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News of erratic and lengthy security lineups at airports, causing some to even miss their flights, may have you thinking about an impromptu summer road trip instead. Despite rising gas prices, recent Ipsos research completed for Toyota Canada found that 47 per cent of Canadian travellers are still going ahead with road trip plans.

One way to scratch the itch of getting away while keeping things relatively light on the wallet is to visit your local U.S. border town – many of which have experienced interesting urban development over the past couple of years and are very excited to welcome Canadian tourists back. Here are some ideas to spark a weekend road trip, not including the customary visits to Target, Trader Joe’s and Ulta Beauty, of course.

Bellingham, Wash.

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Trackside Beer Garden features 20 options on tap, many seasonal or limited-release, spanning from wine and cider to non-alcoholic.Maggie Kaiserman/Handout

Less than 90 minutes from Vancouver, Bellingham has been repurposing old buildings and reveling in Waypoint Park, a new waterpark that’s part of a mega waterfront redevelopment. Along with beaches, a playground and walking trails, there’s a new outdoor sculpture and murals to take in. The park also hosts the Granary Building. Built in 1928, it was once an icon of the city, and home to a booming poultry business. You can still get eggs here, but from a weekly farmers’ market, which runs on Wednesdays from June through September. Local vendors such as the café Black Fern Coffee, bakery SconeGrown and Artivem Mead Co. have also set up shop in the Granary. And a pop-up beer garden can be found at Waypoint all summer. Kulshan Brewing Co.’s Trackside Beer Garden features 20 options on tap, many seasonal or limited-release, spanning from wine and cider to non-alcoholic drinks. Art lovers will want to make a stop at the new 720-foot-long mural by Indigenous artist Jason LaClair, who teamed up with muralist Gretchen Leggitt to create the massive work, which illustrates a salmon run. You can find the mural on North Forest Street between Fairhaven Village and downtown Bellingham.

Stay: Heliotrope Hotel. This 1950s motel was recently given a modern makeover informed by Pacific Northwest design. The 17 rooms on the property all feature minimalist-designed furniture and pieces by local artists; some rooms have full kitchens. And guests can commune in the Hub, a living room-like space, or the Yard, a grassy area for games and gathering around the fire pit at night.

Buffalo, N.Y.

There’s plenty new to explore here, less than two hours’ drive from Toronto. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is getting a mega makeover that won’t be ready until next year, but in the meantime the gallery continues to work with artists on an expanding portfolio of public art projects that can be spotted throughout the city. It’s a DIY art adventure (visit to access the Public Art Initiative map). Be sure to check out The Freedom Wall, Love Black by Edreys Wajed and James “Yames” Moffitt and Buffalo Soldier Wing Stance (The Tree of Y) by Maya Hayuk. History meets the future at the newly restored Buffalo Heritage Carousel. Built in Buffalo in 1924 by the Herschell-Spillman Carousel Factory, the structure has been restored and is now operated by solar power at the newly revitalized waterfront venue Canalside. Architecture buffs will want to visit the Martin House complex. The six-building property was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first work in the city and restoration was recently completed. And the city’s craft brew scene is bubbling with excitement, with 50 independent breweries filling pints. There are three new beer trails to travel: Choose between This Way to IPA, Classic Beer Styles Done Buffalo-Style or Get Experimental.

Stay: Hotel at the Lafayette. This boutique hotel is part of the city’s revitalization, getting a refresh in 2012 – something the hotel, originally built in 1904 and designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first known American female architect, desperately needed. The hotel also has on site Public Espresso, an indie café and espresso bar, and Lafayette Brewing Company’s bar and restaurant.

Burlington, Vt.

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Crowds on Main Street and the City Hall Park in Burlington during a 2021 Jazz Fest party.Bear Cieri; Bear Cieri/Aaron Cieri/Handout

This little city two hours south of Montreal has a lot going on. The South End Arts District continues to bloom as a creative hub for makers and local artists. S.P.A.C.E. Gallery is known for its multimedia art shows, with work from artists as diverse as woodworkers and photographers. The Soda Plant is one of the newest additions to the neighbourhood. Once an industrial soda plant, it’s now a business incubator and a place emerging fashion designers, home accessory artisans, jewellery makers and more call home. The statewide dinner series Adventure Dinner, which during the pandemic transformed from a biannual pop-up to a recurring and regular event, organizes dinners in unexpected locations featuring menus by local chefs, winemakers, farmers and producers. They’re visiting Burlington at least twice this year. And beer fans are sure to want to seek out Pine Street, a.k.a. Brewery Boulevard, particularly for a stop at Hen of the Wood, one of the hottest restaurants in town right now. Menus change daily and are filled with ingredients from the nearby Green Mountains and Champlain Valley. A number of hotels in the city are currently offering packages for Canadian travellers. Learn more here:

Stay: Hotel Vermont. Located in the heart of downtown, the hotel features local artists in its public spaces, while guest rooms are made to feel like home, complete with a sleep menu, which offers everything from flannel pyjamas to teddy bears. Bedtime stories are free. Bicycles are available for guests to explore the city.

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