Ultra-modern. Diverse. These are just a few words travelers have used to describe the city of Toronto. Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, the area of Toronto was actually the byproduct of post-glacial deposits. Europeans first arrived here in the 1700s and soon set up a major trading post. The city boomed during the days of the Industrial Revolution, and in the 1960s Toronto opened itself to the world with extremely liberal immigration policies. Indeed, over half of the residents in this huge megalopolis are foreign-born. Travelers are impressed with the wide variety of cultures on display in this major North American city. Below, you'll find five reasons why you should put Toronto on your vacation list for 2017.
1. Tons Of Museums
As with any great city, Toronto is full of world-class museums. History buffs can take a trip back to 19th century Ontario at the Black Creek Pioneer Village. Numerous actors go through a typical farming day in this re-created village from the 1860s. If farming isn't your thing, you can check out the finest in opulent living at Casa Loma. Casa Loma was the former estate of financier Sir Henry Pellat, and it's complete with European grandeur and intrigue. In addition to fine decorations and towers, this estate has secret passageways and a wondrous 5-acre garden. Art lovers must check out the Art Gallery of Ontario (which features Ruben's stunning Massacre of the Innocents) and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Finally, for those looking for an odd museum experience, check out Napoleon Bonaparte's sock collection (yes, you read that right!) at the Bata Shoe Museum.
2. Iconic Landmarks
Toronto has one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Canada: the CN Tower. After this 553-meter tower was completed in 1976, it was officially the tallest tower in the world. Although CN Tower lost that distinction when Dubai completed its Burj Khalifa in 2007, visitors to Toronto just love taking a trip to the top of this stunning free-standing structure. Visitors to CN Tower get to take a wonderful glass elevator ride to the glass observation area. There's also a restaurant called 360 on the main deck of this tower.
In addition to CN Tower, sports fans like to take in a game at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. And, for those into historical Canadian structures, a visit to Toronto City Hall is well worth your time.
3. Toronto For Kids
Traveling with children? No worries. Toronto has plenty of amazing attractions to keep kids amused for hours on end. First off, visit Legoland, which is just 30-minutes north of Toronto's city center. In addition to housing "Miniland," a miniature lego replica of Toronto made up of half a million lego bricks, Legoland Toronto hosts Lego 4D Cinema, the Kingdom Quest ride, and the Merlin's Apprentice ride. Close to Legoland is the 330-acre Canada's Wonderland theme park, which is complete with thrilling roller coasters and a water park. For those only staying within Toronto's city center, a few popular attractions for children include the Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Science Center.
4. A Film Lover's Paradise
Toronto hosts two of cinema's most famous film festivals each and every year. First off, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starts up on the Thursday following Labor Day and usually lasts for about ten days. This festival, which has been held annually since 1976, shows around 300 films to well over 480,000 film lovers. Some people just visit this festival to try and get a glimpse of some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Many of the films premiered in Toronto actually go on to earn Oscar nominations, so definitely check this film festival out if you're into award-winning movies.
The second most popular film festival held in Toronto is the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF). Held every February, the TBFF hosts some of the major films made for and by black people. Most of the films showcased here are concerned with cultural and social issues surrounding the black community.
5. Authentic And Eclectic Dining Options
If you're a foodie, you'll find no shortage of dining options in Toronto. Conde Nast Traveler officially named Toronto as one of the best food cities in the world, and it's clear to see why once you get here. Since Toronto is such a melting pot, there are literally thousands of restaurants from all around the world to take in. Skip the tourist traps and dine with the Toronto locals. A few of the more popular luxury restaurants include ALO Restaurant, Scaramouche Restaurant, and George Restaurant, all of which are French/Canadian. People looking for Asian cuisine can head on over to Chinatown, and people who just want to relax at a local cafe can check out either the Distillery District or the University District. No matter what cuisine you're into, you'll definitely find something to satisfy your palate in this cosmopolitan city.
For hiking enthusiasts, finding that “one place” can be a daunting task with so many beautiful destinations. Here’s a list of 10 hikes located across the globe where any one of them could be your “one place”.
10. Kalalau Trail: Kauai, Hawaii
This 11-mile (one way) trail is located along the amazing Na Pali Coast. The rugged trail is quite popular and you need a camping permit to stay. But the hike and final destination are well worth the steep trail and heat. Kalalau beach is a mile-long beauty with the Kalalau Valley offering amazing waterfalls and scenery.
9. Everest Base Camp: Nepal
The 70-mile round trip Everest Base Camp venture is becoming one of the world’s most popular treks. Hikers, though, should take their time acclimating themselves to the intense high-altitude climb while viewing three of the highest peaks in the world.
8. Inca Trail: Peru
By far one of the most popular hikes in the world. The 26-mile trip allows one to roll through jungles and beautiful mountain scenery while ending at the world-famous Machu Picchu.
7. Tour du Mont Blanc: France, Italy, Switzerland
Traversing three countries, this trail offers beautiful vistas, snow-covered mountains, ancient cobblestone, wild geraniums and even grazing cattle along its 105-mile journey.
6. The Narrows: Utah
This amazing “river” trail is located in Zion National Park and is its most popular. The trail itself pretty much is the Virgin River, meaning you will be wet for most of the 16 miles, with wading and swimming a must during this gorgeous hike.
5. Sentiero Azzurro: Cinque Terre, Italy
This picturesque and very popular cliffside trail located in Italy actually connects five villages, offering breathtaking views as well as a trail for every level of hiker. This is not a long hike, perhaps five hours total, but with so much to see, one can make this adventure as long as they wish.
4. Appalachian Trail: Georgia to Maine
This 2,180-mile trail ventures through 14 states and is the longest in the world. The views offered can be quite stunning and even with its distance, this trail is extremely popular, as it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in America.
3. Torres Del Paine: Patagonia, Chile
The trail offers gorgeous lakes, massive glaciers and volcanic peaks along its 37-miles. One of its highlights is Heilo Sur, which is the second largest non-polar icefield on earth.
2. Desert Trek to Petra – Jordan
This 50-mile round trip trek offers so much in spite of its desert surrounding. Jordan’s mountain peaks and gorges are a hikers dream but the true marvel is the ancient setting and amazing history the journey to Petra offers.
1. Santa Cruz Trek: Peru
The Santa Cruz trek is considered by many hikers as one of the best hiking routes in the world. It offers snow-covered mountain peaks and lush open valleys as you also journey along rivers and brightly colored lagoons.
I never thought summer would arrive. And quite frankly I’m not sure it has in my small world but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to travel. At night when the cool air approaches and the stars come out I think of all the beaches I’d like to be sunbathing on. However, I can’t say that’s what I think about during the day. One place that has drawn my attention is Phuket, Thailand. I have always been fascinated with the Asian lands and Thailand is no exception. Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and one of the most beautiful.
Just like most islands you can do all those fantastic activities like snorkeling in the blue lagoons, or if you want to get certified - scuba diving: getting up close and personal to a leopard shark, lion fish or an octopus. Don’t want to get wet? Charter a boat and go sailing on the waters. Check out the bays with rock formations jetting out of the water covered in greenery. Spend the day on a yacht with a hot tub drinking wine while watching the sunset over the water. The next day, rent out bikes and travel around the island. When you’re done, switch out your bicycle for an elephant and go on a safari.
Some of my personal favorites to do on this magnificent island is sky diving and if you’re daring, rent a motorbike and do some serious riding. Still not daring enough? Well. Put on some gear and get ready to climb some very high trees. After you get to the top, look over your shoulder. It’s time to climb across to the next tree using only ropes. Maybe that yacht with champagne is looking better? You’re on vacation. Get wild! While you’re climbing the sky using only cables you are harnessed in. The only thing to fear is….Well, you know the saying. After you try all the extreme adventures you and your stomach can handle, make your way to a spa and relax with a massage. At night visit a cabaret or a dinner theater. As the night unwinds, make your way back to your resort when you can sleep in and do it all over again in the morning.
As I look out my window and still see inches of snow melting off the trees, it has me reminiscing on the days I lived in California and the palm trees that are standing tall, soaking in the sun while I’m bundled up in my wool socks and pajamas. In a few weeks people will be dancing under those palm trees for two weekends in a row for one of the biggest concert festivals of the year.
Coachella attracts every type of person. From the performers who will be there to the ones who will be in the crowds listening to the talented musicians that will be playing. This is not your typical concert you go to for a few hours and then go home to look at the selfies you took of yourself with your favorite artist in the background. This is a two weekend event that happens once a year in Coachella, California. Hotels in the area prepare for the thousands of people that will arrive. There are campgrounds where you can stay off and on the grounds, depending how close you want to be. You can carpool with others if you’re not on site and if you are, you may just win lifetime tickets to Coachella and VIP passes for the events.
Music from all genres will the there. Musicians like AC/DC to Drake will be playing to bands like Bad Religion and a personal favorite, Florence + the Machine. Whether you like country, rap or rock and roll, you will find it here. For those music enthusiasts, there will be a vinyl store where you can browse for your favorite music. A boutique with clothes, art and collectables will be on the premises. Not only will the music be outstanding, the food will be just as amazing. There will be your usual concert food. However, there will also be an assortment of deliciousness to choose from homemade ice cream, craft beer paired with selected dishes, tacos and for those with special diets vegan, gluten free menus to choose from. Some of the best up and coming chefs will be on hand to display their talents. If you’re lucky enough to have VIP passes to the Rose Garden, you will dine in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden and taste some of the finest food you will ever have the pleasure of tasting.
While jamming to your some of your favorite music and chowing down on a specialty dish from the restaurant Eggslut (where everything is made with egg), walk around to discover the art that will be displayed. Last year a chain of hot air balloons were in the air, a large caterpillar was created for sitting under to enjoy some shade, and robots and a giant astronaut were on site to engage the audience.
This isn’t exactly a tropical paradise where you sit lazily by the ocean and drink Pina Coladas or travel to some far away mountain, hiking until you reach the top. This is for the diehard music lovers who want a once in a lifetime experience, where those who are performing are some of the best up and coming musicians or have already proven themselves. This is where those with talent come to shine whether it is with their guitar, their prose with musical lyrics or creating that fabulous dish you’ll have to Instagram. And when you find you just need to take a break from your senses, a Ferris wheel that reaches into the clouds will be on hand to take you away for a few moments to catch your breath and get ready for the next day full of laughter, songs and dancing.
At the moment, it feels like I live at the North Pole. Over the past few weeks, the state of Massachusetts has watched almost four feet of snow drift down from the clouds above. As I looked out my foggy window watching the snowflakes pile up I thought about where I’d rather be. Quite honestly, I came up with a long list but I only booked one vacation, to Costa Rica. Of course it’s only the beginning of February, anything can happen. My passport is up to date and I’m ready for anything but another snowstorm.
There are so many places to stay in Costa Rica. My desired choice this time around will be in the Guanacaste area. Besides finding a beach after I check into my all inclusive resort where room and food are included, I want to experience a few excursions. And there are many to choose from. First and foremost I will be zip lining through the rainforest. There are a number of ways to do this. The one I’ve chosen will be to go over the waterfalls. I will fly by at least eleven. To say I’m afraid of heights is an understatement but to experience life, one must put away the phobias. If only for a day (as long as I don’t see spiders).
After my personal flight I will take an excursion to one of the volcanos in the area. Again, there are a few options. I plan to visit one where afterwards I can sit in the hot springs and forget about life for a few hours. Afterwards there is usually a lunch or dinner served. I may even go on a horseback ride on my way to the volcano.
If I have time I want to visit the butterfly garden where I’ll see many different types of butterflies and possibly other wildlife. If I don’t have time for butterflies, I will be visiting the rainforest tour where all types of critters can be seen including three different species of monkeys and over two hundred kinds of birds. There is also the Tortuguero National park which you’ll travel by boat as you take in the scenery. Or instead hop on a raft with a tour guide and make your way to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Here you will see how jaguars live in their own habitat and how to save these beautiful creatures.
If you have a sweet tooth you can take an excursion and taste locally made chocolate or if you like a little bitter with your chocolate, visit one of the many places that produces coffee.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the marketplace and do a little shopping. After all the excursions, head back to your hotel, get out a beach towel, grab a fruity drink with an umbrella and relax by the ocean.
The summer for me means time to catch up on personal goals I pushed into the corner of my life throughout the winter and spring season. There are many things I catch up during the summer months but the most important goal is writing. I have been writing since I was ten years old and find I feel the need to reach for a pen and a piece of paper at least once a week but with the holidays and demands I don't always find the time until the summer. I make a point of searching for a retreat to steal myself away from every day life and write for a solid week or at least attempt to. This year I have opted for a place in a Danish castle far from my home.
Off the cliffs of Denmark sits a castle called Liselund and a writing retreat aptly named Hamlet's Retreat. Here two women have created a place where writers of all experiences can come and submerse themselves into their writing. The retreat is a week long writing event where one can be involved in all the wonderful workshops. The workshops consist of how to do research and write a scene to how to write fiction and nonfiction. There is even a workshop discussing how to pitch your work for publication. The Workshops last for six nights and seven days. It is all-inclusive stay with a restaurant on the premises along with a cafe. Anja Klemp Vilgaard and Shawna Kenney, the teachers of this wonderful retreat only accept seventeen people for the workshop as to give undivided attention to each writer.
Even though there are quite a few workshops you can immerse yourself in, they are purely optional. You have the opportunity to discover the castle ruins, or enjoy yoga in the morning and venture off by yourself to work on your writing. The rooms are beautifully furnished as well as tables set up inside and out to dine on while you find the next line for your book. If you're looking for a place to run away and find your writing muse again, this is the place.
During the colder months I crave a mocha cappuccino but once summer is upon me and the sun is warming the beaches I go to my favorite wine shop, choose a few tasty reds and whites, come home and make a pitcher of sangrias for me and my friends. This year will be no different except I have recently finished a two year course in Italian and all I want to do is try out my new found speaking skills in Italy; at a vineyard of course. There are so many wonderful places to visit in Italy, I’m quite certain any of them will be outstanding but the one I’ve chosen is Vignamaggio; a beautiful villa outside of Greve in Chianti. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you may have heard of it before. The movie Much Ado About Nothing was filmed here in the early ‘90s. It is also rumored the famous Mona Lisa is from the villa, her name actually being Lisa Gherardini.
The villa is spread out over 140 acres of land with 50 of them used for growing grapes turning them into different types of Chianti. Depending on when you go, you’re able to take a tour of their vineyards and at the end taste different selections of wine. While on the tour, you’ll see rows of grapes, and olive trees (they also make their own olive oil), barrels of wines and the estate itself. There are three types of tours depending on your preference. You can tour the vineyard, cellar and gardens without tasting or you can choose to do a tasting with lunch or if you really want to be extravagant (I know I do) have dinner with your tour that will include different wines and olive oils from their fields.
The villa has beautiful cottages you’re able to stay in with all the amenities you may want. Each of them decorated with antique furniture. You can even bring your fur babies with you! This is a pet friendly villa as well as kid friendly. Enjoy an authentic meal at their restaurant dining on locally made olive oil, fresh vegetables, pasta and of course one of their many wines. You have a choice of sitting inside or dining outside on their patio surrounding by the hillside. The villa even has a spa. This is not your typical spa. If you want something a little different you can take a bath in wine. Yes, in wine. Now that is a splendid way to end a two year Italian course; being surrounding by cypress trees, drinking wine and dipping freshly made Italian bread into olive oil. Molto bene!!!
The beginning of May brings flowers, rain and the best part, margaritas. May 5th is Cinco de Mayo day and that means it’s time to celebrate. The holiday has many meanings depending where you’re from but in America we celebrate to honor Mexico’s heritage. All over the United States you can find a restaurant or a city celebrating the entire day; however if you’re looking for the largest, most expansive celebration that would be in Los Angeles, California.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated for an entire weekend in Los Angeles and expands over to the surrounding areas. On Olvera St. there will be live music including folk dancers, and mariachis. Piñatas will be about and activities will be set up for the younger crowd. Olvera St. is home to a Mexican marketplace as well as the oldest structure in Los Angeles, the Avile Adobe ranch house. The museum of Latin America will have a beer tasting event in honor of the holiday that will include live music. In Santa Ana there is a carnival with rides, games, all kinds of food and music. The LA plaza museum will have free tickets for the holiday. On Sunday in West Hollywood there will be a huge block party for the afternoon and all the proceeds will go to the Project Angel Food.
At the end of April the largest festival will be held. It consists of a 24 block party with over half a million people. Just like the weekend of Cinco de Mayo, there will be numerous activities, more food than you can imagine and music being played all across the festival.
If you want to go to your local restaurant and have a few margaritas to celebrate the day or if you want to go to the biggest block party with some of the most fabulous Mexican food you will ever taste, the options is yours.
Spring is in the air…Okay, well not really in this very cold city of Boston. I can still look at the calendar and remember only a few short days ago, it snowed during the night. Still, I’m ready to move on to warmer days with flowers blooming and trees budding. I’ve traveled across country twice in my life. I enjoyed every minute of it and when I did I always had the desire to see the Grand Canyon. But I never stopped because I had in the back of my mind what movies always depict it as. You go, you see (for a few minutes) and you leave. I don’t know. It never seemed worth it. I realize how wrong I was and am ready to make the journey across the country and actually stop this time.
The Grand Canyon is located in the state of Arizona in the southwest of the United States. The Grand Canyon is approximately three hundred miles long and twenty miles wide. Not a small canyon by any means. Going through the bottom of the canyon is the Colorado River. The actual walls of the canyon are about a mile long from the top to the bottom floor.
Get your cameras ready. First and foremost when you get there you’ll want to take in the scenery of this magnificent place and enjoy its view. Afterwards, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know you can explore the area in more ways than one. There are guided tours you can take, what type of tour is up to you. You can travel by foot, bike or if you really want to be outside the box, a mule. Depending on how long you stay you can hike for a day or you can gather up your gear, grab a backpack and explore the canyon for multiple days. The trails range from a few miles to twenty miles. When you’re done hiking head down to the Colorado River and you can do a little rafting (book well in advance). This can also be a one day rafting event or several days. If you want to see the canyon from the sky, go on an airplane or helicopter tour. If you have family with younger adults there are programs just for them. They will even receive their own certificate, badge and patch by completing activities listed in the junior booklet.
The places to stay near the Grand Canyon vary depending on your taste. There are upscale inns, old lodges, and campgrounds. I am always pleasantly surprised at how naïve I am when it comes to the world and traveling. The Grand Canyon is no exception. While it is beautiful to pull over on the side of the road and take a quick peek at the canyon, knowing I can explore the area and learn some of its secrets has certainly caught my interest and has made its way onto my bucket list.
Spring is almost here, and I can’t wait. As the warmer weather arrives I have to admit as much as I dislike being cold, I will miss the snow. I love the idea of going outside making snow angels, building igloos and coming back in to warm my hands by the fire. Do I want to do this every day? Probably not. I could definitely live in a place where palm trees were the norm. With that being said, I would still want to see snow on occasion and if I had the nerve, take a trip to the North Pole to experience it in a way not possible in my back yard.
First let me start off by saying getting to the North Pole can be done in all kinds of dramatic ways. Let’s face it, any way you get there is dramatic but you have options to make it even more spectacular. You can go by dog-sled, helicopter, skis, ice-breaker ship or simply parachute in. Seriously? Seriously.
As you make your way to the North Pole, you’ll be on an ice-breaker ship part of the way and will see the front part of the ship cut away at the ice and push it to the sides as it makes its way through. I would not venture out into this expedition if you have any fears of whales tipping ships (I may have one or two) as you might see them swimming in the ocean as well as native birds that will land on the ship. When you arrive you have the option of getting out and taking a small hike to the “top of the world.” Most tours do a champagne toast. Because each tour is different, you’ll have all kinds of options like taking a helicopter ride and sky-diving over the North Pole. You can make your own mini movie or take lots of pictures to brag to all your friends and family back home.
Just like how you get there, where you stay is as dramatic with just as many options. You can visit for the day and take as many pictures to show all your friends and family or you can stay at or near the North Pole in an igloo. Igloos are all different. You may be the rugged kind and want to go all out. This is definitely doable. In Svalbard, part of the islands in Norway, you can stay in an authentic igloo. While there, check out the museums nearby, go dog-sledding and depending when you go, you may see the Northern lights.
Perhaps staying in a real igloo is not for you but you still want the experience. In Finnish, Lapland, the Kakslauttanen Igloo Village (located above the Arctic Circle), there are a few ways you can stay warm. They have log cabins, authentic igloos and not to be outdone glass igloos which are by far the most romantic. At least I think so. The bottom part of the igloo is nestled down into the ground with only the top part showing. The top or the roof of the igloo is made of glass, so as you sleep you can watch the night sky. Romantic right? Each glass igloo has its own beds and bathroom. In the morning if you really want to be adventurous you can swim in one of the ice holes or head to the sauna. Once a year the Kakslauttanen Igloo Village builds sculptors made out of ice, including an ice bar, chapel and a snow restaurant.
After planting your spring flowers and watering your gardens, a trip to an igloo with huskies, polar bears and the occasional jump out of a helicopter to drink champagne may be in order.
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