Things to See and Do in Montreal

Montreal is the perfect combination of old, new, Western, and European. With this melting-pot nature comes a burst of different types of sights, activities, cuisines, and attractions to check out.

With so many options, it can be tough to narrow down an itinerary when visiting a place like Montreal. To give you a starting point, here are eight essential things to see and do the next time you’re in Montreal.

St. Viateur Bagel Shop

If you’re looking for bagels that match — if not surpass — those found in New York, look no further than St. Viateur Bagel Shop.

Just from the shop’s steam-filled windows and never-ending line of loyal customers, you know the quality you can expect from St. Viateur. Cooked in a woodfire oven and hand-shaped in front of you, it’s hard not to grab a few extra bagels for the road. Add a dollop of creme fraiche, Montreal’s upgraded version of traditional creme cheese, onto the quality bagels and a stop at St. Viateur is the perfect way to start your day.

Source: Joanna K Drakos / Shutterstock

Mount Royal

Jutting out from the city is Montreal’s 764-foot mountain, Mount Royal. There are different ways to get to the top depending on how long you want to spend hiking and how physically fit you are. There are easier, more direct paths lasting no more than 20 minutes or there are longer paths zig-zagging around the large wooded forest blanketing Mount Royal that can easily take a couple hours of hiking.

At the top of the mountain is a large observatory with panoramic views of the city and forest below. For those more musically inclined, there’s also a piano at the summit that’s free for anyone to play. During the winter, you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, toboggan, and snow tube.

Source: Cagkan Sayin / Shutterstock

Sunday Morning Drum Circle

If you’re visiting Montreal during the summer, you can head down to the giant drum circle around the George-Etienne Cartier statue at the base of Mount Royal.

While no one really knows its origin, the drum circle — which includes drummers, DJs, and other performers — has been around since the 1860s. While the festivities typically start in the late morning, they actually continue all the way until sunset. This makes it the perfect start, middle, or end to your day.

Source: Marc Bruxelle / Shutterstock

Schwartz Deli

Almost as iconic as Mount Royal is Montreal’s Schwartz Deli. In operation since 1928, Schwartz Deli has become famous around the world for its delicious smoked meat menu. As a result, it’s going to be busy no matter when you go. You can certainly eat inside the deli, but with a constant rotation of customers and orders coming in and going out, you’re probably better off grabbing your food to go and eat it somewhere else.

Regardless, carving out some time to experience Schwartz Deli is a Montreal-must.

Source: Arthur Villator / Shutterstock

Picnic

With so many beautiful parks to choose from, a picnic with friends, loved ones, or just yourself on a beautiful sunny day in Montreal is a great way to kill part or all of the day. Picnics are especially great in Montreal because you are legally allowed to sip wine or beer in public parks as long as you are picnicking.

If you don’t know where to picnic, Parc La Fontaine is especially gorgeous in late summer and early fall. You can also take a break from eating and drinking to paddleboat around one of the park’s two large ponds.

Source: Heather Shimmin / Shutterstock

Old Montreal

Much of Montreal’s appeal lies in the preservation of its history. When walking around Old Montreal — a small, cobblestone corner of the city by the St. Lawrence River — you’re surrounded by a mix of early European and North American history and architecture.

While there are plenty of shops and restaurants to check out, many of them of quite touristy. Your time is better spent aimlessly walking or biking around random cobblestone streets taking in the sights. When you’re done exploring, you can either go check out the nearby Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, a towering 200-foot tall basilica dating back hundreds of years, or the Old Port for a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence River.

Source: Shutterstock

Gibeau Orange Julep

A roadside fast food restaurant with a huge three-story orange ball on top of it may not sound like a must-see. However, Gibeau Orange Julep is a Montreal staple. Although it was founded in 1932, everything from the packaging of the food to the outfits of the servers is more reminiscent of the 1950s. Because of this, Gibeau Orange Julep seriously feels like a step back in time. You can live out your own high school rom-com movie with a burger, fries, and famous Gibeau Orange Julep drink on one of the picnic benches outside of the restaurant.

Keep in mind that the restaurant is a little out of the way from most other Montreal attractions. As such, it’s best to make it the last stop before heading back to your hotel.

Source: John Simpson Photography / Shutterstock

Nightlife

Sometimes referred to as the Europe of Canada, Montreal is, of course, known for its nightlife. For those looking to dance or explore the bar scene, a trip to Le Village Gai — Montreal’s world-famous LGBTQ district — is a must. Mingling with drag queens at Cabaret Mado or dancing until morning at Stereo are just a couple of ways to experience the Village’s nightlife.

After you’re done dancing, or if you just need to refuel, you can walk 20 feet in any direction and indulge in some poutine or Portuguese food. If you’re not looking for just any old poutine or Portuguese food and want something more established, some famous spots to check out are La Banquise in the Plateau for poutine and Coco Rico on St. Laurent Boulevard for Portuguese food. Be warned: expect to be waiting around for a while at either of these spots, especially later in the night.

Source: Colin Woods / Shutterstock

Amazing Destination Bakeries Worth Traveling For

Perhaps paradoxically, at the same time North Americans have been waging war on carbs and gluten-laden treats, there has also been a growing infatuation with bakeries of all stripes. Of course, not all bakeries are created equal and very few of them are worth traveling far from home for. From traditional European shops to all-American classics, here are 8 world-class bakeries that definitely justify the purchase of the plane ticket, all on their own.

8. Konditori Fågelsången (Uppsala)

A konditori is a Swedish café and meeting spot that usually serves pastries, in line with the Swedish tradition of fika (a social coffee break). The Konditori Fågelsången in Uppsala, while maybe not as trendy as some of the cafes in Stockholm, was established in 1954 and still bakes their pastries, cakes and other sweets in-house. While it isn’t headed by a world-renowned pastry chef or perhaps as innovative as some of the other bakeries mentioned here, Konditori Fågelsången makes traditional treats and makes them well. You’re not going to find a better spot for Swedish treats like kladdkaka or prinsesstårta. If you do find yourself here, a traditional Swedish cinnamon roll (kanelbulle) is always a safe choice. A personal favorite is the wienerbröd, similar to American-style Danishes, but infinitely better.

7. Le Panier (Seattle)

Opened in 1983, this Pike Place establishment is committed to making Normandy-style pastries; the owners still make regular trips to France to ensure they’re on the up-and-up with French baking. Given that Seattle’s a bit closer for West Coasters than France (or even Montreal), visiting Le Panier is the next best solution. Try the tarte aux abricots, a fruit tart with almond pastry cream and sour apricots, or one of the bakery’s own creations, like the Feuilletes: puff pastry with savory fillings like spinach and mushrooms. Macarons, eclairs and friands round out the menu. Le Panier offers seasonal variation on some of their staples too, like their pumpkin macaron, the apple friand and the hazelnut éclair. If you’re in Seattle, skip Starbucks and head over to Le Panier instead.

6. Elizabethan Desserts

Whoopie pies, cupcakes and homemade Twinkies are features on the menu of classic, 1950s-style American treats available at Elizabethan Desserts in El Camino Real, California. The strawberry rhubarb pie is made with a shortbread cookie crust and the peanut butter in the chocolate peanut butter praline crunch cake is made from scratch. Vintage cookie jars and a mint-and-white palette add to the old-timey feel. Consensus is that the must-try entry is the Louis Gooey Butter Cake Bar; Elizabethan Desserts adds a fruit topping to their version and the classic yellow cake batter that serves as the foundation of the dessert is mixed with cream cheese to create a decadent delight for your tastebuds. The creamy vanilla custard filling rounds out the flavor experience.

5. Bäckerei Balzer (Berlin)

Germans are noted for their rich pastries and desserts: Black Forest cake and what we call Danishes (known as “Vienna bread,” after the capital of Austria, in some parts of Europe), as well as German chocolate cakes and bundts are all part of the average North American’s catalogue of sweet treats. Many of these treats emigrated to North America in centuries past, but if you want to taste the authentic, you need to get to Germany. The Bäckeri Balzer in Berlin was established in the 1920s and continues to make traditional German treats to this very day, even as other establishments have given way to trendy cafes and shops. The Bäckerie’s streuselschnecken are famous amongst locals, and you’ll have to arrive early if you want a chance at sampling one; they sell out fast. Apple fritters, bread rolls and buttercake round out the bakery’s offerings.

4. Muddy’s Bake Shop (Memphis)

Muddy’s Bake Shop in East Memphis, Tennessee, has ended up on a few best-of lists, and one trip to the bakery itself makes it clear why. Muddy’s is a homey sort of establishment that hands out mismatched coffee mugs to customers perched on vintage furniture. Make no mistake, though: the bakery does it while serving up serious Southern treats, including decadent cupcakes, pies and toffee bars. The Prozac cake, which is 2 layers of devil’s food cake smothered with smooth chocolate buttercream, and the Frankly Scarlett cupcakes, which are red velvet with cream cheese frosting, are 2 of the best items on the menu. Other treats include banana pudding, butter cookies and the Nancy’s Boy pie, a chess pie with coconut. You can’t miss the Shady Wake pie, a classic pecan pie.

3. Bakery Lorraine (San Antonio)

Texas may not be high on your hit list for places with great bakeries, but it should be: Bakery Lorraine is there and it would be a darn shame to miss a bake shop this good. Open since 2012, the bakery has been hailed as one of the best new bakeries in the whole of the U.S., and the shop had already outgrown its original location by 2013. Owners Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell take a novel approach to both French and American pastries, ranging from Pop-Tarts to kouign-amann. Most popular are their colorful macarons, which come in a plethora of refined flavors, including dark chocolate lavender, chamomile vanilla, earl grey and pumpkin spice. The menu is ever-changing, based on seasonal ingredients and locally sourced products. If you have a chance, try the fig chevre tarts, which are filled with fig jam and vanilla-flavored goat cheese.

2. Maison Christian Faure (Montreal)

If you want French-style baking without traveling all the way to Paris, a trip to Montreal is on your itinerary. The city has probably more than its fair share of bakeries serving up traditional French treats and New World-twists, like the Montreal-style bagel, but Maison Christian Faure is a standout in a place full of exceptional establishments. Chef Faure maintains his own pastry school in the French tradition, which should give you an inkling about the quality of the pastries available in the shop. Everything is accented by a focus on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal Quebec produce. Enjoy an éclair or a traditional mille-feuille without stepping off the North American landmass. The absolute best menu item is Paris Brest with praline cream. Not feeling something sweet? The shop also has a snack menu and a deli.

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery (New York)

Dominique Ansel, creator of the international sensation known as the cronut, is something of a celebrity chef in the Big Apple, and for good reason. His Soho bakery, located at 189 Spring Street in Manhattan, has a wide variety of delicious goodies up for grabs, including mini-meringues, large cakes, macarons and other gifts. The chef creates a signature item every year; past inventions have included the Frozen S’more and the Cookie Shot. His imagination has earned him the title “Willy Wonka of NYC” and his bakery, opened in 2011, has been named the best bakery in the city by various magazines and newspapers. If you’re in the Big Apple, you need to stop by; in fact, you can probably justify traveling to NYC based on a visit to the now-iconic shop alone.

Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful University Campuses

Canada is blessed from coast to coast with incredibly beautiful and unique university campuses. While some feature historic buildings and castles, others are blessed with lush landscapes and an abundance of flora. Canadian universities have done their part to keep up these beautiful landscapes and as more modern buildings are created, they are done so in environmentally friendly ways. From the bustling metropolis of Montreal to the quiet paths of Thunder Bay; here are our top 10 choices for the most beautiful university campuses in Canada.

10. McGill University -Montreal, QB

McGill doesn’t just have one beautiful campus but two, both of them gorgeous in their own ways. The downtown campus features the lush greenery from the slopes of Mount Royal, combined with over 70 state of the art buildings. Macdonald Campus on the other hand is located on the very tip of the island of Montreal and features 100 year old buildings, numerous bike and walking paths, an awesome arboretum with skiing trails and just steps away from the mighty St. Lawrence River. Expect buildings here that have commanding stone walls, copper roofs, impressive stained glass windows, concrete plazas that have been turned into gardens. A shuttle runs between the two campuses and no matter where you study, or visit, it will be downright beautiful.

McGill University

9. University of Toronto -Toronto, ON

The University of Toronto offers three different campuses but it is no contest when it comes to which one is the most beautiful of them all. St. George’s campus is located right downtown and manages to blend incredible historical architecture with green space. Visitors should make their way to Victoria College and check out the Old Vic building, the oldest of the college and perhaps the most beautiful. Head over to University College, the founding college of the University of Toronto and check out Laidlaw quadrangle, which looks more like a medieval courtyard than a university campus. The Mississauga campus on the other hand is located on 225 hundreds acres of protected green space on the Credit River and provides a beautiful background for students and visitors alike.

University of Toronto

8. Queen’s University -Kingston, ON

Think limestone buildings, stunning architecture and waterfront; as that is exactly what Queen’s campus offers students and visitors. Fall is one of the best times to visit this campus as the leaves turn into brilliant shades of red and orange, making for a striking scene against the historic buildings. Students here spend a lot of time at Douglas Library and it’s not hard to see why, as not only is the building stunning but it features a pretty awesome fourth floor which houses a “Harry Potter” room. Although this campus isn’t as large as others on this list, the students and faculty make up for that as school spirit is high. Part of what make this campus so beautiful is the sense of community that is felt; expect to see a lot of blue, red and gold worn around campus as students show off their school spirit.

Queen's University

7. Western University -London, ON

Western offers the best of both worlds, historical architecture mixed with modern buildings and amenities. The campus is situated along the banks of the Thames River in London and offers trails both throughout the campus and along the Thames River. London isn’t the most exciting city on this list which means that students have created their own fun and expect to see them whipping down University Hill on skis and snowboards in the winter. The gothic style buildings have been restored to remain charming while the insides have been renovated, giving students the best of both worlds. This university also signed a pledge a few years ago to transform the campus into a model of environmental responsibility. Plans are in the works to add more buildings to this campus and expect great things in the years to come.

Western University

6. Bishop’s University -Sherbrooke, QB

This small liberal arts university in the tiny town of Sherbrooke offers a lot in term of beauty. Founded in 1843 the goal of this university is to educate the whole person, not just focusing on one subject. The campus is spread over 500 acres, at the junction of the St. Francis and Massawippi rivers and features some of Quebec’s most historic buildings. Many weddings are held at this university campus as St. Mark’s cathedral provides and absolutely stunning setting to say “I do”. This historical chapel features intricate woodwork inside and beautiful stained glass windows. McGreer Hall is the oldest building on campus and stands out as a stunning red castle like building, which looks even more amazing when white snow surrounds it. School spirit and community only adds to the beauty of this school and students who attend Bishops make lasting friends and family.

Photo by: QUT
Photo by: QUT

5. Mount Royal University -Calgary, AB

Mount Royal has a beautiful campus, there is no denying that, especially during the warm seasons when the ponds are shimmering and the gardens are blooming. One of the most notable features of this campus is the outdoor amphitheatre where the students and the community can gather for events, such as plays and concerts. Mount Royal is working hard to do their part in being environmentally friendly and in 2006 opened its first certified LEED building, and has since dedicated to making every new building on campus LEED certified. Make sure to head to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful modern looking building in which you can take in a fabulous performance or take some time to reflect in one of the many green spaces throughout the campus.

Photo by: Under Western Skies
Photo by: Under Western Skies

4. McMaster University -Hamilton, ON

Located in the residential neighborhood of Westdale in Hamilton, Ontario; McMaster is beautiful both inside and out. There are amazing trails to be found throughout the campus and in the surrounding areas, as well as conservation areas and a plethora of waterfalls to explore. The main campus itself is both bicycle and pedestrian friendly with wide paved paths throughout, making it easy to get from one place to another. Make sure to have lunch at the Refectory, one of the original buildings on McMaster, as the top floor features a restaurant that looks over a beautiful treed ravine. One of the highlights on this campus is Cootes Paradise, a wildlife sanctuary owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens which features an abundance of flora and fauna. With a mix of original architecture, new buildings and lush landscape, this university is downright stunning.

McMaster University

3. Lakehead University -Thunder Bay, ON

Lakehead University has two campuses, one based in Orillia and the other in Thunder Bay and it is here in Thunder Bay where you will find one of the most picturesque campuses in the country. Spread out over 116 hectares, under the steep cliffs of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, this campus features 39 buildings and an abundance of green space. What you won’t find here is the rows upon rows of historical buildings like many of the campuses on this list. Instead you will find stunning nature, all around you. Buildings were designed with floor to ceiling windows so both faculty and students could feel like they were outside. With gardens overflowing with beautiful flowers and Lake Tamblyn running through the campus it is easy to see why in the warm months, classes are often taught outdoors.

Photo by: Lakehead University
Photo by: Lakehead University

2. University of British Columbia -Vancouver, BC

It is arguably one of the most beautiful university campuses across the country with incredible surroundings and breathtaking views. The Vancouver campus is located at the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula, surrounded by forest, ocean and mountains. Getting to downtown Vancouver takes just twenty minutes and there are numerous beaches just a short distance away. To add to this awesome campus are the ultra cool buildings situated here. Visitors should definitely head to the UBC farm and check out the yurt, one of the only yurts on a university campus in the world. The library is light and airy, featuring literary quotes on the outside of the building while the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is sleek and modern with glass windows and a unique shape. Whether you are viewing this campus by air, walking through it or attending as a student, it is simply breathtaking.

University of British Columbia

1. Royal Roads University -Victoria, BC

Up until 1995 this University was actually a Military College and features an impressive main building, the Hatley Castle. The castle was completed in 1908 and was once meant to house the Royal Family, but instead they remained in the UK as the world was at war. Lucky for students and visitors alike, this campus is now a public university spread over 260 hectares of parkland with incredible surroundings. Walking through this campus gives visitors gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the impressive Olympic Mountain Range. Walking, hiking and biking trails wind throughout the campus and you will come across an incredible Japanese Garden, among other hidden treasures. The entire campus is a part of the Hatley Park National Historic Site and between the incredible buildings and extensive gardens; it is clear why this truly is the most beautiful campus in the country.

Royal Roads University

The Best Urban Parks in Canada

Canada is known for some of its incredible National Parks but often what gets overlooked in this great nation are the incredible urban parks that have popped up from coast to coast. What makes one urban park better than another? Great access to activities, varied landscapes, incredible scenery and plenty of things to see and do, are what sets these eight urban parks above the rest. From the famous Stanley Park in Vancouver to the largest urban park in Canada to lesser known parks in the east coast; here are the best urban parks in Canada.

8. Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

This park is considered to be one of Winnipeg’s crown jewels and offers over 113 hectares of woodland and plains along the River’s south side. Attractions here include the park zoo whose star attraction is the Polar Bears and the comprehensive exhibit that they are housed in. Known to be one of the most comprehensive zoological exhibits of its kind in the world, visitors have the chance to watch the playful bears in a stimulating environments inspired by their natural habitat. The park boasts more than just the zoo though, including gardens, playgrounds, restaurants, nature trails, a steam train and more. The park conservatory boasts over 8,000 flowers, trees and plants while the Gallery Museum features local artists and a permanent Winnie the Pooh artifact collection.

Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

7. Beacon Hill Park, Victoria

Located on Victoria’s southern shores, Beacon Hill Park is an oasis of both landscaped and natural beauty, offering spectacular views during every season. The outer rim of the park is where nature lovers flock to, to Oceanside bluffs where paragliders and kite enthusiasts often can be seen. The inner park is where visitors will find most of the activities though. Wander through the manicured gardens and over bridged streams while music drifts out of the Cameron Bandshell. Or take the kids the the miniature golfing or petting zoo. Wildlife is abundant throughout the park with over a hundred species of birds, river otters, painted turtles and more. This park also happens to have the important status of being the western terminus, the Mile “0” of the 8,000km Trans-Canada highway and so happens to be a very popular tourist photo opp.

Mile 0

6. Pippy Park, St. John’s Newfoundland

At the northern boundary of St. John’s lays one of Canada’s greatest urban parks, Pippy Park, abundant in scenery and breathtaking views. The 27-hole golf course features some of the spectacular views of both the oldest city in North America and miles of rugged coastline, chances are you might even see an iceberg or whale while walking this course. If visitors want to spend more than just a day exploring this awesome park, the campground offers 216 sites on private treed lots that are steps away from playgrounds and the Botanical Gardens. There is a plethora of scenic trails that allow visitors to explore a variety of landscapes including wetlands, rivers, parklands and more. The rare Leopard march orchid can also be spotted here in the Botanical Gardens and offers visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it up close and in person.

whale

5. Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary

It is the largest urban park in all of Canada, and just so happens to be one of the best, located in the southern part of Calgary and over three times the size of Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. Fish Creek flows the entire length of the park and joins the Bow River at the east side, offering visitors a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities. Visitors here will be privy to 200 bird species, deer, owls, beavers and coyotes which all call this park home. One of the most popular features of the park is Sikome Lake, a man-made lake where thousands of people flock to each summer to swim. A variety of unpaved walking, hiking and bicycle trails are also prevalent throughout Fish Creek Park. Two restaurants are located here, one which offers fine-dining and the other a bakery and café and an Artisan Garden is located in the east end. There are a ton of things to see and do here and if you happen to be a resident of Calgary, consider yourself lucky that you get to enjoy this park anytime at your leisure.

deer

4. Rockwood Park, St. John New Brunswick

This park offers an abundance of activities to enjoy in an unspoiled setting where unusual topography and geography are prevalent. The billion years of history here can be seen in unique rock formations, caves and waterfalls and this park often refers to itself as an all-season natural amusement park. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunity for hiking, fishing. Boating, climbing, camping, golfing and mountain biking while those looking for something a little more low key can visit the Cherry Brook Zoo, located in the north section of the park. Other awesome amenities include beaches, gardens, stables, campgrounds and picnic sites, along with 890 hectares of forest and the beautiful Lily Lake.

rockwood park NB

3. High Park, Toronto

It is Toronto’s largest public park and in recent years the city has invested a lot of time, energy and money into making it one of the greatest urban parks in Canada. High Park is home to a greenhouse, zoo, restaurants, off-leash dog park and more. The signature Sakura cheery blossom trees in Hillside Gardens are the star attraction during April and May when they are in full bloom. Grenadier Pond is the place to head for fishing off the south rim while visitors who want to swim or skate can head to the designated pool and rink. From wandering through the nature trails to playing on one of many playgrounds to taking in a sport at one of the great facilities, there is certainly no shortage of things to do here.

high park

2. Mt. Royal Park, Montreal

It is the best urban park in all of Montreal and so happens to be one of the best in all of Canada, laying in the midst of Montreal island and including 200 hectares and the highest spot in the city. The park is home to over 180 species of birds and 20 mammals and enough hiking and biking paths to keep any active visitor busy. In the winter time enjoy the 20km of cross country trails, horse drawn carriage rides and an awesome tubing and tobogganing run. Other features of this impressive park include Beaver Lake, a sculpture garden, Smith House – an interpretative center, and two belvederes. Designed by famous architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park, visitors can assure that there is no shortage of spectacular views of the city below and varied landscapes to explore.

mt royal

1. Stanley Park, Vancouver

It is known for being one the best parks around the world, and recently held the title of “best park in the world” by Trip Advisor, therefore no trip to Vancouver should be complete without visiting Stanley Park. This lush green space covers over 400 hectares of parkland and west coast rainforest. Things to do at this park include visiting the indoor/outdoor aquarium, walking the 8.8km stretch of seawall and discovering the Brockton Point’s First Nations totem poles. The park is also absolutely loaded with gardens, beaches, landmarks, sculptures and lookout points, along with a golf course and a Lost Lagoon. Whether you spend an hour, a day or three days exploring this park, one thing is for sure – it is easy to understand why this is truly the best urban park in Canada.

totem

 

Canada’s 8 Coolest Museums

Canada is fortunate enough to be loaded with awesome museums, whether you are interested in learning about the dinosaurs that once ruled the badlands of Alberta or the first people that set foot in British Columbia. Perhaps you are interested in weapons and counterfeit money, or what happened during the Holocaust-don’t fear, Canada has you covered. From coast to coast impressive museums continue to amaze visitors and while some may be suited for adults, there is plenty of fun for the kids too! Check out the 8 coolest museums in Canada, and why you should drop everything and visit them today.

8. Canadian Museum of History – Gatineau, Quebec

It is Canada’s national museum of human history, and its purpose includes collecting, studying, preserving and presenting material objects that illuminate the human history of Canada. One of the most impressive parts of the museum is the Grand Hall where a beautiful wall of windows gives way to a picturesque view of the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. The museum attracts over a million visitors a year to gaze at the collection of huge totem poles, First Nation artifacts, streetscape galleries and life-size replicas recreations such as an airport lounge circa 1970. In addition, this awesome museum to home to the Canadian Children’s and Postal Museum, along with an IMAX theatre making this attraction super family friendly.

mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com
mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com

7. Canada Science and Technology Museum – Ottawa, Ontario

It is the largest of its kind and located in the capital city of Canada, Ottawa. This museum displays all sorts of cool exhibits, focusing on the past, present and future of science and technological developments in Canada. What makes this museum so cool is the fact that much of it is hands-on, climb-on and walk through exhibits. Currently the museum is closed and undergoing a major renovation, expected to open in 2017 and is thought to be bigger and better than ever. Visitors should expect five main galleries including a Children’s Gallery, Artifact Alley and Crazy Kitchen. From trains, planes, automobiles, rockets and space travel simulation; this museum will offer a plethora of excitement.

Science and Tech Museum, ottawa

6. Royal Tyrell Museum – Drumheller, Alberta

This popular Canadian tourist attraction is both a museum and a centre of paleontological research. Hosting more than 130,000 fossils, this museum is located in the middle of the Late Cretaceous Horseshoe Canyon Formation. Visitors will love wandering through the ten signature galleries devoted to paleontology that include 40 dinosaur skeletons, including one huge T. Rex. There are plenty of hands on experiences to be had here including strength tests where you will discover how strong these fascinating creatures really were. Visitors can also watch actual technicians prepare fossils for research and display, fossils that happened to be found right in Alberta. As well, visitors can join the Dinosite program which allows you to search for real fossils, see real dinosaur remains still in the ground and learn about ancient Alberta during the 90-minute hike through the badlands.

Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com
Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com

5. Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) – Toronto, Ontario

It is considered by many to be one of the best museums in Canada and also happens to be one of the coolest. Located in Toronto, this museum is dedicated to art, world culture and natural history and attracts over a million visitors a year. Visitors will want to spend an entire day discovering the 40 some odd galleries that feature over 6 million items including a notable collection of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites. The CIBC Discovery Gallery is where you can get “hands-on” at the ROM and although geared towards children, adults will also enjoy the interactive activities including digging for dinosaur bones and touching different specimens and artifacts. Expect awesome interesting exhibits that are constantly changing, slumber parties for adults and plenty of tours and workshops to keep everyone interested.

Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com
Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com

4. Human Rights Museum – Winnipeg, Manitoba

This impressive museum is the newest on this list, opening in September of 2014, dedicated to exploring the subject of human rights with a special emphasis on Canada. Offering a journey from darkness to light, visitors start off on the ground level and gradually make their way up seven floors that reveal more and more daylight. With a total of six levels of exhibits and 11 galleries and one Tower of Hope that offers panoramic views of Winnipeg, expect to spend at least a day here. Galleries include “Examining the Holocaust”, “Rights Today” and “Canadian Journeys”, just to name a few. Interactive presentations, multimedia technology and world-class design make this an amazing encounter with human rights.

winnipeg

3. Royal British Columbia Museum – Victoria, British Columbia

It is known as one of the world’s top regional museums, one of Canada’s most visited and located on the picturesque Inner Harbor in Victoria. Three permanent galleries trace the natural and human history of British Columbia and include life-sized mammoths, live tidal pools and replica streets and shops. The First Peoples Gallery is especially impressive with its ceremonial masks, totem poles and full-sized log house recreation. Visitors here can even watch as native carvers work on new totem poles in a long house located just behind the museum. Featuring the largest IMAX in BC, numerous family events throughout the year, interactive exhibits and more; it’s an easy choice calling this one of the coolest museums in Canada.

Doug Schnurr / Shutterstock.com
Doug Schnurr / Shutterstock.com

2. Vancouver Police Museum, Vancouver, British Columbia

It is North America’s oldest police museum and houses over 20,00 artifacts, photos and documents. Located in a heritage building that was once the Coroner’s Court, the morgue, autopsy facility and crime laboratory; this museum brings in visitors of all ages. A self-guided tour will take visitors through the history or crime and law enforcement in Vancouver. Exhibits include an extensive gallery of confiscated weapons, gambling devices, prohibited drugs and counterfeit money, a true crime gallery with real evidence and photos, and an intact and authentic autopsy suite. Kids will love playing dress up with the real police uniforms where as adults can take in one of the “movies in the morgue” features.

Photo by: Kim Werker via www.vancouverisawesome.com
Photo by: Kim Werker via www.vancouverisawesome.com

1. Biosphere Environment Museum – Montreal, Quebec

It is the only environment museum in North America and both kids and adults go crazy for this unique attraction that is both indoors and out. This architectural masterpieces and symbol of Expo 67 invites visitors to learn more about meteorology, climate, water and air quality and other environmental issues in a fun way. An outdoor Artic photo exhibit celebrates the regions biodiversity and beauty while educating visitors on the environmental changes that are happening there. The immersive show “Design the Future” on the other hand invites visitors to reconnect with the natural environment around us to grasp the importance of climate change and how we will adapt to that. An abundance of games, hands-on activities and galleries await visitors to this unique museum in Montreal.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

The 8 Best Sledding Hills in North America

Winter is coming and one of the best ways to enjoy the cold snowy weather is to bundle up and go play in it, whatever age you are. Luckily you don’t need any special skills to enjoy the snow, indeed all you need is a sled. Tobogganing, sledding, whatever you want to call it is one of the most popular free winter activities that can put a huge smile on your face, no matter what age you are. Here in North America there are some pretty epic sledding hills that will shoot your down at colorful speeds and leave you breathless. Getting up is the only hard part here. From Ontario to Colorado to Halifax to Ottawa, we have rounded up the best 8 sledding hills in North America.

8. Firecracker Hill – Telluride, Colorado

This ski town is known for it’s awesome powder, incredible resorts and laid back feel but skiing just isn’t the only thing you can do here. The town may not have an official sledding park but one local hill is where to go to get your sled on. On the southern side of Telluride Town Park lies Firecracker Hill, follow the orange cones that the city puts out to mark the walking path to the hill. Don’t worry if you don’t have own your sled, the Telluride Nordic Center will rent you one for just a few bucks a day. You will find a mix of locals and visitors at this hill, riding anything from GT snow racers to saucers to mini snowboards. Obey the signs, recognize this is avalanche country and slide down this awesome hill in the ski town of Telluride.

Photo by: The Denver City Page
Photo by: The Denver City Page

7. St Andrews Heights Toboggan Hill – Calgary, Alberta

This hill is known for it’s massiveness, incredible speed and downhill length. It has been tempting daredevil sledders for years. Located in the St. Andrews neighborhood, to reach this hill park in the Community Hall lot and then make your way to the top. A quick warning, it is a heavy hike to the top and be prepared if you have younger ones to pull them most of the way. To understand how big this hill is let’s use statistics. It has a run of about 150m, a drop of 17m and then a run out of 100m. That is a lot of hill to come down, and a lot to go back up. The end of the run is separated from the road by a fence to keep sliders safe. Expect to see a ton of people using this hill in the winter time, including junior snowboarders who practice here before hitting the big slopes.

Photo by: 102.1 The Edge
Photo by: 102.1 The Edge

6. Grand Mesa Old Powderhorn, Grand Junction, Colorado

It is referred to as “Old Powderhorn” by locals and it part of the old Mesa Creek Ski Area, located about three miles past Powderhorn Ski Resort. The parking area is located on the south side of the road and once you have bundled up and got your sled ready, its time to head up the trail head. There are plenty of trees to avoid coming down and the ride can be described as a wind-burning, adrenaline pumping, heart-stopping kind of ride. Expect the tiniest of snowdrifts to send you airborne and we recommend wearing your thickest snowsuit. Best for older kids and adults as there are plenty of trees that pose a threat of crashing into. Or at least bring a sled that you can steer.

Photo by: The Denver City Page
Photo by: The Denver City Page

5. Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum – Boston, Massachusetts

Head to Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood where Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum is located, offering 281 acres of exotic trees and flowering shrubs, which in the winter is host to an abundance of awesome sledding hills. Peter’s Hill has to be the favorite here as it offers incredible views from the top and no trees to contend with on the way down, making it safe for all ages. It also boasts the highest and longest slope in the area. The steep Weld Hill is the favorite amongst daredevils as it offers a ride of 350 feet long with parts that are at a 60-degree slope. We suggest hanging onto your hat as you race down these hills.

Photo by: Shutterstock via Boston Magazine
Photo by: Shutterstock via Boston Magazine

4. Mount Royal Park – Montreal, Quebec

This Montreal park is popular all year round but really comes alive in the winter thanks to all the visitors that take part in sledding down the hills, whether on rented tubes or sleds of their own. For decades this has been the place to take part in winter fun and the slope at the corner of Cote-Ste-Catherine and Parc looks tame from afar but in fact offers an incredible speedy and bumpy ride. Families and people of all ages flock to this hill with tubes, crazy carpets and even traditional wooden sleds. Straw barriers keep riders from going into the streets and there are even washrooms and a cafeteria on-site so you can warm those hands and grab a snack.

Photo by: J'aime le mont Royal/Facebook
Photo by: J’aime le mont Royal/Facebook

3. Citadel Hill – Halifax, Nova Scotia

It is undoubtedly the best hill to sled on in the city of Halifax and when the snow flies, people of all ages are flocking here. What makes this hill so popular is the awesome incline, lack of obstacles and location. Head to the south and west faces as they offer the best sledding, especially the slope that leads down to the Garrison Grounds. Grab your GT snow racer, a crazy carpet or even a cafeteria tray and prepare for one adrenaline-rushing ride down the best hill in the city. This hill does get busy with locals and visitors and your biggest obstacle here may just be the other sledders. Luckily this hill has a spacious landing area for sledders, ensuring that everyone stays safe.

Photo by: Destination Halifax
Photo by: Destination Halifax

2. Dutch Henry Tubing Hill, Leadville, Colorado

It calls itself the highest, fastest sledding hill in all of Colorado, and it just happens to be conveniently located one-minute south of downtown. The hill here is open seven days a week and free to all visitors who bring their own sled. Rentals of tubes are available on weekends during the day for a small fee. Big, steep and fast are the only three words that come to mind when you head to this hill and sledders should prepare themselves for a wild ride. Not recommended for younger kids, head to this hill with a group of friends, adults or older kids.

Photo by: Colorado Come To Life
Photo by: Colorado Come To Life Tourism

1. Carlington Park, Ottawa, Ontario

It is known as one of the top sledding destinations in North America, and that should come as no surprise considering its steepness and the wild thrills it offers, essentially this former ski hill offers two hills in one, the highest being the steepest and showcasing a platform before the second hill. Not for the faint of heart, this hill is usually riddled with many jumps carved into the snow and expect to be sharing the hill with amateur snowboarders. Lights make it tempting to slide down this hill at night, for an even more extreme thrill. Parking is provided here at the J. Alph Dulude Arena and just use caution and avoid areas that are fenced off for riders. Enjoy one of the wildest rides in North America at Carlington Park in Ottawa, Ontario.

Sledding

Top Places to Celebrate New Years Eve in Canada

It is one of the most awaited festivals all over the world, where people come from all nooks and crannies to indulge themselves in one epic partying spree. In fact, planning your New Years Eve can be downright stressful and overwhelming. From free outdoor music concerts to dazzling displays of fireworks to black tie galas, the choices are endless. And that’s not even the hard part. Deciding where to ring in the new year can be tough, do you stay in your hometown and attend a local party or make your way into a different city to see how they do it? If you want options, you got them. Here are our favorite places to ring in the New Year in Canada:

6. Toronto, Ontario

Whether you are looking for family fun, adults only, a retro party or an intimate pub, the lively city of Toronto has the right celebration for you. The Mod Club in Toronto is the place to head if you are looking for retro, it is wonderfully designed with the famous event “From Britain with Love”. The Britain inspired theme of this event has made a landmark in the city of Toronto, making numerous visitors coming to the city on the New Year’s Eve. However, that’s not the only party in the city. Head to Nathan Phillips Square on New Years to skate on the famous outdoor rink, enjoy a local DJ and local live music and take in the spectacular fireworks display at night.

Canadapanda / Shutterstock.com
Canadapanda / Shutterstock.com

5. Ottawa, Ontario

It is the capital of Canada and one can expect that they go big when it comes to ringing in the new year, and boy oh boy do they ever. Head to Ottawa City Hall where the celebration is known as the TD Hogmanay Scottish New Years Party. Visitors here will have the chance to skate to Celtic music, ice sculpt, scotch taste, listen to live music and more. And when midnight strike, prepare for an amazing display of fireworks off the roof of city hall. Or head to the family event, Rick Chiarelli’s New Year Eve where there are plenty of alcohol free events and includes countless entertainers, from magicians to dancers to face painters, and of course some pretty awesome fireworks. Or head to Metcalfe Square and Sparks Street where a free outdoor concert will help you bring in the new year, along with one giant flare and dazzling lights in the sky.

Photo by: Maclaine
Photo by: Maclaine

4. Vancouver, British Columbia

One unique way to ring in the new year is to celebrate on the water. The city of Vancouver offers a variety of choices when it comes to NYE cruises and most come complete with drinks, dancing and complimentary champagne when the clock strikes midnight. Pride of Vancouver Charters and its Luxurious Pride vessel is one of the best ways to celebrate. This cruise provides entertainment, dancing and a delicious buffet, all in the luxury cruise ship tradition. If you are single and looking to meet someone to help bring in the new year snap a spot on the queen of Diamonds cruise where a great party brings up to 400 other singles who are also looking to meet someone. Countdown parties, midnight fireworks and plenty of fun is to be had on this New Years Eve experience.

Vancouver new years eve

3. Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is really known for its one famous party at the L’Olympia de Montreal, where 2500 people gather to drink, dance and ring in the New Year in one crazy insane party. But that’s not the only big party in town. Clubs such as Roxbury, Rouge Nightclub and La Boom can see crowds between 800-2000. Some of these parties even include an open bar and all your drink tips. If you are after more dinner and dancing and less club hopping the choices are endless from the Hyatt Regency Gala New Years Eve party to the La Finale New Year’s Eve at Jargo. No matter where you go or what you want to do, Montreal is one of the hottest places to be.

Photo by: Tourisme Montreal
Photo by: Tourisme Montreal

2. Calgary, Alberta

The city of Calgary certainly knows how to include the whole family when it comes to New Years Eve celebrations, but don’t let that fool you, there is still plenty of adult only parties too. If you do have the kids in tow though, why not head to Calgary Olympic Park where you can bundle up and enjoy skating, music and family fun, ending with a spectacular display of fireworks at midnight. The zoo offers fireworks a little earlier in the evening for those who want to get their kids in bed earlier, along with zoolight displays, fire pits, wild entertainment and plenty of hot chocolate. For the adults who are looking for a good time head to one of many events including the Mystique Ball, the Black and White Ball at the Casino or the Beatmatrix Gala where you will feel as though you have transported right into Atlantic City. Surely this city is one of the best places to be to ring in the new year.

Photo by: City of Calgary
Photo by: City of Calgary

1. Niagara Falls, Ontario

It is Canada’s largest free New Years eve concert and fireworks, making it this the number one place to be to ring in the new year. In fact, this concert actually draws about 40,000 people to Queen Victoria Park and along with an epic line up of musical guests, there are two awesome fireworks displays (one at 8:45 for the wee ones and midnight). To help welcome in 2016 Demi Lovato will be the headliner along with other guests such as Sam Roberts Band and Serena Rider. With an abundance of awesome places to eat and stay, this is one Canadian tradition you should do once in your life. Did we mention the falls are also lit up in beautiful colors?

new years eve niagara falls

UNESCO’S 15 Most Beautifully Designed Cities In The World

Designations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are much sought after by cities around the world. Its best known one is the World Heritage Site that calls on signatories to protect and preserve important monuments from a small church to a vast jungle. Less well known but still dandy for planning itineraries is the Creative Cities Network in which cities receive a special designation if it can prove its creative specialty is unique of important cultural and economic significance and is sustainable. One of the most intriguing is Design. UNESCO has identified 15 Cities of Design that “(place) creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.” It is about not just the urban space but the things that fill space that, to meet UNESCO criteria must enhance the quality of life for people and be environmentally sustainable. And of course make a whole bunch of seriously cool stuff. Here are, in UNESCO’s estimation the 15 most aesthetically pleasing and innovative Cities of Design.

15. Montréal, Canada

The genius of some of the world’s great architects dot the Montreal skyline despite the civic edict that no building exceeds the height of Mont Royal under whose slopes the city was founded in 1642. I.M Pei’s Place Ville Marie still dominates the downtown more than 50 years after its debut. Other stellar works include Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square, Buckminster Fuller’s stunning Geodesic Dome and Moshe Sadie’s Habitat, the latter two built for the 1967 World’s Fair has found new life. Old Montreal by the Old Port is a treasure of preserved 19th century buildings on cobblestone streets. It is the home of the Canadian Centre for Architecture as well as the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at l’ Université de Montréal. UNESCO calls Montreal “The City of Designers” with 25,000 people in design development in one of the most stylish cities in North America.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

14. Buenos Aires, Argentina

For architecture fans and design geeks, Buenos Aires is already heaven. One of its iconic historic buildings, Palacio Barolo is an homage to the Dante’s 15th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy with the Hell, the ground floor with flame images on the walls, to the mid-level office space, called Purgatory and the upper floors with their fantastic views of the great city being ‘Paradise.” It has a stable of great works on its skyline built in a jumble of Old World Styles from Renaissance to Art Deco. The Planetarium and Women’s Bridge continue the creative tradition into the 21st century. UNESCO notes with praise the use of government incentives to grow the design industry which now accounts for almost a tenth of the giant city’s Gross Domestic Product and “contributes to turning Buenos Aires into a benchmark of design in Latin America: while fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

13. Curitiba, Brazil

This city of 3 million people in southern Brazil is at the forefront of sustainable urban development in the world. Already a cultural and design center, UNESCO singles out the city’s innovation for “Recognizing design as an agent for urban transformation.” In this context the term “design” goes beyond buildings in post-modern, futuristic shapes to the materials used to make them. The sustainable city mission was begun by architect and three-term, Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner and inspired similar initiatives across the country. Lerner combined an overhaul of mass transit and garbage collection with the promotion of alternative building materials to streamline costs and provide affordable housing. An, NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) Curadores da Terra or Keepers of the earth has developed a process that turns the environmental plague of plastic bottles into a popular, inexpensive building material.

Curitiba, Brazil

12. Bilbao, Spain

What leaps to mind at the Mention of Bilbao, is the beautiful jumble that is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, one of the most famous and renowned pieces of architecture since it opened in 1997. In fact the whole process of reclaiming former heavily industrial urban areas that are in decline or abandoned has come to be called “The Guggenheim Effect, the great Museum reclaimed a derelict section of the old port for a sustainable addition to the city’s tourism infrastructure. The policy continues with the Alhondiga, a beautiful wine warehouse from 1909 on the verge of demolition but rescued and turned into a multi use cultural facility in 2010. Bilbao’s approach using design and technology to transition from an old industrial economy to a modern service economy is the model UNESCO wants more cities to follow, the creation of “major cultural facilities contributing to the economy in terms of wealth creation, employment and social well-being.

Migel / Shutterstock.com
Migel / Shutterstock.com

11. Turin, Italy

Italy has been at the forefront of global design since they built the Roman Senate in 753 BCE. Turin has been called the Detroit of Italy, the home of great automotive brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo. And like its American counterpart it experienced economic crisis and depopulation in the 1980’s. Still with about the same GDP as the country of Croatia, Turin has used its accumulated wealth  expertise and world class schools to move upstream into more sustainable, knowledge based industries, most notably aerospace. Several of the International Space Station modules were designed here. The greatest symbol of the city’s rejuvenation and transition is the fabulous Lingotto Fiere, which remains futurists despite being nearly a century old. Even Le Corbusier the great French architect raved about it. The old Fiat plant opened in 1922, but then became outmoded in the seventies and eventually closed in the 80’s. It reopened as a multi-use complex, including a hotels, concert halls art gallery shopping mall and a campus for the world renowned Polytechnic University of Turin.

Turin, Italy

10. Graz, Austria

Graz is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Eggenberg Castle is a grand historical work in the Baroque style. The Old Town is an impeccably preserved wealth of centuries of buildings in wide range of architectural styles. But the small city of 300,000 isn’t resting on those fortunate laurels of the distant past. UNESCO’s website is prone to thick bureaucratic gibberish, but the spirit of the initiative comes through in statements like noting a fashion festival “is committed to cultural exchange on the textile level.” It’s just an example of the injection of sustainability into everyday goods that is providing the basis of The Next Economy in First World places that can afford to lead the way. Consider it the next Industrial Revolution. The Creative Sector in Graz has almost 5,000 companies, mostly small and medium size that generate about $700,000,000 in additional revenue allowing the city to commission innovative, iconic works of architecture that goes beyond fancy buildings for the sake of being fancy to making intelligent design that “and values both the aesthetic component of design as well as its ability to make daily life more livable.”

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Berlin, Germany

Berlin has been one of the creative centers of the world for centuries and is now becoming leader in Design with some 2,400 companies been over $400,000,000 in annual revenue. Its International Center for Design is focused on what it believes is the way of the future: “Environmentally-conscious design is thus the key to a sustainable society.” At its heart is the emerging consumer behaviour called LOHAS “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” as individuals seek out healthier lifestyle and environmentally sensitive choices. They have become a world leader in ‘eco-design…to optimize energy efficiency, to minimize pollution emission and waste production.” There are 5000 Design students in the city’s elite schools. Berlindesign.net acts as an independent, fair trade platform for hundreds of independent Berlin designers from fashion to furniture to food. It’s all based on a highly innovative business plan called the “Triple Bottom Line,” in which design marketing and pricing reflect not just profit margins but ecological, economic and social concerns as well.

Berline Germany, Spree River

8. Helsinki, Finland

Design is embedded in the Finnish soul. Or as the Guardian wrote “Design is to Helsinki as literature is to Dublin and samba is to Rio.” Scandinavia in general is known for its modernist, minimalist furniture but Finland itself with a population of 5.5 million has given the world two of its greatest architects, Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. The Finnish capital is an architectural garden of delights. Volumes have been written about the Finns creativity but UNESCO pointed to two things in particular that propelled Helsinki to 2012’s World City of Design status. One, Design is a government priority. The Finnish Innovation Fund stimulates the sector to design solutions to a wide variety of public policy issues from sustainability to education. It especially notes the inclusion of passengers in the process of designing the seats on the transit system.

Helsinki, Finland

7. Dundee, Scotland

A charter member of the global Rust Belt of once vibrant juggernauts of heavy industry, Dundee was made the United Kingdom’s first Creative City of Design. It is a case study in urban reinvention in knowledge based economic sectors and an example of just how broad the discipline of design has become. The booming shipbuilding and textile industries have given way to biotechnology and digital media. Dundee is home to one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world as well as the company that produced the hugely popular video game called Grand Theft Auto. The city is spending 1.5 billion dollars on revitalizing its waterfront, including a striking  Museum Of Design with the goal of making the city an international design center, creatively financed by government and private sector funding.

Dundee, Scotland

6. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen’s skyline shimmers with stunning, cutting edge architectural design as befits to an emerging innovative powerhouse of 11 million people. The Stock Exchange, the Asian Cairns and the Oct Museum push the design envelope. In southern China close to Hong Kong, design is a multi-billion dollar business employing 100,000 people. A generation of Chinese designers were trained here and excel in a wide spectrum of disciplines, women’s fashion being the most notable but that includes crafts, jewelry and toys. The city has moved upstream into creative, knowledge-based sectors, finance primarily among them as integration with the wealth creation machine that is Hong Kong.

Shenzhen, China

5. Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Design Show is Asia’s biggest and most important attracting the world designing elite, from Jaguar to Nike to Cognac giant Martell. A truly international city home to 25 million people faces enormous challenges in sustainable development. But it has a huge creative sector to meet those challenges and develop sectors that add about $40 billion to the city’s GDP. UNESCO notes that the city was the Chinese leader in creative sectors such as film and music. It takes one look at Shanghai’s dynamic skyline to grasp the tremendous creative power the city is harnessing under the aegis of the Municipal Commission of Economy and Technology. Shanghai’s Creative Cites page boasts 87 Creative Clusters, over 4,000 innovative design-related agencies and institutions, 283 art institutions, 239 art and cultural community centers, 100 museums, 25 libraries and 743 archive institutions. It is perhaps Exhibit A of a city growing its economy by investing in Design.

Top Cities 2013 - Shanghai

4. Kobe, Japan

There is a 21st century about the Kobe skyline partly because of its innovative nature and sadly, from a major rebuild after the catastrophic earthquake in 1995. But in one form or another the city has been adept at self-reinvention through history. As an open port it has absorbed the influence of many cultures and has long been regarded as a cosmopolitan city. There is an old saying that says, “If you can’t go to Paris go to Kobe.” Like the French city to which it’s compared, Kobe is a fashion design center. Kobe Biennale is a major annual art and design event that aims to use the twin disciplines “not only to promote the arts, but also to contribute to the enrichment and environment of Kobe.” In 2015 a number eclectic competitions were held for Art-in-a Box, using old containers as a kind of urban canvas; creative toys, ceramic art, comic illustration and ‘green’ art.

Kobe, Japan

3. Nagoya, Japan

One of the rare cities that has managed to retain its blue collar and artistic pedigrees. It is home to major Toyota and Mitsubishi auto plants as well as traditional Japanese theater, cuisine and craft work dating back to medieval times. All under the magnificent watch of the fabulous 17th century Nagoya Castle. Even the modern manufacturing systems are based on the old Japanese principle of Monozukuri which Toyota defines as “manufacturing which is in harmony with nature and that is value adding for the society… the older sister of sustainable manufacturing.” Also unlike many others on the list, Nagoya can claim a design specialty. An army of engineers advance robot technology as well as a sector that discovers and designs new materials. UNESCO lauds its combination of tradition and the philosophy of Humanism with advanced technology.

Nagoya, Japan

2. Seoul, South Korea

The economy of South Korea is an aggressively powerful export machine barging into giant-dominated sectors like cars and cellphones. Seoul, the dynamic capital, is home to three-quarters of the country’s designers. Seoul’s design sector is heavy on IT related products now honing fashion and digital home appliance design. City government policy acts as a facilitator linking design companies with its thriving industrial base. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is like a modern Silicon Valley of design and creative expertise that not only serves as an incubator for innovation, but transformed one of the city’s oldest, most historic districts.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

1. Beijing, China

Far and away the most controversial and debatable of UNESCO’s designations is Beijing, China. However, UNESCO notes the city’s 3000 years rich with history. The architecture and design of the venues for the 2008 Olympics were spectacular but remain underused and unable to be integrated into the city fabric. Meanwhile the brutally bulldozing of the city’s legendary hutongs or traditional neighborhoods of narrow alleys have been documented in books and documentaries. UNESCO cites the huge number of museums and creativity clusters “bearing in mind their relevance for sustainable development.”

Beijing, China

The 12 Best Rooftop Bars and Patios in Canada

Canada…often known as the land of ice and snow actually gets enough warm weather in the summer time across the country to house some pretty epic rooftop patios and bars. While you won’t find very many year round pools, you will find handcrafted cocktails, live music and lively atmospheres. Locals and visitors come together on these patios to drink, dine in style and escape the busy streets below. From Victoria to Toronto to Halifax, here are our top 12 choices for the best rooftop bars and patios across the country.

12. Bovine -Toronto, Ontario

It is Queen West’s most enduring rock bar, a smorgasbord of music, junkyard memorabilia and plenty of tourists but in recent years an incredible addition was added to the roof. Although this rooftop patio took a long time to happen, the result is a hidden tropical oasis complete with a tiki hut serving as a bar, picnic bench seating and a jungle of tropical plants. No need to look any further than here if you are craving tropical drinks as this bar serves us pina coladas, mai tais and hurricanes, along with a rum collection that tops out at 50 different kinds. Expect live music events throughout the summer, drink specials and a whole lot of Hawaiian like fun! If it is rock music you are craving though, you will have to head indoor for that.

Photo by: The Joy Architects
Photo by: The Joy Architects

11. Reflections -Vancouver, British Columbia

This outdoor restaurant and lounge is situated within the inner courtyard of the Rosewood Hotel’s fourth floor. This oasis offers a laid-back vibe featuring infinity water features, a central fire pit, private cabanas, beautiful lanterns and oversize teak seating. Guests here will find specialty cocktails and menu that revolves around shared plates of salads and items from the grill. Local fare is on the menu here and most of the menu focuses on ingredients found nearby, as well as the wine list host an abundance of BC wines. Although it appears to be swanky and snobbish, rest assured that this bar invites people of all walks of life to enjoy. On cold nights they provide warm blankets and heaters to warm guests up.

Photo by: Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Photo by: Rosewood Hotel Georgia

10. “Flight Deck” at The Pilot -Toronto, Ontario

It is a Yorkville rooftop patio at its finest and Flight Deck at The Pilot is one of the most beloved outdoor spots in the city of Toronto. Simple seating that encourages conversations, prompt and attentive service and retractable awnings for any types of weather makes this rooftop patio a winner in our eyes. The entire bar is decked out in stainless steel and metal, including the tables and chairs which make it an unusual atmosphere but combined with the lively groups of people that are found here, makes it work for this cool and hip patio. The menu here is mostly pub fare and includes such favorites as the fish tacos, pilot nachos and handmade burgers. With a huge beer and wine list, it is easy to see why so many people flock here for after work drinks and dinner.

Photo by: The Pilot Toronto
Photo by: The Pilot Toronto

9. Thompson Rooftop Lounge and Pool -Toronto, Ontario

This chic and exclusive rooftop lounge provides breathtaking views of the Toronto Skyline and Lake Ontario. Although you have to be a guest of the hotel or a lounge member to visit here, it is well worth it to experience this swanky rooftop. By day you will find guests swimming in the beautiful infinity pool and relaxing on sun loungers. Comfortable oversize couches, cabanas and a bar provide the perfect atmosphere when the sun goes down. Enjoy hand crafted cocktails, an extensive wine list and small plates to share. If you do plan on coming up here at night make sure you have your smart evening attire on as there is a fairly strict dress code.

Photo by: Thompson Hotels
Photo by: Thompson Hotels

8. Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, Rooftop Garden -Montreal, Quebec

Located 17 stories up this rooftop is loaded with lush gardens, paths and streams loaded with resident goldfish. It also happens to feature an impressive year-round outdoor pool complete with poolside bar during the summer months. The hotel itself is located just a stone’s throw away from major attractions and incredible shopping. The catch here is that rooftop visitors have to be guests of the hotel, a bonus for those who are planning on staying a few nights in the city. Guests up here are treated to lunch, dinner or late night snacks and as many cocktails as they can handle while soaking up the hot sun. With terraces, a pond with resident ducks, friendly service and year round swimming; this rooftop bar is a must visit.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

7. Argyle Bar & Grill -Halifax, Nova Scotia

Head to the East side of Canada to eat and drink with the locals at this spectacular rooftop patio located in the heart of downtown Halifax. Plenty of large trees and flowers create an incredible atmosphere at this large rooftop patio, giving visitors the sense that they have stepped into another world. The biggest days to come out and play here are Thursday and Saturday nights when this heated patio gets packed with both locals and visitors. During the day huge patio umbrellas are opened to beat the heat and a large shaded bar area is provided. One of the best things about this patio has to be the rooftop bathrooms, where you can avoid walking down the stairs after one too many mojitos. This bar and grill also has an awesome sidewalk patio in case the roof becomes too crowded.

Photo by: The Coast
Photo by: The Coast

6. The Drake Hotel Sky Yard -Toronto, Ontario

This rooftop patio can be visited during the summer or winter months, a welcome change to most others in Canada who only offer summertime hours. In the summer expect to enjoy a variety of hand-crafted cocktails that make up the 24-page cocktail menu. More of a snack bar than a restaurant, the food here is incredible and unique with dishes such as lobster nachos and truffle fries. During the winter time the patio is decked out with canvas tents, heat lamps and decorated with vintage skis and toboggans. A fire pit sits in the center with thick logs around it, perfect for sitting on and sipping one of the amazing seasonal cocktails, such as the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned. If you prefer sitting inside up here, head on it to “The Tunnel”, a long enclave of couches decked out in blue and orange patterns, with a flat screen showing retro cartoons. One of the coolest and hippest places to be, summer or winter is the Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel.

Photo by: The Edito
Photo by: The Edito

5. Terrasse sur l’Auberge -Montreal, Quebec

If you are looking to dine in style with incredible views of the Old Port and the St. Lawrence River, head no further than this amazing rooftop. As an added bonus the month of July offers guests the chance to see the spectacular fireworks light up the sky during the International Fireworks Competition that takes place every year. Food wise, guests here will be delighted in local cuisine, hand-made dishes and an incredible array of choice. We suggest trying the smoked duck breast salad and Quebec cheese platter. As far as cocktails go, this rooftop bar has an impressive wine list along with an array of spirits and handcrafted drinks. Opening hours tend to be from 2pm-11pm and on Thursday nights a local DJ spins the hottest tracks of the summer. With a variety of seating choices, a hip crowd and unbelievable views of the city, this is one of the hottest rooftop patios in Canada.

Photo by: Terrasse sur l’Auberge
Photo by: Terrasse sur l’Auberge

4. Surf Club, The Strathcona -Victoria, British Columbia

This unique rooftop bar has a laid back Vancouver Island feel to it and features some pretty epic amenities, such as two full sized volleyball courts. The atmosphere is always pumping here with a DJ spinning live beats and a disco ball to match. With a view of the city on all sides, it seems this is one epic place to party. Delicious West Coast fare is served up alongside signature cocktails and local brews. Enjoy food such as fresh local steamed mussels, fish tacos, an array of burgers and more. With weekly specials including oyster bars, $5 off pizzas and more; any day of the week is a good time to visit. Weekly events are held all summer long with club nights and other special entertainment. With impeccable service, awesome views and the right atmosphere, the Surf Club offers one of the best summer vibes.

Photo by: Tripadvisor
Photo by: Tripadvisor

3. Roof Lounge, Park Hyatt -Toronto, Ontario

This legendary roof lounge is located eighteen floors up and although mostly enclosed, it does offer a heated outdoor area. Known for being only the second Toronto bar to receive a cocktail license, the history here goes back a long way, and during the 40’s was a hot hangout for Toronto literati. The most famous thing to sip on up here is one of the famous cocktails such as the Yorkville Squeeze or the Neighborhood Negroni, as well as smoke a Cigar, just like back in the day. The view is beyond comparison and sunset is a popular time to head up here to watch as the sky changes dramatic colors. Whether you come for brunch, a martini or a taste of incredible culinary fusion, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Park Hyatt
Photo by: Park Hyatt

2. Terrasse Nelligan -Montreal, Quebec

If you are looking to hang with the cool crowd on top of a rooftop make sure to head into Old Montreal and visit Terrasse Nelligan, the seasonal groovy rooftop terrace at Hotel Nelligan. Although this posh patio is only open until 11pm, it is well worth a visit to take in the views of the Old City and the St. Lawrence River. You won’t have to worry about the weather up here as retractable awnings allow guests to enjoy whether rain or sun. Thirst-quenching cocktails, a fresh menu and a hip young crowd all contribute to the lively atmosphere found here. Happy Hour is the most popular time of day to visit and make sure to try one (or two) of their delicious freshly made mojitos. Colorful plants, bright umbrellas and comfortable tables and chairs set the stage for the ultimate Montreal rooftop patio experience.

Photo by: Terrasse Nelligan
Photo by: Terrasse Nelligan

1. Harvest Kitchen -Toronto, Ontario

This tree-canopy rooftop patio caters to just about everyone visiting the city and although you may be tempted by the lovely inside décor, make sure to head upstairs as this patio should not be missed. Brunch and dinner are the busiest times here and the electric menu and commitment to ethical sourcing brings both vegetarians and meat lovers to this patio. Make sure to give their wine on tap a try, as it is not only more environmentally friendly but also friendly to your wallet being only 99 cents an ounce. Although this rooftop patio is only open 10am-10pm, it is well worth visiting during those hours. A casual walk in restaurant, guests here can wear anything from formal wear to yoga clothes and it is a welcome change from many of the restaurants in this city. Local beer, local wine, handcrafted cocktails and fresh food make this our favorite rooftop patio across Canada.

Photo by: 30 Day Adventures
Photo by: 30 Day Adventures

7 Things to See and Do in Quebec’s Eastern Townships

A scenic drive a couple of hours east of Montreal will land you square in the heart of the Eastern Townships. Given its proximity to the U.S. border, there is a distinctive New England- esque quality in the terrain and in the scenery, but a visit to one of the many points of interest will reveal the true Quebec flavor- in the food, language and style.

7. Lake Memphremagog

This scenic lake is set against the mountains of Vermont and of the Eastern Townships. While Lake Memphremagog spans all the way down to Vermont, the bulk of the water is located in Quebec. The lake is good for swimming, with several beaches lining its shore. It’s also popular with boaters, and has a number of day cruise ships that feature lunch, brunch or dinner during their sail.

Lake Memphremagog

6. Hovey Manor

Nestled on the shores of Lake Massawippi, this four-season resort offers high-end service, luxe boutique accommodations and award-winning cuisine. Their four-diamond restaurant, Le Hatley, features local ingredients and the very best in creative Quebec cuisine. Rooms feature stone fireplaces (perfect in the winter) and private, lushly landscaped patios (perfect in the summer). There is a full service spa on site as well.

Photo by: Manoir Hovey
Photo by: Manoir Hovey

5. North Hatley

This quaint village at the northern tip of Lake Massawippi is very popular with antique shoppers, day trippers and travelers seeking a quiet, character get away. The village is populated with quaint inns and B&Bs. It’s central location makes for an excellent home base for those exploring the Eastern Townships. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy hiking in the area mountains in spring, summer and fall, and skiing in the winter.

Photo by: Century 21 Estrie
Photo by: Century 21 Estrie

4. Pilsen Pub

Located in North Hatley proper, the Pilsen Pub has floors of flavor and history. Literally on the bank of Lake Massawippi (you can dock your boat next to the waterfront patio), this pub combines gourmet experience with down-to-earth pub grub with a twist. They serve a wide variety of craft beers (many of which are local to the Eastern Townships). Upstairs is a more formal dining room, while downstairs is the pub, with roaring fireplaces in the winter and a selection of board games to play while you sip your pint.

Photo by: Micheline Potvin
Photo by: Micheline Potvin

3. Granby Zoo

The Granby Zoo is one of Quebec’s most popular tourist attractions and has over 1,000 animals that are grouped into 225 species. They have animals from all over the world, and have recreated habitats from South America, Africa, Oceania and Asia. The Zoo is open year round, with some modifications in the winter. Adjacent to the Zoo is a small amusement park and a water park with a wave pool, lazy river and extensive splash park.

Zebras Granby Zoo

2. Ski Bromont

This four-season resort is one of the four major ski hills in the Eastern Townships, which include Owl’s Head, Mont. Sutton and Mont Orford. This resort is family friendly, with gentle slopes and a selection of more challenging ones for experienced skiers. In the spring, summer and fall, this mountain is a great site for mountain biking. Bikers can take the chairlift up and bike their way down. For the adventurous, there are two luge runs and in the summer the water park opens with wave pools and 13 slides of varying types.

Photo by: Ski Bromont
Photo by: Ski Bromont

1. ASTROlab

Located in Mont Megantic National Park, the ASTROlab is an astronomy activity center. Guided tours in the observatory provide insight on astronomy and the history of the area. The tours (and of course what you’ll see) are different depending on if you visit at day or at night. There are also 50 km of trails surrounding the ASTROlab in the park, so it’s a great hiking spot as well. Want to take a peek at the stars through some of the most state-of-the-art equipment? Attend one of their Astronomy Festivals for an unforgettable experience.

Photo by: ASTROlab
Photo by: ASTROlab