If you are heading to Canada for the roads less travelled and the sights less seen, then these adventures are for you. Canada is home to many famous attractions, from Niagara Falls to the CN Tower. However, if you dig a little deeper under the surface, Canada has a lot more to offer the traveller looking for adventure.
In 1959, in the midst of escalating Cold War tensions, then Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker commissioned The Diefenbunker. This large unground complex was created to house key members of the government and military in the event of a nuclear attack. Originally known under its top-secret guise Project Emergency Army Signals Establishment (EASE), The Diefenbunker was decommissioned in 1994 and opened to the public in 1997.
Head to The Diefenbunker to experience an abandoned part of Canada’s history, weave around the purposefully built rooms and imagine what could have been. If you are looking for a bit of fun The Diefenbunker is also home to the world’s largest escape room. Join the last tour of the day, take over a whole floor of the Diefenbunker and try to escape before your time runs out!
The Monkey’s Paw
Opened in 2006, The Monkey’s Paw is a haven for bibliophiles and history lovers. Named after a short horror story by W.W. JACOBS, The Monkey’s Paw is a bookshop unlike any other in the world, and quite easy to overlook to the unknown traveller.
The owner, Stephen Fowler picks his books carefully, ensuring they fit into one of these categories: the beautiful, the arcane, the macabre and the absurd. These ‘uncommon’ books can range from diverse topics like bread sculpture to sexual behaviour in ancient Peru.
The Monkey’s Paw is also home to its own, custom-made Biblio-Mat, a vending machine ready to dispense books to any who is brave enough to use it. Simply buy a token from the counter and insert it into the machine to see what unusual novel will be coming home with you as a memento of your time at The Monkey’s Paw.
Sewers of Toronto
For many, sewers aren’t a place you find yourself thinking about at all in day-to-day life, but the Toronto sewers are different. This elaborate maze of underground rivers is over 100 years old and is a popular destination for someone looking to explore the unexplored.
Adventurers should always stick to the number one rule, never enter the sewers in the rain. Locals and travellers will drop into the sewers to get an experience of the well preserved and expertly designed underbelly of Toronto. There are no tours, no sight-seeing buses and no big front doors; those looking to leap into this secret underworld do so at their own discretion through manholes, maintenance shafts and spillways.
The Enchanted Forest
Malakwa, British Columbia
Opened in the 1960s, The Enchanted Forest started as a retirement project for Doris and Ernest Needham. Walk the main trail through the grounds and enter a magical world filled with the homes of many fairy-tale creatures from the homes of Goldilocks and the Three Bears to the Three Little Pigs. This fascinating walk through the enchanted kingdom will bring back nostalgic memories for anyone, and there is something new around every corner.
Perfect for the nature lovers amongst us, The Enchanted Forest weaves through some of Canada’s most beautiful forestry. With over 350 folk-art figurines, the tallest tree house in British Columbia and much more, this is a great place to feel like a kid again whilst experiencing the beauty of Canada.
The Montreal Biosphere houses a museum completely dedicated to the environment. This large piece of architecture has an interesting history and is an iconic part of the Montreal skyline.
Designed by acclaimed American architect Buckminster Fuller in 1967 for the World Fair Exposition (Expo 67), the biosphere was originally intended to be a temporary resident of Parc Jean-Drapeau. Due to limitations however, they secured the dome and left it standing and open to the public.
In 1976 there was a welding accident which caused the acrylic covering to the sphere to catch on fire, going up in flames for roughly half an hour. After the fire, the acrylic casing was completely gone, and the steel frame was left blank, and subsequently remained closed for another 15 years.
In 1995 the dome reopened with its current purpose, to educate the public on environmental action. A great place to visit for anyone interested in this key piece of Montreal’s history, and seeing an incredible piece of architecture.
Habitat 67 came into being how all truly interesting things do, from a failed 1960s science experiment. Designed by Moshe Safdie, Habitat 67 is a test in modular architecture and often referred to as a brutalist masterpiece. The large, towering mass of homes are stark and feel like something out of a retro sci-fi movie.
Habitat 67 lies in the industrial area on the outskirts of Montreal. It can be seen from the old port but if you want to get inside you can book a guided tour and fully immerse yourself in this marvel of architecture.
Robert Stephen Lefebvre, real estate broker for Habitat 67 and resident of the complex spoke to us about why he is so passionate about it: “Habitat 67 is very special. It is unique in the World as it was never duplicated: it definitely constitutes a XXth (sic) architectural icon. After 26 years living here, I’m still fascinated by the building, with its large garden terraces and with its pilling of cubes that defies the laws of gravity. Habitat 67 is individual houses in a large complex.”
The world’s largest weathervane
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
If you are a lover of all things travel then head to the Yukon Transportation Museum and come face-to-face with the world’s largest weathervane, a decommissioned DC-3 aircraft. The project, started in 1977, was envisioned by the Yukon Flying Club who wanted to create one of Whitehorse’s most recognisable landmarks.
When preparing to display the aircraft they were faced with the realisation the strong Canadian winds would be a problem. A local welder convinced the team the best thing to do would be to mount her on a pivot, thus creating the world’s largest weather vane. Still in great condition after recent restoration work, she is ready to greet anyone who is passing by, constantly realigning to face into the wind.
Fairview Lawn Cemetery
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The story of the Titanic is one known around the world, but few people know the part Halifax played in the recovery of the victims. At Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax you can visit the final resting place of many of the ship’s victims. The graves, aligned to represent the bow of the ship, are all numbered in the order they were finally pulled from the water.
Fairview Lawn Cemetery is a well-preserved resting place and dedication to many of the Titanic’s victims, including a grave of one J. Dawson, thought to be the inspiration behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie, The Titanic. For anyone who is looking to learn more about this important part of history, Fairview Lawn Cemetery’s memorial site is highly recommended.
Vancouver Police Museum & Archives
Vancouver, British Columbia
If one of your guilty pleasures is sitting down and getting drawn into a good crime drama then the Vancouver Police Museum & Archives is for you. This independent museum, run by the Vancouver Police Historical Society, is an experience like no other. Walk through the history of Vancouver’s lesser-known past, with exhibits detailing the city’s most exciting criminal cases, unsolved murder mysteries and the fascinating history of the Vancouver police force.
Not for the faint-hearted, the feature exhibit named ‘True Crime’ shows the real evidence, real people and real stories behind the city’s most notorious crimes. You can also see a range of confiscated items including guns, weapons and drug paraphernalia.
For the truly fearless there is also an exhibit featuring real, preserved, human organs showing the effects of gun shots amongst other illnesses and ailments. Visiting the Vancouver Police Museum is like walking into a real-life cop show.
Try the Sourtoe Cocktail
Dawson City, Yukon
If you head to the Downtown Hotel you can try one of the world’s most unusual drinks – the Sourtoe Cocktail. In the 1920s miner Louie Liken is said to have had his frost-bitten toe amputated and then preserved in a jar of alcohol. Roughly 50 years later Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar and headed down to the Sourdough Saloon where he would put it in the drinks of those brave enough to take a sip, which is how the Sourtoe Cocktail was born.
The first toe was swallowed in a champagne-related accident whilst miner Garry Younger was trying to set a new record in 1980 for the most Sourtoe Cocktails drank in succession. Since then seven more toes have been donated to the bar. Toe number two was from an inoperable corn amputation. Toe three was the victim of frostbite, and then the victim of being accidentally swallowed. Toe four was donated anonymously and stolen from the hotel. Toes five and six were donated by one man in exchange for free drinks for his nurses. Toe seven was a diabetes-related amputation. Toe eight appeared in a jar of alcohol with the message: “Don’t wear open-toe sandals whilst mowing the lawn.”
Here’s something to add to your bar stock @scotchybob. Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail has become a Dawson City tradition and is exactly what is sounds like: an actual human toe that has been dehydrated and preserved in salt, used to garnish a drink of your choice. “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow—but the lips have gotta touch the toe.” #sourtoecocktail #lacktoesintolerant
There are no rules as to what drink you pair the Sourtoe with, there is a $2,500 fine for swallowing and only one rule: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow- but your lips must touch the toe.”
Now you are ready to uncover some of the best uncommon Canadian adventures available. Explore the roads less-travelled with a self-drive holiday and plan your own Canadian adventure.
Image Credits: Cory Doctorow, The City of Toronto, Samuel Duval, Adrien Blanc, City of Montreal- Archives de Montreal, Plind, Robert Stephen Lefebvre