7 unconventional outings for the weekend

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Updated: December 19, 2018

There’s nothing wrong with conventions; to truly innovate, you need a solid foundation to build from. That’s one of the guiding principles that makes the Volvo V60 special. Built with Volvo’s trademark attention to detail, the V60’s foundation is its best-in-class safety features. But there’s a twist: the V60 won’t just keep you safe—it will look great doing it. With a sleek Scandinavian design, its Volvo’s new take on the traditional wagon.

In some ways, the V60 is a lot like the best parts of Canada. At first glance, Canada is relatively traditional, and when it comes to things to do, our minds tend to go to the obvious. Cottage road trips to the family lake are a tradition for a reason. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find more than a few unconventional outings to make your weekend special.

These are some of our favourites.

Hôtel de Glace, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, QC

The only hotel on the continent that’s completely rebuilt and redesigned every year, Québec’s ice hotel is a cold-weather resort unlike any. Whether you’re booking a room for the weekend or just stopping by for a quick tour and a cocktail, the ice hotel is one of the coolest experiences you can have—and we mean that literally. While its size and shape vary from year to year, the hotel typically takes about 30,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice to build.

Ottawa Jail Hostel

As law-abiding citizens, we strive to stay out of prison. But as tourists, we recommend you make an exception for the Ottawa Jail Hostel. When the Carleton County Gaol closed in 1972, it was bought and converted into one of the more unique lodgings in the country. If you feel uneasy staying overnight, the hostel does have tours of its preserved death row and a newly installed bar, but anyone looking for an eerie experience should consider an overnight stay. The old Ottawa jail’s reputation wasn’t a great one—prisoners were notoriously overstuffed and mistreated—and its regular hangings (including the infamous execution of assassin Patrick J. Whelan) have made it a popular spot for paranormal enthusiasts.

Insectarium of Montreal

Insects can be creepy. They can even be dangerous. But they’re also a fascinating part of our ecosystem, and frankly, they often get a bad rap. If you agree, then the Insectarium of Montreal is a must-visit. One of the biggest bug museums in the world, the Insectarium wants to demystify insects, and it does so with both live and preserved specimens. Even the most squeamish visitors will love its beehives, and don’t worry—any bugs that bite can’t get to you. It’s a safe and unique experience, and a great way to appreciate some of the incredible life on Earth that doesn’t always get its due.

Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Bay, B.C.

These aren’t the treehouses you pined for as a child. Found in the rainforest near Vancouver Island’s Qualicum Bay, the Free Spirit Spheres are round wood- and fibreglass-constructed treehouses that hang high from the forest’s tall conifer trees, and campers can rent them for a once-in-a-lifetime perspective on nature. While they do sway in the wind, they’re carefully engineered and completely safe, and they make for an experience that’s halfway between bohemian and bear.

Oak Island Money Pit, Nova Scotia

The Oak Island Money Pit is the stuff of legend. The story has changed over time, but it started with a theory: somewhere on the island was the buried treasure of 17th-century pirate Captain Kidd. Treasure hunters have been digging ever since. To date, the pit’s been burrowed deeper than 190 feet, and the returns haven’t been promising. But still, people forge on, and there have been enough hints that the fortune exists to keep people hopeful. Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a pirate’s bounty?

Boblo Island Abandoned Amusement Park, Amherstburg, Ontario

Opened in 1898 and shuttered in 1993, this Victorian amusement park has long been abandoned, and has largely been torn down to make way for luxury housing. Still, its skeleton remains, and while you might need to go by boat for the best views (much of the remnants sit on private property), it’s still a sight to see. Once considered a veritable rival to Coney Island and a mainstay for Ontarians and Detroiters alike, it’s jarring to see its grown over and rusted attractions tucked between the houses of a gated community.

VanDusen Garden’s Elizabethan Hedge Maze

Found in Vancouver’s beautiful VanDusen Botanical Gardens, this Elizabethan Hedge Maze is one of the few of its kind left, And while its size isn’t exactly staggering, its combination of beautiful greenery and twisting turns should keep you occupied. Once you’ve conquered the maze, the gardens themselves feature 55 acres of expertly manicured plant life for the perfect afternoon stroll.