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Western Canada
Discover Western Canada

stampWestern Canada boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Naturally endowed with rugged coastline, vast wilderness and Rocky Mountain peaks, not to mention clean air and lively culture, British Columbia and Alberta speak to our travel yearnings. Come with us to explore some of our favorite winter spots in and around Banff National Park, Vancouver and Victoria.

Lake Louise – A Cozy Little Secret

Lake Louise

If it weren’t for the cheerful butterscotch color and bright red roofs, the historic Post Hotel & Spa would remain almost hidden among quiet pines beside the Pipestone River. But its proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway and accolades from trusted sources have brought this peaceful hotel out of its quiet solitude. Gourmet Magazine rated it the Third Best Rustic Retreat in the World. Conde Nast has hailed it the number one ski hotel in North America. In the winter, guests of the hotel frequent ski runs at Lake Louise, then head for the comfort of roaring fireplaces and the acclaimed Four-Diamond dining room, which has a cellar that houses over 28,000 bottles of wine. Locals stop in for après-ski coffee and pastries served in the grand-lodge lobby. But for real undercover fun, find the Post’s unadvertised basement pub, accessible from the nondescript stairs on the right side of the parking lot. It’s the Post’s covert alternative to the award-winning restaurant. There, you can choose from a smaller and more affordable menu, from the very same kitchen. The cozy polo-lounge atmosphere is filled with internationals, a fireplace and gourmet burgers to boot.

Banff/Lake Louise – Snowshoeing, Mushing & More

Banff

Going up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola is a must for panoramic views of Lake Minnewanka, Banff and the surrounding area. Afterwards, head into the wooded white wonderland with a dogsled team. Adventures Unlimited and other organizations will outfit you with an introduction, history, safety tips and commands before escorting you and your team of huskies through woodland trails, along glaciers and past majestic peaks, with a campfire thrown in, if you’re lucky. For a more relaxed pace, try ice fishing, ice walking and snowshoeing the way early fur traders and indigenous people experienced them. For more info, visit www.banff.com/tours and www.banffadventures.com.

Banff – Fairmont Banff Springs

Fairmont

Banff derives its name from Banffshire, Scotland, the birthplace of two original directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Fairmont Banff Springs, a grand Scottish baronial hotel that sits majestically atop a hill in Banff, is the jewel of the great railroad era and a visitor must-see. Constructed in 1888, this landmark hotel reigns with Old-World British class, flanked by spectacular mountains, the rushing Bow River and magnificent views.

You don’t need to be a guest to spend a day at the hotel’s Willow Stream Spa. Indulge in the indoor Roman mineral pool with underwater music and waterfall whirlpools with views. Splurge on a meal or weekend brunch buffet in one of the elegant dining rooms. Or settle in for afternoon tea or a late-night dessert, snack or drink in the graceful Rundle Lounge. On weekday afternoons, take a hotel tour to learn more about the architecture, history and background of this grand dame of the Rockies. The tour even comes with a ghost or two, in distinctly British fashion.

Lake Louise – Art Show in the Snow

At the fabulous Chateau Lake Louise, you’ll find one-of-a-kind art at the annual Ice Magic Festival with Mt. Victoria as a backdrop. In late January, a dozen international teams of carvers compete over three days to create 7-foot sculptures from 300-lb. blocks of ice. These magnificent, glistening monuments exude the wonder of art and ingenuity. Try to catch the individual carver speed event, in which competitors have one hour to carve a single block of ice. Sculptures remain in place as long as the cold weather holds—at least until the end of February.

Victoria – Christmas Delights

Victoria has a rich legacy of British flair and offers the perfect place to experience Christmas traditions. The holiday celebration begins in November with a slew of craft markets, bazaars and events. Drop in at the lovely Sooke Harbour House and its Christmas in November Art and Craft Show. Drive to Oak Bay Village for an old-fashioned Christmas wonderland of music, food vendors and candy canes. Craigdarroch Castle sparkles with seasonal Victorian-era décor, while the regal Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Butchart Gardens transform into a festive forest of decorated trees, plants and winter lights. Walking tours through Old Town like Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas in Old Victoria lend a sense of the history and tradition.

Victoria – French Bites & Chocolate Delights

Chocolate

Victoria has more than 250 dining establishments, which allows its small population to try a different place every night for more than eight months. When you’re in town, start at the tiny Brasserie L’École, filled with the authentic French flair of a Parisian café and delectable cuisine. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive early for a chance at their superb Steak-Frites. If you’re in the mood for quick and simple, drop in at the Noodle Box behind the Empress Hotel for a taste of Asian fusion at modest prices. Top off your day with an Empress Square from Rogers’ Chocolates, open for business on Government Street since 1891.

Outside Victoria – Point-No-Point

Get away from the frazzle of civilization and retreat to Point-No-Point. A less-expensive alternative to the highly recommended Sooke Harbor House, this resort is situated on 40 acres of rugged coastal property. The cabins each come with kitchen, fireplace and water views—some with private hot tubs on the deck. Whether you’re a guest or not, don’t miss a meal at the Tea House Restaurant. Stellar Pacific seafood and homemade soups will dazzle your palate as you scan the horizon for whales and other wildlife with the conveniently provided binoculars. Be sure to make reservations—it’s popular with the locals.

Victoria – Whale Watching & Walkways

Whale

Famous for whale watching, Victoria’s harbor offers a plethora of water tours. Among them, covered boats and large Zodiac schooners filled with passengers take to the waters and stay in radio communication during winter for sightings of migrating humpbacks, gray whales and resident orcas. If you prefer the shore, take a stroll on Dallas Road Walkway past sandy beaches, Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway and the world’s fourth largest totem pole at Beacon Hill Park, a former Indian burial ground. It’s also popular for storm watchers, who gather there during the winter to view the mighty waves in action. If it gets too cold, move on to the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria’s finest location for a spot of hot tea.

Whistler – Olympic Sport Paradise

Whistler

Canadians have long known Whistler to be a premier destination for skiing. Paired with the neighboring Blackcomb resort—the official venue of cross-country, alpine and Nordic events for the 2010 Winter Olympics—Whistler also ranks high for skiing, ice climbing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and heli-skiing. Located 76 miles from Vancouver on the breathtaking Sea to Sky Highway, it consists of an overwhelming 8,171 acres, and hosts a season from November to early June. Upscale Whistler Village ranks on par with Vail, Aspen and Europe’s trendiest resorts, completing the scene with trendy shops, boutique hotels, cafes and restaurants. No wonder it’s consistently rated the best North American ski resort.

Vancouver –Stanley Park & Queen Elizabeth Park

Stanley

From November 26 to January 1, more than one million lights glitter along the wooded paths of Stanley Park. The event features choirs, bands and Christmas music, accompanied by the aroma of roasted nuts, hot chocolate and popcorn. A major fundraiser for a local charity, the Bright Nights Train takes passengers for a ride past Santa’s workshop, an international village and the sounds of the season.

With over 1,000 acres of lush beauty, Stanley Park is Vancouver’s crown jewel. However, if you want dazzling views of the downtown skyline with dramatic mountain backdrop, the lesser-known Queen Elizabeth Park beats Stanley by a mile. Make reservations at Seasons in the Park and prepare to be impressed not only by the panoramic view, but by the succulent, fresh Pacific Northwest cuisine

Vancouver – Artistic Presence

If you can’t fit in a visit to the art colonies on the outlying islands (Mayne, Salt Spring and Hornby), the Vancouver Art Gallery delivers plenty of creativity right in the heart of the city. Housed in a former courthouse, it has a busy calendar that features Canadian and West Coast art, including the works of renowned Vancouver artist Emily Carr. For the latest in art culture, visit the museum on select Friday evenings when the venue transforms into FUSE, a hip and eclectic social salon centered around alternative live performances, music, diverse gallery tours and artistic surprises.



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