December 29, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Whistler, Sightseeing Tours
Find more information about Whistler - Sightseeing Tours
It's true - driving to Whistler
can get a bit scary, especially with construction and agressive drivers on the road. I especially don't like driving late at night or early in the morning when I feel as though I am not following the road, but the lights on the car in front of me instead. So last time I needed to head north, which happened to be late at night with working construction, I decided to let Greyhound
drive for me. For $35.50 (round-trip from downtown Vancouver) I spent 2 1/2 hours at the front of the bus. Since it was dark outside I wasn't able to see too much so I tried to sleep, but a very chatty fellow sat down beside me and filled our time with his stories of working on an organic farm in "P Town" (Pemberton), growing up and hiking in the "Stoke" (Revelstoke
) and coming into Vancouver to get the essentials for living on a farm (gumboots and raincoats). I have spent way too many hours on buses in Thailand, Vietnam, Portugal, Honduras and Guatemala and I have to say that this was the cleanest, quietest bus I have ever travelled on - complete with late night bed-time stories!
December 23, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Victoria - Dining
I have to admit, I haven't been in the Christmas spirit. The shopping mall parking lot tends not to bring out the best in me and work has been busy, and its so hard to find the right present, and, and, and. Today however, I got that lovely tingly feeling after a visit to the Fairmont Empress Hotel
. Heading out on my lunch hour to battle the crowds, I was on a mission to purchase a gift certificate at the incredible Willow Stream Spa
. From the moment I walked into the lobby of the Empress, my spirits started to lift. The bellman opened the door with fanfare and wished me a Merry Christmas and the staff at the spa were delightful, professional and my modest purchase was treated with the same dignity and respect as the lady beside me purchasing the "Pure Pampering Full Day Special". Once my beautifully packaged gift was purchased, I made my way back to the lobby where I stopped to admire the works of local business who have participated in the Festival of Trees. Trees are decorated in a wide range of themes from the traditional balls and garlands to themed trees featuring dumptrucks and flashing lights and proceeds from the event go to the BC Childrens Hospital. One of my personal favourites was the Wedding Tree complete with tin cans and a Barbie bride as a tree top. I wandered further and ended up in the Tea Lobby where guests dressed up in Christmas finery (the little girl in the red velvet dress stole my heart) were enjoying the world famous Afternoon Tea and entertained by a choir decked in period costume. Reluctantly, it was time to return to work, but as I passed back through the lobby, I watched excited guests arriving for their stay at the Empress, the anticipation in their eyes just knowing they were going to have a very special Christmas was evident. I walked out with a smile on my face and looked forward to getting home to my family and starting our Christmas f
December 22, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Sun Peaks Resort, Wineries & Vineyards
The Sun Peaks Icewine Festival
is coming up in mid-January, and it's an event not to be missed. I attended last years festival, and had a great time. Held at Sun Peaks
, a ski resort in the BC interior (about 45 minutes from Kamloops), the festival is a celebration of harvest time for the icewine grapes. Icewine, for the uninitiated, is a sweet dessert wine which is created from grapes that are left on the vine until mid-winter. They are only harvested after the temperatures have dipped below freezing for an extended period, which freezes the grape right through. The solid grapes are then pressed, and the resulting sweet juice is fermented into a really remarkable drink. But the festival's activities aren't restricted to just dessert wines. Last year, I attended seminars that covered topics such as pairing wine with cheese, and another on BC's unique wines
and wine regions. But for me, the call of the outdoors was too much to keep me inside all day. A snowshoeing tour, a snowbike lesson
, and as much skiing
as I could fit in, put roses in my cheeks all weekend (really, it was because of the brisk outdoor activity, not the wine...) The highlight of the festival is the progressive tasting, where wineries are set up throughout the resort's village, and festival-goers, with glass in hand, wind (or weave) their way through the pedestrian streets to the many tasting tables. This year, the Sun Peak Icewine festival is January 19 - 22, 2006.
December 21, 2005 | Tips from Us >
North Vancouver, Attractions
Find more information about North Vancouver - Attractions
I live in North Vancouver and on Sunday December 18th I decided on a whim to take my husband and 4 year old son to Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
. We were going to go out somewhere for dinner, but felt we should do something more fun and “Christmassy”.
We had a wonderful evening – the canyon was lit up with beautiful Christmas lights, we crossed the famous suspension bridge and ventured across Treetops (7 suspension bridges in the tree canopy, 100 feet above the ground) – which looked magical at night all lit up. My 4 year old son was so excited and enjoyed every moment, quote: “This is much better than watching TV or staying in bed all day” – a compliment indeed! I cannot think of a more enjoyable family Christmas evening, surrounded by Christmas lights, carol singers, friendly and courteous staff throughout the park – and the added bonus, for an entry fee of $19.95 (normal price is $21.95 but BC residents get a $2 discount) we were given a free year’s membership on the spot.
For the next two weeks until December 31 (except Christmas Day), Canyon Lights is open until 9:00 pm in the evenings.
December 16, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Victoria, Breweries, Distilleries & Cideries
Find more information about Victoria - Breweries, Distilleries & Cideries
I'm not normally a creature of habit. But, for me, a trip to Victoria isn't complete without a visit to Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub
. It's the oldest brewpub in Canada and their beer is so tasty (not to mention their food!). Their beer list changes from visit to visit but the last time I was there, I tried the Pumpkin Porter and the Holiday Saison. Thumbs up for both. One of the best things about Victoria is that it is really easy to get around on foot. (Which is especially fortunate after you've had a few beers.) If you're not ready to call it a night after Spinnakers, you can follow the self-guided Ale Trail and stop in at some of the city's other craft breweries. Canoe Brewpub, Marina & Restaurant
is housed inside a beautiful 19th century brick and timber building (it was once the municipal hydro plant). They have a daily "appy hour" if you have the munchies. Just a few short blocks away is Swans Brewpub.
It's located inside the Swans Hotel and is home to a stunning art collection (everything from original Pierre Trudeau paintings to First Nations' art). Again, they have very yummy craft ales and lagers. They also have a really good home-brewed non-alcoholic root beer on tap. From Swans, you can end the Ale Trail at Hugo's Brewhouse
which has the look-and-feel of a funky warehouse with high ceilings, brick walls and exposed pipes. You can cap off the evening with my fave drink there - the Super G beer (it has ginseng in it, so it must be good for you!)
December 16, 2005 | Tips from Us >
North Vancouver, Snowshoeing
Find more information about North Vancouver - Snowshoeing
Vancouver is blessed to have three mountains within a 40 minute drive of the city. The snow conditions can vary from incredible to incredibly wet (the highest peak is just over 4,000 ft). Last night was the full moon and the skies were crystal clear - a perfect night for a full moon snowshoe tour of Mount Seymour
. A small group of work colleagues joined a group of hardy souls for a 2 hour stomp through the woods on snowshoes. I'm not usually one for guided tours, but having got lost on snowshoes in the daylight, going with a guide on a night time excursion is probably a good idea. Although the two guides had headlamps, I was amazed that the moon gave off enough light to snowshoe by. The group climbed to Dinky Peak (which wasn't all that dinky) and we were rewarded with an incredible view of the city of Vancouver. Our guide entertained us with lots of moon and astronomy facts & trivia along the way. It was a bit too much for me at times, although I did learn a few things like each full moon has a name(December's full moon is called the long moon since the nights are longest this month). Mount Seymour offers full moon and big moon tours twice a month. The cost is reasonable - $29 which includes snowshoe rentals, trail ticket, guiding, and a cup of syrupy hot chocolate.
December 14, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Whistler, Festivals & Events
From December 17th to the 30th, Whistler’s
community centre for arts, culture and inspiration -Maurice Young Millennium Place- will be completely transformed into a winter wonderland for the inaugural North Pole Central festival
. This family-oriented festival is sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.
At noon on December 17th, the festival kicks off
with Santa arriving in Whistler on the Fire Rescue Service’s No.1 fire engine. Live music, street performers, children’s activities and hot chocolate will round off the day’s festivities.
Over the following two weeks visitors can get involved in a variety of fun events. There will be daytime activities on Whistler Blackcomb, indoor craft workshops, seasonal sing-alongs, holiday films, and headline music and comedy shows.
Kids will want to visit Santa’s workshop to deliver their letters and get their photo taken with the big guy himself. Be sure to stop by the festive holiday beverage bar to satisfy your hot chocolate and eggnog cravings.
Maurice Young Millennium Place is located on Blackcomb Way near Village North.
December 14, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Vancouver - Shopping
It's not hard to tell that most British Columbians love to get outdoors
. One of the worst-kept secrets for outdoor adventurers in BC is a store called Mountain Equipment Co-op
(also known as MEC). Founded in Vancouver, this large store stocks outdoor technical clothes, backpacks, bike parts, backcountry ski equipment, kayaks and paddles, and much more. The prices are the lowest you'll find anywhere for the same standard of quality. Case in point: a friend who lives in New Zealand and travels regularly to see his sister in the UK, always makes sure his flight has a stopover in Vancouver to stock up at MEC. The store sees a steady stream of out-of-towners checking out the gear, and the logo is almost as common a symbol as the maple leaf, identifying Canadian travellers when they head out on excursions. (When I was hiking in Spain, a fellow traveller noticed I was Canadian when she spotted my MEC socks!) The store requires all shoppers to purchase a $5 membership, and the co-op structure means MEC's pricing is fair and mark-ups are minimal. You'll find two MEC outlets in Vancouver
, one on Broadway and one in North Vancouver.
December 12, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Nelson, Skiing & Snowboarding
Find more information about Nelson - Skiing & Snowboarding
December is the skier's secret month. While most people bustle about with their Christmas shopping, attend office parties and other social functions, real snow enthusiasts are making time to hit the slopes too. December means great snow, and in the weeks before school holidays begin, deals abound – free lift tickets, discounted lodging, and even massive savings on snow cat and heli-skiing adventures. Give yourself an early-season Christmas present – beat the crowds, and take advantage of some great winter deals. Kicking Horse Saves the Snow For Christmas
Not all resorts in BC rush to open for US Thanksgiving. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
near Golden has scheduled their opening for December 16. With over a hundred and fifty centimetres blanketing the upper parts of the mountain, opening Day is shaping up to be an epic. There's a variety of new accommodations too, located right at the base of the Golden Eagle Express gondola, ranging from $85 - $147 CDN per person/per night for accommodation and a lift ticket – not just in early season, but through to January and February as well. Whistler Classic Raises Money for a Good Cause
It's not too early to get a team together for the 14th annual TELUS Winter Classic, January 27 – 28, 2006 at Whislter
. This two-day package is is not only the ultimate Whistler Getaway, all of the money raised goes to charity! The $1700 (per team) price includes all-day lift tickets, skiing with one of Whistler-Blackcomb's internationally-renowned ski pros, and lift-line priority to eliminate the wait; not to mention a host of special events too. Since 1993, the event has raised over $3.5 million for a variety of charities, including local Search and Rescue teams, schools, food banks, and programs which focus on c
December 11, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Burnaby - Museums
I grew up in Burnaby
and walked by the Burnaby Village Museum
everyday on my way to school. This weekend, it was time to take my kids to the 1920's heritage town. We were planning on visiting Father Christmas, but after wandering in and out of the 30 heritage buildings, watching the town's blacksmith demonstrate how to forge, and cheering on the jovial baker as he made animal candies out of marzipan, we had little time left for anything else - except the carousel! We wandered past the roving Christmas carollers and the replica church (which my dad helped build by the way), paid our $1.50 and walked into the carousel house. Yee-haw! Hold on tight - here we go! The hand-carved 1912 carousel actually did go around pretty fast and my little horse with it's corn-cob saddle swiftly bobbed up and down in time to Jingle Bells. After a quick visit to the candy shop for our Root Beer Float, Sour Apple and Bubblegum candy sticks, it was time to go back to 2005. The Heritage Christmas event is open until January 1, but the village and carousel are open all year round.