Whistler-Blackcomb

Top 10 March Break finds in Canada

Story by Vacay.ca Staff

Staying in Canada during March Break doesn’t seem exotic, fun or cheap.

Traditionally, when Canadians plan their excursions for March Break, it’s to head south for family vacations to Orlando, Florida, or all-inclusives in the Caribbean. If you look carefully, though, you’ll find deals at home. More than that, you may discover cultural experiences here that are just as fascinating as what you would encounter abroad. After all, Canada is the world’s No. 1 brand for travellers for two years running and tourists are coming here like never before. In December, there were 1.6 million visits to our country by Americans alone.

So, if everyone else is visiting Canada, maybe you should get to know it a little bit better, too. March Break is a terrific time to explore the country as a family because there are activities focused on education and culture, as well as some serious travel deals for savvy shoppers.

Here’s the Vacay.ca Top 10 March Break Recommendations in Canada for 2012:

Whistler-Blackcomb

Kids get to ski, stay and eat free throughout March in Whistler. (Paul Morrison photo)

1. Whistler, British Columbia

Canada’s top winter sports destination has outdone itself this March with a deal any family should consider. Kids 12 and under can stay, ski, and eat free throughout March. Whistler, of course, was home to the 2010 Winter Olympics alpine events and is gearing up for the 2012 Telus Ski & Snowboard Festival in April. Known for its youthful party scene and high-end hotels and restaurants, it offers one of the finest winter experiences in the world, let alone Canada.

To find out more details about its March promotions, visit the Whistler-Blackcomb website and to book, call 1-888-403-4727.

2. Diefenbunker Spy Experience, Ottawa

If your kid has dreams of being James Bond — or Austin Powers — then the Diefenbunker Spy Camp is for him, or her. Kids will learn the art of espionage, which some parents may not be too keen about, but it’s all in good fun. The Diefenbunker, so-named because it was a secret Cold War facility created during John Diefenbaker’s administration, features lots of history as well as this unique experience. Kids will create a disguise for going undercover, make and break codes, and configure spy gadgets, among other things. The week-long camp ($225 per child) runs from March 12-16 and is for ages 7-12. If you can’t make it this time, there’s plenty of opportunities in the summer.

For more information, e-mail spycamp@diefenbunker.ca or call 613-839-0007.

3. Toronto International Film Festival Movie-Making Clinic

With the Oscars this weekend, a lot of kids are going to be inspired to explore their inner Spielberg. The TIFF building in Toronto’s downtown has some tremendous film-making classes for kids 9-12, where they get hands-on instruction behind the camera from professionals and can see their creations on a big screen at the end of their camp. Cost is $315.75 per day and space is very limited.

To book, visit the TIFF website and see the Film Fun 101 program.

4. TheMuseum, Kitchener, Ontario

Hockey, art and skill development are all rolled into one fun package in this gem of a museum an hour southwest of Toronto. “Arena” features art work that comments on the national pastime as well as celebrates it. There are fun interactive displays, but that’s not unusual. You’ll find similar shootout-style games at the Hockey Hall of Fame and even outside some junior league rinks. What sets “Arena” apart is the art, including hockey masks from Wanda Koop that resemble tribal paintings and Graeme Patterson’s mesmerizing stop-animation film featuring Darryl Sittler’s famed 10-Point Game. The Canada-Russia Summit Series documentary will transfix parents. It runs continuously on the museum’s top floor. With this being the 40th anniversary of the Summit Series, the memories are even more poignant for some. “Arena” exhibit runs until May 6 in downtown Kitchener.

For more info, visit TheMuseum online.

5. Hotel de Glace, Quebec City

The 12th edition of the Ice Hotel is beautiful to look at, wild to enter, and lots of fun to experience. There’s an ice slide, a skating rink on the premises and lots of hot chocolate that can be served in glasses made of ice. (Plenty of alcoholic drinks for adults, too.) The exquisite carvings in this year’s hotel feature art from the northern First Nations of Quebec, which gives parents and tour guides the opportunity to discuss the cultural importance of Canada’s aboriginal groups. The Ice Hotel is open until March 25. Overnight stays run $199 per person, but visitors can enter for an admission fee of less than $20; families are $43.75.

For more information, visit its website or read our article on the hotel.

6. Vancouver, British Columbia

Spring is already in bloom on Canada’s west coast. So if you want warmer weather (forecast is for temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius for March) without the hassle of flying into or through the US, or the security concerns in some destinations, then Vancouver should be on your March Break list. The Vancouver Aquarium, Granville Island, and Grouse Mountain’s winter activities are among the top family attractions in this beautiful city.

7. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Sculpture, mixed-media and traditional painting are among the skills kids can learn from professional artists at this inviting gallery in Halifax. Classes run from March 10-18 with full-day ($250) and half-day ($125) sessions available. For more information, call the museum at 902-424-5280 or email at infodesk@gov.ns.ca.

8. Sugarbush at King’s Landing, New Brunswick

The only better than learning to make maple syrup is tasting it. That’s exactly what visitors to this historic experience will get to do. They’ll also learn how Scottish settlers lived in the 19th century in this village along the St. John River that replicates the early days of the province. Sugarbush runs from March 17-18 and March 24-25. Admission is just $12 per family (or $7 per adult and $3.50 per child).

9. Spruce Meadows, Alberta

From March 8-18, this Calgary facility known for its equestrian program celebrates a Winter Farewell followed by a Spring Welcome on its grounds, with prize competitions and the opportunities for families to enter the barns and walk among the horses. Admission and parking are free; shows take place indoors at the Spruce Meadows’ Equi-Plex.

10. George Street, St. John’s, Newfoundland

In-the-know university students won’t be heading to Cancun or South Beach for good times. They know the best undiscovered party scene on the continent is on George Street, where the bars are jammed and the music is loud and the good times don’t end. Trust us, go here.

2012 MARCH BREAK DATES ACROSS CANADA
British Columbia: March 19 – March 23, 2012
Alberta: March 23 – March 30, 2012
Manitoba: March 26 – March 30, 2012
Saskatchewan: April 6 – April 13, 2012
Ontario and Nova Scotia: March 12 – 16, 2012
PEI: March 19 – 23, 2012
Quebec: March 5 – March 9, 2012 (Commission scolaire des Affluents: Feb 27 – March 2, 2012)
New Brunswick: March 5 – March 9, 2012
Newfoundland/Labrador: April 5 – April 13, 2012
Northwest Territories, Yukon: Varies across the territory. Check Teacher Association Calendar for specific school dates.

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Vicky is the worldly publisher of Vacay.ca. Having graduated from McGill University in Montreal, she has set about building a talented team of travel experts to deliver to you words and images of the very best places to see and experience in Canada. Based in Yorkville in Toronto, Vicky regularly jet sets around Canada — be sure to catch up with her when she's in your part of the country.