Image source: Flickr - eutrophication&hypoxia
Every visitor to Canada dreams of chasing down French culture in Quebec City and Montreal, scaling the CN Tower for vistas of downtown Toronto, or replenishing the lungs with fresh mountain air in Vancouver. But urban Canada stretches far beyond the country's most obvious tourism starlets. Open up your itinerary and kick back in one of these three lesser-known Canadian cities.
St. John's is a city with the soul of a small town. Here, low-rise historical buildings shaded with pastel colors reign over glass and metal skyscrapers, and traditional pubs and family-owned eateries outnumber chain restaurants; at times, St. John's resembles an overgrown Scandinavian fishing village more than a provincial capital.
Although downtown is the focal point for travelers to St. John's, a simple 1-hour hike (or 90 minutes along the cliffside North Head Trail) will take you over Signal Hill, an important national monument, to land in Quidi Vidi. Reward your endurance with a pint of one of Newfoundland's finest microbrews at the Quidi Vidi Brewery and relax among lakeside views of a traditional Canadian East Coast village.
With Niagara Falls on its doorstep, St. Catharines rarely gets the love from travelers that it deserves. Sure, Ontario's Garden City isn't adorned with the Vegas-inspired dazzle of its kitschy neighbor, but what it lacks in pizzazz it makes up for in style and grace.
Unknown to many is that the St. Catharines area is home to one of North America's top-rated emerging wine regions. Over 80 wineries operate in and around St. Catharines, many offering year-round tours, even during the chilly Canadian winter months when vintners craft their world-famous ice wines.
Although the Niagara Wine Festival in autumn and the Niagara Icewine Festival in winter draw wine lovers to the Southern Ontario city, St. Catharines truly springs to life in the summer when the growing season and tours are in full swing.
To get the most out of the warm weather, head outside of the city to experience some of Southeastern Ontario's finest hiking including the Bruce Trail, Canada's longest, which surges through the St. Catharines area along the Niagara Escarpment.
Alternatively, if outdoor adventure doesn't appeal to you set your sights on nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, a historic town on the shores of Lake Ontario, to spend the day shopping in boutiques housed in heritage buildings or dining on fresh seafood along the shores of Lake Ontario.
Finding a city surrounded by vineyards that excites the palates of wine connoisseurs and mountains that drive adrenaline-junkies to defy gravity borders on impossible. Or so it seemed.
Kelowna is a mystery many can't fathom. How this Western Canadian city of over a hundred thousand became wedged between fruit orchards, lakes, semi-arid deserts, and ski resorts baffles nearly everyone. But don't let the puzzle consume you: there's plenty more to occupy your time in Kelowna.
In winter, skiers and boarders from around the world congregate on the slopes of Big White, located steps away from the city and touted as one of the best ski resorts in Canada, if not North America.
Year round, thirsty travelers will never run dry; Kelowna takes its beverage-making quite seriously. The area is home over 25 wineries and a handful of microbreweries, cideries, and distilleries. To get a taste of the craft, snag a tour at Urban Distilleries, Tree Brewing Company, or East Kelowna Cider, all located within walking distance of downtown.
Please drink responsibly and use a designated driver, as your RoamRight policy does not cover loss resulting from or caused by being under the influence of alcohol.
Have you ever thought of visiting any of these lesser-known Canadian cities? Which city are you most interested in adding to your next itinerary?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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A perfect storm of wandering wordsmith and travel photographer, Ryan O'Rourke lives and breathes travel. For the last decade, Ryan has roamed around the world, living in 4 different countries and visiting over 30 countries along the way with no signs of slowing down. Ryan's insatiable wanderlust inspired him to found Treksplorer where he now writes about his adventures and offers unconventional travel planning, language learning, and travel photography tips for independent travellers.
When not out and about, Ryan calls Northern Ontario home, and enjoys basking in the great Canadian outdoors and lazily chilling by the campfire with an acoustic guitar. Follow Ryan on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest.
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