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How to Take a Cheap Family Vacation to Canada

Photograph by Twenty20

For too many years, the Canadian dollar was valued higher than the U.S. dollar, making it a relatively expensive place to travel for Americans. That's changed recently (for the better, if you're in the U.S.) At last check, the Canadian dollar stood at $1.34 to $1 U.S.

So this is the perfect time to bundle up the kids and head north. If you've never been, you're in for a treat. Here are five of Canada's best destinations, where you'll find something for everyone in your family.

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1. Victoria and Vancouver

Photograph by WikiCommons

These two cities on the west coast of Canada are a treat for your bellies and wanderlust alike. Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria, BC, is a great weekend destination if you're looking for a quick escape from Vancouver or Seattle. Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum will keep little ones entertained, while parents will love afternoon tea at the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel. Once you are back in Vancouver, plan on eating your body weight in sushi, taking a run around Stanley Park and popping into the Vancouver Aquarium. The tram ride up Grouse Mountain is fun no matter the season, whether you want to ski, ice skate or do a little hiking.

2. Banff National Park

Photograph by WikiCommons

Have you seen all of the photos on Instagram of mountains surrounding a gorgeous cloudy blue lake? That's Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It's a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts these days. Not only was Banff Canada's first designated national park but also the third in the world to be categorized that way. Calgary can get you the closest if you are flying in, but the 500-mile drive up from Vancouver or Seattle could be an adventure all its own.

3. Montreal and Quebec City

Photograph by WikiCommons

Over in Quebec you can get a taste of Europe on the streets of Montreal and explore one of North America's premiere ice festivals in Quebec City this winter. Poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a staple on most menus. You will want to roam around the little streets for hours, as you hear French being spoken throughout the city. In Quebec City, the Carnaval de Quebec is a yearly winter festival, started in 1894, that brings out the kid in all of us. Dogsled races, canoe races, snow sports, ice sculptures, hot and frozen treats—even an ice hotel will make it OK that summer is still months away.

4. Toronto

Food, shopping and cultural activities in this city of neighborhoods could easily keep you entertained for the entire vacation, even in winter. Thanks to the exchange rate, it's all much cheaper. Grab sandwiches in St. Lawrence Market before you head up the CN Tower for views over the city. Take a day trip down to Niagra Falls or head into one of the neighborhoods, like Greektown, to rub elbows with the locals.

5. Prince Edward Island

Photograph by WikiCommons

Anne of Green Gable fans rejoice. You can now see where your favorite red-headed orphan hung out on Prince Edward Island for a tad less than before. Well, at least you can see the house that inspired L.M. Montgomery when she was writing her book. Anne fans aren't the only ones to hit the island though. Nature enthusiasts can cross-country ski, snowboard (a little—it's pretty flat on PEI) or ride tandem on snowmobiles. PEI is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

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Wherever you go in Canada in winter, but sure to bundle up. And at these exchange rates, it's OK to buy hardcore winter gear when you get there.

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