Though a long vacation is always tempting, sometimes all you want or need is a quick weekend away from the hustle and bustle.
Cities will be especially vibrant this year with the celebration of Canada’s 150's anniversary, but if you’re looking to explore outside of the city, here are some of our favourite attractions across this scenic country that are just far enough away — and affordable enough to make it worth packing up for a few days.
Prince Edward County, Ontario
Prince Edward County (or simply “The County”) is a friendly, rural community tucked east of Toronto, south of Ottawa and southwest of Montreal. It features wine tours, boating, hiking, the PEC Jazz Festival (in August) and, of course, the amazing beaches of Sandbanks Provincial Park.
Sea-To-Sky Country, British Columbia
Leave the high-rise horizon of downtown Vancouver behind for the blue skies and seas of British Columbia, just 30 minutes away by car. Drive along Highway 99 and pass through Squamish and Whistler to Pemberton, past breathtaking rivers, mountains and meadows. Along the way, you can indulge in mountain biking, horseback riding and rock-climbing, and learn about the Salish First Nations.
The Irish Loop, Newfoundland and Labrador
The musical Come From Away put the friendly and picturesque province of Newfoundland in the spotlight. If you’re in the mood for a weekend road trip, drive the Irish Loop — a 312-km drive that starts in St. John’s — and stop along the way at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, where you can take a boat tour to see local wildlife, including humpback whales and puffins. After the boat tour, continue along the loop, checking out any of the many sights that might pique your interest en route back to St. John’s.
Entrance to the reserve is free. Boat tour prices will depend on the tour operator, so consider shopping around in advance.
Falcons, sandcastles and beach houses in PEI
Yes, if you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, Prince Edward Island is for you. But if you’re not, don’t let that keep you away. There are a slew of weekend activities not tied to the book. Spend a few hours learning about falcons or how to create a beautiful, towering sandcastle from one of the Island’s leading sand sculptors. Just prefer to relax? Rent a cottage near one of the many beaches and soak up the sun and sea air.
The annual Calgary Stampede might get all the attention, but slip 90 minutes down the road to the town of Canmore, nestled close in the Rockies just outside Banff National Park, and you’ll be rewarded with a sporty weekend getaway: Hike, canoe or go caving during the day, then head out for dinner and admire the mountain views. If you want something a little less active, the town also has wonderful local galleries and shopping — and lodging prices can be a bit lower than in Banff.
Quebec City and the Historic District of Old Quebec
If Montreal is your home, or business or pleasure takes you there this summer, consider spending a couple of days just 3 hours to the east, in one of the few walled cities in North America, Quebec City. The Historic District of Old Quebec is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and attractive weekend destination. Rent a room at a local bed-and-breakfast, stroll the cobblestone streets among galleries and shops, and then enjoy dinner at any one of dozens of great restaurants, or stop for a drink at the Chateau Frontenac. (It’s hard to miss!) Don’t forget the Plains of Abraham, the site of historic events that shaped Quebec and Canada.
If your getaway takes you out of your home province, make sure you’re covered with travel insurance, since provincial health insurance varies from province to province, and what you have at home may not cover you completely elsewhere in the country.