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HAIDA GWAII, British Columbia

What’s Happening in 2015: Many of the events and activities this destination has to offer are ongoing and available year-round, such as hiking, surfing and exploring the small communities on the islands of Haida Gwaii. A few time-sensitive exceptions include visitingGwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, for which tours and park passes are only offered between June and September, and attending the annual Edge of the World Music Festival, which runs from August 8-10.

Why You Should Go: Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, this archipelago off British Columbia’s northwest coast saw its First Nationscitizens officially reclaim the original name — which translates loosely to “islands of the people” — in June 2010. The Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate houses a must-see collection of regional art and historical artifacts that serve to enrich any visitor’s experience on Haida Gwaii. It provides important background information and celebrates current cultural events. Traditional longhouses and totem poles can be found all over Haida Gwaii, many of them relics although some are still in use today.

Vacay.ca’s Katie Marti writes: “The land is unspoiled and remote in a day and age where all such places seem to have been forever conquered and stolen from the wild. There is no room for pretentions here, and no time for trivialities. Maybe it’s because the islands themselves are so far removed, physically, from the mainland and have, therefore, managed to escape certain elements of modern society. Maybe it’s because the poles and longhouses that line the shores serve as a constant, looming reminder of the ancient ways that refuse to be forgotten. Regardless, this is Haida Gwaii, and to get to know the place and its people, truly and experientially, is nothing short of an honour.”

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LANAUDIÈRE-MAURICIE, Quebec

What’s Happening in 2014: Festival de Lanaudière in Joliette is in its 36th year and is considered to be North America’s premier classical music festival. The Fernand-Lindsay Amphitheatre can accommodate 2,000 people under its roof plus there is room for 6,000 more of your likeminded aficionados on the lawn. Festival concerts are also held in area churches where the architectural beauty adds a sense of intimacy to the event.
Why You Should Go: Lanaudière-Mauricie is a destination that offers year-round outdoor pleasure, encompassing two national parks (La Mauricie National Park and Parc national du Mont Tremblant) as well as stunning regional green spaces. Yet this rural region is only a short drive from Quebec’s two largest city centres: Montreal and Quebec City. You can do it all here: biking, swimming, fishing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The area is home to some of Canada’s most unique spa destinations (KiNipi, Spa Natur’Eau or the unbelievable La Source bains Nordiques), picturesque farmland (great for fall drives), charming historic villages like Terrebonne in Lanaudière or Trois Rivières in Mauricie, hundreds of outfitter lodges (try four-star Auberge du Lac Taureau), gorgeous resort properties (Auberge Le Baluchon and Auberge de la Montagne Coupee), and a thriving agritourism circuit as well as a network of bike trails.
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor Julia Pelish says: “While Montreal and Quebec City are renowned for their culture and joie de vivre, there is a level of authenticity in Mauricie and Lanaudière that will leave an indelible impression about Quebec’s ability to charm and surprise.”

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OTTAWA, Ontario

What’s Happening in 2014: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Tire National Skating ChampionshipsSkate Canada will celebrate the centennial from January 9-15 with activities throughout the city. Another reason to be inOttawa this year is because of a second important, albeit sad centennial. As we discuss at No. 16 on the list (see Halifax/Pier 21 below), 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Ottawa has always been an important place for Canadians to gather on Remembrance Day, and November 11, 2014 will be especially meaningful.
Why You Should Go: As the nation’s capital, Ottawa features no shortage of hustle and bustle. From politics to tulip and blues festivals, outstanding restaurants and the wonderful chaos of Byward Market, visitors will be spoiled for choice. But in 2014, skating is the name of the game in Ottawa. Even if you’re unable to make it to the skating championships (or an NHL Senators game, for that matter), there’s no shortage of ice that you call your own. If there’s one thing every Canadian should do at least once in his or her life, it’s head over to the Rideau Canal (across the street from Byward Market, and Parliament Hill is just a short walk north) and celebrate one of Canada’s greatest pastimes. The Rideau Canal — the largest skating rink in the world — is almost always teeming with people of all ages having a great time.
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles says: ”Ottawa has done an exceptional job of mixing art and good food with politics and raw carefree fun. In one day you can go for a skate on the canal, grab a nice lunch at Byward Market, and then scoot over to Parliament Hill for a visit or tour. If visiting Ottawa — especially for Remembrance Day ceremonies — make sure you visit the National War Memorial at Elgin and Wellington, where you will see an impressive tribute to our servicemen and women, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Another important stop is the Canadian War Museum.”

WHISTLER, B.C.

What’s Happening in 2014: More sensational events, including:WinterPRIDE (January 26 to February 2), TED Conference events in March, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival(April 11-20), the second annual Tough Mudder Whistler (June 21-22), Ironman Canada Whistler (June 27), Crankworx Mountain Bike Festivals (July 3-6 and August 8-27), and foodie events likeCornucopia (in November).
Why You Should Go: Whistler is the largest ski resort in North America, yet it sees more visitors in the summer. It’s one of the few attractions in Canada that has successfully managed to become an all-season destination. The result is an experience that is geared to satisfy. The proof is in the quality of service in Whistler, arguably the best of any destination in Canada.
Vacay.ca Columnist Adrian Brijbassi says: “I’ve been to Whistler at least two dozen times and never once bombed down one of its mountains. Not on skis, or a snowboard, or a mountain bike. Am I missing out? I’ve never felt like it. That’s because this haven for intense outdoor sports activities is also fabulous for soft-core warm-weather enjoyment, too, including golfing, hiking, zip lining, and cycling. On top of all that, it’s simply immaculate. A beautiful part of the world that never bores. Whistler exhilarates, as it did on a recent visit at the end of May. During those four days, daring mountain bikers swarmed the village to take turns careening down one of nearly 50 trails, while skiers and snowboarders squeezed in their final runs of the season. A Great Canadian Weekend shouldn’t be about putting yourself in position to suffer bodily harm, I figured. So I chose pursuits that were less dangerous and, for my tastes, even more satisfying than a thrill run down a steep and challenging hill.”

Montreal

What’s Happening in 2014: For starters, the 15th anniversary ofMontreal En Lumière runs from February 28 to March 2, with several shows, fine dining, family fun and nightlife. One of the largest winter festivals in the world, this event draws more than 900,000 fans and is cherished in Quebec. The music and dining choices at En Lumière will certainly help heat things up in the winter. But Montreal has, and always will be, a city that sizzles in summer. Another big anniversary happening this year in Montreal will really get you jazzed up! The Montreal Jazz Festival celebrates its 35th editionwith Michael BubléStacey Kent andAlain Lefèvre from June 26 to July 6. If you prefer to groove to the sound of a race car, then buckle up for theGrand Prix Montreal, which will thunder down the streets June 6-8. And if you’re looking for a laugh, look no further than the Just for Laughs Festival from July 12- 31.
Why You Should Go: It’s fun, it’s cheap, it’s delicious, it’s sexy, it’s energetic, it’s hip, it’s beautiful. There’s not much Montreal doesn’t offer tourists. A first-time visitor will be enthralled with the history and vibrant atmosphere, while return visitors will fall head over heels with the place when they discover just how much there is to see and do, no matter if venturing out to the Jean-Talon Market at the north end of the city or exploring the wares at Bonsecours Market in Old Montreal.
Vacay.ca Writer Nancy Wigston says: “The Plateau is the epicentre of Montreal’s resto and cycle culture. Rent wheels at Bixi bike stands (300 in the city) or locally at La Bicycletterie (201 Rachel East). A few nights at the highly rated Casa Bianca B&B(4351 Avenue de l’Esplanade), overlooking splendid Parc Mont Royal makes for a full-immersion Plateau experience. (Don’t miss coffee and fresh pastries at Kouign Amman, 322 Mont-Royal East). At Boulevard St-Joseph, you’ll enter Mile End, Leonard Cohen territory.”

Vancouver

What’s Happening in 2014: The TED Conference moves from Long Beach, California for the first time and does so for its 30th anniversary. The 1,200 tickets, priced at $7,500 each, are all sold out and the attendees expected to arrive include some of the biggest names on the planet. One or more Clintons may be here, as might Googlefounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as might Tesla mastermind Elon Musk. It is hoped that the TED Conference results in a boom in business activity in British Columbia’s largest city.
Why You Should Go: The afterglow of the 2010 Winter Games hasn’t been quite as bright as Vancouver anticipated. Hosting an Olympics in the middle of the worst recession in generations has curtailed the tourism frenzy mega-events usually deliver. Hotel occupancy rates aren’t as high as expected and tax breaks elsewhere have caused an exodus among the film industry, a vital economic and tourism contributor. But the city continues to improve, with its Jack Poole Olympic Plaza in downtown and Olympic Village, the former home to the world’s elite winter sports athletes, in the False Creek area now complete and laden with restaurants, cafes, and shops. The city’s dining scene is exceptional and cultural events keep growing as artists turn their attention to the Commercial Drive and south Main Street neighbourhoods.
Vacay.ca Columnist Tricia Edgar says: “It was fitting that when my daughter and I decided to explore Stanley Park on a lovely day this spring, one of the first sounds we heard was the little whinny of an eagle — a small sound for such a large and beautiful bird. In this lovely park beside Vancouver’s urban core, the city’s natural beauty meets the urban edge, and the results are intriguing for wildlife lovers. Stanley Park is 1,001 acres of forest that extends into the Burrard Inlet, the water that separates Vancouver from the North Shore mountains. It’s one of Vancouver’s most iconic views: looking up from the park onto the snow-covered peaks, or looking down from the peaks to the harbour and the ocean. Nestled right beside Vancouver’s densely populated West End, the park has a beautiful temperate rainforest, urban beaches with mountain vistas, and a seawall that bridges the two.”

Alberta

What’s Happening in 2014: Severalactivities are taking place this year. In January, there are after-hours Cave lantern tours at Cave and Basin National Historic Site. February features Night Skies Over the Rockies: a month-long photo exhibit, plus stargazing with theRoyal Astronomical Society of Alberta(February 8) and an inflatable planetarium from Wood Buffalo National Park Dark Sky Preserve (February 7-9). March is Banff Winter Carnival at Cave and Basin, bringing back the best of the historic carnival from the 1920s to the 1950s. There’s Cinema Under the Stars: Late-night film series, beginning May 17.
Why You Should Go: Cave and Basin is sheer magic, raw beauty and deep history — a true Canadian gem. If you love Canadian Parks, then you’ll adore Cave and Basin. This was where the national parks system all began. In 1885, a small 26-square-kilometre reserve around these natural springs was created, thus bringing to fruition the concept of protecting land for all Canadians. Today, more than 100,000 people visit the cave annually, view the indoor and outdoor exhibits and stroll on boardwalks.
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles says: ”You simply can’t visit beautiful Banff without making a stop at Cave and Basin. It’s truly a site to behold. The first thing that will grab you is the peculiar mix of a jaw-dropping mountain views. The second thing that you will notice is the walk through the crooked, rocky tunnel to the cave. Lastly, a quick trek outside will take you to the basin and home to the Banff Spring Snail, one of the rarest animals in the world.”

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FOGO ISLAND, Newfoundland and Labrador

What’s Happening in 2014: The 30th anniversary of the Brimstone Head Folk Festival, an outdoor music event in a stunning natural amphitheatre, celebrates traditionalNewfoundland culture and Irish music from August 9-11. The Great Fogo Island Punt Race to There and Back — the world’s only seagoing rowing challenge — covers seven miles on the Atlantic and will be held on July 19.
Why You Should Go: When it opened, the five-star Fogo Island Inn made this outport community the talk of the Canadian tourism industry. The inn celebrates is first anniversary on May 12, 2014. From its bold initiatives, stunning architecture, local artisan-crafted textiles and furniture, the brainchild of billionaire Zita Cobb is geo-tourism at its finest. Along with the scenery, world-class hiking trails and genuine, warm locals, Fogo Island also offers a revitalizing stay for visitors. Nature-viewing thrills abound on Fogo Island and they include icebergs, caribou, puffins and whales.
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor Julia Pelish says: “Artisans bring to light the unique cultural facets of Fogo Island through the inn’s 29 guest rooms, where everything from the furniture to the textiles are island made. Want to take a quilt home? Stop into Winds and Waves Artisan Guild, where all the quilts for the inn are hand sewn.  The inn’s staff, comprised mostly of local residents, has received glowing reviews. All of the positive word of mouth has enticed tourists to venture out to Joe Batt’s Arm, one of those curiously named Newfoundland communities that dot the Atlantic coastline, populating territory with only a few souls, all of whom seem to have a warm smile or quick laugh no matter the economic climate in their part of the world. Cars bring visitors from Newfoundland, other parts of Canada, and from the US and overseas. They wait in line for the ferry from Farewell to Fogo to experience the music, art, crafts, and stories abundant in the austere beauty that flourishes here on the sea coast. Those travellers aren’t your usual backpacker or camper, though. Nightly room rates at the Fogo Island Inn start at $550, leaving it out of reach for most visitors. But the experience of the island is more affordable and accessible if you stay at places like Peg’s B&B, where rates start at $85 per night.”

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Quebec City

What’s Happening in 2014: Confederation festivities will also take place in the capital of La Belle Province. Plus, two other big anniversaries are also occurring in Quebec City that promise to bring plenty of jovial spirit. First, travellers will want to be part of the 60th year of theQuebec Carnival, which runs from January 31 to February 16. Also, the 350th anniversary of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec (16 rue de Buade) takes place in 2014. Open until December 28 is the only holy door outside of Europe and just the seventh such structure in the world. Once closed, the door — made of bronze, with an image of Jesus Christ on one side and Mary on the other — will not be opened again until 2025.
Why You Should Go: The city attracts more than 4.5 million visitors a year for good reason. Not only is Quebec the most romantic city in North America, it is also one of the most fascinating, with history, art, gastronomy, and culture galore. And it is home to the No. 1 Street to Visit in Canada and one of the best music festivals on the continent, the annual Festival d’été de Québec (Quebec Summer Festival).
Vacay.ca Columnist Adrian Brijbassi says: “In Quebec’s Lower Town, a vibrant new scene merges almost seamlessly with the centuries-old architecture lining cobblestone streets that meander 300 feet below the famous Chateau Frontenac and the touristy shops of Upper Town. Trendy neighbourhoods such as Saint Roch, running along rue Saint-Joseph, are the most exciting part of the city. The street is lined with Parisian-style lamp posts, flower boxes that are so typical of Quebec City, and a cosmopolitan feel that will surprise visitors who believe this is a town to explore the past.”

Prince Edward Island

What’s Happening in 2014: The 150th anniversary of the Confederation Conference kicks into high gear on Canada Day weekend, when a “celebration zone” filled with entertainment and activities takes over the waterfront area. The festivities that mark the 1864 conference that led to the founding of an independent Canada extend to September 6.
Why You Should Go: It’s a non-stop celebration of Canada — from the beginnings to its current state as a kaleidoscope of multicultural influences. PEI is a province that will wriggle into your heart with every sunset you view on a red-sand beach and every oyster you suck back on a patio restaurant. The sesquicentennial is the reason you have to go to Charlottetown in 2014, but the island has endless attractions that entice each and every year.
Vacay.ca Columnist Adrian Brijbassi says: “Charlottetown is so immaculate it needed to invent its own mice population. Three years ago, miniature bronze mice began to appear throughout the downtown streets of this tidy provincial capital. Part of a scavenger hunt based on the character Eckhart the Mouse from author David Weale’s “The True Meaning of Crumbfest,” the mice are another cute aspect of a city that’s easy to adore for all of the reasons you might expect — Charlottetown is as friendly and attractive as its reputation — and for some reasons that will surprise you. Despite a population of less than 35,000, Charlottetown has a surprisingly upscale dining scene and lively bar atmosphere.”