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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    If you've been spending a few too many wintry weekends on the couch finally watching "The Sopranos," Toronto restaurants are giving you an excuse to get out of the house. The annual Winterlicious festival, featuring prix fixe menus from $15 to $45 at eateries across the city, is in its 11th year, running from January 31 to February 13, 2014.

    More than 200 restaurants are slotted to participate, included tough-to-reserve hot spots like Bent, Chiado, Momofuku Daisho and One, with reservations accepted as of January 16. The majority of restaurants are located downtown, but the offerings spread throughout the city, so those living north of the 401 and east of the DVP needn't be completely left out.

    And a fair warning to the diners of Toronto — even if you don't want to partake in the Winterlicious prix fixe, going to any of the participating restaurants during those two weeks can mean you might have to. Call ahead to make sure, or try out some of our other favourite restaurants in Toronto.

    You can check out the full list of participating restaurants (and their prices and menus) at the City of Toronto's Winterlicious site, but as you can see, it's a pretty overwhelming task. To help you out, the Toronto-based HuffPost Canada editors have selected their favourites based on a variety of criteria.

    Are we right? Are we wrong? Let us know in the comments below:

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    Nothing quite says "throw off the winter blues" than Dine Out Vancouver, which starts Friday, Jan. 17. It's a win-win: restaurants remain busy throughout a traditionally slow period, and diners can eat out knowing they won't bust their post-holiday budget.

    Hundreds of restaurants have signed up with the Tourism Vancouver program to offer three-course menus at $18, $28 or $38.

    Check out a selection of dishes in gallery. Story continues below slideshow.

    But how do you narrow down the choice? Do you pick somewhere new to you? Or take advantage of a bargain at one of your favourite spots? Do you stay local? Or is a good deal enough temptation for you to cross town?

    Restaurant critic Lee Man thinks Dine Out is the time to try something new on your tastebuds. "Go get a sense of a restaurant that you have not been to before," he recommends, although he cautions against obsessing about getting a bargain. "Don't focus on the price, but the experience. Now is not the time to try to wring out every last bit of value from your set menu."

    One thing to bear in mind is that restaurants will expect to flip tables at least once an evening during the festival, and your reservation may have a time limit. If you show up late, you're straining the system, and chances are the experience will slide downhill from there.

    "Be patient and generous, especially to the staff working at the restaurant," Man says. "They are working doubly hard to get you served in a quick and friendly manner. Reward their hard work with a good tip, and respect time limits as others are lining up for their turn also."

    Lee Man's Top Three Picks For Dine Out Vancouver 2014

    • L'Abbatoir

      This is one of the most consistently stellar and interesting restaurants in Vancouver. Chef Lee Cooper really delivers on delicious innovation while general manager Paul Grunberg has the front of house firing on all pistons. Treat yourself to one of their awesome cocktails during DOV.

    • Pidgin
      Chef Makato Ono really knows how to play with restrained Asian flavors using lush French technique. The resulting food is beautiful, smart, and tasty.

    • West Restaurant + Bar
      Quang Dang is an absolute genius when it comes to small composed plates, with really vigorous and alive flavors. This is a chance to dine in one Vancouver's premier rooms and get a taste of Quang's cooking.

    And, as if the swath of restaurants taking part in Dine Out proper weren't enough, Vancouverites can take their experience one step further by taking advantage of one of the many special events this year.

    At one of the city's most exclusive rooms, Hawksworth, diners are being offered the chance to try some of Chef David Hawksworth's signature dishes at a fraction of the a la carte prices.

    Kristian Eligh, the restuarant's chef de cuisine, says the idea for "Side Dishes" — which seats diners at "harvest tables" in one of the private dining rooms within the Hotel Georgia — is a way to offer a taste of what the restaurant is about to those who might find the regular menu prohibitively expensive, or who prefer a slightly more casual atmosphere.

    "There are the actual dishes, albeit with less formal service," he notes. "We are not making any money on this."

    If straight up dining sounds a bit dull, there are a number of opportunities to take in dinner and a show, including live jazz at the soon to close and much-loved Cellar Jazz Club, with the Weeds/Minemoto Quartet or an evening of high wire action and burlesque with Night Circus's Atlantis.

    Whatever tickles your fancy, don't delay in booking as dates are selling out fast. Dine Out Vancouver ends on Feb. 2.

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    It's no doubt that Orlando is the quintessential kid-oriented entertainment paradise. Mickey and Minnie sightings, splashy water rides, and acrobatic dolphins are fun, for sure, but after awhile, one does need some quality adult time. Thankfully, Orlando has much to offer for those who want a break from the kids, are traveling without kids, or just want to lower the kid quotient. Let our top 8 list of things to see and do for grown-ups show you the way.

    1. Get acclimated from the air


    With more than 100 attractions to choose from, plus the omnipresence of Walt Disney World, choosing what to do in Orlando can seem overwhelming. So put it all into perspective and see this magical city from the air. Toast the sunrise with a glass of champagne as you float above forests, lakes, and all the theme parks on the Orlando Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride. For a close-up view of the parks themselves, take to the air on a helicopter tour, where you can customize your flight over SeaWorld, Disney, and other parks.

    Read more: The Most Inspiring Hot Air Balloon Views

    2. Zip around a speedway track


    Even if you're not a Daytona 500 fan, you will still get a thrill doing 8 laps around the Walt Disney World Speedway in the driver's seat of a V-8 stock car, with 600hp at the ready. For a more intense experience, speed aficionados can try the Richard Petty Drive Along, which gives drivers 30 laps of heart-pounding speed in 10-lap intervals. You can ride shotgun, if you like, or take the wheel yourself.

    3. Have a night on the town


    Like its spectacular theme parks for kids, Orlando's after-dark options provide nonstop grown-up fun. See a fairy tale come to life at an Arabian Nights Dinner Show, take in the wild theatrics at a Blue Man Group Show at Universal Orlando, or splurge for a dinner at one of the many upscale restaurants (the more you spend, the fewer kids you'll see). If you want to dance, head to Red Coconut Club or The Groove, two of the top clubs on Universal Citywalk, or catch a concert at the House of Blues or Hard Rock Live. Many of the big hotels also have nightlife scenes, so be sure to check out what's in your hotel.

    Read more about the Blue Man Group

    Photo credit: Ben Yanis via Flickr

    4. Shop 'til you drop


    From designer labels to souvenirs, shoppers will find much to browse. Downtown Disney, CityWalk, and International Drive have much of the family-friendly shopping, but for a more sophisticated experience, browse the couture boutiques along the cobblestone Park Avenue in Winter Park. Bargain hunters and antique lovers will find many treasures along Antique Row and Ivanhoe Row on Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Galleries and gift shops line Market Street in Celebration, while outlet and mall shoppers will find plenty along International Drive. For a broader scope, try an Orlando Shopping Tour, which will give you a mix of mall and designer shops.

    Photo credit: Robert Neff via Flickr

    5. Tee off under the sun


    Golfers can choose some 150 sunny greens in Orlando to improve their handicaps. In Walt Disney World alone, there are five 18-hole, par-72 courses. Outside of Disney, try Champion's Gate Golf Club, Grand Cypress Golf Club, or the 45 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus at the Villas of Grand Cypress.

    Photo credit: Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau via Flickr

    6. Take a thrill ride at Universal Orlando


    Relive your love of rides in a grown-up way. Try the intoxicating and exciting blend of breathtaking rides, attractions, and cutting-edge special effects and technology at Universal Studios Orlando. Thrill-seekers can test their mettle on the high-speed Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, overload their senses on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, or zip through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

    Read more in our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort

    Photo credit: Nick Hubbard via Flickr

    7. Globe-trot at Epcot


    Taste your way through the cuisine of 11 different countries--including Norway, Morocco, Canada, Japan, China, and Germany--in the World Showcase at Epcot. Try succulent pescado a la talla (grilled red snapper) in Mexico, Mediterranean tuna tartar in France, the "Night in Casablanca" sampler (roast lamb meshoui, chicken kebab, seafood bastilla, vegetable couscous) in Morocco, or watch chefs perform at a teppanyaki steak house. Bring your appetite!

    Read more: Epcot for Adults

    8. Have a rejuvenating spa day


    Escape the glitz, the fireworks, and the noise to the serenity of a day spa. Orlando resorts offer a variety of experiences, from orange and lime therapies to treatments from Japan, Sweden, and Thailand. If you want to splurge, immerse yourself in the luxurious Guerlain treatment at the Waldorf-Asotria, or a hydrating body wrap at Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. A stay at the Villas of Grand Cypress is a retreat in itself, as you can not only sequester yourself in a spa but you can wander amid peaceful, lush grounds while passing by lakes, bougainvillea, and hibiscus.

    Photo credit: Michael Gray via Flickr

    Or relax and swim at the Wekiwa Springs State Park

    - William Travis for Viator

    Planning a trip? Browse Viator's Orlando tours and things to do, Orlando attractions, and Orlando travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Orlando for a customized tour!

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    Iris Milanova really wants to live in New York City. We know this because she has written a blog post for Thought Catalog detailing her five reasons for wanting to move there.

    Nothing wrong with that. Who among us can deny flirting with the idea of a marvelous Manhattan life at some point in our humdrum lives?

    But the reason we didn't become an Internet laughing stock is because, frankly, we know that daydreams—or any dreams for that matter—are best kept to the confines of our own febrile minds.

    Iris Milanova didn't get that memo. Oh no. She went full on frontal in her earnestness, sharing all the amazing, wonderful things about New York that presumably us lesser mortals have failed to grasp.

    The result is jaw-dropping in its naiveté—as if Ms. Milanova believes "Sex And The City" was a documentary, and if she simply packs up her Manolos with her resume, and hotfoots it to the city that never sleeps, she will be welcomed her into "this bustling metropolis where you can actually touch opportunity in the air as it floats and sparkles beneath the gaze of the Statue of Liberty."

    Yes, she really wrote that. And the 26-year-old Torontonian didn't stop there:

    I dream of being in the same room with Marina Abramovic, not simply reading online reviews on her mesmerising performance art in the New Yorker. I secretly hope to run into Bill Cunningham, a living icon, on Fifth Avenue and watch him snap pictures of Iris Apfel. I want to grab a breakfast sandwich and devour it in-front of Tiffany’s at 7am. I want to have the ability to frolic throughout the city, stumbling in on new exhibitions, shows, concerts, and theatre productions when I desire to do so. I want to have a date in Central Park and watch a screening of West Side Story while twinkling lights from the many skyscrapers shine in the night’s sky. I want to “be a part of it, New York, New York.”

    Gawker took no time to take this starry-eyed young woman's dream to task, countering with "The Top Ten Reasons to Live in NYC, By An Alien", using direct quotes from Milanova's original post:

    1) "I want to be able to grab a Cosmopolitan and gaze as hundreds of people walk by on the street, while indulging in some non-judgemental people-watching."

    And Twitter wasn't far behind:

    @bwtran suggested she was looking at things through rosy eyes:

    While @JLTweets_Maybe didn't believe she could be a grown woman:

    And @kellyandersun was proper New York blunt:

    In the end, perhaps it was just the kind of tough love Milanova needed:

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    For many visitors to Hawaii, it can be difficult to get a glimpse of the local color and culture. After all, if you stay in Waikiki for your whole vacation, you'll never hear pidgin phrases like "da kine" -- which can mean anything you want it to -- or understand the local practice of only using the words mauka (mountain-side) and makai (ocean-side) when giving directions.

    Thankfully, Hawaii Vines -- a Facebook page that hopes to spread aloha with Hawaii humor -- offers 7-second windows into the vibrant, fun-loving and diverse culture on the islands. Below, 7 of our favorites:

    1. Hawaii's Fabulous State Fish: The Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa

    2. The Difference Between How Hawaii Surfers and California Surfers Measure Waves

    3. Getting In Trouble With Da Parents

    4. When A Haole (White Person) Gives Directions Vs. When A Local Does

    5. The Best Indicator That You're In A Tourist Trap

    6. The Haka, Because Everyone Here Knows It

    7. Trying To Take Da Bus As A Child

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    Today (Thursday) is National Do Nothing Day. A quasi-holiday, sure, but we'll take any excuse to think of things to not do in places we want to be besides the office.

    If you happen to be on the road today, here are a few things you can not do while still doing something.

    If you're on a cruise...
    cruise balcony
    ...sit on your balcony and take in the view

    If you're in a city...
    luxembourg gardens reading
    ...sit in a park and read

    If you're on a beach...
    jost van dyke
    ...a) lucky you and b) just sit and take in the view

    If you're in the country...
    stargazing country

    If you're at a hotel...
    people hotel lobby couches
    ...people watch in the lobby

    If you're on an airplane...
    view from an airplane
    ...look at the window and marvel at the world below you

    If you're at the airport...
    people looking at departures board airport
    ...stare at the departures board and think of where you want to go next

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    In particular seasons, the crowds and the prices and the hours-long lines for museums can make Europe's most popular cities feel almost painful to visit.

    But you won't have to, now that we've summed them all up with the haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that's incredibly succinct (and incredibly snarky... please excuse us).

    Amsterdam: A Haiku
    Everyone on bikes
    Can we take a cab for once?
    That little green weed

    Paris: A Haiku
    Skinny pants and flats
    Their tower lights up at night
    No one talks to us

    Berlin: A Haiku
    Currywurst on buns
    See the wall that changed the world
    Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer

    Florence: A Haiku
    Carbohydrates everywhere
    Gain ten pounds... why not?

    London: A Haiku
    Oh hey, Will and Kate
    No one told us how it rains
    Death by exchange rate

    Prague: A Haiku
    Walk on cobblestones
    Walk across a long, long bridge
    Not much else to do

    Dublin: A Haiku
    Guinness Storehouse tour
    Where are all the leprechauns?
    I'll settle for beer

    Feel free to submit your own haikus in the comments section!

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    They say your drink of choice says a lot about you. Your beloved alcoholic beverage may not be indicative of your entire personality, but perhaps it can help you choose your next vacation destination.

    Here's where to go if you like...

    monte carlo
    Wine drinkers tend to be classy folks who know how to let their hair down. There's something wonderful about getting loopy off of a bottle of grown-up grape juice, whether it's a rare vintage or a cheaper variety. Wine drinkers should head to a spot that offers both decadence and fun. We suggest the French Riviera -- a place that exudes class and style, offers beautiful views, delicious food and opulence at the Monte Carlo Casino.

    Craft Beer
    Craft beer drinkers like variety. They tend to value artistry, enjoy trying new things and don't mind wandering off the beaten path. This type would enjoy a trip somewhere they can explore the local art scene, immerse themselves in another culture and explore an unfamiliar place freely. Craft beer lovers should check out Berlin. The city is known for its art, history and wide array of museums. With so many scenes to explore, boredom is never an option in Berlin.

    Rum drinkers are sophisticated party animals who like a little bit of exoticism in their lives. This type should venture to Fiji for an awesome retreat where they can relax, be surrounded by striking scenery and all the tropical wonders Fiji has to offer.

    Whiskey drinkers tend to like the simple (yet sophisticated) things in life. They're straightforward and know what they like. Whether they fancy bourbon, scotch or another variation, whiskey drinkers tend to be a bit rugged and down-to-earth. An outdoorsy adventure would be perfect for this type. There are lots of places to explore, but Alaska is definitely a great choice. Stay at a wilderness lodge or resort, explore Alaska's national parks and enjoy the natural beauty.

    lake district england
    Gin drinkers are sophisticated, worldly and enjoy being a bit out of the ordinary. Gin's acquired taste means these folks aren't afraid to try new things, but like the comfort of tradition. Gin drinkers should take a trip to the Lake District in England, which offers plenty of exploration and adventure, without being too exotic.

    Fashionable and confident, vodka drinkers are to the point and very self-aware. They like their liquor uncomplicated yet chic. Vodka drinkers would enjoy a stay at a boutique hotel in an urban locale. Madrid would be perfect. The city is known for its cuisine, fashion and art, and also has very vibrant nightlife.

    full moon party thailand
    Tequila lovers are free spirits who really like to have fun. Hedonistic, a little bit wild and the life of the party, tequila drinkers are always a good time. This type would have the best time traveling to a beachy destination that allows for epic partying. Attending a Full Moon Party in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand, should be at the top of this type's travel bucket list.

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    (Relaxnews) - The largest winter festival in the world will fete its 60th anniversary this year by attempting to throw the world’s largest snowball fight.

    To kickstart the annual Quebec Winter Carnival, the skies over the historic, fortified city of Quebec will be set on fire in a massive fireworks display January 31.

    New this year, the party will expand throughout the city and spill over into eight neighborhoods. The centrepiece of the carnival, the Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, is also poised to be 40 percent bigger than last year, at 40 meters tall (12 meters), made with 300 tons of ice.

    About 200 snowmobile riders will also take to the largest snowmobiling circuit in Canada February 1 and 2.

    And on February 1, organizers are hoping to recruit 6,000 participants to set a record and take part in the world’s biggest snowmobile fight.

    The Quebec Winter Carnival runs January 31 - February 16.

    For more details, visit

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    Environmental groups and whale researchers are urging Olympic organizers to condemn the display of two captured killer whales at the Sochi Winter Games.

    A Russian company captured seven orca whales in the sea of Okhotsk last summer, northeast of Japan, and is now preparing to ship two of them to its aquarium in Sochi to cash in on the upcoming Olympic Games.

    B.C.-based whale researcher Paul Spong says it's deplorable that the company is doing this, adding that it’s not in the Olympic spirit.

    “When they're captured, their families are just ripped apart,” says Spong. “And when they're put into captivity, they're really subject to sensory deprivation for years and years and years — it's hugely damaging to them."

    Spong and other environmental groups want the International Olympic Committee to pressure the captors to release the whales back into the wild.

    An online petition asking for the same at Care2 Petitions already has over 93,000 signatories opposed to the Russian action. So far there's been no response from the Russian government, nor from Canada's Olympic Committee.

    A spokesperson for Canada's Olympic Committee says it's aware of the issue, but is not prepared to make a public statement yet.

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    Dubai's World Islands are best viewed from above. The artificial archipelago, also known as "The World," consists of 300 private, man-made islands strategically constructed in the shape of a world map.

    The islands were completed in 2008, but are mostly unoccupied. Currently only Lebanon Island is in use-- its Royal Island Beach Club hosts private parties and corporate events. Another island features a show home and a heliport.

    Despite the fact that the islands aren't in use, they're still fun to look at. Check out photos of the islands via the Instagram blog.

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    Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit Canada in May, with stops in Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Manitoba.

    Details of the program for the visit by the Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla, have not yet been released.

    The couple last visited Canada in May 2012, stopping in New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

    Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was also in Canada in 2009, after eight years of not visiting the Commonwealth country.

    The prince was a more regular visitor in the 1980s and '90s. He made seven official stops between 1980 and 2001.

    The May tour will mark the third official visit to Canada for the Duchess of Cornwall.

    Prince Charles last visited Manitoba in 1996. He has not been in Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia since 1983, when he did an extensive two-week tour of Canada with then-wife Diana, the Princess of Wales.

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    As we head into 2014, I am excited about a new kind of travel-multigenerational Eco-immersion, an educational adventure. This is a fusion of a nuclear family vacation, a larger family reunion, student educational travel, a tour and renting a house somewhere cool. What we are talking about is maximizing the diminishing opportunities we all have to be together as a multigenerational family in a unique and stimulating setting, which creates a strong platform for each individual to dial into certain aspects of that place -- say, Costa Rica -- and for the group to spend serious quality time together.

    The key to this kind of travel and family experience is to find the right place and the best team to work with to enhance the outcome of these nuanced experiences. At Chill Expeditions, we have had a lot of fun working with multigenerational families and customizing unique expeditions suited to the families' wishes as a whole, and the diverse interests and energy levels of grandparents, parents and children of various ages.


    A significant component is finding the right guide who can not only excite every member of the family about the various aspects of their surroundings, the local people and their passions, and of course the biodiversity, geography and the culture surrounding them, but who is very attuned-to when it is time to take advantage of an opportunity, and when it is time to chill as a family!

    What seems to work particularly well logistically in the places we travel, including Costa Rica, Galapagos and Andalucian Spain, is to find a good location -- say a spectacular beach with a nice home or very cool Eco lodge -- and use that as a base for the particular area for half the trip before going on to one, two or three other, very different locations in the country, depending on the length of the expedition; If the trip is just eight days, then two or possibly three venues at most.

    It is important to find the right balance between staying in one place and traveling too much. We certainly advocate traveling some, as to go to an astonishingly diverse country like Costa Rica and not experience some of that remarkable biological and cultural splendor throughout would be underutilizing the opportunity. On the other hand, it is important to avoid the classic "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium," types of tourist itineraries!

    And at all costs, you want to avoid touristy experiences. Family time ought to be about authentic and educationally rich adventures together. Some families might balk at the idea of having a guide for the family experience-however, we find that families actually love having the benefit of a good guide when that is called for and the ability to just chill out for family time whenever that is appropriate. Again, striking the balance is very important, and should be a major consideration in your planning.


    More and more families, having perhaps had some experiences with educational travel as students or as adults, and of course having done various kinds of family vacations, but rarely multigenerational, are in fact seeking a more authentic and enduring experience to share with the larger family, including grandparents. You cannot easily do this just anywhere. The places we happen to specialize in (initially just for their allure as student educational travel venues) as it turns out, are particularly conducive to working with the dynamics common in most multigenerational families looking to spend some quality time together, and for some, possibly, beyond just a vacation. Ecuador and the Galapagos, Costa Rica and Andalucian Spain offer great opportunities for relaxation and countless possibilities for experiential learning as a family. This kind of educational travel adventure is far more enduring than simply traveling to an all-inclusive resort together -- and obviously it offers a more authentic and engaging opportunity.

    Some of the really satisfying comments that we get routinely from grandmothers are: "You know, I really enjoyed watching my grandchildren chase after exotic butterflies and look through binoculars for the first time at exotic birds and ask questions about crazy plants!" Or "Well, while the rest of my clan went on a horseback ride down the beach (which I heard was pretty cool) I actually had a delightful tour of the fantastic permaculture farm that the eco-lodge owner, Juan, has behind the lodge. I learned so much and even picked the greens for this evening's salad!"


    Such experiences are a terrifically stimulating alternative to the classic all-inclusive resort or the rental home in one spot kind of family vacation. When families travel to special places, I would encourage them to truly try and maximize the opportunities to experience the country in full. To do anything less is to underestimate the vast opportunity for really special family time together. Educational engagement and adventure enhances the family vacation -- it is not an either or proposition! More and more families are discovering how very delightful such an approach is, and want to do it again.

    In this way I encourage families to look at the opportunities, especially the multigenerational opportunities, they have together as investments, which are priceless in terms of outcome. Folks do not hesitate to spend good money for their children's education or on their own continuing education, nor should they. However most families would be well served to consider the opportunities that travel as a multigenerational group presents, as a terrific investment in what you might call family education. And that kind of education is the most valuable of all.


    Smart families recognize that in this frenetic, scheduled and wired day and age, when most folks are absorbed by little machines even when they are together, a prudent investment in authentic family time in a special place where being together, learning and having shared fun is the goal is a very satisfying investment which will yield dividends for years!

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    Traveling with young kids can be exhausting, stressful and, let's face it, not always fun for the parent. Instead of cultural treats, daytime activities typically involve excursions to the zoo, children's museums, nearby amusement parks or a trip to the nearest outdoor playground. And traveling light? Forget about it. Even if you are lucky enough to have ditched the diaper bag, chances are there are still sippy cups, snacks, extra clothes and strollers to contend with.

    But not all kiddie-related travel is doom and gloom. If you are fortunate enough to be traveling with a kindergartner, you may be surprised by what kind of trip you can actually experience. Sight-seeing trips and historical-themed adventures are within your grasp if you travel prepared.

    Here are the key lessons learned from a recent trip to Paris and London with my 6-year-old:

    1. Get Some Wheels - the Razor Kind
    Six-year-olds are a pretty independent bunch. They crave to be treated like big kids and that typically means no strollers. But the reality is your mini me only has little legs, and those legs will get tired after a mile or so of walking. So if you have a lot of ground that you want to cover, and more importantly you want to avoid having to carry 50 lbs. in your arms, you may want to invest in a Razor kick scooter and carry bag. For $30 (or in my case £19.99), this gift is one that will keep on giving. On his first day in Paris, my son easily handled a three-mile scoot from our hotel to Notre Dame, followed by yet more scooting to dinner and between Metro stations afterward. Best of all, he is still enjoying the scooter back at home.

    2. Build in Play Time
    If you are planning to do a lot of walking and/or sightseeing, make sure you build in some play time to break up the day and allow your child to let off some steam. Online satellite map tools are an easy way to identify playgrounds close to your chosen point of interest. For instance, there is an amazing ecological playground just down the road from the London Eye (you can actually see it from inside the Ferris wheel) and, in Paris, you can find play areas along the river Seine and even next to attractions like Notre Dame.

    3. Factor in Refueling Pit Stops
    It may cost a little extra, but instead of stuffing a packet of Pepperidge Farms goldfish into your handbag, why not try and soak up some local culinary treats for snack time. Not only is it a cultural experience in and of itself, but it will give your child some extra energy so that they can keep on seeing the sights. The many street cafés of Paris are perfect for hot chocolate pit stops (not to mention a welcome refuge from the chilly winter air), and the local boulangeries offer treats galore. Also consider traditional local cuisines for your other meals. Your child may be a picky eater back home, but you may be surprised by a willingness to be more adventurous when traveling.

    4. Research Ahead of Time
    Sure, every 6-year-old is going to enjoy an elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower. But what about Tower Bridge in London? Did you know that, while the Tower Bridge does a great job of including kids through passport books and sticker stations, it does not provide the necessary foot stools needed for your child to see out of the walkway windows? This can make it a little boring for younger visitors and, reciprocally, means you may have limited time to read the exhibits along the way. (However, it has to be said that the interactive science displays in the Engine Room are great.)

    Ultimately, it is important to do your research. Find out about the attraction before you buy your ticket. It may be that your child will have more fun playing chase in the Tuileries gardens bordering Le Louvre than walking through the art galleries themselves.

    5. Use Multiple Forms of Transportation
    Just like the refueling pit stops, how you get somewhere can be just as unique an experience as the attraction itself. Catch a train, take a bus, ride a cable car, or even climb aboard a boat. My own two-day trip to Paris included taking the London Underground, the Eurostar, as well as countless Metro trains, and even the Batobus -- much to my 6-year-old's delight.

    6. Create a Big Moment
    Build up anticipation before your visit. Find out what attractions most interest your child and talk about them before you even catch your plane. And, if there is another attraction you want to see, schedule that visit first. It will encourage good behavior in the lead-up to the main event.

    Happy Travels!

    - - Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.

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    "And the Oscar goes to..."

    You won’t hear those words until March 2, 2014, when the official ceremony for the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s show of teary speeches and awkward moments, begins. Until then, odds makers will be betting on those most likely to take home one of the coveted statuettes.

    Picking the winner in the Best Picture category is going to be very tough, in a year where Hollywood upped its game and produced some stellar movies. Instead, shift your thinking to the tremendous trips and travels that each of them inspires in the hearts of moviegoers.

    From the beautiful flatlands of "Nebraska" to the sky-high buildings of Shanghai in "Her", this year's picks are a moving bunch -- not just in the emotional sense -- but in the way that gets you off your couch and onto a plane.

    So pick your own favourite -- the one where you never looked at your watch ever once and encouraged your friends to see -- for this year’s Best Picture, then pack your bags and head to destinations that you’ll love, based on these nominees.

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Being a little bit more rock'n'roll than country, I had never considered putting a country-fried city like Nashville on my travel bucket list. Yet here I was, standing in a strip mall parking lot in Music City on a chilly Sunday afternoon, outside The Bluebird Cafe.

    In a half-hour period, four cars had pulled up so a passenger could snap a photo of the trademark blue awning. "It's closed? I don't understand. I thought they filmed here," said one young woman before getting a picture and driving away. The Bluebird is an often-used setting in ABC's "Nashville" drama. Although the show films in a replica on a soundstage, that hasn't stopped fans from visiting the real space.

    The Bluebird is one of several places that has gotten a Hollywood bump from the show, which stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as country music superstars. As I became addicted to the show, I began to notice how much of a star the city was. Actors would stroll along the impressive Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. The Nashville skyline seemed even more twinkly and inviting framed by the Cumberland River. It also appeared that concerts and club performances were being filmed in actual venues. The number of these venues seemed endless.

    So, I followed my inner fan-girl and decided to see Music City for myself. A tour company offers a "Nashville"-centric bus tour. But I opted to use a list from the city's tourism website to go at my own pace. While I never had anyone actually utter the words "hey y'all" to me, I was elated to find that, like the show, there's music all around.


    The "Mother Church of Country Music" was built in 1892 in what would become downtown Nashville by businessman Thomas G. Ryman as a venue for evangelist Sam Jones. From 1943-1974, it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the long-running, weekly radio showcase made up of a variety of big-name and smaller country acts.

    A National Historic Landmark, the Ryman is open for tours. Costumes, programs and other memorabilia tied to performers such as Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff are prominently displayed on the first and second floors. The Ryman is also where Rayna (Britton) and Juliette (Panettiere) did the duet "Wrong Song" in the first season.

    Today, the Ryman only hosts the Grand Ole Opry between November and January. With the acoustics and the crescent arc to the pew seating, it's hard to find a bad seat. Depending on who's playing, tickets are sometimes available the day of the show. And you never know who will be playing. In a happy coincidence, "Nashville" actor Jonathan Jackson, who plays musician Avery Barkley, was on the line-up the day I went. In fact, most of the show's cast has performed with the Opry since becoming part of the Nashville scene.


    Tourists and locals flock to the row of bars and clubs, or "honky tonks," on Broadway in downtown Nashville. It's a buffet of bars that continuously hums with live music. Sidewalk musicians whose bread and butter is singing for tips are out there all day. The signage on the entire row is lit up in neon at night, an often-used exterior shot on the show. "Nashville" has also filmed inside some of the bars, including Layla's Bluegrass Inn and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Established in 1960, Tootsie's is the crown jewel of Honky Tonk Highway. Country artists such as Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson played there early in their careers.

    It's not clear on TV's "Nashville" that these clubs are actually on the same block. The incredible access to so much live music packed into just a few blocks is not a phenomenon found in every city. You can have your pick of several club performances going on all at once. It's worth walking up and down the street, which on weekend nights can be as chaotic as New Orleans' Bourbon Street — but minus the beads.


    A cultural institution in the country music industry, The Bluebird Cafe's location close to a McDonald's will probably take "Nashville" viewers by surprise. For songwriters and singers, playing for the 100-seat room is a rite of passage. It's a tight squeeze but the feeling of intimacy is one of the café's main draws.

    Nestled at a table in the real Bluebird, I couldn't help but expect that someone from the show would walk in and break into song. That feeling is a testament to how well the "Nashville" set designers copied every detail — including the string of lights hanging above the bar.

    Reservations for shows are only available online a few days in advance and sell out quickly. Some shows are free (with the purchase of drinks or food) on a first-come-first-serve basis. According to staffers, the television exposure has sometimes led to as many as 300 people in line. They recommend showing up as early as two hours prior to ensure entry.


    To further enhance my "Nashville" experience, I crossed the Cumberland River to the hipster-haven of East Nashville. The east side is a vibrant hodgepodge of families, artists and musicians. The show has also filmed around this part of town — with good reason. There are numerous restaurants, coffeehouses and clubs worth patronizing.

    The 5 Spot, a laid-back club where "Monday is still the new Friday," draws guys in T-shirts and baseball caps as well as guys with fedoras. Jackson's character has filmed performances here during the first season. Country isn't the only musical genre that can be heard here. Some nights are oldies and soul-themed. Visiting musicians run the gamut as well. Note that The 5 Spot permits guests to smoke cigarettes, so it's a lot smokier and more dimly lit than on TV.

    TV geeks such as myself will get a kick out of stopping in the Historic Edgefield neighborhood. There, you will find the craftsman house with a stone veneer that serves as the home of guitarist Deacon (Charles Esten). Reel-life secret: While Deacon and his niece, Scarlett (Clare Bowen), lived in different parts of town in the first season, their "homes" are actually next door to each other.

    Abigail Humphrey, who lives on the other side of "Deacon's house," calls the periodic filming a "minor inconvenience." She says she also doesn't mind when tour groups show up.

    "It's fun to get a little bit of credit to this area," Humphrey says.

    She applauds the show for putting down roots in Nashville.

    "It definitely makes the show feel more real."


    If You Go...


    RYMAN AUDITORIUM: 116 Fifth Ave. N., Nashville;

    BLUEBIRD CAFE: 4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville;

    THE 5 SPOT: 1006 Forrest Ave., Nashville;


    Follow Terry Tang at

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    If you've seen one beach wedding, you've probably seen them all: flowers strewn about the sand, barefoot bridal parties, setting suns and, of course, tiki torches -- lots of tiki torches.

    Hawaii is home to the standard beachside affair, but it's also given rise to the perfect antidote: refreshingly alternative nuptials that eschew the sand and welcome originality.

    Consider the six ceremony spots below and try to remember why beachside weddings were ever really a thing to begin with.

    1. Wed by a waterfall.
    Straying from the beach doesn't necessarily mean abandoning water. Hawaii boasts a variety of picturesque waterfalls, many of which are easily accessible. Waimea Falls, for instance, on Oahu's north shore is only a gentle walk through a manicured garden. Others are a bit more challenging to reach, but definitely worth it. Kauai island's secluded Wailele Falls in Kalihiwai Valley is only accessible via a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

    wedding hawaii waterfall

    2. Embrace the waves -- and each other.
    If you're looking for a truly unique wedding, hit the surf. Say "I do" over crystal blue waters while on a wooden outrigger canoe. Your guests, assuming they're up for it, will watch from their own (extra wide and stable!) paddleboards, guaranteeing a wedding experience that no one will ever forget. Your guests don't even need to get wet!

    3. Marry in the lavender fields.
    Imagine rolling hills of green and violet, 4,000 feet above a Maui mountaintop, the smell of lavender blowing through the wind. No, this isn't a dream, it's your wedding atop the 13.5 acre Alii Kula Lavender Farm on Maui. The seemingly endless fields, which sit on a gentle slope of Haleakala Mountain, provide the world's most idyllic setting for a countryside wedding.

    Insider tip: If you're up for it, ask to book a sunrise wedding. When you see the rays of morning light softly reaching through the lavender fields, you'll definitely want to thank us.

    4. Get hitched on a boat.
    Nothing screams fun more than a bridal party on a boat. A floating wedding is the perfect mix of excitement and romance for couples with a sense of adventure. Station your boat just off the harbor, as in the picture below at the Kaneohe Yacht Club, or venture to more secluded waters for a more intimate ceremony.

    Captain's tip: If your reception is also on the boat, try and count how many times your guests sing Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat!" If it passes more than 35 times, it's probably time to cut off the open bar.

    wedding hawaii waterfall

    5. Go back in time at an old sugar mill.
    What was once an old sugar mill -- one of Hawaii's first -- is now a beautifully restored open-sky cathedral, draped in a lush garden of vines and flora. The Haiku Mill on the island of Maui will make your guests feel as though time has stopped. With its French elegance and old Hawaiian feel, the mill and its stone-paved garden are the perfect settings for a vintage-style wedding.

    wedding hawaii waterfall

    6. Travel to your own private, island.
    A 10-minute boat ride takes you to the Kaneohe sandbar, a raised section of sand in the middle of the Kaneohe Bay. At high tide, water levels reach waist height. At low tide, the sandbar becomes almost like a miniature island, with water sometimes reaching just passed the toes.

    While a full-length wedding might be impossible (unless you're ready to take on the rising waters), a short wedding ceremony and toast would be fantastically original.

    Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Weddings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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    A suspect who urinated on the Komagata Maru memorial has apologized, and Vancouver police have opted not to give him a bylaw ticket because he is a "severely addicted, mentally ill person."

    Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson held a news conference Thursday alongside leaders from the city's South Asian community. Chu explained why the man was not criminally charged or issued a fine for his actions.

    Chu also held up a copy of the suspect's apology, which read, "I am sorry for what I did that day at the monument. I didn't want to hurt anyone." Chu confirmed that a police detective wrote down the suspect's words, which was then signed by him.

    Chu said the force decided against issuing a bylaw ticket for urinating in public because the suspect has a serious mental disorder: "This suspect needs the health system, not the justice system."

    Earlier this week, Vancouver police explained that urinating in a public place is not a criminal offence. An investigator from the hate crimes unit concluded the man's actions were not criminal.

    On Wednesday, Robertson called the incident a "disgusting and disgraceful act," but added that it was "clearly performed by someone who had no idea what he was doing."

    Sohan Deol, president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, said that the public should accept the suspect's apology and that they should be thankful for the way the police handled it.

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    Originally posted on

    As if the incredible beaches, luxurious pools, and delectable cocktails weren't enough draw to visit the Caribbean, the region is also home to some of the world's warmest and nicest human beings. These are the top 10 friendliest islands in the Caribbean, according to our readers.

    More from Condé Nast Traveler:

  • Stop Visiting These Places! You're Ruining Them!

  • This Massive Lake Disappears Overnight Several Times a Year

  • The Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the World

  • 12 Travel Mistakes You're Definitely Making

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