While Canadians love to travel, often it’s on a tried and true path. Many of the most popular destinations are wonderful for a reason, but there is something to be said for charting a different course. To avoid some crowds and to experience something new, why not try an alternative destination to the places on everyone’s travel to-do list? While not exactly like its original counterpart, these alternative destinations offer many of the same vibes and attractions you are looking for minus the crowds and, sometimes, minus the hefty price tags.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina, United States, instead of the Florida Keys, Florida, United States
The Florida Keys offer a lot when looking for sun, surf and sand, but it is not the only place you can go when looking for a beach vacation without venturing too far. The Outer Banks in North Carolina are home to more than 300 kilometres of shoreline (compared to the 180 kilometres that the Keys offer) and provide a quaint, tropical feel that is perfect for families and couples alike. Spend your days soaking up the sun on the beach, enjoying water activities and tasting the local cuisine.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, instead of New York City, New York, United States
Did you know some of your favourite movies that are based in New York City were actually filmed in Toronto? It’s true and there is no wonder as to why. Toronto and New York City are similar in many ways – dare we say Toronto could even be considered “the little sister” to the Big Apple? Whether you go to New York City for the diverse neighbourhoods, nightlife, shopping, culinary scene or culture, you can find great alternatives in Toronto. The Queen West neighbourhood of Toronto is a very up-and-coming area with lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy day or night; High Park offers plenty of green space for a perfect oasis in the city and you can find tons of shopping at Bloor-Yorkville, Yorkdale Mall, Eaton Centre and Queen Street.
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, instead of Australia
We know what you are thinking – how can one city compete with all of Australia? Well it can’t, but Kelowna in British Columbia comes close, especially if you are looking for a down under experience without leaving the Northern Hemisphere. Many people visit Australia for the laid-back lifestyle, the beautiful beaches, the culture and the culinary scene, all of which you can find in Kelowna. This small, crowd-less city offers everything. Within a glorious range of mountains lies beautiful beaches, pine forests, green space, gardens, rolling hills and vineyards – and that’s just the landscape! Fill your days wandering more than 30 wineries, playing golf on one of the 17 courses or enjoy six blocks of galleries, museums, theatres, casinos, fine dining and unique shopping all year long in Kelowna’s growing Cultural District. With long, warm summers and short, mild winters, there is no bad time to visit Kelowna.
Belize instead of Costa Rica
Craving nature, culture, great weather and adventure? While your first thought might be Costa Rica, we suggest you start your search in Belize. With seven distinct regions you can experience multiple cultures, atmospheres and ecosystems all in one trip to Belize. Head to the Central Coast for Mayas, monkeys and culture; the North Islands for beaches and water activities; Northern Belize for more Mayan sites and beautiful rivers; Belize Reef for unparalleled snorkelling; the Southeast Coast for the perfect blend of culture and adventure; Southern Belize for exploration and more culture and Western Belize for rainforests, culinary delights and unforgettable experiences.
Reno, Nevada, United States, instead of Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
If you are ready to party, gamble and have an unforgettable experience you may be thinking a trip to Las Vegas is in order, but trust us, you should really consider Reno, Nevada, for your next crazy adventure. Reno is no stranger to late nights and what happens in Reno, stays in Reno. Like Las Vegas, Reno offers casinos, dining, entertainment, shopping, spas, a very active nightlife and even a few chapels if the moment is right. Reno even offers a few things that you can’t get in Las Vegas like skiing, snowboarding and water activities at Lake Tahoe.
Portland, Maine, United States, instead of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
There aren’t many places that combine history, small-town charm, city life and an ocean as elegantly as Halifax, Nova Scotia, but Portland, Maine, comes close. It is in Portland that you will find great food, entertainment and shopping with an urban flare paired perfectly with nature, open space and culture. And, if it is Halifax’s open arms welcoming the LGBTQA community that draws you to this wonderful city, Portland will not disappoint as it takes pride in being known as a “gay mecca”.
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, instead of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Looking for a European experience in North America? Montreal and New Orleans will both deliver. It’s the French Quarter of New Orleans where you’ll experience your own joie de vivre. There’s a buzz of French culture that thrives here, whether you’re enjoying the traditional French architecture of the city or dining on the more authentic French cuisine found throughout New Orleans. But the similarities of these cities don’t stop with their European charm; both Montreal and New Orleans describe themselves as a melting pot of history, culture and food.
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, instead of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Both of these capital cities are worth a visit, but, if Ottawa is high on your list and you just can’t get there, Regina, Saskatchewan, is great alternative. Between the nightlife, shopping, and restaurants there is plenty in Regina to keep you busy for days. And, if it is history and culture you crave, make a stop at the Hotel Saskatchewan, a beautiful heritage property where Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family stayed, then swing by the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, a National Historic Site of Canada that offers a beautiful landscape for you to take in. A bonus point for Regina: If you like a man or woman in uniform, you’ll be happy to know that Regina is home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre and to the sole training academy for new members of the force.
Goðafoss Waterfall in Iceland, instead of Niagara Falls in Canada
There is no denying that Niagara Falls is breathtaking, but it is not the only horse-shoe waterfall that will leave you speechless. Goðafoss (waterfall of the Gods) in Iceland is, in one word, spectacular. This 30-metre-tall waterfall, located halfway between Akureyri and Myvatn Lake in the middle of the Skjalfandafljot River, is an important part of Iceland’s history. It was here, in the year 1,000, that the Icelandic parliament decided to give up their pagan religion in favour of Christianity.
The Azores Islands, instead of the Hawaiian Islands
With nine islands to choose from, The Azores Islands will satisfy any traveller’s needs. From hiking volcanoes to surfing tall waves to relaxing at a beautiful resort, you will be in full vacation mode within minutes of arriving to The Azores Islands. Head to Santa Maria Island if you enjoy water sports; Sao Miguel (the largest Island) for sightseeing; Terceira Island for history; Graciosa Island for caves and underground lakes; Faial Island for surrounding yourself around beautiful sapphire waters; Pico Island for the volcanoes; Sao Jorge for fishing; Flores Island for museums and waterfalls and Corvo Island for a peaceful sanctuary. Note that while the beaches and water might not be as white and blue as Hawaii, the Gulf Stream keeps the water temperature at 21 C, perfect for taking a dip.
Featured image: Sao Miguel Island in the Azores by abster35