Where Canadians should travel next: Travelzoo Best Bets 2023
At Travelzoo, we think of travel all year round, but as winter approaches, we start focusing on the best places for Canadians to go in the New Year. We're looking for destinations that offer great bang for the (Canadian) buck, a reliably terrific travel experience and that extra something special that makes 2023 the year to go. Here, in alphabetical order, we present the drool-worthy destinations that made the cut for Travelzoo Best Bets 2023.
If you haven't been to Amsterdam yet, 2023 is your time to go. Getting there has never been easier, with direct flights on KLM from Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. With world-famous art galleries and baroque architecture, not to mention a thriving bistro scene, dozens of parks and fun outings for kids, Amsterdam is an endlessly interesting place to spend your vacation.
We recommend visiting in winter, when costs are low and (if you're lucky) you can skate on a snow-dusted canal. Here are some of our picks for winter events.
- National Tulip Day on January 14 is the official start of Dutch tulip season, and to celebrate, visitors can pick tulips for free on the Museum Square. Note that these are greenhouse flowers; if you want to see the tulip fields in bloom, you're better off going in late March. (Check out this handy flower forecast for real-time updates.)
- The largest-ever exhibition of paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer can be viewed at the Rijksmuseum from Feb. 10 - June 4. Travelzoo tip: Admission to the exhibition is by time-specific ticket, so book yours as soon as you know your travel dates.
- There are literally hundreds of museums in Amsterdam, so to maximize discoveries while minimizing costs, consider visiting when they're free, during Holland's National Museum Week, March 31 to April 7. We'll put in a good word for Our House — a new museum of electronic music culture that should be on your list if you love dance music (or you're travelling with teenagers who do).
To learn more about Amsterdam's highlights (including the incredible food and the bounty of outdoor activities), read Travelzoo's report, Amsterdam: a kaleidoscope of art, activities and adventure. To book your flight, check out klm.ca.
Tropical paradises don't come more picture-perfect than Barbados, where palm trees sway against sunny skies and powder-white beaches lead to crystal-clear waters. This Caribbean jewel is an ideal getaway for families and couples alike, with hotels at every price point, as well as holiday homes and villas to rent. Here are some reasons we're bound for Barbados in 2023.
- There's something going on in Barbados every month, but if you're thinking of a winter trip, Holetown is a week-long party in St. James from February 12-19, showcasing culture, music and food. Around Easter, Oistins Fish Festival celebrates regional seafood, arts and crafts.
- Barbados prioritizes sustainability within its tourism industry, creating programs that allow visitors to participate in community projects such as tree-planting, turtle rescue and sea clean-up.
- You can't go wrong eating like a Bajan! The local cuisine takes cues from African, British, Portuguese, Indian, Indigenous and Creole cultures; and of course, there's all that local seafood (flying fish with coucou is the national dish). Local herbs, spices and crazy-good hot sauce flavour fresh ingredients to make for unforgettable meals.
Take one guess which state attracts the most visits from Canadians! It's not hard to see why: Florida has everything under the sun. Go to find bustling cities where culture, shopping and food intersect. Go for the great Florida outdoors where you can find yourself one-on-one with native wildlife. Go to discover activities to get the heart pumping, and quiet islands for romantic escapes. And then, of course, there are those blissful beaches.
It's always a good time to visit Florida, but here are some extra reasons to go in winter 2023:
- January's manatee festivals in Crystal River (Jan. 14-15) and Orange City (Jan. 28-29), where the winter manatee gatherings are a jumping-off-point for live entertainment, children's activities and general good times.
- The Florida State Fair from Feb. 9-20 in Tampa. Get your kicks at the largest midway in the U.S. and eat your fill of deep-fried fair specialties.
- The Florida Strawberry Festival from March 2-12 in Plant City, where an estimated three-quarters of the country's midwinter strawberries are grown. This 11-day classic fair celebrates all things agriculture, of course, but it's also famous for its twice-daily live entertainment.
Hong Kong has finally reopened to international tourists, and Canadians in particular have reason to go in 2023, with the relaunch of direct flights from Vancouver on Cathay Pacific. This is truly a place that needs to be seen to be believed — and there is so much to see, from unique architecture to historic temples, outdoor art and the sheer quantity of people in one of the most population-dense places in the world. Here's what we'd focus on first in a 2023 visit:
- The food. We suggest planning your visit around meals, making reservations where needed at some of the 70+ Michelin-starred restaurants or Instagram-favourite hot spots. Intersperse your multi-course fine dining with some of the best dim sum in the world, and Hong Kong's famous street food. Local specialties include pineapple buns, roast goose, wonton noodles and Hong Kong-style milk tea, but you'll find flavours to enjoy from around the world.
- The views. Sure, you've seen pictures, but nothing to compares to laying your eyes on the Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak. With six city harbourfront districts, you'll also have your pick of water views. Travelzoo tip: See both types of view with a ride on the Star Ferry, a low-cost passenger boat that operates between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
- The temples. Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and more — there are an estimated 600 temples, shrines and monasteries in Hong Kong, and no visit is complete without touring some big and small examples. Man Mo Temple is a famous Buddhist temple dating back to 1847, and its peaceful interior makes a welcome contrast with its busy downtown location. Chi Lin Nunnery is another downtown oasis, with traditional Tang dynasty design and a neigbouring park, Nan Lian Garden.
Read Hong Kong: expect the extraordinary for our expert opinion on what to do, see and eat.
Saint John, New Brunswick
Our Canadian pick for Travelzoo Best Bets 2023 is the country's oldest incorporated city, based on a royal charter of 1785. Saint John's story actually goes back further — the only city on the Bay of Fundy was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1604. This walkable history is visible in architectural gems like Loyalist House (ca. 1810), County Court (1825) and the City Market (1876, Canada's oldest continuing farmer's market). Saint John's waterfront is currently undergoing a huge revitalization, adding year-round patios, a skating rink and more. Meanwhile, there's much more to see and do:
- Discover nature. Rockwood Park is an urban oasis with over 55 kilometers of trails just perfect for hiking — or, in the winter, fat-tire biking and snowshoeing. (Rent equipment on site by Lily Lake Pavillion, where you can also lace up your skates for a spin.)
- Dine and drink. Uptown Saint John boasts over 80 restaurants and bars in a 10-block radius, and the city has been heralded by GQ and the Food Network for its creative cuisine and craft beer. Two to check out: Moosehead — the oldest independent brewery in Canada — debuts its latest concoctions at the Moosehead Small Batch Brewery, while vegan restaurant VEgolution has proved a hit with vegetarians and omnivores alike.
- Hit the road. Make Saint John your base and head out to walk the ocean floor at the St. Martins Sea Caves and visit the Reversing Falls Rapids, where the Bay of Fundy and the Saint John River collide. Take the epic drive through Fundy to reach the adorable fishing town of Alma, and check out the fishing town vibes and whale watching in St. Andrews by the Sea.
Ready to go? Check out Travelzoo's latest deals in Saint John and other Atlantic destinations.