Spring break is the most anticipated time of year for most students. It’s a chance to throw off the pressures of study and pack a whole semester’s worth of fun into just a few short days. Here are some ideas of how to make the very most of it…
1. Head To The Rockies
It has been a cold winter and many ski areas expect to be open – and have great snow – well into March. You can get in enough downhill to last you until next season, or pack up a backpack for some backcountry adventure. The warmer weather combined with the longer days make for some fabulous trekking through mountain trails on freshly fallen snow.
Even non-skiers can take advantage of the spa or sauna, and no one has to know that you didn’t spend the day in the snow. Tag along with outdoorsy friends and wander through the lodge, taking advantage of the hot fires and soothing amenities.
2. Some Plain Adventure
Gather up a few of your hardier friends and book a horseback riding adventure through the Canadian prairies. Plans can include fishing, mountain trails or days riding near a ranch. Snow, or no snow, join the herd and see the country from a new perspective.
To get in a few final days of dog-sledding, set your sights on the colder climes nearer the Arctic Circle. Most dog-sledding places have a backup plan that usually involves hiking, if spring comes a little earlier than expected.
3. Visit Vancouver
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Vancouver is a great city to visit anytime, but a few places have special events going on during the break. The Vancouver Art Gallery has family events planned for the third full week in March, and the Capilano Salmon Hatchery will have Coho juveniles to view.
If you plan to go to the hatchery, the nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge is well worth the visit. Walk across the rope bridge while looking down at the Capilano River 70-metres below you. In the same park, the cliff walk is pretty spectacular as well, for those that can handle heights. Spend some time in the park for a little hiking and enjoy the scenery.
4. Sail The Inside Passage
This stretch of protected water runs along the coast of British Columbia from Puget Sound to Alaska. With land on both sides, the waters are relatively calm, and the scenery is unbelievable. You’ll cruise past whales, bears, rainforests, fjords and inlets. Most vessels stop at various places to allow you to get out and explore for a while. Take a cruise on a small charter and you’ll stop frequently to visit the shore and check out the wonder of the Canadian coastline.
Is chartering a boat not in the budget? Then plan your own Inside Passage adventure using the ferry system. Stops may be limited during March, but town-hopping is great fun and you’ll get a unique perspective on the coast.
5. Hit The Lakes
It may be a bit chilly for lying about in a swimsuit, but that doesn’t take away any of the fun. The waves are still good in March, providing some excellent surfing at Lake Ontario. You’ll need a wetsuit, some stormy weather and a good sense of adventure to join in with the crowd that heads here every spring. ,
If surfing just isn’t your thing, windsurfing might be. A wetsuit is needed, but the goal here is to stay out of the water and use the power of the wind to travel. Rental shops are available along the shores of lakes Huron and Ontario.
Still unconvinced? Dinghy sailing will keep you out of the water entirely. Novices may want to consider a wetsuit, but once you get the hang of it, warm clothing should suffice. Dinghies and lessons are easy to find at the more popular beach areas around Lakes Ontario and Huron.
6. Take In Some Toronto Culture
The home of the Toronto International Film Festival, the city is always a great place to find independent and international films. Check out the TIFF website to see what they’re offering, or enjoy the Festival of New Spanish Cinema at the Royal. Early arrivers might catch the end of Canadian Screen Week, or have some fun at Flesh + Blood: The Films of Paul Verhoeven.
The city has many fine theatres, and those who prefer live entertainment will have no trouble finding something playing almost every night. There are plenty of daytime events too. Fill in the empty spaces in your day by visiting one of the art galleries that features local artists.
Need a break from all that culture? Wander through The Distillery and feel like a tourist in the pedestrian-only, Victorian-era shopping village. There are art galleries and theatres to enjoy. Or you can just stop in one of the pubs and watch the other people getting some culture. It is your break, after all.
7. Learn Something Unusual In Ottawa
This city has some excellent museums, especially for those who enjoy the unique. If you’re a city kid, have a look at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. o you know what it takes to sheer a sheep? What about milking a cow? Can you make cheese? If not, this is the place to find out how.
The Canada Science and Technology Museum has hands-on events during March break, so you can learn how to build a catapult or see if your construction can withstand the dreaded Air Vortex Cannon.
If you’re more of the espionage type, take a tour of Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum. This really is a buried bunker that was built to protect the Canadian government in the event of a nuclear attack. Now it’s a cool museum that lets you step back into the 1960s and revisit a scary time in history.
8. Have A Sweet Time In Québec
Québec produces three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup, but few Canadians have had the experience of seeing how that happens. Although many are open year round, spring is the best time to visit a sugar shack to get involved with “sugaring off” events. Sucrerie de la Montagne has set up many of the old fashioned methods of collecting sap and boiling it down to maple syrup, and as the spring sap starts flowing, they invite you to experience the old Québec traditions of tapping a tree and watching a pail fill with sap. You may be surprised at the amount of sap needed and just how long the process takes. Have some fun making maple taffy and taking a sleigh ride before tucking in to the all-you-can-eat feast which, of course, includes pancakes and maple syrup.
9. Snow Fun In Québec City
Winter stays late in Québec, and with all the great parks in the city, you can cross-country or snowshoe for hours without being far from a warm fire and a hot drink. Plenty of resorts are open, but budget-breakers can take advantage of low-cost Provincial park trails in and around the city. Head to the Plains of Abraham for some free, outdoor skating, or the Centre de glisse Myrand for free saucer sliding.
Don’t miss the amazing Hôtel de Glace, the short-lived ice hotel that features unique rooms and carved ice sculptures. It’s a short distance from downtown, and is only open for a few more weeks, or – more precisely – it only exists for a few more weeks before it melts back into water and is gone forever.
10. Get The Blues In St John’s
Wouldn’t it be great if there were, say, one street with a couple of dozen bars, and they all had live entertainment? Then check out George Street, St John’s. Every night of the week during spring break you’ll find a bar that’s hopping with great music, excellent food and drink specials.
Don’t spend all night partying, though; St John’s offers some great hiking trails that let you enjoy the beauty of the wild coast without venturing far from the city unless you choose to. The East Coast Trail takes you through 32 historic communities over 275 kilometres from St John’s to Cape St Francis.