Staying home to avoid the U.S. dollar this summer? Here’s a look at some fun and funky things to do across Canada, mostly along the Trans-Canada Highway.
The eastern end (or beginning) of the TCH starts in St. John’s, where you’ll find colourful houses lining the rocky coast of the harbour. You can take a great walk from there to the top of Signal Hill, where a couple years ago I spotted a military guy firing off a symbolic round of blanks in recognition of the city’s first cruise ship of the year.
Just a few miles off the TCH near Baddeck is a pretty community called Plaster Cove. You reach it by the Little Narrows Ferry and then make a leisurely drive past small farms overlooking massive Bras d’Or Lake. Once you reach Plaster Cove you’ll find a pretty bay with a large, sandy headland off to one side. More intriguing is a small model of a church, with tiny cemetery crosses and a picket fence. I don’t know who built it, and I don’t care. I just like it.
Potato World is a funky roadside attraction just a few seconds off the Trans Canada Highway in New Brunswick. You’ll find displays on the importance of the potato to the New Brunswick economy, as well as hands-on bits where you can try hand-cutting potatoes for French Fries or moving a massive, 75-kg barrel filled with spuds.
Pull off the TCH at Quebec City and take time to enjoy the most charming city in North America. Stop in at the new 1608 Wine and Cheese bar at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac for a drink and some Quebec treats, then check out Rue du Petit Champlain, perhaps the most scenic street in the city. For something different, try a ghost tour. A city that’s more than 400 years old should have a few.
Two hugely popular roadside attractions loom in northern Ontario. One is the famous Wawa Goose, a bountiful bird who’s been undergoing restoration due to rust and a leaking underbelly. She’s still on display as locals seek to raise money for a new one. A few km’s along the road is the town of White River, where you’ll find a statue of Winnie the Pooh. The real Winnie was a black bear cub who was orphaned when its mother was killed by a hunter in the area in 1914. It ended up at the London Zoo, where it inspired a young man named Christopher Robin Milne to name his toy bear Winnie the Pooh. Christopher’s father A.A. Milne later wrote his famous Winnie the Pooh stories.
The Bridge Drive-In, or BDI, is a Winnipeg institution, a place where they make something called a Goog, which features ice cream, blueberries and more. Folks take their ice cream and stroll across the nearby bridge over the Red River. When I was there I asked folks what the name of the bridge was. They all told me it’s simply called the BDI Bridge. “But the Bridge Drive-In is named after the bridge,” I said. “What’s the name of the bridge?” Again, all I got was “The BDI Bridge.” Which would mean the bridge is named after an ice cream shop that’s named after a bridge that nobody knows the name of. (I later found out it’s named the Elm Park bridge. But I like BDI Bridge better.)
The waterfront on the South Saskatchewan River has been revitalized, and there are cool restaurants and galleries in the Riversdale area. On the south side of the river near the Broadway Bridge you’ll find a series of rocks painted by locals, everything from Mickey Mouse faces or testaments to never-ending love. Or not. When I was there, I also spotted graffiti on the bridge with the outline of a fish skeleton and the words “Love Sucks. And so do you.”
Small town museums in Canada are delightful. That goes particularly for the small one in Canmore. One of the top displays focusses on Mary Rodda, a tiny woman who ran the rough and tumble Canmore Hotel for 16 years, often separating drunk customers from starting a brawl by standing on a chair and keeping them at bay. There’s also some great photography, including the town’s ball team from way back when. Once you’ve explored the museum, head out and admire the stunning local scenery.
An artist in Revelstoke, B.C. began making fairy tale figures out of cement back in the 1950’s. More than a half-century later, visitors to what’s now called the Enchanted Forest take great delight in the colourful tree houses, castles and statues or works of art based on everything from Humpty Dumpty to the cow who jumped over the moon.
JIM’S DEAL OF THE WEEK
The Chelsea Toronto is having a summer sale. Stay one night and get 15% off the best available rate that day. Stay two and save 20%. Valid from June 30 to the end of summer.
NOTE: This item originally appeared in Postmedia and Sun Media websites and publications.
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