City Travel: Canada vs. USA

Editor’s Note: This the second of a two-part blog looking at how Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg compare to places like New Orleans and Chicago as alternative urban travel destinations given the turmoil in the USA. The first blog compared Calgary to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver and Seattle, as hipster cities.

Link: Calgary vs. Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver & Seattle

Recently, MetroNews published an article looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities, given the current turmoil in the USA.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones I thought it would be fun to share suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: "Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead"

Edmonton

For those thinking New Orleans would be a fun place to visit, you might want to consider Edmonton - Canada’s Festival City.  New Orleans is known for its laid-back culture and year-round festival atmosphere, much like Edmonton where in the summer, they host back-to-back-to-back festivals… Jazz Festival, Folk Festival, Blues Festival, Street Performers Festival, The Works Art & Design Festival and the grand daddy of all  - the Fringe Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Edmonton also boasts some spectacular contemporary architecture – Rogers Place arena, Art Gallery of Alberta and their City Hall.  Their river valley is spectacular too.

And then there is something called the West Edmonton Mall.

Link: Edmonton Tourism

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Winnipeg

While MetroNews chose Toronto as an alternative to Chicago, what about Winnipeg? In fact, in the early 20th century, Chicago was worried Winnipeg would usurp it as the major transportation hub of the midwest.  Winnipeg’s Exchange District has one of the best collection of early 20th century architecture in North America. 

Visitors will love the Forks with its Human Rights Museum, Children’s Museum, Children’s Theatre, creative playground and one of the best minor league ballparks in North America. There is also the must-see Art Gallery of Winnipeg (largest collection of Inuit Art in Canada) and Assiniboine Park’s Polar Bear exhibit. 

And while Winnipeg doesn’t have a lake with a beautiful beach downtown, Grand Beach is just an hour away and it is a “sight for sore eyes“ (in a good way) in the summer.

Link: Visit Winnipeg

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

Montreal

After a recent trip to Montreal, I think it would make a great alternative not only to Chicago, but also to Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  Montreal has its mojo back and this year is celebrating its 350 anniversary, making it one of the oldest cities in North America.  Old Montreal is like walking back a hundred years in time, as are its two major public markets - Atwater and Jean Talon.

Like Edmonton, it too is a huge festival city. The Montreal Jazz Festival should be on everyone’s bucket list. The Black & Blue Festival is one of the world’s largest gay festivals (Montreal’s Gay Village along St. Catherine St. East has a great evening vibe).  They even have Mural Festival to celebrate their extensive collection of street art.

Don’t rule out Montreal for a winter visit either. That’s when they light up the night with Montreal En Lumiere and Nuit Blanche festivals. Indeed the lights are much brighter in downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a joy to wander any time of the year and see what you discover; fun surprises lurk around every corner.  Real urban explorers will want to test their skills at navigating the 30+ km underground tunnel system that connects hundreds of downtown buildings.

I can’t say enough good things about Montreal as a tourist destination.

Link: Tourism Montreal 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Victoria

Victoria could be a very good alternative to anyone thinking about heading to San Diego.  Its charming harbor, beaches, vibrant food and café culture, quaint antique district and world-class museum have won many people over. 

Shoppers too will love wandering the shops in downtown, Chinatown and Oak Bay. Two downtown hidden gems are the downtown Value Village (we always find great art there) and Capital Iron next door.  The Super Chance consignment shop in James Bay Village is a must visit, for treasure hunters preferring more of a curated collection of “finds.” We have almost always found something wonderful there.

The Ross Bay Cemetery is a fascinating experience where you can visit the gravesite of artist Emily Carr (Canada’s Georgia O’Keefe).  Across the street is the Dallas Road beach, a great place for beachcombers and to watch kite surfers. 

If a more traditional sand beach is more to your liking, head to Willow Beach with its view of Mount Baker.  Just a few blocks away on Estevan Avenue is quaint Willows Village where you will find the funky Crumsby’s Café (family fun) and the tiny Willow Galley (fish & chips shack).

Link: Tourism Victoria

Victoria collage.

Victoria collage.

Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's waterfront.

Victoria's waterfront.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Toronto / Vancouver

Both Toronto and Vancouver could be excellent alternatives to New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.  Home to world-class shopping, museums, restaurants, cafes, festivals and architecture, both have a lively urban joie de vivre.   

Link: Tourism Toronto

Link: Vancouver Tourism

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Last Word

So as you begin to finalize your travel plans for 2017 - Canada’s 150th birthday year – there is not better time to “Think Canada.”

If you like this blog, you will like:

Museum of Fine Arts Montreal: A Hands On Tour

Battle of Alberta: Urban Design 

The Forks vs East Village

Thrifting in Victoria