Watch a Hockey Game; Montreal, Canada

You know the old joke: “I went to a fight and hockey game broke out.” And there’s no better place to watch Canada’s national obsession than Montreal. After all, the National Hockey League (NHL) was formed in Montreal, so catching a home game at the Bell Center arena is like catching a piece of history.

The NHL consists of 30 professional teams: 23 of those are from the United States, 7 reside in Canada. None are as beloved or successful as Montreal’s Canadiens. Tickets usually start around $30 and can run as high as $500 as more for the best seats or during playoffs.Continue

Wildlife Viewing; Queen Charolette Island, Canada

Haida Gwaii – which means “Islands of the People” – is an archipelago located roughly 90 miles (150 km) off the Prince Rupert coastline. It features over 200 small islets as well as two major islands: Graham and Moresby. It’s abundant flora and fauna earned its nickname, the “Canadian Galapagos.”

Why?

Because Haida Gwaii narrowly escaped the last Ice Age, which allowed its inhabitants to survive and evolve in completely unique ways. In fact, at least 39 different subspecies of plant and animal – including black bears, yellow daises, hairy woodpecker, and saw-whet owl – exist only on Haida Gwaii. There’s also an astonishing number of marine life, including otters, whales and sea lions.

But it’s the Haida Gwaii black bear which receives the most attention. Thousands of years ago, black bears needed exceptionally strong jaws to break through their prey’s thick shells. Over time those with the strongest jaws survived and passed on their genetics; therefore, the Haida Gwaii black bear is the largest black bear (with the strongest jaws) in the world.

There’s even polar bears. Well, not really… in fact, these white bears – called Kermode, or “Spirit” bears – are a type of black bear found only along the British Columbia coast. Their distinctly white fur results from a recessive gene passed down from both parents. Local tribes believe these bears serve as a reminder of the last Ice Age. It’s possible to view these bears on a one day wildlife tour.

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Tea at the Empress Hotel; Victoria, Canada

The Empress Hotel may be out of your price range. Or not. Regardless of your bankroll, however,  it’s certainly worth wandering through its various meeting halls and enormous colonial lobbies…

… and whether you stay here or not make sure to take tea in the afternoon. Scones, preserves, Jersey Cream, cakes and (of course) tea are all served throughout a six course menu.

All for only $60 CAN per person.

And if that’s too rich for your blood, skip the Tea Lounge and head to Bengal Lounge, where tea and scones are available without additional menu items and price hikes. Plus, they’ve got one heck of a curry for only $15. Continue

How to Backpack Jasper Park like a Ranger…

Jasper National Park. Sure, it may play second fiddle to Banff in terms of acclaim, but it remains larger and more wild than Banff, Yoho and Kootenay combined. It’s a place of rugged, untouched wilderness, with over 600 miles (1,000 km) of back-country trails which ranks among the largest – and best – trail systems in the world.

This is not for luxury lovers. Don’t expect ski resorts, champagne wishes and caviar dreams. In fact, don’t even expect a wide selection of day hikes. This is the wild, pure and simple. And for everyone’s sake we hope it stays that way.

But back to the day hikes…

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Ski World-Class Mountains; Whistler, Canada

Whistler – located just 77 miles (125 km) from Vancouver – is widely considered one of the world’s finest ski resorts. While it is a four-season resort, Whistler really shines in winter; while snowboarding and skiing remain its main draw every possible winter activity – including cross-country skiing, ice skating and climbing – is available.

Now let’s be honest: it’s crowded. Really crowded.

Over 2 million lift tickets are sold each year, making it the most popular (read: busy) ski resort in North America.  Fortunately, Whistler is also one of North America’s largest ski resorts, and easily handles a surprising number of visitors on its 200+ slopes and twelve ski bowls.Continue