When tourists flock to Paris, France, everyone checks out the main sites: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles, Notre Dame. Of course, you want to make sure you visit these “must see” places. But what about the lesser-known attractions, for example, the beautiful Bois de Boulogne park in the middle of Paris city? Many tourists have never heard of it, yet, this former hunting ground for the Kings of France is larger than Central Park and a perfect get-away in the middle of a bustling city.
When we think of “off the beaten track”, it could be a place that tourists don’t hear as much about, or it could truly be some place where tourists never go. But when traveling, it’s a good idea to include some of these out of the way places – you may find they are the most memorable of all!
Finding “Gems” Here in Canada
Canada is the perfect place for “off the beaten track” travel. Outside of Toronto and the GTA, we are mostly a rural country, which means you can pick any small town at random, and spend a couple of hours just exploring.
The first step is to get off the main highway (the “400 series” ones!) and take the slow route through the country. When you arrive, check out the town hall and the library. Often these are in older, perhaps historic, buildings. Find out about the place. Most towns are “famous” (in their own area) for something. They may be near a great winery, or have won “best butter tart” award, or are home to someone famous or a famous event.
Check out local listings for fall fairs, jamborees, antique markets, artisan fairs and local theatre festivals being held in regional venues, instead of large centres like Toronto.
Most areas have a park in town, or nearby. It’s often a great place for a picnic or a hike. Many towns have historic trails connected to them (you’ll find information at the library). Or just walk the main street and see what you find! Head for the town bakery, which usually is a great place to pick up some treats, perhaps a local specialty.
Some Specific Ideas
Dare yourself to find the “hidden treasure”. In the little town of Haliburton, for example, there’s a beautiful waterfall hidden off the main street. In Huntsville, Ontario, there’s a lookout on top of the highest point in town. In Wolfville, Nova Scotia, there’s Tanglewood Gardens, a hidden gem that many people miss.
Visit wineries in a region that you’ve never heard of before, e.g. Point Pelee, Prince Edward County. Many of the smaller establishments have great choices and the owners have time to chat about their product.
University towns like Kingston (Queens University), Waterloo (Laurier and University of Waterloo), Wolfville (Acadia) are also fun to explore. They all have great bookstores and interesting architecture. Check out the student centre.
A guided tour is a good idea if you’re in a city, perhaps Vancouver or Halifax. But look for a tour that’s different from the regular “sights”. Many cities offer nighttime “ghost tours”, or historic walking tours led by local guides. There may be food and beverage related tours that give you a taste of local fare.
Use Google to search “off the beaten track”. You’ll find all sorts of great ideas.