Canadian romance for Valentine’s Day

Looking for love? There are many reasons to stay a little closer to home this year for that romantic getaway. The economy aside, Canada has many great destinations for some winter fun and cozy alone time. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Winery regions, Nova Scotia

What better way to spend a romantic weekend (or a girls-only getaway) than sipping award-winning wine, dining on gourmet food and sampling chocolate? Those looking for a little decadence won’t want to miss the Nova Scotia Winter Icewine Festival.

The celebrations start get an early start with restaurants and wineries in the area hosting events from February 2 to 12, 2012. Imagine fresh gelato drizzled with Icewine, an outdoor ice bar to with Icewine and food pairings, a chocolate and wine tasting session or dessert and wine pairing events. There’s even an Icewine Gala on for a little glamour and romance.  In addition, many of the hotels in the area offer accommodation packages throughout the festival, including gourmet meals and wine pairings. (Read the Icewine Winter festival website for more information).

Toronto, Ontario

Whether you’re part of a couple, travelling with your family or single-and-fabulous, there’s a lot going on in Canada’s largest city. In addition to the ongoing theatre productions, there will be singles parties, family tours, chocolate tours, special concerts and events as well as lunches, teas and brunches at sites throughout the city.

And for some risqué shopping, try the Toronto Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair at the Gladstone Hotel February 11, 2012.

Can learning be romantic? You bet. Watch for classes and workshops for the occasion — like Casa Loma’s “Shoot An Arrow Through Cupid’s Heart” archery class, or Aprodite Cooks’ Cooking Class for Couples. If you aren’t attached, tried it’s Singles Supper Clubs. Many other companies offer events that let you mingle and learn, or excursions for singles.

For a complete list of events, see

Québec City, Québec

You don’t have to “cross the pond” to enjoy some old-world romance. You’ll see the influences of European tradition and architecture as you tour this city, and it’s also the season to celebrate. The famous Carnival de Québec is just before Valentine’s Day and there are plenty of events for couples as well as families. Enjoy a sleigh ride at Place Desjardins and take in one of the Night Parades. If you and loved one start to feel a chill, warm up at the Arctic Spas Village. In addition, history lovers won’t want to miss the old-fashioned Regency Ball. (See the Carnival website for a full list of events and information).

Looking for a place to sleep? Start with the event website for packages at hotels like the Château Laurier and Château Frontenac that include a passport to Carnival, and check out VIA Rail’s train packages to avoid some potentially snowy driving. And if you’re looking for a unique — though potentially chilly — experience, try the Romantic Getaway package the Hôtel de Glace.

If staying indoors sounds more appealing, pick up a museum card for the weekend and take advantage of admission to 10 different museums and free bus access. For information on other events and attractions, see the Québec City Tourism website.

Whistler, British Columbia

Exercise is good for the heart — especially for couples or families who like enjoy some outdoor adventure time. While downhill skiing and snowboarding may be the first outdoor activity that comes to mind, there are many other adventures in the area for outdoor enthusiasts. Try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing instead, or skate on a frozen mountain lake. Enjoy a scenic walk, or take the high road and go zip lining. Or take a snowcat tour to the top of the mountain for a fondue dinner.

No ski skills? No worries. Let a trained chauffeur take you down the slopes on a chair-on-skis sled on the Sno-limo on Slope Tour.

Of course, there’s plenty to do indoors. In addition to museums and galleries, there are several spas in the village. If you’re looking for pampering, there are special treatments designed especially for sports enthusiasts that include sports pedicures and deep massage. For sweethearts, Vital Spirit’s “You and I” package offers couples side-by-side treatments and The Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa offers a four-hour Honeymoon Package for couples (ideal for a second honey moon too!)

Some of this year’s vacation packages include five night Stay & Ski packages and shorter getaways with lift tickets included. For details on activities and accommodations, see the Tourism Whistler website.

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Think of how often the sky figures in to our romantic fantasies: moonlit walks, starry skies and falling stars. However, Yellowknife is known as one of the best places to see another dazzling natural phenomenon: the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Head up to the Bush Pilot’s Monument for a full view, or take a tour to nearby Aurora Village. Trips include hot drinks, a marshmallow roast and heated viewing seats to enjoy the show.

Other popular outdoor activities include snowmobiling and snowshoeing, but you can also take a dogsledding tour and even learn how to drive a team yourself. If you prefer to drive in a car, take an ice road tour for a unique road trip.

To get in from the cold visit the provincial legislature, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and stay in a cozy cabin instead of a hotel or motel.

Watch for winter getaway packages departing from Calgary or Edmonton. And if you can’t make it for Valentine’s Day, try March instead. That’s when some of the city’s main events are in full swing, like the Caribou Carnival, Canadian Championship Dog Derby and Snowking Winter Festival.

For more information see Spectacular Northwest Territories.

Tips to save on your getaway:

– Investigate the extras. Consider the amenities, not just prices, when comparison shopping. Remember, it’s only a deal if it’s something you’ll use — like meal vouchers or spa services.

– Compare Valentine’s Day packages with other discounts. Don’t let the clever names fool you. Many hotels and resorts offer a regular romantic getaway package that’s good for several weeks.

– Ask the hotel for its best rate. You may be able to take advantage of “romantic getaway” package rates even if you’re travelling solo or with a friend.

– Postpone the celebrations for a week or two. Sometimes better deals can be found in the weeks before and after the “big day”.

– Go for quality, not quantity. Plan for one or two “highlight” activities like an expensive dinner out, and balance your itinerary with inexpensive or free activities like a romantic stroll around town. Don’t be afraid to splurge on a nice hotel room if you plan to spend a lot of time in it.

– Put your money to good use. February is Heart Month, so keep your eyes open for events that support the Heart and Stroke Foundation like dinners and dances.

Remember, a weekend away doesn’t have to be fancy or far from home. Let these ideas inspire your planning and enjoy a little romance and luxury wherever you go.

These are just a small sample of the many romantic places in Canada. What destinations would you recommend for a romantic weekend getaway? Share with other readers in the comments.

Photo ©Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

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