You know that the responsible thing to do with your tax refund is to use it to pay off your debts or to invest it. But let’s face it: you’ve worked hard and you deserve to treat yourself. Whether the amount you’re getting back from the tax man is a couple of hundred bucks or several thousand, it’s not hard to find some great places to spend it. Here are 20 ideas to get you started.
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1. A Fancy Restaurant
Finding a great restaurant near you isn’t that hard to do. Canada’s 100 Best has a handy list of the country’s top restaurants and you can search by region.
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2. A Drive-in Movie Theatre
Pack a picnic and some blankets and take a nostalgic trip. Drive-in movie theatres may not be as prolific as they used to be but as DriveinMovie.com shows, you’ll still find these pockets of magic throughout the country.
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3. A Music Festival
Music Festival Wizard has the low-down on some of the best Canadian music festivals to take a road trip to this summer. If your tax refund is a nice, big one, you may also want to consider travelling internationally to one of the really famous festivals like Glastonbury or Coachella just so you can say you were there.
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4. The Trans-Canada Highway
Download your favourite road-tripping tunes, get some friends together and hit the Trans-Canada Highway for the ultimate adventure. You can do parts of the route but why not try and cover all 8,030 km and fall in love with Canada all over again?
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5. A Biking Trail
Use your tax refund to buy a bicycle and start pedalling. Canada Trails has lots of information about the many places in the country where you can cycle. You’ll get to explore, stay in shape and reduce your carbon footprint all at the same time.
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6. A Golf Course
Canada has some excellent golf courses. If your tax refund isn’t big enough to pay for a stay at a golf resort, use it to rent some clubs and take lessons at a golf course near you. Golf Digest has a handy ranking of the 30 best courses in the country.
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7. The Cowboy Trail, Alberta
Located in the foothills of the Rockies in Alberta, the Cowboy Trail offers a host of adventures amid stunning scenery. Stay on a ranch and explore the countryside on horseback. You can also go hiking or kayaking.
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8. Calgary Stampede, Alberta
You haven’t lived if you haven’t attended The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth at least once. The Calgary Stampede is held in July.
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9. A Shakespeare Festival
Shakespeare festivals are held around the world in summer. In Canada, the most renowned is the Stratford Festival in Ontario, which draws big-name actors to perform in the Bard’s plays. Bard on the Beach in Vancouver is fun too or you can try one of the numerous festivals in the United States or head to the United Kingdom for the York international Shakespeare Festival.
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10. Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland and Labrador
Spring and early summer is the perfect time to go spot icebergs off Canada’s East Coast. Iceberg Alley stretches from the coast of Labrador to Newfoundland’s northeast coast and here you don’t even have to get into a boat to see the silent white giants drift past.
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11. Parksville, British Columbia
There are sand castles and then there are the masterpieces of the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville on Vancouver Island. The event takes place in July and August but you can enjoy Parksville’s sandy beaches any time of year.
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12. The Ski Slopes
You don’t have to wait until next winter to spend your tax refund on a skiing holiday. The Southern Hemisphere has some excellent ski resorts, particularly in Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, with ski season generally lasting from June to October.
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With WOW Air’s budget flights direct from Montreal and Toronto, Iceland has become a much more affordable destination for Canadians. The country is especially gorgeous in summer and the ultimate sightseeing adventure is to travel along the Ring Road around the entire island.
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14. An African Safari
Summer in Canada is also a good time to go view wildlife in Africa. While African safaris generally don’t come cheap, Travel + Leisure has some great tips on where and when to go spot the 'Big Five' animals without having to take out a second mortgage.
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15. Guanajuato Wine Route, Mexico
Thanks to a very favourable exchange rate, Mexico is currently one of the world’s cheapest destinations for Canadians to visit. For a break from the country’s many stunning beach resorts, head to the artists’ haven of San Miguel de Allende, where the Guanajuato Wine Route kicks off, to sample the region’s award-winning vintages.
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16. Merida, Mexico
Merida is the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state and simply oozes colonial charm. This relaxed city is a foodie paradise and also makes a great base from which to visit the Yucatan’s beaches, archaeological sites and cenotes.
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17. Memphis, Tennessee
Starting in May, Air Canada Express will offer daily flights from Toronto to the Birthplace of Rock ’n Roll. Memphis, Tennessee is a blues and BBQ mecca too and is one of the cheaper destinations to visit in the United States.
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18. Phoenix, Arizona
With direct flights from several Canadian cities, Phoenix, Arizona is easy to reach and surprisingly affordable. Spring is a good time to visit, while it’s sunny but not yet unbearably hot and you can go on a day trip to the Grand Canyon without the crowds.
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19. Quito, Ecuador
June to September is dry season in Ecuador’s capital, with cool and pleasant weather. Quito’s colonial centre was one of the first to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city is one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
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20. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is one of the cheapest Caribbean destinations to visit at the moment and has everything from tropical rainforests to deserts, mountains and palm-fringed beaches. Canadians can get great all-inclusive deals to the country’s resorts.