Carnival in Quebec City

 

Quebec’s Winter Carnival is a tradition that dates back to the early settlers bringing people together in the deep of winter. From those modest beginnings the celebration has grown to an event that draws people from across Canada and around the world.

Bonhomme Carnaval, the large red sash and toque wearing snowman, became the symbol of the festivities in 1955 and is still a mainstay of the parade and festivities. During the day thousands of people mill about Old Quebec City enjoying events like canoe racing, carriage rides, sleigh racing, snow sculpting to name just a few, ducking into crowded bistros and cafes for some warmth, good food and friends. Many events take place on the historic Plains of Abraham.

At night the city is alive with a light parade and dance parties at Bonhomme’s Ice Castle. Everyone dresses warmly but many can be seen with hollow canes or wine skins often filled with the traditional, but awful, fortifying drink called ‘Caribou’.

This is a fantastic trip for kids but great for adults too. There is Dancing Under the Stars and an Ice Bar complete with furniture and glasses made completely with ice. There are lots of great hotels and restaurants but be sure to book early. For the more adventurous, many Quebec families turn their homes into Bed & Breakfasts during Carnival which is a great way to meet locals and find affordable accommodation.

Be sure to bundle up and have a blast!

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Montreal

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Montreal – so cosmopolitan, cultured and historic that there is an European flavour to the city but so friendly that you know it is unmistakably Canadian. With our dollar hitting record lows against the US$ it is definitely time to explore the wonderful places to visit in Canada. I would put Montreal at the top of that list. J’aime cette ville!

Most Canadians know Montreal as the home of NHL team ‘les Canadiens’, the ‘Habs’, that enduring sports legacy and their ardent fans who, I swear, raise the roof of the famous Forum, now the Bell Centre, a few inches when their beloved team scores. Also home to Alouettes CFL Football team  and Montreal Impact MLS soccer team.  Watching any of these team live is an experience all on its own.

Montreal is a city alive with many world class festivals and concerts.  This year Canada will call Montreal home for the 2015 IIWF World Junior hockey games.  You will never be a loss for things to do.  You can dance all night in one of many Night Clubs or you can try your luck in the Casino.

Unlike other Canadian cities, in Montreal you never need worry about not getting out and about even on the coldest of winter days. There is a subterranean network called the RÉSO which is 33 kms of underground walkways, shopping centres, restaurants, movie theatres, and the Metro (subway) so that you can stay warm and entertained for hours, even days.

Getting to Montreal is just as easy as getting around Montreal.  Driving is the better part of a day but flying or taking the train are fast, relaxing and often there are great deals available.  Once in this fantastic city the transit system is reasonably priced and easy to navigate.

No matter the time of year, Montreal is always a go-to getaway for me.

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B is for Bean Town (Boston)

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Want the hustle and bustle of a major city and high culture steeped in history? Then Boston is the place to go. A drivable destination for many Canadians but also a quick plane ride from either Buffalo, or fly out of Toronto’s Island Airport on a direct Porter Air flight.

For the sports enthusiast  Fenway Park should be a stop on anyone’s list.  This stadium is not only home to the Red Sox but is also rich in baseball history. TD Gardens is a great place to grab an NHL game.  Bruins fans are something to be witnessed in person.  There are also Celtics who can draw in quite the crowd.

Boston, being a famous ocean port, offers Harbour Cruises that are a great way to whale watch and tour the city by waterfront. Once back on dry land there are so many options for dining, shopping or night life entertainment in the downtown core. A great place to dine on fresh seafood but there is something for all tastes and lifestyles.

Outsiders call Boston ‘Beantown’, a name that hearkens back to the old molasses trade days but Bostonians much prefer other nicknames such as “The Athens of America” because of the proximity of Harvard and MIT. While actually located in neighbouring Cambridge, they are included in the Greater Boston Area and definitely part of the Boston culture.

Boston is definitely one of America’s most historic cities with all the amenities of a major metropolis along with a happening arts and culture scene. If you’re up for a driving vacation, consider the Fall when you can experience the spectacular colours of New England.

CHEERS!

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Blowing Around the Windy City…Chicago‏


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Chicago: A.K.A. ‘The Windy City’, aptly named for the constant breezes coming off Lake Michigan, especially the winter variety, is a place rich in history, the subject of song ( opera house ) and theatre, as well as being another world class 24/7 city that is a quick (and inexpensive out of Buffalo, NY) flight away.

For those looking to find the best designer shops ever, look no further than the Magnificent Mile – a great place to spend a few days and a few bucks shopping on Michigan Ave.

For the sports fan, Chicago is home to some great professional sports teams. There is always something sports related that can be part of a visit to Chicago. You could catch a Bulls basketball game, a Bears football game, a Blackhawks hockey game, or one of the 2 professional baseball teams White Sox or Cubs. You could also experience the Chicago Sports Museum or Harry Caray’s (my personal favorite) to appreciate this city’s sports legacy.

After a day of shopping and/or spectator sports, and/or lake front enjoyment, take time to relax in any one of the Irish pubs  or Whisky bars  located in the busy downtown core. A must do on the bar scene is Howl at the Moon Dueling Piano Bar.  This is a great place to sling your arm around the guy beside you and have a giant night of sing-along to classic tunes that just everyone knows the words to – or they just sing like they do -so much fun!

Don’t forget about all the other must see/must do tourist things like riding to the top of the John Hancock Building, the Architectural Cruise, Navy Pier or Millinnium Park and so much more.  Another incredible aspect of Chicago is how easy it is to get around to all these places riding the hop-on hop-off trolleys.

The best way to get to know Chicago is to just blow around in the Windy City to see and live it for yourself.

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Give the Kids 4 Days for a Christmas Present

 

This trip is priceless for those with young children, but it can be a little pricey. Still it is a memory of family time your kids will have forever and much better value than most toys. Here’s how to give your kids 4 days of family fun and excitement for Christmas – at Disney in Florida

Surprise the kids Christmas morning when they wake up and see their luggage packed, maybe a new swim suit and sun glasses, because they are leaving for a whirlwind of 4 days of warm weather and out of this world fun.

Stash the cell phones and iPads. No trips to the mall required. No ‘who visits who this year’ discussions – just a wild and spontaneous kid based family getaway – and yes – be sure to bring the kid in you! Ho Ho Ho Hold on to your hats on the rides and adventures for there is nothing like child-like glee to de-stress and connect with each other.

 

 

 

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In a New York Minute

 

Ny

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New York, NY – a 24/7 exciting world class city and a great place to visit this time of year.  With  American Thanksgiving just around the corner you can be certain the Big Apple is preparing to kick off the Holiday season in style.

Start with the iconic Macey’s Day Parade of elaborately decorated floats complete with celebrity appearances.  Major department stores compete to impress every passerby with their amazing and enticing windows displays. Holiday Cheer abounds so shop, but only ’til you enough time and energy left for some awesome sight seeing!

There are the usual landmarks that are ‘must sees’ when in New York like the Statue of Liberty  (“Miss Liberty”, as I like to call her), the Empire State Building, Central Park and the list goes on. There are many things to see and do while roaming around NY city’s green space.  All Canadians should be sure to lace up their skates and go for a few laps around the best outdoor rink in the city at Rockefeller Center.  Forgot to pack your skates?…don’t worry, you can rent!  Then, when your good and cold, you can enjoy a nice cup of Frrrozen hot chocolate at the famous Serendipity 3 cafe.

This city is full of famous and amazing things to see and do.  Best way to get around is by riding the hop on hop off buses  or move around like a local via subway.

New York is simply incredible where so much is famous and/or amazing …famous dining, famous people, amazing shows….just what you would expect from ‘the city that never sleeps’.

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Vegas Baby

 

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Vegas!!!!  Another one of my amazing “4 day-getaway” destinations.  Personally, my experience is that a trip to Vegas is so “excitement packed” that 4 days is plenty! 🙂

There are endless places to see and stay in this middle-of-the-desert, man-made, tourist magnet.  Vegas is one of those places that is best left to each visitor to decide where and what to do since the options are mind numbing.  Offerings suite all kinds of tastes from the incredibly visually impressive casinos with their high oxygen atmosphere, almost any kind of restaurant one could ask for, dance clubs, pubs, piano bars, amusement rides, tours, concerts and, one of my favorites, the shooting ranges.

Here are a few recommendations to consider before you start spending your money (more left to gamble with!!)

  1. Consider driving to, and flying out of Buffalo as opposed to Hamilton or Toronto.  The money you will save in taxes alone is better spent at the tables in Vegas – at least you have a chance of doubling it.
  2. Take the FREE bus trip to the Laughlin Casino.  This casino is outside of Vegas but is a great place to learn how to play table games.  The minimum bets are low and the place is not as busy as downtown Vegas.  This bus also stops at the Hoover Damn for some great photo ops.
  3. Do not purchase any show/theatre tickets in advance of your trip unless you are totally heart-set on seeing a certain performance.  There are cheap tickets for sale all over Vegas so you can pick-up and go as you please.

The one sure bet about Vegas is that you will have great stories to tell…Ante-up, it’s all fun from the moment your plane lands.

 

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