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Top 5 ways to dine in nature

Get a dose of the wild or a picturesque view of outdoor scenery at these spots that blend sit down dining with outdoor fun.

Courtesy of Tundra Grill

Courtesy of Tundra Grill

The patio at Prairie’s Edge overlooks a serene pond surrounded by the greenery of Kildonan Park. Start the evening with crispy fried beet fritters before taking in a show at outdoor theatre Rainbow Stage. 2015 Main St, 204‑284‑7275

Hearty breakfast and lunch options make Buffalo Stone Cafe inside FortWhyte Alive nature preserve a go-to pick for a sweet nature setting inside city limits. The signature bison burger and a breeze off the shimmering lake are a perfect pair. 1961 McCreary Rd, 204‑989‑8355

Tundra Grill (pictured), inside the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit, boasts a 9 by 150 foot wall of windows looking out onto a polar bear habitat. Snack on kid-friendly foods like hamburgers and pizza while observing the animals roam and play. 2595 Roblin Blvd, 204‑927‑8060, Map 2: D-2

The elegant country cottage setting at Pineridge Hollow is the perfect backdrop to scratch-made fare that highlights prairie products. After sampling wild mushroom-stuffed perogies, wander the on-site garden and hand feed the goats outside. 67086 Heatherdale Rd 25E, Oakbank, MB

A century old country estate is the setting for fine dining at The Gates on Roblin. Seats in the Atrium deliver breathtaking views with your tender duck confit. Take a stroll around the grounds and visit horses grazing in the paddock. 6945 Roblin Blvd, 204‑224‑2837

Visit Wild Churchill Without Leaving Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

By Dunja Kovacevic

Tundra Treasures

Peer into the little explored but often mythologized world of the Arctic tundra with the Assiniboine Park Zoo‘s landmark exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Cutting-edge technology, top of the line research facilities, unparalleled attention to authenticity and environmental stewardship have set the bar for polar bear conservation centres, now recognized as the “Manitoba Standard”.

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Majestic Manitoba

The story of Canada’s north is still a largely untold one. With environmental crises looming, the role that Manitoba has in protecting the legacy of the north and shaping the narrative of future generations is becoming increasingly important. By dazzling the senses and engaging the public, Journey to Churchill represents a monumental step towards Winnipeg’s growing reputation as a global leader in environmental and human rights.

The ambitious exhibit is both a love song to the untapped beauty of the north and a ringing call to arms. Opened in 2014, it is the first exhibit of its kind, aimed at education about climate change and conservation issues focused on northern species. According to Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), Journey to Churchill is “unparalleled in the zoo world in terms of its focus on northern wildlife and the immensity of the space given.”

Photo by Brad McCann

Photo by Brad McCann

Polar Bear Pilgrimage

Some 10-12,000 eco-tourists and adventure seekers file northward to Churchill, Manitoba’s Arctic jewel, each year in search of the Great White. Aptly named the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, the wind-swept tundra has become a mecca for the world’s largest terrestrial predators, located at the crosshairs of their migratory patterns. Thrill seekers take to the frozen expanses of the tundra to catch a glimpse of these incredible carnivores.

While nothing can mimic the heart-pounding adventure of interacting directly with the bears in their icy environment, Journey to Churchill offers and experience of observing polar bears and other northern species undetected. Within the expanse of the exhibit are four main areas: the Wapusk Lowlands, Gatewa to the Arctic, Churchill Coast and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The Gateway to the Arctic contains polar bears and their primary food source, the ringed seal, in adjacent pools separated only by a thin clear wall. Expect dynamic interactions between the animals, who are able to see and smell one another through the wall, as they pivot and thrash in the exhilarating quickstep between predator and prey.

Perhaps most exciting is the Sea Ice Passage, a 10-foot wide acrylic tunnel that serves as the primary vantage point for viewing polar bears and ringed seals beneath the water. The exhibit functions as a “living laboratory” says Redmond, presenting rare and unique opportunities for field researchers to observe behavioural patterns of polar bears and seals beneath the ice.

Along with boundless roaming space, the exhibit features an on-site state-of-the-art research facility. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre not only promotes conservation research, but is home to the only transition centre for orphaned and at-risk polar bear cubs rescued by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. At the centre, they are rehabilitated before being relocated to designated safe areas.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Staggering Specs

In order to begin construction on the exhibit, 86,699 metres of earth had to be transported. The tundra area of the exhibit, home to caribou, musk ox, snowy owls, and arctic foxes, covers 3,714 square metres. Polar bear roaming grounds within the exhibit span an immense 9,507 metres squared. Pools for polar bears and seals contain a total of 1,959,714 L of water. The indoor Polar Playground and Tundra Grill alone house some 238 people. The cutting edge 360 degree domed Aurora Borealis Theatre measures over 13 metres in diameter, and 5.5 metres high. Despite these scale considerations, the zoo is making every overture towards sustainability, even seeing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Gathering Ground

Parks and zoos have long been spirited gathering grounds for families and larger groups. With this in mind, the Churchill Coast area is focused on immersive family fun. Children can explore the Polar Playground, which is packed with interactive and educational activities such as a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps. Parents can unwind at the Tundra Grill, a fast-casual cafeteria-style setting with massive windows overlooking Churchill.

Also located within the Gateway to the Arctic is the Aurora Borealis Theatre, which hosts a domed 360 degree viewing screen. An interactive video weaves the interconnected legacy between the people, plants, and animals of Canada’s north. At night, the room is transformed into a bewitching backdrop for storytelling and concerts while the Northern Lights play above.

Visit the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s website for information on hours and admissions.

Read More


Essentials: Polar Bear Pedagogy at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Photo courtesy Assiniboine Park Conservancy

Part cub nursery, part education centre, Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre will save furry lives and teach people how to protect the species.

The unique facility boasts an interpretive gallery with interactive games and multimedia displays about the majestic Arctic mammals and the impact global warming has on their survival. Education is just one of the centre’s three pillars; it’s also the hub for northern-research initiatives and will eventually nurture orphaned polar bear cubs.


Babies, Babies Everywhere: What’s New at Canada’s Zoos and Aquariums this Year


The Calgary Zoo's new Penguin Plunge exhibit (Photo: Sergei Belski/Calgary Zoo)

Spring may be the best time of year at zoos: it’s when many of the babies (baby animals, that is) are born or are newly on display, the weather is warming up and many zoos (and aquariums) are unveiling new attractions in anticipation of the busy summer season. (more…)

Get a Peek at the Toronto Zoo’s Adorable New Addition

Photo by Ken Ardill, Toronto Zoo Volunteer

Can’t make it to Churchill, Manitoba, to see the polar bears in their natural habitat this winter?

Maybe you can mosey over to the Toronto Zoo instead, to see its newest addition—this irresistibly adorable polar bear cub that was rejected by mama bear. (more…)

Hot Attraction: Nighttime Zoo Tours

See a variety of animals at Papanack Park Zoo.

Head out on an animal adventure at Papanack Park Zoo, about an hour east of Ottawa. The zoo is home to a wide assortment of creatures, from the exotic (zebras, cougars, kangaroos,) to the familiar (black bears, raccoons, chickens). On Saturdays until Thanksgiving, take the rare opportunity to see animals on their evening prowl with the Night Safari. During these moonlit walks you can catch the lions feasting, hear the wolves howling, and enjoy a guided tour as you watch some nocturnal creatures stretch their legs. Don’t forget your flashlight!

Ottawa Family Fun

Whether you’re looking for something to do together, or an exciting activity to keep the kids busy, we’ve got your guide to good old-fashioned family fun. By Misa Kobayashi.

The Artissimo program. Photo credit: National Gallery of Canada.

If you want to get your little ones interested in art early, there’s no better way than the Artissimo program at the National Gallery of Canada. Every weekend and on statutory holidays from 11am to 4pm, children three and older and their parents can take part in building their own “Super Structures,” using the unique architecture of the gallery as inspiration. Other hands-on activities include making artwork to take home or display in the Artissimo gallery, and going on a self-guided search with mom and dad for paintings in the national collections that feature animals and children. Included with gallery admission. 380 Sussex Dr., 613-990-1985.

Ottawa’s maple syrup season is something to write home about. With several sugar shacks in the region less than an hour away, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had in the spring. Indulge in the heavenly sweetness of taffy on snow or a hearty pancake breakfast, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, and see demonstrations of how syrup is made. A couple of our favourite places to visit are Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm, which is open weekends until April 24, and Proulx Farm, open weekends until April 25. See websites for holiday schedules and full lists of activities. Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm, 2452 Yorks Corners Rd., Edwards, 613-821-2751, and Proulx Farm, 1865 O’Toole Rd., Cumberland, 613-833-2417. (more…)

Calgary Kids: Cultural Activities

How to get your kids away from the TV with fun and educational programs around Calgary

By Elena Redd

If your children watch television, play video games, surf the ‘Net or use cell phones, they’re immersed in what industry insiders call 360-degree marketing. According to the Media Awareness Network, children in Canada see 3,000 commercial messages every day—stamped on toys, slipped into movies, even plastered in school hallways. The idea these commercials send is simple: you are what you buy.

While you can’t remove your children from the modern age, you can enroll them in programs that sell a very different idea: you are what you know. We’ve scoured the city and found six programs that give children hands-on experience with art, music, literature, theatre and nature—with no commercial messages. (more…)

12 Days of Christmas in Calgary

Get into the holiday spirit with these yuletide events around Calgary

By Laura Pellerine

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Christmas, Calgary is brimming with events to take in—from old Ebenezer’s spiritual transition on stage, to metal guitar players rocking out to “Carol of the Bells.”


Day 1: Nov 18
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Get into the spirit early with this band’s fresh take on traditional Christmas songs. Combining rock, metal, R&B and classical music to create a unique sound, the orchestra is known for its original compositions, as well as reinventions of holiday classics like “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”: a medley of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” During the show, you can expect to see pyrotechnics, exceptional vocal performances and long-haired guitar players headbanging to Christmas tunes. At the Saddledome, tickets $25 – $57.50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.

Day 2: Nov 22
Christmas All Through the House at Lougheed House
This National Historic Site was built in 1891 as the former home of Senator James and Isabella Lougheed. For the holidays, individual rooms get transformed into historical recreations of Christmas throughout the decades. After wandering through the rooms to the sound of carollers, visitors can have an antique photo taken with a Victorian St. Nicholas, or head outdoors for a sleigh ride around the grounds. Nov 18 – 22, tickets $10 – $15 at door, 707 – 13 Ave SW.

Day 3: Nov 28
Alberta Theatre Projects’ Toad of Toad Hall
Alberta Theatre Projects celebrates the holidays by offering a family themed show—in past years they’ve put on Robin Hood and Peter Pan. This year they’ve chosen Toad of Toad Hall, an adaptation by Philip Goulding from Kenneth Grahame’s popular children’s book The Wind in the Willows. The story follows the rich, but reckless, Mr. Toad as he runs from the law, while his friends Ratty, Badger and Mole are left behind to fight off the nasty Weasels. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 25 – Dec 27, tickets $25 – $51, call 403-294-7402.


Day 4: Dec 2
Christmas by Lamplight at Heritage Park
For a true old-fashioned Christmas experience head to Heritage Park. Their Christmas by Lamplight evening includes a three-course traditional turkey dinner in the Wainwright Hotel where you are greeted by costumed carollers as you enter the lobby. Afterwards, you can join in the carol singing at St. Martin’s Church and then hop onto a horse-drawn wagon for a cozy ride around the park. During the day, their Once Upon a Christmas event runs on weekends in November and December, and offers a similar experience with carollers and wagon rides, but also includes roaming theatre performances, a visit from Santa and a chance to wander through traditionally decorated historical homes. Christmas by Lamplight: Dec 2, 9, $39.95 (adults), for tickets call 403-268-8500; Once Upon a Christmas: Sat and Sun, Nov 21 – Dec 20, tickets $5 – $7.50.

Day 5: Dec 3
A Vinyl Café Christmas with Stuart McLean
It’s becoming a uniquely Canadian Christmas tradition to hear CBC’s master storyteller and best-selling author Stuart McLean tell stories of his beloved character Dave’s comedic attempts at cooking a turkey. After premiering in 1994, McLean’s often quirky and moving radio show, “The Vinyl Café,” draws 800,000 listeners each week. On this year’s A Vinyl Café Christmas Tour, expect to hear two new Dave & Morley stories, a few old favourites, and songs from Canadian musicians. At the Jubilee Auditorium Dec 3, 4, tickets $44.50 – $50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.


Day 6: Dec 5
Christmas with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
At the CPO’s Handel’s Messiah, a classic piece of music (which you may recognize from its “Hallelujah!” refrain), is performed with soloists as well as the CPO chorus. At key points in the oratorio the audience is invited to sing along and rise to their feet, a custom started by King George II. Things get a little sillier at the Sing-Along Messiah, where a costumed “George Frederic Handel” conducts a complete orchestral accompaniment. With beautiful music, comical stage antics and audience participation, this will be a fun afternoon for the whole family. At the Epcor Centre, Handel’s Messiah: Dec 4, 5, $19 – $85; Sing-Along Messiah: Dec 6, $19, call 403-571-0849.

Day 7: Dec 9
Deane House Murder Mystery Theatre
Exercise your holiday sense of humour with these two murder mystery shows. Fit for Death is a story of how overweight elves get put on a fitness routine and are worked out—“to death.” Meanwhile, in It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Murder, when Santa gets run over by a reindeer, camaraderie between the elves becomes ugly as they jockey over who gets to take Santa’s place. Fit: Nov 13, 14, 25 – 28, Dec 9 – 13; Beginning: Nov 19 – 22, Dec 2 – 6, 16 – 20. Tickets are $75 and include a four-course meal at the historic Deane House Restaurant, call 403-269-7747.


Day 8: Dec 12
Once the sun goes down, the Calgary Zoo gets transformed into one of Western Canada’s largest light displays with over 1.5 million lights in the shapes of zoo animals, holiday icons and even the Calgary Flames symbol. Kids can chat live with Santa Claus in the North Pole with “SantaVision,” or head over to specially designed plays areas like Snowball Alley and Snigloo, where they can make their own igloo. Be prepared to bundle up­—it usually is cold, though you can warm up next to their on-site fire pits and sip hot chocolate. Nov 27 – Jan 3, 2010, $8 adults, $5 kids.

Day 9: Dec 18
Christmas in Wales at Rosebud Dinner Theatre

If you don’t mind the hour-and-a-half drive, head to Rosebud Theatre, situated in the hamlet of Rosebud in the middle of the prairies, and it will feel like you’ve stepped back to a simpler time. Their holiday show is Christmas in Wales—a tale of one adult’s reveries of an old-fashioned holiday celebration, complete with Welsh carols, snowball fights and family. Dinner is served buffet-style in the Mercantile Room, located a short walk along a dirt road from the theatre. For a more traditional feel, try to get a dinner spot at the Rosebud Country Inn, adorned with old-fashioned decorations. Here, they serve a turkey dinner with all the fixings: mashed potatoes, cranberries, plum pudding and carols from wandering musicians. Nov 6 – Dec 23, tickets $27 – $62.50, call 1-800-267-7553.


Day 10: Dec 22
Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Going to see Clara fight off the evil rat king in The Nutcracker has been a North American Christmas tradition since it was first performed by San Francisco Ballet in 1944. Alberta Ballet’s current production will mark the second year of the Edmund Stripe’s newly choreographed version. It toured last year around the world to sold-out audiences, and this year promises to be just as enchanting with beautiful hand-worked costumes and sets designed by the Emmy Award-winning Zack Brown. At the Jubilee Auditorium, Dec 18 – 26, tickets $27 – $106, call 403-245-4549.

Day 11: Dec 24
Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transition from a selfish miser to a humble do-gooder is brought to life by Theatre Calgary. The Broadway-sized set, period costumes and huge musical score help add a feeling of magic to the show. And perhaps best of all, Scrooge is played by Stephen Hair, a local award-winning actor, who has donned Scrooge’s top hat for 16 years. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 20 – Dec 27, tickets $32 – $75, call 403-294-7440.

Day 12: Dec 25
Skating at Bowness Lagoon
This quiet lagoon is set inside a 30-hectare river valley park in the heart of the northwest. Surrounded by snow-trimmed evergreens, this pond is a loop with bridges you can skate under. If you get cold, there’s usually a crackling fire pit on the ice. 8900 – 48 Ave NW, 403-268-2300, (or 311 in Calgary area).

Summer Stops for Families

From the most intrepid of daredevils to the quietest of bookworms, bright summer days bring out the playfulness in us all. To make this the best summer yet, Where Toronto offers 15 exciting ways to craft your own fun in the sun.

There are thrills galore at Canada's Wonderland.

Find thrills at Canada's Wonderland.

More then 200 attractions and 65 rides test the truly adventurous at Canada’s Wonderland. This first-class amusement park is home to the Behemoth—the country’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with open-air seating and a blood-curdling 230-foot drop. If riding the rails isn’t your thing, try thrill rides like the toe-curling Drop Tower and stomach-wrenching Psyclone. For more subdued, tot-friendly amusements, head to Kidzville and Nickelodeon Central—kids will get a kick out of Dora’s Dune Buggies and Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion. Cool down at Splash Works, a 20-acre water park with twisting slides like the Super Soaker and the Plunge. Adults $51.99, seniors and kids $29.35.