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Attractions only in Canada

DOUG ENGLISH, Special to QMI Agency

Wasaga Beach, Ontario. (Shutterstock)

Wasaga Beach, Ontario. (Shutterstock)

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Statistics Canada says Canadians spend almost 50% more time on vacations in Canada than they did 10 years ago, and that more plan to holiday even closer to home.

My wife and I were going to add to those numbers this past week. Then something went wrong with my back, and we had to scrap the whole trip.

The plan was to take our old Civic along routes we'd never used, stopping in communities we'd never visited, including Mattawa, Pembroke, and tiny Wilno, in the upper reaches of the Ottawa Valley.

Among the places I was eager to see were two provincial parks -- Samuel de Champlain and Bonnechere -- and their new attractions.

Since I'm temporarily grounded, here's some detail for others headed in those directions.

Samuel de Champlain park: 50 km east of North Bay on Hwy. 17 (the Trans Canada Highway), and named for the 17th-century explorer. The River of Experiences exhibit hall celebrates waterways -- the park is on the Mattawa River -- and the First Nations people, explorers, missionaries, fur traders and voyageurs who paddled them. Visit ontarioparks.com/english/samu.html.

Bonnechere park: 37 km west of Pembroke off County Rd. 58. The Friends of Bonnechere won a 2012 Canadian Parks Council Merit Award for a pilot project called Fooprints in Time (FIT), designed to promote local natural and cultural heritage. It features the interpretation of a 2-km river pathway, and is described as being geared to children and families. Visit bonnecherepark.on.ca/.

Two other new Ontario Parks facilities are the Wasaga Beach Welcome Centre at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, on Georgian Bay, and the Dynamic By Nature exhibit in the refurbished visitor centre at The Pinery, on Lake Huron.

More holiday-in-Canada ideas:

-- A tour involving the century-old lighthouses along Bruce County's shoreline now has its own website, brucecoastlightouses.com. A news release says the theme centres around the history, stories and folklore that contribute to the experience of each lighthouse. An updated tour brochure is also available. Visit explorethebruce.com.

-- Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana had its world premiere last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. Featuring "some of the largest and most unusual dinosaurs to have ever roamed the planet,'' the exhibition runs until Jan. 6, 2013.

-- Dinosaur Valley Mini Golf, in Sudbury, which won the Tourism Federation of Ontario's Innovation Award in 2003, tells a different and very touching story.

Owner Josee Rainville writes: "This unique, custom-built attraction is dedicated to cancer families and my youngest son Steven and his friend Tyler." Rainville says there are seven courses, 20 "mammoth" dinosaurs, and a steel dragon nearly 7-metres-long and more than 5-metres-high. Open until Aug. 30. Visit dinosaursudbury.com.

-- Excursions Maritimes take groups of two to 17 zipping across the St. Lawrence from Quebec City in Zodiacs, viewing such sights as Ille d'Orleans and Montmorency Falls. Packages are available and protective clothing is included. Visit en.excursionsmaritimesquebec.com.

-- Guests on FortWhyte Alive's A Prairie Legacy: The Bison and its People tour in Winnipeg are promised an up-close view of bison, a chance to learn about their influence on Manitoba's history and its people, and to "travel in the way of the Prairie ancestors" through canoeing and other hands-on activities. Visitfortwhyte.org.

-- Alberta Prairie uses covered wagons, wooden wheels and all, on overnight rides between small communities about 2.5-hours north of Calgary. Guests sleep in the wagon or under the stars. A round trip for two is $350 per wagon, plus GST. Alberta Prairie also operates a summer steam train. Visit absteamtrain.com/wagontrain.html.

-- Tourism Winnipeg says Variety Heritage Adventure Park, a new play area for children at The Forks National Historic Site, has seven interactive play zones covering Manitoba's history from the fur trade to the first peoples to the French Quarter. Visit pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/mb/forks.


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