It takes weeks for Jasper National Park’s trembling aspens to finish dotting Alberta’s Sunwapta Valley with bursts of gold. Up at the head of the valley, however, another change happens overnight.
As of the first Tuesday in September, tour buses and RVs are less likely to crowd the parking lots surrounding the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. Fewer visitors explore the trails winding toward the toe of the nearby Athabasca Glacier, fewer tractor-tired snow coaches trundle across the six-kilometre-long sheet of ice and the new Glacier View Lodge is no longer booked solid.
Thankfully, this fall slowdown has little effect on the luxurious lodge’s all-inclusive overnight packages. Until Oct. 13, when the 32-room property atop the Discovery Centre closes for the season, guests arriving in the afternoon are welcomed with cocktails and charcuterie before embarking on an after-hours snow coach tour. They then move back indoors for a three-course dinner at the window-lined Altitude restaurant, where an expansive outdoor patio provides a prime venue for stargazing amid the world’s second-largest dark-sky preserve. After breakfast the next morning, the package concludes with private access to the Glacier Skywalk, a cliff-edge walkway leading to a glass-floored observation platform that juts out over the valley at a height of nearly 300 metres.
Across Canada, fall travel options such as this one are becoming more plentiful and varied. As the busy summer season gives way to the so-called shoulder season of September and October – not to mention the low season of November and early December – the new experiences listed here become less crowded and more affordable. While fiery fall foliage and abundant wildlife make some of them especially appealing to the eye, in every case the combination of lower expectations and greater availability yields the greatest travel treasure of them all: a stunning surprise.
Wine and dine
The Trius Tour, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Launched in July, this 45-minute guided excursion blends wine pairings with Instagram-friendly art installations. Beginning in an outdoor terrace dubbed the Rosé Lounge, guests can sample the winery’s 2018 blush against two picturesque backdrops: vineyards stretching to the horizon and a floral wall comprised of hundreds of faux roses. Next up is Canada’s largest underground sparkling cellar, where Trius Brut is poured and a series of elegant aroma stations test olfactory skills. Guests then head to the barrel-lined Trius Red Cellar to try the winery’s signature blend before proceeding to the stand-alone Sparkling House for a seat on a whimsical “muselet” swing and a simulated soak in a “Bubble Tub.” The tour wraps up at the canopied Trius Brut Bar, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s newest winery bar.
Wines and Islands cruise, Gulf Islands, B.C.
Maple Leaf Adventures’s recently refitted 138-foot catamaran, the Cascadia, will host several British Columbia winemakers as culinary guides on an all-inclusive voyage from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1. As well as visiting Pender Island’s Sea Star winery and exploring the bucolic archipelago’s oak forests and white-shell beaches, guests will dine on locally sourced fare paired with the dozens of wines being sampled.
Les Têtes Fromagères, Eastern Townships, Quebec
What pairs better with the region’s 140-kilometre wine route than its new cheesemakers circuit? Covering cheeses ranging from hickory-smoked Italian-style Gouda to raw sheep’s milk and goat’s milk varieties, the 14-stop tour also encompasses the dozens of microbreweries, farmers’ markets and other culinary attractions in and around the cities of Sherbrooke and Granby.
Dumpling Trail tour, Richmond, B.C.
Three years after being launched as a self-guided circuit of Richmond’s dumpling hot spots, Vancouver Food Tours has unveiled a guided version of the city’s 20-stop Dumpling Trail. Encompassing six tastings at six different restaurants – five served with tea and one with local beer – guests of the three-hour tour may encounter treats ranging from shrimp wrapped in tapioca-starch pastry to pork-stuffed siu mai topped with salmon roe.
Autumn arts and culture
Toronto Biennial of Art
Starting on Sept. 21, the final Saturday of summer, this 72-day event is slated to install more than 100 works of art, including 20 new commissions, across 10 sites on or near Toronto’s waterfront. The inaugural participants hail from 40-plus countries, including Canada, Brazil, France, Guatemala and Thailand.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg
The only national museum outside the Ottawa region is adding some augmented reality to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since Aug. 20, visitors to the museum’s third-floor gallery have been using iPads to make virtual people and objects appear in front of them, along with video, audio and historic images that highlight the value of the Charter. In the same gallery, the museum is also displaying the original 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution Act, a rarely loaned (and raindrop-smudged) document from Library and Archives Canada.
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Speaking of national museums, on Nov. 8 the National Gallery will unveil the second instalment of its quinquennial series on international contemporary Indigenous art. Titled Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel, the exhibition will feature works by more than 70 artists identifying with dozens of Indigenous nations, ethnicities and tribal affiliations from Canada and around the world.
Into the wild
Wildlife & Wellness, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Manitoba
Churchill Wild’s remote Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, about 30 km east of historic York Factory, is hosting this new tour package from Sept. 20 to 26. Arriving from Winnipeg via Churchill, guests can combine guided hikes and wildlife- and aurora-viewing with meditation sessions, pilates, yoga and evening presentations on Arctic ecosystems, landscapes and cultures.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, Stuie, B.C.
With nearby rivers teeming with migrating Pacific salmon, this upscale wilderness lodge just east of Bella Coola runs “Grizzly Safaris” from Sept. 1 through October. This season, the lodge has added amenities including a bird- and bear-viewing stand near the lodge; a via ferrata rock-climbing network of metal rungs, ladders and wires; and single-track trails for both mountain bikes and e-bikes.
Fall in the family
Predator Ridge bike shuttle, Vernon, B.C.
A new daily shuttle service connects this golf, spa, cycling and nature resort to Coldstream, the northern terminus of the new Okanagan Rail Trail. Upon completing a 27-km southbound ride – on rented bikes if need be – shuttle-takers meet in the town of Lake Country for the return journey to Predator Ridge’s spacious lodge rooms and private cottages, all of which feature full kitchens, balconies and fireplaces.
Above and Beyond exhibit, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa
From soaring into Earth orbit to joining a journey to Mars, this new exhibition highlights interactive challenges, vehicle concept models and prototypes, immersive media presentations and inspiring innovator stories. Developed by engineers and designers from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution – where it made its world debut in 2015 – Above and Beyond opens Sept. 28.
Paddle into the Past, Métis Crossing, Alberta
A 90-minute drive north of Edmonton, this four-hour guided tour combines Métis culture and history with a scenic paddle down the North Saskatchewan River. In and around the Victoria District National Historic Site, guests can try their hand at cooking bannock over a fire, crafting Métis jewellery and clothes, dancing a Métis jig in a historic log homestead and paddling an authentic voyageur canoe.
New season, new digs
Pluvio restaurant + rooms, Ucluelet, B.C.
Helmed by chef Warren Barr, this intimate property’s restaurant focuses on seasonal and wild-foraged ingredients from nearby waters and forests. Think kombu-poached Pacific halibut and Vancouver Island strawberry mille feuille. Next to the backyard kitchen garden, the bright and airy boutique hotel offers four rooms decked out in coastal greys and greens.
Stonehaven Le Manoir, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec
Overlooking Lac des Sables in the leafy Laurentian Hills north of Montreal – which are always eye-catching in the fall – this former private mansion has been reinvented as a sybaritic complex of Italian gardens, sunny terraces, decadent dining rooms serving local poultry, duck, cheeses and greens, and 34 opulent rooms and suites.
Inn at Fortune Bridge, Bay Fortune, PEI
The sister property to celebrity chef Michael Smith’s Inn at Bay Fortune has turned the community’s historic general store into a Parisian-style boutique inn with whimsical grounds, a rooftop terrace and six regal rooms and suites. Should guests wish to attend the main inn’s famous nightly FireWorks Feast, which features a 25-foot-long wood-burning oven, a 1957 classic Bentley will shuttle them there.
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