Childhood Vacations You Should Repeat as an Adult

Do you recall childhood vacations with mixed emotions? Then it’s time to revisit these classic Canadian destinations and make a few new memories

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Beaches and Booze on Prince Edward Island

If you were lucky enough to get to Prince Edward Island as a kid, your beach time was likely strictly supervised. And under Mom’s eagle-eyed gaze, you were allowed to go into the water just up to your knees. That’s a shame because the island is swimming with fun things to do. Explore the coast by kayak through By-the-Sea Kayaking in the village of Victoria. Add a crash course in clam digging to source some tasty morsels for homemade chowder, prepared for you beachside. Since you’re in prime seafood territory, book a table for a traditional lobster dinner with all-you-can-eat mussels and lemon meringue pie for dessert. Try the one from New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, satisfying appetites since 1958.

The island is legendary for food, but it’s also building a reputation for spirits, too. The first distillery in the province was The Myriad View, famous for its moonshine (the legal kind), rum and gin. Do a tour and tasting of these strictly adult beverages. Another must is Prince Edward Distillery. Take home a bottle of vodka – your choice of varieties made from wild blueberries or potatoes – perfect for patio sipping.

Or do a pub crawl. Charlottetown, after dark, is the best place for this. Get your toes tapping to live Celtic and Maritime music at Olde Dublin Pub. Or take a seat outside at Peake’s Quay, overlooking the waterfront, where entertainment is a mixed bag – from Top 40 hits to live bands.

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On the Hill in Ottawa

Chances are, at some point in your childhood, there was a trip to Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings, learn how government works and get a crash course on prime ministers. It was like fried liver – good for you but not terribly palatable. Now that you’re all grown up, it’s time to revisit Ottawa and explore its more adult pursuits, like a vibrant food and drink scene.

If you like to enjoy a cold pint of beer on a hot summer’s day, you’re in luck. The craft beer offerings have been frothing to new heights lately, with additions like the Broken Stick Brewing Company and Bicycle Craft Brewery. Time your trip for the Ottawa Craft Beer Festival (August 28 to 30) for rampant sampling, or take a three-stop bus tour with Brew Donkey.

Leaning more to the cultural side of things? The National Gallery of Canada is hosting great exhibitions, including one devoted to Canadian artist Alex Colville (April 23 to September 7). Couple your drinking and cultural pursuits with a maple-based spa treatment at Holtz Spa and an outdoor yoga session on Parliament Hill. Still in touch with your inner child? Lick a cone of something delicious at Pure Gelato. Ferrero Rocher flavour? Yes, please.

Photo courtesy Ottawa Tourism

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Grown up in Niagara Falls

If you live in Ontario, a prerequisite trip to the Falls was on the itinerary any time family came to visit. Does this sound familiar? Scramble for parking, stare at water, go home. Maybe, if you were really lucky, it included a stop at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. Let’s fast forward into the future – a time when Niagara Falls has grown up. The tackiness of yore has virtually disappeared, thanks to a slew of new development.

The nightlife is something you probably didn’t participate in when you came with your family. Make up for lost time now. The coolest cocktail lounge in town is R5 – part of the Fallsview Casino Resort – and features a fire and water theme. Private booths have fireplaces, perfect for enjoying views of the Falls and a frosty cocktail. Then migrate to Club Rouge, a new dance bar with a sexy vibe, open exclusively to couples. Once you’ve had some liquid courage, sing a tune loud and proud at Beer Garden’s karaoke patio.

Shoppers will love the Canada One Brand Name Outlets. There’s no need to head stateside. All the big names are here: Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Escada, Guess and lululemon athletica. And when it comes to bedding down for the night, forget the kitschy hotels. Check out a place like Sterling Inn & Spa, a sleek boutique hotel that offers guests breakfast in bed.

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Mountain Fever in the Rockies

Perhaps your family were happy campers and spent some time in the Rockies. Camping is always an adventure – lumpy sleeping bags, frying bacon in the rain and mosquitoes. You can still have cheap and cheerful outdoor fun but in comfort. Banff National Park offers rentals of oTENTiks, canvas-walled cottage tents that don’t require assembly. They have heat, lights, bunkbeds and sleeping pads. Just move on in and get those s’mores happening. Or head over to the teepee camp (sleeps up to four guests per large teepee) at Sundance Lodge, kitted out with heaters and real beds, but it’s BYOB (bring your own bedding, or rent it on-site).

Your protective parents may not have let you get too adventurous, but you can be now. The area is a hub for experiences providing adrenaline rushes. The Kicking Horse River (about 90 minutes from Banff, AB), has great whitewater rafting conditions, with up to class IV rapids in the summer (though the water stays pretty chilly). Or sign up for heli-hiking (a half-hour drive south of Canmore, AB), with White Mountain Adventures. You’ll be dropped off at an alpine meadow, then spend the next two to three hours toning your calves and thighs as you descend.

And remember how your mom told you not to play with your food? Ignore that and take one of the cooking classes @The Box, offered by the Paintbox Lodge in Canmore. Get deliciously dirty making chocolate, or classic Thai dishes.

Photo: Paul Zizka

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