For two and a half weeks in February, the world descended upon British Columbia for the 21st Winter Olympiad. But just because all the medals have been awarded doesn't mean the fun has stopped in Canada. From basking in the Olympics' glory by skiing and snowboarding on Cypress Mountain where the Olympians took their runs to enjoying a spin up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola to spending a day getting lost in the West Edmonton Mall, there is no shortage of fun to be had in Canada these days, both in British Columbia and Alberta.
The following list illustrates the top 10 things to do in Canada now that the Winter Olympics are over:
1. Ski and skate where the Olympians performed
Envision yourself as an Olympian skating in the Richmond Oval, where speed skating took place in the 2010 Games, skiing on Cypress Mountain or swimming in the Vancouver Olympic Centre, where the curling events went down. If you're feeling more like a tourist, head down to Jack Poole Plaza to take a picture in front of the Olympic Cauldron. You may not be the next Shaun White or Christine Nesbitt, but for a day you can at least pretend you are while taking on the same jumps and skating in the same rink as the Olympians performed.
2. Watch a hockey game at the site of the gold medal game
No hockey game anywhere in the immediate future is likely to drum up the same kind of excitement that the gold medal match between the US and Canada did. That contest featured two rivals with star-studded rosters going head to head for the gold in a game that lived up to its billing when Sidney Crosby netted the game-winner in overtime for the Canadians. It won't exactly be US-Canada, but the next best thing would be to take in a Vancouver Canucks game at GM Place, home of the Olympic hockey matches. The Canucks aren't so bad themselves, leading their division as of this writing, so why not see if a playoff hockey game could come close to Olympic intensity?
3. Take a stroll or carriage ride through Stanley Park
No trip to Vancouver would be complete without a visit to the world-renowned Stanley Park. With over 1,000 acres to enjoy, you can take a leisurely walk through nature, rollerblade by the water or maybe even take a romantic carriage ride through the park. The Pacific Northwest in general and Vancouver in specific is known for its immense beauty. Spending a few hours to enjoy this park should be a part of any British Columbia vacation.
4. Visit Butchart Gardens
When planning an escape to Victoria, Butchart Gardens is an essential part of any itinerary. Opening in 1904, this horticultural wonder features 55 acres of floral beauty. There are at least 150 things to do at Butchart Gardens, as this list suggests, with some of the top choices being enjoying afternoon tea or a romantic dinner, finding the "Jennie Butchart" rose in the Rose Garden or making a list of every flower from A-Z if you're particularly ambitious.
5. Ski Whistler
Whistler is known for having some of the best mountain resorts in all of North America, complete with awe-inspiring mountain ranges, championship golf courses and challenging hiking trails and bike paths. But when you think of Whistler one activity stands out above all the rest: skiing. Whistler Blackcomb is a must-go attraction for any serious skier. The Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort accumulates an average annual snowfall of over 400 inches, so a fresh batch of powder will always be awaiting your skis.
6. Take a ride on the Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola, open year-round, is billed as the ultimate mountaintop experience. The ride encompasses an eight-minute climb to the top of Sulphur Mountain in an enclosed four-passenger cabin. The view becomes more and more breathtaking as you journey to the top of the 2,281m to the Summit Upper Terminal, from which point you can partake in a variety of mountaintop activities. Of all the things to do in Banff, nowhere else can you find such spectacular views.
7. Ski Banff
So long as you are visiting Banff, it would be a travesty if you did not spend at least one day hitting the slopes. If you think skiing is a theme of this list it's because there are few places in the world with the kinds of slopes Canada features. That certainly includes the 7,700 acres of skiable terrain in Banff National Park, Canada's oldest national park that spans 6,641 square km. The perfectly groomed slopes of Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Mountain Resort and Ski Norquay will have you wishing you budgeted more than one day for skiing in Banff.
8. Take a relaxing Minnewanka Lake Cruise
If skiing isn't exactly your cup of tea, then you will be sure to have a good time taking a leisurely cruise down Lake Minnewanka. You can explore Banff National Park's largest lake on this one-hour interpretive cruise that delves into the rich history, folklore and geology of the area. If you're lucky, your guide will even tell the tale of the "water of the spirits" and give you a little history lesson on how the area was discovered.
9. Enjoy the Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience
Perhaps the most unique "experience" you can enjoy when visiting Canada is the Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience. In this excursion, passengers are taken on a 90-minute journey to the surface of the Athabasca Glacier. What, you've never been to a glacier before? Here's your chance. Envision yourself as a pre-historic human surviving the Ice Age or just relax and enjoy the wonder of passing through a modern-day icefield on the boundaries of Banff and Jasper National Parks in one of the freshest Banff sightseeing tours around.
10. Get lost in the West Edmonton Mall
Last but not least, you could spend a whole week in the famed West Edmonton Mall and still not experience all there is to do in the world's largest entertainment and shopping centre. The mall includes eight world-class attractions and more than 800 shops and services. Plus, where else can you find a water park inside of a mall? Even if shopping doesn't top your vacation list, there is plenty to do for everyone in this mall.
** Do you have a favorite Canadian vacation that we left off this list? Tell us in the comments!