North America

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in North America.

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Take This Unique Tour And Visit All Mexican Treasures

Discover a selection of Mexico’s most culturally rich states, including its vibrant capital, and immerse yourself in mariachi, folklore and colonial cities before heading to the beautiful beaches of Punta Mita. Start in Mexico City for a glimpse into this modern, yet history- rich capital before travelling up to the ‘cradle of the Mexican Independence’ movement in Guanajuato.

Making your way towards the Pacific Coast, stop in Guadalajara to discover the folklore and traditions behind Mexican mariachi culture. After travelling the state of Jalisco, journey on to Punta Mita on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, where you can enjoy vistas of Riviera Nayarit.

 Highlights

  • Visit historical sites, such as The Zocalo in Mexico City, The National Museum of Anthropology, Xochimilco, Coyoacan and San Angel.
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    The Angel of Independence – Mexico City

  • Explore the stunning archaeological complex of Teotihuacan, famous for some of the world’s largest pyramidal tructures, the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.
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    Teotihuacan ruins

  • Discover the charms and traditions of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Guadalajara. Visit the Diego Rivera house and museum, dedicated to one of Mexico’s most famous and renowned muralists. Experience Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco and the home of mariachi, to learn all about  the history of Mexico’s musical tradition.
  • Relax on the beautiful beaches of Punta Mita, Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, or try watersports including snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing.
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    St Regis Punta Mita Resort

  • Spend a day in Puerto Vallarta and marvel at the sun-drenched colonial seaside town. Picturesque colonial and whitewashed buildings, cobblestone streets that wind in and out and a brilliant profusion of flowers and jungle-like fauna await.
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    Wonderful view of Puerto Vallarta

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Sailing Across a Splendid Forest & Mountains View – British Columbia

Growing up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, I found it easy to mock visitors from abroad. “This place,” they’d whisper. “I can go swimming in the morning, siding in the afternoon, then kayak home for dinner.” The views, the landscape, the wildlife—that was the refrain. Even in the cities, the scenery dominates. On any clear afternoon, look up from the streets of downtown Vancouver and you’ll see the snowcapped North Shore mountains glowing pink, an ostentatious show of natural beauty so commonplace that most residents barely take notice.

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Sailing the waters off Vancouver Island

There were times when visitors’ compliments sounded like admiration for a two-dimensional backdrop. But B.C. is a complex place, especially when it comes to its aboriginal communities. With a population of just more than 4.5 million, the province is home to around 230,000 aboriginal people from 203 different First Nations, who among them speak 34 languages and 60 dialects. Today, these groups live a life of ostensible equality, but centuries of oppression began a cycle of social devastation that hasn’t yet been fully resolved. In many aboriginal communities, poverty, homelessness and substance abuse still loom large.

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a floatplane docks in Prince Rupert

Indeed, residents of B.C. live in a province of uneasy contrasts. My village on the island was a haven of middle-class comfort, bordered by the poverty of a First Nations reserve. As a child, I walked down the stony beach and saw wealth and privilege give way to sudden hardship. This, I was told once, was my first experience of apartheid.

As an adult I spent more than is years living outside Canada, and from time to time I would catch a glimpse of the ancient cedars and airborne orcas used to advertise my home province. I wondered which B.C. the visitors were coming to see. Was it possible to engage with the region’s complexities and to approach its original residents in away that went beyond the superficial?

If I was asking that question of others, I realized, I first needed to answer it my self. So I planned atrip that took me from mid-Vancouver Island, the land of Snuneymuxw and Snaw-Naw-As First Nations, north to Port Hardy, then on to the remote, fog-shrouded islands of Haida Gwaii, home of the formidable Haida people, to find out whether it was possible for a visitor to take in B.C.’s nuanced human stories while still keeping those forests and snowcapped peaks in view.

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Sea lions gather on a rock near Windy Bay, off the coast of Haida Gwaii

Port Hardy, a seaside town of 4,000 people on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, is today known as a destination for storm- watchers, sport fishermen and hikers, though the place has retained a plaid-shirt solidity that reflects its past as a center for logging and mining. Outside the airport I was met by Mike Willie of Sea Wolf Adventures. Willie is a member of the Musg’amakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation, and he runs what he calls boat-based cultural tours across the waters into Kwakwaka’wakw territory. That includes the village of Alert Bay, the Namgis Burial Ground, with its totem poles, and the unpredictable waters nearby. He goes from Indian Channel up to Ralph, Fern, Goat and Crease Islands, and as far north as the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw territory, also known as the Great Bear Rainforest—a 65,000-square-kilometer nature reserve that is home to the elusive white “spirit” bear.

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I’d arranged to travel with Willie to the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, as well as to Village Island,  the site of an infamous potlatch—a feast and gifting ceremony through which First Nations chiefs would assert their status and territorial rights. {Potlatches were banned in 1884 by the Canadian government, on the grounds that they were contrary to “civilized values.”

The ban was repealed in 1951.) As we set off, Willie told me about the ceremony. “The potlatch was an opportunity to reaffirm who you were,” he said. “It was away to get through the harsh winters. We gathered: that was the medicine.”

Willie took me to my lodgings, a beachfront cabin at the Cluxewe Resort outside the logging town of Port McNeill. The resort was comfortable but definitely designed to propel visitors outdoors. (A note inside my room reminded guests to please refrain from gutting fish on the porch.) I spent the evening reading, accompanied by a soundtrack of waves sweeping the beach outside, and the next morning, I took a walk along the stretch of pebbly Pacific shore in front of my cabin. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the past, inhale the moisture in the air, smell the cedar. Up above, unhurried eagles swooped, exuding a proprietary air as they circled and fell and circled again.

As l walked, it struck me that this beach, like so many others, has been home to the Kwakwaka’wakw people for thousands of years. Canada, on the other hand, turns a mere 150 this year, and it seemed to be a good time to reflect on the nation’s progress. The contrasts and contradictions I found in B.C. are playing out on a national scale. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, set up as a response to the abuse inflicted on indigenous students in residential schools, concluded its findings in December 2015, attempting to redress the legacy with 94 Calls to Action. The Idle No More movement has been confronting the issues facing First Nations through a series of rallies and protests.

Meanwhile in B.C., tourism revenue is expected to double in the next 20 years, with the aboriginal sector playing a starring role. {This year it is forecast to bring in C$90 million.) Something is happening. This is not about “having a moment”; moments recede. This is a long slog for respect, an effort to change the way Canadians view the aboriginal community’s land and lives.

In preparation for our trip to Alert Bay, Willie drove me into Port McNeill for a breakfast of eggs and bacon at an unpretentious place called Tia’s Cafe. The town is small, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when Willie’s uncle Don wandered in. He told us there was excitement up in Kingcome, site of the family’s First Nations community. He said the oolies, or oolichans—smelt fish used for making oil—had arrived, and the villagers were out fishing last night.

“Sealions were spotted in the river,” Uncle Don said. “It’s strange to see them up that high.”

“And there’s excitement?” Willie asked.

Don raised an eyebrow. “Oh sure.”

Willie came to the guiding business in an organic way. In 2013, he started a water-taxi service between Alert Bay and neighboring Telegraph Cove, and en route he’d tell passengers about Kwakwaka’wakw life. Back then, the creaky remains of the notorious First Nations residential school in Alert Bay, which housed aboriginal children from 1929 to 1975, were still standing, and visitors were sometimes moved to tears when he told them about the abuses that took place there. But there was so much more: the totem-pole ceremony; the death protocol; family crests. You can look at a totem pole and appreciate the art, Willie explained to his passengers, but true appreciation comes from an understanding of its meaning. As he put it, “Wouldn’t you rather see B.C. through fourteen thousand years of history?”

Inside the U’mista Cultural Centre, in Alert Bay, which was set up to protect the heritage of the Kwakwaka’wakw community, I walked among the masks—a collection of painted wooden beaks and faces peering forth into the dimly lit exhibition room. In this culture, masks function not only as decoration but also as a form of historical and legal documentation. They also serve as tools of social instruction. Willie and I stopped in front of Gwalkwaml, or the Deaf Man, a one-eared mask with a downturned mouth and wisps of black horsehair. “It shows a head chief of a clan,” Willie explained. “He didn’t want to hold a potlatch, and the clansmen weren’t happy about that, so they killed him.” The mask, worn during retellings of the story, became a warning.

Back at the dock in Alert Bay, brightly colored houses huddled alongside boats ranging from weathered to freshly painted. As we left the harbor, Willie offered me pate of wild sockeye salmon from the Nimpkish River, and I ate as much as I could before we began cresting waves. Over the roar of the engine, I asked him why interacting with tourists was important. “We need to be vocal,” he said. “We need to talk about our evolution and bring people closer to our reality.” Oral-history cultures,

I was reminded, need audiences. “Every time we tell this truth,” he said, “it’s strengthened.”

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets: Central Valley, New York area, New York

Australians flock to the Big Apple to feel the pulse of its lifestyle, punctuated with cutting-edge design, Michel in-starred restaurants and inimitable street style. NYC is America’s undisputed fashion capital, home to famous brands and host to one of the world’s biggest fashion weeks.

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You can find many of its iconic brands, alongside international favourites, under the roof of Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, located one hour north of New York City. It’s renowned as the largest collection of designer outlets in the world, featuring more than 240 stores, including Armani, Burberry, Gucci and Prada. The centre has just completed a three-year multi-mi I lion-do liar redevelopment project. New luxury brands have joined the existing boutiques, including Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Dsquared2.

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Beauty and Bliss in the Rocky Mountains – Banff Retreat

The maple leaves are everywhere: red ones on white T-shirts, white ones on red T-shirts. They’re screen printed on bunting, chalked onto sidewalks, painted on faces, emblazoned on dog collars.

It is July 1 in Banff, Alberta, and residents are celebrating Canada Day as the country readies for the big bash in 2017, when Canada marks its 150th anniversary as a nation. The food stalls sell bison jerky and fruit juices and vegetable samosas.

Performers are attired in costumes from many lands. Singers belt out a universal message of love and harmony in various tongues. A stranger hands me a paper Canadian flag, and we make our way to the parade route along Banff Avenue. Many of us are from the U.S. or China or India, and we know only two words in the lyrics of the national anthem. But we all gamely chime in with “O Canada” at the right spots.

BANFF NATIONAL PARK LEFT: Banff Avenue is the Main Street in Banff and is filled with shops and cafés.  RIGHT: A portrait of Olivia Dorio, a parks employee, holding a bighorn sheep skull on Banff Avenue in Banff National Park.

BANFF NATIONAL PARK
LEFT: Banff Avenue is the Main Street in Banff and is filled with shops and cafés.
RIGHT: A portrait of Olivia Dorio, a parks employee, holding a bighorn sheep skull on Banff Avenue in Banff National Park.

From the red and the white all around me I look up and see blue and green. Banff is no ordinary small town. It sits in the middle of Canada’s first and arguably best national park, 2,500 square miles of Rocky Mountain splendor carpeted with pine and spruce trees and riddled with glaciers bleeding blue into clear lakes—a space big and bold enough to support huge numbers of wildlife, including wolves, elk, moose, cougars, lynxes, black bears, and grizzlies. A thought strikes me: People are puny; nature is the grand marshal of this parade.

A FEW MONTHS AGO I HAD AN ANXIETY ATTACK. Racing heart, tight chest, cold hands. My doctor told me my cortisol levels were elevated. He prescribed vitamins and supplements to counteract the effects of a limbic hijacking and urged me to “meditate and eat dark chocolate.” So, besides popping chill pills, I’m biting into a Godiva daily and listening to a playlist of nouveau spiritualism by pop sages of the modern age. Had somebody close to me died? Was I experiencing some newly surfaced childhood trauma? Did my husband leave me for his secretary? No, no, and well, yes, but that was 20 years ago. So what was going on? Something embarrassingly trivial: I’m a recent empty nester trying to write her next chapter.

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Lake Agnes Tea House, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901

If that diagnosis is clear, the remedy is not. Our bodies have minds of their own. I felt as if I’d pushed off from one shore and hadn’t quite reached the other. So I escaped to Canada, like a late-in-life runaway. I’m not unhappy. In fact, I had long anticipated this period after the kids went to college. But I live with a nagging question: What on Earth do I want?

Right now I want to be in Banff. To be outdoors, hike, make new friends, and try to lose the thoughts that cobweb my brain in my suburban home office outside of Washington, D.C. This corner of the Rockies seems to me exactly what my meditation podcasts were telling me to visualize, but here I don’t have to close my eyes. I can open them.

I JOIN MY NEW BANFF FRIENDS Sally and Alison one morning for their daily stroll with their dogs up 5,500-foot-high Tunnel Mountain, just east of downtown. We’re three 50-somethings in cropped yoga pants talking about nothing and everything.

From an overlook we can see the turrets and dormers of the area’s oldest and most famous lodging, the castle-on-a-hill Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Near the summit, Sally and Alison touch the trunk of a hr tree, its gnarled bark worn smooth by other hands. They touch for sick friends, for dogs long gone, for the fallen. I touch too, “for sisterhood,” I say.

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The high life comes naturally at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, where poolgoers are treated to their own private overlook of peak-flanked Bow Valley

I had a short unhappy marriage and a long unhappy divorce. It was a slog, marked by custody battles for our two sons, tears, and trips to the therapist. I marvel at those who do it without family and friends—I had both. Looking back on those turbulent years, I realize I had an enviable clarity of purpose. My goal was the well-being of my sons; everything else was secondary. Now I miss the focus that gave me such direction.

After the hike I meet up with Alexia McKinnon at the Banff Centre, an “arts and creativity incubator” at the base of Tunnel Mountain. McKinnon manages leadership programs for indigenous people. Hailing from the First Nations tribe of Champagne and Aishihik, up in Yukon Province, she tells me that Tunnel Mountain is also called Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. And, she adds, “according to the elders, it is a place of healing, especially for women.” Really? The mountain I just climbed with the gals and touched wood—that mountain? “No doubt you felt its energy,” she says.

The town of Banff, at the convergence of three valleys and two rivers, was a place of gathering and trade for native nations, including those of the Stoney Nakoda, the Blackfoot, and the Tsuutlna. Their influence continues to resonate.

When I ask McKinnon what wisdom today’s elders offer, she smiles.

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Have a Hipster Tour in Williamsburg – Brooklyn, New York

Start by having brunch or a mimosa at magnificent, old-world Hotel Delmano (82 Berry St), or try simple and delicious French fare at cozy Le Barricou (553 Grand St, tel: 718-782-7372).

Then head out to Bedford Avenue, the area’s main shopping drag, chockablock with clothing and antique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Start at Brooklyn Industries (no. 162), where messenger bags and cool T’s for both men and women are hot items, or poke through the well-edited selection of designer clothes made in NYC at In God We Trust (no. 148). One of the more interesting stores you’ll find is Catbird (no. 219), a tiny, funky shop specializing in fine delicate jewelry and interesting gift ideas. Get some vintage CDs and LPS at Earwax next door, or browse the crammed bookshelves at quirky Spoonbill and Sugartown a few doors down, then head next door to Verb Café to study hipsters in their natural environment. If you’re craving a snack, get a free cheese sample at the Bedford Gourmet Cheese Shop (no. 229).

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Bedford Gourmet Cheese Shop

When you’re ready for dinner, try the cozy and packed Diner (85 Broadway, tel: 718-486-3077), a favorite with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain for its grass-fed burger and organic new American cuisine. If the wait is too long, go a few blocks away to Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Ave, tel: 347-345-0446), a famously decadent oyster bar set in the 1920s that is dripping with romance and finely crafted cocktails. Then it’s time for what Brooklyn is really famous for these days: music

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Maison Premiere – New York

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Find Out Some Canada Experiences From Nat Geo Writers

National Geographies love affair with Canada has filled our magazines, books, website, and television channel for years. Now, five of Nation Geographic writers, photographers, and adventurers—just back from assignments in Canada —share the wild wonders, cities, culture, and cuisine that most inspired them. From urban streets to forest paths, there’s a Canada experience waiting for you.

 DOWNTOWN TO LAKESHORE

Provincial Park, Ontario

Provincial Park, Ontario

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Alastair Humphreys, National Geographic Adventurer

“This was a journey of remarkable contrasts. Trendy, exciting, incredibly international Toronto and then an easy two hours away, the Muskoka Lakes wilderness with beautiful cottages perfect for big family gatherings with plenty of activities. Then just another hour to tranquil Algonquin Provincial Park.”

FAVORITE EXPERIENCES:
“Coming from the U.K., I’m awestruck by the extraordinary scale of Canada’s wilderness. Algonquin Park has 2,000 lakes and the autumn colors were spectacular. Swimming, fishing, and stand-up paddleboarding at sunrise were special moments. Also loved biking through Toronto, especially the Kensington area, and sampling ethnic restaurants—even more multicultural than London!”

DON’T MISS:
“Canoeing the lakes and rivers of Algonquin Park is a must. My guide was so knowledgeable about the wildlife and wild landscape we paddled through.”

NORTHERN WILDERNESS

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Yukon River

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Robert Reid, National Geographic Digital Nomad and Travel Writer 

“The vast Yukon Territory is still an undiscovered secret, filled with stunning far north wilderness. I zeroed in on the area around the capital town of Whitehorse and found very different experiences without covering lots of distance.”

 FAVORITE EXPERIENCES:
“A thrilling canoe trip down the legendary, fast-moving Yukon River. Hiked to huge Kluane Lake. Biked up Grey Mountain. And explored the town of Whitehorse where Northern Lights paint the sky and murals paint the buildings—filled with dozens of art galleries and the Yukon River right downtown.”

DON’T MISS:
“The aerial tour over Kluane National Park’s 2,000 glaciers was amazing. Flying is the only way to truly appreciate the massive scale of raw rugged ice, mountain valleys, bright blue lakes, and floating icebergs.”

CITY LIGHTS TO HIKES

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Montreal, Quebec

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Eric Rosen, National Geographic Travel Writer

“Exploring Montreal’s vibrant food scene, biking through historic neighborhoods and along the Saint Lawrence River, and then having great wilderness adventures just outside the city really let me take the pulse of this extraordinary, invigorating area.”

FAVORITE EXPERIENCES:
“Phenomenal food halls and public markets reflect a robust restaurant culture fed by the renaissance of small local farms. Such a wealth of ethnic restaurants all across the city! A short day trip brought me to the Laurentians and beautiful hiking at Mont-Tremblant with forest paths, waterfalls, and spectacular panoramic views of the valley.”

DON’T MISS:
“Kayaking along the Lachine Canal will give you a fascinating eye-level look at the city’s 19th-century industrial past and imposing architecture.”

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UFO Festival – Roswell, New Mexico

LATE JUNE TO EARLY JULY.

SO THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!

If truckloads of alien paraphernalia and tens of thousands of alien-existence believers are anything to go by, then yes. The belief that there is something out there is alive and well at the world’s premier UFO festival.

ROSWELL IS WHERE IT ALL HAPPENED, RIGHT?

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Sure is – this is where the extra-terrestrial spaceship (aka military surveillance balloon) crash-landed in 1947. Don’t feel left out if you’re a believer in the balloon over the spaceship; the festival actively welcomes any sceptics out there who might need some convincing.

WITH A SHORTAGE OF ACTUAL ALIENS AND UFOS, WHAT ELSE HAS THE FESTIVAL GOT IN STORE?

Over the course of four days there are costume competitions, including one for your pet, if they enjoy getting their alien on too; an alien street parade; live musical entertainment; and guest speaking panels packed with authors who have been published on the topic of the moment – ETs and UFOs.

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Dia de los Muertos – Mexico City

1–2 NOVEMBER.

DEATH ISN’T USUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR A RAUCOUS PARTY.

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Try telling Mexico that. The widely observed and wildly popular ‘Day of the Dead’ festival is more about a joyous celebration of life than it is a subdued mourning of the dead.

HOW ON EARTH DID THIS COME ABOUT?

It’s believed that the modern Mexican celebrations originated in indigenous traditions and rituals over 3000 years old. By the late 20th century the customs had developed to honour the deaths of children on 1 November and adults on 2 November.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS AT THESE DEATHLY PARTIES?

Families will decorate the graves of their lost loves as well as set up altars in their homes with the deceased’s favourite food, drink, candles, flowers and incense in order to wish them well in the next world. The exuberant celebrations include dressing up in masks and painting faces. The ubiquitous skull motif has become a symbol of the festival, as it’s designed to remind us that no matter what we are in life, we are the same in death.