How We Travel Now: Micro-escapes

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Even before the pandemic, travellers were seeking short getaways close to home. Here’s why, plus three to try.

Four years ago, Chelsey Burnside and Cainan Querido, founders of Good Weekend Co., started an Instagram account to share the spots within a three-hour radius of Toronto that they most wanted to explore – everything from doughnut shops and waterfalls to Scandi-inspired Airbnbs. “We were finding that, especially within our 20-to-40-year-old demographic, people wanted to break up the rat race a bit, whether for mental-health reasons or just to relax and slow down,” says Querido.

November 18, 2020
Exterior view of Aux Box Muskoka's cubed one-room chalet in Huntsville, Ontario during the winter
Aux Box Muskoka – a modern one-room, hot tub-equipped chalet nestled in the forest near Huntsville, Ontario – is just one of the chic stays you will find via Good Weekend Co.   Photo: Melissa Payne Riel

They were definitely onto something. Even before Covid-19 sidelined international travel plans, Canadians were seeking short getaways closer to home – also known as micro-escapes. “We’re moving away from the two-week, use-up-all-your-vacation-days trip in favour of more frequent, bite-size travel,” Querido says. Eventually, they expanded Good Weekend Co. into a full-fledged online platform, one that curates places to eat, stay and experience to help Torontonians (and, coming soon, Vancouverites) design the perfect weekend away. Naturally, things really took off last March. “We’ve shifted everything toward availability, because the demand far exceeds the supply,” says Burnside (they’ve had up to 75 booking requests on their affiliate Airbnb listings in one day). And they’re not anticipating the typical winter dip: “Ever since the temperature dropped, we’ve been getting lots of requests for chalets with fireplaces and saunas.”

3 Micro-escapes to Make
This Winter

A king bed corner superior suite at the Seaside Hotel in North Vancouver
   Photo: Seaside Hotel

From Vancouver: Shipyards District

Take a staycation in North Vancouver’s revitalized Shipyards District, home to breweries, coffee shops, the contemporary Polygon Gallery and a 1,000-square-metre covered skating rink. At the neighbourhood’s Seaside Hotel, opened last fall, reclaimed wood accent walls in each of the 71 rooms bring the outdoors in, while floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views of Vancouver’s harbour. Hop on the SeaBus to arrive by water – it takes just 12 minutes from downtown – and discover this walkable district on foot, or on two wheels with an e-bike rental from Reckless Shipyards.

Artisan pizza with sides of corn and roasted carrots from Farm & Fire in Banff
   Photo: Farm & Fire by Pursuit
A floor to ceiling bookcase beside the staircase at Rundle Bar
   Photo: Farm & Fire by Pursuit
    Photo: Rundle Bar

From Calgary: Banff

You think you know Banff, but there’s lots that’s new in the mountain town. Check into Elk + Avenue Hotel, where Farm & Fire, which opened this past summer, serves flame-roasted dishes like flatbreads and Alberta flank steak. See the sights from a vintage-inspired, open-top vehicle with Open Top Touring on a 90-minute ride that makes stops at some of the area’s most photogenic lookouts. And don’t leave without visiting the newly renovated Rundle Bar at the Fairmont Banff Springs – the Canadian Afternoon Tea will see you snacking on Nova Scotia salmon finger sandwiches and Nanaimo bar opera cake as you look out at Cascade Mountain.

Mountain peaks behind a cathedral at Owl's Head in the Eastern Townships of Quebec
   Photo: Owl’s Head

From Montreal: Eastern Townships

Just an hour from Montreal, the Eastern Townships are an epicure’s paradise, teeming with wineries, breweries and cheesemakers. Add hiking and, later in the season, skiing to the itinerary by making Owl’s Head ski resort, with views of Lake Memphrémagog, your home base. The newly renovated Htl Mtn Haus, featuring 10 cozy suites, is located right above the main chalet, so you’re moments away from the five chairlifts and 50 runs (and on top of the Club Haus restaurant for a snack or cocktail). When you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, visit one, or all, of the 14 producers on the Township’s Cheesemakers Circuit: First stop from Owl’s Head is Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, just 20 minutes away, for some award-winning Bleu Bénédictin and smoked fontina.

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