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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Photo credit: Echo Valley Ranch

    Canada is a country known for its outdoor adventures, but some of the best Canadian escapes are experienced indoors. The country known for its cool temperatures keeps visitors steaming hot with some of the world's best spa retreats.

    Summer coming to a close brings on an onslaught of stress, whether it's work, school or the impending cold weather. The only way to truly beat the fall blues is with a relaxing fall getaway to one of these mind-blowing spas across the Great White North.

    Spa Ofuro -- Morin-Heights, Quebec

    One of the biggest perks of living in Canada is that we're always surrounded by the outdoors -- even when we're at the spa. Spa Ofuro, in picturesque Morin-Heights, Quebec, offers visitors the opportunity to submerge themselves into the wilderness while submerging themselves into hold and cold baths and a wide range of other body treatments. The spa's sauna, steam bath, whirlpool bath and river bath all present their own physical and mental health benefits.

    Visitors can soak (or receive treatments) in the daytime or evening hours. But the most tranquil way to experience Spa Ofuro is to spend a night or two in one of the spa's several suites. Experience complete serenity and restoration while listening to cascading mountain streams, breathing the fresh air of the Laurentians and enjoying the unique, pagoda-style architecture of your cozy room.

    Four Seasons Toronto Spa -- Toronto, Ontario

    Photo credit: Tara Angkor Hotel

    You don't even have to leave the city to find that much-needed feeling of, "getting away from it all," this fall. Simply spend a day, or several, at the 2,787-square-metre Four Seasons Toronto Spa in downtown Toronto's esteemed Four Seasons Hotel. One of the largest retreats in the city, "The Spa" features 17 treatment rooms, a full salon, two steam rooms, a sunny relaxation pool, a whirlpool and access to the hotel's terrace overlooking the city's skyline. When you're looking for the feeling of being far away, but don't have the time to get away, "The Spa" at the Four Seasons Hotel is the next best thing.

    The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge -- Whistler, British Columbia

    The fall "shoulder season" means the bustling ski town of Whistler is operating at a much slower pace. It's one of the best times of year to plan a visit to this iconic town nestled in among some of the most picturesque peaks of the Coast Mountains. The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge combines relaxing and rejuvenating treatments with postcard-worthy views Whistler Mountain.

    Visitors can enjoy everything from facial treatments and hot stone massages to a eucalyptus steam room, tranquil relaxation lounge and rooftop hot tubs. The Spa uses only the highest-quality organic and sustainably-sourced products and is staffed with some of the country's top therapists, yoga instructors and relaxation experts. There's simply no better way to take in the snowy mountain peaks of Whistler than while sipping a steaming cup of herbal tea in the comfort of an outdoor hot tub.

    Willow Stream Spa -- Banff, Alberta

    Photo credit: Torrey Wiley

    Lingering summer temperatures coupled with the changing leaves of the golden larch trees and uncrowded hiking and biking trails make planning a fall vacation to Banff an easy decision. There's no better way to sooth your aching muscles after an adventure than at the Fairmont Banff Springs' Willow Stream Spa.

    Rated the Top Hotel Spa in Canada by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2015, the spa's early 1900s-style mineral pool and waterfalls create an atmosphere that has inspired spas around the country and around the globe. This unique retreat harnesses the power of the area's sacred waters and alpine air to create unique healing experiences that are unlike anywhere else in the world.

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    Growing up in Toronto, there were many things to do as a family but one of my ultimate favourite places to go to was Centre Island, or more specifically Centreville. I remember loving the ferry ride to get to the island and then spending the day on all the fun rides. Those are the moments that I remember and cherish to this day.

    Now with a family of my own, it was my turn to provide these same fun memories to my daughter who now at the age of two can enjoy more of them.

    Here are my five top reasons why Centreville is a great place for families to visit.

    Escape from the Big City

    It is hard to believe that Centreville is only a ferry ride away from the busy city of Toronto, Canada and gives guests a scenic ride to the Island with unbelievable views of the city with planes flying overhead into the airport. Once you arrive at the Island you can already feel such a calming atmosphere. The scenery is landscaped beautifully and there is so much to see on the island. It is a great place to see and a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Click here to see a map of the island.


    Momma Braga Tip: To avoid long line ups, it is best to purchase your ferry boat ticket online as it will save you time.

    Centreville Amusement Park

    From rides and games to a wide selection of food outlets, there is something for everyone at Centreville, like they say! Centreville celebrates 50 years of fun this year and has been a hot spot for families with young children for many years. Even though many know about Centreville Amusement Park, I think families don't realize how toddler-friendly it is. There are many rides and attractions for toddlers and that is the best part! There are of course some rides that are not recommended for toddlers but I find Centreville full of many more options.

    Momma Braga Tip: When planning your visit, check out the website to see what type of rides they have and it also lists how many tickets you need to ride each one. The neat part of this section is that it lists the intensity of the rides under: Smooth, Moderate and Extreme. I also recommend to check the hours of operation as well before visiting, click here.

    There is no entry fee to enter Centreville Amusement Park (which is fantastic!) but to enjoy the rides and attractions payment is required. There are different rates depending on what you would like to do. Each ride requires a certain amount of tickets to ride them and you can also buy a pass that will provide you unlimited access to the rides for the day. You can learn more about the available passes here. Please note that some rides require an adult to accompany a small child and therefore the adult will require tickets. Keep this in mind when making your decision on what to purchase.

    Momma Braga Tip: We purchased the Family of 4 All Day Ride Pass and we purchased it online to save some money ($105.50 CDN) as this way we didn't have to worry about how many tickets we needed. If you are looking to buy a pass, I recommend to purchase it online to save yourself some money.

    Nikki Favourites: Our daughter had a few favourite rides that she recommends for all her young toddler friends which are: Centreville Train; Antique Carousel; Kiddie Boat; Fire Engines; Touring Cars; Twirling Teacups; and the Pony Express.

    Far Enough Farms

    A staple of Centre Island is the Far Enough Farms and a must see with your little ones. My daughter loves animals so of course, this was on our must see list. Far Enough Farms is locating just east of Centreville Amusement Park and is open daily 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and completely free to enjoy! Yes! I said FREE!

    There are 40 different species to see at the farm and you can learn about them through the farmers and farm hands that are always on hand to answer any of your questions. We truly enjoyed this part of our visit and of course so did my daughter!


    Fun Games

    Can't forget about all the games that you can play to win some stuffed toys to add to your collection! Check out all the games they have on site by clicking here.

    Great Food Outlets

    Plenty of yummy food to eat at Centreville and they are all great! We didn't bring our own food as we decided to fully experience Centreville. Here is a list of all the available food outlets. We ended up eating at the Carousel Café which we just adored. It's located a short walk away from Centreville.


    These are my top five reasons to visit the Centreville Amusement Park and if these reasons are not enough... I think the most important part was it provided a city escape to spend time together as a family. Overall, we all had a great time and what tugged at my heart strings was seeing the pure joy in my daughter's constant smile as she enjoyed every minute of Centreville. I got to see what my parents use to see in me and for that, I am truly grateful for. Our family tradition continues and that is what makes Centreville a great place for families!

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    Photo credit: Paul Joseph

    Canada is home to 202,080 kilometres of coastline. Those who visit the Great White North only to ski its mountains and hike its trails are missing out on some serious seaside fun, including some of the freshest seafood in the world. The following are the country's top five coastal towns for filling your stomach with seafood and enjoying some sightseeing too.

    Charlottetown -- Prince Edward Island

    Charlottetown is the largest city in the province of Prince Edward Island, but its population of less than 40,000 makes it feel a lot less like a metropolis. The city is famous for its location along the Northumberland Strait and easy access to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic Ocean. There's no shortage of seafood in this town surrounded by water. Lobster on the Wharf is one of the many famous seafood eateries in the town, and there's simply no better place to taste Prince Edward Island mussels. The restaurant also specializes in Malpeque oysters and a slew of fresh lobster dishes, so be sure to bring your appetite.

    Gimli, Manitoba

    Photo credit: Robert Linsdell

    Canada is home to Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Ocean coastlines, and Gimli, Manitoba, isn't near any of them. However, Gimli is set on picturesque Lake Winnipeg, known as the country's best place to catch pickerel (walleye). The town prides itself on a number of locally-famous restaurants that all feature the mouthwatering, freshwater fish on their menus. Kris' Fish & Chips is one of the most popular places in town for dining on massive portions of perfectly pan-fried pickerel.

    Halifax, Nova Scotia

    The capital city of Nova Scotia, Halifax, is famous for its rich fishing industry and abundance of places to dine on fresh local seafood. Whether you're seeking fresh lobster by the pound, oysters that you can shuck yourself or crispy fish and chips, Halifax offers a smathering of award-winning seafood eateries for all budgets. Between stops at Phil's Seafood, Willman's Fish & Chips, John's Lunch and other local hotspots, be sure to check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Nova Scotia Museum, the Halifax Waterfront and the numerous other attractions teaching the rich history of the seaside city.

    Shediac, New Brunswick

    Photo credit: Bill Wren

    The residents of Shediac won't be afraid to tell you that their hometown is the "Lobster Capital of Canada." You'll find it hard to argue with them when you find yourself snapping selfies with the town's massive lobster monument, which residents also claim is the largest in the world. Shediac is home to the annual Shediac Lobster Festival, which takes place every July, and plenty of places to crack open some juicy lobster. Atlantic salmon, scallops and fish and chips are other favorites at the town's top seafood eateries, like the famous Sandbar restaurant, Paturel's Shore House and La Coast.

    Port Alberni, British Columbia

    Port Alberni's location at the head of Vancouver Island's Alberni Inlet means fresh seafood practically swims up to restaurant doors. The town, known for its annual Salmon Festival, offers a number of eateries serving up coho, sockeye and chinook salmon from the area's abundant lakes and inlets. The salmon is freshest in the summer months, but the nearby Pacific Ocean provides even more seafood during the salmon off-season. This small fishing town is also a hotspot for kayakers, canoers, swimmers, boaters, tubers and anyone who loves to adventure among rivers, lakes and the ocean.

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    Whenever I'm about to travel to a new destination, I pour myself into research that -- hopefully -- leads me to the most interesting activities, Instagram-worthy points of interest, a better understanding of cultural expectations and the best places to indulge my #FoodPorn obsession.

    So let me help save you an hour (or five) and tell you exactly what you need to order at what I consider the best restaurants in San Diego, having just spent 10 days eating my way through the city:

    • Searsucker (611 Fifth Ave.). Ignore the fact that this is actually a chain restaurant and just trust me when I tell you that the foie gras paté will change your life. The toasted brioche that accompanies it will help prevent you from licking the mason jar in which the paté is delivered.

    • The Fish Market (750 N Harbour Dr.). If you're a bouillabaisse connoisseur, the cioppino here is a must. Hold the pasta and use the table bread to sop up the thick, tomato-based sauce drowning in fresh seafood.

    • Cafe 21 (802 Fifth Ave.). It doesn't matter what time of day it is, the croque monsieur is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Pair it with one of the house mimosas; Cafe 21 makes its own fruit purées atop which the bubbly is poured. Or, heck, do the mimosa flight and try them all.

    • Miss B's Coconut Club (3704 Mission Blvd., Mission Beach). Come thirsty and ready to share with up to four friends, because Miss B's Havana Good Time cocktail is served in an enormous brass swan with five straws and packs a punch of tropical goodness. Perfect after a day at the beach.

    • Las Cuatro Milpas (1857 Logan Ave.). You know when those in Tijuana are crossing the border for tacos and other traditional Mexican fare, it's the real deal. You'll stand in line at this cash-only joint--which closes at 3 p.m. sharp--but it's worth it for flour tortillas so good you can enjoy them plain and tamales that'll have you shouting "Olé!"

    • Cowboy Star Restaurant & Butcher Shop (640 Tenth Ave.). If you can push yourself to try one new thing while you're in San Diego, make it the fried wagyu beef tongue. Because it's melt-in-your-mouth perfection that will go down in your foodie hall of fame.

    • Islander (1166 Orange Ave., Coronado Island). A hop, skip and ferry away from San Diego's downtown core is Coronado Island--which in and of itself is a must-visit. Here you'll make friends with the chowder to challenge all chowders that came before it: the spicy chipotle coconut milk seafood chowder. (Hint: it's not that spicy.)

    • Richard Walker's Pancake House (520 Front St.). Don't be intimidated by the lineup; instead, use your time wisely to peruse the menu so you're ready to order as soon as you're seated. Portions are huge and very shareable, but you can order half-portions for some dishes if you're solo. Don't leave San Diego without trying The Dutch Baby--think Yorkshire pudding on steroids.

    • Sushi Tadokoro (2244 San Diego Ave.). Traditional sushi and sashimi never tasted so good, but be sure to make a reservation since this out-of-the-way spot seats only around 30 people. Order the crunchy roll along with any of the daily specials and be swept away to sushi paradise.

    • The Crack Shack (2266 Kettner Blvd.). Love Southern fried chicken? You've come to the right place. And be sure to order a side of shmaltz fried fries, which are French fries deep-fried in rendered chicken fat. Oh, yeah. Goodness on a plate.

    • Crab Catcher (1298 Prospect St., La Jolla). When you go to La Jolla (because you really should), nosh on King Crab tacos made with crispy wonton shells and eat as much of the free sourdough bread as your stomach will allow. But stop there if you're not feeling spendy.

    • Kettner Exchange (2001 Kettner Blvd.). While it's hard to choose just one standout dish from one of the best menus in San Diego, the blueberry cobbler topped with crème fraiche ice cream had major wow appeal and is begging to be eaten. On repeat.

    • Donut Bar (631 B St.). Maple bacon doughnut. Need I say more?

    Restaurants come and go, and of course I couldn't get to every fabulous restaurant in only a week-and-a-half. Did I miss one of YOUR favourites? Share it in the comments.

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    August is Canada's most popular month to wed, and while new beginnings, romantic gestures and expressions of unconditional love may be top of mind for many couples, the prospect of planning a honeymoon to an exotic or romantic location is almost as exciting as the wedding itself. From romantic rides in Venice to wild times in Vegas, honeymooners have just about done it all. But why? Where did this tradition begin?

    I recently had the opportunity to learn about the origin of the word "honeymoon" when I was in Ireland for a research and sightseeing trip. During one of our excursions we were lucky enough to stop at the Bunratty Castle, where we participated in a medieval-style dinner. The feast was complete with all the trappings of a medieval feast, including live singers and, as is the custom, no cutlery. That's right -- we ate with our bare hands!

    Bunratty Castle

    Before the dinner began, we were each offered a glass of mead -- a sweet drink made of fermented fruit and honey -- as a welcome drink. While we enjoyed the delicious brew, it was explained to us that mead is called the "honeymoon drink" -- in Welsh, German, Scandinavian and Babylonian cultures, a one-month supply was traditionally given to a newly married couple. It was believed that if the couple drank the honey-based mead on a regular basis throughout the first moon of their marriage it would bring them luck and fertility. More specifically, drinking the mead allegedly ensured that the woman would become pregnant within their first year of marriage.

    Enjoying the festivities at Bunratty Castle

    With this information fresh in my mind, I was inspired to dig deeper into the history of the honeymoon tradition and how it has evolved throughout the years.

    While the tradition's exact origin is unknown, the custom of going on a honeymoon was popularized in Britain in the 1800s. Commonly referred to as "bridal tours," these trips were generally only affordable for members of the upper class, who used these trips to visit family and friends who were unable to attend their wedding. However, over the years as the gap between socioeconomic classes shrunk, these trips became more widespread, and today they are actually considered to be one of the primary drivers of mass tourism.

    When one thinks of honeymoons one typically thinks of a tropical or exotic destination. For this reason, I was surprised to discover that Niagara Falls is widely recognized as the "honeymoon capital of the world." Around 50,000 newly wed couples visit Niagara Falls each year, many of whom leave their mark by signing their names in guest books kept by the Niagara Falls Tourism Office.

    These records, now available from family history resource website, Ancestry, show that newlyweds have travelled to the falls from all around the world, including tropical spots such as Mexico, Hawaii and the Bahamas. Interestingly enough, these are the top three destinations Canadian say they've honeymooned.

    With my 32nd wedding anniversary coming up in September, looking at these records has made me reflect on my own honeymoon. I had taken on most of the wedding planning, so my husband took charge of our honeymoon and chose to keep the location a surprise.

    As we drove further into the countryside and eventually reached the fishing cottage he had rented, I quickly realized that this was not going to be the weekend in the city for which I had packed. While a quaint countryside weekend was definitely not what I expected, our memories of our first weekend as a married couple will never be forgotten.

    To end on a sweet note, see below for a recipe that will teach you how to make your very own homemade mead!


    Homemade Mead


    • 2 to 3 pounds of grade-A honey

    • 2 ½ litres of tap or bottled water

    • 1 and 1/3 grams of freeze-dried wine, champagne or dedicated mead yeast

    Recommended Equipment:

    • Stainless Steel Stock Pot

    • Thermometer

    • Hydrometer

    • Plastic Fermenter

    • Glass Carboy

    • Fermentation Lock and Stopper

    • Racking Cane and Tubing

    • Sanitizer

    1. Put water into your stainless steel pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. After boiling for 10 minutes remove pot from heat and add yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and honey.

    2. Stir the pot until the honey and water have mixed completely.

    3. Hold the mixture at that temperature (around 170 degrees) for 10 Minutes. Chill the mixture down to 80 degrees.

    4. Take a hydrometer reading. Pitch(add) your yeast into the must, stir vigorously for 5 minutes.

    5. Place the lid on your fermenter with the air lock attached. Fermentation should begin about 24 to 48 hours.

    6. 2 to 3 weeks later (or when fermentation is done) rack mead into a sanitized carboy. Let it sit another 3 to 4 weeks.

    7. Rack for the final time into another sanitized carboy and let it sit until the mead is clear (another 2 to 3 months).

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    Travelling for business presents an opportunity to expand your network, discover new destinations and of course, escape the daily grind. It also means spending an extended amount of time with a colleague or boss. And while this is an ideal scenario to strengthen your working relationship, it also poses the risk of making an accidental business blunder.

    In fact, we recently found out that nearly half (49 per cent)* of business travellers are concerned about this. To ease some of these worries, we put together our top tips to ensure your next work getaway is a personal and professional success.

    Photo Credit:

    Punctuality is key.

    Sure, there might be times you are running late for work, but when you're travelling, don't expect the same level of understanding. Being late can cause come serious delays in your travel arrangements causing undue stress for both yourself and your colleague. Give yourself an extra hour in case you find yourself in traffic or your driver gets lost on the way to the airport because the last thing you want is to miss your flight.

    It's your time to shine.

    Make it a priority to handle the logistics, from ordering an uber to making lunch reservations, these small gestures won't go unnoticed. It will show leadership on your part and creates a comfortable dynamic for both you and your colleague in this new setting. Who knows, it could even lead to that promotion you have been looking for.

    Avoid over-sharing.

    There is a fine balance between getting to know your colleague and sharing too much. It may be tempting to divulge personal information but some things are simply better left unsaid. Remember, you are travelling with a co-worker, not your best friend. No matter how much you have in common, it is best to maintain professional boundaries.

    Forget about business talk.

    This is the perfect opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your colleague outside of the office. Learn more about their interests, hobbies and things that make them happy. As long as the topics are kept kosher, your conversations shouldn't focus too much on work. Building friendly relationships develops healthy grounds for teamwork.

    If you have nothing nice to say, don't.

    Gossiping about work policies, colleagues or your boss may seem like a way to connect with your co-worker abroad, but in the end, it could be disastrous. It showcases a lack of maturity and could lead to others questioning what you're saying about them when they're not around. You're not in high school so don't behave like you are. Rise above the impulse even if your colleague initiates, and you'll walk away from the trip guilt-free.

    Limit your alcohol intake.

    It may be tempting to over imbibe when there is free alcohol and everyone else is partaking. Just remember, drinking too much may seem harmless but there is a high potential for embarrassment which could ruin your professional reputation.

    Respect hierarchy.

    The best way to show someone respect and admiration is through action. Your boss might not expect the better seat on the plane or the hotel room with a great view, but if you selflessly offer them the better option, they'll instantly feel appreciated. Even small actions like holding doors, or offering to get coffee can go a long way. Just remember that hopefully one day you will be in a position to receive the same special treatment.

    * The Better-quette Survey was commissioned by which now has now has over a million properties. It was independently conducted among 4,555 people (18 -65) across USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, China, Italy who had travelled internationally for business four times or more in the past year. Research took place between 29th of January through the 11th of February 2016.

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    Dale MacKay continues to build upon one of the most fascinating and heart-warming stories in Canada.

    A supremely talented chef, MacKay is also a driven entrepreneur and passionate advocate for his hometown. He brought attention to Saskatoon in 2014 when he returned home to launch Ayden Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant named after his son. MacKay had gained national acclaim when he won the first Top Chef Canada competition in 2011.

    The reality TV fame earned on the Food Network Canada program propelled interest in MacKay and his cuisine. The move from Vancouver to Saskatoon was partly economic (real estate costs are much lower in the prairie province), partly sentimental (MacKay maintained an affinity for his hometown even though he's cooked in culinary capitals around the world) and partly pioneering spirit (the chance to take Saskatoon's food scene from one that's largely unknown to a recognized culinary centre was enticing).

    MacKay is not only an incredibly successful restaurateur, he's also emerged as a culinary tourism champion. Across the country, chefs have developed programs meant to attract tourists to lesser-known destinations. In Nova Scotia, Michael Howell has turned his food and film festival, Devour!, into a massive event that draws so many attendees the population of tiny Wolfville doubles for one weekend each fall. In Winnipeg, Mandel Hitzer of deer + almond has added culinary ingenuity to the Warming Huts arts festival with his pop-up restaurant on the frozen riverbanks each winter.

    Read More About Saskatoon's Emerging Food Scene on

    MacKay's vision is embodied in Prairie Feast, an annual celebration of Saskatchewan food and culture that wrapped up its second edition last weekend. This year, chefs from around Canada came and cooked sensational food on the street, beneath tents and amid the hot sun and famous big, blue skies of the middle of the country. The event took over a block of 3rd Avenue, one of the city's main downtown streets.

    "It's always nervewracking putting on these kinds of events. You never know if people will come and party and create the ambience you're looking for or if they'll just come for the food and then leave," MacKay says.

    They stayed. Even after the food was gone, the cocktails, music and street performers kept many attendees on 3rd Avenue. By late in the evening, the visiting chefs were also among the party-goers.

    Todd Perrin (Mallard Cottage) arrived from Newfoundland, Derrek Daman (La Maison Publique) journeyed from Montreal, Jason Bangerter (Langdon Hall) made his first trip to Saskatoon from Cambridge, Ontario, and Calgarians Connie DeSousa and John Jackson (CHARCUT, Charbar) and Justin Leboe (Model Milk, Pigeonhole) took the comparatively short trip from Alberta.

    "It's bringing attention to what's happening in the city and helping to put this part of the country on the map," says Trevor Bird, the executive chef from Fable in Vancouver who participated in Prairie Feast for the second year in a row. "More people need to be aware of what's out here."

    It was a gathering of culinary talent you would expect in Toronto, not Saskatchewan. MacKay asks and the chefs are happy to come.

    "We like to be ambitious. I love Saskatchewan and Saskatoon. I want to bring other chefs here to experience what we're doing. Whenever you come to a place like this, you don't know what you might be expect from it, and maybe you don't have too many high hopes of what you might experience. But we've had so many people come and be surprised by what we're doing here, by the people and by what's going on in the community," says MacKay, whose generosity and spirit is bringing notoriety to one of Canada's most unheralded provinces. "I have a ton of Saskatchewan pride and I want the rest of Canada to come here and try us out."

    Tickets to the event cost more than $200 and drew 300 people. The cost included the chance to taste the cuisine of the visiting chefs, as well as a dish prepared by MacKay protege Jesse Zuber, whose Little Grouse on the Prairie has added to Saskatoon's wealth of excellent restaurants, and delicious pork steamed buns prepared by Ayden chef and partner Nathan Guggenheimer. There were also unlimited cocktails prepared by Ayden's team.

    The profits from Prairie Feast goes toward supporting the local food bank and there was also a scholarship contest, the Ayden Young Chef Competition, that awarded one winner a prize of a three-night trip to Calgary to study with DeSousa, Jackson and Leboe at their restaurants.

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    Canadians are among the world's best when it comes to trivia. We invented Trivial Pursuit, which rewards players for their ability to answer general knowledge and pop culture questions. However, despite selling almost 90 million games in 26 countries, it's a safe bet not many trivia players would know some of the world's best way-off-the-beaten path destinations.

    We've put together a list of some of our favourite and must-visit destinations that you may have never heard of where young Canadian travellers are heading to this year.

    Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

    Photo Cred: Wikipedia

    Greenland's remotest town is the gateway to the world's largest national park and to Scoresby Sound - the largest and longest fjord system just above the Arctic Circle on the east coast. Inhabited by small game, birds, polar bears, musk oxen, reindeer, and walrus - to name a few, only about 500 people call Ittoqqortoormiit home.

    For lovers of the wilderness, a visit to the most isolated village in Greenland is a must! While there you can go trophy hunting for muskoxen and reindeer, take long trips by dog sled over the rugged terrain, and even experience spectacular skiing on the many mountains and glaciers.

    More importantly you won't want to miss the chance to visit the local pub once a week next to the hospital. But make sure you schedule accordingly - it's only open on Fridays from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

    To pay a visit to this one-of-a-kind locale, fly from Reykjavik, Iceland - but be aware in the summer there are only two weekly flights, with that diminishing to only one during the winter months. There are however several cruise ships that stop in Ittoqqortoormiit during the summer months when the sea isn't frozen over.

    Saranda, Albania

    Photo Cred: Wikipedia

    This is a young traveller's dream come true. Located on the Albanian Riviera not far from the Greek island of Corfu, Saranda has grown rapidly in the past decade. The booming resort town is bustling in summer - buses are crowded with people carrying swimming gear and the weather means it's going to be a great day on the beach.

    The town's name comes from Ayii Saranda, an early monastery dedicated to 40 saints. Its bombed remains (including some preserved frescos) are still high on the hill above the town.

    Saranda's stony beaches are popular. Sights in and around town, include the mesmerizing ancient archaeological site of Butrint and the hypnotic Blue Eye Spring. It is an ideal destination for young travellers because it offers low-cost hostel accommodations and is bustling with restaurants, cafes and bars. Fast food places offer a surprisingly cheap and tasty variety of options: 1 euro will buy a good souvlaki or a tasty crepe.

    Petauke, Zambia

    Photo Cred: Simon Berry

    Camping out in the wilds of Zambia is like inviting the whole cast of the Lion King to a sleepover. Beware though, the animals here are real and not friendly animated characters singing Hakuna Matata.

    Petauke is in eastern Zambia, 400 kilometres from the capital city Lusaka. It is the gateway to some of the most undisturbed views on nature in Africa. Travel in this part of the world is not for the faint of heart. Before you leave Petauke, you need enough gasoline to get you where you're going because gas stations are few and far between. Luckily, one of the best ways to see this area is on a group trip - and the tour provider will have this detail all taken care of!

    Venture outside Petauke down dirt roads and dry river beds and you will find the Luangwa River, which remains in its original state and where all forms of animal life can be found. For a truly exhilarating experience it's worth it to go on a guided night drive in South Luangwa National Park, where guides will use powerful spotlights to find animals.

    Potosí, Bolivia

    Photo Cred: Wikipedia

    One of the highest cities in the world at 4,090 metres, Potosí was founded in 1546 after the discovery of the rich silver deposits in the Cerro Rico. It soon became one of the wealthiest and largest cities in the Americas. The mines of the Cerro Rico are the richest mines in all of world history and may have produced 60,000 tons of silver.

    Potosí is a UNESCO World Heritage site which helps ensure its valuable historic buildings will be maintained. Colonial architecture dominates the city and reflects its one-time vast wealth. The challenge with visiting Potosí is adapting to breathing at such high altitudes. Many who visit can only stay for a few days because of the altitude sickness.

    The Cerro Rico is the reason for Potosí's historical importance, since it was the major supply of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire. A guided tour of the cooperative mines is a memorable experience, but one where you need to be physically fit to navigate the low ceilings and steep, muddy passageways. On some tours, you may walk up to four kilometres inside the mountain.

    Getting there is easily done by bus. Buses from La Paz to Potosí are available almost every hour. From the bus terminal it's a half-hour walk uphill to the city centre, or you can catch a local bus or a shared cab which makes it much easier.

    If this sparks your interest in hard-to-reach destinations, record your next epic trip and see if it wins this year's travelcuts FilmFest (submissions open August 18). Good luck!

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    Finding a cheap flight or coming across an airfare mistake takes a lot of work and luck, but with the right amount of research and e-mail alerts, you too can be flying to your next vacation on a budget.

    The first thing you can do, says Rishi Modi of travel deal site Next Departure, based in Toronto, is map out your travel schedule ahead of time, keeping in mind which months are cheaper to travel.

    "Opt to travel over shoulder season from April to May and September to October, [and] you’ll see discounted airfares and accommodations," he tells The Huffington Post Canada. "If you can only travel during the summer months, travel to destinations in opposite seasons such as Australia and Brazil."

    cheap flight tips

    With flying in general, Modi says some Canadians overlook flying within Canada as an option. Yes, at times it may be cheaper to just fly to South America, but with many new airlines like NewLeaf Travel and old favourites like WestJet, he says it has never been cheaper to fly within the country.

    "Other overlooked destinations include Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, where the value of the Canadian dollar is strong in combination with cheap accommodations and food," he says.

    In the past, Modi has also come up with a list of the cheapest destinations for Canadians — ones where the dollar will take you quite far.


    And then there are travel myths most of us (including Modi) have heard in the past, including Tuesdays to be the best day to book a flight. Modi says this one is definitely a myth.

    "When it comes to advertised sales, airlines often release their promotions on Tuesday. However, rarely do these advertised sales live up to expectations and offer actual deals," he says. "Airfare is highly unpredictable as it fluctuates every hour, every day of the week."

    Below, Modi shares 10 ways we can all start saving money when it comes to travel. But be warned, this takes time, dedication and patience — but can be totally worth it when you have extra cash for your vacation. Have any tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.

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    Picture this. You've just begun your vacation in the beautiful city of Montreal. The sights, the sounds, and, of course, the food -- it's hard not to feel enamoured. What's more, you've also discovered that delicious cocktails go REALLY well with the sights, the sounds, and, of course, the food. It may only be the first day of your trip, but you're celebrating as if it's the last.

    Cut to the next morning. Your head hurts, your eyes refuse to open and your mouth feels like a literal desert. Face it, you're officially hungover. This spells bad news for the remainder of your vacation, right? Rest easy! With's handy guide on doing Montreal on a hangover, you can forget spending the day cocooned in a duvet and embrace what the city has to offer.

    But, first. Coffee - Cafe Olimpico
    Image: Emmanuel Milou, Café Olimpico, Mile-End, Montreal via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Let's be honest, breakfast may not be a viable option at this point. Caffeine, on the other hand? There's no better way to get your 'hangover day' off to a better start than an Americano or two (apart from a couple of Advil, of course). Cafe Olimpico can be found nestled in the heart of Montreal's Mile End district. With a welcoming ambiance and a menu that's delectably sweet and simple (no one wants to make decisions when they are hungover), you'll forget the fact that you can't remember getting back to your hotel last night and revel in caffeine heaven.

    Brunch - L'GROS LUXE
    Image: Alain Rouiller, Montréal Mile end 436 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    With all that caffeine consumption and a light stroll, you're likely to be feeling slightly more human. At this point, your body will be craving the ultimate defence against a hangover: grease. But fret not if you're still feeling a little sluggish - you won't need to travel too far for a delicious brunch. Enter L'GROS LUXE. Handily located in Mile End, this cool eaterie is on hand to meet all your brunch and hair of the dog needs. To eat, try the Huevos Rancheros (eggs, tortillas, salsa: say no more). And to drink, look no further than Canada's favourite 'day after' beverage, the Caesar. You can even take things up a notch with the Walter Craft Caesar Mix, packed full of 'hangover-friendly' natural ingredients and various garnish options (including grilled cheese, believe it or not.) It's basically a meal in itself.

    Spa - Bota Bota
    Image: JasonParis, Montréal, QC (Vieux Montréal) via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    After a heavy night, your desire to relax and be pampered is at an all-time high. If a spa treatment or two is your go-to 'hangover busting' option, check out the unique Bota Bota. Set in a converted ferry that floats on the St. Laurence River, this gorgeous spa offers breathtaking views of the Montreal skyline while you bask in the glory of a refreshing facial or a soothing massage. With some treatments even choreographed to live harp music, every inch of this spa says "stop feeling guilty about last night and come relax with with us instead."

    Sight seeing (and some light shopping) - Old Montreal
    Image: mricon, Old Montreal via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Okay, so you're half way to feeling yourself again. Now you're feeling a bit more alive, taking to the streets is a great way to experience the sights of Montreal first hand. And if an afternoon's sightseeing can be incorporated with some light shopping, who are we to argue? The best spot to combine the two is Old Montreal, with its charming cobblestone streets and array of popular shops. Beyond shopping and aesthetic appreciation, Old Montreal is also home to some great galleries and cafes which are well worth a visit. If there was ever a time to share your vacation with an Instagram post, now would be it.

    Poutine - Garde Manger
    Image: alex roberts, Poutine via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    By this point, you're probably going to want to refuel. And what would a trip to Montreal be without indulging in the cities signature dish - poutine, a tasty concoction of french fries, cheese and gravy. Conveniently located on a side street in Old Montreal, Garde Manger offers seafood-focused grub from head chef Chuck Hughes. If you're questioning how seafood can tie in with poutine, one bite of the lobster poutine will provide all the answers. So famous that some travellers (particularly foodies) plan their entire trip to Montreal around the dish, the generously sized portions are guaranteed to combat your mid afternoon lull.

    Gallery - DHC/ART
    Image: Sarah, Take care of yourself via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Now that you've satisfied your poutine curiosity, it's time to 'up the culture stakes' and appreciate all the spectacular art Montreal has to offer. First things first, head to the DHC/ART, a small but memorable gallery located in Old Port. With its museum atmosphere, the juxtaposition between the historical building and the modern contemporary art on display makes this gallery a cut above the rest.

    Dinner (and, eventually, drinks) - Le Fantome
    Image: JasonParis, Street art in Montréal's Griffintown via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Located in the trendy Griffintown area of Montreal, chefs at Le Fantome like to mix the everyday with the gourmet. After successfully surviving the hangover from hell, sampling the adventurous menu is the perfect way to expand your culinary horizons. Try their decadent peanut butter and jelly sandwich assembled on brioche bread and layered with foie gras (a.k.a. the PBJFG). And if you're feeling particularly brave, celebrate the end of your hangover with an alcoholic beverage (wine, cocktails, beer -- you name it).

    But be careful, or you'll be waking up in your hotel room needing to consult this guide again before you know it!

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    More details have been released about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's upcoming visit to Canada.

    Kensington Palace tweeted Monday morning that Prince William and his wife, Kate, will visit Vancouver, Victoria, Bella Bella, Haida Gwaii and Kelowna in British Columbia as well as Whitehorse and Carcross in Yukon.

    It says the trip will take place between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1:

    • Sept. 24: Victoria, B.C.

    • Sept. 25: Vancouver

    • Sept. 26: Bella Bella, B.C.

    • Sept. 27: Victoria and Kelowna, B.C.; Whitehorse, Yukon

    • Sept. 28: Whitehorse and Carcross, Yukon

    • Sept. 29: Victoria, B.C.

    • Sept. 30: Haida Gwaii, B.C.

    • Oct. 1: Victoria, B.C.

    kate middleton prince williamCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge are seen during the America's Cup World Series on July 24, 2016 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

    This will be the royal couple's second visit to Canada. Their first, following their 2011 wedding, took them to Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Summerside, Yellowknife, Calgary and Slave Lake after that community was ravaged by a forest fire.

    The then-newlyweds drew large crowds wherever they went, including a packed Canada Day gathering on Parliament Hill.

    The visit was also seen as a way to engage young Canadians with the monarchy, given the perception of waning interest compared to that of older Canadians.

    The couple's children, George and Charlotte, are reportedly slated to accompany their parents on their Canadian trip.

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    Photo credit: Luna sin estrellas

    Manitoba is one of Canada's best-kept secrets. Most travellers have heard about the internationally-acclaimed ski resorts of British Columbia and the rugged Atlantic coastline of Nova Scotia, but few have ventured into the heart of the Great White North -- Manitoba. Bordered by the Hudson Bay, home to some of the country's most fascinating wildlife, and littered with charming cities and small towns, Manitoba is a place that will help you recognize the true heart of Canada.

    Discover just how wild this province can be by experiencing these four things you can only do in Manitoba.

    Free-Dive with Beluga Whales

    The Hudson Bay is home to some of the world's most majestic Arctic creatures. As the ice packs break apart in the summer months, more than 50,000 beluga whales move into Hudson Bay waters to breed, feed and socialize. A number of Churchill-based tour companies, including Big Fish Expeditions and Churchill Wild, will take you on free-diving expeditions into the frigid waters to swim among the world's largest population of beluga whales.

    Those who aren't as eager to jump into the iceberg-studded waters can hop aboard a zodiac or kayak to admire the sea creatures from above the water's surface. The whales gather off the coast of Churchill between the months of June and October, making whale-watching a summer and early fall activity.

    See the Northern Lights from the Aurora Domes

    Photo credit: Emmanuel Milou

    Churchill, Manitoba, has been named one of the top three places on the planet to see the Northern Lights. There's arguably no better place on earth to spend a winter night staring at the sky than in the warmth and comfort of an Aurora Dome. These unique Churchill-based plexiglass domes provide front row seating to nature's most spectacular light show. The Northern Lights are most visible from late November to late March when the winter skies are clear and eerily dark.

    Sip a Beer with Bison

    Just 16 kilometres south of the capital city of Winnipeg, visitors will find 258 hectares of picture-perfect prairie land at FortWhyte Alive. Visitors are welcome to roam as free as the bison that call the land home. Summer months are ideal for sailing on the lakes while winter offers kilometre after kilometre of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. Nothing rounds out a long day of paddling, hiking or birdwatching better than a locally-brewed beer on the patio of the Buffalo Stone Cafe -- where buffalo and other wildlife sightings are common.

    Watch Polar Bears in the Wild

    Photo credit: Emma

    Churchill is one of few places in the world where polar bears can be seen in the wild just minutes from the homes of the city's residents. It's no wonder that thousands of travellers from around the world come to see the "Lords of the Arctic" every fall. The best times to view polar bears on the tundra is during October and November, but the burly white bears have been seen during all seasons. A recent study stated that there are roughly 1,000 polar bears in the western regions of the Hudson Bay, and a number of Churchill-based companies will help you admire the creatures safely and respectfully.

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    Photo credit: Shantanu Shah

    Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, and it's located just 2 hours (by car) from some America's most picturesque natural scenery. Upstate New York is known for its Adirondack Mountain peaks, gushing waterfalls, slender lakes and alluring towns. If you're considering a last-minute summer road trip or an early fall getaway in a summer-like atmosphere, the following are five reasons you should head to Upstate New York instead of anywhere else.

    You Can Explore the Finger Lakes

    If you've never heard of New York's Finger Lakes region, it's time to start Googling. This massive region west of Syracuse is home to 11 long, skinny lakes that offer year-round, outdoor fun. The area's trails will take you to deep gorges, thick woods, refreshing glacial lakes and picture-perfect waterfalls. The Finger Lakes region is also New York's largest wine producing area with more than 100 vineyards and wineries, attracting wine lovers from around the globe. Once you're finished tasting, the area's many charming bed and breakfasts, lakeside campsites and rental cabins will make you feel right at home.

    You Can Show Your Olympic Pride in Lake Placid

    Photo credit: Peter C in Toronto Canada

    You probably remember the name "Lake Placid" as the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics. But the area is far more than a former Olympic city. Nestled among the tree-covered Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is a mountain town that has it all. Head here for a weekend, and you'll find it difficult to manage your time between hiking, mountain biking, golfing, climbing, paddling, shopping, dining and soothing your muscles at the local spas. And if you are feeling in the Olympic spirit, you can still explore the Olympic sites and museum, including the 70- and 90-metre ski jumping towers and the family-friendly bobsled ride that runs in all seasons.

    You Can Travel Beneath the Earth's Surface

    Upstate New York is home to a roughly 6-million-year-old cave that dives 156-feet below the Earth's surface. In the caverns, you'll find eerie grottos, limestone corridors and stalactites that appear as though they're dripping from the cave's ceiling. Specially-trained tour guides will help you navigate through the caves and explain the rare formations along the way.

    You Can Find the Roots of Your Favourite Authors

    Photo credit: Jayu

    There's something about the still wilderness of Upstate New York that has inspired so many of the world's great writers. It's easy to create your own day tour traveling from one author's hometown to another. The writer of the Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, hails from Chittenango. James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans) is from Cooperstown. Washington Irving was from Sleepy Hollow, and Mark Twain spent his married life in Buffalo and Elmira. Many of the towns welcome tourists with museums, tours and events to celebrate the fame of their hometown heroes.

    You Can Visit an Archipelago

    Archipelagos aren't just found in tropical destinations; however, you may feel like you've traveled around the world when you find yourself on the pristine beaches of New York's Thousand Islands. This group of 1,864 islands in the Saint Lawrence River sits along the Canada-United States border and is home to never-ending shorelines, crystal-clear waters, castles, world-renowned fishing, lighthouses and small towns, featuring seafood restaurants and quaint shops. Alexandria Bay, N.Y., is home to the famous Boldt Castle, while Clayton is home to the Thousand Islands Museum, Antique Boat Museum and a slew of other historic sites. New York's numerous historic and scenic Thousand Islands communities are worth crossing the border to see.

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    Kids on planes can be such babies sometimes. Am I right?

    Kicking chairs, screaming out, throwing up...

    It's almost like they're immature, inexperienced human beings who have no concern for a passenger's right to have complete silence on a flight.

    Are you sensing my sarcasm?

    Listen, I get that traveling with kids can be tough. I've done it with babies, toddlers, schoolboys and teens. I've been on a plane planning for a 5-hour trip to dreamland only to be startled awake by a baby's piercing wail. I've been the unhappy recipient of a child whose happiness is manifested through swinging feet that make constant contact with the back of my chair. I get it.

    I've also been the exhausted parent of said wailing, seat-kicking child who wants nothing more than a peaceful flight but instead has to juggle a baby that has chosen this flight to test their lungs or see how far they can projectile vomit. And believe me in every instance, I've wanted the same thing as the rest of the plane -- for the kid to stop doing that.

    Sadly, we can't always get what we want.

    There are things we can do, both as the parent (or grandparent) traveling with their child and as a fellow traveler, to make the best of a tough situation.

    These tips for parents are a place to start.

    "The more your kids experience travel, the more they'll get a chance to practice the behaviours you're trying to reinforce."

    1. Just Say No to the Goody Bag handout

    It's an idea that will come to you one sleep deprived night as you anxiously count down to Departure day. "I know!" your mottled brain will tell you. "I'll give the other passenger a gift and buy their love for my family with lollipops and chocolate!"

    A recent article in the New York Times in favour of giving goody bags to appease fellow travellers will seem like support for the idea, but don't do it. Instead ask yourself what message you're sending when you apologize way before there is anything to apologize for? Will you also give out goody bags at the coffee shop? In restaurants? At the grocery store? In the air, like on land, your kid is just being a kid. Your focus should be on them, not on whether your fellow passengers seem perturbed.

    2. Be Prepared to Entertain Your Kids on the Flight

    Bored kids might become hard to handle kids. Keep boredom in check by packing quiet activities for your kids: A few small and favourite toys, books, colouring and activity books and electronics. Many airlines also offer in-flight entertainment, including television and movies, but be sure to research what is available in the air so you don't get caught unprepared. (Westjet, for example, is transitioning to an app that provides entertainment. You will need to download this before you go.)

    Here's a pro tip: pack a little unexpected present in your carry-on and surprise your kids with an extra toy, book or activity mid-flight. And leave the noisy toy car in your checked luggage...or, better yet, at home.

    3. Apologize When You Have Something to Apologize For

    If your child does kick a seat, pull someone's hair, or spill juice on the person behind you, be sure to apologize. And more importantly let your child know that their behaviour was not okay or they need to be more careful. This shows other passengers that no one meant to be disrespectful, but more importantly it teaches your child how to behave on the plane and the importance of personal space. Being four doesn't give them permission to jump on the seats or spread out their toys in the galley.

    4. Practice Makes Perfect - Take Your Kids Often

    The more your kids experience travel, the more they'll get a chance to practice the behaviours you're trying to reinforce. We've all experienced impatient kids, but the good news is as they understand what is expected of them, and get used to travel (they might be nervous too), they will get it! Soon you'll have some tiny, travel pros on your hands and you'll realize that kids can be great travellers, no goody bags required.

    Read more at:

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    Photo credit: IQRemix

    The kids are going back to school, the sun is setting earlier and the nights are feeling a little chillier. All of these signs mean the dog days of summer are coming to a close, but the back-to-school blues doesn't have to ruin your fall and winter fun. Canada is home to some of North America's top indoor amusement parks, and these five must-visit attractions are guaranteed to continue the summer thrills through the colder months.

    Galaxyland -- Edmonton, Alberta

    The West Edmonton Mall isn't just a place for back-to-school shopping. As the largest shopping mall in North America and the 10th-largest in the world, this massive shopping center is home to far more than clothing and gift stores. The West Edmonton Mall is home to the world's largest indoor amusement park, complete with 27 action-packed rides for all ages. Also included in this indoor oasis is the World Waterpark, Marine Life aquarium, Professor Wem's Adventure Golf and enough family-friendly fun to fill a whole vacation.

    Fallsview Indoor Waterpark -- Niagara Falls

    Photo credit: Michael Gray

    Spend your entire visit to Niagara Falls in and around the water. The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark combines the adventure and action of the falls with 3 acres of indoor family fun. Visitors can lounge in the hot springs, play in the wave pool, plunge down thrilling slides or catch some rays on the sundeck all within a 2-minute walk of Niagara Falls. The park is located steps from the area's most popular hotels, making a day at the park a no-brainer for families visiting in all seasons.

    Fantasy Fair -- Toronto

    You'll never hear your little ones complain about going to the mall again. Fantasy Fair is Ontario's largest indoor amusement park, and it's located inside Toronto's Woodbine Shopping Centre. The park is filled with carnival rides and attractions, including the Crystal Kaleidoscope Ferris Wheel, the Antique Carousel, a climbing wall, drop tower, a 6D themed ride experience, bumper cars, an arcade and more. Spending a rainy fall day at the mall just got a whole lot more exciting.

    Great Wolf Lodge -- Niagara Falls

    Photo credit: Iam_chihang

    Niagara Falls is one of Canada's most popular tourist attractions, so it's no wonder the Ontario town is loaded with things for travelers to do when they're not observing the natural wonder. The 9,290-square-meter Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls is a place where you can stay, play, dine and shop in a single location. Park visitors can hop aboard the Niagara Rapids Run, splash down family slides, rent cool cabanas, experience exhilarating drops, play in the Frog Pond, cruise the lazy river or enjoy dozens of other attractions in and out of the water. The Great Wolf Lodge sets itself apart from other indoor amusement parks with a relaxing spa for adults and the Scooops Kid Spa where parents can get pampered with their little ones.

    Adventure Bay Family Water Park -- Windsor

    Learn to surf, get your adrenaline pumping and enjoy family-friendly fun this fall at the Adventure Bay Family Water Park in Windsor. This must-visit water park features all of the best water-based attractions, including a wave pool, the twisting Python tube ride, the Whizzard downhill racing slide, the FlowRider surf experience, a lazy river and tons of other slides, playgrounds and activities for kids and adults of all ages. Turn your fall or winter Windsor escape into a summer day filled with thrills, relaxation and plenty of waves.

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  • 08/24/16--10:02: You Need To Visit Costa Rica
  • 2016-08-23-1471982994-3952527-CostaRica01.jpg

    If wanderlust courses and pumps fiercely through your veins and you crave adventure, sense of humanity and to witness nature at its finest-- you need to visit Costa Rica.

    The small country in Central America is known as the "happiest country on Earth" and it's no wonder why. It is not only beautiful but, it is easy to fall in love with its people too. A place that values sustainability, relishes in nature and has kind-hearted people is a place you just need to visit.


    1. Eco-Tourism.

    If you are looking for a serene experience with tranquil hikes and food that is from farm to plate El Silencio Lodge is a place to start. Nestled within the cloud forest, you will be truly connected to nature. The food comes straight from local gardens, chicken coops and the fish straight from on-site ponds. You can book tours that will show you the history of coffee, chocolate, sugar cane, palms and more. There are many eco-friendly options and CST-certified resorts, you will not be disappointed.


    2. Accessibility.

    The location makes it optimal to cover a lot of ground in just hours' time. Its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Travel from coast to coast in just three hours. In one day, you can travel from the cloud forests at El Silencio Lodge in Bajos Del Toro to Hotel Kioro in Arenal in an hour and 40 minutes. Then from Hotel Kioro to Arenas del Mar in Quepos (which is listed as a 1 of 1000 places to see before you die) in 4 hours and 40 minutes.

    Stop at Restaurante de Iguanas in Muelle San Carlos, Alajuela for a meal and to see the dozens of wild iguanas roaming free or in the trees. If you're headed to Manuel Antonio, stop by the Tarcoles Bridge, known as "Crocodile Bridge" and look down, you'll see dozens of crocs bathing in the sun. Before you leave, stop by the vendors that line the streets near the bridge. Enjoy fresh coconuts with a straw; they'll cut your coconut and pack up your coconut meat for later.


    3. Beaches, Waterfalls and Volcanoes.

    Since the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are in close proximity, you have the opportunity to explore what both coasts have to offer. Find white sands and turquoise water on the Caribbean side and a haven for world class surfing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding and more on the Pacific. Visit Volcano Arenal, at 5,437 feet, it stands high above the rest of the countryside and is magnificent. Hike, white water raft, enjoy hot springs, horseback ride and ATV in this area.

    The waterfalls are plenty, make the trip and small hike down to La Catarata de Fortuna. The waterfall is just as beautiful as it is refreshing to swim in. One of many that you can enjoy in the country.


    4. Wildlife and Rainforests.

    25% of this country is made up of protected rain forests and parks, some have creatures and creepy crawlies that can only be found there due to the perfect weather conditions.

    Book a tour that takes you atop the rain forest giving you bird's eye view of the lush beauty below. Explore on your own by taking a walking tour at Manuel Antonio. You can enlist the help of a tour guide so you won't miss a thing. Don't forget to look up in the trees; you may just see monkeys, sloths, toucans and more.


    5. The Food.

    One thing that Costa Rica offers is fresh and delicious food options. From breakfast and beyond--the food is amazing. Try the typical Costa Rican breakfast, Gallo pinto is rice and beans or "casado" a mixture of rice and beans together, tortillas, eggs, fried plantain, fresh sour cream and fresh cheese.

    With plenty of coast line, you can bet there is seafood to be had. Ceviche is an incredibly popular choice. Made with fresh tilapia or White Sea bass (corvina), plenty of cilantro, garlic, celery, hot pepper and onion. Sopa de Mariscos is a must for seafood lovers, a tomato-based seafood soup with clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, fish, and vegetables.

    Another Costarricense dish to try is Chifrijo. Fried pork, beans, rice, avocado and a tomato-based sauce with citrus from lime juice. For dessert, try Prestiños a deep fried tortilla, hand spun ice cream drizzled with locally grown sugar cane syrup.


    6. Artistry.

    Artisans abound in Costa Rica. Take a trip to Eloy Alfaro Fabrica de Carretas in Sarchi. You'll find the world's largest ox-cart which is fantastic for a photo-op. Watch various artisans hand-paint wheels throughout the day and tour the original 1920 water-powered ox-cart factory that's still in production.


    7. The People.

    Costa Rica is known as the "happiest country on Earth" and a big part of that is due to its people. Their motto is "Pura Vida" means pure life and can be applied in many ways. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with a smile, a nod and a hello. As you drive through the streets, many will wave as you pass. There is a sense of peace, camaraderie and humanity everywhere you go. It's no surprise that they stopped having a need for an army in 1949.

    Make a stop by Casona de Rio Fortuna, a turn-of-the-century country home of former Costa Rican ex-president Rafael Yglesias Castro. Enjoy a traditional meal, learn how to make tortillas, coffee and learn about sugar cane, yucca and more. Visit the Escuela of Sonafluca and get to know local children and get immersed in their culture.

    These are just 7 reasons why you need to visit Costa Rica, you'll discover more on your trip there. It's no reason that Costa Ricans (or as they are warmly known as "ticos") are much happier than their North American counterparts! You will leave happier and it's almost guaranteed you'll keep going back for more!

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    Though summer (and patio season) is soon coming to an end, there's no reason to exchange a cold brew for eggnog just yet. From full-bodied ales to refreshing lagers, craft beer has evolved from a fad to its own market. Whether you're in North America or across the pond, you're bound to find variations of a "cold one." Here are the top seven destinations in the world we recommend to grab a pint in, so you can become a true beer connoisseur.

    1) Dublin, Ireland
    This may be stating the obvious, but Dublin is known for some of the finest craft beer pubs in the world. With over 60 craft breweries operating in Ireland, Dublin offers more than just a typical Guinness. In addition to the must-see Guinness storehouse, there are pub crawls and the Irish craft beer festival. Let's not forget about those delicious beer and pub food pairings found in the city.

    2) Portland, Oregon
    Known as the artisan-beer mecca, Portland has more breweries than any other place in North America. The city offers over 100 beer-related festivals, brew 'n' view movie theatres, beer bus tours and the biggest outdoor beer party on the continent (Yes, you read that right). Since Portland leads the U.S. in percentage of craft beer sales, it's the best American city to fuel your brew needs.

    3) Montreal, Quebec
    As one of the largest cultural centres in the world, Montreal offers a unique, non-traditional range of beers. While you'll find the Quebec capital's breweries infuse both European and North American influences, it's the ales made with cranberries or maple syrup that contribute to a Canadian identity. You won't want to miss a chance to stop by the first brewery in North America -- the Molson Brewery, founded in 1786. Montreal's craft beer tours not only provide one-of-a-kind beer tastings, but a historic and cultural experience of la belle province.

    4) Munich, Germany
    How could we mention the best places to grab a pint without including the home of Oktoberfest? Munich's famous 16-day festival dedicated to all things beer not only serves up to 1.5 million gallons of the favoured alcoholic brew, but it brings in millions of tourists every year. Served according to German standards with four sole ingredients (barley, hops, malt and yeast), Oktoberfest beer may have you feeling happy a lot sooner, as it tends to be significantly stronger. In other words, put on your favourite dirndl or lederhosen (the classic Oktoberfest costumes) and get ready to drink in the name of Bavarian culture.

    5) Denver, Colorado
    Although Denver has become synonymous with mass American beer manufacturer Coors, the city is also known for its range of microbreweries. In fact, there are 15 microbreweries in downtown Denver alone, including two of the biggest in the entire country. It's no wonder why the Great American Beer Festival, which holds the record for the most beers on tap, has been held in Denver for the past 30 years. This leaves us asking, is it called the Mile High City because of its elevation above sea level or because of its elevation of beer choices?

    6) Tokyo, Japan
    While most would limit Japanese beer to the internationally-sold brand Sapporo, created in 1886, 200 microbreweries (also known as Ji Birus) have since emerged. Beer remains the drink of choice in Japan - which is why you can find your favourite ales 24 hours a day at convenience stores and in vending machines (who needs soda?). Take a trip to the Sapporo beer museum or hit up the local Izakaya (pub) to experience Tokyo's vibrant beer culture. Just remember: Japanese etiquette states that one should never waste beer.

    7) Mexico City, Mexico
    While you can find Mexican beer favourites, such as Corona, all over the world, Mexico only exports a few - which means you're missing out on a whole lot of cerveza. Light-bodied and crisp, Mexican beer tends to be served cold under the hot sun. Add in lime juice, and you have a michelada - a refreshing beer cocktail. Whether you're relaxing at the beach or watching the luche libre (Mexican wrestling) at the Arena Mexico, try a traditional Mexican pilsner, such as the Bohemia. As one of the finest beers in the world, you'll be saying "otra cerveza por favor!"

    With the help of travelcuts, you can soon be en route to the best beer in the world. And if you really want to show off your brew knowledge, record your hunt for the ultimate pint on film and enter travelcuts' travel docs film fest by September 15th. With a chance of winning $5,000 in travel, you can go on a new hunt - this time, for the best red wine.

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    Photo - Roy Letts

    First it was an American on-line dive magazine, then it was a chain of Canadian newspapers and now, Germany's largest circulation magazine Der Spiegel is in the city of Brockville, Ontario to discover why this is one of the world's best freshwater diving destinations.

    The St Lawrence River community has shipwrecks, shore diving, good visibility in warm water, a growing underwater sculpture park and just recently opened state-of-the art Aquatrarium (both an aquarium and shipwreck attraction).

    'It's not common knowledge, but Canada offers some of the best diving in the world, in some of the most untouched marine environments. So, what are the best dive sites in Canada? " asks Scuba Diver Life, a California online scuba diving magazine.

    "Brockville! Just across the St. Lawrence River from New York State, along a stretch of the river between Rockport and Brockville, there are more than a dozen wrecks to explore," reads Scuba Diver Life. "As for that chill, the St. Lawrence River water warms up (in the summer and fall months)."


    Helen Cooper and one of her boats

    Helen Cooper has been operating ABUCS SCUBA and the Dive Brockville Adventure Centre for over 22 years. Although there is friendly competition amongst the city's dive boats (in 2007 there were 22 dive charter operators in the Brockville area) Helen Cooper has the largest and longest running operation in the Thousand Island Region. She has four government approved dive charters boats, a fully approved fill station, mixed gases and Brockville's only full service dive shop.

    "The warm waters of the Upper St Lawrence River has always been a draw - averaging 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months with no thermoclines and 40' - 50' visibility," said Ms. Cooper in explaining why Brockville is getting international notice these days. " it really is the Canadian Caribbean here!"

    "In addition to the balmy, clear waters, the world class shipwrecks are a big drawing card - wooden schooners from the 1800 still pretty much in tact, last much longer in fresh water that is cold most of the year," she continued. " We have exciting drift dives where you can find torpedo bottles and clay pipes on the river floor, in addition to seeing the many different fish. The recently developed Sculpture Park gives divers something new to explore right from shore!"

    The underwater Sculpture Park is directly offshore of Brockville's downtown riverside Canteen Park and a block from Ms. Cooper's shop. There are currently 15 statues placed on the riverbed in two rings - one inside of the other. There are standing figures, benches and sturgeon placed at the cardinal points of the radius.

    The sculptures have been cast in concrete and sunk on the bottom by members of the Save Ontario Shipwrecks society and civic minded volunteers. The statues themselves have been made for the most part by art classes from Thousand Islands Secondary School and Brockville Collegiate Institute, working from molds created by artist /retired art teacher /diver Dave Sheridan and SOS member Tom Hatch.

    The Sculpture Garden is a work in progress. In June a team of volunteer put ten life sized works onto the bottom. There are now 25 pieces in the Garden and more such sinkings are in the works.

    We are building a memorial underwater at Centeen Park," said artist David Sheridan. "There is a grand plan to all of this--It is more than just a dive attraction. It is meant to honour the scuba divers who have died in the St Lawrence over the years. Because the park is relatively shallow (30 to 60 ft) and just a quick swim from shore, a lot of new Ontario, Quebec and New York State divers are making their first open water dives right here. It is accessible and it is also a reminder for all divers to play it safe, no one is immune to the dangers of the river."

    The dive community, working with the city, is charging shore divers $10 for an underwater seasonal pass. The money is being used by the city and the SOS to maintain the park and to pay for the commission of more sculptures.


    Dave Sheridan inside the new Aquatrium

    "There are great plans for the Park," continued Mr. Sheridan. "The SOS wants to build a better entry for divers into the water at the Centeen Park. There will, we hope a buoy set up for dive boats to bring in disabled divers. Exciting new, this year there will be an underwater camera set-up that will live stream back to our new Aquatrium (the just opened nearby aquarium and shipwreck museum)"

    In addition to the Garden, there are many of North America's most visited freshwater shore dive sites in the Brockville region. These sites are shallow shipwrecks within snorkelling distance of the shore. Each weekend hundreds of divers drive along the river hugging Highway 2, stopping at parks near the more popular wreck sites, where people can dive in safe, close-to-shore sites, for free!


    Wreck of the Conestoga near Brockville

    Novices and photographers like the shore dives but "Brockville attracts tech divers as well," said ABUS owner Cooper. "There are more challenging wrecks like the Jodery which lies at 240' and the JB King at 140'. These are popular dives because the shipwrecks are pretty well intact. There is an opportunity for penetration into the shipwrecks too."

    Novice. Photographers. Tech Divers. Free Divers. Everyone is coming to Brockville, and in big numbers. Tourist officials say that divers are coming from Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto, and from all over the USA -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and even California! And the numbers are growing.

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    Next year, 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It is our sesquicentennial, a big birthday for Canada, and the capital city is getting ready for its closeup.

    As I found out last weekend, Ottawa is in the process of changing up the nice, proper-but-a-tad-stiff image it has rocked since I visited as a child. Most people visit Ottawa on their grade ten school trip and never look back; I returned over the years because I have family there. What I found on last weekend's visit made me want to go back for more.

    The "Northern Lights" summer light show on Parliament Hill Photo: Lin Stranberg

    It's no news that the nation's capital will be hosting some big-time birthday parties, and it's getting ready to meet and greet in style. Ottawa is shaking off that stodgy image and getting some glamour on. And here's the good part: Ottawa's makeover is about more than the cranes on Parliament Hill, the scaffolding around national memorials, and the new LRT going in. I found hip new hotels, fabulous new restaurants, and a new allure in the air that wasn't there before.

    A happier vibe

    The Alt Hotel Photo: Alt Hotel

    My first clue that things were different was when I checked into the new Alt Hotel on Slater Street. It's all sleek white facade, warm and colourful lobby, and a chill, down-to-earth vibe. For starters, it was great to check into an Ottawa hotel that didn't take itself too seriously. My room had the same footprint as a Le Germain hotel (it's the no-frills-chic version) but smaller. It had comfort, design and a surprise perk -- no checkout time on Sundays. Bonus: pet-friendly. It was a stylish perch and a good base for walking around the capital.

    Fine art and iconic sights

    Marie Antoinette by Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun (1778) Photo: Lin Stranberg

    I'm a museum-restaurant-and-sightseeing kind of city tourist and I like to walk it. I took a 20-minute stroll up to Elgin Street, over the bridge, down the stairs past the glass skirt of the curvy Shaw Centre, then on to Sussex Drive and the National Gallery of Canada to catch the exhibition of portraiture by Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun. The 18th century painter was Marie Antoinette's official portraitist, and the show was rich and ravishing. The National Gallery is the last stop of the show's Paris-New-York-Ottawa tour; on until September 11th.

    Site of the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships in 2017. Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Next, I walked down to the locks on the Rideau Canal for a look at the future site of the Red Bull Crashed Ice world championships next March, one of the signature events from the party planners at Ottawa 2017. Ice cross downhill is an extreme sport designed for urban environments. It's a high-excitement event. Skaters in hockey gear can hit 50+ kph-speeds on tracks packed with drops, gaps and hairpin turns, making it the fastest sport on ice and a big draw for Canadians.

    Au Feel d'Eau water taxi on the river behind Parliament Hill Photo: Lin Stranberg

    I continued on to visit the small and historic Bytown Museum, the oldest stone building in the city. Then, for a mellow new look at some iconic Ottawa sights, I hopped a silent electric aqua taxi across the Ottawa River to the Museum of History and back.

    Stylish ambience and fabulous food

    The Riviera Restaurant has 50-ft ceilings and an open kitchen Photo: Lin Stranberg

    It wasn't easy to score a dinner reservation at Riviera. The new restaurant, from the chefs of El Camino and Fusion in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood, is just a few weeks old and the hottest new spot in town. Set in a 1920s former CIBC bank building, the restaurant's soaring 50-ft. ceiling and urbane ambience pair beautifully with the fabulous food, some of the best I've tasted all summer.

    Orriechette carbonara, pasta made in-house with an Italian extruder Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Lights and sounds on Parliament Hill

    It was a gorgeous night on Parliament Hill when we dropped by to see Northern Lights, the city's free light-and-sound extravaganza projected onto the Parliament Buildings. It's a laid-back sort of summer evening thing, with people alone or in couples, standing around or lolling on the grass; some with lawn chairs, some with kids. The bilingual show tells a condensed story of Canada's history in a visual way and has some stirring moments. The scale is spectacular.

    Fresher looks for Byward Market and the OAG

    Local produce at Byward Market Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Even historic Byward Market, one of Canada's oldest public markets dating back to the 19th century, has changed up its image. It may be older than Confederation, but it's freshened up its vibe with the new Andaz Hotel, a "lifestyle" Hyatt that just opened this month. Nearby, the Ottawa Art Gallery is expanding to occupy a 23-storey multi-use complex that includes a new Le Germain hotel.

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    "The moral of the story is ... use WestJet."

    That's what Chris Lade's lesson is after a recent experience with Air Canada.

    The airline charged him a $200 to change a flight from Toronto to his home in Calgary last week after his mother passed away.

    Lade wrote on Facebook Friday that he wanted to change a trip to a later date so that he could take care of his mother's estate and ensure his sister was doing OK.

    air canada pearson airport
    Air Canada planes at Toronto's Pearson airport. (Photo: Nurphoto/Getty Images)

    The two had spent many hours taking care of their mom at Toronto General Hospital over the past two months, and Lade made numerous trips back and forth to see her, CBC News reported.

    But Lade, who bought travel insurance, grew frustrated dealing with an Air Canada customer service agent who said he would be charged $200 to make the change — even after WestJet didn't charge such a fee on him for a previous flight, he said.

    Lade said the Air Canada agent put him on a "lengthy hold" and said he could be reimbursed for $105 "provided I send them a death certificate and flight numbers." He called the situation "absolutely ridiculous."

    "I just planned a funeral for my mom and am staying on the basis of taking care of my family, not because I want to," Lade wrote on Facebook.

    air canada planes
    A view of Air Canada planes at Toronto Pearson International Airport. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

    Air Canada warns passengers wishing to switch their flights that they may have to pay a "change fee" depending on the trips purchased.

    Changing an economy flight can cost anywhere from $75 to $100, plus the fare difference.

    A "same-day airport change," which is requested at check-in at the airport prior to departure, can cost as much as $150.

    The airline extended its sympathy to Lade in a statement to CBC News, adding he would have to talk to his insurance company if he wants a reimbursement.

    Lade told the network Manulife will cover the change fee, but he nevertheless remained upset with how the airline treated him.

    "F*** Air Canada," he wrote on Facebook.

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