If you’re looking for relief from the summer heat, you’re not alone. Everyone seems to have an idea on how to keep cool during these hot humid days. Suggestions range from spritzing yourself with water to placing a bowl of ice cubes in front of a fan to generate cool air. Here’s another option — head out of town to some of these "cool" attractions:
NORTH TO ALASKA
When summer becomes unbearably hot, some of us may actually long for winter. Enter Alaska, which has pleasant summers but is never completely free of ice and snow. Snow-capped mountains are visible year-round and rivers fed by glacial waters are frigid even in July.
Many cruise lines offer Inside Passage and other itineraries that bring passengers into close proximity to glaciers for kayaking, flightseeing, and helicopter tours with glacier landings and walkabouts.
And in the Fairbanks area, a couple of attractions — 40º Below Fairbanks and the Aurora Ice Museum at nearby Chena Hotsprings — allow summer visitors to experience winter-like conditions even when it’s 30 C outside.
At 40º Below Fairbanks, visitors don fur-lined parkas, boots and mitts, and step into a frigid Fairbanks winter, where they can throw a mug of hot water into the air and watch it evaporate, have a photo taken next to the thermometer reading -40, or ask locals questions. The cold cabin was developed in 2007 by Alaskan Jesse Warwick in response to questions about Alaska winters from fellow students at the Arizona college he attended.
"I noticed that despite what I would tell them they still couldn’t conceive what -40° and colder feels like," said Warwick, who created the cabin so they could experience it without having to visit in winter.
The cabin may do more than cool you. "I used to have arthritic knees," one visitor with a sense of humour quipped, "now I can’t feel them! Thanks for the cure!" Check 40belowfairbanks.com.
At the Aurora Ice Museum, visitors can see giant ice sculptures in the ice gallery, where the temperatures is about -7 C, belly up to the ice bar, and watch the ice-crystal chandeliers change colours to mimic the Northern Lights. Parkas are provided but visitors are asked to bring hats and gloves. See chenahotsprings.com.
To cool off and have fun too, try floating down a river in an inner tube. Jamaica’s Chukka Caribbean Adventures offers river-tubing excursions in jungle-like settings in several locales, while in Canada tubing is offered in several places (Cowichan River, B.C., Bow River, Alta., Miramichi River, N.B., to name a few).
Closer to home, try tubing on the Grand River at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. For an admission fee of $5.50 ($2.75 for kids) plus $27 per person for the tube, lifejacket and helmet (or bring your own equipment), you can float to your heart’s content. The journey down the river takes about 45 minutes with two sets of rapids (the first you can bypass, but not the second). Call ahead to check water levels are safe on the day you plan to visit. Weekends are busy, though that’s also when a shuttle bus runs from the equipment rental stall to the launch site (a 30-minute walk away). See Grand River Conservation Authority at grcacamping.ca.
SAUNA WITH A CHILL
Sparkling Hill Resort in B.C.’s Okanagan has what is billed as North America’s first cold sauna. KurSpa’s signature cryotherapy treatment involves spending up to three minutes in a room set at -110° C. Body parts that chill quickly are covered and an attendant constantly monitors the treatment. (They say it’s a "dry cold," which is suppose to make it more comfortable.) You may get a little more than a respite from the summer heat. There are claims a cold sauna treatment can alleviate pain, reduce and relieve skin irritation, improve joint and muscle function, and more. See sparklinghill.com.
Meandering through caves is a cool way to escape the heat. At Scenic Caves in Collingwood, one of the first points of interest is a doorway-like opening into a narrow cave where the temperature is a cool 4 C. A sign describes it as a "natural refrigerator" that was once used by early natives for food storage. Further along visitors encounter the "ice cave," where the temperature gradually drops as you descend. The snow and ice stay here until early fall, if not removed by visitors. Elsewhere on the 50-minute long, 1.6 km route through this popular attraction are trees that provide plenty of shady relief.
While at the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, you can also enjoy the breezes on the new Thunderbird Twin Zip Line. Unlike many tree top zip lines, this one allows riders to control their speed, allowing you to slow down to enjoy the spectacular views of Collingwood, the Blue Mountains and Georgian Bay. Check sceniccaves.com.
COOL IT DOWN UNDER
You’re guaranteed to be cool at an icebar. Surprisingly, many are open all year. One of the newest is Chill On Ice Lounge in Melbourne’s Southbank, where you’re given a ski jacket, gloves and ugg boots before entering the -10 C lounge. Once inside, you can sip Arctic-themed cocktails and fruity drinks, which are included with admission (about $30). The ambiance is enhanced by hi-tech lighting, a fan-forced "blizzard" and 50 tonnes of sculpted ice that includes a 3-metre-high ice shark and king Neptune on his throne. Check chillon.com.au.
When it’s sweltering on Park City, Utah’s Main St., one way to cool down but still stay outdoors is to head for higher ground. Chairlifts that take skiers up the mountains in winter, also bring them up for hiking, cycling and dining in the summer. (You can also drive up the mountain). One of my favourite meals there was at Deer Valley Resort’s Royal Street Cafe at Silver Lake Lodge. It’s mid-mountain at 2,468 metres above sea level. Among the delicious appetizers we sampled: The fresh Dungeness crab tower, shrimp spring rolls, yellowfin tuna tartare and garlic-herb-parmesan shoestring fries. See deervalley.com.