See Canada first

Re-discover Canada” is the theme of Signature Vacations’ latest travel programs, aimed at encouraging Canadians to explore their own country. Better known for organizing package holidays to Europe and winter destinations in the sunny south, Signature is targeting closer-to-home destinations for the next five months.

“We’ve got Canada covered this summer from coast to coast,” enthuses Signature executive Martha Chapman. “We have affordable charter flights to 22 cities across the country, pre-tested fly-drive itineraries in Alberta, Atlantic Canada and the Yukon, plus VIA Rail packages from Montréal to Québec City and Halifax — and that’s only a small part of what we’ve got to offer.

“The Canada programs are geared to offer Canadians a wide variety of destinations in every part of the country,” adds Chapman. For complete details, see a travel agent for a copy of Signature’s 40-page Canada brochure.

Butterflies big draw in Niagara Falls
A batch of butterflies — more than 2,000 representing 50 different species — have become one of the most popular tourist attractions at Niagara Falls. Opened on Jan. 16 last year, the Niagara Par Butterfly Conservatory optimistically expected half a million visitors last year –more than 750,000 showed up.

The conservatory is an 11,000-square-foot, climate-controlled facility which allows the butterflies to fly freely while visitors walk amongst them on the 600-foot network of footpaths. There are tropical plants, trees and waterfalls in the building located six miles north of Niagara Falls in the heart of the world-renowned Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May 3 to 30, and then until 9 p.m. through to Sept. 5 (hours are reduced during the winter months). Admission fees are $6 for adults, $3 for children six to 12 years, children five and under are free. For further information, phone (905) 356-0025.

Gaspe’s Quality inns receive tourism awards
Three Quality inns in Quebec’s Gaspe region recently won regional awards for excellence. The inns — located in Matane, Maria and Gaspe — are part of Canada’s largest lodging chain which has more than 225 Clarion, Quality, Comfort, Sleep, Rodeway, MainStay Suites and Econo Lodge establishments. For further information and reservations, phone 1-800-228-5151.

Elliot Lake rolls out homecoming carpet
Elliot Lake in northern Ontario, often described as the “Jewel in the Wilderness,” is rolling out the red carpet for visitors and former residents this year. Two special events are the Crabapple Festival, May 15 to 18, and the Uranium Heritage Festival, June 24 to July 5. The former uranium mining town is a six-hour drive north of Toronto, midway between Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury. For further information on the various homecoming events, phone toll-free 1-888-263-3309.

Lake Ontario ferry cuts driving hassle
A visit from Toronto to Port Dalhousie without the hassles presenting by driving? A delightful thought. Shaker Cruise Lines now operates a daily ferry service from April to December. Last year, The Lake Runner carried more than 38,000 customers. This year, Shaker is adding two high-speed hydrofoils for even faster crossing, and are finalizing plans to include stops at Lewiston, New York. Average cost is $15 on The Lake Runner and will be slightly higher on the hydrofoils. For further information on schedules and fares, contact Shaker Cruise Lines at (416) 364-3938 or toll-free 1-888-842-5253.

Canoeing, kayaking cross-Canada trips
Active seniors are trying canoeing and kayaking tours in increasing numbers comments Dave Corrigan of the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak School, located at 283A Queen’s Quay West, Toronto. The school conducts training sessions plus various paddling trips throughout Canada and the U.S. For example, there’s hiking and paddling tours on Newfoundland’s majestic coast, kayaking amongst whales on the Saguenay River, and visiting loons and wolves in Algonquin Park. The various tours range from weekend jaunts to weeklong trips, and can accommodate novices and as well as seasoned paddlers. For more information, contact (416) 203-2277.

Great Escapes guide has 200 answers
Pondering an Ontario vacation but not sure where to go? Resorts Ontario may have more than 200 answers — a 92-page guide featuring “Great Escapes” for naturalists, seniors honeymooners, lovers, and fishermen seeking a resort vacation or just a weekend getaway. For a free copy, write to Resorts Ontario, 29 Albert St. North, Orillia, Ont. L3V 5J9. Call toll-free 1-800-363-7227 or e-mail to [email protected] for a complete listing.

PEI’s scenic spots protected forever
The more than 1.2 million visitors who poured into Prince Edward Island last year is expect to increase again this summer, and again in 1999. To protect the sites most sought by the visitors, Islanders are making continuing efforts to preserve PEI’s heritage. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Land Trust has purchased a number of farm properties to save the famed author’s home, and the unique dune system at Greenwich is now protected by Parks Canada.

Toronto’s Pier traces maritime history
One of Toronto’s newest attractions will be The Pier, scheduled to open in July. Housed in an historic warehouse, displays will tell the fascinating tale of Toronto’s and the Great Lakes’ maritime history. One of most interesting exhibits is a 1932-vintage steam tugboat. The museum also will conduct harbour tours and rent traditional wooden boats for those who wish to see the harbour on their own.

Also opening this summer is the Canadian Canoe Museum at Peterborough. It features the largest collection of canoes and kayaks in the world, including birch bark canoes and dugouts plus a variety of historical exhibits on the role canoes played in the development of Canada. For further information on these displays, contact Tourism Toronto at (416) 203-2600.

Bell conceived phone in Brantford home
CARP members in Brantford felt we ignored them in a recent travel feature on the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Brantford folks remind us they have the Bell Homestead, where the inventor of the telephone conceived the idea. The Bell house, at 94 Tutela Heights Rd. in Brantford, is furnished with many mementos and heirlooms of Bell and his family. Nearby is Henderson House, which served as Canada’s first telephone business office from 1877 to 1880. The museum complex is open throughout the year, from Tuesday to Sunday, 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. For further information, call (519) 756-6220.

Aboriginal culture in Saskatchewan
White Bear Tourism at Carlyle, Saskatchewan, offers aboriginal cultural experiences throughout the year at the White Bear First Nations located in the southeast corner of the province, a two-hour drive from Regina. Various historical programs are available, as are interpretive teepee camps. White Bear Tourism has tour packages for its Bear Claw Casino, Bear Claw Lodge, White Bear Lake Resort and its championship golf course. For further information, call toll-free 1-888-577-4943.

CP hotels booming right across Canada
Canadian Pacific Hotels just keeps getting bigger and bigger. First, CP purchased two Toronto hotels, the Sheraton Toronto East and the Sheraton Four Points for $65 million and will spend an additional $5 million to upgrade the two hotels. Then, CP paid $94 million to acquire Delta Hotels, another Canadian chain. Delta manages or franchises 34 properties across Canada. Winners will be the guests as CP implants its distinctive touch, which has made it Canada’s leading chain of first-class hotels.

Much to do, see on Lake Superior
Fishing, canoeing, hiking, sight-seeing, nature tours, learning vacations and eco-tours or just relaxing at a cottage — all are available when visiting Lake Superior, the most northern and definitely the most scenic of Canada’s Great Lakes. For a free brochure on the many delights of Ontario’s north, contact Lake Superior Visits at Happy Time Tours, 1480 W. Walsh St., Thunder Bay, Ont. P7E 6H6. Call toll-free 1-800-473-5955.

Two fine museums in Mississauga
Although the City of Mississauga has only been around since 1974, Europeans first settled this area west of Toronto more than 200 years ago. There are two fine museums devoted to the history of the area: Bradley Museum and Benares Historic House. The Bradley Museum is located on the Waterfront Trail at 1620 Orr Road and depicts the farm lifestyle of local families in the 1830s and 1840s.

Three kilometres north on Clarkson Rd., Benares House is a Georgian home where four generations of the Harris family lived for four generations. The house was restored by the Ontario Heritage Foundation and contains over 2,000 original artifacts. The house is said to have inspired the famed Whiteoaks of Jalna novels by Canadian author Mazo de la Roche. For further information on the two museums, call (905) 822-1569.

Calm water cruises history and scenery
It’s a cruise back in time — a calm-water voyage on the M/V Canadian Empress, built in the classic steamboat style. The ship cruises out of Kingston on a variety of excursions through some of the most historic and scenic parts of Lake Ontario, the Thousand Isles, including the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River. For further information on the cruises, which run from late May to mid-Oct., call toll-free 1-800-267-7868.

Must-see nature at Ottawa museum
A must-see on a visit to Ottawa is the Canadian Museum of Nature, housed in the historical Victoria Memorial Museum. Visitors can explore the wonders of nature in seven permanent galleries, which include The Earth, Life through the Ages, Birds and Mammals of Canada, Creepy Critters, Nature’s Pharmacy and the Viola MacMillan Mineral Gallery. New for this year is “Arctic Odyssey” exhibit that depicts life in northern communities through the eyes of Aboriginal people and scientists. For further information, call toll-free 1-800-263-4433.

McMichael gallery features First Nations
As one of the few galleries in the country devoted to the collection and display of 20th century Canadian art, the distinguished McMichael Canadian Art Collection, in Kleinburg northwest of Toronto, is particularly proud of its First Nations works of art. Back in 1965, Gallery founders Robert and Signe McMichael purchased a few pieces of First Nations art. Over the years, the collection has grown to 435 works from 288 artists. The First Nation Art Gallery occupies 3,034 square feet of space within the McMichael, which also houses a magnificent collection of 1,500 pieces of Inuit art, including sculptures, drawings and prints.

The McMichael is best known for its extensive collection of paintings by the Group of Seven, the seven young Canadians who changed the course of Canadian art almost 75 years ago. Located on 100 acres of conservation land overlooking a quiet river, the McMichael has the world’s largest collection of art by the Group of Seven. For further information, call (905) 893-1121.