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The great outdoors

Watery bliss in the GTA

Quebec’s Nordik Group is slated to open its third sybaritic spa complex at the end of 2019, with five saunas, three restaurants, various massage and resting areas, and six pools – including a saltwater float pool – covering nearly four hectares of Whitby’s Cullen Central Park.

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Nordik Group's third sybaritic spa complex.

Quebec’s new national park

When Opémican National Park officially opens later this year, it will offer a lake-, river-, forest- and history-filled alternative to Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park.

An hour’s drive north of North Bay and just over four hours from both Toronto and Ottawa, Opémican is framed by Lake Timiskaming – a cliff-lined widening of the Ottawa River – and labyrinthine Lake Kipawa. The park’s 252.5 square kilometres are divided into three sectors: One surrounding Lake Marsac, another encompassing a Kipawa archipelago, and the third home to the now-defunct Opémican timber-floating relay station, where the historic Auberge Jodoin and a blacksmith shop are being restored.

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Quebec’s Opémican National Park.Mathieu Dupuis

Churchill reconnected by rail

Eighteen months after severe flooding washed it out, Via service was restored on the 1,710-kilometre-long Winnipeg-Churchill rail line on Dec. 2.

The iconic 36-hour journey remains the only form of dryland transportation to Churchill, where roaming polar bears, world-class whale-watching and nightly aurora displays have helped land Manitoba on Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2019” list.

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Churchill, Man.

Dan’s Diner: The same Tundra Buggies used for bear viewing are also key components of Frontiers North Adventures’ new pop-up dining experience, which will be available from March 1 to 9. Guests board one of the tractor-tired vehicles to cross Churchill’s frozen namesake river for a regionally inspired meal in a remote pop-up restaurant with panoramic windows and skylights for watching aurora dance overhead.

New museums and exhibits

Calgary New Central Library: One of Architectural Digest magazine’s “most anticipated buildings of 2018” opened on Nov. 1 next to City Hall. Wrapped in glass and raised above street level to accommodate a light-rail tunnel, the $245-million oval-shaped structure is home to a performance hall, children’s library, audio and video recording studios, various public art installations, and a collection of 450,000 books, periodicals, recordings and other library items.

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Calgary New Central Library."George Webber "/Handout

Museum of Illusions, Toronto: A block east of the historic St. Lawrence Market, the exhibits in this two-month-old diversion include holograms, optical illusions, and rooms ranging from gravity-defying to infinite-seeming.

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Museum of Illusions, Toronto.

Infinity Mirror Room, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto: Speaking of infinite-seeming rooms, the AGO recently acquired Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever artwork following the departure of the hugely popular Infinity Mirrors travelling exhibition. The room is on track to open this spring.

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Infinity Mirror Room, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.Lexie Buchanan

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta: A $9.3-million expansion slated for completion this spring will add 14,000 square feet of new gallery and educational spaces, including a hands-on interactive exhibit.

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'Foundations,' Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta.

Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton: After opening its doors to the public on Oct. 3, the largest museum in Western Canada is expected to announce its first feature exhibit early in the new year, and to open it to the public in April.

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Green Gables Heritage Place, PEI: The setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables novels will get a larger visitor centre in the spring of 2019, with a revamped gift shop and new interpretive exhibits among the upgrades.

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Green Gables Heritage Place.

New festivals and events

World Acadian Congress: Held every five years, this edition of this celebration of Acadian and Cajun culture will unfold across Prince Edward Island and southeast New Brunswick from Aug. 10 to 24.

Toronto Biennial of Art: Starting Sept. 21, this three-month event will showcase contemporary art exhibitions, performances and seminars along the Lake Ontario waterfront.

New and revamped digs

JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District: Slated to open in early 2019, this 55-storey downtown property will offer 346 hotel rooms, a spa, a 20,000-square-foot fitness centre, and several eateries run by Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants. Its 22,000 square feet of event space, meanwhile, will include venues named after Edmonton Oilers greats such as Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

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JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District.

The St. Regis Toronto: Canada’s first St. Regis hotel officially replaced the Trump International Hotel and Tower in December after extensive renovations to the 65-storey downtown property’s opulent public spaces, luxurious guest rooms and two-storey spa.

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The St. Regis hotel in downtown Toronto.

The Josie Hotel and Nowhere Special, Red Mountain Resort, B.C.: Billed as “the first ski-in/ski-out boutique hotel to be built in Canada in over a decade,” the Josie brings some serious cachet – as well as an in-house spa and upscale restaurant – to one of Canada’s few remaining independent ski resorts. For something easier on the wallet, the stylish new Nowhere Special hostel offers private rooms and a variety of dorm-style options steps from the Kootenay slopes.

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The Josie Hotel and Nowhere Special, Red Mountain Resort, B.C.

Raven Inn, Whitehorse: This boutique addition to the downtown Shipyards Park neighbourhood will feature 57 hotel rooms and residence suites with full kitchens and decks, an outdoor hot pool, and a bar and lounge.

Alt Hotel Calgary East Village: Steps from downtown’s new Central Library, this 10-storey property by Quebec’s Groupe Germain, opened in November. It offers 152 pet-friendly guest rooms and a restaurant and bar serving breakfast and lunch, with another eatery slated to open later this year.

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Alt Hotel Calgary East Village.

The Malcolm Hotel, Canmore, Alta: New to this Rocky Mountain town, the lodge-style Malcolm features 125 rooms and suites, an elegant restaurant, lounge and bar, 6,600 square feet of event space, and an outdoor pool and fitness centre.

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The Malcolm Hotel, Canmore, Alta.Graham Twomey

Glamping keeps growing

Canada’s thriving glamorous-camping scene is slated to add three new venues: Northeastern New Brunswick’s Cielo Glamping Maritime, where five furnished geodesic domes will overlook Shippagan Bay; Archer’s Edge Luxury Camping in Judique, N.S., which will also offer oceanfront glamping in five all-weather domes; and two “Winter Glamping Tents” at Mount Engadine Lodge in Alberta’s Spray Valley Provincial Park.

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Northeastern New Brunswick’s Cielo Glamping Maritime, where five furnished geodesic domes will overlook Shippagan Bay.

New cruises set sail

Cascadia: Maple Leaf Adventures’ new 138-foot catamaran will carry up to 24 guests when it starts exploring the Great Bear Rainforest, Haida Gwaii, and northern Vancouver Island in 2019.

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Cascadia: Maple Leaf Adventures’ new 138-foot catamaran.

Isola Solaretto: Said to offer “the world’s first solar-powered dinner cruise and boat tour,” the 38-foot Isola Solaretto is slated to launch from Charlottetown Marina in June. Operated by Ride Solar, which calls itself “Canada’s first solar-electric public transit system employing both land and water craft,” the cruises will be offered five times daily.

Editor’s note: Jan. 18, 2019: The Royal Tyrrell Museum's "Foundations" exhibit is not part of a $9.3-million expansion slated for completion this spring. Incorrect information was published in an earlier version of this article.

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