Value Awards

Since our first issue, up! magazine has celebrated the most satisfying of travel experiences: knowing your money was well spent. Whether finding a half-pound fish taco in Mexico for a buck or spoiling yourself with a luxurious hotel stay, we know it’s not about how much it costs, but how worth it the experience is.

We call it value, and it permeates throughout every story and every tip. 

2010 Value Awards winners and runners-up

For more than three years, we’ve been asking you to recognize the great value you find on the road. And, in each July issue, we reveal the winners that thousands of you picked, in categories ranging from outdoor attractions to restaurants.

And as we do every year, we reward you for sharing great value. This year we gave away two luxury vacations to Jamaica and Las Vegas from WestJet Vacations.

Below are the 2010 Value Awards winners and runners-up, as chosen by you:

Top-voted Attraction in Canada

   West Edmonton Mall

[ 8882 170 St., Edmonton, Alberta; 780-444-5330 ]

Canadians love to skate, bowl and bungee jump. They love paralyzing roller-coaster flips, show-boating sea lions and shopping. What they don’t love is costly parking and frostbite. So for the northernmost Canadian metropolis, it just made sense to turn 48 city blocks into an indoor cornucopia with 20,000 parking stalls, 800 stores, 110 eateries, 21 amusement park rides and the world’s biggest indoor wave pool. Of course being Canadian meant sharing, so 28 million visitors a year enjoy West Edmonton Mall’s bounty, popping one off at the Wild West Shooting Centre and seeing Public Enemy at the Edmonton Event Centre in the same hour; leaving nightclub-packed Bourbon Street for Chinatown with a few steps onto an escalator; and winning big at the Palace Casino and blowing it all on sweet, sticky crépes. —Omar Mouallem



The Butchart Gardens

800 Benvenuto Ave. Victoria; 866-652-4422

Granville Island

West 2nd Ave. & Anderson Street, Vancouver

Vancouver Aquarium

845 Avison Way, Vancouver; 604-659-3474


Top-voted Restaurant in Canada

  Atlas Café

250 Sixth St., Courtenay, B.C.; 250-338-9838 ]

Back when Comox Valley cuisine was about as creative as a corned beef sandwich, restaurateurs Trent McIntyre and Sandra Viney arrived to open the Atlas Café. The goal was simple: offer up a delicious menu reflecting the seaside farming character of Vancouver Island, but infuse it with a hint of international flavour. They then paired that with top-shelf service in a casual, warm space. It’s a winning formula. Atlas celebrated its 15th anniversary this year and continues to set the standard for dining in the Comox Valley. Starters like the warm roasted beet salad with goat cheese basil terrine are only outdone by entrées like the garlic- and herb-marinated lamb sirloin, or fish tacos featuring seasonal catches and fruit salsa. A fresh menu reflects the local abundance, whether it’s Baynes Sound oysters or farm-raised chicken. —Andrew Findlay


The Keg Steakhouse & Bar

Multiple Locations, Vancouver

Diner Deluxe

804 Edmonton Trail N.E., Calgary; 403-276-5499

Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine

Multiple Locations, Vancouver



Top-voted Outdoor Attraction in Canada

   Grouse Mountain

[ 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, B.C.; 604-984-0661 ]

Often overlooked by Whistler-bound visitors, one of Greater Vancouver’s urban mountains is best known locally for “The Grind,” a gruelling 2.9-km hike up the south face that has officially earned the moniker of “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” and warrants a giant plate of nachos upon summiting. But once you’re up, you’ve got some decisions to make before coming back down. In winter, day or night, you can strap on your board or skis and bomb down 200 acres of downhill terrain—including 26 runs and two terrain parks—or opt for skating, snowshoeing or sleigh rides. In warmer months, ascend North America’s largest aerial tram system ($40 general admission) to experience endangered wildlife, scenic chairlift rides, ziplining, paragliding and epic hikes leading to unobstructed views of the city. —Nicole Pointon



Sun Peaks Resort

1280 Alpine Rd., Kamloops, B.C.; 800-807-3257

Stanley Park

2099 Beach Ave., Vancouver, B.C.; 604-681-6728

Capilano Suspension Bridge

3735 Capilano Rd., North Vancouver, B.C.; 604-985-7474


Top-voted Hotel in Canada

   Rocking R Guest Ranch

[ RR 1, Strathmore, Alberta; 866-746-5075 ]


After a few days at the bustling Calgary Stampede, you might crave a little peace on the Prairies. Head to Strathmore, about 50 km east of Calgary, to the Rocking R Guest Ranch and you’ll find a piece of heaven. Marvin and Terri Kinsman have created a place that perfectly matches the rugged beauty that surrounds it. The 750-sq.-ft. bunkhouse cabin fuses rustic luxury with tasteful and functional décor, while the Hitch’n Post cabin is a cozy, comfortable haven for two. As the glow of the wood stove matches the setting sun over Eagle Lake, your connection with the sprawling plains and foothills will be complete. —Kent St. John


Fantasyland Hotel

17700 87th Ave., Edmonton, AB; 780-444-3000

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

1 rue des Carrières, Quebec City, QC; 418-692-3861

The Fairmont Empress

721 Government St., Victoria, BC; 250-384-8111



Top-voted Spa in Canada

   Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

[ 4330 Island Highway S., Courtenay, B.C.; 800-663-7929 ]

With massage tables within earshot of the lapping waves of the Strait of Georgia on Vancouver Island’s east coast, few spas in the country are as authentic as this local and international favourite. The comprehensive therapies are punctuated by the proprietary Pacific Mist Hydropath, an hour-long, eight-stage treatment that includes mineral pools, massaging waterfalls, a seaweed scrub and a steam cave, plus unlimited spa access to the driftwood and natural stone-adorned grounds for just $60. The ubiquitous bald eagles soaring overhead are gratis. The spa also features several high-end product lines like Seaflora and includes concoctions harvested from the local waters. But don’t just stop at the spa. A room at the resort (from $170) is the perfect place to slip out of your robe and slip under the dense thread count of your comforter. —Nicole Pointon



Spa Utopia & Salon

1001­–999 Canada Pl., Vancouver; 604-641-1351

Scandinave Spa

8010 Mons Rd., Whistler, BC; 604-935-2424

Le Nordik

16 Nordik Rd., Ottawa, ON; 866-575-3700



Top-voted Event in Canada


Pace yourself! You may not get to all 44 stops that make Winnipeg’s Folklorama the world’s largest multicultural festival of its kind, but with a little planning and a lot of willpower, you can experience a good chunk of the planet in just one city. Chart a course to visit three pavilions (admission $6 each—food, beverage and souvenirs not included) per night over the two-week event. Have Chicken Dracula at the Romanian Pavilion, and enjoy the traditional dance show. Discover that Serbia is one of  the world’s largest exporters of raspberries, and tuck into a stew of barbecued pork, cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers. Sample fried plantains at the African pavilion, and get your blood pumping with the African Spirit dance. —Shel Zolkewich



Halifax International Busker Festival

Halifax Waterfront and Spring Garden Rd., Halifax, NS; 902-471-0550

Calgary Stampede

1410 Olympic Way S.E., Calgary, AB; 800-661-1260

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Rue Sainte Catherine and boulevard Maisonneuve; 888-515-0515



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Top-voted Hotel in the U.S.


[ 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nevada; 888-987-6667 ]


Las Vegas’ Bellagio is an award-winning hedonistic headquarters of nearly 4,000 rooms, spiced with colourful indoor gardens, exquisite ceiling art and service so good, you’d swear the staff was putting you on. During the day, soak in Bellagio’s Mediterranean-style courtyard pool, which is relatively free of the Vegas party crowd. In the evening, eat at one of the hotel’s two AAA Five-Diamond restaurants, Picasso and Le Cirque, but grab dessert at Café Gelato, a popular on-site late-night eatery with Italian ice cream and pastries. Splurge on tickets for Cirque du Soleil’s O, a water-based, acrobatic show performed at the resort. Or opt for the famous Fountains of Bellagio, which “perform” nightly, before settling into a comfortable suite overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. —JoAnna Haugen


MGM Grand Hotel & Casino 

3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV;


Treasure Island Hotel and Casino

3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV;


Excalibur; Las Vegas

3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV;




Top-voted Nightlife in the U.S.

   The Las Vegas Strip

[ Las Vegas Blvd., from Russell Rd. to Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV ]

The Las Vegas Strip wakes up when the sun goes down. Stop by a café, pub or buffet for late-night dining before catching a show from the dozens on offer, which range from laugh-out-loud comic Carrot Top to the cult-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. DJs heat up the dance floors at nightclubs every night of the week; TAO at The Venetian and PURE at Caesars Palace are among the most popular. Find cover bands and the real deals at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, and duelling pianos at Paris, The Palazzo and New York, New York. —JoAnna Haugen


HIGH at the Hotel Erwin

1697 Pacific Ave., Los Angeles; 310-452-1111


The Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco; 415-876-6121


Top of the Strand at Strand hotel

33 W. 37th St., New York City; 646-368-6385


Top-voted Attraction in the U.S.

   Walt Disney World Resort

[ Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida; 407-939-4636 ]

At Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, visitors never have to decide between quality and quantity. With 104 square kilometres of possibilities—including four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), 24 resorts, five golf courses and two full-service spas—options abound and strategic planning is vital to experience it all, even during a week-long holiday. Throughout your mission, you can bet the staff (called “cast members” ) and street performers will help you along—whether spending a few extra minutes with your child on a sweaty summer afternoon, adding one more spoonful of sprinkles to a sundae, or something as simple as walking you to the roller-coaster you’re trying to find. It’s the reason we keep coming back. —Andy Schrader



Cirque du Soleil

Various venues in Las Vegas, NV

Maui Ocean Center

192 Ma’alaea Rd., Maui, HI;


Freemont Street Experience

Main St. and Fourth St., Las Vegas, NV;


Top-voted Restaurant in the U.S.

   Mama’s Fish House Restaurant

[ 799 Poho Pl., Paia, Hawaii; 808-579-8488 ]

When you consider that the fish at Hawaii’s most-lauded seafood restaurant is often caught the same day it’s served, that the name of the fisherman is right there on the menu (which changes every day), and that the greens are grown less than 10 km away in the maintenance manager’s garden fertilized by the kitchen’s scraps, the US$48 mahi mahi entrée starts looking like a bargain. And at Mama’s, a fish dish is never what you expect—often stuffed full with lobster, crab and onions, then baked to nuanced local perfection. To make it feel like an outright bargain, be sure to reserve an oceanview table in advance—and sear it into your consciousness for eternity with a twilight seating. —Nicole Pointon



Battista’s Hole in the Wall

4041 Audrie St., Las Vegas, NV; 702-732-1424


The Cheesecake Factory

Las Vegas; 3500 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 750 S. Rampart Blvd. 702-792-6888


Manhattan in the Desert

2665 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA; 760-322-3354



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Top-Voted Attraction in Mexico

   Chichen Itza

[ 200 km southwest of Cancun, Yucatan Peninsula ]

Amid the choking jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula, ancient history is immersive and interactive. Millennia-old limestone sentinels rise out of the verdant canopy, none more impressive than those at Chichen Itza, the site recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and the iconic symbol of the Mundo Maya. Flashes of ancient brilliance are everywhere: the Kukulcan Pyramid’s 365 steps, one for every day of the year, or how a clap or yell is echoed back 13 times in the ball court, still true to the Mayans’ reverence for their lucky numeral. With admission costing less than US$10 to explore the site’s 15 square kilometres, goosebumps don’t come any cheaper. —Tom Gierasimczuk




Carr. Chetumal-Puerto Juarez, km 282, Solidaridad, Cancun; 998-883-0470

Cenote of Dzitnup

7 km southwest of Valladolid, Yucatan, Cancun; 999-930-3767

Playa del Amor

Cabo San Lucas; Los Cabos; 866-567-2226

Top-voted Hotel in Mexico

   Gran Bahía Príncipe Tulum

[ Km 250, Playa Aventuras, Akuma, Mexico ]

Located in the cradle of Maya civilization, the Gran Bahía Príncipe Tulum offers the most modern and luxurious amenities amid one of the oldest civilizations in the world. With the ancient Maya ruins of Tulum on one side and the famous Playa del Carmen beach on the other, you’ll find yourself drawn to the world-class restaurants and elegant rooms in between. Finding your customized source of entertainment is easy, thanks to a lush golf course, an exclusive nightclub and a Maya-inspired spa, among other delights. A variety of sports including windsurfing, snorkelling and sailing are on offer, as well as a full gym and yoga and aerobics classes. But first you’ll have to get past the open bar. —Elizabeth Seward


El Cid Resorts

Multiple locations in Mazatlan; 866-306-6113

Barceló Maya Beach

Chetumal-Puerto Juárez km 266.3, Cancun; 800-227-2356


Royal Solaris Los Cabos

Blvd. San Jose, Lote 10, San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas; 877-270-0440

Top-voted Spa in Mexico

   Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa

[ East of Xelha, Cancun; 866-685-8524 ]

If being pampered alongside crashing waves is something you regularly dream about, the Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa is a must. The property’s lush tropical spa was designed around the area’s flora and fauna, and the buildings blend right into the natural landscape of the Mayan Riviera. The massive spa offers a full menu of body and facial treatments by expert therapists. Five swimming pools with Jacuzzis pepper the grounds for those eager to relax under the glorious sun. This jewel on the Gulf of Mexico is close enough to Cancun for international travel, but far enough away for some peace and quiet. —Elizabeth Seward


One&Only Palmilla

Km 7.5 Ctra. Transpeninsular, San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas; 624-146-7000

Royal Spa at Royal Hideaway Playacar

Lote Hotelero #6 Fracc. Playacar Playa del Carmen, Cancun; 984-873-4500


Las Ventanas al Paraiso 

Km 19.5 Carr. Transpeninsular, Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas; 624-144-2800

Top-voted Restaurant in Mexico

   Café Roma

[ Encino 287, Col. Centro, Puerto Vallarta; 322-222-7378 ]

A few blocks removed from the buzzing beachfront strip, there’s a place where the thin-crust pizza is tasty, the people are warm and the beer is so cold, the bottles practically stick to your lips. Welcome to Café Roma, the dream incarnate of a Manitoba expat known locally as “Señor Fox,” on account of his uncanny resemblance to the former Mexican president, Vicente Fox Quesada. If you feel at home here, it’s probably because you’re being treated like a houseguest. “Fox” (no one ever calls him by his real name) and his wife, Cheryl, a Georgia Peach who walked into the joint three years ago and charmed the pants off the owner, live in the apartment at the back and consider Roma their family room. The philosophy is evident in the notably immaculate washrooms, the complimentary phone calls to anywhere in North America and the raucous karaoke nights that echo down the street. —Shelley Arnsch



Agua at One&Only Palmilla

Km 7.5 Ctra. Transpeninsular, San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas; 624-146-7000

La Sirena Gorda

Paseo del Pescador, Zihuatanejo; 755-554-2687

La Casa Que Canta

Camino Escenico at Playa La Ropa, Zihuatanejo; 755-555-7000


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Top-voted Attraction in the Caribbean

   Atlantis Paradise Island

[ 1 Casino Dr., Nassau, Bahamas; 888-877-7525 ]

If Las Vegas was in the Caribbean, Atlantis Resort would be its showstopper. A mega-resort with 21 restaurants, an enormous casino and a luxury spa, it’s no wonder some folks ignore the rest of the islands during their “Bahamas” vacation. But the feather in Atlantis’ sparkly cap has got to be its massive 141-acre water park, which includes stratospheric waterslides, a lazy river for leisurely floating and 10 outdoor pools. Guests of Atlantis use the sprawling water world gratis, but outsiders can enjoy the facilities with a coveted (seriously, they go quick) day pass (pricey, but worth it at US$110 for adults and US$80 for children). —Allison LeBlanc



Dunn’s River Falls & Park

Montego Bay, Jamaica; 876-974-5944

Old Havana

Varadero, Cuba; 416-362-0700;

Harrison’s Cave

Allen View, Barbados; 246-417-3700


Top-voted Restaurant in the Caribbean

   The Poop Deck

[ The Poop Deck Yacht Haven, East Bay Street, Nassau, Bahamas; 242-393-8175 ]

Worst restaurant name ever? Maybe, but any giggles about this popular Nassau eatery’s moniker will be muffled the moment you stuff your face with its delicious food. You want to talk about fresh? The catch for The Poop Deck’s signature dishes—grouper, conch and whole hog snapper, among others—is brought in daily from the nearby docks and cooked exactly how you want it. For such fresh fare, entrées are reasonably priced, starting from US$23.75. The Poop Deck’s second location is a more upscale beachside spot in Sandyport, but for beautiful waterfront views while you dine, head to the original at the charming Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. —Allison LeBlanc



Pineapple Pete

Welfare Rd. #56, St. Martin/St. Maarten; 599-544-6030

The Sopranos Piano Bar

Maho Beach Resort, St. Maarten; 599-545-2485

Da Conch Shack

Blue Hills Road, Turks & Caicos; 649-946-8877


Top-voted Hotel in the Caribbean

   Gran Bahía Príncipe Punta Cana

[ Bávero, Dominican Republic; 888-774-0040 ]

Once upon a time, a five-star all-inclusive resort was an oxymoron. That was until the Dominican Republic’s Gran Bahía Príncipe Punta Cana opened. You check in and hit the beach—a half-kilometre of alabaster sand and neon waters splattered with dinghies sporting tropical fish-coloured sails. You pass the free-form pool and the thatched-roof beach bar. Here, royal palms share guard duty with huts. Hibiscus scents the lush gardens, poincianas dressed lavishly as debutantes dance in the breezes. Your room is a junior suite in a pumpkin-painted, low-lying colonial building. Dinner tonight is Italian; Japanese tomorrow; seafood the day after. There are seven restaurants, so you do the math. Your significant other scans the welcome brochure in delight: spa, Pueblo Principe shopping, merengue lessons. One of you notes the Nick Price designed golf course five minutes away. Some resorts are pieds-á-terre for exploring the destination. Others, like this Gran Bahía Príncipe, are their own destination. —Mark Stevens


Gran Bahía Príncipe Jamaica

Runaway Bay, Jamaica; 876-973-7000

Gran Bahía Príncipe

Km 18, Carr. G. Hernandez, San Juan, Dominican Republic; 809-226-1590

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort

Carr. Guardalavaca, Playa Esmeralda, Holguin, Cuba; 537-204-3449



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