In February, around the time many Canadians head south in search of warm beaches and tee tinges, the world is coming to Canada. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be one of the biggest parties in our nation's history, especially if Team Canada ends its gold medal drought on Canadian soil. While the Vancouver Games are the most high-profile event, it's far from the only thing to see and do in Canada this winter. So, to help with your travel plans, Maclean's compiled a list of 50 attractions and activities, from the wildly popular to some lesser-known gems.
The Olympics aren't the only games in town
THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST WALKING TOUR/VICTORIA (December) A 90-minute tour of Victoria's supernatural past includes the story of Adelaide Griffin (she died in 1861, and her image is the city's first documented ghost sighting, first spotted at Christmastime) and the ghosts of Helmcken Alley, at the site of the old town jail. The prison was torn down in 1885 but, some claim, rattling chains and footsteps can sometimes be heard in the alley, while others swear they've seen a man dressed in prison garb. Brave participants learn about the legend of Christmas Hill and a murder that took place on the steps of St. Andrew's following Christmas Eve mass in 1890.
CLAYOQUOT OYSTER FESTIVAL/TOFINO (Nov. 19 to 21) Tofino's stunning coastline warrants a visit any time of year, but for one weekend every November the city, where 50,000 gallons of oysters are harvested annually, celebrates all things from the sea. Visitors can partake of raw oyster bars, educational oyster farm tours, and a Mermaid's Ball (prizes are awarded for the best costume and best oyster slurper). During the Oyster Gala wrap-up party local chefs compete to create the best oyster dishes.
TWILIGHT ZIPTREKKING/WHISTLER (December to March) Once the sun sets, adrenalin junkies, with only a headlamp to guide their way, are harnessed to a steel cable before stepping blindly off canopy bridges and boardwalks in Whistler's snow-capped rainforest, about 46 m above the ground. As if there wasn't enough outdoor adventure in Whistler.
VANCOUVER BIENNALE (now until 2011) This free international art fair features exhibits throughout the city. Take advantage of the mild West Coast weather this winter and admire 30 sculptures from more than 25 nations, light installations from 100 artists, and various performance art and new media installations. Among the most anticipated works include LED neon displays by Jittish Kallat of India, the renowned "laughing man" pieces from Yue Minjun of China, and the overwhelmingly positive contemporary works of Jaume Plensa of Spain.
THE 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS/VANCOUVER-WHISTLER (Feb. 12 to 28) For those willing to shell out for, well, just about everything, the Olympics in Vancouver promise to be the biggest party Canada has seen since Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988. Sure, scoring tickets to the big events this late in the game is nearly impossible, but every bar and restaurant in town will be teeming with Olympic spirit. For those who find themselves without a pair of tickets to the gold medal hockey final--or are just in need of a break from all the action--consider taking in Vancouver's 2010 Cultural Olympiad, showcasing the best in international and Canadian arts and culture. Between Jan. 22 and March 21, the Olympiad will feature a number of musical performances, including a Nell Young tribute headlined by Broken Social Scene. Other events range from a magical carnival to the explosive Japanese martial arts drummers of Tao.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.hellobc.com
Get your skis shined up
CANADA OLYMPIC PARK/CALGARY Another way of celebrating the Winter Games this year is to check out Canada Olympic Park, where many of the big events were held in '88. In addition to still being a training facility--and the site of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum--the park is also open to the public. Nearly 300,000 skiers and snowboarders come every year to try out the slopes. Many guests also give the luge a shot, and take a turn on a bobsled--a 60-second thrill ride, piloted by a pro, that features 14 hair-raising turns and a top speed of 120 km/hr.
WINTERSTART FESTIVAL/BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE (Nov. 28 to Dec. 6) Start off the ski season by watching the best alpine racers in the world tear down the mountains in Lake Louise (Men's World Cup racing on Nov. 28 and 29; Women's World Cup racing on Dec. 5 and 6). Then, cap things off by getting festive in Banff, which plays host to a Christmas tree decorating competition, children's face painting and a Santa Claus Parade of Lights on Dec. 5. And while you're there, carve a few of your own skiing and snowboarding trails in some of Canada's best powder or relax in the hot springs.
CANADIAN BIRKEBEINER SKI FESTIVAL/EDMONTON (Feb. 12 to 13) In 1206, as civil war raged in Norway, the heir to the throne (an infant prince named Haakon Haakonsson) was in danger and hiding near Lillehammer. He was rescued by two Birkebeiner warriors, the story goes, and carried over two mountain ranges, on skis, to safety. Today, this event is celebrated in Norway, the U.S., Japan and Canada. Participants can choose from five different recreational skiing events, including a 13-km mini "birkie" and a full 55-km route carrying a 5.5-kg pack to represent the weight of an infant. The festival, the largest of its kind in North America, culminates in a Vikings' Feast, which is all the wild salmon and wine one can consume.
ICE CLIMBING/CANMORE (November to April) One hour west of Calgary lies the small town of Canmore, with a reputation for having some of the finest ice climbing sites in the world. Climbers of any skill level can enjoy a guided ascent of any of the hundreds of paths deep in the heart of the Ghost River Valley. Canmore became recognized as a world-class climbing site during the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games and has since lured climbing buffs from all over the world.
ICE ON WHYTE FESTIVAL/EDMONTON (Jan. 14 to 24) Brandishing chainsaws, a group of international artists converge on Festival Park in Old Strathcona to show off their sculpting skills on 130-kg blocks of ice. Last year, more than 25,000 attended this winter festival, which, in addition to the ice-sculpture competition, includes an ice castle, live music, ice slides and an ice-carving workshop for children.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.travelalberta.com
Where Rider green may turn to gold
2010 IIHF WORLD JUNIOR HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP/REGINA AND SASKATOON (Dec. 26 to Jan. 5) Hockey fans won't want to miss any of the action when Canada tries to win its sixth straight World Junior Championship crown. This year, Hockey Canada announced players will forgo their traditional red and white jerseys during some of the games in exchange for green ones, in honour of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders and the province. So pull on your Team Canada jersey--be it red and white or green--paint your face, and prepare to cheer on the future stars of the NHL.
SASKATOON BLUES FESTIVAL (Feb. 25 to 28) The eighth annual Saskatoon Blues Festival will feature two main stages, as well as a musicians' swap (a huge garage sale of used instruments) and guitar, boogie piano and harmonica workshops. The Hilton Garden Acoustic Room is a more intimate venue, while the Odeon Electric Blues Room is plugged in and always a party. Highlights include Paul Oscher, who gained fame as Muddy Waters' harmonica player, and slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, whom Eric Clapton described as "the most underestimated musician on the planet."
DICKENS VILLAGE FESTIVAL/CARLYLE (Dec. 4 to 5) For two clays every winter, the streets of Carlyle in southeastern Saskatchewan become a stage. Locals don authentic period clothing to partake in a traditional English high tea or sell crafts and food from charming wooden carts. Enjoy a dusk parade, the making of old-fashioned Christmas decorations, and listen to carolers and fiddlers fill the crisp night air with music from another era. This year marks the seventh anniversary of the festival, modelled after a similar Victorian Christmas celebration in Garrison, N.D.
ICE FISHING (until mid-March) By late December, the ice on most lakes is usually thick enough to support vehicles, allowing winter anglers a chance to try their luck at snagging some of the 65 freshwater species--including walleye, northern pike, perch, whitefish, burbot and trout--lurking in Saskatchewan's lakes. Tobin Lake is said to be where the biggest walleye can be found. Other popular spots include Lake Diefenbaker, Rafferty Reservoir and any of the bodies of water along the Churchill River System.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.sasktourism.com
A mix of music and moose calls
NORTHERN MANITOBA'S TRAPPERS' FESTIVAL/THE PAS (Feb. 17 to 21) Connect With your inner pioneer by taking part in trap setting, moose calling, muskrat skinning and even a beard growing contest. The quirky festivities, which began in 1916, now include a world championship dog race (where mushers compete for $40,000 in prizes), a crafts show and bannock baking (a bread made with salt, flour, lard, baking powder and water). But no trappers' festival would be complete without an axe-throwing competition and, of course, the coronation of the King and Queen Trappers and a Fur Queen.
FESTIVAL DU VOYAGEUR/WINNIPEG (Feb. 12 to 21) Dubbed "the world's largest kitchen party," this festival is about honouring the fur traders who established the Red River colony. Over the years, this event has grown tO become Western Canada's largest winter festival--more than 100,000 people attended last year--and includes 300 musical performances, snow sculptures, an arts-and-crafts market and the Governor's Ball.
ARCTIC GLACIER WINTER PARK/WINNIPEG (December to March) Every year, the Arctic Glacier Winter Park springs up from the ice and snow around the Forks. Visitors can explore an ice castle, toboggan down a chute, squeeze through an obstacle course made of ice and snow, and skate along the 1.2-km-long icy trail.
NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL/WINNIPEG (Feb. 6 to 12) This seven-night event, hosted by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, is sure to take those in attendance on a symphonic journey. The opening night piece, dedicated to the "angelic beauty" of Canada's Arctic, was created by composer-in-residence Vincent Ho. The 30-minute work is based on a weeklong trip that Ho took in 2008 to the Canadian North with a group of scientists, including time aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen.
HUDSON BAY QUEST & NORTHERN LIGHTS/CHURCHILL The Hudson Bay Quest, a traditional dogsled race, was founded in 2004 by a small group of mushers hoping to revive the sport. The exciting 400-km race (which begins next year on March 27) links Churchill, Man., and Arviat, Nunavut, and brings together expert teams from across North America as well as a loyal band of spectators, who brave the chilling -35 degree temperatures. Churchill is also one of the best places in Canada to view the northern lights. Astronomers and physicists have been drawn to the "polar bear capital of the world" for more than 240 years in the hope of getting a better understanding of this atmospheric phenomenon. Hop on the back deck of a heated "tundra buggy" to take in the lights of the aurora borealis as they fade and weave in the Arctic sky. For those looking for something with a more scientific bent, check out the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, where veteran "Starman" Roger Woloshyn teaches courses on the aurora borealis.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.travelmanitoba.com
Have a drink, stay awhile
WINTERLUDE/OTTAWA (Feb. 5 to 21) Once this family-friendly festival is in full swing, it seems like the entire city is out enjoying a beaver tail (Barack Obama's favourite Canadian delicacy) and a hot chocolate while gliding down the Rideau Canal. Concerts, a light show and an ice-sculpture competition line the 7.8-km stretch of canal. And some of Ottawa's top restaurants celebrate by offering special prix fixe menus.
ALIGHT AT NIGHT FESTIVAL/MORRISBURG (Nov. 28 to Jan. 3) More than 250,000 white lights are strung up in historic Upper Canada Village (modelled after a small village in the 1860s), attracting 40,000 visitors to the town located 75 km south of Ottawa. Take a stroll under the stars, book a romantic horse-drawn wagon ride, or hop aboard a life-sized toy train for the full experience. This year's event will also feature a life-sized gingerbread house.
KENSINGTON KARNIVAL/TORONTO (Dec. 21) During the city's month-long Cavalcade of Lights, now in its 43rd year, celebrate the longest night of the year by donning a silly mask, bringing along a homemade instrument and lighting candles at the annual winter solstice celebration in one of Toronto's funkiest neighbourhoods. Weave in and out of Kensington's narrow streets, where you can watch fire breathers, rooftop theatre and giant puppets dancing in a procession during this celestial carnival. Revellers light up the night in a glowing parade before heading to a local park to party around a bonfire.
BON SOO WINTER CARNIVAL/SAULT STE. MARIE (Feb. 5 to 14) No winter carnival would be complete without an outhouse race or a goofy-looking mascot, and the Bon Soo Winter Carnival delivers both. Northern Ontario's largest winter carnival, which attracts more than 100,000 to the Soo every year, has been celebrating Franco-Ontarian culture since 1964. The carnival features more than 100 fun events, including celebrity look-alike contests, art exhibits, dart and curling tournaments, sleigh and snowmobile rides, a polar bear swim, and competitions in which dogs compete to pull the most weight. And be sure to get a picture with the Bon Soo mascot, a slightly less refined version of his cousin from Quebec City.
NIAGARA ICEWINE FESTIVAL/JORDAN AND NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE (Jan. 15 to 31) It might sound crazy to wish for the bitter cold, but the Niagara Icewine Festival depends on it. During the 10-day event, the main streets of Jordan and Niagara-on-the-Lake are lined with ice bars and tents featuring wine tastings, live music and art. And visit the boutiques that dot the streets of both idyllic towns. Of course, before heading home, remember to pick up a bottle of your favourite icewine.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.ontariotravel.net
Nobody throws a party like Bonhomme
CARNAVAL DE QUEBEC/QUEBEC CITY (Jan. 29 to Feb. 14) The Carnaval, which first took place in 1894 (Bonhomme joined the party in 1955), has become the largest winter carnival in the world--a celebration of tradition, history and culture that generates $48 million a year for the city. Activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, a soapbox derby, a snow sculpture competition, outdoor hot tubs or a climb to the top of a 10-m-tall ice palace. But if you're feeling courageous, participating in a goosebump-inducing snow bath, or riding a 150-m zipline above thousands of festival-goers at the Plains of Abraham, will surely get your adrenalin going. Foodies can enjoy a visit a traditional sugar shack, or endulge in a beaver tail while touring the city's historic downtown quarter.
VILLAGE VACANCE VALCARTIER/SAINT-GABRIEL-DE-VALCARTIER (from mid-December until the end of March) The winter playground has 42 sliding hills overlooking the beautiful Jacques-Cartier River and Valley for thrill-seekers to speed down while clinging to rubber tubes or snow rafts. The park also boasts an outdoor rink and musical skating paths to glide through. Steeper slopes, including the "Himalaya" area, attract the more adventurous visitors. Reach speeds of 80 km/hr while flying down "Everest," which, at 33 in tall, is said to be the highest hill with an ice slide in North America.
MONT TREMBLANT For the 13th consecutive year, Mont Tremblant has been voted the No. 1 ski resort for eastern North America in Ski Magazine's annual survey. But its charming location has more to offer than a pristine mountain to carve. Surrounded by the beauty of the Laurentian Mountains, the picturesque town has something for everyone: shopping, art galleries, ice climbing, or visiting one of the bustling village's many pubs, microbreweries and nightclubs.
THE MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS FESTIVAL (Feb. 18 to 28) Every " year, this spectacle of food, performing arts and light is themed after a region. This year it's Portugal, and 20 Portuguese chefs have been invited to pair with Montreal restaurants (the honorary president of the culinary program for 2010 is chef Fausto Airoldi, from Lisbon's acclaimed Pragma restaurant). Revellers can watch fireworks displays, enjoy an outdoor circus, or take in any number of musical acts. There are also plenty of historic sites-the quays of the Old Port, for instance, are illuminated in a rainbow of colours. For many, the best part of the festival is the Montreal All-Nighter (Nuit Blanche), which boasts more than 175 art exhibits spread across the city.
HOTEL DE GLACE/SAINTE-CATHERINE-DE-LA-JACQUES-CARTIER (Jan. 4 to April 4) Since opening its doors in 2001, the Hotel de Glace has mesmerized more than half a million visitors (every year, about 4,000 people stay the night) with its stunning architecture made completely out of snow and ice. Though the design of the hotel changes every year, it remains a 36-room one-of-a-kind experience complete with a majestic chandelier, art gallery, bar and chapel. Enjoy cocktails served in ice glasses, admire ice sculptures, or curl up on fur rugs by a fire.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.bonjourquebec.com
The way it was meant to be played
WORLD POND HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP/PLASTER ROCK (Feb. 11 to 14) Since the small village first hosted the event in 2002, the championship has grown from 40 teams to 120, representing 15 countries. (The defending champs are the Sadler's Wheat Kings from Fredericton.) Teams play four on four, without goalies-the goal is just 25 cm high. This year, a women's division is being added for the first time in the tourney's history. But the grand prize is unchanged: a trophy that looks a lot like the Stanley Cup, except for the fact it's made out of wood.
WINTERFEST NEW BRUNSWlCK/FREDERICTON (Feb. 5 to 21) Inspired by one family's visit to Winterlude in the nation's capital, Winterfest NB was founded in 2002 and boasts seven-metretall ice slides and a 16-hectare ice labyrinth with two-metre-tall walls. Every year, thousands of tourists enjoy the artistry of the ice and snow sculptures and test their off-season golf skills by teeing one up at one of the three polar bear golf holes.
RUSTIC WINTER SHELTER/KOUCHIBOUGUAC NATIONAL PARK(Dec. 15 to March 31) After trekking--by cross-country ski or snowshoe--the 10 km to the campsite, you'll appreciate the simple-indoor-accommodation (for safety, a minimum of three people must stay at the remote shelter at a time). This outdoor adventure is not for high-maintenance types. Participants will have to carry everything they need during their stay. The park, which is located about 100 km north of Moncton, provides a stove, firewood, picnic tables, six sleeping platforms and a toilet--and, of course, plenty of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
NEW BRUNSWICK'S NORTHERN SNOWMOBILE ODYSSEY (December to March) Every year, up to 400 cm of the white stuff flies in New Brunswick, the most snow in any of the three Maritime provinces. That's why so many jump on a "sled" and head out on this epic winter journey, which covers 1,000 km of trails and links Miramichi, Bathurst, Campbellton and Edmundston. Be sure to fit in some time to unwind at one of the bed and breakfasts or hotels along the way.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Get 'em while they're cold
ICE COLD OYSTERS/FERNWOOD (Monday to Friday, by appointment) Head out onto the ice at Salutation Cove on a snowmobile and learn to catch oysters from the bottom of the cove. While most fishermen use chainsaws to cut through the ice, visitors taking part in a guided tour are able to plunge their own tongs into the ice and eat a few oysters right out of the water. Participants learn the difference between standard and choice oysters, as well as how they're farmed, harvested, and shucked.
BROOKVALE WINTER ACTIVITY PARK/QUEEN'S COUNTY Centrally located, Queen's County is where many cross-country, snowboarding and alpine enthusiasts come to play when visiting the Island. For downhill skiers, the park offers a 76-m drop and 10 alpine trails. Nordic skiers can enjoy 24.5 km of recreational trails and another 7.5 km of competitive lanes. If skiing isn't your thing, pull on a pair of snowshoes or jump on a toboggan and race down the hills--all before enjoying a warm cider in one of the two lodges on the property.
OWNER FOR AN EVENING/CHARLOTTETOWN (until the end of December) Harness racing has a rich history in P.E.I. (home of the Gold Cup and Saucer Race) and there's nothing like the thrill of watching "your" horse make its move in the final stretch. The Owner for an Evening experience includes a tour of the grandstand at the Charlottetown Driving Park and Entertainment Centre and a visit to the paddock to meet the horse. Participants discuss race strategy with trainers before a buffet dinner of steamed mussels, seafood chowder and P.E.I. potatoes. Though you won't collect a cut if your horse is victorious, expect to be whisked to the winner's circle where your photo will be taken alongside your horse and driver.
JACK FROST CHILDREN'S WINTERFEST/CHARLOTTETOWN (Feb. 12 to 14) About 70 tonnes of snow is used to make Jack Frost's "home," a whimsical castle that delights children during the largest winter festival east of Quebec City. Frost's snow kingdom is an interactive playground bursting with slides, jungle gyms, an igloo village and ice carvings. And though the festival is primarily geared toward children, adults can enjoy the live music, fireworks displays, and a 3,600-sq.-foot snow maze.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.tourismpei.com
Eagles soar. Dogs skijor?
IN THE DEAD OF WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL/HALIFAX (Jan. 26 to 30) The East Coast, and Halifax in particular, is known for a vibrant independent music scene. Since 2006, the IDOW festival, organized by. a group of local musicians, has featured artists from Canada and the U.S. performing a series of acoustic sets at venues throughout the city. Past festival performers include Matt Mays, Joel Plaskett and Buck 65.
SHEFFIELD MILLS EAGLE WATCH/SHEFFIELD MILLS (the last two weekends in January) Every year, bald eagles make this Annapolis Valley community a favourite winter retreat between late November and early March. The best viewing opportunities are said to be midmorning. On the weekends of Jan. 23 and 30, a naturalist is on hand to answer questions, and there's a related art exhibit at the community centre. Guests can also partake in a pancake and sausage breakfast.
NOVA SCOTIA WINTER ICEWINE FESTIVAL/ANNAPOLIS VALLEY (Feb. 4 to 14) Icewine isn't the first thing to come to mind when planning an East Coast getaway, but the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival is proof that there are plenty of award-winning vintners in the region. The lo-day event, hosted by the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, will be the third annual celebration and features vineyard tours, wine tastings, gourmet dinners and cooking classes.
KEJIMKUJIK NATIONAL PARK AND NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE/ ANNAPOLIS COUNTY Covering 400 sq. km of inland lakes and forests, Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is a ruggedly beautiful all-season woodland with over 50 km of groomed trails for backcountry skiing and a perfect site for winter camping. The park is home to centuries of Mi'kmaq history, and boasts one of the largest collections of rock carvings in North America. Kejimkujik is said to mean "tired muscles," which is exactly what to expect after strapping on snowshoes and traversing the natural trails that snake through the park. But the natural beauty of the place makes it all worthwhile.
SKIJORING/BADDECK (November to Mrch) In what has to rank as one of the stranger sports, skijoring involves wearing a pair of cross-country skis and becoming attached, by a bungee cord, to the harness of an Eskimo dog (another variation of the sport includes a horse). This wild winter ride is best suited for the experienced cross-country skier. For something a little more traditional, climb aboard a dogsled that's hitched to a team of Eskimo dogs and hurtle through a winter wonderland.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.novascotia.com
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
The Rock's underground scene
CAVING/CORNER BROOK The region's cave system is a hidden geological gem, and one of Newfoundland's most interesting hiking destinations. The caves were carved over the millennia by the flow of the Corner Brook Stream and several local businesses offer guided tours of this underworld attraction. After a scenic hike down Corner Brook gorge, tours can last up to three hours, during which adventure-seekers follow the string of large rooms and tiny crevices about a kilometre underground. Crawl through the beautiful limestone scenery, or simply enjoy a break from the cold winter weather as the temperature in the caves varies little between the seasons.
WILDLIFE TRACKING-GORGE ICE WALKS/STEADY BROOK It's easy for nature enthusiasts to lose track of time trekking past snow-capped mountains, while learning the secrets of animal tracking from an experienced guide. Hike through Gros Morne National Park or the snowy Blow-Me-Down mountains before sitting down to a winter picnic. For those looking for a more physical test, ice walks through frozen waterfalls and a steep icy gorge are an exhilarating way to celebrate the natural beauty of winter.
GROS MORNE WINTER EXCURSION/GROS MORNE NATIONAL PARK (February to March) Crisp air, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing under the northern lights sound like a call to action for all restless Canadian winter wanderers. This five-day getaway, which is sure to recharge any city-dweller's battery, begins with a four-hour ski session, departing from Deer Lake and heading through snowy forests before ending up at a backcountry lodge. On the last day on the trails, guests head to Western Brook Pond, a lake surrounded by steep rock walls ascending 600 m, leading to one of the most stunning views in Canada.
VAKKAR VIKING JOURNEY/MAIN BROOK (January to April) On day one at the Tuckamore Lodge, Viking warriors in full armour serve you your feast before treating you to an unforgettable "yell in" ceremony. The five-day trek includes snowmobiling to L'Anse aux Meadows, North America's only authentic Norse settlement. And don't forget your camera, since there's plenty of moose, caribou and Arctic foxes in the wilderness near the fishing communities of Lock's Cove and Ireland Bight.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.newfoundlandandlabrador.com
Heads up: flying chainsaws
THE SOURDOUGH RENDEZVOUS FESTIVAL/WHITEHORSE (Feb. 25 to 28) After hiding for months from sub-zero temperatures, Yukoners shake the collective cabin fever by dancing in mukluks, tossing chainsaws, and competing in flour-packing, axe-throwing and tug-a-truck contests in a carnival-like atmosphere in downtown Whitehorse. Fiddlers and comedy acts are part of this four-day festival, during which smooshing (teams of five people strap their feet on two-by-fours and race down the street) is the favoured mode of travel. Costumes are a mandatory part of the festivities--any man caught by the "Keystone Kops" without a beard, or a woman not donning a garter belt in plain sight, is open to ridicule and paraded through the streets in a jail cell on wheels.
SUNRISE FESTIVAL/INUVIK (Jan. 9) During the summer, Canada's northernmost town enjoys roughly 56 days of around-the-clock daylight. But come December, Inuvik (which lies two degrees above the Arctic Circle) is blanketed in darkness. So it's of little surprise that locals of the naturally beautiful town, which straddles the treeless tundra and northern boreal forest, celebrate the return of the sun in early January. Though a rather simple festival--the towns people gather for fireworks and a community bonfire as the sun first shimmers over the horizon--it's one of the purest ways of celebrating a connection with the land.
DOGSLED TOURS/YELLOWKNIFE Whether you're at the helm, commanding a team of dogs in the wintry landscape, or sitting back and enjoying the scenery and leaving the driving for the pros, a hot beverage around the crackling wood stove once it's all done is a perfect way to cap off the day.
KUGLU K/BLOODY FALLS TERRITORIAL PARK For anyone wanting to view a landscape relatively untouched for thousands of years, the Kugluk/Bloody Falls Territorial Park is the site to see. Kugluk is the historical site of winter houses used by the Thule culture (ancestors of the Inuit), and a place to check remnants of caribou-hunting camps dating back 1,500 years. For safety reasons, however, it's highly recommended that winter visitors travel with an outfitter who has a good grasp of the area. And don't forget a toque.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.nunavuttourism.com www.spectacularnwt.com * travelyukon.com
Mohammad, Susan. "When the snow flies: Maclean's winter travel guide--where to go and what to see in Canada." Maclean's 23 Nov. 2009: 47+. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.
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