Fall in Love with British Columbia

Five places to eat, drink, and unwind

Winter is well on its way, but before settling in for the season at home, travel north to British Columbia for a relaxing getaway — or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, whichever you prefer.

Discover ‘the Harbour City’ of Nanaimo

Nothing says sleepy West Coast escape like a visit to Nanaimo. A hop, skip, and jump across the water from Vancouver, Nanaimo in the fall and winter offers visitors a slow-paced environment ideal for decompressing. With countless B&B’s, visitors to the area can enjoy rejuvenating with comfortable accommodations in peaceful settings that offer views of the water or woods.

Once you’ve had a chance to settle in, venture out and see what this charming coastal city has to offer. Get acquainted with the area while exploring the Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Tour, or get a taste for the region while eating your way through the four-hour Taste of Nanaimo Tour.

Feeling adventurous? Snorkeling with the seals is a popular activity that can be enjoyed any time of year. This three-hour tour gives participants an up-close look at Nanaimo’s local population of harbor seals for an experience you won’t soon forget.

Don’t feel like adhering to a schedule? Go at your own pace instead. There are lots of fun things to do in Nanaimo, no matter when you visit, including sightseeing at Nanaimo’s many natural wonders like Mt. Benson and Jack Point.

After a day of sightseeing, seal snorkeling, or just kicking back, quench your thirst at Canada’s only floating bar, the Dinghy Dock Pub. This floating pub is accessible by boat, which further adds to the experience. In the mood for something sweet? Indulge in a sugar high while exploring the self-guided Nanaimo Bar Trail. Here, trailblazers can enjoy learning about — and tasting — one of Canada’s most iconic desserts, the Nanaimo Bar.

Whether you stay for a weekend or a week, a visit to Nanaimo is certain to leave you feeling blissfully relaxed.

whistler-skiers-plaza-courtesy-tourism-whistler-mike-crane

Photo courtesy Tourism Whistler

Wanderlust in Whistler

Visitors from all corners of the Pacific Northwest flock to Whistler during the fall and winter months for downhill skiing and snowboarding (the season officially kicks off on Thanksgiving), but fall in Whistler offers more than just slopes. As autumn turns to winter, a variety of other activities surface, including everything from snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and dogsledding, to zip line tours and spa experiences, which can be enjoyed year-round.

Looking for something else to do? Whistler’s fall and winter lineup is jam-packed with activities, including the 20th anniversary of Cornucopia, Whistler’s celebration of food and drink. From Nov. 10-20, visitors can enjoy winery dinners, culinary demonstrations and events, industry gatherings (including a Wine Summit that’s brand new for 2016), a variety of wellness programs, and other events during the 11-day festival.

In addition to Cornucopia, Whistler plays host to a variety of activities throughout the season, including the Whistler Film Festival (Nov. 30-Dec. 4), Whistler Holiday Experience (Dec. 16-Dec. 31), and a fun-filled New Year’s Eve Celebration (Dec. 31), just to name a few.

During your stay, enjoy relaxing in comfortable amenities, ranging from cozy chalets to luxury suites, and dining at a variety of the area’s well-loved restaurants. With countless options for dining — ranging from upscale to laidback — you’ll easily find something to sate your appetite after a long day of playing in the snow.

Photo courtesy Tourism Vancouver

Photo courtesy Tourism Vancouver

Venture to Vancouver

Fall in Vancouver offers the best of both worlds. Whether you want to settle in at a hotel and experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of the city or head into the wilderness for an outdoor escape, Vancouver offers something for everyone. This coastal city rarely sees snow, but not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown — as short as a 20-minute drive — are snow-dusted mountains, ideal for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and other winter sports
and activities.

Want to experience a little bit of everything? Start your adventure on the slopes, then head back to the city for shopping, dining, entertainment, and comfortable accommodations, which are easy-to-book (and less expensive) during off-season.

After a day playing in the mountains or exploring the city, you’ll likely have built up an appetite. Try something different at one of the many new restaurants that are always landing in the city, or make reservations at one of Vancouver’s popular eateries like Ask for Luigi, Nightingale, or Juniper.

During December, seasonal attractions take center stage, delighting visitors and locals alike. The lights at Capilano Suspension bridge (Nov. 24 to Jan. 8) and holiday activities on Grouse Mountain are a few favorites. There are also endless options for shopping, entertainment, pampering, and other fun-filled activities throughout the city to experience, allowing your visit to Vancouver to be as jam-packed or laid back as you’d like.

Photo courtesy ©2016 Gnawme

Photo courtesy ©2016 Gnawme

Celebrate the Holidays in Victoria

Victoria attracts visitors no matter the season, but fall and winter are a special time to visit this British Columbia city. Christmas in Victoria kicks off in November with the city’s popular Festival of Trees (Nov. 16 to Jan. 5), and as December approaches, the magic of the season becomes increasingly apparent with an abundance of winter activities and holiday events.

Professional and amateur chefs will create a feast for the eyes during Canada’s National Gingerbread Showcase at the Inn at Laurel Point (Nov. 21 to Jan 3). And from Dec. 1 to Jan. 6, a dazzling light display will turn the city aglow when the lights at Butchart Gardens are switched on to the tune of live, seasonal music. A grand tradition established back in 1908 continues this year during Christmas Afternoon Tea (Dec. 1-30) at the world-renowned Fairmont Empress — it’s a quintessential Victoria experience.

Once you’ve taken in the stunning sights Victoria has to offer, get a head start on your holiday shopping at Victoria’s many unique stores and boutiques. After you’ve crossed everyone off your Christmas shopping list, settle in for some tasty comfort food at one of Victoria’s award-winning restaurants, then end your evening with a seasonal winter cocktail at one of the city’s pubs before settling into cozy accommodations at one of Victoria’s many B&Bs or hotels.

Photo courtesy ©2011 Fraser Valley Pulse & Metro Vancouver Pulse

Photo courtesy ©2011 Fraser Valley Pulse & Metro Vancouver Pulse

Feel the Heat at Harrison Hot Springs

Instead of curling up in a big blanket and with a book, head to Harrison Hot Springs (about three hours from Bellevue), 90 miles east of Vancouver, and soak away the chills in the hot mineral water. If it happens to rain or snow, no worries — the water will keep you toasty.

Bring that book into one of five pools (two inside and three outside) at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa, and unwind. The hot springs are piped from the Harrison Lake and brought to the resort, where they’re mixed with cooler water. At Harrison, it’s all about the hot springs and relaxation. When you are at the historic resort, people walk back and forth from their rooms in the white robes that are provided. It’s such a chill place. And they serve Starbucks at the café as well as the creamiest gelato around. Take your relaxation up a notch, and hit the spa for a massage or facial. If you feel like you need pizza, venture out to Village Pizzeria — we recommend the bacon cheeseburger pizza, because two delicious meals in one bite can never be wrong.

If you don’t want to stay at the resort but still want to experience the hot springs, you can get a day pass to the public pool down the street for under $10.

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is a staff writer at 425 magazine. Email her.
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