Artists, islands and orcas
Canada 150 festivities may be wrapping up, but as Mark Stachiew finds, 2018 still offers plenty of reasons to vacation within our own borders
These museums are bigger and better
The Royal Alberta Museum expands:
When the RAM completes its move to its new location in the heart of Edmonton's downtown Arts District in 2018, it will be double the size of the original – making it the largest in Western Canada.
With more than 82,000 square feet of exhibition space, the RAM will be able to haul more of its collection out of storage to better tell the story of Alberta. No official opening date has been set, but you can follow # RAMWow on social media to get a glimpse of some of the amazing artifacts that will be on display in the new building. royalalbertamuseum.ca
Picasso comes to Saskatoon:
Saskatoon lived up to its nickname as the Paris of the Prairies with the late 2017 opening of the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. The world-class space is notable for being home to the largest collection of Picasso linocuts.
The 405 pieces, which are valued at $20-million, were donated by Ellen Remai, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist who was the driving force behind the creation of the gallery, donating $16-million for its construction and another $15-million to support continuing international exhibitions. Her motivation for one of Canada's largest ever donations to the arts? "A great city deserves great art," she said. remaimodern.org
Canada Science and Technology Museum gets an update:
Just in time for its 50 th anniversary, the Ottawa building reopened in November after a much-needed $80.5-million facelift. Prior to its overhaul, some of the exhibits were becoming so long in the tooth that they more closely resembled historical displays than examples of cutting-edge technology.
The upgraded space retains old favourites including the Crazy Kitchen and the impressive locomotive collection. But now, there are also 11 completely redesigned exhibits that focus on Canadian scientific and technological advances, and present them in new and immersive ways that will please visitors for years to come. ingeniumcanada.org/scitech
New roads to explore
Dip your toe in the Arctic:
"From sea to sea" takes on new meaning now that the highway to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories opened in November. It's the first all-season road in Canada that will allow people to drive all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Prior to that, the only way to get to the northern hamlet was by plane or by ice road in the winter.
Tuktoyaktuk residents are excited to see how the highway transforms the community, but, at the same time, fearful of the disruption it might bring. But while local guides are gearing up for an influx of visitors, the town is still remote enough that it won't ever become as overtouristed as cities such as Barcelona or Venice. spectacularnwt.com
Explore the Bay of Fundy:
The New Brunswick coast along the bay has some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada, but it was rarely appreciated because it was difficult to access. That's been slowly changing as more kilometres have been added to the Fundy Trail Parkway.
When the privately operated 19-km road is completed in 2018, it will give travellers a better chance to take in this natural wonder by gazing out from scenic viewpoints or hiking along the nearby Fundy Trail. The full potential of the parkway to bring tourists to southern New Brunswick won't be realized until a provincial road links it to Fundy National Park in 2020. fundytrailparkway.com
Get on a boat
Drive to France:
Thanks to a new ferry that sets sail from Fortune, Nfld., in 2018, Canadians will soon be able to drive to a piece of France with their own cars without needing a special driver's licence. You'll still be a long way from Paris, though, because the ferry only travels to the French overseas territories of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
The current ferry, Le Cabestan, is operated by the Saint Pierre and Miquelon government and carries passengers only, but two new ships – Nordet and Suroît – will be much larger and able to carry vehicles along with 192 travellers and freight. The ferries will make the 25-km voyage to St. Pierre in about 80 minutes, and will also offer a new direct route to Miquelon from Newfoundland. saintpierreferry.ca
Look for spirit bears:
In 2018, BC Ferries will launch the Northern Sea Wolf, a car and passenger ship that will take visitors on a 10-hour journey from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Bella Coola, a town that sits in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest temperate rain forest in the world and home to the elusive white spirit bear.
The ship will sail along B.C.'s beautiful central coast on a route that rivals that of any cruise, but at a fraction of the price. The region is a fantastic area for spotting wildlife like grizzlies and orcas. bcferries.com
It's not just any boat, it's Le Boat:
The company has been offering self-drive boating holidays in Europe for decades, and is now expanding into North America allowing customers to sail luxuriously along the Rideau Canal from Ottawa to Kingston. Travellers will be able to enjoy the delights of the rural towns lining Ontario's only UNESCO World Heritage Site between May and October. leboat.com
Admire more wonders
Get back to nature:
Ontario Parks turns 125 years old in 2018 and wants to use the anniversary to encourage Canadians to cure their nature-deficit disorder by getting outside. The theme of the events and festivals commemorating the anniversary is Healthy Parks Healthy People, part of a worldwide initiative to promote physical, mental and social well-being through the environment. For the nearly 40 per cent of Canadians who live in Ontario, a provincial park is a lot closer than you think. ontarioparks.com/park-locator
Get a better view of the Reversing Falls:
Despite the name, the Reversing Falls, in Saint John are really a set of rapids and whirlpools created by the collision of the Bay of Fundy's tides with the Saint John River.
Skywalk Saint John is a new glass and steel observation deck that opened late this season to give visitors a bird's-eye view of this natural phenomenon that has captivated tourists for ages. The attraction boasts an interpretive centre with a theatre where a film is shown explaining the science behind the falls along with a restaurant that lets them linger for longer. facebook.com/skywalksaintjohn