Unless you’re hopping on a plane headed for sunnier weather, February isn’t always conducive for travel. Days are short, dark and usually several degrees colder than we’d appreciate. But smack in the middle of this (thankfully) short month lies a perfect reason to beat off the winter blues, if only for a day.
Valentine’s Day need not be filled with predictable heart-shaped boxes or boring bouquets. This year, try something different; take your honey, your pal or your kids on a day trip and discover a new hidden gem. To help get you started, here are some off-the-beaten-path options you may not have considered before. They’re great for one-day or weekend getaways and are guaranteed to inject some fun into dreary February.
Barkerville Historic Town, BC
Close to: Jasper
Remember when towns were named after the people who persevered, and against all odds “struck gold”? This town is named in honour of William “Billy” Barker, who literally did just that. The town of Barkerville, a National historic Site since 1924 is downright adorable. Touted as the “largest historic site in western North America” Barkerville keeps it real with shops like Frank J. McMahon’s Confectionary, and a couple of “Coffee Saloons” to keep a spring in your step. Soak in the history at their museums and walk-in interpreted exhibits that include a Blacksmith Shop and schoolhouse. This is sure to be one historic getaway (chuckle)!
Close to: Edmonton
Located just west of Edmonton, Wabamun is great daytrip option for families and outdoorsy types. Or, for those of us still curious about winter sports, it’s a great place to dip your toe into the (frozen) water. This February the town is hosting a weekend of family fun, including an intro to ice fishing for the kids on Wabamun Lake (don’t forget to register). Non-fishing types can still be super-Canadian by skating outdoors on the lake. And what would a trip to Alberta be without seeing one of the Giants of the Prairies? Heading to Wabamun means crossing the World’s Biggest Dragonfly off your list of things to see — worth it!
Close to: Toronto
Hamilton is easy to get to, and always has something going on. For most of February it’s Hamilton Winterfest during which you can happily fill your days with live performances, workshops and — my personal favourite — an environmentally motivated plastic bag installation in Gage Park. Meanwhile, Hamilton rocks the outdoor scene with fat biking in the Dundas Valley, ice climbing frozen Tiffany Falls (not for the faint of heart), and easy-going snowshoeing for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground. Be sure to check out our blog about Hamilton for insider info about the awesome music and culinary scenes.
Close to: Montreal and Drummondville
Quebec’s eastern townships is dotted with cozy spots to visit, relax and spend a romantic day or two. One of the cutest among them is Magog, located at the northern tip of Lake Memphremagog, and home to “Memphre”, the mythic long-necked monster (see: Loch Ness). Lucky for you, the wintery frozen lake means the lake monster should be safely hibernating during your visit. For those who insist on participating in winter, fret not, close-by Mont Orford is a great spot to hit the slopes, and the town’s Fêtes des Neiges takes place in February. For the rest of us, this area is best for taking a break and enjoying the charm of the town, with its slow pace and picturesque streets. Spa Eastman, also close by, offers a renowned experience including outdoor baths (tip: bring a hat to keep the noggin warm while the rest of you soaks in the warm baths).
If you’re more of a big-city kind of person, here are a few other options for great Valentine’s Day getaways:
Top image: ©Jocelynn Praud