The return of travel is here at last, and not a moment too soon for those of us who’ve been pining to explore new terrain. While international trips are still subject to some restrictions and official warnings, Canadians are lucky — we have so many wonderful places to discover within our own borders. (That’s why Travelzoo developed Only in Canada, with deals on places to stay and things to do, plus tips on how best to explore some of the country’s most appealing regions.)
Whether you want to get on a plane and fly across the country or are just looking to escape your house for a day trip, here are five destinations Travelzoo recommends to put more Canada into your summer.
Part outdoor playground, part resort town, Whistler is deservedly popular with European and American tourists as well as Canadians. Luckily the latter will have the mountain getaway (pictured above) mostly to themselves this summer, all the better to enjoy high-adrenaline pursuits (downhill biking, zip lining, whitewater rafting) or al fresco dining with panoramic mountain and valley views. No matter where you’re coming from, you’ll want to stay at least a few days. (For one thing, you’ve earned it with all that time at home, and for another there’s so much to do that we’ve written a whole article about it.) With 2021’s more expansive — but less expensive — stays in mind, Travelzoo has set up two-night, three-night and four-night packages at three of our favourite local resorts.
Just a four-hour drive (or 60-minute flight) from Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley beckons Canadians with its landscape of orchards and mountains, waterfalls and lakes. The Kelowna area alone is home to more than 30 beaches, 19 golf courses and about 40 vineyards, so you could base yourself there and easily fill your whole vacation with day trips and walking tours. But if you have time, we suggest driving the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour, which takes you through must-sees like Penticton, Fairmont Hot Springs and Glacier National Park. Budget up to a week for unforgettable sightseeing, hot-springs soaking and outdoor adventuring, and break up your drive with stays at Travelzoo-partner hotels like Glacier Mountaineer Lodge (in the alpine village at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort). After a hard year for the tourism industry, locals will be as happy to see you as you are to see their magnificent surroundings.
Niagara Region, Ont.
Not every globally famous natural phenomenon lives up to the hype, but the towering, thundering Niagara Falls won’t disappoint, no matter how many times you have visited. Without summer’s usual influx of international visitors, you can easily get close enough to feel the spray on your face. (For more than spray, don a raincoat and board the Voyage to the Falls boat tour — lines should be shorter than normal when it resumes its routes past the roiling cascade.)
Visiting this summer will let you be one of the first to visit the Niagara Parks Power Station, a new attraction inside the 115-year-old engineering marvel that was the first plant to harness the power of the Falls.
The Falls (and its ancillary attractions like Clifton Hill and the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory) is just one of the Niagara Region’s charms. The whole Niagara Escarpment is gorgeous to explore via car, bike or on foot. Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for its romantic hotels and small-town charms, but we also love quaint Jordan Village, home to the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, and food-lovers’ paradise Ingersoll (it has a cheese museum!). Did we mention the Niagara wineries?
Travelzoo has you covered on all counts, with deals on multiple Niagara-area hotels, as well as winery lunches and tours.
Honestly, we can’t think of a better antidote to all these months shut up at home than the hustle and buzz of Canada’s biggest city. Most summers, Toronto is a magnet for business travellers and well-heeled international visitors. Their absence in 2021 means that first-class hotels are seeking to fill rooms with rates that haven’t been seen since the Maple Leafs were genuine contenders for the Stanley Cup.
Why does that matter so much? Because after a busy day or night exploring Toronto’s newly reopened highlights — the shopping districts, the spas, the restaurants, the exhibitions and activities — it will be pure paradise to recharge in 5-star comfort at the likes of the Shangri-La Toronto.
Lower-than-normal hotel rates make Toronto a timely choice for staycationers who can’t go abroad at the moment, plus with domestic airfare deals, it’s an especially affordable time for visitors from across Canada. (Bonus: Our airport lounge deal keeps the luxurious feel alive at the airport too.)
Travelzoo Tip: Want to take in both Toronto and Niagara Falls (about a two-hour drive away) in one trip? Break up the drive with a stop at Burlington’s fragrant Royal Botanical Gardens, just five minutes’ drive off Highway 403 at exit 78.
Rentals in prime Ontario cottage country seem to have doubled or tripled in price this summer, and that’s if you can find a place to rent at all. Instead of Muskoka or Prince Edward County, check out hidden gems along the 401 corridor between Toronto and Ottawa. What you lose in prestige and private docks you’ll gain in access to quiet towns, great food, and cozy inns and spas.
We’re thinking of places like Cobourg, 90 minutes from Toronto, where you’ll find beaches, campgrounds and Travelzoo member-favourite Northumberland Heights Wellness Retreat & Spa. Further east, the Ottawa Valley is replete with lovely hamlets like Foresters Falls (where we you can go rafting on the Ottawa River) or Almonte, a town so pretty that Hallmark has made it the setting for more than one of its Christmas movies. Even if you can’t stay by the water, you’ll find hotels and B&Bs near parks and forests for much less than you’d pay in classic cottage country.