by Jim Byers
Last updated: 12:25 AM ET, Thu July 19, 2018
Canada is filled with awesome places to explore in summer. And Air Canada has the most connections from the U.S. to Canadian destinations.
Here are some great places to check out in a country where the American dollar goes a long way.
The province of Ontario has some of the best beaches on the planet. Along Lake Huron (where Mitt Romney used to go as a kid) you'll find long, long, long beaches with glorious sunsets. The town of Grand Bend is one of the best beach towns in North America, and this from a guy who grew up in California.
Lake Erie is shallow and warm in summer, with fantastic beaches around Port Stanley and Port Dover that are great for volleyball or sunbathing. There's very good wine grown along the shores of the lake, too. Try Burning Kiln for luscious reds and lovely whites. Further east, on Lake Ontario, is Prince Edward County, a hotbed for local cuisine and wines. Sandbanks Provincial Park features immense sand dunes that are as high as a four-story building. All these areas are within a few hours' drive of Toronto, a key hub in the Air Canada network.
Sooke, British Columbia
This is a Vancouver Island town that's only a half-hour or so west of Victoria. On the deluxe side, The Sooke Harbour House is a lovely inn set in a stunning garden on a bluff overlooking the ocean a half-hour or so west of Victoria. Their on-site restaurant started doing farm-to-table cuisine before Instagram was invented, and the food (and wines) are superb.
On the other end of the spectrum is Mom's Café, which packs 50 apples or more into each pie. They look more like a basketball than a pastry, and they taste as good as they look. There's also a great coffee house called Stick in the Mud, and there's a local woman who gathers seaweed in the harbour and uses it to make a line of beauty products called Seaflora Skincare.
This is very much a city on the rise in Canada. The city rests on a lovely stretch of the South Saskatchewan River, allowing you to take a peaceful boat cruise on an old-style ship or see the city from a kayak or canoe. The new Remai Modern is a sensational museum on the river and the downtown area has several fabulous restaurants, including Ayden Kitchen and Bar, Little Grouse on the Prairie, The Hollows, Odd Couple and Sticks and Stones, where you'll find inventive Asian cuisine in a cool setting.
The city also is home to Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, a lively troupe that fun takes on some of The Bard's best work. Check out craft breweries and boutique stores in the trendy Riversdale district or stroll down Broadway to find artisanal cheese shops and other delights.
This is one of the top playgrounds in Eastern Canada, a small village tucked onto the shore of the Ottawa River. It's roughly equidistant between Montreal and Ottawa. The Fairmont Chateau Montebello has hosted royalty and politicians galore, including former US President Ronald Reagan, who insisted on driving about the grounds in a golf cart, much to the chagrin of presidential bodyguards.
The food is lovely and the lobby a wonderful, airy spot filled with dark wood and warming, wonderful fireplaces. In summer, take a boat out on the river or go for a morning walk and watch the fog swirl over the water as the sun sets the sky on fire in shades of orange and pink.
This is a city that's definitely trending in the right direction, with amazing new restaurants and a cool, emerging downtown. The new Rogers Place spurred a renaissance in downtown Edmonton, and there are new hotels planned, including Alberta's first JW Marriott, due to open early in 2019.
The 2017 Air Canada listing of the top new restaurants in Canada put three Edmonton places in the top ten. Bar Clementine, which I definitely recommend, was fifth, while Café Linnea came sixth and Alder Room was tenth. Impressive. Most impressive. I also love Tres Carnales for authentic Mexican and Baiju for Asian-inspired dishes. I haven't been, but I hear good things about the Ono Poke Co. All of the latter three places are on 104th St. NW, the city's coolest shopping and dining area. Air Canada now flies directly to Edmonton from San Francisco.
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