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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Some fishermen in Washington state can be forgiven for their very frazzled reactions after a pod of killer whales swam right under their rowboat.

    A Facebook video of the close encounter near Anderson Island in Puget Sound is making the rounds on social media after it was initially posted in December.

    The first few seconds of the footage show a distant pod of orcas leaping out of the water.

    The crab fisherman sitting in the rowboat, including cameraman Steven Sloan, seem pretty exhilarated to have stumbled on the animals.

    Then, the killer whales get closer. And closer. And then they disappear.

    "Let's see if they pop up again," one voice says in the video. Another suggests they ought to start rowing back to shore.

    But before they know it, the pod was right underneath the rowboat, and the fishermen's reactions are priceless:

    Orcas at Anderson!

    WARNING: inappropriate words are used (the s-word) we are sorry but we were scared.My buddies and I were crabbing off of the west coast of Anderson Island and even though we didn't really catch anything, we got to see the pod of orcas everyone has been talking about! We were in a little aluminum rowboat and we think that the sound of the rope being pulled along the side of the boat is what attracted the babies because right after we pulled up the pot the pod headed right for us.Most of the fun from this video comes from how scared we (really just me) were so some profanity is used. However feel free to laugh at how I respond to a scary situation like this (I yell run even though we are in a rowboat) and enjoy the beautiful orcas at the beautiful Anderson Island!

    Posted by Steven Sloan on Friday, 19 December 2014

    Another boater caught a similar encounter on camera while he was passing by Anderson Island that same week. (Watch video below.)

    The footage from both videos is eerily similar.

    Seems the orcas around Anderson Island are a very friendly bunch.

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    CHETWYND, B.C. - A retired doctor who spent much of his career bringing life into the world and tending to the health of British Columbians has been found stabbed to death at his vacation home in the Bahamas.

    Just months ago, Geoffrey Harding was surrounded by loved ones during a big family reunion at a ranch in northeastern B.C. last Christmas.

    It was a very happy occasion, and the last good memory a relative has of Harding, 88, whose body was discovered Thursday at his winter house.

    "It is very difficult, of course," said the relative living in Chetwynd, who asked not to be named. "It's not just like you die of a heart attack or whatever. It is the thought that the person is stabbed, which is a horrible thought."

    The family was notified of the patriarch's death, prompting two of Harding's daughters and their husbands to fly south on Friday.

    Police in the Bahamas said a handyman discovered Harding dead about noon in his home in Clarence Town, Long Island. He had multiple stab wounds.

    Detectives arrested a 43-year-old suspect from the island and he is expected to be formally charged with murder later this week, said Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean.

    He called incident rare.

    "Someone took the opportunity and risked it," he said on Monday, declining to provide further details about what happened. "You don't have those types of incidents on that island."

    Police told the family the suspect stabbed Harding when he refused to give him money, the relative said. The suspect is also wanted for questioning in connection with a nearby house break-in, according to a police news release.

    The family members will stay in the Bahamas for the man's cremation later this week, and likely hold a memorial later in Dawson Creek, B.C.

    The family never had any concerns about Harding's safety on the island, said the relative, who described him as a "cultivated" man who played piano and was quite knowledgeable about music.

    Harding was a long-time doctor in Chetwynd, B.C., about 100 kilometres west of the Alberta border, before he moved his practice to New Westminster, and elsewhere in B.C., some two decades ago.

    He was an obstetrician gynecologist who helped to build the first medical clinic in the tiny community before he retired well into his 70s.

    "He was well-respected physician here for many years," said Mayor Merlin Nichols. "He delivered many of the babies that were born during those years."

    Harding usually returned to Chetwynd during the summer, said Nichols.

    The mayor would run into him at the post office and spot him relaxing by the lake.

    "He believed in getting the most out of life that he could," said Nichols.

    Canada's Foreign Affairs Department responded with a brief note saying Harding was a citizen of the United Kingdom and any inquiries should be directed at the British High Commission.

    — Written by Tamsyn Burgmann in Vancouver

    Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

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    As travellers increasingly look to travel more affordably, they are skipping the largest and most expensive cities around the world and instead touring smaller and more affordable destinations.

    Toronto, Canada, like many of the world's largest urban areas, has seen costs skyrocket in recent years. Dining out and getting around are more expensive than ever, and home prices there have reached over one million dollars for a small home.


    credit: Erik Lyons, Flickr

    Travellers looking to stretch their dollar should consider visiting Calgary this year, where cost of living, home prices and travel is slightly more affordable than Toronto. Home to numerous things to do, a thriving culinary scene and ideal location near the mountains, Calgary is a perfect destination for a summer vacation this year.

    Here are a few things to do in Calgary:

    Become an Olympian Ice Skater

    Head over to the Olympic Ice Oval, home to the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, to test your speed skating skills on the same ice used by champion ice skaters. Access is only $6.75 for adults, and you can bring your own skates or rent authentic speed skating skates on site.

    Don't Miss the Calgary Stampede

    The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition, and festival held every July, in Calgary. The 10-day event is called "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," and attracts more than one million visitors. While the world's largest rodeo is the main attraction, you can check out the parade, midway, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions, and chuckwagon racing for little to no cost.


    credit: Calgary Stampede

    Spend a day at the Canada Sports Hall of Fame

    Calgary is home to the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. Built only a few years ago, the Hall of Fame is packed with sports memorabilia and interactive displays. Try your luck boxing against Lennox Lewis, try wheelchair racing or become a major league baseball catcher or NHL goalie. Admission is $12 for adults and only $8 for children.

    Dining Out in Calgary

    The culinary scene in Calgary has been described by Avenue Magazine as "quirky, diverse and representative of the incredible skills and passion Calgary's chefs bring to the table." New restaurants like Model Milk, set in Calgary's historic dairy building in the heart of uptown on 17th Ave, add refreshing, innovative menus to what was once a stagnant dining scene. Many of the city's top restaurants are dedicated to partnering with local food growers and utilizing onsite gardens to feature dishes with a unique, regional flavour.


    Raw Bar, Hotel Arts credit:

    If you're in the mood for cocktails then put these places on your list: the Off Cut bar in The Nash in Inglewood and the Raw Bar in the Hotel Arts.

    Consider a Day Trip to Banff


    Peyto Lake, Banff National Park Credit: Wikipedia

    Located about an hour and a half West of downtown Calgary, Banff is an excellent day-trip from the city. This mountain resort town lies in the heart of Banff National Park. Spanning 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, spend the day exploring the mountains on foot. Pack a lunch, grab water and lace up your hiking boots for a great day in one of Canada's most pristine locations.


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    Now this is a road trip.

    Behold the ultimate cross-Canada journey according to an algorithm devised by Randy Olson, a computer science PhD candidate at Michigan State University.

    Olson has previously used the algorithm to determine the optimal road trip across the U.S. and across Europe, so HuffPost Canada asked him to apply it to the Great White North too.

    (Here's the full interactive map.)

    According to Olson, this entire route is 16,226 kilometres long. It would take 8.13 days straight of non-stop driving to do the whole trek — or about 32 days, if you only drove six hours per day. (See the whole list of the stops below.)

    Canada has the unique distinction of having an entire territory that is inaccessible by road.

    So no matter how far you're willing to drive, you'll have to add a plane ride on to see every single province and territory.

    British Columbia
    - Stanley Park
    - Haida Gwaii (ferry from Prince Rupert)

    - Lake Louise in Banff National Park
    - Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park

    - Fort Battleford
    - Wanuskewin Heritage Park

    - Riding Mountain National Park
    - Riel House

    - Dawson Historic Complex
    - Kluane National Park

    Northwest Territories
    - Kittigazuit Archaeological Sites
    - Wood Buffalo National Park

    - Niagara Falls
    - Parliament Buildings
    - Pukaskwa National Park

    - Old Montreal
    - Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé

    New Brunswick
    - Hartland covered bridge
    - Hopewell Rocks

    Nova Scotia
    - Cabot Trail
    - Peggy's Cove

    - Cavendish and Green Gables
    - Province House

    Newfoundland and Labrador
    - Signal Hill
    - Gros Morne National Park

    What did we miss? Share your favourite Canadian road trip stops in the comments below.

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    VANCOUVER - Passengers on another flight from China to Vancouver are being warned that they may have contracted measles and should get vaccinated if their immunizations are not up to date.

    Health officials said a person diagnosed with the disease over the weekend exposed passengers on Air China/Air Canada Flight CA 991/AC 6601, which arrived at Vancouver's airport on Saturday.

    The first flight this year that brought measles to Vancouver from China arrived on March 21.

    The newest case was contracted on that flight by the person who then returned to China before flying back to Vancouver on April 4, exposing a planeload of people to the disease, said medical health officer Reka Gustafson.

    "We have nine cases in total, all related to that (first) flight," she said Wednesday.

    There were 300 people on the March flight, but Gustafson said her office couldn't determine how many people were on the later flight.

    Passengers from the April 4 flight are being advised to watch for symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, pink eye and a red rash, until April 25.

    Gustafson urged people to check their immunization history, advising those born after 1970 to ensure they've had two doses of the vaccine.

    She said people who were unsure about whether they were fully immunized should get vaccinated.

    The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is available from family doctors, public health units and walk-in clinics.

    Most people in B.C. have received the MMR vaccine, but the health authority said some young adults and people born outside Canada may not be completely immunized against measles.

    The incubation period for measles lasts from seven to 21 days, with the average being two weeks, Gustafson said.

    She said the latest case was discovered early in its gestation, with fewer symptoms.

    "I'm hoping that with early intervention, we will have fewer transmissions."

    China has had an increase in measles cases this year, despite being a highly vaccinated population, Gustafson said.

    She said the increase was another indicator of the infectious nature of measles.

    "A single individual with the disease can infect up to 15 to 18 people," she said.

    Gustafson ruled out screening travellers coming to Canada for measles, saying that would likely be ineffective.

    She said the number of measles importations is about the same as it was at this time last year.

    "It's important to keep in mind that we've seen outbreaks of measles in the United States and elsewhere in Canada."

    Gustafson said that in 2014, there were 14 cases of measles reported in Metro Vancouver, most of those were imported to the province.

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    Windsor, Ontario: it's a working-class city known for the manufacturing industry, the Ambassador Bridge and a Caesars casino.

    And soon, it could play host to the world's largest photo mosaic, featuring Nicolas Cage's face.

    The project is the brainchild of Windsor native Thom Malone, who wants the city to become famous for something more than "the crappy things it's known for," he told CBC News.

    The city has long been the focus of reports about a sluggish economy and high unemployment.

    Malone has therefore begun a Kickstarter campaign that seeks $52,000. It would go to building a 21,646-square-metre mosaic of the "Face/Off" star's face, made up of 180,000 unique photos.

    His aim is to make a Guinness World Record for biggest photo mosaic, which is currently owned by Transitions Optical with 176,000 images.

    So just imagine a version of this about the size of some soccer pitches, and you'll have an idea what people are in for, if it succeeds.

    "If aliens were to ever come to Earth, they would need to know who our ambassador is," Malone wrote.

    "How best to show aliens that we want peace, but also not to mess with us than with a giant mosaic made up of a million faces to create one giant Nicolas Cage face?"

    People who back the Kickstarter are asked to submit a photo of the actor to help make up the mosaic.

    Backers will receive gifts with the actor's face such as a necklace (a "necklace Cage"), a coffee cup or a deck of playing cards.

    Anyone who donates $5,000 or more will be personally flown to Windsor and put up in a hotel to see the mosaic itself.

    It isn't yet certain where the mosaic will be located, should the Kickstarter succeed. But Malone hopes to have it ready for Labour Day.

    It would make one heck of a tourist attraction ... and one very big, bold, frightening statement to any aliens who wish to fly over Windsor.

    The campaign had drawn just over $21,000 in pledges as of Thursday afternoon.

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    Summer can be tough on your budget, especially when there are so many awesome activities, festivals, and events to attend.

    But this summer doesn't have to break the bank, and you can certainly keep your budget intact while exploring beautiful Alberta.

    We've rounded up dozens of free activities that you can partake in across the province this summer. Sure, you'll need to spend a bit of money on transportation, but once you've arrived, your wallet can stay in your pocket!

    Check out some of our favourite free ideas (and share your ideas with us in the comments below):

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    Imagine if Canada were flipped upside down, with its northern regions pointing towards the South Pole, and vice versa.

    It might look something like this.

    upside down canada map

    Toronto-based data visualizer William Davis posted the map to Reddit today, and it shows Canada's north looking like a tropical paradise, compared to its south.

    Regions such as Baffin Island and the Northwest Territories look like Caribbean destinations, as does Ontario's north.

    Davis said on Reddit that the map was inspired by the "horrible winter" that had taken hold in central and Eastern Canada.

    The arrangement would certainly do no favours for Toronto, which would only be shifted further north, and possibly endure even worse winters than it does now.

    It's not the first time that Davis has developed such a fun map. In the past he's mapped Toronto's neighbourhoods in black and white outlines, as well as the city's traffic signals.

    He has plenty more impressive images on Former Spatial, his website.

    Now if only Earth could somehow reverse its poles, we'd be booking an all-inclusive vacation to Ellesmere Island.

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    Spring has arrived in Canada. At least on paper.

    Many Canadians have had to dig themselves out from under mounds of snow, but no winter lasts forever.

    We're eager for spring, when phenomena as simple as cherry blossoms can turn cities into magical places.

    Here's a reminder of Canada in warmer weather to inspire you if there's still snow on the ground in your part of the country, courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission. They make great places to visit and even better places to be.

    Here are 15 Canadian places that look absolutely stunning in the spring:

    Fogo Island, N.L.

    fogo island

    fogo island

    fogo island

    Gros Morne National Park, N.L.

    newfoundland spring

    gros morne

    Cabot Trail, N.S.

    cabot trail

    cabot trail

    Acadian Peninsula, N.B.


    Levis, Que.

    quebec city

    Quebec City

    quebec city

    quebec city

    Algonquin Provincial Park, Ont.

    algonquin park

    algonquin park

    algonquin provincial park

    High Park, Toronto

    high park toronto

    high park toronto

    Grand Beach, Man.

    grand beach provincial park manitoba
    (Image via Flickr user AJ Batac/License)

    grand beach provincial park manitoba
    (Image via Flickr user AJ Batac/License)

    Wascana Lake, Regina

    wascana lake

    wascana lake

    Kananaskis Country, Alta.



    (Image via Flickr user davebloggs007/License)

    Banff National Park, Alta.

    banff national park

    banff national park

    banff national park


    vancouver cherry blossoms

    vancouver cherry blossom
    (Image via Flickr user Matthew Grapengieser/License)


    victoria british columbia spring
    (Image via Flickr user Nick Kenrick/License)

    victoria british columbia

    Tofino, B.C.




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    You call that a flight? THIS is a flight!

    One lucky koala sat in first class on a trip from from Brisbane to Singapore as Australian airline Qantas sought to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence.

    The flight saw four koalas — Idalia, Chan, Pellita and Paddle — travel to the Southeast Asian city-state for a six-month sojourn at the Singapore Zoo, in an effort to strengthen ties between the nations, said a news release from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

    At least one of the koalas enjoyed the perks of business class on the trip, as it chewed eucalyptus and received a towel and a drink from a Qantas stewardess.

    Sadly, the luxury wasn't expected to last for the spoiled marsupial, as all the koalas were set to spend the trip in the cargo hold, Today reported.

    No one tweeted any photos of what service was like down there.

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    In space, no one can hear you scream.

    But they CAN hear you sing!

    Col. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut behind the breathtaking photos from the International Space Station (ISS), is set to release the first album ever recorded in space.

    Warner Music Canada confirmed Tuesday the fall release of "Off Planet," an album of guitar and vocal tracks that Hadfield recorded during his time on the ISS.

    "The serenity and grace I felt while orbiting our Earth, weightless by the window, gave a whole new place to write and perform music," Hadfield said in a news release.

    "I'm delighted to be able to share these completed works as a new way to help tell the stories of early space exploration."

    Hadfield was aboard the station for five months.

    He carried out scientific experiments during the day and spent his nights recording music he wrote himself, with his son and his brother.

    Instrumentation was added to the recordings when Hadfield returned home.

    Earthlings had a taste of the astronaut's skills when he recorded a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" aboard the ISS and made a widely-shared music video.

    We can't wait to hear what else he sang in zero gravity!

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    siwash rock slackline

    Most people run or ride a bike down Vancouver's seawall, but a group of thrill-seekers decided to walk a slackline 18 metres (60 feet) above the world-famous path.

    An experienced team secured the line — more like a rubber band than a tightrope — between a cliff and the iconic Siwash Rock on Tuesday, said Spencer Seabrooke, one of the highliners.

    As the sun set, several people made their way over the seawall on the line as a crowd gathered below to watch the eye-popping stunt. Seabrooke said that each pass was celebrated with a round of applause.

    siwash rock slackline

    Seabrooke, who has been slacklining for about three years, said that he'd been eyeing the landmark for a while.

    "When I walk past something like that, that's the kind of vision I have for it," he told The Huffington Post B.C. in a phone interview.

    "It's just such a beautiful spot. It's just the perfect outcropping of rock and it just kind of sits dormant all the time... We brought it to life for half an hour."

    siwash rock slackline

    However, the Vancouver Park Board isn't all too impressed with the performance. Siwash Rock is millions of years old and holds great cultural significance to the Squamish First Nations.

    Malcolm Bromley, general manager of Vancouver parks and recreation, said the slackliners could face consequences for trespassing. Parks officials are discussing the case with police, he said.

    "We want people to understand that this isn't just a harmless stunt," said Bromley in an interview. "We're concerned about their safety, the safety of the public, and also about the protection of cultural areas."

    Seabrooke countered that the slackline was secured with a sling wrapped around a boulder at the top of Siwash Rock, which ensured no damage to the landmark.

    siwash rock slackline

    "Anything we did had zero impact on the rock," he said. "I feel like we were respectful in what we did. We weren't changing anything."

    The group made plans with public safety in mind, said Seabrooke, pointing out that he wore safety gear and had backup lines that would have caught him if he fell.

    Seabrooke helped start SlackLifeBC, which is trying to build a slacklining community across the province. The group volunteers to teach kids how to slackline in gyms and at public events, and also hosts the annual Highline Festival in Squamish.

    "I hope that this would inspire others to get out and do something ... to take advantage of your surroundings." he said. "Maybe (Siwash Rock) isn't the best place to do it, but we really do love to make use of our province's parks and landscapes."

    Photos courtesy of Bill Hawley Photography

    Instagram: @bhawleyphoto

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    Why do we travel? Surely we do so to find the answers to our questions and face our fears. Nevertheless, I find there's a tendency in travel to mainly confront our inner yearnings through the good things. Bold bungee jumping escapades, exotic food discoveries -- these are typical tests of any intrepid modern day explorer who (naturally) documents her experiences through hashtags of happiness, of inspiration and of so much joy that you feel like your head might explode.

    While it is undeniable that amazing things happen to us abroad, I personally believe that the focus on the positive or exciting things of travel is usually because we want to reinforce our choice to leave home in the first place and conceal any sign that we may doubtful, lost or just plain negative towards our experiences while travelling.


    Certainly, I am guilty of this a lot of the time. I tend, as others do, to post an impossible amount of gorgeous and inspiring photos from my current home-away-from-home, Istanbul. For example, today as I crossed the waters of the Bosphorous I observed how the smoky air seemed to dissolve into the water, and how the mighty bridge was almost lost in a million shades of blue murkiness. How beautiful, I thought, and immediately found myself reaching for my phone, my thumb tracing the slick contour of my screen, the thought of snapping a quick shot filling my mind. Just as I was about to pull it out however, I suddenly held back. Breathe, Meghan, a small voice said in the back of my head. I tried.

    Everything was so beautiful and mysterious but for once, I just tried to enjoy the moment for what it was. Nonetheless, as I got off the boat I felt disappointed, and scolded myself for failing to properly capture what I'd seen. Then I realized why I felt so frustrated at not taking my picture -- it was because I felt alone. While I'm overseas, social media is regularly my way of sharing my experiences.

    Feeling alone is my hardest struggle, much more than facing the unknown. But loneliness is a near constant during travel and I've learned that it is more than familiar territory in this city. As inspiring as I wish it always was, rubbing up against a crumbling history can actually be quite disconcerting: at first, the decaying Ottoman buildings here can appear charming. But over time, they begin to serve as a reminder of what was great before but what was allowed to fall into ruin.

    What happened to the people who used to live there, I have begun to wonder, and why did they let this happen to their home? If spirits live in Istanbul, surely they are as lonely as everyone else here at having to roam wild amongst the other abandoned treasures instead of being tucked safely into the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of this city.

    Indeed, there is something about loneliness and Istanbul that seem to go hand in hand. Perhaps this is why Turkish people are so ready to be social at all times. I have a fond memory of a miserable day in the winter here last year and running into a friend on the street. Without saying a word, we promptly folded into each other and headed for the closest tea house, played backgammon all day and stamped our feet to keep them from getting too cold.

    "Loneliness will kill you, you know," my friend said at one point, and I smiled back at him.
    We had kept it at bay that day, but how often will it come back to visit us?

    The answer is, a lot, and travelling has forced me to confront this reality. We all feel lonely however, even in our regular lives. Travelling has also taught me how universal it is, how eternal and essential it is to come together. As one Muslim friend once offered, loneliness is part of our human condition. She believes that we are all separated from the oneness we experience in another realm, and in this life we are forever searching for each other, like in that game from childhood -- blindfolded, stumbling, arms stretched out desperately seeking the touch of another person.

    Through my travels, I've learned that it's not about eliminating loneliness; it's just about recognizing it in others and acknowledging it in ourselves. It's a sensitive place to be. In life, just as in travel, you have to a bit more careful, make a bit more conversation, smile a bit more, and try a bit harder -- even when you feel a bit tired. Travel, like life, is made up of all sorts of moments, and it doesn't just give you the easy ones. Make sure you're open to everything, including more than just hashtags of happiness and photos of unparalleled beauty. And if you ever plan to go abroad, be prepared to face your fears, and find some answers. Just not in the way you thought.


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    Toronto's been getting a lot of love this year. Lonely Planet named it one of the best cities to visit in 2015, and now the city is ready to show the world what it has to offer when it hosts the Pan Am and Parapan American Games in July. With so many summer things to do in Toronto, it's no surprise that locals are calling it the best summer ever!

    May Events

    Canadian Music Week: Recognized as one of the premiere events in North America, Canadian Music Week celebrates music, film, and comedy. With 1000 artists, 60 venues, six days of stand-up comedy, and a wide variety of movies celebrating music; CMW has something for everyone.

    Victoria Day Fireworks: The annual Victoria Day Fireworks display takes places at Ashbridge's Bay. This free event has more than 2,000 fireworks blasting off so arrive well before the 10 p.m. showtime. Canada's Wonderland also does a fireworks show but you'll have to pay the price of admission.

    Doors Open Toronto: One of the most popular summer things to do in Toronto, Doors Open invites the public to take a look behind the scenes at 150 different locations across Toronto. In celebration of the Pan Am Games, some of the venues will be open for a sneak peak.


    Paul Bica / Flickr

    June Events

    TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Known as one of the best jazz festivals in North America, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival features 1,500 musicians performing over 10 days. During the festival, Nathan Phillips Square serves as the heart of the festival with their 1,200 seat stage. Overall expect up to 40 venues, with many of them being free.

    Pride Toronto: It may be hard to match the scale of WorldPride 2014, but the excitement for Pride Week will always be high. Billed as one of the best summer things to do in Toronto and one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world; the fabulous pride festival attracts more than one million people who aren't afraid to have some fun.

    Honda Indy Toronto: Adrenaline junkies look forward to this event every year. Taking place on the streets around Exhibition Place, The Honda Indy has become a week-long festival with races on the weekend. Besides the race, expect live entertainment and interactive activities.

    Insert Magazine / Flickr

    July Events:

    Pan Am Games: The event that Toronto and the world has eagerly awaiting, the Pan American Games is the third largest international multi-sport games in the world. The majority of tickets are under $45, and for those under the age of 16 or over the age 65; tickets are half-price.

    Toronto's Festival of Beer: Taking place at Exhibition Place, Toronto's Festival of Beer will feature more than 300 brands over the weekend. Easily the largest beer event in the province, expect cooking demos, and musical performances to keep you entertained. This is a strict 19+ event, no pets either.

    Toronto Fringe Festival: Unofficially kicking off the summer, the Toronto Fringe Festival is the city's largest theatre and performance festival. The festival focuses on amateur and emerging artists who are chosen through a lottery system, as opposed to a panel of judges. Expect some special events including underground dance parties.

    Lisa5588 / Flickr

    August Events

    ScotiaBank Caribbean Carnival: Still often referred to as Caribana, the ScotiaBank Caribbean Carnival is a cultural explosion of music, cuisine, and art. The grand parade takes place on August 1st, but official events start as early as July 7th and ends with Drake's OVO festival.

    Rogers Cup: One of the best summer things to do in Toronto is for sports fans; the Rogers Cup. Toronto will be showcasing the women's tournament this year which is classified as a Premier 5 event on the WTA schedule so look out for some big names including: Bouchard, Williams, and Sharapova.

    Canadian National Exhibition: Closing out the summer is the Canadian National Exhibition, a popular attraction for locals and tourists of all ages. With midway rides, new foods, games, shopping, performances, shows and so much more, it's no surprise that so many of us have such great memories of The Ex.

    Ngoc Phan / Flickr

    Ongoing Events

    Royal Ontario Museum: Pompeii: In the shadow of the volcano is the newest exhibit at the ROM. Find out what happened to the ancient city 2,000 years ago and why it was engulfed in a rain of hot ash. Over 200 objects will be on display, showcasing the daily lives of the citizens of Pompeii.

    Ontario Science Centre: The Onatrio Science Centre has hundreds of exhibits and this summer the popular show Mythbusters comes to life with their Explosive Exhibition. Uncover truths, watch live demonstrations, and find out how the Mythbusters put their show together.

    Toronto Zoo: Popular polar bear Humphrey may have left but there's still 5,000 animals that calls the Toronto Zoo home. The new giraffe house has just opened which lets visitors get much closer to these beautiful creatures. Don't forget that giant pandas Er Shun and Da Mao are here only 2018. so don't delay your visit too long.

    Final word:
    Best summer ever in Toronto? With new and annual events taking place, as well attractions offering something for everyone, now is definitely the time to come check out The Big Smoke. For a full list of events, check out the official website of Tourism Toronto.

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    For more budget travel stories from Barry, check out his blog at


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  • 04/19/15--20:26: A Parade of Swans?
  • We've all heard of a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese, but a parade of swans? Only in Stratford, Ontario, and only in the spring. It happens every April a few weeks before the opening of the theatre season, the festival that put this town on the map. When the Stratford swans are paraded into the Avon River to resume the life aquatic, it's no ordinary dunking.

    Because these are no ordinary birds. In a throwback to their elite heritage, Stratford's herd of thirty or so British and Polish swans lead a life of privilege and ease. In 1154, English King Richard Lionheart decreed swans were royal birds that nobody was permitted to own, hunt or eat without permission from the king.

    Apart from their kind of loutish disposition, there's not much medieval about these swans. They spend the winter in a modern barn behind the hockey arena (we're in Canada, remember) where they have their own pool, two squawk-prone Chinese geese as security guards, and a special high-protein diet. These birds are living the 21st century life: they have everything but massage therapists and a personal trainer.

    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The Stratford swans are cared for by a team from the Parks Department's Community Services headed by Quinn Mallott, who's also responsible for horticulture, trees and cemeteries. He took over from the late Robert Miller, a retiree and swan buff who for years was the town's Honorary Keeper of the Swans.

    Swans are monogamous birds who stick together for life, with some notable exceptions (see the "Bonnie and Clyde" video among the selection narrated by Stratford resident Colm Feore, available on Stratford's website). There are four couples this year already, and most of the 18 singles are likely to pair up once on the river. When they form a couple they're given names, like Josephine and George or Nick and Lacey, so the team can refer to them more easily.

    "There are twenty or so swans in this year's parade," Mr. Mallott said. "And every year, they start getting excited when they hear the pipe band warming up. The older ones seem to know what that means. The parade has been happening on and off since 1936 and has been a formal parade for the past 25 years."

    A good-humoured excitement is the flavour of the day, making this town, and this parade, worth coming out for. Before and after, you can have food and drinks, buy souvenirs, and totally act like a tourist. It's that kind of place. According to National Geographic Traveler, Stratford is "the type of walkable wholesome town that Rodgers and Hammerstein might write a musical about."

    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Here's how it goes: First you hear the stirring strains of a pipe band march like "Scotland the Brave." A lone white Chinese goose turns the corner onto Lakeside Drive and warms up the crowd for the appearance of the band and the rest of the birds.

    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Then the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums, all kilted out in red tartan, sporrans and caps, come marching smartly along. The swans follow closely behind, doing their best to march along in time. But sadly, they've got no rhythm. Those big webbed feet are born to paddle. Never mind their graceful image; think Jemima Puddleduck instead of Karen Kain. Swans only look elegant on the water.

    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Part serious and part sendup, Stratford's swan parade is a good reason to get out of the city in the spring. If it doesn't make you crack a smile, there's something wrong with your fun button.

    All that fresh air can make you hungry. Before you leave, grab a bite at one of the onsite food trucks. Better still, walk a few blocks to Montforte on Wellington and treat yourself to a small plate or two, a dessert and, of course, a bag of fabulous artisanal cheese to take home.

    Photo: Lin Stranberg

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    Making a travel video is an effective way to share your travel experiences with your readers and viewers. Today it's so easy to shoot a video with your camera, your smart phone or a videocam. Are you telling a unique story? Are you capturing the mood, people and the destination in the best possible way?

    In Toronto, Arienne Parzei, talented videographer and travel writer/photographer from "See You Soon" Travel Blog, runs hands-on video-making workshops for bloggers. Offered a couple of times a year, bloggers learn how to improve their videography skills.

    Here are a few professional tips Parzei shares with her students:


    Know your camera inside and out

    You don't need top of the line camera equipment to make a great travel video these days. In fact, most Smartphone can shoot really good video clips. The key is to know your equipment inside and out; how it works, how to make adjustments on the fly (exposure, white balance, focus) and its limitations. By having a thorough understanding of your camera before reaching your destination, you can then focus on capturing those incredible vistas and unique characteristics instead of troubleshooting your equipment.


    Research Your Destination

    Do a quick Internet search of your destination to get an idea of what it looks like and the unique things you can do there. Depending on the type of travel video you want to make (vlog, top things to do, montage, etc) you can start planning out your shots and coverage even before you arrive. For an added level of understanding of your destination, check out Google Streetview to give you a street level view of where you'll be going. You'll be surprised at how widespread that service is these days. After all that research, create a wish list of the shots you want to capture.


    Get Creative with Angles and Perspectives

    When you're first starting out, most of your videos will likely contain a lot of pans, zooms, and shots from eye-level. Focus on capturing things from an unexpected angle or perspective. Think about all the different ways and places GoPro users are mounting those little cameras these days. Get low to the ground or high above like a birds-eye view. Have items in the foreground that are out of focus to create depth to your shots. Shoot into the sun to create silhouettes or sunflares. Challenge yourself to get creative and come up with new ways to shoot the same subject.


    Capture good audio and use it to help set the scene

    People are willing to sit through a video that doesn't have the best video quality, but when it comes to bad audio, viewers will tune out quickly. Invest in an external microphone to record good audio, especially if you'll be talking on camera or if you'll be interviewing someone. Rode makes an affordable lav microphone called SmartLav+ (around $125 on Amazon) that allows you to record right into your iPhone. Additionally, don't forget to record sounds from your destination (water running, church bells, laughter, birds chirping, etc). It will add another dimension to your videos and help transport the viewer to that destination.


    Edit to the music

    Music selection is just as important as capturing good visuals and clean audio. The right music track can take your video to the next level, so take the time to find the right piece of music that encapsulates the mood and feeling you're trying to portray. Once you have that track, edit your clips to the music. We call this 'beat editing'. Take your cues from the tempo and builds of your music track to dictate your edits. This not only helps with the pacing of your video but creates a more pleasing overall experience for the viewer.

    TIP: Use unlicensed free music only, otherwise you will receive license infringement notifications from online video sharing sites.

    Leave your viewers wanting more

    Keep your travel videos short, around 3:00-4:00 in length. Although you may have enough content to make something twice or three times as long, keeping them around the 3-minute mark will force you to keep your videos concise and maintain the viewer's attention. The best response from someone is "I wanted to see more!" Another important factor to keep in mind is that 50% of YouTube videos are watched on mobile devices. Most wireless devices have a limited data plan. So if someone clicks on your video, they'll be more likely to watch the whole thing if they know it won't suck up a lot of their data.


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    "Voluntourism" can offer enriching volunteer opportunities abroad but even good intentions can turn into "humanitarian douchery," say two Canadian students who have launched an eyebrow-raising project.

    Christina Guan, 21, and Kaelan MacNeill, 23, unveiled the End Humanitarian Douchery campaign this month to highlight selfish, uninformed, and unqualified overseas volunteers.

    The Simon Fraser University students use the term humanitarian douchery to describe irresponsible voluntourism.

    Their video, "If Voluntourists Talked About North America," shows how silly this behaviour would seem if the shoe was on the other foot. (Watch above.)

    "I'm just calling looking for some more information on helping or aiding the local youths of North America?," says a man in the video. "I really hear that obesity is a huge problem over there... I'm thinking about teaching them Zumba."

    "We wanted to show people how ridiculous our mentality is when comes to volunteering abroad, so decided to bring it home," Guan explains to The Huffington Post B.C. in a phone interview.

    kaelan macneill christina guan

    Both women, who live in the Vancouver area, are experienced volunteers — Guan with Free the Children and Me To We, while MacNeill worked in the tourism industry. However, their perspective on volunteering changed when both delved into communications and critical thinking at university.

    "We were both those aspiring do-gooders who wanted to go abroad and volunteer," Guan explains. "But we started to learn about all of the problems that underline (it) and it actually can be really bad if it's not done properly.

    "You can't just send a 16-year-old kid to go build houses in a foreign country somewhere. Some organizations don't even check for experience, so an inexperienced kid could be taking jobs away from the locals, which actually harms their economy."

    The Seven Sins

    Guan and MacNeill have even compiled a list of "The Seven Sins of Humanitarian Douchery" to help people recognize douchebags in action. Signs include:

    • Research slothery: A lack of research could lead to supporting unethical organizations or performing work a host community doesn't even need.

    • Lusting for likes: When people flaunt their experiences on social media as "heroes" who are "saving" the third world.

    • Fishing for envy: When volunteers go on trips to make themselves look good and others jealous.

    "You can tell that this is a trend that's growing," Guan says. "I've seen so many of my peers jet off to developing countries and try to save the world — and it's great — but the thing is, even when you go in with best intentions, you can do more harm than good."

    Guan says doubts on how helpful volunteering really is not new, but the industry shows no sign of losing its appeal. In fact, more than a million tourists spend roughly $2 billion a year volunteering abroad, according to NPR.

    The B.C. students don't want to discourage people from getting their hands dirty — all they're asking is that they do their homework first.

    "We understand that voluntourists aren't monsters, and that they're not intentionally wreaking havoc," says the End Humantarian Douchery website. "We want to empower them to pursue their passion in a responsible way."

    "The part where we can make the most impact is by telling volunteers that there is a problem," Guan says," And that paves the way for industry change."

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    How many people can say one dish changed their life? I can say that completely truthfully. That dish was goulash.

    Back in the 1980s, I was working at a hotel restaurant in Salzburg when I was asked to cook a meal for a special guest. Ivor Petrak, the longtime general manager of the Banff Springs Hotel was visiting our restaurant that night. A regular, he had asked the kitchen staff to make him something spicy this time. Cooking for Ivor was a big deal. He was known around the world and had run the luxurious Canadian Rockies hotel for nearly two decades before I was asked to impress his taste buds.

    I rushed upstairs to grab a bag of spices that I had snuck into my luggage back in India. I was nervous. I had no formal training in cooking Indian food and living in Austria, I wasn't even eating Indian food as frequently as I would have liked.

    I decided to create my own version of goulash. I never do things by the book -- not now in my restaurants, and not back then when I was a chef-in-training -- so the dish was a fusion of Hungarian and Indian flavours.

    It was a hit, but rather than receiving simply a message of "compliments to the chef," I got the ultimate seal of approval. Ivor loved it so much that upon his return to Canada, he sent me a plane ticket, arranged a visa, and offered me a six-month contract to work at the Banff Springs Hotel.

    A bowl of spicy stew got me into the kitchens of an historic hotel known around the world. I sometimes still can't believe it, but I am so grateful that it happened. Ivor could just as easily eaten my dish and returned to Canada without a second thought. My career certainly would have gone in a different direction.

    Instead, he became my mentor and showed me how running a business is as much about creating an experience as it is about a product. Ivor believed that if a guest came to the Banff Springs Hotel with a dream, it was his responsibility to make that dream come true.

    Like the guests, I also had dreams -- I wanted to open my own restaurant. And more than two decades since I first arrived in Alberta, I now have three restaurants (with another on the way), a line of frozen foods bearing my own name, and a food truck based on my travels around India.

    Earlier this year, when I was approached by the now Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel -- the very place where my Canadian dream started -- I was curious as to how I could help them.

    They wanted not only to feature a specially created Vij's Indian dish on their Indian Summer menu, but they wanted me to go back to the hotel, to help launch this annual event.

    I didn't hesitate. Any excuse to go back to my roots is something I relish, and I was honoured to be asked to participate. This May, I will visit the hotel, work with the chefs in the kitchen, and teach them the Indian dish I have selected and adapted for the Banff Springs Hotel clientele. Then, that dish will be recreated to order right through the summer season, by these young chefs who have the same drive and desire to succeed as I did at their age.

    Because Ivor gave me a unique opportunity, I want to do the same, and I'll be awarding an apprenticeship to one of the kitchen staff, to spend time at my restaurant, My Shanti, in South Surrey, B.C. It's my hope that by learning in my own kitchen, this future culinary star will one day think of me in the same way I regard my own mentor, Ivor, as someone who saw potential and wanted to nurture it, encourage it and perhaps they will remember me when they are at the peak of their journey, wherever their travels take them.


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    dinosaur path bc
    A dinosaur footprint can be seen near Williston Lake, B.C. in this handout photo. (Rich McCrea/Canadian Press)

    VICTORIA - A type of dinosaur Autobahn, with a riot of ancient footprints that are likely more than 100 million years old, has been discovered in northeastern British Columbia.

    Hundreds of prints from extinct carnivores and herbivores are pressed into the flat, rocky surface spanning an area the size of three Canadian football fields, indicating the site was a major dinosaur thoroughfare.

    Many of the three-toed prints at the site — located near Williston Lake about 1,500 kilometres northeast of Vancouver — closely resemble the Toronto Raptors logo.

    "From what I saw there is at least a score or more of trackways, so 20-plus trackways of different animals," said paleontologist Rich McCrea.

    "We're looking at a few hundred footprints that were exposed when I visited the site. If it keeps up that density and we are able to peel back a bit of the surface and expand it by another 1,000 square metres we're likely to find there are thousands of footprints."

    Jurassic Park look-alike

    McCrea is the curator of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. He believes the dinosaur path has major potential as a world-class scientific and tourism site, but said he's concerned the B.C. government's approach to protecting and promoting dinosaur zones is somewhat prehistoric.

    "It would be one of the top sites, unquestionably," said McCrea, who's part of a local crowdfunding campaign to raise $190,000 to research and promote the dinosaur track site. "It already looks like it's going to be one of the biggest sites in Canada. That also means one of the biggest sites in the world."

    He said his visits to the secret site indicate the area was a major travel zone for the Allosaurus, a Jurassic Park look-alike, 8.5-metre-long, two-legged predator with a huge head and rows of teeth.

    McCrea said the area is also ripe with tracks made by the Anklosaurus, a four-legged, nine-metre-long herbivore, that weighed almost 6,000 kilograms and was known for its distinctive armour-plated head and long, club-like tail.

    He estimated those tracks are between 115 million and 117 million years old.

    dinosaur path bc

    "This was still in the dinosaurs' heyday," said McCrea. "It's kind of like the middle age of dinosaurs."

    He said he wants the area protected by the B.C. government, and he's part of a pitch to create a Peace Country dinosaur tourist zone that rivals Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller. McCrea envisions dinosaur tours to Tumbler Ridge, Williston Lake and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in nearby Wembley, Alta.

    Last fall, Tumbler Ridge was designated as a UNESCO global geopark that recognizes geological heritage. The community converted a school into a dinosaur museum and repository for the dinosaurs fossils discovered in the area.

    McCrea said he wants to see a tourist building overlooking the dinosaur trackway area at Williston Lake. A similar concept at China's Zigong Dinosaur Museum attracts seven million people a year, he said.

    Tumbler Ridge Liberal MLA Mike Bernier said he's been trying to convince cabinet ministers that the area is an important asset and needs heritage and fossil protection policies.

    "People go crazy when they see dinosaur bones and fossils. There's something about it: the old Jurassic Park movie coming to life in your riding," he said.

    Bernier said he's reviewing heritage protection laws from across North America and plans to submit a proposal to government this year.

    B.C. 'missing out'

    B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson, whose ministry covers fossil protection, said he's seen the Tumbler Ridge dinosaur site and has met with Bernier on strengthening the province's fossil management.

    Five years ago the government protected the world-renowned McAbee fossil beds near Cache Creek in B.C.'s Interior from professional fossil hunters and others who were mining the area for cat litter.

    "We are looking at what legislative adjustments might be needed to be put in place," said Thomson.

    McCrea said Alberta and others have protected and profit from their fossil heritage, while B.C. remains behind the times.

    "We're missing out on all the opportunities, not just tourism and education, but also, how about just pride that the province itself is the custodian of all its natural resources," he said.


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    What, exactly, was "The Price is Right" thinking?

    On its show last Thursday, a trip to Edmonton was offered, but the graphics used to promote the vacation painted a completely different, and misleading, picture.

    "You and a guest will fly round-trip coach from Los Angeles to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada," the announcer told California contestant Brenda Jo Phillipe, while the screen flashed images of Moraine Lake and other mountain vistas.

    price is right edmonton

    In case you're unfamiliar, Alberta's Rocky Mountains are nowhere near the capital city. In fact, the places pictured would be a four-to-five-hour drive away.

    The trip included a six-night stay in an executive suite at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

    Luckily, Phillipe was not misled by the graphics, and will take advantage of the airfare, but will not spend her whole vacation in Edmonton.

    Instead, she told Global News, she and her husband have declined the stay at the Fairmont and will rent an RV to tour Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise.

    "I am not disappointed that my once in a lifetime experience is bringing me to is close enough to things that really do interest us. We are camping and hiking kind of people and I love the relaxation nature brings me," she wrote in the comments section of a story posted by Global.

    Phillipe won the trip by removing the correct number from the price in the game "Squeeze Play."

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