March 17, 2018

United States & Canada

Surf Hawaii, swim with sharks or take a stroll down a scenic suspension bridge on these escapes

By Kathryn E. Worrall

Vacations Magazine: United States & Canada
Destination Canada
See the spirited side of Maine. Red Cloak Haunted History Tours, named for the distinctive clothing worn by its lantern-toting guide, chases ghosts around the port city of Bar Harbor. Supernatural sites on these 90-minute walks range from mysterious inns to a cemetery dotted by Civil War landmarks. Many cruises of New England and eastern Canada dock in Bar Harbor and book this eerie excursion for passengers. Weeklong fall foliage sailings from Boston with Royal Caribbean International start at $566.

Play 007 in DC. He rose through the KGB's ranks and worked at the Soviet Embassy at the height of the Cold War. She tackled field operations for the CIA, plotting against al-Qaida and others seeking weapons of mass destruction. Today, Oleg Kalugin and Melissa Boyle Mahle tell their stories for the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. On "Elegance of the East Coast" an eight-day tour from Luxury Gold by Insight, guests have the chance to meet them during a private presentation and Q-and-A with museum officials. The route also hits New York, Boston and Philadelphia, with prices from $2,925.

Arrive at Art Basel. A mecca for modern works, this expo for top-billed artists and up-and-coming talent heads to Miami Beach, FL, Dec. 7-10. Exhibits range from films and photographs to paintings and sculptures, with large-scale pieces set up in city parks. More than 200 galleries from around the globe will participate, ensuring an art bazaar for the ages. Explore installations, local nightlife and more from the oceanfront Sagamore Miami Beach, boasting its own gallery and cultural events throughout the year, including the annual Art Basel Brunch. All rooms have kitchenettes and separate living areas.

Roll down the river. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, spent much of his life on, near or writing about the Mississippi River. The father of American literature grew up in the port town of Hannibal, MO, worked in his early 20s as a steamboat pilot and later sent his characters on their own journeys down the Big Muddy. An eight-day river cruise with American Queen Steamboat Co., "Mark Twain" calls at Hannibal to see Clemens' childhood home and museum, with tributes to fan favorites like Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher, and offers the option to explore the cave complex featured in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The themed jaunt, complete with an onboard "riverlorian" delving into regional history, departs Minneapolis on July 24. Berths are priced from $2,699.

Find your juju. Often cast as America's most haunted city, New Orleans was once the home of famed Louisiana Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. A shop named in her honor now stands on Bourbon Street and peddles good luck charms and other accessories for practitioners. Those new to the craft might try a spiritual reading -- palmistry is available, and a few talented attendants claim to peek into past lives. Pick up some souvenirs and a Pat O'Brien's cocktail before boarding a ship bound for the Caribbean or Bahamas, with both Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line departing from the Big Easy.

Feliz Navidad. This holiday season, forgo turkey and classic Christmas tunes in favor of tamales and mariachi renditions of old favorites in San Antonio. On weekends in December, more than 2,000 glowing luminarias line the city's River Walk as boats bearing carolers spread cheer down 2.5 miles of canal. Consider a stay at the historic -- and supposedly haunted -- Menger Hotel, established in 1859. It's a short walk from riverfront attractions and the storied Alamo.

Hear tribal tales. Explore New Mexico's Native American roots with a stay at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa just 30 minutes north of Albuquerque. The property was established by the Santa Ana Pueblo tribe, whose members host guests for bread-baking demonstrations, perform ritual dances and lead tours of the Tamaya Cultural Learning Center, which traces the group's history to the late 1500s. For children, pottery-making classes and storytelling under the stars fill out the calendar. This property features an 18-hole golf course, horse stables and three outdoor pools.

All aboard! Amtrak's Winter Park Express route whisks passengers between downtown Denver's Union Station and its namesake ski resort. With room for more than 500 people, trains bypass highway backups on powder days in favor of scenic, snowy rides through the mountains. Out-of-state visitors, meanwhile, are offered the option of skipping rental car lines and catching a commuter train between Denver International Airport and Union Station before hopping the Winter Park Express. Adult tickets start at $39.

Winter (or warm up) in Wyoming. Framed by the striking Teton Range, Jackson Hole is a resort area chock-full of adventure. Spring Creek Ranch takes advantage of the scenery with horse-drawn sleigh rides in winter and, in summer months, chuck wagon dinners beside a mountain spring. Year-round safaris staffed by the hotel lead to encounters with diverse wildlife, including the elk and bison of neighboring Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Connect to the cosmos. Bundle up, strap on snowshoes and head into a dark California night with Tahoe Star Tours for premium views of the sky. In addition to high-powered telescopes, a Q-and-A with an astronomer and even a bit of galaxy-inspired poetry, guests are treated to a stop for s'mores and hot cocoa by a fire pit. Sign up during a Lake Tahoe stay. The Resort at Squaw Creek offers fireplace suites after a night of stargazing or a day on the ski slopes.

Sip in Seattle. Forget pub crawls. Here, visitors prefer to bounce between coffee shops during a caffeine-propelled perusal of the city's best spots for beans. Seattle by Foot's walking tours compare blends and grinding techniques while exploring the history of the industry. After all, Seattle is home to the flagship Starbucks, opened in 1971 at Pike Place Market, as well as mom-and-pop cafes with fresh takes on the classic beverage. Perk up before departing on a seven-night cruise of the Last Frontier.

Relive gold rush glory. Follow the footsteps of Klondike fortune seekers from the warmth and comfort of a plush train car as you ascend nearly 3,000 feet on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Alaska. The Legacy Club Car accommodates up to 14 passengers who munch on appetizers and sip coffee, soda, beer or wine while settled in cozy leather chairs that swivel, ensuring no view is missed from the generous windows. A private guide recounts local history and points out landmarks, including the still visible footpath the miners once used. The experience is offered as a shore excursion from Skagway on Alaska cruises. Weeklong Royal Caribbean sailings from Seattle are priced from $924.

Hang 10 in Hawaii. Snag a tan and tips from the best on the waves at Kauai Surf School on Poipu Beach. Lessons are offered year-round and cover the basics for beginners, guide up-and-comers through tougher swells and cater to groups with camps for families, children or girlfriend getaways. Refuel with a shave ice before heading back to the Sheraton Kauai Resort. The retreat shares its white-sand beach with the school and offers its own surf demonstrations.

Face your fears. On "Animal Planet Exclusive: Shark Encounter," a Princess Cruises shore excursion from Honolulu, brave souls strap on a snorkel and mask, slip underwater in a safety cage and stare in awe at island predators. Guests also learn about the biology, behavior and even Hawaiian legends surrounding sharks on this adventure. Princess' 15-night Aloha State itineraries depart from Los Angeles and San Francisco and start at $1,499.

Head off to the races. What began as friendly competition between neighbors has become a cherished tradition on Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province. Harness racing moved from rural roads to dedicated tracks sometime in the 1880s, and now cities like Charlottetown build casinos and other tourist hubs around the sport. Experience PEI hosts excursions to local stables to meet horses and cart drivers. Visit Charlottetown on a seven- to 14-night Holland America Line voyage that skims the eastern coasts of the U.S. and Canada. Departures are priced from $799.

Eat your way across Ile d'Orleans. Sample this small island -- in the St. Lawrence River outside Quebec City -- and its chocolate shops, waterfront French cafes and farms with strawberries, raspberries and apples waiting to be plucked. You can rent a bike to cruise between attractions and burn off calories from poutine topped with liver pate, freshly caught fish and, in colder months, snow-cooled maple taffy. Quench your thirst with locally produced wine or cider or sip black currant liqueur. "Essence of Eastern Canada" an eight-day tour with CostSaver by Trafalgar, offers two nights in Quebec City and free time to reach the isle. Prices start at $1,095.

Celebrate Canada. In honor of the nation's 150th birthday, its capital city will roll out the red carpet for Ottawa 2017, with a full calendar of special events including a wintertime "ice cross" skating competition, a spring tribute to the Stanley Cup and fireworks marking Canada Day on July 1. Plug into concerts, sporting events and other festivities from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a short walk from the imposing Ottawa landmark of Parliament Hill.

Hail the king of the Arctic. This fall, head to the polar bear capital of the world with a tour from Natural Habitat Adventures. After flying into the remote Hudson Bay town of Churchill, Canada, guests board a Polar Rover, an elevated, reinforced four-wheeler that cruises the tundra in search of wildlife. Though they might look like overstuffed teddy bears, polar bears are powerful carnivores, and Nat Hab's rovers offer close but safe encounters with any curious animals. "The Tundra Lodge Adventure" includes a stay at a moveable hotel placed in a polar bear hot spot. Prices for a six-day trip start at $7,895.

Seek aerial excitement. Get a bird's-eye view of the Canadian wilderness with the seven-day "Bugaboos Adventure" from Tauck. Helicopter rides whiz tour-goers past waterfalls and over the massive granite Bugaboo Spire and land in hard-to-reach pockets of the Northern Rockies for guided hikes. Heli-exploring is one of the few ways to witness the vast, unspoiled landscape of western Canada, and its invention is credited to the tour company's chairman, Arthur Tauck Jr., in the 1970s. Three summer departures start at $5,990.

Sway in the wind. Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers three elevated thrills. Its namesake span, first built by a Scottish civil engineer in 1889, hangs a breathtaking 230 feet above the Capilano River. In the park's Treetops Adventure section, bridges linking 250-year-old Douglas firs provide a canopy stroll more than 100 feet from the forest floor. The newest and perhaps most harrowing attraction, Cliffwalk juts out from granite bluffs overlooking the river and, in some spots, dares visitors to peer down through glass to the shoreline below. The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa is a 20-minute drive away, with suites and fine dining in downtown Vancouver.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Winter 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.

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