Where shall we go in September?

Highway and mountains in Banff National Park, one of my suggestions of where to go in SeptemberIt’s been a while since I did one of these “where to go when” posts, so here are the ideas floating around in my brain for ideal September destinations.

Canada: Go Northwest

Besides my hometown of Calgary (which is in fine form in September), Banff, Vancouver and Yellowknife are also good bets this time of year. In fact, it’s easy to hop over to any or all of them from Calgary – even Yellowknife is only a 2.5 hour flight from YYC. All three places will still have lingering warm weather, minus the peak summer crowds.

Banff

The September dip in crowds is especially noticeable in Banff, since the small town quickly becomes packed when the summer tour buses unload. Visit Taxi Mike’s for tips on what to see, do and eat in Banff. He’s local and keeps his listings current, including a roundup of free things to do.

If you’ve never been to Banff before, the Sulphur Mountain Gondola is well worth the price tag for the panoramic views of the entire valley. For more vistas, take one of these scenic drives, and go for at least one hike, possibly setting out on one of these trails recommended by Hiking with Barry.  Another bonus of visiting at this time is seeing the larch trees turn golden for a brief few weeks  Larch Valley is a a beautiful trail for seeing them, but don’t expect solitude.  Always bring layers in case of sudden weather changes and heed wildlife safety advice.

Vancouver

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Vancouver, so I’m planning a fall return to this most fetching of west coast cities. Although first-timers should definitely bike or walk the Stanley Park Sea Wall, stroll down Robson Street and chill on the lovely Kits Beach, I plan to eat, drink and shop my way through a few other happening neighbourhoods.

street scene in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood

Yaletown and Gastown both have tempting boutiques and and restaurants. The Main Street area has those too, with the added bonus of plentiful craft beer establishments. I might also zip over to see the towering 2010 Olympic Cauldron in Coal Harbour. While in the neighbourhood, I could shop for tea at TWG and have a drink on one of the patios overlooking the harbour. Oh, and I’d love to join one of these food walking tours too. (Update: Vancouver trip report here.)

Yellowknife

September in Yellowknife offers an opportunity to see the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, without the cold. There is a longer viewing season over the winter (December to March), but the month of September is another window where beautiful light displays often dance in the night sky. Astronomy North helps you track the aurora forecast.

view of Yellowknife Bay and houseboats around Joliffe Island from the Bush Pilots Monument

This northern town is hipper than you might think, as I discovered last year during a whirlwind summer visit. We found street art, creative food, craft beer, music festivals, friendly locals and quirky gold rush history. We also enjoyed the great outdoors in around Yellowknife – hiking through the unique tundra landscape and kayaking on Great Slave Lake.

Europe: Regal Austrian capital or dreamy Greek islands

It’s possible to enjoy Europe in the peak summer months, but crowds, lineups, prices and temperatures all drop to more bearable levels if you can visit in a shoulder season.

Vienna

Vienna’s elegant cafes, wide boulevards, baroque palaces and museums of old masterpieces all contribute to its regal character. The wienershnitzel is also to die for – I had never before and have not since tasted such a light and delicate piece of fried meat that so magically melted in the mouth. If there were vegetables on the plate, I certainly don’t remember them.

vienna pedestriatn street

My friend Claudine, who recently returned from the city, came back with some suggestions for my next visit: use the free Citybike system to get around and sign up for a coffeehouse conversation with a local. To add some countryside into the equation, she also recommends a day trip to the Benedictine monastery of Melk Abbey.

Greek Islands

Even though only 227 of Greece’s 6,000 islands are inhabited, it’s still impossible to choose between them, so you have to visit at least two or three. My favourite was dramatic Santorini with it’s steep cliffs of blue-domed, whitewashed buildings and its volcanic black sand beaches. Riding a rented scooter around lush Corfu and exploring its UNESCO-protected old town was a close second.

Village of Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece, perched on a clifftop

Next time I’ll probably skip glitzy, clubby Mykonos for some lower-key islands. This Greek island guide might help with the choice. I’m leaning towards the relaxed small-town charms of Hydra, the ancient ruins of Rhodes, the food paradise of Crete and the miles of sandy beaches on Naxos. Preferably all of the above.

Until next time,

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