breathtaking vista over the bay from the Algonquin golf course's signature 12th hole—I was asked by a couple of friendly golfers about my dinner plans. You would think I was meeting the Queen of England when I informed them of my reservations at the Rossmount Inn. One absolutely insisted I order the lobster cocktail, while another made sure to fill me in on Chef Chris Aerni's focus on honoring the freshest local ingredients. The Rossmount Inn is certainly St. Andrews' most buzzed-about restaurant, and for good reason. The setting typifies elegant fine dining, but the food speaks to a more rustic approach and features mainly local ingredients—often foraged for by chef Aerni that very morning to be reinvented for dinner. The lobster cocktail was as delicious as it was beautiful, and the soup of fiddleheads, a prized ingredient with a brief harvest, was a true taste of the region's food culture. Be sure to top off the creative meal with a hike; the Rossmount sits at the base of Chamcook Mountain, whose peak affords expansive views of Passamaquoddy Bay.

Local Seafood

In a cove around the corner from the famed Algonquin, I stumbled upon a mother and son digging for clams. Toes buried in the muck, they drove clam rakes into the soft mud and deposited their treasures in a wire basket. The beach was covered in a blanket of shells, and the ocean at low tide seemed to stretch on until forever. But this stark, gray beauty of sea and sky belied the rich world of marine life just below the surface; in fact, in 2013, New Brunswick was Canada's largest exporter of seafood. From kitchen to classroom, St. Andrews celebrates its seaside location, and every year, the town hosts the Bay of Fundy Seafood Week, which features renowned chefs from around the world leading cooking expos, forums, and classes, all focusing on local, sustainable seafood.

(Photos: Julianne Lowell)

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Follow Julianne Lowell on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.



Celebrate All Things Old, New, Fresh, and Sustainable in Quebec City

Posted March 23, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Quebec Quebec City is a modern city with a thoroughly Old World feel. Founded as a fur-trading post in 1608, this vibrant French-speaking city is celebrating its fourth centennial in style. Celebrez this grand history, and then head to St. Roch, the city's trendiest district, where you can stay at a sustainable fair-trade hotel, sip a beer at a cooperative microbrewery, or grab lunch at a French bistro featuring locally sourced ingredients.

Stay
L'Autre Jardin
: Indulge in the cozy comforts at l'Autre Jardin without an ounce of guilt. This charming boutique hotel is the first socially responsible hotel in Quebec City. It's owned and operated by Carrefour Tiers-Monde, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote international cooperation and local development. Relax in the comfortably and tastefully furnished rooms knowing your room rate supports a good cause. Then wake up to a gratis breakfast buffet featuring fair-trade coffee, sugar, and locally made breads. Rooms start at $95 CAD.

Drink
La Barberie
: Support the local community by drinking a beer at La Barberie. This cooperatively owned microbrewery uses part of its profits to finance local projects. It has eight beers on tap and the selection changes daily. Order the carousal de 8 galopins to get five-ounce samples of each featured beer, and then order a pint of your favorite. Flavors include dark chocolate stout, white-blackberry beer, and seasonal sensations like raspberry lime pale ale.

Eat
Le Cafe du Clocher Penche
(this website in French only): This popular local cafe buzzes with a hip crowd enjoying the creations of its two artisan chefs and a wine list featuring nearly 200 wines, most of them organic. Duck confit, roasted veal, vegetarian chili, and wild boar are some of the featured French-fusion dishes. Save room to savor dessert.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Quebec City from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Claudel Huot/Quebec City Tourism)

Light the Way to Discounts in Montreal

Posted March 8, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Montreal Montreal celebrates its past with a flair unlike any other, which is evident in its tours, restaurants, and architectural preservation. And during the winter, the city glows with the spirit of the season and sweet hotel discounts. Spend the day learning about Montreal's history, and then enjoy a dinner-and-show that takes you back in time.

Stay
Montreal Tourism's Sweet Deal
: Get a sweet deal on lodging, with the help of Montreal's tourism board. You can save 50 percent off the second night at participating hotels, and some include extra perks, such as breakfast buffets, room upgrades, and free Internet. For instance, rooms at the Auberge de la Fontaine cost $139 CAD (about $135 U.S.; check XE.com for current exchange rates) for the first night, and $70 CAD the second night. Though this offer is good until May 31, Montreal tends to offer similar deals throughout the year.

Play
Stewart Museum
History buffs will rejoice in the authentic setting of the Stewart Museum, housed in original buildings of Montreal's only fort on Île Sainte-Hélène. The museum's collection of more than 30,000 man-made objects provides insight into the history of New France. Here, you will not only view artifacts from history, but walk in its footsteps, and quite possibly encounter a few costumed guides to help lead the way. Admission costs $10 CAD. (Editor's note: The museum is temporarily closed for renovations, but will reopen in May 2010)

Drink
Le Cabaret du Roy: Stepping through the doors of Le Cabaret du Roy is like stepping back in time to the 18th century. The lively, costumed entertainers add new meaning to dinner and a show, where most meals can last up to about three hours. The lively dinnersl come with the added bonus of comedy and musical acts. Each dish is prepared from native and regional produce to recreate Amerindian (Quebec's First Nation people) specialties.

To search for flights and compare prices to Montreal, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Le Cabaret du Roy, Martine Hebert)

Explore All Things Anne Shirley on Prince Edward Island

Posted March 4, 2010 by Sarah Pascarella

PrinceEdwardIsland-OrwellCo For the past 100 years, young girls have fallen in love with the adventures of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, and her home on Prince Edward Island (PEI). Beyond literary attractions, PEI lures in travelers with beautiful vistas, red-sand beaches, world-class golf, fresh seafood, and a laid-back atmosphere.

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Tourism PEI
, the official tourism website of Prince Edward Island, offers an encyclopedic guide to the area. Maps, lodging information, suggested itineraries, up-to-date events, and more are available with just a few clicks. Great choices include visiting all things Anne in Cavendish, taking in a show in Charlottetown, traversing the island by bicycle on the Confederation Trail, or just relaxing on a quiet beach.

Eat
St. Ann's Lobster Suppers
: PEI is famous for its lobster, potatoes, and other fresh local specialties. Enjoy the best of the island's harvest with an evening at St. Ann's Lobster Suppers. Open from June until late September, St. Ann's serves up five-course meals daily, including seafood chowder, steamed mussels, lobster, haddock, and more. There are also lobster rolls for the kids and a variety of other summer feast choices. The church/eatery is located on Route 224 near New Glasgow, not too far from Cavendish National Park. A five-course supper with a one-pound lobster costs $31.99 CAD.

Stay
The Country House Inn
: Located right in Cavendish National Park, The Country House Inn will make you feel like you've stepped into Green Gables. Rates range from $55 CAD to $65 CAD per night and include a daily breakfast buffet and free admission to the park. The inn's grounds have gardens, barbecue facilities, and a children's play area.

You can use our tool to compare airfares from multiple travel providers to Charlottetown.

(Photo: Tourism Prince Edward Island)

Forage Ahead to a Nature Vacation on Cape Breton Island

Posted March 3, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Cape Breton Cape Breton boasts one of the most scenic drives in North America along its Cabot Trail, and the island strives to preserve its natural and unspoiled beauty. Come get acquainted with the animals that live here, eat organic at an inn, and stay in a resort where you can forage for your own dinner.

Play
Whycocomagh Eco-Centre
: You can appreciate nature through hands-on activities at the Whycocomagh Eco-Centre year-round. By learning about the different species of animals and aquatic life that inhabit the area, as well as getting an up-close-and-personal view of starfish, crabs, and sea urchins in the touch tanks, you will become more aware of the need to preserve the surrounding land and waters. The center offers interactive nature hikes in the Whycocomagh Park and along the Bras d'Or Lakes shoreline.

Eat
Chanterelle Country Inn
: Located on the Artisan's Loop on the Cabot Trail, the Chanterelle Country Inn is the ideal spot to watch bald eagles soar or listen to the chickadees from the screened-in verandah while you dine. The restaurant serves fresh organic ingredients, including mushrooms collected on the property, and all dishes are prepared using Slow Food principles. The menu changes each night, and entrees cost $20 to $28 CAD. There is also a four-course prix fixe for $38 to $45 CAD.

Stay
Crown Jewel Resort Ranch
: Situated in the Baddeck River Valley, the Crown Jewel Resort grows all its own organic meats and produce, and takes great pride in conserving energy and reducing waste. Go on an eco-culinary foraging expedition, where you will pick your own edible wild plants and then create a four-course dinner from your discoveries. The eight suites are decorated with yellow birch furniture and sheepskin rugs that provide a comfortable place to unwind. Rates start at $345 CAD per couple, with three meals included.

To search for flights and compare prices to Halifax, the nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Denis Tangney)

More Than Potatoes

Posted June 15, 2009 by Katie Blais

PEI_formatted I have wanted to go to Prince Edward Island since I was 10 and read Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to go live on a farm with Miranda, wear braids, and attend a one-room school house with Gilbert.  Prince Edward Island seemed like a quaint little fairy tale isle. Taking a peek at what is happening on the island this summer inspires me to pack my bags and book a trip to PEI today!

First off, starting June 18 and going through September 26 there is The Charlottetown Festival, a three month event filled with theater productions (even an Anne of Green Gables musical number), live music, and other art related fun!  The week of August 13 to 22 is Old Home Week where you can check out livestock shows, concerts, and this year the 50th anniversary of the Gold and Saucer Harness race, which is a big deal on PEI.  Summer is also the time to check out the white sand beaches of Cavendish Beach and the amazing golf courses throughout the island.

Beaches, concerts, quaint seaside villages? Channel your inner Anne Shirley and head up for a memorable summer vacation!

(Photo: Virtual Tourist.com)

Enjoy the Finer Things in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Posted June 5, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Canada-ngraonlke-shawcfe-de Welcoming visitors like a breath of fresh wine-scented air, Niagara-on-the-Lake sits among rolling vineyards just a few miles from the neon lights and kitschy entertainment of Niagara Falls. This English-influenced town—with nods to British royalty on street and hotel names—is maturing into a proper getaway for wine, theater, and food. Come experience the finer things in life.

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Peller Estates: Peller Estates turns its tasting room into a classroom, and helps everyone become a valedictorian when it comes to wine. If you've ever wondered whether to serve a Cabernet or a Chardonnay, or which glass to serve which wine in, then the interactive Wine Experiences may be the answer. Classes covering subjects from entertaining to food pairings start at $15 CAD (about $13.50 U.S. dollars; see XE.com for current exchange rates). Tours of the wine-making facilities cost $10 CAD.

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Shaw Café & Wine Bar: Bacchus would feel right at home in this European-style cafe in the heart of the town center. Guests are encouraged to sample regional wines from the extensive menu, while grabbing a gourmet bite to eat. Be sure to say hello to playwright George Bernard Shaw, the cafe's namesake, whose statue welcomes visitors on the patio out front. If the meal prices seem a bit too steep, then take in the Old-World ambiance with just a dessert—such as the Toblerone Cheesecake for $7.95 CAD—and a glass of wine.

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Britaly Bed and Breakfast: Finding a place to curl up after a day of wine tasting may sound simple, but very few places exude the homey atmosphere, and price, of this three-bedroom B&B. Hosts Graham Hall, Aldo Petronelli, and Rufus the Lab treat guests like royalty. Visitors are instantly drawn to the impressive back garden, where they can relax by the pond. The cozy bedrooms, decorated to capture the spirit of England, Canada, and Italy, come en suite or with a private bathroom just steps away. Prices start at $110 CAD during high season, and include a homemade breakfast fit for a king. Note that weekend stays require a two-night minimum.

To search for flights and compare prices to Buffalo, which is home to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar)

Southwest and WestJet to Add Canada Codeshare Flights

Posted July 9, 2008 by Zak Patten

Westjet Southwest finally got its passport. Though the low-cost carrier cannot be accused of being a total homebody—its first non-Texas flight was almost 30 years ago—the airline has never flown abroad. Well, baby’s all grown up and ready to explore the wide world of international travel. And what does every first-time traveler appreciate more than a road buddy?

Enter  WestJet, the Louise to Southwest’s Thelma, (if the 1991 movie were set in Canada and starred airlines rather than women). The two airlines will be codesharing by late 2009, according to an announcement yesterday. WestJet is a Canadian carrier that flies not just across its huge home country, but also gets down to Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, and a few other sunny destinations likely to interest Albertans in their parkas come late February.

Which brings up what will be the central challenge for this deal: acclimatization. Yes, it ain’t easy going from one temperature extreme to another, as those on previous Calgary-Orlando flights can surely attest. WestJetters may be used to bundling up to go to the airport, only to strip off most of their layers upon arrival in more southerly climes. The problem is, the typical Southwest passenger just doesn’t know how to steer out of a skid, let alone how to dress for 40-below wind chills. “But what about Buffalo and Manchester?” you ask.  "Aren’t they Southwest cities with real winters?" To which I reply, “If you think Buffalo has real winters, try licking a Saskatoon stop sign in January!” Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So the key to success here is going to be how the codeshare flights are heated and cooled. Heading north, it’ll be necessary to pack extra clothing such as scarves and fleece pants, because the planes are going to be cranking the A/C every hundred miles or so in the attempt to get you used to the cold. By the time you deplane, you should look like a snowplow driver from Duluth. For trips flying south, the aircraft will need to install heated seats (these are pretty nice) and serve plenty of hot chocolate to bring passenger temps up to an appropriately tropical level. A palm tree or two wouldn’t hurt, but that might be overkill.

The bottom line is this is a risky venture. I have no doubt the tie-up between the two airlines is a good fit—they’re both low-cost carriers that have little route overlap. But you know they say the test of a relationship is how well people travel together. Maybe that’s true for airlines as well.

(Photo: airplane-pictures.net)


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