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rockies

10 Amazing Canadian Fall Vacations

Okanagan Valley ©Tourism BC/JF Bergeron

Fall is the perfect time for forest hikes, Sunday drives, wine tours and tucking into autumn harvest meals. But did you know it’s also prime polar-bear-viewing season? From our favourite foliage tours to some unexpected adventures, we’ve rounded up the best fall getaways Canada has to offer. (more…)

Road Trip: Calgary to Cranbrook on the Crowsnest Highway

A view of the Kootenays near Cranbook. Photo by That Angela

By Waheeda Harris

Modern day explorers still lust to explore the unknown – and for those wanting to point their car towards unchartered territories, the Crowsnest Highway from Alberta to British Columbia provides eye-catching views of the Rocky Mountains, historic places of interest and small town hospitality.

Modes of Transport

Highway 22 from Calgary is the way to get to the Crowsnest Highway via Turner Valley, which originates in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Although easily done by with four wheels, this old train route can be used by cyclists who will appreciate the wide highway shoulders through the mountains. Approximate driving time from Calgary to Cranbrook is four hours, 46 min and a distance of 379 km one way.

Roadside Attractions

It’s been 100 years since this rock slide happened, but the Frank Slide is still the main attraction of wee Frank, Alberta, located east of the Crowsnest Pass. When 82 million tonnes of limestone moved almost two kilometres in less than two minutes, the immense fields of rock are worth a stop to walk through the pathways (free admission).  For those wanting an up close and personal experience of the Rocky Mountains, Fernie, British Columbia offers several trails for hiking and mountain biking.  Adrenaline junkies will appreciate the wild ride of the Al Matador trail, (free access) which ascends 1200m in elevation as you navigate the single track. Make sure to point your camera lens at the Three Sisters, aka Mt. Trinity, a popular mountain of three peaks.

An hour west of Fernie, stop in historic Fort Steele, a former gold mining town that will transport you back to the 19th century. A ride on the steam train locomotive or a wagon ride will be a welcome late afternoon distraction from the road.  Once you reach Cranbrook, spend time at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, featuring antique rail cars, train memorabilia and the restored Royal Alexandra Hall from the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Royal Alexandra Hotel, which had been located in Winnipeg.

Eats

Start your roadtrip with a hearty breakfast at the The Chuckwagon Café on Highway 22, part of the Cowboy Trail and less than an hour from Calgary in the rolling hills of Turner Valley. Located in a barn, the café serves up traditional eggs and pancakes that will make you feel like you can take on a day on the range.  In Cranbrook, take advantage of the weekly Farmer’s Market held every Saturday morning for locally grown and made edibles and for a fine dining experience, make a reservation at Heidi’s, a favourite of the area. Their secret? The owners trained at the International Institute for Tourism and Management in Austria.

Sleep

If you’re lured to stay in the heart of the Rockies in Fernie, the Mt. Fernie Timberlodge ($385-449 per night) accommodates up to 10 travellers in an Alpine-style chalet. Weary from all that outdoor activity – guests can amble up a spiral staircase leading to the chalet’s treehouse with a hot tub with views of Mt. Fernie and Mt. Proctor.  For the final rest stop in Cranbrook, forget the highway motel strip and kick it up a notch with a stay at the luxe Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. Ask for the John Huber Express ($599.95 per night), choosing from the Naughton or Newcastle staterooms, with décor and amenities inspired by luxury railway travel of the past.

Read

The perfect accompaniment for the Crowsnest Highway, which lies along a former Canadian train route, would be the classic writing of mystery maven Agatha Christie. Three novels feature a train theme, and can be easily found in paperback or audio book: Miss Marple in 4-50 From Paddington, and Hercule Poirot in The Mystery of the Blue Train and Murder on the Orient Express.

Wherelist: Best New Restaurants 2009

Where editors from across the country have cast their ballots for the Best New Restaurants to open in Canada in 2009. From creative twists on traditional cuisines to stylish décors and high quality food for reasonable prices, these are the eateries you won’t want to miss from coast to coast.

Veneto Tapa Lounge, Victoria

Victoria’s best new restaurant takes traditional tapas to a whole new level. Led by chef Tod Bosence, the sophisticated, urban Veneto Tapa Lounge offers both a hip bar area and quieter dining room, ideal for enjoying Bosence’s creative dinner menu. Each entree is presented tapas style – those in the mood for beef, for example, will enjoy it three ways: veal ravioli with portabella mushroom ragout and roasted garlic cream sauce; marinated short rib with parmesan polenta cake; and New York strip roulade with spicy lobster stuffing and bordelaise sauce.

Cibo Trattoria, Vancouver

With London’s River Café alumnus Neil Taylor heading up the kitchen and ex-Lumiere general manager/sommelier Sebastien Le Goff in charge, it didn’t take long for Cibo to gain a solid reputation for its vibrant rustic Italian cuisine, thoroughly grounded in West Coast ingredients. Taylor’s dishes, which change by the week (if not the day), are constructed with uncomplicated—but wickedly exacting—flair.

Parker House Grill & Wine Bar, Calgary

Parker House is the kind of place where diners can experience high quality service, ambience and food, for a reasonable price tag. Chef Andrew Keen, known for his excellence in “forgotten fare,” has created a menu inspired by traditional New England comfort dishes with creative twists. For dinner, most entrees (with the exception of their steaks) sit in the mid-twenties range, while diners on a budget can try one of their thin-crust pizzas for as low as $12.88.

Creations Dining Room & Lounge, Sawridge Inn Edmonton South, Edmonton

Artful, delicious dining at Creations—the paint’s barely dry and the buzz is on for the eclectic Canadian fusion cuisine of Creations, the stunning new dining room and lounge in the atrium of the Sawridge Inn Edmonton South. Walls of fire, water, badlands hoodoos and a huge dreamcatcher treat the senses as menu items entice patrons to explore palate pleasers such as Sherried Beef Caprese.

Rustica Steakhouse, Canadian Rockies

Rustic has earned its place as one of the Canadian Rockies’ top restaurants for its elegant ‘mountain lodge’ atmosphere and uncompromising dedication to Canada Prime Beef. But it’s the cuisine of Caribbean-born Chef Stefan Mahon that keeps them coming back for more. Only the top 0.3% of beef in Canada earns Prime designation (a superior grade to AAA)—Stefan’s New York cuts, grand filet mignon and prime rib chops are prepared with a signature dry rub, seared under a 1500°F (815°C) broiler and presented on 500°F (260°C) plates with garlic butter.

Hermanos, Winnipeg

Winnipeggers are feeling the Latin heat thanks to the fiery flavours of South American cuisine at this year’s arrival of Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar. Set in a 5,500-square-foot warehouse in the Exchange District, fast lunches, tapas and mains are found on the mainly Argentinean- and Brazilian-influenced menu. The crispy fried empanadas are a must-try.

Raw Aura, Mississauga

Raw Aura, true to its name, offers a menu of entirely raw cuisine—the better to emphasize the natural and nourishing properties of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts. In an intimate yet airy space, friendly staff dish out delectably fresh fare including a “peace wrap” bursting with avocado, tomatoes, carrots, kale, sprouts and hummus, and zesty lo-mein featuring noodles made of zucchini and golden beets.

Loire, Toronto

Loire, a self-described “casual gourmet” spot, well-situated along increasingly foodie-friendly Harbord Street offers fresh, seasonal dishes that could include chili- and cornmeal-crusted Lake Erie whitefish, grilled New York striploin and a succulent beef or lamb burger on challah bread. This intimate restaurant effortlessly straddles the line between relaxed neighbourhood fave and boldface fine-dining destination.

Teca, Muskoka

Overlooking Lake Rosseau is Teca, a fine Italian restaurant located within the luxurious Rosseau Resort & Spa. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Muskoka Lakes, find this decidedly urban dining room and a centrally located open kitchen that dishes up authentic rustic Italian fare. Tuck into freshly made pasta—from papperdelle and gnocchi to spaghetti and meatballs—or thin crust pizza made in a wood-stone oven, as well as veal chops, fish, striploin and rack of lamb.

The Grand Pizzeria & Bar, Ottawa

Nestled on one of the most auspicious corners in Ottawa’s bustling ByWard Market, The Grand Pizzeria is a popular addition to the downtown dining scene. Built in the late 17th century, this enviable location once housed The Grand Hotel. Today, it’s home to the perfect pizza pie. Traditional Italian appetizers (antipasti, salads) make way for the main attraction: authentic Napoletana pizza. The dough is created and hand-pressed by Master Pizzaiolo Pasqualino Oliveri, who placed first in the 2004 European Pizza Championship, among other honours.

Pipa Restaurant & Bar, Halifax

Chef Luis Gaspar and partner Victoria Dunham Gaspar are longtime veterans of Halifax’s dining scene. And when they decided to embark on a project all their own, they saw a glaring omission in the city’s dining scene. Specializing in Portuguese cuisine, with rich, filling and full-flavoured dishes. Pipa is the only restaurant of its type in Halifax, specializing in Old World and Brazilian dishes such as Moqueca (fish stew) and Feijoada (a stew of meats and black beans). Seafood dishes abound, including fresh grilled sardines.

Columbia Icefield: Big but Getting Smaller

Columbia-Icefield-AthaB-Glacier-Icewalks

Columbia Icefield courtesy Athatbasca Glacier Icewalks

The Columbia Icefield covers 215 sq km (83 sq mi) and is up to 365 m (1200 ft) deep—it’s the largest accumulation of ice in the Rockies. Icefield meltwaters feed the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans (plus people and crops) making it one of two triple continental divides in the world (the other is in Siberia). But this popular attraction is getting smaller due to global warming. Athabasca Glacier markers note that the ice recedes up to 10 m (33 ft) annually. So take an Ice Explorer ride or icewalk while you can. — JN


The WHERE List: Canada’s Top Ten New Attractions for Summer 2009

Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton (Photo: Darren Kirby)

From coast to coast Where Editors have chosen the best new or improved attractions in the country. From dramatic glass pyramids in the prairies to canopied aerial bridges in the rain forest to exploring the wonders of the ocean, these are attractions you won’t want to miss. (more…)