Top 10 weekend travel destinations

Oct 6, 2009 at 5:17 a.m. ET

Want some ideas for a weekend trip? Check out some of these top Canadian travel destinations.

Vancouver Aquarium

Muskoka Region, Ontario

Best known as a great cottage destination during the summer months, Muskoka offers excellent weekend resort experiences at any time of year -- and if you drive up in the other three seasons, you won't get bogged down in bumper to bumper traffic. There is no better place to enjoy the fall foliage. The region also offers studio tours by local artists, trails, spas and flying tours. And you might even bump Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson or Stephen Spielberg -- all have visited or own cottages in the area!

Calgary/Banff, Alberta

Calgary, home of the world-famous Calgary Stampede, also offers the advantage of being a mere 1-1/2-hour drive to Banff. This breathtaking village is renowned for its ski hills but also boasts exciting cable car rides, hot springs and spas and quaint shops. You even may encounter an elk strolling through town. Both areas are set in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Be sure to include a visit to the absolutely stunning Lake Louise; you'll be rewarded with unbelievable views (the community is the highest in the country (at 5,020 feet). Photo credit (right):

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Feel the mist on your face as you stand beside the roaring falls or brave the waters on board the Maid of the Mist. The Niagara region offers endless options: Nightlife, museums, shopping, the Fallsview Casino, Marineland and outdoor activities and festivals. For those so inclined, wonderful wine tours are available at 25 area vineyards. If you want to escape the touristy sights such as the wax museum, drive about 30 minutes to Niagara on the Lake for a quieter visit to charming bed and breakfasts and spas.

Whistler, British Columbia

A four-season resort two hours from Vancouver, Whistler looks like an alpine village but offers spas, nightclubs and boutiques to rival that of any city. Ziplining, golf, hiking and gondola rides are just a few of the activities available in addition to winter skiing and snowboarding. Known for hosting top festivals, Whistler also has the distinction of hosting the Nordic events in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. If celeb spotting is your sport of choice, however, you might be interested to know Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan (yes, James Bond!) have all visited. It's also where Heidi Klum and Seal got engaged (on a glacier at 14,000 feet) in 2005.
West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall, Alberta

Is retail therapy and plain old fun on your vacation agenda? Described as the largest and most comprehensive indoor shopping and entertainment complex in the world, West Edmonton Mall has become the top tourist attraction in Alberta. The 500,000-square-metre complex contains more than 800 stores and shops, 100 places to eat, an indoor amusement park, a colossal indoor waterpark, a full-size hockey arena, three mini-golf courses, performing sea lions, 21 movie theatres and a casino. It's a great family outing -- your kids won't be complaining of having nothing to do! Photo credit (left):

Ice Hotel, Quebec

Canada's perhaps is best known for it's chilling winters -- why not celebrate our chilly climate with a visit to one of the most unique sights to visit in Canada, the Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace). Open from January 4 to April 4, it celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010. Rebuilt in its entirety each year, the hotel features an ice slide, exhibit room, ice bar and even themed suites. You might visit during the Nordic Arts and Lights Festival or even see a film being made. And why not have a little fun with it -- send photos from your visit to friends in other countries and say you're at home -- they think we live in igloos all the time as it is!

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Only six hours from the city of Halifax, Cape Breton is known as one of the world's top island destinations. The astonishing beauty of the 300-km Cabot Trail, which offers panoramic views of the rustic, rocky coastline, is not to be missed. Be sure to plan time to visit the fishing villages and for a day of whale watching. Foodies, get ready for stellar fresh seafood. Before you set out, make sure your camera is fully charged so you can snap plenty of photos of lighthouses and the ocean.

Vancouver Aquarium, British Columbia

Imagine being a special guest at Canada's largest aquarium after closing time. Exploration, snacks and activities precede an opportunity to interact with the marine life at Vancouver Aquarium. Guests then spend the night, sleeping right in front of the underwater gallery. A continental breakfast beckons in the morning. An unforgettable experience. No time for a sleepover? Download their new treasure hunt app; during your visit, look for tags in the aquarium that'll unlock fun interactive challenges. Photo credit (top):
Manitoulin Island Tipi

Manitoulin Island, Ontario

The world's largest freshwater island is also the site of the first European settlement, Manitowaning. Manitoulin is a place of beauty in northern Ontario where "native life blends with European history." Many interesting museums, activities and recreational pursuits are available year 'round, and you can even find accommodations in a tipi. For example, water sport enthusiasts can canoe or kayak, while more culturally minded folks can check out local art galleries for some unique works. Photo credit (right):

Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Easily one of the most popular weekend destinations in "la belle provence," Mont Tremblant is a ski and snowboard resort that also offers accommodations, dining and numerous other activities. You are only a two-hour drive from the multicultural city of Montreal so you could tie in your Mont Tremblant visit with some shopping and nightlife. Before you drive to Montreal, though, make a stop at the factory outlets in Tremblant, where you can find shops such as Puma, Mexx and Coach.

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