Thanks to the folks at Travel Alberta for filling the media in last week on what's happening out their way.
Top of the news for most folks might be that Canada's most iconic hotel (other than that really nice Comfort Inn in Niagara Falls, that is) is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. The Fairmont Banff Springs was opened in 1888 in a stunning part of the Rockies and remains a standard-bearer in the industry; a regal and beautiful hotel in an equally magical setting."Opened in 1888, the landmark hotel was the inspiration of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, 19th century railway pioneer and hotel visionary, who famously quipped, “If we can't export the scenery, we'll import the tourists.” 125th anniversary celebrations will run year long including special events, exclusive offers, community engagement and much more," according to the hotel web site.
They've recently renovated the Royal Suite and the hotel's two signature Terrace Suites, overlooking the lovely Bow River Valley. Both the Rundle Lounge and Waldhaus Restaurant & Pub, the original golf course clubhouse, also have been given a re-do for the birthday, officials said.
Check the website for special promotions and deals for a special birthday.
Banff was the first national park in Canada and only the third in the world, apparently. And that's pretty cool.
Things will soon heat up in Edmonton, as well, with another edition of the fabulous Fringe Fest, plus a stop on the LPGA golf tour this summer, the CN Canadian Women's Open Aug. 22-25. The city also will host the start of the Tour of Alberta cycling race.
Down in Calgary they're celebrating an increasingly sophisticated city, with new restaurants and micro-breweries and new festivals, including what's billed as Canada's first professional outdoor opera festival come September.
HILTON HEAD HEATS UP
Great beaches. Beautiful waterways for boating. Fabulous golf courses. And no high-rises in sight.
I had a chance to sit down with folks from Hilton Head, South Carolina the other day and I learned the area was “the first planned eco planned destination in the country,” with no buildings over five storeys high and no bright lights allowed to block night viewing of the stars.
Charlie Clark of the Hilton Head tourism bureau (check) said all the island’s waterfront properties are currently undergoing renovation of some kind, those being the Westin, Marriott, Omni, Sonesta (formerly the Crowne Plaza) and the Beach House (formerly the Holiday Inn).
“Our biggest secret is how lush it is,” Clark told me. “There’s a natural dolphin habitat. Kids as young as five are out there in kayaks and there’s a Disney resort on the island, too.”
The island, just north of the Georgia border, is about 12 by 5 miles, roughly the size of Manhattan, with 24 golf courses. Some are as low as $49, but you also can try your luck at Harbour Town, where the RBC Heritage classic will be played April 15-21.
Not a golfer? There are miles of bike paths and the sand is firm enough that you can ride your bike on the beach.
“Just remember to ride upwind first,” Clark said with a smile.
The island has a bit of a reputation as fairly high-falutin, but Clark said there are a variety of lodging styles available including Hampton Inn with a kids’ suite.
It’s a lot closer than Florida, maybe a 16 or 17-hour drive from Toronto, and the weather is excellent about this time of year. Today’s high is slated to be 20 degrees Celsius, and wouldn’t that feel nice right about now?
For families that want extra space, there are a ton of home and villa resorts available, some quite closwe to the beach.
I went online at Expedia.com the other day and found a room at the Red Roof Inn for four days in mid-March for just $60 a night and a condo for as little as $74. The Hilton Head Island Beach and tennis Resort was showing rooms for just $89, while the Omni’s rooms were listed at $179 and up.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY: ITALY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal on offer for a great trip to Italy, priced at $4,690 for 16 days and 14 nights.
- 16-day/14-night Country Roads & the Vineyards of Italy tour, featuring visits to Cinque Terre - a UNESCO World Heritage site, the vineyards of Tuscany, the ‘Gates of Paradise’ on the Baptistery and more!
- Includes roundtrip hotel/airport transfers, transportation in Italy via Luxury air-conditioned coach, services of a professional tour guide, and headsets for all visits and walking tours
- 14 nights' hotel accommodation in Premium Hotels. See Offer Details section below for hotels included (based on double occupancy)
- Includes 14 buffet breakfasts, a welcome reception, 1 celebration dinner, and 4 three-course evening meals with choice of tea or coffee
- Hotels are conveniently located and range from rustic Tuscan villas to romantic Roman rooftops
- You'll taste your way through the Italian countryside and also enjoy Italy's major city sights
- Insight Vacations is a luxury tour provider with attentive guides and spacious coach buses
- Valid for travel on the following departure dates: May 11 & September 21, 2013
- Pricing (Rates are per person, based on double occupancy):
- Valid passport required for travel from Canada
- This offer 100% non-refundable at time of booking