Here are nine getaways that provide an unforgettable experience in our home and native land
It should be simple: Shoot an arrow, hit the target, love conquers all. But the boy with the bow often needs something extra to fan the flames of desire, and if the traditional trappings of Valentine's Day fall short there's enough drama, wonder, mystery and adventure across our home and native land to make even the coldest hearts flutter. And if reading this prompts an unpleasant realization, remember: The promise of an unforgettable experience often allays any Feb. 14 forgetfulness.
Aurora viewing at Blachford Lake Lodge, NWT
The Northern Lights are visible in the Yellowknife area for an average of 200 nights a year owing to clear skies, low humidity and the so-called "Auroral oval" overhead. Watching these luminescent veils is spellbinding enough on its own, but drinking them in at this remote luxury lodge, 30 minutes by bush plane from the NWT capital, adds outdoor hot tubbing, igloo-building and ice-skating to the romantic mix.
From $1,155 a person for a two-night package that includes all meals and round-trip flights from Yellowknife. blachfordlakelodge.com
Oyster Hour, the Inn at Bay Fortune, PEI
Helmed by Food Network celebrity chef Michael Smith, this upscale inn's "the Feast" dinner experience kicks off with all-you-can-slurp Colville Bay and Fortune Bay oysters. The kitchen proceeds to cover communal butcher-block tables with a variety of locally-sourced dishes prepared in a 25-foot-long wood-burning behemoth that encompasses a smoker, hearth, grill, rotisserie and oven. Should you get hot and bothered by all the oysters and flame-cooked fare, the nearby "Wine Library," curated by sommelier Erin Turke, provides ample refreshment.
From $225 based on double occupancy. The Feast is $120 a person, including gratuity; innatbayfortune.com
Hiking or skiing to Skoki Lodge, Banff National Park, Alta.
A property's romantic credentials are pretty much set when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sign the guestbook while on honeymoon. Such was the case at this historic backcountry lodge in 2011, when Will and Kate partook of Skoki's plush accommodations, top-notch cuisine and intimate lantern-lit ambience. The Royal newlyweds did not make the 11-kilometre trek to Skoki from the Lake Louise ski resort – they took a helicopter instead – while running water and electricity were temporarily installed especially for them. In short, the Royals missed out: Getting off the grid in such style, and getting there in such spectacular fashion are essential aspects of the Skoki experience.
From $195 a person per night, including all meals; skoki.com
Leonard Cohen walking tour, Montreal
It's probably just a matter of time until the launch of an "official" walking tour honouring Montreal's late great singer-songwriter. Until then, fans of Canada's "poet of brokenness," as Rolling Stone calls him, with have to content themselves with self-guided excursions. There's his long-time home at 28 Rue de Vallieres, which was littered with tributes after his passing on Nov. 7, 2016. Cohen regularly dined on ribs and cheesecake at the Main Deli Steak House, while the glorious Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church in the Old Port inspired the lyrics for Suzanne. There's leafy Murray Park in the Westmount neighbourhood, steps from his childhood home at 599 Belmont Ave., and the nearby Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, an Orthodox synagogue attended by Cohen's family for more than a century. And starting Nov. 9, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is hosting a retrospective exhibit, "A Crack in Everything," that will run to April 1, 2018. Fans looking for a place to stay may be disappointed to learn that one of his frequent haunts, the Hotel de France, is no longer in business. But for music lore of another kind they can always check into Rooms 1738, 1740, 1742 and 1744 at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their famous "Bed-In for Peace" in 1969.
Couples massage at Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa, Moose Jaw, Sask.
Your significant other may be taken aback by a romantic spa getaway in Moose Jaw, but it won't take long to win him or her over. The luxurious Temple Gardens spa complex is home to Canada's largest geothermal indoor/outdoor rooftop pool, which is filled with mineral water drawn from an ancient seabed deep underground. The 44-degree water is said to remove toxins from bathers' bodies, while a Sacred Body & Mind Couples Massage at the in-house Sun Tree Spa does likewise with organic massage oils.
From $159 a night based on double occupancy; templegardens.sk.ca
Swaying in the treetops at Free Spirit Spheres, Quallicum Beach, B.C.
Want a romantic hotel that's outside the box? Try staying inside a tree sphere. Not only are Free Spirit's three rooms completely round and their ship-like interiors remarkably well-equipped, but all are suspended in Vancouver Island's lush forest canopy using an ingenious web of ropes. While the smallest sphere, "Eve," is designed for a single guest, "Eryn" and "Melody" can accommodate two comfortably. The spheres sway gently with the breeze, eliciting the most blissful sleep (and whatever else you choose to do up there). In the morning, there's nothing like gazing out a round window as daybreak illuminates the verdant forest canopy.
From $175 a night; freespiritspheres.com
Winemaker's Picnic Lunch, Creekside Estate Winery, Jordan, Ont.
Picnicking among the vines is a quintessentially amorous activity that gets a Canadian twist when smoked Ontario pork shoulder and shiraz icewine are on the menu. Nestled in the bucolic Twenty Valley just west of St. Catharines, Creekside Estate provides baskets filled with locally-sourced fare, checkered blankets upon which to savour Niagara's bounty and, of course, two glasses of whatever is being poured in the winery's elegant tasting room.
$20 a person from June to October, 24-hour advance notice required; creeksidewine.com/winery
Staying at the Hotel de Glace, Quebec City
It takes a truly adventurous couple to spend the night atop a slab of ice. Of course, North America's original ice hotel, which opened just north of Quebec City in 2001, provides plenty of ways to stay warm: Thermal sleeping bags and mattresses, alfresco hot tubs and saunas, a sugar shack, an ice slide, even a fireplace-equipped lounge where cocktails are served in, you guessed it, ice glasses. And if a chill does creep in, don't worry: The "Romantic Getaway" package includes a room at the next-door Valcartier Hotel on the same night as your icy stay, along with a second night at the iconic Fairmont Château Laurier in picturesque Old Quebec City.
From $269 a person based on double occupancy; hoteldeglace-canada.com
Skating or cycling along the Rideau Canal, Ottawa
Walking in a winter wonderland? That's just your average Tuesday in Canada. Skating hand-in-hand, however, is prime date-night material, especially when it takes place on the world's largest rink. Ottawa's 7.8-kilometre-long Rideau Canal Skateway is lined with iconic landmarks and, during the annual Winterlude festival, with stands selling sinfully sweet Beaver Tails and other treats. Various live performances also spring up on the ice, while nearby parks host ice-sculpting competitions. Then, soon after the snow disappears from the impeccable bike paths on both sides of the canal, more than a millions blooms burst from their beds during the Canadian Tulip Festival (May 12 to 22 this year).