Go for a run, rollerblade, cycle or simply meander along the seawall at Stanley Park, the 3rd largest urban park in North America. Take time out to see the totem poles and the view from Prospect Point (where in June gangs of graduates converge to drink champagne after their prom). You can spend the day walking, go for a horse drawn tour, take a swim from any of the beaches along the seawall, or visit the Aquarium. In the summer, Stanley Park hosts Theatre Under the Stars in Malkin Bowl, showcasing local talent in 2 musicals each year.
Toronto Island is a must see and it is basically free, an oasis in the middle of the city. The island is a like a large peaceful park with beaches (there's a nude beach, gay beach as well as regular beaches), rollerblading, biking and walking paths, and even an amusement park and free petting zoo for children.
Ferries leave every 15 minutes from Bay St and Queens Quay at Harbourfront, just south of Union Station. There's plenty of parking too. www.toronto.ca/parks/island/index.htm
A rendezvous that's been going on for years and still feels totally impromptu: every Sunday, a bunch of musicians (mainly drummers, and the odd saxophonist) gathers around the Etienne Cartier statue in the beautiful Parc du Mont Royal and entertains a happy crowd of young and old hippies. Informal and really uplifting. In the winter you can enjoy a full range of seasonal activities - hockey, lovely walks and cross country ski trails that are easy, have great views and are open all evening.
Parc du Mont Royal - www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/en_index2.html
The alternative (and best) part of town as far as I can see. Londoners will recognise it as a genuine, more truly independent Camden. Authentic food from many countries, an anarchist bookstore, numerous cafes and clothing stores.
Backs onto Chinatown off Spadina Ave.
Less chic than Marche Atwater, but bigger, cheaper and with much better street food. Shops include the fantastically named "Qui L'ait Cru?" for cheese.
7075 Avenue Casgrain; tel: (514) 277 1379;
Metro: Jean Talon, then walk 3 or 4 blocks west (along Jean Talon) and one south;
This incredible food market is packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, ice creams, pastas, cakes and much more. You can enjoy a huge variety of cuisine so make sure you arrive with an empty stomach or you'll be missing out. While the guide books tell you to take a bus or ferry, the walk along the waterfront from Science World is a pleasure.
Situated in False Creek, #50 bus
Take the Aquabus (www.aquabus.bc.ca), Vancouver's commuter ferry service from Granville Island. A relatively cheap way of getting from one side of False Creek to the other with the added bonus of a scenic river cruise. Beautiful at night!
Most people go to touristy Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is really crowded and very expensive but right beside it is the free Lynn Canyon Park, with a larger suspension bridge, lovely walks and amazing pools to swim in.
A giant outdoor and indoor jazz festival, one of the highlights of the Montreal calendar. Big names and small names, swing jazz and drum n bass, the Montreal Jazz Fest has it all. Several streets are blocked off and the atmosphere is brilliant.
www.montrealjazzfest.com; usually end of June and first week or two of July
This downtown area by the lake is a great place to visit in the summer. As well as a great place to walk by the side of Lake Ontario, you can catch the ferry across to the Toronto Islands, watch an open air performance for free, browse a craft fair and eat food from various ethic menus.
A Chinese garden of the Ming Dynasty 'Scholar's Garden' style. It is the first full-sized classical Chinese garden outside of China. Located in Vancouver's Chinatown, it is tranquil and beautiful. Take a tour or experience a musical presentation here, then enjoy a meal in Chinatown.
578 Carrall St. (604) 662-3207 www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/index.html
An easy climb up this wooded mountain reveals beautiful views of the city. Guided up it by indigenous tribes in 1535, adventurer Jacques Cartier, who discovered the city, was so inspired by the view that he named the mountain Mont Royal, a small step away from the city's modern name. There is much to do in the park, which is also Metro accessible to the north.
The Centre de la montagne is at Smith House, 1260 Chemin Remembrance, North Montreal, near McGill University;
tel: (514) 843 8240
The Montréal Canadiens are ice hockey's most storied team - they hold the NHL record for most Stanley Cup wins, have the NHL's largest arena (the Bell Centre, right in the middle of town) and some of its most passionate fans - especially fervent because of their famous team's unique status as the only Francophone hockey club in the otherwise Anglophone league. The Canadiens haven't won the lot for a while now, but the franchise's size and support base still means every home game is a sell-out and an occasion in and of itself.
Going to see a game offers a glimpse into a genuine Montréal and Canadian obsession. The streets around the Bell Centre fill with families dressed in Habs' (the team nickname) gear and thousands more Québecois tune into the games in sports bars and restaurants. It's also exciting - games are fast-moving and often full of incidental violence, which gets the crowd going just as much as goals and great saves.
As you'd expect from North American sports, it's a fairly family-oriented affair. Don't expect a UK football-style "atmosphere" and do anticipate lots of national anthems, audience participation and glitzy advertising on the big screens and scrolling hoardings that ring the rink.
Games against old rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins are especially tense.
The length of the hockey season and the sheer number and frequency of games means finding a game while you're in town and getting a ticket or several shouldn't be too difficult, despite the team's popularity.
Those who like to organise things in advance can check the schedule and buy tickets online at the Canadiens website: www.canadiens.com/eng/index.cfm
Alternatively, ticket agencies and posh hotels in Montréal itself can almost always help you out closer to game-time.
The Bell Centre has its own website, with details of its location and amenities: www.centrebell.ca/eng/arena/index.cfm
Mill Street is a micro-brewery in the Distillery District. The former site of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery is the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America. Mill Street won awards in 2005 for their Tankhouse Pale Ale and Coffee Porter.
millstreetbrewery.com/; Take the King 504 streetcar to Parliament, walk two streets south to the Distillery District
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