Tag Archives: north america

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland

8 Gorgeous Canadian National Parks For Your To Do List

Canada is one of the smartest summer vacation ideas for U.S. travelers. It’s close, it’s affordable, it’s not too hot, it’s blissfully uncrowded … and it’s got more than 40 beautiful national parks and reserves. Which are the best ones to focus a trip on?  We asked that very question of our Trusted Travel Experts for Canada. Here are eight parks for your To Do list.

By Land and Sea: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve british columbia

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia. Photo courtesy Destination BC.

Encompassing forest, beach, ocean, and more than 100 islets along British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, it’s the miles-long stretches of sand and the numerous hikes through the lush rainforest that make Pacific Rim a favorite of Trusted Travel Expert Sheri Doyle. You can get a taste of both environments on short loop hikes from the main parking lot; Sheri also recommends the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail from the Visitors’ Center to Florencia Beach, which gives you some insight into local history as well.

Peaks Aplenty: Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies. Photo: Travel Alberta

Snuggled in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper isn’t undiscovered, but to Sheri it always feels far less busy than the adjacent—and more widely known—Banff National Park. Hiking and wildlife are the draws here; Sheri’s favorite short jaunt is the Path of the Glacier trail to a gorgeous glacial lake in the Mount Edith Cavell area of Jasper.

The Hidden Gem: Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park, Canada. Photo: Parks Canada/C. Siddal

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Photo: Parks Canada/C. Siddal

Even less crowded than Jasper, but with mountains no less majestic, is nearby Kootenay. The park’s Radium Hot Springs provide a secondary attraction, and the same-named town, just outside Kootenay’s border, has more affordable hotels than you’ll find in Banff.

The Big Kahuna: Banff National Park

sunshine mountain lake banff national park alberta canada

Hiking on Sunshine Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta. Photo: Billie Cohen

This is the country’s original national park, set in the dazzlingly picturesque Rocky Mountains. Sure, it can be busy—but Trusted Travel Expert Marc Telio recommends veering off the beaten path and taking the gondola up Sunshine Mountain for a hike far from the crowds. For Mount Norquay’s via ferrata—a series of cables, ladders, and suspension bridges bolted into the side of the mountain—you don’t need any technical know-how, but you will need a healthy dose of confidence.

Picture-Postcard Vistas: Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park. British Columbia. Photo: Parks Canada/Karin Smith

This British Columbia park’s name comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder. The impression it leaves on contemporary visitors is no less impressive, particularly in late spring at Takakkaw Falls, ones of Canada’s highest and most dramatic waterfalls. Here, Marc loves going for a peaceful paddle on startlingly crystal-clear Emerald Lake.

The World’s Highest Tide: Fundy National Park

beach at low tide in Fundy National Park Canada

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Photo: Parks Canada/Dale Wilson

When the tide goes out in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park, it does so decisively: The difference between high and low tide can be as much as 50 feet—the height of a four-story building. Time it right, and you’ll literally be walking on the ocean floor, among crabs, sea snails, and other crustaceans (plus the shorebirds that stop by for a quick bite to eat).

A River Runs Through It: Nahanni National Park Reserve

Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park, Canada

Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park, Northern Territories. Parks Canada/Charles Blyth

Little known to the general populace, this vast and remote reserve in the Northern Territories is world-famous among whitewater rafters and kayakers, who come to paddle the Naha Dehé (the South Nahanni River). It was named among the first class of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Nahanni called “one of the most spectacular wild rivers in North America.” Rapids aren’t the only water feature here: Virginia Falls is almost twice the height of Niagara, and Nahanni’s hot springs provide a natural antidote to the sore muscles you’re sure to acquire while hiking and paddling.

The Geological Wonder: Gros Morne National Park

Fjord Boat Tour on Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park Western, Canada. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Fjord boat tour on Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

It’s taken Mother Nature millions of years to create the mountains and fjords that have earned Newfoundland’s Gros Morne its UNESCO World Heritage stripes; what you see on the surface today is actually deep ocean crust and the earth’s mantle, pushed up by the geologic process of continental drift. Western Brook Pond was clearly named with characteristic Canadian understatement: This “pond” is actually a spectacular, glacier-carved fjord that occupies an area of nearly nine square miles, with waterfalls cascading 2,000 feet down its cliffs. If you go to Gros Morne, Trusted Travel Expert Jill Curran recommends getting a taste of Newfoundland humor at Anchors Aweigh, a music-and-comedy show in the town of Rocky Harbour.

bear in Banff national park canada

Bear spottings are not uncommon in parts of Banff National Park. Photo: Travel Alberta

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

people canoeing in British Columbia Canada

Summer Vacation Idea: British Columbia for Every Type of Traveler

The skiing in British Columbia may be world-class, but if that’s all you know of the westernmost Canadian province, you’re missing out on one of the smartest summer vacation ideas for U.S. travelers right now. As Wendy discovered when she took her family there last summer, British Columbia has it all: Spectacular unspoiled scenery, first-rate farm-to-table food, one-of-a-kind activities, high culture, pristine wilderness, hip city neighborhoods, indigenous cultural communities, colorful festivals, charming inns, characterful lodges….Plus it’s nearby, it’s Zika-free, and the exchange rate is a relief. Whatever type of traveler you are, there’s more for you in B.C. than you realize. So we asked Marc Telio, who lives in Vancouver and is Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Western Canada, to detail some of the lesser-known opportunities for five different types of traveler. Here’s what he recommends.

horseback riding in british columbia at clayoquot wilderness resort

British Columbia’s wilderness lodges put you right in the middle of the great outdoors. Photo: Clayoquot Resort

Outdoor Adventurers:

British Columbia is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Just pick your adrenaline-boosting preference: sea kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, glacier hiking, helicopter hiking, river rafting, jet boating, rock climbing, kayaking on lakes, rivers or oceans—the possibilities are vast, like the wilderness here. And you can set your vacation right in the middle of it all at any number of wilderness lodges, inns, and resorts where Marc negotiates special benefits for his travelers. When you need a minute to rest from all the excitement, just enjoy a relaxing picnic—on a glacier, a clifftop, or an uninhabited island,

Cultural Explorers:

British Columbia is about the indigenous culture and people too. First Nations communities in B.C. have started to step up their tourism game, and an insider like Marc can arrange for visitors to experience these indigenous people’s culture and traditions in the most authentic way. For example, he can arrange for you to tour the islands and villages of the Haida Gwaii archipelago with a Haida guide, and for you to stay overnight at a locally owned and operated lodge. Or stay at the Spirit Bear Lodge in B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, where the lodge gives you access to a local aboriginal village and authentic culture, and you enjoy bear-viewing while learning about local conservation efforts.

grizzly bears in river in atlin british columbia

Summer is a great time for bear viewing in British Columbia: grizzlies, black bears, and more. Photo: Phil Timpany

Wildlife Junkies:

 Marc shares a secret: “My favorite part of B.C. is the northern coast because that’s where you’ll find grizzlies, black bears, spirit bears, and all of the species of whales, seals, and sea otters.” You can cruise the region’s waterways looking for humpbacks in the water and grizzlies along the shores, or head into the Great Bear Rainforest to spot spirit bears—rare black bears with white fur—plus eagles, and more. August, September, and October are the best months for all of the above.

Family Trippers:

Want to sneak a few life lessons into a family vacation? Take your kids out of their comfort zone. That could mean zip-lining through the forest canopy, canoeing down a river, or hiking across a glacier. You could spend a few days enjoying Vancouver’s cultural attractions, then immerse your children in wilderness at a remote lodge. Getting them ten feet from a breaching killer whale or a wrestling match between black bears just might make you the coolest parents around. Continue to engage the kids over dinner: Marc can arrange for your family to pull up crab traps with local fishermen and then help a chef prepare the haul for lunch, or to go behind-the-scenes at the Vancouver Aquarium with one of the beluga whale trainers.

canoeing at whistler british columbia

Whistler may be British Columbia’s most famous ski resort, but it’s also an ideal destination for summer activities too.

Multigenerational groups:

B.C’s ski resorts transform into ideal summer destinations for family members of all ages. As Wendy discovered when she took her family to Whistler last summer, the sheer variety of activities means there’s something for everyone. Grandparents can stroll around at their leisure, take vehicles to go bear-watching, or ride a gondola to the top of the mountain, while more active family members can try kayaking, canoeing, hiking, or mountain climbing. For family groups wanting more privacy, Marc has chartered a flotilla of seaplanes to the coast and taken over wilderness lodges. Talk to Marc to plan a trip that is guaranteed to make everyone in your wide-ranging group happy.

If you’re looking for a British Columbia specialist to design a custom-tailored once-in-a-lifetime adventure for you, read Marc’s Insider’s Guide to British Columbia, and reach out to him via this trip request form so you’re marked as a WendyPerrin.com VIP traveler.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Fly fishing at Winterlake Lodge, near Denali, Alaska.

Alaska: Plan Your Trip!

Alaska's Tracy Arm from the water, with mountains and water
Glacier trekking, Alaska
Glacier trekking, Alaska. Photograph by Jeff Schultz
A Kodiak brown bear, Alaska
A Kodiak brown bear, in Alaska
Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in katmai National Park, Alaska
Kayaking through sculpted icebergs in Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska
Cascade Creek Trail, Thomas Bay, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska
An adult humpback whale breaching

Your Alaska Trip Begins Here

Alaska occupies a unique place in the American imagination as our last frontier, the top of the world, a land of majestic glaciers, rugged men and women, and rivers lined with gold. Connected to the Lower 48 by a 1,400-mile highway, it is home to our tallest peak and our largest national park, almost four times the size of Yellowstone. Alaska is the Iditarod, the Kodiak bear, the northern lights, and the midnight sun.

But Alaska’s magnificence comes with a price. Getting from point A to point B can be expensive and time-consuming, and with most visitors traveling a single highway, a so-called five-hour drive can take all day in midsummer, the season of road construction and, yes, traffic jams. Visitors are often shocked at the price of lodging, meals, and transportation this far north, and disappointed when the bears, a prime tourist draw, don’t turn up at Brooks Falls for their photo op because, well, the salmon are somewhere else.

Factor in unpredictable weather and a mind-boggling wealth of attractions and it’s easy to see why you need help to make an Alaskan vacation the trip of your dreams. The solution is a travel planner with the specialized expertise necessary to navigate Alaska’s distinct challenges—someone who knows the absolute best things to see and do, and how to customize them into an itinerary that works for you.

Here at WendyPerrin.com, that’s my job—to connect you with the human-being travel planner who can make your next trip extraordinary. Fill out your wish list below, and I’ll point you toward the right person to plan your trip to Alaska.

When you submit the form, you’ll be marked as a WendyPerrin.com V.I.P. traveler, and when you’re ready to start planning your trip with one of the Trusted Travel Experts on my WOW List, you’ll get special benefits and my trip-monitoring service too! All information you provide is private; it will be seen only by me and the Trusted Travel Expert I recommend for you.


Start Your Alaska Trip Here

The Columbia River in Oregon

6 Great American Road Trips

The end of summer is the perfect time for a road trip. They’re the ultimate feeling of freedom: just you and the open road, and maybe some friends and family in the backseat.

Over the past few weeks, Wendy has been hand-picking the coolest American road trips, so that no matter where you are in the country, it’ll be easy for you to get in the car and drive.

In case you missed her all-American itineraries, we’re sharing them again here. Find your route and hit the road!

America’s Great River Road will steer you all the way from Canada to the Gulf Coast, passing through country dotted with historic villages, wineries, wildlife, and sweeping vistas. Wendy recommends the section that runs along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, starting in Minneapolis.

Pop in an audio book and cruise through the country’s literary past. In New England you’ll find historic sites related to some of our best writers and philosophers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson.

Drive through Oregon and you’ll get the best of two trips all rolled up into one: a relaxing meander through the Willamette Valley’s wine country, and an invigorating exploration of the natural beauty —and adventure sports—of the Cascade Mountains.

You can’t explore the South without stopping for some good BBQ. So why not make that the theme of your next road trip? Start in Blue Ridge, Georgia, for some hickory-smoked ribs at Joe’s BBQ, voted the No. 1 BBQ joint in America by TripAdvisor readers. Then stop frequently to fill up (and nap) as you eat your way through Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park California

The drive through California’s Anza-Borrego Desert is beautiful in February and March, when the wildflowers bloom. Photo: Visit California

Southern California
Summer isn’t the ideal season for every road trip. The drive through the Anza-Borrego Desert’s buttes, canyons, and badlands is best in February and March, when the wildflowers bloom, and is also great in November, when deals abound.

Make a loop from Albuquerque back to Albuquerque, stopping in Santa Fe and Taos, and you’ll hit the best that New Mexico has to offer—mesas, museums, margaritas, and art markets, as Wendy puts it. Check out her full itinerary and start planning!

What’s your favorite American road trip?

How to Transform a Disney Trip from Average to Extraordinary

Just thinking about a vacation at Disney World conjures all kinds of images: Mickey Mouse, princesses, rides, parades, smiles, magic…big crowds, long lines, overtired parents, overstimulated children. Of course, you can have all of the good with none of the bad, but it requires some planning—and a lot of know-how. After a recent trip to Orlando, we’ve got you covered with our own tricks, as well as advice from our Trusted Travel Expert for Disney vacations, Michelle Allen, who can help ensure an all-smiles, no-stress trip with all the best activities and experiences (and oh yeah, she costs nothing to you; Disney pays her fees). Here are five foolproof ways to transform a Disney World trip from average to extraordinary.


Four Seasons Orlando

After a day at the park, the sleek and sophisticated design of the Four Seasons is a welcome respite from its over-the-top surroundings.

1. Stay at the new Four Seasons

Disney World has a lot of really great hotels at a wide variety of price points, but the newest addition to the lineup really stands apart. The Four Seasons Orlando just had its grand opening this fall, and provides all the luxury and service you’d expect from a Four Seasons property—attentive staff, beautiful rooms, a full-service spa, customized beds—plus all of the official Disney services, thanks to its location inside park boundaries (e.g., free buses to parks and attractions, an on-site desk for tickets and reservations, discounts for Disney-property guests). “It’s still on campus, so you’re not giving up the location that you would have had to in the past to stay somewhere different—it’s really right there within,” Michelle says. “And while Disney does deluxe, this is really luxury.”

The hotel’s best perk might just be the visual and mental break it provides from its over-the-top surroundings. After a day of crowds and craziness (or instead of one), the hotel’s nearly-mouse-free design, sleek adults-only pool, cocktail-carrying pool staff, and full-service spa are a welcome respite. Not that families are forgotten here—this is Disney World after all, and the hotel is a very kid-friendly home base with a complimentary kids club, two water slides, a lazy river, a zero-entry family pool, a rock-climbing wall, sand volleyball courts, and a splash zone water playground. There’s even a character breakfast.*


Disney World Orlando

The mosaics in Epcot’s Morocco showcase were crafted by master artisans. And since only Allah can achieve perfection, they left a crack or a flaw in every work. Photo by Billie Cohen.

2. Splurge on a VIP Tour

We’re not saying this isn’t expensive, we’re just saying it’s a pretty failsafe way to make your time in Disney World more extraordinary. Hire a VIP guide and you’ll be picked up at your hotel and ushered into the parks of your choice through special back-lot entrances. Once inside, your guide will map out the most efficient way to hit every ride, parade, and snack spot on your wish list, FastPassing you to the front of lines and character meet-and-greets, scoring VIP seating at parades and fireworks, and dropping all kinds of Disney secrets and trivia along the way. Wondering who’s on those portraits in the Haunted House? Why there’s an intentional flaw in EPCOT’s Moroccan fountain? I was repeatedly impressed by how much my guide knew, and her narrative made my day more than just a series of rides. Apart from the fun of all that Disney geekdom, it’s the personalized attention that really makes a VIP Tour attractive: The stress of crowds, lines, far-far-away bathrooms, parking—they are all removed from the equation. At a price, of course: rates range from $1,890 to $3,000 for a six-hour-minimum tour, depending on the season and whether you’re staying at a Disney resort, and that fee does not include park admission. On the bright side, that fee is the same whether you’re one person or ten, so if you’re traveling as a family or two, the cost can be shared…or mitigated another way, as Michelle has seen from her own experience: “There are some people who may stay at a moderate resort and put that money toward a guide instead,” she says.


Disney World Orlando

Pick up a MagicBand and you can leave pretty much everything in your hotel room—even your room key. Photo courtesy Walt Disney World.

3. Embrace technology

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can reserve three FastPass rides before you step foot outside the hotel (or even before you leave home). “It used to be that you had to get to the park before opening,” Michelle recalls. “The rope would drop, you’d get a FastPass, hop on a ride, then run to the other end of the park to get another FastPass. But now you can reserve guaranteed board at Space Mountain between 10:30 and 11, so guess who gets to have a leisurely breakfast? You do.” Guests staying at a Disney resort can also use MagicBand bracelets, which are registered online and then used for various functions, including park admissions, FastPass reservations, Disney PhotoPass accounts, paying for food and merchandise, and even unlocking your hotel room door.

Tying it all together is the My Disney Experience app. From your phone, you’ll be able to check ride wait times, change up your FastPasses, make dining reservations, and find character greeting locations. Plus it has GPS, so you’ll be able to see where you are in relation to that Dole Whip you’ve been craving.


Disney World Orlando

Silhouettes and abstract images of the renowned mouse are hidden throughout the parks and resorts of Disney World. This one is embedded in a giraffe carving at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Can you see it? Photo courtesy Walt Disney World.

4. Go surfing… or backstage

Some of the parks feature special activities that really do make you feel special. Typhoon Lagoon offers surf lessons before the park opens to the masses. At Hollywood Studios, you can dine with a Disney Imagineer. And at Magic Kingdom, the Keys to the Kingdom tour lifts the curtain on the whole Disney show, bringing you to backstage areas, leading you through the secret underground tunnels used by staff to get around without being seen, and pointing out a ton of hidden Mickeys disguised all over the park.

5. Use our Trusted Travel Expert
Yes, yes, we’re tooting our own horn here, but we have no qualms about it. Booking a trip with Michelle Allen won’t cost you a thing, but booking without her most certainly will. You’ll end up paying in time, stress, and yeah, probably dollars because she can not only make sure you get access to great activities, she can also find you deals (and let you know when something simply isn’t worth the price). There’s just so much to navigate, reserve, and organize when it comes to planning a Disney vacation. Why do it alone? Read more about Michelle’s background and her tips for Disney World.<


*Disclosure: Four Seasons Orlando provided me with a three-night stay free of charge, and Disney provided me with a VIP Tour so that I could test it for our readers. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on Four Seasons’ or Disney’s part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read the signed agreement between WendyPerrin.com and the organizers of my trip here.