Discover these Canadian destinations for your spring staycation

Travel writer Heather Greenwood Davis shares her ideas for where to go for your spring break getaway in Canada.
March 10, 2020 2:24 p.m. EST
March 14, 2020 12:00 a.m. EST
After the cold months of winter, a spring getaway is a survival must for a lot of Canadians. While it’s currently a tricky time for international jet-setting, you don’t have to leave the country to scratch that travel itch!National Geographic's Contributing Editor and The Globe and Mail's travel writer Heather Greenwood Davis shares five great Canadian staycation ideas from coast to coast. Check them out below and watch the video clip above to see why they're so great.


One of the most popular destinations on the planet is right here under our noses, yet most of us neglect to make the most of it. Granted, flight costs don’t always make it easy, but with all of the uncertainties in the world at the moment, a trip close to home may finally get a chance to shine. And make no mistake, a Canadian vacation isn’t settling for second best. This country is huge! A staycation where you don’t leave your city is one thing, but these spots will take you across the country. This doesn’t cover every province or any of the territories, so rest assured there’s still a lot more out there worth exploring.2019 was Canada’s third consecutive record-breaking year for travellers: 22.1 million people came through the country. Tourism plays a significant role in our national economy, to the tune of over 100-billion dollars. In fact, one in 10 jobs in communities across the country have a tie in to tourism! Why not do what we can to support our economy while also having a vacation that people the world over are flocking to?[caption id="attachment_4857313" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


When you think of Saskatchewan, you might just picture fields and flatlands. But the myth of a flat wasteland between Ontario and Alberta is untrue! There’s a ton of things to do in the Prairies, even though you might not realize it during the winter with the -40 temps and gale force winds. During the rest of the year, it really has a chance to shine.One of the best things about Saskatchewan is that it always seems to surprise you. An area that most people probably don’t know about is the quirky, completely unexpected desert-like Great Sandhills of southwestern Saskatchewan. One minute you’re in the green grasses and rolling hills of the province, the next you feel like you’re in the Sahara Desert—it’s approximately 1,900 sq. km area of active desert-like sand dunes. You might catch a peek at Mule deer and antelope that frequent the area, but the real reason to visit is to see this natural wonder for yourself. Check out the Great Sandhills Museum in Sceptre (Open mid-May – Labour Day weekend) before heading over, so that you have a map and a better understanding of how the area was formed.  The ever-shifting landscape makes it a great spot for hiking, birdwatching, sandboarding, and sunrise photography.Another great thing to check out in Saskatchewan is Lucky Bastard Distilleries (LBD). Seriously, don’t come home without multiple bottles of their chai vodka! You’ll need one to keep for yourself once you try it.[caption id="attachment_4857317" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


Most of us, especially in Ontario, hear Quebec and immediately think of Quebec City and Montreal, when in fact there’s so much more to la belle province. Case in point: The Eastern Townships. In this area about an hour from Montreal, you’ll find some of the most beautiful small towns and leisurely drives in the country. Plus, in the townships, there’s hiking, biking, and more.You can just wile away your days in the Eastern Townships, but you could also book yourself a luxurious getaway at the famous Manoir Hovey. This five-star Relais and Chateaux property was a private estate commissioned in 1900 by Henry Atkinson, the President of Georgia Power in Atlanta. He designed this summer home after George Washington’s residence in Mount Vernon. The lakeside property has only 36 rooms and suites so it’s going to feel intimate and cozy. The rooms all sport antique pieces and the restaurant offers incredible cuisine, and it’s all set in a luxuriously comfortable aesthetic. Think of it like a cottage getaway at a friend’s place, if your friend had a place designed after a former president of the USA![caption id="attachment_4857352" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


This spring, animal lovers will want to include Newfoundland and Labrador in their plans. Mid-May is the start of puffin breeding season, and you’ll see thousands of these comical birds nesting on cliffs along the island’s east coast.Plus, if you’re lucky you might even spot a whale or two! Newfoundland and Labrador has the largest population of humpback whales in the world. An estimated 10,000 whales pass through the area each year and you’ll find 22 species of whales in these waters. Your best time to see them is from about mid-May. And if you really want the trifecta of breathtaking beauty, visit between May and June when the icebergs start to appear on the coast.[caption id="attachment_4857356" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


Seeing the puffins during breeding season and the whales pass through the waters are definitely a sight for sore eyes. If you’re the type looking for an experience with a creature that’s not as well received as the whales and puffins, Manitoba is the place to be this spring.The Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba’s wetland region of the Interlake welcomes tens of thousands of red garter snakes each year. Typically taking place late April or early May, the harmless serpents slither across the landscape, whether it’s amongst the trees, across the rocks, or inside the limestone dens. Despite the experience being a more unusual and slightly creepy one, the gathering of all these snakes is a sight to behold as it is the largest congregation of vertebrate species on earth.Visitors are encouraged to pick up a snake during their visit to get up close and personal with these harmless reptiles while they’re here.


Snakes aren’t for everyone, but Manitoba still has a lot to offer for those looking for their spring getaway. If you’re interested in politics and Canadian history, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights located in Winnipeg is definitely a place to add to your destination list.With the political climate being the way that it is, the museum offers incredible exhibitions that can serve as great discussion starters for visitors. At the moment, the museum is hosting exhibits that discuss topics like the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya families who fled from Myanmar, a women’s rights exhibit that explores the stories of girls during the war and many others. Permanent exhibitions at the museum include a Truth and Reconciliation exhibit that is timely with the current political landscape in Canada.The museum is definitely worth a stop if you plan to explore Manitoba.[caption id="attachment_4857359" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


After a cold winter season, British Columbia has a lot to offer for those looking for a hot and relaxing experience. Across the province, you’ll find that B.C has an abundance of hot springs with a side of luxurious resorts. There are plenty of resorts you can choose that will give you the Canadian Rocky Mountains backdrop while you’re relaxing, but why not consider a visit to one that’ll enrich both the body and the mind?In the Kootenay region, you’ll find the Ainsworth Hot Springs, which was first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples. After a long day of hunting, fishing, and gathering, they would use the waters as a way to rejuvenate and heal once they were done. Seeing the healing capabilities of the water, they began to welcome guests as early as the 1930s.The property is now owned by Yaqan Nukiy of the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston, B.C. With a hotel on site, you can experience the hot spring in a pool or inside a cave.[caption id="attachment_4857366" align="alignleft" width="960"] Shutterstock[/caption]


Its spring break for families as well, so finding a destination kid friendly would be ideal for parents. Canada is considered to be the Dinosaur Capital of the World, as there are many dinosaur fossil parts scattered across the province of Alberta. Kids will get a real kick out of seeing dinosaur fossils and exhibits, so the province offers many tours and exhibits for those looking for prehistoric fun and discovery. Guided tours are offered at Dinosaur Provincial Park, where said tours will add another layer of discovery for you.If you go, be sure to check out the Royal Tyrell Museum – home to one of the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton displays and the opportunity for you and the kids to participate in a real life dinosaur dig. Some of the world’s most important dinosaur discoveries have been made in Alberta, which can be seen at both the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller and the Phillip J. Currie Museum in Grand Prairie.[video_embed id='1858036']MORE TRAVEL: “Microcations” will be a huge travel trend in 2020[/video_embed]

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