Travel stories, tips and suggestions for travel in North America

7 of the Most Beautiful Coastal Towns in Maine

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective
It’s easy to see that Maine has an incredibly beautiful coastline. It’s not as easy to decide which city along that coastline to visit. That’s because there are so many viable options where you’ll find great food, cozy inns and unforgettable scenery. It makes it difficult to choose just one of the beautiful towns in Maine.

Beautiful Towns in Maine To Visit

The following are just seven of the candidates to put on your short list before you decide where to take your next vacation.

Bar Harbor

bar harbor maine

Bar Harbor has more than just a beach. It sits at the base of Acadia National Park, which woos hikers with its granite peaks and bikers who want to ride down the old carriage roads.

The area trails can also take you to coastal overlooks, although you might want to hit up the sandy beaches, too.

Camden

Welcome to your next vacation spot, sailors. Camden, Maine, sits on Penobscot Bay, from which you and your sailing crew can take off and into the picturesque waters. It really is beautiful here: the locals even call it the “Jewel of the Coast.”

Speaking of locals, less than 5,000 people call Camden home. Clearly, that means you can expect a homey, cozy experience on your trip.

Kennebunkport

beautiful coastal towns in maine

Any presidential history buff will know that the Bush family has made Kennebunkport their go-to vacation spot: they have their very own holiday compound, which tourists sometimes go to see on their trips to the area.

Of course, a former President has to have good taste in locations for his vacations — who needs relaxation more than a former commander-in-chief? The slow-paced town will definitely ease you into a similar state of serenity, as will the quirky shops, museums and clams. If you need a bit more excitement, hop onto a lobster-trapping or dolphin-watching tour.

Cutler

Bird watching will get a whole lot cuter if you choose to book your trip to Cutler. That’s because the area is home to an adorable puffin community that takes to the water and perches on the coastline’s grey rocks. All members of your family will be charmed by the little guys, we promise.

Of course, there’s more to a holiday than just a bird-watching expedition. Cutler has its beautiful coastline and quaint lighthouse, of course, but it also comes with a promise of tourist trap-free shopping and dining. Really, there aren’t any souvenir shops in this tiny town.

Portland

portland maine beautiful towns in maine

Most coastal towns appeal to tourists in the summer, but not Portland: most locals will tell you that the best time to visit is fall, when the changing leaves paint the seaside in burnt oranges, fiery reds and golden yellows.

Of course, any season will show you the warm hospitality for which Portland is famous. The locals strive to be as friendly and welcoming to tourists as they are to each other, a vibe you won’t soon forget after you head home from your holiday.

Rockport

Here’s another of Maine’s coastal cities that’s rumored to be the most beautiful — even though it’s clearly impossible to decide. And, like many others on this list, it offers surf and turf, at least as far as activities go.

You can traipse through the Rockport Marine Park — or lie on the sandy beach there, of course. The Beech Hill Reserve offers stunning views, too. And then, there’s the bay, which is ripe for kayaking trips, which local tour companies lead.

Castine 

lighthouse in coastal maine

Castine is so beautiful that it’s been a destination for artists for decades. They come to paint a piece of that classic New England scenery — exactly what you seek on your trip, too. Along with like-a-painting views, you’ll find a bit of history at the Fort George and Fort Madison State Parks.

You can also check out a sandy-hued lighthouse, a local art gallery and, of course, an incredibly quaint Main Street.

 

You won’t find any hustle-and-bustle along the coast of Maine. You won’t find clubs or fancy restaurants or beach cabanas where you’re served fancy cocktails.

What you will find, no matter where you go, is a wealth of natural beauty. The beaches, parks, mountains and wildlife will be just as striking. And, with your loved ones along for the trip, you’ll realize you don’t need more than what’s right in front of you in any one of these seven towns.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest!


 

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A Guide To Highway 50 in Nevada: The Loneliest Road in America

The barren desert. Sand, rock and cacti. Mountains of dirt and sand protruding along the horizon. An unending winding road into the distance.

We left the chaos and bright lights of Las Vegas behind and headed off into the Nevada desert. With clear blue skies and the sun streaming down, we wove our way along Nevada’s Highways.

Though arid scenery first greeted us, we soon found ourselves passing a small lake, at first completely out of place in this dry and barren landscape, the greenery of the vegetation surrounding it a stark contrast and a welcome visual beyond the reds and browns around us.

We’d soon realize that various colour, even green, isn’t as unusual of a sight in Nevada as we had initially thought. In fact, when we finally made our way up to Highway 50 and started our journey across the state, we discovered that the terrain of Nevada is quite varied, quite colourful and altogether breathtaking. We also learned throughout our travels, that there are many reasons you should travel Nevada, outside of just Las Vegas!

Stops To Make On Highway 50 in Nevada

Highway 50 Nevada sign

Highway 50 is part of US Route 50 and the section that is in Nevada is coined “The Loneliest Road in America”. It is a stretch of road between the eastern and western borders of the state and is definitely not the most common road taken for traversing Nevada or getting from any of the major cities in the United States to any of the larger cities in the state. But while it’s not the preferred route for getting places quickly, like the Interstate 80 would be, it is definitely one of the best options for a road trip in Nevada and for exploring the out-of-this-world sights to be seen throughout. If you’re looking to take a road trip in Nevada, Highway 50 is definitely one of the best routes to include – whether you travel it from start to finish, or find your way somewhere along it during your journey.

To get you planning, here is the route we recently took and some of the great stops along Nevada Route 50 that you should consider to help make The Loneliest Road in America just a little less… lonely! Though there’s a lot more to this stretch than what we saw, this itinerary makes for a great road trip or romantic getaway in Nevada.

To find accommodation options along the route or if you need more information on things to do along Highway 50 (as well as what there is to do and see while you are visiting Nevada) check out the Travel Nevada site!

Ely

Northern Nevada Railway Ely Steam Engine Train

Depending on which direction you are heading, Ely may be the first or last of the cities in Nevada off of Highway 50.  One of the larger cities you’ll stop at on this route, Ely is like many in the area – an old mining town – saturated in history and charm. It is also where you’ll find your way onto the old Nevada Northern Railway with a steam engine ride along the tracks that are over a century old and were an essential part of the early mining settlements to this area.

We had such a great time on this 90 minute ride that took us past old mining areas and more isolated landscape but what really captivated us and captured our imagination was the dialogue explaining what once was. We learned about the importance of this route in the past and the amount of history accumulated in a short distance. Bringing that history into the present as we rode on the train was one railway crossing in particular, where a man named Dale comes to stand and wave as each of the trains pass . In fact, he is so reliable and dedicated to being at that crossing that it is named after him – Dale’s crossing. The significance of this passageway exists even now.

If you’ve got some time to spend in the area or are looking for a quick detour, you’ll find an interesting museum just North of Ely. Taking Highway 93 off of Route 50, sits the small town of McGill and as you drive the streets, you will most likely pass a Rexall drugstore. Be warned though, if you jump out and head on in, you won’t be finding any first aid items or pain relievers here. Well, at least none that aren’t well passed their expiry date! The McGill Drugstore Museum will transport you back in time as you step through the doors and observe a store that has been left virtually untouched from the day it closed its doors in 1979. You’ll want to contact them first to schedule an appointment to ensure it is open and to get the full story behind Ely and this time capsule that has been left there.

Ely is also the closest accessible city on Highway 50 to the Great Basin National Park, a popular destination for nature and astronomy lovers. Due to the great air quality in the park – some of the best in the USA – night brings dark, clear skies that are perfect for stargazing. In fact, there is even an annual astronomy festival that offers 3 days and nights of guided instruction and telescope viewing.

In Ely, you’ll find historic hotels and museums and many natural attractions nearby in addition to the events and activities in the city. You’ll find things like county fairs, bathtub races, and farmer’s markets as well and experience a place that straddles the city life of the present with the small-town vibes of the past.

Eureka

Eureka Courtroom Judges chair

Calling itself “The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road in America, you’ll find that it’s a pretty accurate description. As of the last census, there were under 1000 people in Eureka and when you walk through the “downtown” or main area of the town, you definitely feel it – it is quiet, it is peaceful and it is most definitely friendly.

The pride the town takes in their past is obvious as we visited several old buildings that have been beautifully preserved and restored. It’s definitely worth it to take a tour of the opera house, old courthouse and the old Eureka Sentinel Building. The opera house, still in use today for community events and shows, has a remarkable history that can be seen from the 1924 stage curtain that replaced the original from 1880 which burned down. The ads on the backdrop still remain, the funds from which paid for the new curtain itself. Signatures of performers that have graced the stage are scrawled backstage along the walls and staircase. These tell their own story as dates from the early 1900s can be seen alongside more recent ones, a blend of new and old.

The courthouse is fascinating as well. Heading up the original wood staircases, we reached the courtroom, kept in pristine condition and making us feel like we’d stepped on set to some crime drama – huge velvet curtains draped on either side of the judge’s bench, the flag hanging prominently beside it, one could almost imagine the witness box filled, the judge’s gavel banging, the jury sitting to the side, attentive to the courtroom antics.

Another interesting stop in Eureka is the Old Sentinel Museum where you’ll find all manner of historical items and artefacts in what was the Sentinel Newspaper Building from 1879 to 1960. From the original printing presses and newspaper equipment on the main floor to the varied exhibits of life in Eureka when the town was just beginning.

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area

View from Hickison Petroglyph Recreation area Nevada

Nevada is no stranger to petroglyphs as the state has not only numerous amounts of them, but also the oldest known finds in North America. Though Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area near Austin may not be the most extensive of sites for seeing petroglyphs, it is a great example of prehistoric rock art and is a site that allows a self-guided tour and some fantastic views.

We took our time along the trail, looking at the rocks with petroglyphs, working our way to great lookouts with views of mountains and more desert landscape and enjoyed the beauty of the area and the incredible history that was left, carved in stone, by those who once lived in the area.

If you do stop here, be sure to take a look for brochures at the information display at the entrance to the recreation area. These will help explain what you see as you walk along the trails.

Austin

Gourmet French Toast at Union Street Lodging Austin Nevada Breakfast

Though we’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite out of the stops we made along Highway 50, Austin would definitely be a serious contender.

With some of the best backyard views, Austin boasts mountain ranges, hot springs, historic sites and tons of small town charm. Here you’ll find bike trails and camping grounds, nearby caves and petroglyphs and even a castle, though uninhabited, that stands as an iconic image as you pass through the town.

We were there just one night in Austin and have already marked, underlined and highlighted it as a place we need to return to soon. The Union Street Lodging was the B&B we stayed at and, from the moment we arrived, it felt like a haven of relaxation and serenity. Learning about Austin and its history from the owners of the B&B and just enjoying the peaceful nature of the area, we settled in. That evening we enjoyed sitting outside and listening to the night sounds, void of the city noises to which we have become so accustomed. The following morning we woke up for breakfast and were served the most gourmet french toast breakfast we’ve ever seen – a double layer of french toast with cream cheese and strawberries in between, covered in more strawberries – it was delicious and a great way to start the day.

There’s definitely so much more to do in Austin than we had the chance to experience and we’d definitely recommend spending a few nights there while travelling the Loneliest Road in America. Hot springs are always a wonderful treat no matter where you are and with so much wildlife and natural beauty to see as you drive, you’d be able to make a whole day of it just exploring the scenery the area has to offer. Of course, there are also biking and hiking trails if you’re looking to get out of the car and stretch your legs a bit.

Strolling through the town, meeting people and learning about the history of Austin is also a great way to spend some time while there and for us, we’d love to head back and visit Stokes Castle – especially at sunset!

Sand Mountain

Sand Mountain in Nevada Hwy 50

What began as an exciting view – a sand dune in the distance, growing in size as we approached – turned into a truly moving and unexpected experience. Sand Mountain is one of the spectacular views off Highway 50 in Nevada and it only gets more impressive as you get closer to it.  Signs describe the area, the sand dune itself and the fact that it is a singing sand dune – the singing being the noises made as the sand shifts and slides – something that is unique and not found with every sand dune.

The area is obviously one of recreation – considered a popular off-roading site – we saw many OHV (off-highway vehicles) making their way around and up the dune. Though this seems to be the primary use of Sand Mountain, we encourage you to take the time to contact the local native community to learn some deeper history and meaning behind Sand Mountain.

For our visit, we spoke with Donna and Melissa from the local community (as well as the Great Basin Tour Company) who were able to provide some deep insight and some moving stories behind the significance of Sand Mountain to the native peoples of the area. With the loud engines of the OHVs roaring around us, interrupting our conversation at regular intervals, we learned that Sand Mountain no longer sings… it’s sand compressed by the weight of the tires and vehicles we were watching go by at that very moment.

Though you may not hear the mountain sing you’ll definitely feel it, especially if you get the chance to speak to those to whom the sand dune means the most. It’s by far a surprising and wonderful stop along the Loneliest Road in America.

Fallon

Frey Ranch Fallon Nevada mini wine barrel

If Ely feels big compared to the rest of the towns along Highway 50 in Nevada, than Fallon is enormous! With double the population, Fallon is a bustling town with a growing arts and culture, culinary and tourism scene. A stop here means you’ll have the option of immersing yourself in much of the elements of Nevada you’ve already seen along the way – nature and history – as well as art galleries and antique shops, theatres and recreational activities (like golf, roller skating and swimming) and some pretty phenomenal dining options with a couple farmer’s markets thrown in for good measure.

We ate lunch in Fallon at The Slanted Porch and were incredibly impressed by our meal. Farm-to-table ingredients meant everything used was fresh and the care and talent put into the dishes themselves was obvious. Buying local and creating inspired menu items based on the seasonal produce available helped make the culinary journey through the dishes that much more special. We ordered a slanted porch burger (because the way they treat and use their meat is spectacular) and a lamb, meatball sandwich (a special of the day) and were left wishing we were there longer to try more of the menu

You may be surprised, as we were, to find out that Fallon, Nevada is home to a successful vineyard and distillery, Frey Ranch, a family owned operation producing some great wines, gin, vodka and whiskey. It’s an interesting place to stop and tour, check out the tasting room and grab a bottle, or more, of your favourite spirit or wine!

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Cruise

If you’re driving along Highway 50 in Nevada, and have a chance to make your way as far west as Lake Tahoe, we highly recommend you take the time to stop and visit. Though there are lots of things to do, both in the summer and winter seasons, a boat cruise across the lake is a wonderful way to take in the scenery. We climbed aboard the MS Dixie II, part of Zephyr Cove Resort‘s fleet, and took a 90 minute cruise across the lake (to the California side and Emerald Bay). We enjoyed listening to the information provided, grabbing a meal on board as we went, and soaking up the beauty around us.

With cruises, beach activities and water equipment rentals, snowmobile rentals and skiing in the winter and other activities, like horseback riding, there’s lots to do in the area if you want to stay at an accommodation by the lake or drive yourself into the area.

A Little Extra Addition To Start, Or End, With!

Depending on where you’re coming from, making Reno or Las Vegas the start and end points of your trip is a great way to really see the diversity of the state – from big cities to small towns – and makes sense as either city are close enough to Highway 50 to make them accessible gateways.

Whether or not you add Las Vegas to your itinerary, you may want to consider tagging on a visit to Great Basin National Park. We had mentioned that it is close to Ely and while not on Highway 50, it is a great place to stop before starting out on The Loneliest Highway OR a great place to end after you’ve seen Ely and have finished your drive along the stretch of Highway 50.

If Vegas is on your itinerary, you can also make Great Basin National Park a stop on your way to, or from, Ely. We stopped there and took a tour through Lehman caves – a fascinating underground world of caves and cave systems we’d not yet explored. It is well worth it to visit, take a tour of the caves and explore the beautiful scenery of the National Park.

Become A Highway 50 Survivor!

In 1986, Highway 50 in Nevada was described as a stretch of road with nothing to see or do. Life Magazine suggested survival skills were needed in order to take on The Loneliest Road in America. Well, we don’t know what it was like 30 years ago, but our time on the road was filled with things to do and places to see – though it can be a pretty quiet and, yes, lonely route. With this decades-old reputation in mind, a ‘survival guide’ was created for travellers looking to take on Highway 50…

No matter where you start or finish along The Loneliest Road in America, you’ll want to make sure you pick up a Highway 50 Survival Guide and get the passport that’s inside stamped as you stop along the route! You can find more information from the Pony Express Territory website like what the Survival Guide entails and where you can go in each town to get your guide stamped!

Once you’ve collected stamps from 5 of the 8 locations, you can mail in the passport page and you’ll get an “I Survived” certificate!

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Where To Find The Best Burgers in Las Vegas

Naturally our quest for the best burgers continues in every destination we reach and Vegas, Nevada, home to a whole slew of restaurants, including burger joints, was no exception. With its vast array of celebrity chefs opening house along the strip and an ever-increasing focus on providing incredible culinary experiences, you’re bound to find a good burger around every corner. That makes the challenge even harder.

Best Burger Joints in Las Vegas

Where then do you go in Las Vegas to find that memorable burger? That sensational patty and bun experience that transcends the rest?

We’ve narrowed down the choices to three spectacular options both on and off the strip. Each offers a different style of burger and dining experience but each one will have you walking away thinking “wow”!

Hexx Kitchen + Bar

Burger at Hexx Kitchen + Bar Nevada

Located right on the strip at Paris Hotel, Hexx Kitchen + Bar is an adventure for the taste buds and though they have an entire menu of incredibly composed dishes, their Hexx Burger stands out not only for execution but also for their unique approach to the flavour profile of the burger itself.

As Hexx is also home to Hexx Chocolate + Confexxions, a chocolate factory and shop that produces some of the tastiest chocolates we’ve ever had (and their dark chocolate is a healthy option for chocolate lovers too!), it only makes sense that they extend that chocolate goodness over to their restaurant and they do this brilliantly with their Hexx Burger.

Though you’ll find some expected condiments on the beef patty – cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato – Hexx also adds fried onions and their own thousand island dressing and though the combination of these flavours and the perfect ratio of burger to bun and condiments makes it one tasty meal, what enhances this burger to extreme levels is the incorporation of white chocolate in the bun. The sweeter taste of the bun combined with the savoury of the rest of it creates a contrast to remember. Sweet and savoury, soft and crunchy, altogether delicious, the Hexx Burger is one of our favourite burgers and a must try if you’re on the strip in Vegas – especially as the restaurant is open 24 hours!

Bachi Burger

Shogun Burger at Bachi Burger Las Vegas

Though the current Bachi Burger locations are neither on the strip nor in downtown Las Vegas, the effort to get there from wherever you are is worth it… several times over. If Hexx is an adventure for the taste buds, Bachi Burger takes your taste buds on a fast ride through Asian flavours and sets you down gently in traditional American cuisine. The ultimate in culinary fusion, they’ve managed to create a whole list of burgers that are elevated from the classic to the brilliant with their combinations of toppings and ingredients.

Take their Shogun burger as an example. A thick Wagyu beef patty starts the collection of Japanese flavours and Asian ingredients as it is topped with grilled unagi, pan seared foie gras and miso butter. A beautifully poached Asian pear is also included which adds a layer of sweetness. The combination of it all, served between a thick and fresh bun will leave you savouring each vibrant bite.

Then there is their Bahn-Mi Burger. This time its a combination of angus beef, pork and shrimp formed into a patty that hosts a handful of Vietnamese-inspired toppings like pork pate, fresh herbs, and curry aioli with a side of pickled vegetables and nuoc mam sauce.

Though your mouth is probably watering just from the descriptions, nothing can quite do it justice until you experience the real thing and with several locations to choose from, there really is no excuse not to!

I Love Burgers

I Love Burgers The Patriot Burger Las Vegas

Sometimes classic is best and I Love Burgers is a prime example of taking a great thing and keeping it great. With two locations on either end of the strip, you’ll have the option of either one depending where you are when that burger craving hits!

Though they do have a variety of themed burgers and condiment combinations, what showcases their true talent for burger creation is their ability to make a good ol’ classic burger! The Patriot, advertised as the “All-American Burger”, is what you want to have at any BBQ or burger joint. Take that fresh bun and fill it with certified Angus beef then top that bad boy with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese, ketchup, and mustard and you got what every burger restaurant should be able to create.

Of course, they make some delicious alternatives to the standard if you’re looking to be a bit more daring. Something like their Steak Burger is bound to satisfy both a burger craving as well as any steak dinner urges you may be having with their certified Angus beef patty covered in caramelized onions, bacon, white cheddar cheese and Worcester aioli. It’s a steak dinner on a bun and it’s pretty darn good!

You Probably Won’t Want To Stop At One!

With these three options, you really will have all your burger cravings satisfied while in Las Vegas. Not only that, you’ll experience some of the best dining the city has to offer while tasting a range of culinary styles. From gourmet to fusion to “all-American”, a burger can be made a variety of ways with a selection of different toppings but there’s one thing that must ring true no matter what that patty-condiment combination is comprised of – it must have you thinking about it well after you’ve left the restaurant! Try one, or all three, of these restaurants and you definitely won’t be forgetting the burger experience any time soon!

 

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Bike Trails That Will Leave You Speechless In Scottsdale, Arizona

By Denise Nelson

Just recently I found myself in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s a beautiful city with a lot to do, enjoy and see, so of course I had to see the landscapes and what the city had to offer a cyclist like myself. I took to the roads early in the morning to ride through the old-town Scottsdale, looking at the architecture of the buildings and the unique feeling this side of town could offer. It’s not only what the city has to offer in views but also the benefits of cycling that are always a good reason to get out and on that bike!

>Scottsdale has been recognized for its biker friendliness and recognized by the League of American Bicyclists at the gold level. It’s a clean way to get around and, in a bicycle-safe community, it provides safe transportation and accommodation to bikers. If you like to cycle with a canine, Scottsdale is the place to do it. They allow pets to come along on your travels… just as long as you pick up after them!

There are many options to choose from between paved or unpaved trails and even mountain trails. They range in distance, but they also offer a variety of views as you travel through different parts of Scottsdale and experience something new.

 The Stunning Views On Scottsdale’s Bike Trails

Echo Canyon Trail head at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona




As the sun rose higher in the sky, the weather was warming up and I decided to ride down the Scottsdale Greenbelt, which takes you down through Scottsdale to Tempe Town Lake. In total, this trip is 14.5 miles (23 km) and worth it for every bit of scenery you see along the way (especially if you stop for a small detour to see Marguerite Lake.).

There are also two paved bike trail sets to choose from, or do both: the McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails and the DC Ranch Paved Trails. I chose to do the McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails since there were more of them and offered more visual stimulation.

McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails

There are many options for mountain bikers as well. We took to Tom’s Thumb, which is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and allows for beautiful mountain rock formations, desert landscape, plenty of desert wildlife on the trail and the vast blue sky above you.

On the mountain trail through McDowell Mountain Regional Park, you can see a variety of mountains, hills, rocks, cacti, desert plants, desert landscape, wildlife and hikers. This trail is beautiful and leaves a lasting impression on you, especially when seen at sunset. The sunset in Scottsdale is this beautiful purple-red-orange scene that paints the desert beautiful colors. The picture you see while riding your bike through this desert at sunset is absolutely gorgeous and is something that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Other Bike Trails in Scottsdale, Arizona to Cycle

Arizona desert landscape, Phoenix,Scottsdale area.

Another trail to ride on would be the Indian Bend Wash Path. It is a beautiful, lush and green 22 mile (35.5 km) expanse with parks, waterways and greenery. What is great about this trail is the fact that there are tunnels and bridges that go over and under the roadways so you don’t have to take a break from the beautiful view while you ride.

I also recommend the South Mountain Trail. It’s a 16,000-acre park and offers tough, but interesting trails for multiple levels of bikers. I went on the Desert Classic trail, which is 9 miles (14.5km) with a beautiful view of the rich greenery and mountainous landscape offered only by the desert. Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind views of the rock formations and steep cliffs.

Following South Mountain, I would also recommend the Browns Ranch Trails. It’s roughly 13 miles (21km) long. The wildlife you’ll see range from rabbits and squirrels to desert tortoises and snakes. Rock formations, natural landscaping and relaxed trails provide for an easy ride to enjoy a desert scene with a gorgeous view.

If you are more advanced in your riding you’ll want to check out Sunrise Trail. It’s a fairly new trail that is 10 miles (16km) long and very rugged and steep. The trail is very narrow so you need to watch for hikers and for your own safety as cacti grow close to the trails. It is also a single-track and has a steep elevation of 1,700 ft (518m).

Lastly for mountain biking, I would say to finish with the Whiskey Bottle Trail. It’s a short 3 mile (5km) trail that is for intermediate-advanced bike riders. The trail starts off easy but you gain a steep increase of 800 ft (244m) into a more rocky trail. There are tight curves and dangerous turns and terrain. Overall, this trail is a short, but rewarding, trail to bike on as it provides a beautiful view at the end, overlooking the vast desert with it’s beautiful rocks, scenery, and animals.

The Many Colours Of Cycling in Scottsdale

Serene iconic Arizona desert morning sunrise with enormous powerful sun on horizon line framed by Saguaro cactus - gorgeous lens flare.

Taking to the roads, there are plenty of street lanes for you to get to any place of business you’d like. Taking this route allows you to see the art on the above route of the Indian Bend Wash Path, get to bookstores, grocery stores and more, all while taking in the view of homes and the architecture styles of old and new homes built in Scottsdale.

If you don’t want to go alone, then you have the options of group rides! They welcome any type of rider, at any level, and they offer multiple time frames to fit your schedule. Each day of the week, they’ll take you on different trails, paths, and parks. This allows for a memorable experience while meeting new people with similar interests. Riding together allows for a deeper experience in a new place with the added personal connection while talking with other riders.

The amount of trails and scenery available in Scottsdale is amazing. There are so many trails and paths to explore that you could have a fantastic weeklong experience. A wonderful bonus to the trails and paths are the lakes, mountains, and parks that are available to bike riders.

If you ride early in the morning, you can see the sunrise cast its beautiful rays over colour across the vast desert. At night, the painting-like sunset casts that colour over the desert leaving it bathed in a beautiful nighttime glow.

Tips Before You Head Out On A Scottsdale Bike Trail

Overall, if you want to take on any of these trails, whether you are a beginner or an advanced biker, you need to make sure you are prepared and in shape for the trail you are planning to ride. Make sure your bike is comfortable and you have enough water and snacks to keep you safe on your ride. Always wear your helmet and dress appropriately for the weather and the trail type. Make sure to map your trail so you always stay on track and don’t get lost and make sure to take everything into consideration so you can have a great ride!

 


denise nelson profile picABOUT THE AUTHOR

Denise is a mountain biker who enjoys cross-country biking around the world. She worked as a trainer for 6 years before becoming a co-founder of a private biking lessons school to teach people how to properly train & ride bikes to prepare them for cross-country & any activities they want to indulge in. She’s also a founder of MountainBikeEZ where you can learn about mountain bikes & mountain biking.


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There’s More To Nevada Than Las Vegas!

By Carolann 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Nevada? Las Vegas? Gambling and bright lights? Stage shows and performers? Maybe you just think desert and barren land? What if I were to tell you that everything you’ve seen and heard about Las Vegas, all the TV and movie highlights or friends’ social media posts of crazy trips to the city, were actually giving you the barest speck of a glimpse into all that is the state of Nevada? That everything you thought you knew about visiting the area was about as substantial as the desert mirages you’d expect to find there?

Sure, there’s glitz and glamour, chaos and crazy times to be had when you visit Las Vegas. It’s a city that never sleeps (literally) and offers something for almost any traveller or tourist. It’s one of my favourite places to visit and yet in the eight (count them: EIGHT) prior trips I’ve made to Nevada, I hadn’t once stepped outside the bright lights of the Vegas Strip. In all those visits, with all I saw and did, I missed out on some of the most spectacular sights and some of the most incredible experiences imaginable.

5 Reasons to Travel the State of Nevada

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area Nevada

Nevada, from the busy streets of Vegas to the small towns and desert stretches, is by far one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. If I thought Vegas was the destination that would burrow its way under my skin and leave a lasting impression, I was wrong. It was the whole darn state that was waiting to make its way into my heart and memory.

Sure, there’s no place like Vegas and it’s a guaranteed good time but there is much more to Nevada than Las Vegas and these are just five of the things you won’t find while walking the strip which happen to be some of my favourite parts of the state.




Mind Blowing Landscapes

Cruising Lake Tahoe Nevada

If you expected arid desert to be a common theme in Nevada, you’d be correct, but the desert stretches of sand, rock and cacti, are speckled with greenery like the sage brush and Indian rice grass that grows wild and regularly across the state. The stark contrast between sand and shrubbery, rock and lakes, is a strong reminder of the beauty and power of nature. It may be hot. It may be dry. But life still thrives and creates some stunning views along with it!

You’ve got the mountain ranges and valleys that are absolutely spectacular and each unique in their own way offering some priceless photo opportunities. These give way to the bodies of water like Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake that have become popular destinations all year round.

Kershaw-Ryan State Park Nevada

There’s pretty much something mind blowing to see around every bend of every highway. Turn off to Cathedral Gorge State Park and see one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in the slot canyons and spires that fill the area. Make another stop at Great Basin National Park and walk through geologic time in the Lehman cave system. Oh, and if you look in the distance, off Highway 50, you’ll see Sand Mountain, a beautiful sand dune that looks like a breaking wave frozen in time as if waiting for a surfer to come paddle up to it for a ride.

If you’re not looking to go too far off the beaten path, there’s the more popular sights like Red Rock Canyon and The Grand Canyon which, though well-known, are perfect examples of the sights that await if you travel outside the city limits.

Peace & Tranquility

Visiting Cathedral Gorge State Park Nevada

Sometimes you just need to escape the overload of the city and relax. Getting out of the populated areas and driving into the state, especially along Highway 50 which is also known as The Loneliest Road in America, will have you finding some peace and solitude. Here you’ll get in tune with all that nature just mentioned and have some time for reflection and thought.

It’s a pretty perfect place to take a road trip too. Though the stretches of road can be long from town to town, there is so much to see while you drive and you’ll definitely be staying alert and aware the whole time. There’s really no better place you’ll find to stay in the moment and unwind.

Nevada is a state made for reflection. Where else can you find such a striking disparity between the elements and such variation, yet convergence, of landscapes? Drive for a stretch and clear your mind or stay for a while in one of the small outlying towns and immerse yourself in the quieter, slower pace.

Small Town Charm

McGill Drugstore Museum Nevada

Speaking of small towns, each one you stop in while exploring Nevada will have you learning what the term “small town charm” really means. Scenic and quaint, welcoming and friendly, you’ll find yourself embraced by the people you talk to as you relax into the often traditional settings around you.

Here is where you’ll find those mom and pop shops that have long gone to the wayside in larger cities. You’ll find a place where everyone knows everyone, or can at least point you in the right direction, and where most people are interested in your story as much as they are excited to share their own.

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Austin during our time in the state and found ourselves chatting into the night with the owners in their front yard as a campfire blazed. The only sounds were the creatures of the night, the breeze in the trees, the crackling of the wood in the fire and our voices as they carried into the dark around us. It was peaceful, it was charming and we had a great time getting to know the people who called this small town ‘home’.

Incredible History

Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Museum Nevada

The other great thing about small towns in Nevada is the history you’ll find there. There’s a strong connection to the past in many of the stops you can make throughout the state. Old buildings maintained or restored become gateways to times long ago and you’ll often find great pride in these places by the people who live in each town.

You’ll find an old courthouse in Pioche which is said to have cost (what would be the equivalent of) 1 million dollars to build from 1870 to 1937 and holds records, photos and artefacts from its prime when Pioche was a perfect example of the Wild West – lawless & corrupt.

Stopping in McGill will have you passing the McGill Drugstore Museum which ceased operating in 1979 and essentially remains as it did the day its doors were closed. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time and even if you don’t remember some of the brands and products from the past, there’ll be some familiar names that are still around today!

Whether it is natural or human history the list is extensive: the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Area 51, almost all of Eureka itself, the many Petroglyph areas throughout the state, the Lehman cave system, Cathedral Gorge and so many other stops throughout the whole of Nevada will have you glimpsing history in a variety of ways – geologic, natural, anthropological. It really is amazing how much history you can unearth throughout the state!

Food & Drink

Frey Ranch Distillery Fallon Nevada

It’s true Las Vegas has amazing food at pretty much every turn, but this isn’t unique to just the restaurants in that city. It’s safe to say that all of Nevada knows what it is doing with the food it is growing (yes growing), cooking and serving.

It seems as though no matter where you stop, the food you find will be pretty spectacular. We had some wonderful Southern home cooking and comfort food at a local restaurant in Caliente. It was rich and hearty but it was delicious and our first run in with chicken fried steak had us wanting more!

Our stay at the bed and breakfast ended with, well, breakfast in the morning which was the most gourmet French toast we’ve ever seen. We’re talking cream cheese and strawberries between two thick pieces of French toast, covered in more strawberries and glaze with whipped cream to top it off! Homemade and decadent, it was one memorable breakfast!

Moving to some of the larger towns, like Fallon will have you experiencing what can only be described as a culinary movement. Since its one of Nevada’s agricultural areas, there seems to be a focus on providing quality and fresh ingredients – whether grown locally or sourced by nearby California – in brilliantly prepared and plated dishes. We ate at The Slanted Porch while there and their farm-to-table menu, with a genuine appreciation and respect for the ingredients used, was something you’d expect to find in the upscale restaurants of larger cities.

And it doesn’t just stop at food. Fallon is also home to one of the wineries of Nevada – Churchill Vineyards. Not only do they produce wine, they also have Frey Ranch, a distillery that is creating some impressive spirits – from start to finish – right on the same property.

You definitely won’t be finding a shortage of good food and drink as you navigate your way through Nevada.

A Trip To Remember in Nevada

So if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas, you may just want to extend it a bit and make some time to get outside the city and explore. Enjoy the beauty of Nevada, find some time to reflect, meet the locals and learn about the incredible history that can be found all over, and fill up on spectacular food you otherwise wouldn’t find without breaking the city limits and seeing all that Nevada has to offer. Believe me, while “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” what happens in Nevada will stay fondly in your memory long after you leave.

Want to explore Nevada? Find out more about the state and all the amazing things to do and see on the Travel Nevada site! Our experiences in Nevada wouldn’t have been possible without them!

 

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5 Reasons to travel the state of Nevada Pin5 Reasons to Travel Nevada pin

A Guide To Buffalo, NY – A City To Fall In Love With

Something incredible has happened in Buffalo. A resurgence of energy and a city-wide invigoration of its people. From the arts and culture scene to the food scene to the night life and outdoor activities available, Buffalo, New York has become one amazing destination to visit. We were fortunate to be able to spend several days exploring the city with Visit Buffalo Niagara and witnessing this fantastic renaissance that is well underway. It surprised us from the time we got out of our car on that first day, until we left. It is considered a place to catch a cheaper flight or do some cheap shopping for Canadians and a border city, for Americans and Canadians alike, when travelling in either direction. What we’ve discovered though, is that it has something to offer any type of traveller and can satisfy any type of getaway you are looking for… even if it’s just for a weekend! Here’s our guide to Buffalo with what you’ll need to do, see and eat during a visit to the city.

Best Places to Visit in Buffalo

So, if you’ve decided to spend a few nights (or more) in Buffalo, a city that surprised us every step of the way, we’ve put together a guide to show you some of the best the city has to offer visitors and have laid out places to visit in Buffalo from where to eat, what to do and where to stay – even if you’ve only got a short time, or a weekend, to explore!

The video below will give a good overview, but you’ll want to keep reading for more of the amazingness that is Buffalo, NY!

Where to Stay in Buffalo

Truly experiencing Buffalo means delving into its history and that extends to accommodations. If you’re looking to experience something unique, something that allows you to tap into the past while still experiencing comfort and quality, we’ve got the perfect place! Our top recommendation for where to stay in Buffalo is The Mansion on Delaware, a luxury boutique hotel right in downtown Buffalo, that combines the historic architecture visible in the city with luxury and world-class service.

In a great location, the Mansion on Delaware exemplifies the renaissance of Buffalo – this 1800s house has been reborn as a 4 diamond hotel – taking a symbol of the city’s past prosperity and restoring it to create a present day symbol of rebirth.

Where to stay in Buffalo New York Mansion on Delaware

We were first welcomed by the porticos as we walked up the front steps and through the doorsbut were immediately greeted by the warmth and intimacy of the interior. The staff however, took hospitality and service to another level. Friendly and courteous, our names were quickly learned and we were greeted with the same style of welcome every time we passed the reception desk.

 

The Butler Staff, available 24 hours, take the comfort and luxury of the accommodation up another notch with personalized service. Looking to make reservations or a booking, order a meal from an outside restaurant to the hotel or require transportation to a nearby spot in the city? The butlers will take care of you no matter the time.

Mansion on Delaware room where to stay in buffalo ny

The rooms are spacious and clean with added touches of comfort and thoughtfulness, lik
e welcome cookies and water. Our room boasted tall ceilings and large windows and the bathroom was also quite large. It is a remarkably romantic hotel in Buffalo but it is also a great place for any traveller looking for a luxurious escape in the heart of Buffalo.



Though you’ll want to explore the city, try some of the great restaurants we recommend and find some on your own, the complimentary continental breakfast at The Mansion on Delaware is a pretty perfect way to start your day. Freshly baked pastries, smoked salmon and charcuterie meats and cheese, fruit, cold cereals and more, are available to fuel up before you head out into the city and explore what to do in Buffalo and all the amazing places to visit.

Fun Places to Go in Buffalo

Are there really that many things to do in Buffalo? That was our first question as we crossed the border and entered a city we had previously only driven through. What we quickly learned was that there are a ridiculous amount of places to visit and things to do in Buffalo! Though you may not be able to fit them all in if you’re only visiting the city for a short time, it’s worth it to try and make your way to as may of these fun places to go in Buffalo as you can!

RiverWorks

Grain Elevators in Buffalo NY Riverworks

A newer local destination, Riverworks is a giant recreational complex on the waterfront in a repurposed industrial area that holds claim to the largest collection of grain elevators in the world. Approaching from the parking lot provides a deceiving view as once inside, the complex seems to extend unendingly with an ever increasing number of things to do. The patio bar that extends around the waterfront side of the building offers a beautiful view over the river as kayakers pass, some having rented from RiverWorks itself. heading further you’ll find a total of four bars, a restaurant, hockey rinks and a roller derby rink, just to name a few of the things currently built with more planned, including a fully functioning brewery. With an entertainment area to hold concerts and shows as well, it’s not only a fun place to visit, it’s also a great place to eat in Buffalo as you can grab some food and a drink and choose your seating, outside or in.

As an aside, if you happen to be driving by, or in the area, and you smell something delicious and sweet… it may just be the General Mills factory that’s there… is it Cheerios or Lucky Charms? You be the judge!

Canalside

fun places to visit in Buffalo Canalside

One of our favourite areas to spend some time in Buffalo is Canalside. The city has recently breathed new life into this area by creating a destination for locals and tourists alike to enjoy themselves, during any season of the year, and to congregate at a spot in the city that has huge historical importance. Buffalo’s height of industrial and economic times was due to its location and particularly, the junction of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and the Erie Canal where Canalside sits. Here you’ll find numerous Adirondack chairs to relax on by the water while activities like yoga, markets and concerts (in the summer) and skating, curling and ice biking (in the winter) take place around the area. There’s great parking options nearby and, if you happen to be around when it’s dark, a light show on the grain elevators across the way. It’s a great place to enjoy the activities of the day, rent kayaks and water bikes or ice bikes, charter a fishing boat, take a harbour cruise or explore America’s largest inland Naval park all in one spot.

If you’re hungry or need some refreshments, there are stands right on the canalside or a short walk across the way will get you to the popular 716 Food & Sport, a 2-story sports bar and restaurant with multiple television screens to watch the day’s games or a giant 30+ foot tall screen to capture the major event.

Larkin Square

Every city needs a gathering space and one of the primary public areas, and also one of the best places to visit, in Buffalo is Larkin Square. When thinking of the convergence of past and present in the city, this is definitely one area that comes to mind. Formerly the site of the Larkin Soap Company warehouses, a thriving business in Buffalo’s heyday, the area now boasts a public square with regular, free events for the public. Things like Food Truck Tuesdays area huge draw as dozens of trucks and music satisfy the large crowds that gather. Live at Larkin on Wednesdays pulls in local musicians and bands as they perform on the stage in the centre of the square. A few food trucks are also present for this event and parking is free in the area!

If you’re heading to Food Truck Tuesdays, we’d highly recommend Lloyd or Whole Hog Truck! We’ve also heard great things about Amy’s Truck though we’ve yet to try it! You can see our video of trying Lloyd Food Truck below!

Added to these regular summer features, are a host of other events and local establishments that are popping up all around such as Hydraulic Hearth, a restaurant and craft brewery right across the street from the square with great food and beverage options and a great spot to enjoy the activity from a short distance away.

This area promises to only grow as a top spot in the city with regular establishments and activities popping up all around. There’s even a free outdoor mini-golf course right next to Larkin Square that has remained un-vandalized and regularly used by the public and Larkin Square goers. Test your skills out here because it definitely isn’t an easy course!

Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Fun things to do in BUffalo Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Imagine grain elevators towering around you as you glide through the water in a kayak. Rowing your way down the Buffalo River through Elevator Alley as the silos around you provide a view that is the industrial equivalent to the limestone formations that are often seen in tropical climates. Elevator Alley Kayak Tour also provides some incredible commentary on the area and its history as you move from the grain elevators towards the Riverfront and Canalside and out further. We had one amazing time learning a great deal about the history and nature of the area and just enjoying being outside on the water. Though you can rent kayaks and other water equipment from them without taking a tour, we loved the added touch of having a guide and the fact that it started in the quiet and peaceful area of Elevator Alley rather than right in the centre of Canalside was an added bonus for us!

Allentown (Allen Street)

what to do in BUffalo NY Allentown

If you’re looking for a unique, hip and artistic place to experience Buffalo, Allentown is it. With street art, out of this world restaurants, a music scene and interesting finds (like a man who blows bubbles out of his window at the corner of a busy intersection – yes he exists!) it is a place for foodies, art lovers and history buffs alike. Walk through the area and discover street art or simply take in the historic and colourful houses that line the streets. Stop in for some live music of any kind, though blues and jazz are popular genres of this area, after grabbing a bite to eat at one of the numerous restaurants that will probably blow your mind – especially if you’re craving a burger and head into Allen Burger Venture!

Allentown is also only a hop, skip and a jump away from Mansion on Delaware, our previously recommended hotel for your stay in Buffalo. Close to so many amazing spots (and with a butler service to take you to the further destinations) you’ll be sure to really get a chance to experience Allentown while staying there!

Tour with Explore Buffalo

Explore Buffalo Walking Tours What to do in Buffalo

Explore Buffalo happens to provide a ton of tours – from bus tours to kayak tours (like Elevator Alley Kayak) to walking tours. For us, a walking tour was what we headed to them for! Taking an architecture tour of downtown Buffalo gave us a fascinating insight into the development of the city, not only through its buildings, but through it’s economic transitions and across the various periods of time. Our guide was impressively knowledgeable and it was fantastic to be able to explore the downtown core by foot, learning about buildings we normally would be overlooking and passing by, none the wiser as to their significance and importance to the city and its history.

It really is an amazing way to learn about, and see, the city and with tours like “Allentown Mob Tour” you can really have some fun with Buffalo and its past!

What To Do In Buffalo

If you’re looking to add some art & culture into your visit, the following are the places in the city that will offer that and more. Since nothing in Buffalo comes without a healthy dose of history, you’re bound to find it in abundance at all of these places as well! If you’ve only got a short time to hit up some arts and culture spots, these are definitely the places you’ll want to look into and some of the top attractions in Buffalo!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

What to do in Buffalo Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House

If you’re a fan of architecture, the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex will blow you away. If you’re not, the effect will probably be the same! A residential complex, built for Darwin D. Martin, of the Larkin Company (yep, the same one we mentioned before when discussing Larkin Square). Martin loved the architecture and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright and had commissioned him to build one of the warehouses for the company (though it is no longer standing). As a friendship developed during this project, and Martin’s love of Wright’s architectural philosophy grew, the idea for a complex for Martin and his family formed. What started as Martin’s desire for a compound for his entire family, became an architectural masterpiece far beyond the current architectural practices of the day.

The complex has since been abandoned, partially destroyed, inhabited, sold, repurchased and, now, undergoing reconstruction and restoration.

If you’re looking for a fascinating glimpse into architectural genius and into two individuals who are very much a part of Buffalo’s history, this is definitely a stop to make when exploring the city.

Richardson Olmsted Complex

Best places to visit in Buffalo RIchardson Olmsted Complex

Perhaps one of the most fascinating buildings we’ve ever seen, and definitely a must-visit in Buffalo, the Richardson Olmsted Complex is another piece of Buffalo’s past that is being repurposed for present day uses in a very different way. It was originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and was a massive complex created by two popular architects. The 140-year old building is a National Historic Landmark and is a pretty impressive sight with its Gothic towers and expansive size.

Renovations are now underway in a significant part of the main building to transform it into a boutique hotel with an adjoining architecture centre for the public.

We were able to take one of the tours given through the building to see the progress and changes being made and witnessing the construction of what is to be a modern accommodation within the stunning, Gothic exterior is quite fascinating. It is definitely a unique experience and it will be incredible to see the end result as an abandoned complex is turned into an economically sustainable feature of the city.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is not only a great place to take in modern and contemporary art, it is also another important component to Buffalo’s history as it is one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States. With permanent installations and changing exhibitions, you can glimpse collections and works from artists around the world as well as those who are local.

A stop in the AK Cafe is definitely a good idea if you’re getting hungry. Meals from here are as inspired as the artwork throughout the rest of the building.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

If you’re looking for local Buffalo art, Burchfield Penney Art Center is the place to go. Dedicated to not only the works of Charles E. Burchfield, the art centre showcases the work of artists from Western New York. Exhibitions change but the theme of the artists displayed is always the same and will often give you a glimpse into the nature, geography and history of Buffalo itself.

Where to Eat in Buffalo

Buffalo is a foodie wonderland. Seriously. There is an almost overwhelming amount of options for types of cuisine and establishments that offer amazing food. Here are our choices of top restaurants in Buffalo, whether you’ve got loads of time to explore or are only there for a few days!

Lloyd Taco Truck

Lloyd Taco Truck Buffalo NY Where to eat

We mentioned Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square and we said that Lloyd Taco Truck is one to head to when you are there. What we didn’t say is that Lloyd Taco Truck can be found throughout the week at various spots around the city. We also didn’t say that it is one of the best food trucks we’ve found.

While our favourite is the Tricked Out Nachos, we were fairly blown away by their entire menu (because we pretty much tried it all) including their Mexican street corn, tacos and burritos. In fact, we love Lloyd so much, we make sure to stop in the city and find one of their trucks whenever we pass through.

SeaBar

A key clue that you’ve entered a foodie paradise is that they have at least one amazing sushi restaurant. SeaBar was our first meal in Buffalo and tipped us off from the start that we had entered a culinary city we weren’t expecting.

In the summertime, SeaBar restaurant offers outdoor seating but whether you’re sitting inside or out, the atmosphere is both casual yet chic. The menu, is anything but casual. There are some serious appetizers and entrees to go along with the sushi and sashimi options and when you get to the rolls, you know you’ve hit the jackpot, especially with their brilliant take on a Beef on Weck (a sandwich native to Buffalo that was new to us but something you can’t leave without trying!).

The fish is fresh, melt-in-your-mouth and the cuts are perfect. The rolls, a tasty combination of flavours in the absolute right proportions: from their original rolls like the beef on Weck to the more standard American rolls like the Spider Roll. We even chose the crab mango roll as our dessert because, well, why not?

Allen Burger Venture

Allen Burger Venture where to eat in BUffalo NY

Burgers. Another test of a true foodie destination. From just one visit to one burger joint – Allen Burger Venture – Buffalo far surpassed our expectations. It was so good, it is in the running for the best burger we’ve had… anywhere.

Perhaps it’s that their beef is grass-fed Angus, hormone and antibiotic free from verified humane and sustainable ranches. Perhaps it’s the side of hand-cut fries that are cooked perfectly. Or perhaps it is the unbelievable condiment options on their beef (and alternative, such as chicken, tuna, veggie, etc) burgers like caramelized onions, applewood bacon and cheddar or cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and their Triple D sauce (like Big Mac sauce!). Whatever it is, from the very first bite, we knew we had found a burger joint amongst burger joints.

Gabriel’s Gate

Here is where things get a little controversial. You’ll probably want to consult a local expert… though EVERY local you meet will consider themselves one on this issue. Buffalo wings. Or, as they call them in Buffalo: wings.

We were told of about a half-dozen different restaurants, from different ‘local experts’, that were supposedly THE place to get wings in the city. We didn’t try them all. We do plan to one day though. Until then, we can only offer our suggestions on the places we did try them and our first spot was Gabriel’s Gate. One of the local favourites, this lodge-style pub in Allentown offers some pretty good wings, if we say so ourselves, and can be ordered with increasingly spicy sauce options. The way to order them, most locals told us, is medium BBQ sauce with (and this is the most important thing) blue cheese dressing NOT ranch as is the default in most places.

Gene McCarthy’s

Beef on Weck. A sandwich we had never heard of before our first visit to Buffalo. It is said that the beef on Weck was created in Buffalo using a kummelweck (in German, it means caraway roll) which is a bun baked with caraway and salt on top that was also said to have originated in Buffalo. The roll was then used to create the beef on weck by creating a sandwich of thinly sliced roast beef and horseradish.

If it sounds delicious it’s because it is and when we tried our first one at Gene McCarthy’s before our Elevator Alley Kayak Tour, we were hooked. This is definitely a place we’ll return to, to get our beef on weck fix and their wings were pretty darn good too!

An Irish pub with a cozy feel, it’s own beers and live music events, it’s another local favourite that is really a must visit no matter how long you have in the city!

Food Trucks!

Larkin Square things to do in Buffalo NY

You don’t have to wait for Food Truck Tuesdays in the summer to hit up a food truck in Buffalo. There are a large number of them in the downtown and surrounding areas and a simple search for the trucks and where they are will have you finding some unique culinary options. It’s a way to get out into the streets of the city, explore new areas or simply find yourself dining in an area you already know and enjoy!

Hydraulic Hearth 

Whether something is going on at Larkin Square or not, Hydraulic Hearth is a restaurant worth checking out. Delicious brick-oven pizzas, a unique variety of craft beers and a unique art installation in an old phone booth inside the restaurant make for a great dining experience.

With free parking and a warm atmosphere, it’s a great place to go any day of the week for some drinks or a meal. There are also several weekly and monthly events that pop up like Gospel brunches with live music and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

So Much Buffalo To See, So Little Time

Really and truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all you can do, see and enjoy in Buffalo. We were able to tap into a city of incredible depths, fascinating history, inspiring revitalization and unforgettable food and we’re definitely not finished. If you get a chance to visit you not only won’t be disappointed, you’ll probably be like us… planning your next trip to Buffalo!

 

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Must Visit Toronto Neighbourhoods

Toronto. A constantly changing metropolis checkered with recent history and populated with people from all walks of life. If you’re taking your cue from the rapper Drake, you probably know it as “the 6”, though for years it was affectionately dubbed the ‘T-Dot’. Whatever you choose to call it, Toronto is for any traveller and, as Canada’s largest city, a destination that offers some of the most multicultural and dynamic experiences in the world.

If you’re headed to Toronto, the sprawling cityscape, vast network of roads and unending number of neighbourhoods, blending from one into the other, may leave you wondering exactly where you should be going to optimize your time in the city. Even to those of us from Toronto and the surrounding area, the districts tend to blur, though each one is unique in its own way.

Exploring Some of the Best Neighbourhoods in Toronto

Toronto Neighbourhoods Union Station

To help you narrow down the areas and explore the city even better than a local, we’ve teamed up with Expedia.ca to put together some of the best neighbourhoods in Toronto to visit! In case you want to know more about the city or need even more Toronto inspiration, check out their Toronto Travel Guide!

Bloor-Yorkville

Looking for gourmet restaurants and designer shopping? Elegance and fine dining combine in one of Toronto’s most fashionable neighbourhoods. This area is a huge shopping district boasting haute couture while also offering visitors a taste of Toronto’s theatre and fine art scene.

Each year, the restaurants, shopping and art of this chic neighbourhood draw stars and film buffs alike who have come to the city for the Toronto International Film Festival. Take a stroll in this area at the right time of year and you may find yourself bumping into Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Plummer or Drew Barrymore.

You’ll also find city parks like the Village of Yorkville Park, which continues the neighbourhood theme of art and design, or Ramsden Park, which offers a taste of nature and outdoor sport in the middle of a commercial hub.

Not enough culture and art for you in Yorkville? Just a short walk away gets you to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Planetarium.

**Bloor-Yorkville is approximately within the boundaries of Bloor St West, Avenue Road, Davenport Rd and Yonge Street. Closest subway stations for this area include Museum, Bay and the Yonge/Bloor Interchange.**

Harbourfront

Toronto Harbourfront area

If you head to the Harbourfront in the summertime, you’ll find yourself in a lakefront playground with a whole host of daily activities. It’s one of the most popular areas for tourists and with good reason.

A wave of events and festivals are ushered in with the warm weather offering music, dancing, food, film and theatre often incorporating the international flare so integral to the whole of the city. The Harboufront Centre is the main hub of activity where you’ll find most of the events of the area and is also a place we love to frequent to see what new festival or event happens to be going on.




Prefer to get on the water rather than enjoy the view from the shore or boardwalk? Boat rentals are available if you’re looking to cruise the lake and see the city line from the waters. If you’d rather be a spectator, you can hit up a baseball game at the SkyDome (true Torontonians will rarely call it The Roger’s Centre!), an event at the Air Canada Centre or observe an underwater world at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Of course, no visit to Toronto, or the Harbourfront, would be complete without a closer look at the CN Tower, probably the most well-known and visited attraction in the neighbourhood.

**Harbourfront is approximately within the boundaries of Bathurst Street and Yonge Street on the North shore of Lake Ontario below Queens Quay. Closest subway station for this area is Union Station.**

Entertainment District

Just a short distance away from the Harbourfront is Toronto’s Entertainment District. It’s here that you’ll find the most activity during the Toronto International Film Festival. Fans and celebrities flock to the area to walk the red carpet and watch those films that have yet to make it to the big screen. It is such a huge event, it’s often been considered second only to the Cannes Film festival.

If you’re more partial to live theatre, the famous Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre can also be found here. Walking just outside these buildings will have celebrities like Jim Carrey and Rachel McAdams literally underfoot… on the stars of Canada’s Walk of Fame that is!

As day turns to night, no matter the season, the entertainment district becomes party central with nightclubs and lounges drawing in crowds looking to dance, enjoy a variety of music and experience the nightlife in Toronto.

**The Entertainment District is approximately within the boundaries of University Ave and Spadina Ave around King Street West. Closest subway stations for this area are Union, St. Andrew and Osgoode.**

Chinatown

Chinatown Toronto Neighbourhoods

Though the greater Toronto area has seven Chinatowns, the most well-known is located on Spadina and is often referred to as Old Chinatown. As one of the largest in North America, we are often in awe at the atmosphere and look of the area. It is completely reminiscent of the streets we walked in Beijing with colourful authentic signage and decorations gracing the many storefronts and restaurants. For us, dim sum is our first stop but you’ll also find many Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.

With fresh markets and many places to find a cheap but delicious meal, Chinatown is a great place to visit to experience some of the cultural diversity of the city. If you’re visiting Toronto in the beginning of the year, this is the place you’ll want to be to celebrate Chinese New Year.

No matter the time of year though, a walk through Chinatown will have you enjoying the cuisine, style and traditions of a culture half the world away.

**Chinatown is approximately within the boundaries of Phoebe St and Oxford St along Spadina Ave. Closest subway stations for Chinatown are Queen’s Park, St. Patrick or Osgoode.**

Queen West

While you’ll want to visit Yorkville to find all the designer shops you need, if you’re looking for some of the most trendy shopping in the city, Queen West is where you should head. Also known as the Art and Design District, Queen West is a 2km (1.2 mile) strip lined with over 300 businesses including vintage clothing stores, shoe stores, arts and craft shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. It’s in this area that creativity abounds.

Extending further, West Queen Street West is considered a separate area though the vibe and creative bent continues from the Art and Design District. If you’re looking to discover some hidden gems, chances are you’ll have good luck in this neighbourhood.

Funky, original styles, boutique shops, many art galleries and small cafes are hallmarks of this area that is quite possibly one of the most artistic neighbourhoods in Toronto.

**Queen West is approximately within the boundaries of the King St, Queensway & Roncesvalles Ave intersection and Yonge Street along Queen Street. West Queen Street West lies on Queen Street between Bathurst St and Gladstone Ave. Closest subway stations for this area are Queen or Osgoode. The Queen St streetcar, Route 501, services the entirety of Queen St.**

Old Town

Toronto Old Town Neighbourhood

An original neighbourhood in Toronto, and the first to have an official nickname, Old Town is where you’ll find loads of history. Exploring this area offers a glimpse of the past when horse-drawn carriages clip-clopped their way down cobble stone streets, warehouses and factory buildings pumped out cast iron products and metalwork and distilleries poured with local brew.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to scope out the Victorian-era architecture that abounds in the area or are more interested in experiencing the revitalization of Old Town with its shops, restaurants and galleries, you’ll find this area provides a unique glimpse into Toronto’s heritage and local culture.

One of the must-see spots within Old Town is the St. Lawrence Market. It has been considered one of the world’s best food markets and is an integral part of Toronto’s history and current culture. You’ll also find some great deals and fresh local products from the 120 vendors that open shop 5 days a week.

For those of us who grew up in the area, regular visits as children to the market to pick up meats from the butchers, fresh produce from local farmers and straight-out-of-the-oven bread was commonplace. It’s an institution in the city that’s rooted in the history of Toronto and the memory of residents and visitors alike.

Every Sunday, when the St. Lawrence food market is closed, an antiques market is opened in the north building. Here you’ll find collectibles, antique books, vintage jewellery and a host of rare and unique items.

**Old Town is approximately within the boundaries of Queen St E and Front St E, and between Parliament St and Church St. Closest Subway Station to the Old Town is King Station.**

The Beaches

Think you can’t find sun and sand in Toronto? Think again! While not the white sand of some southern destinations, The Beaches is as close to a tropical oasis as you’ll find in Toronto with four beaches and, even though many people aren’t aware, waters that are safe to swim in.

The area is reminiscent of any other beachside town with a boardwalk for a leisurely stroll, some jogging or rollerblading, areas for beach volleyball and numerous cafes and clothing shops off the water.

Perhaps one of the biggest annual draws to the neighbourhood is the Beaches International Jazz Festival. One of Canada’s largest free jazz festivals, it spans over 10 days and draws international performers and local talent in addition to the hundreds of thousands of attendees yearly.

It’s probably not what you would expect to find in a large metropolis like Toronto but then, visitors will soon realize there’s a bit of something for everyone if you delve under the surface of the city.

**The Beaches is approximately within the boundaries of Coxwell Ave and Victoria Park Ave below Kingston Road. Take the Queen Street East, Route 501, streetcar to the Beaches.**

Distillery Historic District

Distillery Historic District Toronto

Though technically part of the Old Town, the Distillery Historic District could probably be considered an area to itself. If the Old Town as a whole offers you a glimpse of the past, the Distillery District transports you there. Abandoned Victorian buildings have been restored and turned into restaurants and storefronts to create a small village-like area open year-round to visitors.

During the holiday season, the Distillery District is transformed into a Christmas market that reminds one of those found in Europe and is a definite must see local attraction in Toronto. The cobblestone streets are lined with wood cabins selling a variety of holiday goods, food and handmade items. A festive, and enchanting, atmosphere is created by the lights and holiday decorations while people stroll the area grabbing some hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm up from the cold, before enjoying some of the delicious food offered by the many vendors. It’s a festival we attend every year, if we are in the area!

If you’re looking to tap into the history of Toronto – Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter – the distillery district is one place you shouldn’t miss.

**The Distillery District is approximately within the boundaries of Mill St and the Gardiner Expressway and between Parliament St and Cherry St. The closest subway station to the area is King Station though the King St East Streetcar has closer stops.**

Downtown Yonge

One of the areas where everyone in Toronto wants to be is Downtown Yonge. With The Eaton’s Centre, downtown Toronto’s largest mall, and a seemingly unending number of restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping options, it’s a popular stop for residents of the city and those just passing through.

At the heart of Downtown Yonge is Yonge-Dundas Square, an outdoor space that hosts events, concerts and other live music showcases in the summer. If the outdoors isn’t where you’ll be entertained there’s a movie theatre across the street and Massey Hall is close by!

**Downtown Yonge is approximately within the boundaries of Richmond St and Grosvenor St and between Bay St and Church St. The closest subway station is Dundas Station.**

Bloor West Village/High Park

High Park Best Toronto Neighbourhoods

 

Perhaps one of our favourite neighbourhoods to visit, Bloor West Village is located in the outskirts of the downtown core and has such a relaxed vibe you really do feel like you’re in a village rather than the busy city that is Toronto.

Though largely residential, the shopping district offers trendy restaurants and cafes, small markets with fresh produce and a variety of specialty shops selling clothing, food and household goods. We love walking down the street, taking in the people passing by and window shopping as we go.

What may be the highlight of this area however, is Toronto’s biggest park – High Park – though whether it is actually a part of Bloor West Village is debated. Walking trails, playgrounds, dog parks, cafes, a nature centre, a pool, a winter ice rink, and a zoo are just some of the activities and features of High Park. In the warmer months, it is a popular place for all manner of people looking to get active, relax in the shade of a tree, or just enjoy being in the outdoors.

Our favourite reason to visit High Park? The Sakura, or cherry blossoms, that bloom sometime at the end of April or beginning of May, if the weather is right. With a full bloom, the park is transformed into a magical, light-pink wonderland.

**Bloor West Village is approximately within the boundaries of Jane St and Olympus Ave along Bloor Street West. The closest subway stations are Runnymede Station or Jane Station for Bloor West Village, and High Park Station for High Park.**

Church-Wellesley Village

Church-Wellesley Village is an LGBT community that is inclusive of all people and is located right in the downtown core. Heading here you’ll find an eclectic variety of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Two larger events occur in this area annually. The first event, Halloween on Church, is a massive street party on October 31 where thousands of people dress in costume and head out to the streets to enjoy the festivities including live music, food and mass amounts of celebrating!

The second event is Pride Week which is centred around this neighbourhood and is one of the largest pride festivals in the world. Ten days of parades, concerts, events and parties celebrate the diversity of the city and the pride taken in Toronto’s acceptance of all people.

**Church-Wellesley Village is approximately within the boundaries of Yonge St and Jarvis St and between Charles St E and Gould St. The closest subway stations are College and Wellesley.**

Kensington Market

Kensington Market Toronto

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a round-the-world trip, you’ll not need to go any further than Kensington Market. It is a diverse neighbourhood of narrow streets lined with colourful Victorian houses and all manner of shops and restaurants.

Here you’ll experience the very definition of multiculturalism and take that trip around the world as you find shops and goods from the Middle East, South America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

If you’re around in the summer, head down on the last Sunday of each month when the streets become pedestrian-only and street performers emerge to entertain shoppers as they browse the goods available!

**Kensington Market is approximately within the boundaries of College St and Dundas St W and between Bathurst St and Spadina Ave. The closest subway stations are Queen’s Park or St. Patrick station though the College St or Dundas St West streetcars have closer stops.**

Centre Island

Since it is bordered by water, we consider Centre Island a type of neighbourhood or district in itself. Located a short ferry ride from Toronto’s downtown, it is one of the chain of islands off Toronto Harbour. Though it may not be what you typically think of as an island getaway, it has many components of that ideal image: beaches, canoe and kayak rentals to take out onto the water, outdoor sports areas and restaurants. The only thing missing is accommodation which can easily be found back in the city by Toronto Harbour or on one of the neighbouring islands, Algonquin Island, which has a bed-and-breakfast.

Centre Island is also home to Centreville Amusement Park, popular with families for its rides, bumper boats, water slides, miniature golf and animal farm. For those looking for more adult entertainment, music festivals are held on the island in the summer including Electric Island, a concert held at least once a month from May to September.

**Centre Island can only be accessed by ferry. See: currentCentre Island. The closest subway station is Union and the Spadina streetcar has a closer stop.**

 

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Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre – Where to go in Toronto to Find Happiness

Happiness. At times elusive, at times all-encompassing. It’s what we all chase and yet it’s what many of us can’t seem to find. In Toronto however, there is one place where happiness isn’t just found… it’s the norm.

Famous People Players Front Entrance

Finding a Treasure – One of the Most Unique Things To Do in Toronto

We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled into the commercial lot in an area outside downtown Toronto. The nondescript multi-unit building is not what typically comes to mind when the term “dinner-theatre” is used but we threw aside our first impressions and parked the car. What we didn’t know in those moments from the time we turned into the lot until we opened the front doors, was that hidden within the unprepossessing exterior, was a pearl of a treasure.

As we stepped through the doors and took our place in line to enter the dining area, we were greeted with a friendly ‘hello’ and directions to the washrooms, should we need. Already we were smiling in reaction to the warmth of the greeting. Those smiles seemed to reappear frequently throughout the entire evening. As the line continued to move, we took a look around the entrance. What we saw spoke of an amazing history and a profound impact on the community.

From the ceiling hung large stars adorned with the photos and names of former and current employees, and a description of all that Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre meant to them, in their own words. Along the wall, photos of performers and performances throughout the years were displayed along with pictures of famous personalities who have attended one of their shows around the world at one time or another.

It was, in fact, Liberace who discovered this spectacular show, bringing it to Vegas as his opening act for years where it captured the hearts of stars and audiences alike. Touring the world, collecting experiences and fans, the show settled back in Toronto and delivers the same kind of sensational performances for which it was first recognized.

What we hadn’t fully realized was the profound impact it has, and has had, on the performers and staff as well as the community as a whole. That is, until we were seated for dinner and had the privilege of talking to the staff themselves.

Famous People Players Dining Room

It’s More Than Dinner & A Show… It’s Where Special Happens

The slogan of Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre, “Where Special Happens”, hints at something deeper than just a spectacular show of dazzling talent and entertaining puppetry. It breaks down, into three words, what is at the very core of the company, its history and its purpose.

Diane Dupuy, the founder of Famous PEOPLE Players, began working with individuals with learning disabilities over 40 years ago when she started the theatre. She herself had struggled in school failing to find an outlet for her creativity and suffering from difficulties with attention that, at that time, were not regularly identified or aided in the school system. Identifying a need to remove limits and offer hope she developed a much sought after production that impressed audiences and saw them heading to Broadway, Las Vegas, and many countries around the world. At the same time, she provided a creative outlet and a unique form of expression for herself and those involved.

The staff and performers are still largely comprised of people with learning disabilities who have found a home with Famous PEOPLE Players and whose stories are a testament to the amazing impact and work of Diane as well as an inspiration to all who hear them.

Diane Dupuy Famous People Players Theatre Toronto

While we ate our dinner, we were fortunate to have been able to start up conversations with many of the waiters and staff who were busily working around us. Each one had a unique story. Each one changed because of Famous PEOPLE Players. Each one brightening as they spoke, eyes shining with happiness.

There was Nastasha, the girl who refreshed our water. In fact, we don’t remember when our water was ever empty over the entire course of our meal and each time our glasses were refilled, a smile was on her face. We were told when she first came to the theatre she was so shy she didn’t want to let go of her mother, her chin tightly hugging her chest in an attempt to avoid eye contact. It didn’t take long before she found her place and became the talkative, smiling girl we met.

Then there was Michael, one of the kitchen staff, who we spoke to as he passed. He’d worked at other places, he said, but none of them understood him or what he needed, When we asked him what it was that he needed he said simply, “patience”. That is what he has found at Famous PEOPLE Players and he said that he is now happy every day he comes to work.

Perhaps one of the most memorable of the staff was Benny. With Famous PEOPLE Players almost from the start, he leaves an impression on all who have the chance to meet him. It was his story that really stuck with us. Joining the theatre at age 16, Benny still had yet to speak. Not one single word. Though he was uncommunicative verbally he was still able to participate as a performer. Unfortunately, he struggled on stage, missing cues during practice and twice during performances. Diane reminded him that three mistakes on stage meant he would be reassigned to a job off-stage. After making that third mistake, knowing that he would be removed from the show and his mother would be present for a performance that day, Benny looked at Diane and spoke his first words…ever: “I have to perform because my mother will be watching!”

Stories like these abound and showed us that the experience was more than just a dinner and a show… it really is where special happens.

famous people players toronto black light show

A Truly Entertaining Black Light Show

It is true that the history and purpose of Famous PEOPLE Players is extraordinary. It made us especially happy to be present for the evening. But beyond its inspirational story is an internationally-renowned, simply entertaining performance using puppets and black lighting, music and humour. The magic produced on stage is often spell-binding. Performers are not seen but instead, illuminated objects are brought to life by the cast dressed from head-to-toe in black. Then there are the puppets. Some of the show includes songs performed by, often life-sized, puppet-versions of the original artists. The movements so life-like that you often forget you’re watching an imitation of the real thing.

As the puppets and bright shapes and objects floated and danced across the stage, our smile that had carried on from the beginning of the evening grew wider, our laughter a common occurrence. At the end of the show, when they turned up the lights and provided the audience with a behind the scenes glimpse as to how the puppets are brought to life by the cast, our appreciation for the talent and hard work only grew. It is a show unlike anything we’ve seen before.

famous people players dinner

Where To Go In Toronto For An Unexpected Fine Dining Experience

The evening started with a meal in the dining room before we were lead to the theatre to watch the performance. It was during this meal that we were able to speak to so many of the staff whose stories touched us deeply. It was also here that we enjoyed one of the best fine dining meals we’ve had in Toronto.

Our culinary experience started with a fresh salad and some entertainment by a phenomenal jazz quartet. While they are not present every evening, we were lucky to have them there to enhance our dining experience. When the main came out we were pleasantly surprised. Though we knew celebrity Chef Christopher Woods created the menu, we weren’t expecting the exceedingly high level of fine dining fare. Between us we had a perfectly cooked steak and a deliciously seasoned salmon, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of veggies.

dessert at famous people players theatre

With happily sated appetites, and equally full hearts after speaking to so many happy staff, we moved onto the theatre before returning for dessert. The dessert was a special treat by Chef Dufflet and for those who are familiar with Toronto’s food scene, the name Dufflet Pastries will ring a salivating bell. We were treated to a mini cake each for dessert – one black and white mousse mini and one lemon raspberry mascarpone mini – and without leaving a single crumb, we finished both while being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator.

Though the mealtime entertainments change, we can’t imagine the quality of the culinary experience doing so as well!

A Night In Toronto That Leaves You… Happy

From the minute we walked into Famous PEOPLE Players theatre in Toronto, when we were greeted by that first smile and the rotating stars hanging overhead, to the exquisite meal we enjoyed over conversation about the incredible impact the theatre has had on its members. From the one-of-a-kind performance of lights and music, to the 5 star dessert we gobbled up. The night started with a smile that held throughout and it ended with us realizing that, for several hours, in a theatre just outside of Toronto, we felt simply and purely, happy.

 

Heading to, or in, the Toronto area? Find out more information about Famous PEOPLE Players, their showtimes and their not-for-profit work by visiting FamousPeoplePlayers.com or calling 416-532-1137 / 1-888-453-3385.

 

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Romance & Wine: Riverbend Inn in Niagara-On-The-Lake

From our first visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, in Ontario, Canada, we understood why people claim this region as one of the best for a romantic getaway. The area offers incredible scenery of seemingly endless stretches of vineyards and natural beauty with wineries offering tours, views and festivals and hotels with luxury, character and history. Add to that a close proximity to the many attractions of Niagara Falls and you’ve got a pretty fantastic destination overall.

The Niagara Region wine festivals are a huge draw for us and we often find ourselves heading that way when we can. We love what the festivals mean: a series of wineries providing wine tastings, and often food and wine pairings, on given dates with passes that allow you to hop from winery to winery (with a designated driver of course) tasting the very best the area has to offer. It’s an amazing time, with some incredible flavours, and becomes a romantic outing for us each and every time as we explore the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara on the whole.

Driveway to Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Romantic Getaway in Ontario

What we’ve had difficulty doing however, is pinpointing which of the many accommodations would be perfect to turn our outing to a romantic getaway. That is until we discovered Riverbend Inn & Vineyard, one of the best hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake for just that purpose, and combined it with one of the wine festivals of the region.

Riverbend Inn: The Perfect Setting For Romance & Wine

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-On-The-Lake

Though it was winter, there was no decrease in the beauty of the Niagara wine country. We drove through frozen countryside, sunlight sparkling off the snow and ice that clung to the branches reaching up from the vineyards on either side of us. Our final turn had us following one of the most scenic roads, the Niagara River Parkway, with views of the Niagara River and more beautiful landscape. When we reached the sign for the Riverbend Inn & Vineyard we were greeted with a view of a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of lawn, garden and vineyards.

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-on-The-Lake

This was definitely a place to enjoy a weekend together, with privacy for acres surrounding the property, stunning views over the vineyard and a stay in an intimate historic hotel. In fact, the history of Riverbend Inn & Vineyard can be traced back to 1809 and has changed from farmhouse and farmland to schoolhouse to art gallery and, eventually, to the 21 room Georgian-style inn that it is today. With so much history, charm and character, it is no wonder we felt so enchanted with the place.

We found the location perfect for making our way to the wineries that often participate in the festivals and is only a short drive from Niagara Falls, a romance destination of the world. Even in winter, with the falls frozen over and the coloured lights creating a rainbow over the solid white mass of previously free-flowing water, Niagara Falls remains an awe-inspiring sight. We passed by to take a look and headed to a nearby restaurant with window seating that faced the Falls to enjoy a candlelight dinner before returning to the hotel for the night.

Find out more information about Riverbend Inn & Vineyard and their prices!

The Property: A Unique & Scenic Experience

view from Riverbend Inn over the vineyard

Though we realized the property was special when we first arrived, it only became more interesting as we explored. The stunning views were found from all directions and the history of the hotel was reflected from the front lobby to the original front entrance of the mansion. Photos, artwork and pieces of furniture and decor paid homage to its origins, while new additions and friendly service added to its luxury.

Riverbend Inn is also home to a restaurant serving meals in the elegant dining room. There is an antique bar where some of the vineyards own wine is served and offers a patio to enjoy both food and drink during the warmer months. Regardless of when you go though, we’re pretty sure that view never gets old.

gazebo for weddings at the Riverbend Inn Niagara-On-The-Lake

We noticed the gazebo and were told that weddings take place outside and that it is one of the only hotels in the Niagara region that has views of the vineyards for an extra special ceremonial backdrop. Though that’s not quite the romantic escape we had in mind when we went, we could definitely see it as being a perfect venue for a wedding in the Niagara region and having a bridal suite doesn’t hurt either!

The Room: Comfort & Luxury In A Historic Setting

Room at RIverbend Inn NIagara-on-the-Lake

It wouldn’t be one of the historic hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake if the rooms didn’t live up to the promise of the exterior. Twenty-one uniquely decorated rooms provide a cozy and comfortable experience with some added luxuries. We absolutely loved the fireplace, especially in the winter, and snuggled up to enjoy the warmth as it permeated the spacious room.

fireplace in the room at RIverbend Inn Niagara-on-the-lake

When we weren’t out hopping from winery to winery for the festival, we spent a large amount of time in the comfort of the room. The flat screen TV offered entertainment, the in-room refreshments kept us going and we found ourselves lulled into a relaxed state over the course of the weekend.

Added to that was the incredible view from the balcony that overlooked the vineyard. It was a pleasure to wake up every morning, slide open the curtains and have such a stunning view waiting… especially after a solid sleep on a bed that was so comfortable it was difficult to pull ourselves from in the mornings.

Planning a Romantic Getaway in Niagara-On-The-Lake

While a wine festival may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a food and wine festival can be an altogether different matter. Food and wine paired right is a spectacular culinary experience and if you aren’t one for wine or alcohol, buying a designated driver pass enables you to enjoy the amazing food created by some of Niagara regions top restaurants and chefs with water instead of wine. Moving from winery to winery allows you to enjoy the scenery of the area and should you crave something more substantial, many wineries have world class restaurants for a romantic meal together.

If a wine, or food and wine, festival is still not something that interests you, the region boasts so many views, restaurants, and activities and with a short drive to Niagara Falls, you can partake in some popular tourism before heading back to Niagara-on-the-Lake for peaceful nights.

Though where we call home is a short 45 minute drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake, for us staying in the region and making an overnight or weekend vacation out of the visit is something we enjoy. It’s one of our favourite destinations for a weekend trip and now that we know there is accommodation like Riverbend Inn that adds to the romance and experience while being located right in the heart of it all, we’ll be planning many more of them in the near future!

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reverbend inn & vineyard Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

Loews Hotel Vogue – Where To ‘Strike A Pose’ In Montreal

It’s only about six hours by car, five and a half by train or one hour by plane. Though it’s a relatively short distance away from Toronto, and still within Canada, the culture and experience is quite different. While you’ll see all signs are bilingual in Toronto, when you cross that border between Ontario and Quebec, and then head into Montreal, the signs become more French, less English, and the streets look more like a small European city. The history, culture and language are different and after several conversations with locals, you’ll be left with the feeling that you’ve entered another country altogether. It’s a place we love to visit, perhaps for that very reason, yet we struggled for a long time to find the best place to stay in Montreal that would offer a great location with the comfort and luxury we look for while travelling. That is, until we found Loews Hotel Vogue.





We had driven through a late December snowstorm in order to spend a few days in Montreal. We wanted to see the city dressed in holiday spirit, attend a production of the Nutcracker Ballet by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, in which one of Carolann’s best friends would be dancing, and enjoy finding some more of the foodie treasures that are hidden among the many great restaurants in the city.

Though we had stayed at other, less-than-impressive hotels in the past and looked at many accommodation options in Montreal for this more recent trip, none really stood out as much as Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal. Though we hadn’t stayed at a Loews Hotel before, we knew of their reputation for incredible service and luxury. Their only location in Canada, in Montreal, was beckoning us to see if they could really live up to the hype. And with ‘Vogue’ in the name, we were expecting less of the kind sung in a Madonna song and more in the way of a high level of style and service. We were not disappointed!

Loews Hotel Vogue: Luxury in Downtown Montreal

Loews luxury hotels in Montreal

It wasn’t difficult to find and when we got there, the location of the hotel left us with a great first impression. Loews Hotel Vogue is located in an active area of shops and restaurants close to the city centre and in close proximity to the metro station.

It was a short walk, even in the bitter winter cold, to get to any number of restaurants and we found ourselves ducking into an amazing Vietnamese restaurant. We also enjoyed walking the streets as they came to life at night with people passing by and the lights lit against the dark night sky. With access to much of what the city has to offer, the hotel is a prime place to stay when visiting Montreal and the onsite parking is a huge plus though not necessary with the metro station being so close. Valet parking made it even easier to check-in and for us, it was a great way to escape the cold on our way from the car to the front lobby.

Luxury & Comfort From the Moment You Step Inside

Loews Hotel Vogue Room

Entering the lobby, the modern, art deco interior greeted us as we approached the front desk to check-in and we were struck by how the style lent itself to the boutique feel of the hotel. The restaurant in the hotel, La Societe Bistro, promised a relaxing atmosphere and quality food as we passed to head to the elevators and took a glance, and a sniff, from the restaurant’s lobby entrance.

Opening the door to our room only reaffirmed our initial impression that we may have just come across one of the best boutique hotels in Montreal and one of the comfortable, luxury hotels in the city. The room was incredibly spacious with a front entrance and a hallway, complete with a vanity and a large closet, that lead to the bedroom. A large bed drew our immediate attention with its accent pillows and, following the decor of the rest of the hotel, art deco artwork above.

loews hotel vogue best boutique hotels in Montreal

A couch at the end of the bed separated the space and made a comfortable seating area from which to watch the large screen TV situated atop the large desk. With multiple power outlets and ports, it was definitely created with the guest in mind providing for the electronic needs of frequent travellers, business travellers and tourists alike.

Loews hotel coffee station

Between the complimentary 24 hour coffee bar in the lobby and the a tea and coffee station on the desk in our room, we had more than what we required for refreshments. The coffee station also made the space a great area for us to relax in, and we definitely took full advantage of the amenities offered!

Pure Bliss Is A Bubble Bath

loews hotel vogue bathroom

There’s something rather divine about having a large bathtub with bubbles and jets to relax in. But there’s something extra special when that is offered in a gorgeous bathroom with a television for your entertainment. The marble tiles, the large stand-up shower with a rain-shower head and an abundance of toiletries available throughout the washroom was impressive. The bathtub experience was pure luxury. Between the bedroom with the beckoning bed promising comfort and a good night’s sleep, the seating area providing entertainment and relaxation and the bathroom offering pure bliss, we’re not too sure which part of the room was our favourite!

Want to check out Loews Hotel Vogue? See more details about the hotel & their rates.

Best Place to Stay in Montreal? It’s In The Details.

Loews Hotel Bose ipod dock

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what really makes a hotel stand out to us is the attention to detail and it was this attention to detail that made Loews Hotel Vogue the best place to stay in Montreal. In the hotel you’ll find all you need for an amazing stay in Downtown Montreal. In fact, while access to the rest of the city is a piece of cake from its location, the services and amenities available in-house may have you thinking twice about leaving at all.

Why go out when you have a 24 hour fitness centre, the Lobby Bar to grab a cocktail by the hotel’s own mixologist, a coffee bar for a hot beverage at any time of the day or night, hotel wide, incredible fast Wi-Fi, in-room spa services, a fabulous restaurant and lounge in the lobby and room service for those who choose to keep on those plush bathrobes, as well as a whole list of services for those with kids, teens or pets!

toiletries loews hotel vogue montreal

These extensive services and amenities in addition to small touches in the rooms themselves like a radio-alarm-clock-docking-station, a large variety of toiletries available in the washroom, the TV above the bathtub as an added touch, the convenient coffee station in the room itself and the ultra-comfortable pillows and mattresses all add up to a memorable stay beyond the luxury and comfort of the rest of the hotel.

If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Montreal, whether you are driving in or relying on in-city transportation, there really is no better place to look for comfort and luxury, with a boutique feel, than Loews Hotel Vogue.

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