New Jersey’s Wildwoods

WILDWOOD CREST – It is always exciting for my family and I to explore a brand new vacation spot. After experiencing Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the first time in 2015, we decided to follow this up with the Wildwoods in New Jersey ( usual, we get an early start at securing reservations, doing so many months in advance of a July visit.


Home to more than 180 special events and festivals throughout the year, some might consider the Wildwoods the “Events Capital of the East Coast.” The events take place at various locations throughout the island’s three distinct municipalities: Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood. Visitors can find an event happening nearly every day of the week throughout the summer at locations including the Wildwoods Convention Center, Fox Park, Olde New Jersey Avenue and on the beach and world-famous Wildwoods Boardwalk.

The Wildwoods’ annual calendar of events not only draws visitors to the family resort, but also provides additional activities and entertainment outlets to those already visiting for vacation or business. From firemen to fishing tournaments, music to marbles, the Wildwoods have developed a unique offering of special events not equaled in any other resort destinations.

Spring is the time when the outdoor fun starts rolling in the Wildwoods, with events like the Boardwalk Classic Car Show, Easter Weekend and the one-of-a-kind Sensational Spring Weekend taking place. These events get the year started off right and help set the tone for the rest of summer. Highlighted by great music, loud engines and family fun, spring events in the Wildwoods are a great reason to warm up after a long winter.

Once Memorial Day hits, the summer really starts heating up. The Wildwoods host their annual International Kite Festival (the largest such event in North America), National Marbles Tournament, Wildwoods Baby Parade, New Jersey State Barbeque Championships, the Anglesea Blues Festival and spectacular 4th of July Weekend. Traditional events like these attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country every summer.

Also taking place almost every weekend throughout the summer on the five-mile island are block parties, craft shows, conventions and many festivals. A wide variety of free concerts and live entertainment can also be found almost every single night of the week throughout the summer, including spectacular, free Friday Night Fireworks and free live concerts featuring national recording artists, oldies groups, dance and big band music and more!

Best of all, the fun doesn’t end in the Wildwoods once September comes around. The Wildwoods’ “Second Season” starts up after Labor Day Weekend, offering visitors a host of events every weekend through the end of October. Fall events in the Wildwoods include the NJ Governors Cup and the Olde Time Italian Festival; the Irish Fall Festival; the Seafood and Music Festival and the amazing Fabulous ‘50s Weekend.

There’s a little something for everyone on the Wildwoods Calendar of Events: Roller Derby, MMA, WWE Live and the Harlem Globetrotters for sports lovers; monster trucks, car shows and motorcycle rallies for auto enthusiasts; Comic, Sports Card, Toy, Postcard and Stamp Expos for collectors; a Barbeque and Blues Festival, Seafood and Music Festival and Italian and Irish Festivals for music and food lovers; and events like International Kite Festival and National Marbles Tournament for families. The best part about all of the Wildwoods’ events is that they are open to everyone to come and enjoy – and most of them are free to attend!

The Wildwoods Calendar of Events is available online at or by calling 1-800-WW-BY-SEA (800) 992-9732.

WHERE TO STAY: We were fortunate to get reservations at The Adventurer Ocean Inn (, which I can confidently say is probably the nicest hotel in all of the Wildwoods. This is indeed an oceanfront location, which has everything that your family or group needs to relax and unwind at the beach. You can wake up to the sounds of the ocean, watch the sun rise from an ocean view or oceanfront balcony, enjoy breakfast in their oceanfront restaurant or simply bask in the sun at the beach or at the pool area. From this location, you can walk to the beach, the Boardwalk and waterparks, and the Wildwoods Convention Center with ease. It comes complete with a cardio room, convention/meeting rooms, Southern exposure outdoor pool and kiddie pool, and free outdoor and garage parking on the premises.

Mary Nell Murphy is the managing director and owner of the hotel, which was originally operated by her grandparents. While her dad Greg Lacivita is still involved, he is slowly drifting into retirement and allowing Mary Nell and her sister Joanna and brother Chris to keep the family tradition going.


We felt right at home at The Adventurer Ocean Inn the moment we arrived. This hotel features some of the largest and cleanest two, three and four room suites in the Wildwoods. Upgrades are done each off-season. They used to close from October until May. But given the increased activity at the Convention Centre, their opening date has been moved up to April, March and next winter February. We had a very comfortable two-room suite, which had a king size and double bed in one area. This was separated by a sliding accordion door, opening up to a nice sized living room/full kitchen with a pullout sofa bed, a nice sitting chair and a table with five chairs, which we used to eat at. It also became my “go to” spot to do work on my computer.


As far as the pool facility is concerned, I want to give a huge thumbs up. On the eighth and final day of our visit, we felt very emotional leaving our very comfortable chairs and taking our last swim in the perfectly heated pool. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas. You just need to give your room number and you will receive some nice sized towels for the day. We particularly appreciated the covered outdoor lounging area with an adjacent sundeck at the second level, which also had comfy couches. There is WiFi poolside so we could enjoy our different devices. At pool level there is an enclosed oceanfront lounge/meeting area, which connects to the beach. It also has tables to eat at, a TV to watch and washrooms.

The front office staff are extremely friendly and helpful. They will steer you in the direction of different tourist attractions. The reception area has an endless array of tourism flyers and booklets to choose from. There is a business centre with two computers and two printers.

The Adventurer Pancake House and Family Restaurant is located on the first floor on the oceanfront side of the building. It has been privately run by the same family for the past two decades.
There is a washing station on the oceanfront side of the building, just before entering. Guests are encouraged to wash sand off there before entering the building or the pool area. We swam in the ocean each day, which was happily quite warm in the month of July. It was an easy walk from poolside.

The hotel is located at the beginning of the Boardwalk, which has shops, eateries and arcades, The rides are three quarters to one mile from the Boardwalk, so you do not hear any noise from them.

Coin-operated laundry and ironing facilities are available on site. Groups can take advantage of a Penthouse convention / meeting room. There elevators on each side of the building, complimentary cribs and cots and daily housekeeping service. I was very impressed with the number of luggage carts available in the garage. There is a large Acme Supermarket only a few blocks away from the hotel so we were able to do a full order to stock the fridge when we arrived and go back and forth during the week to pickup other items.


The hotel has excellent access for the handicapped from the garage elevator. There is a ramp leading to the pool. Mary Nell plans to have a company come in the next off-season and conduct a needs assessment. She has already added roll-in showers to some rooms.

All of the 113 rooms are non-smoking and have individual climate control(s), private balconies, telephone(s) with automated voice mail, free wireless internet access, refrigerators and microwaves, an in-room safe, flat screen TVs, hair dryers and toiletries, iron and ironing boards, kitchens, coffee pot, a two burner stove, pots and pans, dishes and silverware and a toaster

The beach is free and available for your vacationing pleasure. Umbrella and beach chair rentals are conveniently located directly on the beach; no need to bring your own! The Beach Patrol can also assist handicapped or wheelchair-bound individuals and their families onto the beach and/or to the waters edge. Guests can simply walk outside the building and enjoy!
This a fabulous family location and from speaking with many of the guests, they come back year after year. In fact it is fairly common for them to book their rooms for the following year upon checkout. By doing so they are able to lock in the rates that exist at the time.

I strongly recommend the Adventurer Ocean Inn! It made our trip and I thank the people from the Greater Wildwoods Tourism and Improvement Development Authority for recommending it.

WHAT TO DO: There is an awful lot to do here and it all starts at The Wildwoods Boardwalk, often called “two miles of smiles.” Here you will find spectacular amusement piers, world-class roller coasters, interactive waterparks, family atmosphere, carnival-style games of chance, shops and irresistible food. Imagine, nearly nine million visitors are attracted here each season. We just loved the atmosphere.

Since its birth as a mere 150-yard stretch of boards in the 1890s, the Wildwoods Boardwalk has always been the center of activity. Throughout the years, the Boardwalk has gone through many transformations, growing and evolving with the mood of the country, and in its 100-year history, was twice moved closer to the ocean with the changing shoreline. Today, it is one of the country’s last great seaside promenades. Its rich history and world-famous ambiance has led to the very concept being replicated both in Disneyland and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.

Stretching for two and a half miles, the Boardwalk offers pure sensory overload with over 100 rides and attractions (more than Disneyland) ranging from world-class roller coasters and wet ‘n wild waterparks to carnival-style midway games, flashing arcades and a myriad of retail shops and eateries (more than the Mall of America).

The Boardwalk features Morey’s Piers (, containing three action-packed amusement piers. Morey’s Mariner’s Pier, located at Schellenger Avenue in Wildwood, offers the atmosphere of a traditional amusement park. With the classics like the Super Scooters, Teacups, Musik Express and the Giant Wheel, Mariner’s Landing takes families back to the turn of the century when life was simpler. It’s also the only place to experience Breakfast in the sky— a gourmet, white linen and china breakfast on the Giant Wheel, offering spectacular views of the ocean and all of the Wildwoods.

Morey’s Surfside Pier, located at 25th Street in North Wildwood, is like stepping into a colorful seaside carnival. It was the first of Morey’s three piers, opening in 1969 with a giant fiberglass slide that only cost 25 cents to ride. Surfside Pier mixes a variety of kiddie rides with family thrills in an environment fueled by neon colors, bright lights and music.

Morey’s Adventure Pier is the one that rocks, packed with high thrill extreme rides, the world famous wooden coaster and the Three-Point Challenge Basketball Game. Soar through the air over the beach on the SkyCoaster, feel the G force of the SkyScraper or shoot your way to the moon on the SlingShot. A brand new stage features School of Rock.

Guests visiting the Wildwoods Boardwalk will find an array of exciting amusements, including three of the best seaside roller coasters in the country at Morey’s Piers: the Sea Serpent, the Great Nor’easter – an inverted looping coaster, and the Great White – one of the tallest and fastest wooden coasters on the East Coast. Also, giant monster trucks offer a high-speed, bumpy ride along the beach; and the Wildwoods’ three large beachfront water parks provide cool relief on a hot summer day – with plunging waterfalls, cool cabanas, spas, hydrochutes, speed slides, raft rides, tube floats, lazy rivers, waterslides, rope swings, water guns for soaking, and a 1,000 gallon dumping bucket. We secured special bracelets, which provided us with unlimited access for a full day to any ride in the amusement park as well as access to the water parks. You can also purchase tickets individually. I loved their flume ride, where we got happily soaked during two plunges and the huge ferris wheel. There were no huge lineups that you see at many amusement parks and that was appreciated.

Another of the Boardwalk’s most popular attractions is the Sightseer Tram Cars (, the source of one of the most familiar quotes to any visitor to the Jersey Shore and the Wildwoods Boardwalk: “Watch the Tram Car, Please,” transporting visitors from one end of the famous wooden way to the other.

The Sightseer Tram Cars were originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. In 1949, Gilbert Ramagosa purchased five of the electric powered cars and put them into service on the Wildwoods Boardwalk. For over 65 continuous years, they have ferried tens of millions of visitors and locals alike along the Boardwalk.

The Tram Cars were way ahead of their time in being environmentally friendly, as they can operate for up to 12 hours at a time on the power of a single 2,000-pound electric battery. Today, eight Tram Cars traverse the Boardwalk and carry approximately 500,000 people annually along the promenade. A nominal fare provides seating on the Tram Car and transports visitors to their desired destinations along the Boardwalk, running a continuous loop from Cresse Avenue on the Wildwood/Wildwood Crest border to 16th Street in North Wildwood. We very much appreciated this service, having secured a booklet of tickets, which costs $50. You can get on and off where you wish. There are also bracelets available for $6 a day. Individual rides cost $3. This was so convenient for our family as we got on just steps away from the Adventurer Ocean Inn and simply got off at the Boardwalk stop we desired.

The Boardwalk is also perfect for a stroll on a cool night or a scenic bike ride amidst all of the Boardwalk’s amusements during the early morning hours. The Cresse Avenue bike ramp provides ‘bikeability’ for the Wildwoods connecting Wildwood Crest’s beach bike path to the Boardwalk. At the North end of the Boardwalk the bike ramp connects the Muhlberry Bike path in north Wildwood all the way to the Sea Wall, a scenic six-mile trek.

The Boardwalk has won numerous travel and tourism awards including being named among the top three Boardwalks in the nation as a Best Boardwalk for Food by in 2014; a Top Boardwalk in the nation by in 2015,2014, 2013 and 2012; and the Wildwoods’ Morey’s Amusement Piers were named among the Top 10 Piers by Coastal Living Magazine in 2014. In 2013 the Wildwoods were also recognized as one of the Most Awesome Boardwalks in America by; as the Favorite Shore Town by Delaware County Daily Times readers; and as the Favorite Beach and Boardwalk by readers.

While walking on the Boardwalk we met a young man giving samples of some neat pastries. He turned out to be a Montrealer working for one of the first BeaverTails ( outlets in the United States, Based on an old family recipe, BeaverTails pastries are a Canadian icon – a unique and delicious treat. Served hot and topped with numerous choices, including cinnamon & sugar, chocolate hazelnut spread, Reese’s® Pieces and peanut butter, BeaverTails pastries satisfy indulgences of all tastes. BeaverTails also offers a menu of favorite snack foods, including BeaverBites, BeaverDogs, poutines, and moozoo® smoothies, frozen yogurts and gelatos. The young man, a student at the John Molson School of Business, said that the response has been good. Not only do many Quebecers visit the Wildwoods, Americans were very curious – especially about our famous poutine.

Splash Zone Water Park (, water-drenched fun in the sun, features the ultimate combination of high-speed thrills and tranquil surroundings for guests of all ages. It is located right on the Boardwalk. Within the atmosphere of a secluded family fun oasis awaits a mélange of everything from a giant water bucket, to waterfalls, speed slides and body flumes to a lazy river, a children’s water playground and a tree house loaded with a giant arsenal of every interactive water toy imaginable! When you’re not getting drenched in the water, Splash Zone offers sunbathing areas, a picnic facility and mouthwatering food at the Zone Grill. You can also book your own cabana.


We love to play mini-golf. Our chosen course in Wildwood was the Black Light Mini Golf: Dragon’s Lair Mini Golf ( on the Boardwalk. It was a lot of fun and only $5 per person for 10 holes. You can play rain or shine in this glow in the dark indoor facility, open 10 am to midnight daily.

We had planned on experiencing the Sightseer Whale & Dolphin Cruises (, but time ran out for us.

DINING OUT: Imagine enjoying a romantic dinner overlooking the water as fishing vessels glide into port with the day’s catch. Or, think how wonderful it would be to begin your day with a stack of fluffy pancakes dripping with butter and syrup while watching morning cyclists pedal along the Boardwalk, all the while thinking ahead to a fun day at the beach. Then, it’s lunch with pizza, burgers, curly fries or a sub, all topped off with soft-serve ice cream or sugar-powdered funnel cakes and a promise that you’ll worry about cholesterol, and calories later.

That’s what it’s like when you vacation in the Wildwoods, where there are restaurants and menus for every appetite, every budget and virtually every taste. From fresh seafood and Mexican fajitas to Chinese egg rolls and Italian cuisine, the Wildwoods have something for everyone.

The restaurant renaissance that started years ago in Cape May has spilled over into the Wildwoods and a growing number of gourmet restaurants are located throughout the five-mile island, each of them garnering superb reviews from critics and patrons alike. The Wildwoods’ upscale restaurants offer memorable surroundings, remarkable cuisine and attentive service for a perfect evening touched with romance, candlelight and delectable food.

Outdoor dining overlooking the ocean, the bay or the inland waterway is another unique way to enjoy dining in the Wildwoods. With amazing food, cool breezes, a phenomenal view and great music to top it off, there’s nothing like it. The backdrop is the evening sunset, sailboats slowly gliding past as the sun begins to sink toward the bay, leaving vibrant streaks of color in the evening sky.

For families on vacation, there are plenty of child-friendly dining options spread across the five-mile island. For example, the Wildwoods Boardwalk offers everything from hamburgers and hotdogs to French fries and pizza. Also, the many Doo-Wop style dinners throughout the Wildwoods offer large menus and a unique setting the kids will love. With classic diner food along with retro jukeboxes, waitresses in poodle skirts and black and white checkered floors, the Wildwoods’ Doo-Wop style diners are a great place to bring the kids for a meal anytime of the day.

For the adults, most restaurants throughout the island offer a full selection of cocktails and wines. Wine connoisseurs will find wine lists that reflect a wide selection of vineyards and vintages – including some New Jersey grown choices. A few restaurants even permit guests to bring their own choice of wines to enjoy with dinner.

I would like to recommend two restaurants in particular, which are part of the Big Fish Restaurant Group: the Beach Creek Oyster Bar and Grill ( and The Boathouse ( Both promise outstanding dining experiences.


At the Beach Creek, located at 500 West Hand Avenue, general manager Colleen Guest and her team run a successful operation. You can tell this when you arrive and see the wait for tables. Intimately served indoors amidst copper and wooden decor, or outside on their waterfront deck, this place knows its food. Located directly on the water, the Beech Creek is known for its award winning contemporary international cuisine. This casual surf ‘n turf restaurant and bar features an intimate dark lit dining room, a marina-side deck and live bands.

This restaurant has such a wide array of choices for wine, cocktails, appetizers and main courses that you will want to come back more than once.

We began our meal with some cocktails, a Hawaiitini and a Pineapple Express. It was difficult to select from the delicious looking presentation of appetizers. We settled on the Sunset Seafood Platter – six oysters, six top necks, six shrimp and colossal lump crab meat. It was amazing! We also shared some delicious seared scallops – cornmeal seared scallops and some more colossal lump crab meat, served over a tomato-basil bruchetta.

A Caesar and petite house salad were next, making way for the main entrées. The seafood a la vodka featured sweet sea scallops, tender shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat in a vodka infused tomato cream sauce over penne pasta. The sea bass Champignon really stood out for us. This char-grilled Chilean sea bass filet was served with sautéed greens on a lobster risotto filled grilled Portobello cap and in a light grilled Portobello broth. Our final choice was the rib steak – 14 ounces of grilled Black Angus beef, served with sautéed greens and potatoes. This was an absolutely outstanding meal. We did save room for dessert, sharing a superb and nice-sized piece of double layer chocolate cake and a vanilla bean crème brulee. The menu is on their website and I would recommend you take a look before going for dinner.

If you get to the Beach Creek before 6 pm then you can take advantage of the three-course early bird special. For $25, you get bread, bruschetta, soup or salad, an entrée and dessert. Keep in mind that the portions are very generous.

You can call them at 609-522-1062.

At The Boathouse Restaurant and Marina Deck (, located virtually next door at 506 West Rio Grande Avenue, there is ample seating indoors and on the dock overlooking the intercoastal waterway. We arrived to a nice atmosphere of live music and young children dancing to the tunes of the musician. General manager Rick Raduns and his team provide a warm welcome to al guests. The Boathouse has been in business since 1989. It was built on the site of old bait and tackle shop and serves lunch and dinner daily in June, July and August. Come September they offer dinner daily, and lunch on the weekends. They open for dinner on weekends in October, until October 15. Happy hour is from 4 pm to 6 pm and take-out is available as well.


There is handicapped access via a ramp. If you are wheelchair bound you will need to stay at the first level. We were seated in the nicely air conditioned second floor. Our lovely server Michaela went over the daily specials and some recommendations from the menu. I started off with a mouth-watering Pina Colada while another member of our party enjoyed a glass of pinot grigio. Some fresh dinner rolls arrived at the table piping hot.

We ordered to appetizers to share: the cold shellfish sampler contained three clams and three oysters on the half shell and chilled shrimp cocktail, with some delicious dipping sauces; and the Maryland style crab cake, broiled and served with a siracha remoulade sauce. Michaela then brought a bowl of house salad for the three of us to share. It was superb, with a house vinaigrette dressing and plenty of croutons.

For the entrées, we had a wonderful choice among meat and poultry, pasta and fresh seafood. Our selections were the broiled seafood combination, seafood ala vodka and the king cut prime rib. The broiled seafood combo is the restaurant’s best seller and includes a delicious sampling of fresh local flounder, shrimp, scallops, crab imperial and clams casino. Seafood ala vodka included shrimp, scallops, crab meat and penne, tossed in a cream rosé sauce. As for the prime rib au jus, it was cooked perfectly and cut like butter. All dinners are served with the garden salad, rolls and two choices from either French fries, baked potato, roasted red bliss, the daily vegetable, cold slaw or apple sauce. Pasta (marinara or butter) or for $2 alfredo can be substituted for the two sides.

When it came time to order dessert, Michaela tempted us with her description of the homemade decadent chocolate pie. The recipe apparently comes directly via the chef’s grandmother. Well, it was beyond “decadent” and highly recommended. The chocolate had a fabulous fudge flavor and there was plenty of whipped cream and chocolate sauce as well.
Take note that the sunset specials include two entrées for only $29. There is also a children’s menu, with items at $8 each.

You can call the restaurant directly at 609-729-5301.

Here is another tip. Check out the Marvis Diner ( on Pacific Avenue. We loved the fact it serves an all-day breakfast. Service was excellent and the menu had a wide array of choices. Their Greek salad is a real winner.

For more information or a list of dining options please visit and click on the “Where to Eat” button or call 1-800-WW-BY-SEA (800-992-9732).

New York Broadway Update

NEW YORK CITY: There is one thing about travelling to New York City. It becomes pretty addictive. My family and I recently wound up there for a rare summer trip, stopping off for five days en route to Wildwood, New Jersey.

For this trip, we definitely had Broadway on our minds. We were fortunate to find accommodations right in the Times Square area at the historic Algonquin Hotel. As well, our two chosen restaurants –Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and Patsy’s were right in the same area.

BROADWAY: There are many reasons to go to New York City, but the extraordinary selection of Broadway productions heads the list. On our most recent trip, we got to see four spectacular musicals: Hamilton, Waitress, The School of Rock and The Color Purple.

Hamilton is without a doubt the biggest theatrical juggernaut to hit Broadway. It was recently nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony Awards, winning 11 including Best Musical at the award ceremony in June. The cast album, which includes an amalgamation of many current musical styles, hit number one on iTunes and was ranked the second best album of 2015 by Tickets are already sold out until May 2017 at the Richard Rogers Theatre at 226 West 46th Street, with an open-ended run beginning in Chicago in the fall. The national tour is set to begin in San Francisco next March.

So what is this show that has every celebrity and talk show host buzzing? Inspired by the biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and direction by Thomas Kail, Hamilton tells the story of the man on America’s ten-dollar bill, “the ten-dollar founding father without a father.” An orphan immigrant with a talent for writing, Hamilton lived a full and dramatic life, playing a major role in the American Revolution and acting as the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. In hindsight, a hip-hop musical seems like the perfect way to tell his story.

The show opens with the song “Alexander Hamilton,” which tells of Hamilton’s upbringing in the Caribbean and his arrival in New York City, summarizing the first 100 pages or so of Chernow’s biography. It quickly becomes clear that hip-hop truly is the only style that can adequately showcase Hamilton’s genius and gift with words.
Hamilton’s genius is reflected in the musical’s creator, who also played the role of Hamilton until recently, Lin-Manuel Miranda. For his work on Hamilton, Miranda was awarded a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation as well as the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama along with many other accolades. First Lady Michelle Obama has seen the show twice, calling it “the best piece of art in any form I have ever seen in my life,” an opinion I have to agree with myself.

Hamilton Richard Rodgers Theatre Also Starring Alexander HamiltonLin-Manuel Miranda George Washington Christopher Jackson Aaron Burr Leslie Odom Jr. Eliza Hamilton Phillipa Soo King George Jonathan Groff John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton Anthony Ramos Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson Daveed Diggs Angelica Schuyler Renee Elise Goldsberry Production Credits: Thomas Kail (Director) Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) David Korins (Scenic Design) Paul Tazewell (Costume Design) Howell Binkley (Lighting Design) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Richard Rodgers Theatre
Also Starring
Alexander Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda
George Washington Christopher Jackson
Aaron Burr Leslie Odom Jr.
Eliza Hamilton Phillipa Soo
King George Jonathan Groff
John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton Anthony Ramos
Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson Daveed Diggs
Angelica Schuyler Renee Elise Goldsberry
Production Credits:
Thomas Kail (Director)
Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer)
David Korins (Scenic Design)
Paul Tazewell (Costume Design)
Howell Binkley (Lighting Design)
Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda

As the show has been running for over a year at this point, many cast-members have decided to move forward, leaving room for a new cast of talented actors to take their places. While the original cast is incredibly talented, as evidenced by their multiple Tony Award wins, the show is special enough that it stands on its own and doesn’t rely on any one actor to carry it forward.
Javier Muñoz, our new Hamilton, is not really a rookie to the role. In fact, he was Miranda’s alternate; performing the role two shows a week for the past year. He has already performed for President Barak Obama, as well as for Beyoncé and Jay Z. After having seen him live, I understand why he is right for the role. His performance takes inspiration from Miranda while simultaneously making every word his own.

The show breaks boundaries and poses questions relevant both to Hamilton’s story and to modern day. At a time when Hollywood’s diversity has been under fire, Hamilton features people of color as America’s founding mothers and fathers. At a time when the debate on gender equality is escalating, Miranda features and empowers the women often forgotten by history. Do we place enough value on immigrants and their potential to shape our countries? Do our history books always give us the full, unbiased story? What does it mean to leave behind a meaningful legacy? Now used as a teaching tool in schools, Hamilton’s central questions engage students in a whole new way. History has never been so much fun.

When will the show be coming closer to home? Reports are that David Mirvish is in discussions to create an all-Canadian cast edition of Hamilton and park it in one of his Toronto theatres, but no timeline has been discussed at the present moment. To quote lyrics commonly sung throughout the show, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now”.

For more information, log on to

Waitress is a musical based on the 2007 cult Indie movie starring Keri Russell, showing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue).

The storyline revolves around Jenna (Mueller), a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, she fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, she summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along – courage.

Even before seeing this show, I knew that it was full of promising ingredients. The catchy music and lyrics were written by five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer songwriter Sara Bareilles and the direction was done by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus. Waitress is also the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team.

Yes, the show will make you hungry for pie. The delicious-looking pies on both sides of the stage, featured in tall glass freezers, along with the ones integrated into the story, will make you hungry enough to buy some pie from the vendors. Each pie is sold in a small jar at $10 each with the phrase “it only takes a taste,”also the title of a song from the show, written on top.

While pie is prominently featured, the real star is Jessie Mueller, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Mueller elevates an already excellent show with the quality of her performance, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award this year.

Mueller is nothing short than fabulous to watch. She made her Broadway debut opposite Harry Connick Jr. in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, for which she received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations. She was also seen on Broadway in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Drama Desk nomination) and Nice Work If You Can Get It. In her native Chicago, Mueller has won acclaim for starring roles in She Loves Me (Joseph Jefferson Award), Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, Curtains and Carousel (Joseph Jefferson Award), among other musicals.

When I saw the movie Waitress, it reminded me of the movie Alice Doesn`t Live Here Anymore and the TV show Alice. This is likely because at the diner where she works, Jenna, like Alice, has two interesting co-workers. Becky (Keala Settle) is strong and full of funny quips. An exchange with her boss, Cal, goes as follows:

“Lady, you are really pushing my buttons today,” says Cal.

“Which one is mute?” Becky responds, to many laughs.

Dawn (Kimiko Glenn from the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black) is an awkward girl who unexpectedly finds love with an odd man named Ogie, played hilariously by Christopher Fitzgerald. He won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony for his performance, including his show stopping number “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.”

Another standout is Drew Gehling, who plays Dr. Pomatter. His affair with Jenna is scandalous and hilarious to watch, in part due to his superb comedic timing.

WAITRESS MUSICAL ORIGINAL BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE 256 W. 47TH ST. Jessie Mueller Jenna Nick Cordero Earl Christopher Fitzgerald Ogie Keala Settle Becky Eric Anderson Cal Charity Angel Dawson Ensemble Thay Floyd Ensemble Drew Gehling Dr. Pomatter Kimiko Glenn Broadway debutDawn Molly Hager Broadway debut Ensemble Aisha Jackson Ensemble Dakin Matthews Joe Jeremy Morse Broadway debut Ensemble Ragan Pharris Broadway debut Ensemble Stephanie Torns Ensemble Ryan Vasquez Ensemble
256 W. 47TH ST.
Jessie Mueller
Nick Cordero
Christopher Fitzgerald
Keala Settle
Eric Anderson
Charity Angel Dawson
Thay Floyd
Drew Gehling
Dr. Pomatter
Kimiko Glenn
Broadway debut Dawn
Molly Hager
Broadway debut Ensemble
Aisha Jackson
Dakin Matthews
Jeremy Morse
Broadway debut Ensemble
Ragan Pharris
Broadway debut Ensemble
Stephanie Torns
Ryan Vasquez

Despite some over-the-top moments, the characters are all relatable in some way or another, particularly our main character, Jenna. Director Paulus says, “What’s riveting to me is this is the story of a waitress struggling with these issues, and yet when I saw the film I thought of all kinds of people I know — girlfriends of mine — who have struggled with the same kinds of issues that this character struggles with.”

From the moment the curtain rises, when Mueller belts out the fabulous and catchy song “Opening Up,” you are immediately hooked. Having seen the movie, I wondered how they would adjust the storyline to include music. Well, songwriter Bareilles did a magnificent job. The show is two and a half hours, with intermission, and it rolls by quickly.

Producers have announced a national tour of the show will kick off at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square in October 2017. No word on whether any of the stops will be in Canada. Info:

SCHOOL OF ROCK: I did know quite what to expect from School of Rock – The Musical at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway). Based on the smash hit 2003 film of the same title, it features an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, a book by Julian Fellowes and direction by Laurence Connor. Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess lead the cast as “Dewey Finn” and uptight principal, “Rosalie Mullins.”

Let me just say right from the start that I loved every moment of this production. In fact, it is better than I could have possibly imagined. Had tickets been available, I would have gone back to see it again the following day. Most of the performers in this show are young kids and as the voice of Andrew Lloyd Webber himself tells us before the curtains go up, they really are playing their own music live.


The show opened to rave reviews last December. It was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Brightman). The storyline involves Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. While teaching these pintsized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.

Alex Brightman more than earned his Tony nomination. He truly did leave everything on that stage, giving what must be an absolutely exhausting performance. While watching, I couldn’t imagine him doing this very performance eight shows a week, which is the standard Broadway schedule.

Even after his tiring performance, Brightman exited via the stage door after the show. He was personable and interactive with his fans, posing for selfies and signing autographs. He told me: “I have lost 55 pounds in this role since last November”. After having seen him perform live, I can’t say that this number is surprising.

I loved the movie, actually watching it several times, so seeing the musical was a treat. Brightman had a big challenge as everyone who has seen the movie remembers Jack Black’s iconic performance. Brightman stays true to the original while still making the role entirely his own. Leaving the theatre, Jack Black was the last thing on my mind.

“I can’t, for the life of me, do a Jack Black impression. Gun to my head, it’s not something in my wheelhouse,” Brightman told The Village Voice. “When I came in to audition for it, I was like, ‘I can’t do an impression, so I’m just going to do my thing.’ I put myself in the same situation of a burnout who is then saddled with thirteen kids in a school that he has no business being in — how would I, Alex Brightman, react to that?”

While he gives an outstanding performance, the true stars of the show really are the children. Many of them were cast in a large open call in New York City. Children lined up all day for the chance to audition, and I noticed in the playbill that many cast members were making their Broadway debuts.
They are not only amazing instrumentalists for their age. They play their instruments just as well as a Broadway house band would play the songs, and their energy is infectious through the show’s most popular tunes, including “Stick it to the Man” and “Teacher’s Pet”.

Aside from the upbeat numbers, a highlight of the show is a song called “If Only You Would Listen” in which the children lament to the audience about their parents who do not understand. Many sniffles could be heard from the crowd around me following the powerful and emotional performance.

This is such a crowd pleaser that by intermission everyone in my row was saying “wow!” repeatedly. The closing number really sends everyone home on a high. It is more like the conclusion of a live rock concert as the traditional curtain call is replaced with Brightman introducing the cast as they take their bows.

Tickets for School of Rock – The Musical are $59 – $155 and are available by visiting the Winter Garden Theatre box office Monday to Saturdays between 10 am and 8 pm and Sundays from Noon to 6 pm, online at, or by calling 212-239-6200. Performances are Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and 1 pm and 6 pm on Sundays. Info:

Accessible seating is available for Hamilton, Waitress and School of Rock. Wheelchair locations are available in the orchestra section of the theatres (pending availability). You may purchase one wheelchair and three companion seats per order if available. For guests with limited mobility, there are seats available with movable/folding armrests. The mezzanine requires stairs, as this theatre does not have an elevator or an escalator. All seats in the orchestra section are accessible without using any stairs. For guests with sight or hearing impairments, accessible seats are available in orchestra sections. For more details on accessible seating policies you can contact the box office directly by calling 212-719-4099.The Brooks Atkinson is equipped with one wheelchair accessible restroom on the orchestra level. There are designated wheelchair and companion seats in the rear of the orchestra section. Although animals are not permitted in the theatre, an exception is made for guide dogs and service animals. Headsets for sound augmentation are available at the theatre, free of charge. Photo identification is required as a deposit.

THE COLOR PURPLE: It is hard for me to believe that I saw the motion picture The Color Purple more than 30 years ago, starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. When I heard that it had been revived, following a successful run almost a decade ago as a Broadway musical, I knew I just had to add it to my list. You can see it at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre at 242 West 45th Avenue.

purp_Danielle Brooks and Kyle Scatliffe in THE COLOR PURPLE photo by Matthew Murphy, 2015

The original production opened on Broadway in 2005 and played 910 performances. This reimagined production opened in London during the summer of 2013 at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to Broadway. The musical is based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the 1985 Hollywood film it spawned.

At the 2016 Tony Awards, The Color Purple won for Best Revival of a Musical while Cynthia Erivo, took home Best Actress in a Musical honours for playing the iconic role of Celie.  I cannot possibly start this article with anything other than the magnificent performance given by Erivo, unbelievably in her Broadway debut. With this performance, she has solidified what is sure to be a long career for her.

Celie’s journey is not an easy one and is surely challenging to perform eight shows weekly. Celie endures decades of abuse of all kinds: sexual, physical, and emotional. Despite many losses and obstacles, she somehow finds her way to independence and self-acceptance.

By the show’s end, when Erivo sings the show’s most famous number “I’m Here”, telling us that “I believe I have inside of me everything that I need to live a bountiful life”, audience members can’t help but tear up with joy. It is impossible for the crowd to not cheer when she looks directly at us and finally declares: “I’m beautiful”. Deservedly so, the crowd rose to its feet mid-show for a lengthy standing ovation when she completed the song, the first time that I’ve ever seen this occur.

While Erivo is incredible in this production, the entire company of performers showcased their outstanding talents. The show features powerhouse Danielle Brooks from “Orange is the New Black”), who was unfortunately not there when I attended (her understudy, however, was spectacular as well). In the role of Shug Avery, originated in this production by Jennifer Hudson, Tony Award-winner Heather Headley now takes the reigns, giving a brilliant performance.

Directed by Tony Award-winner John Doyle and with a memorable score of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this musical handles heavy material beautifully.
Thinking back to the movie, I struggled to remember the meaning behind the title. After watching the titular song “The Color Purple” performed live, I can’t imagine ever forgetting that it serves as a reminder that we can always find beauty in the world around us. It is impossible to leave the theatre without feeling uplifted and empowered.

The Bernard Jacobs Theater is not completely wheelchair accessible. There is some accessible seating in the Orchestra section. There are no steps to the designate wheelchair seating locations.
Once on the Mezzanine or Balcony level, there are approximately two steps per row. For information on performances for the Hearing Impaired and Deaf call: (212) 221-0013.  Performances for the Partially Sighted and Blind call HAI (Hospital Audiences Inc.) at (212) 575-7663, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm (EST). For Assistive Listening System, call: (212) 582-7678 to reserve in advance. A Drivers license or ID with a printed address is required as a deposit. There is a wheelchair accessible (unisex) restroom located on the orchestra level. Additional restrooms (not wheelchair accessible) are also located down one flight of stairs. Info:

WHERE TO STAY: There is no greater gift when it comes to accommodations in New York City than finding a place near Times Square. Last year we discovered the historic Algonquin Hotel ( On our most recent trip, a rare summer visit for our family, we were fortunate enough to secure reservations again. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands the center of 44th Street, just a block and a half away from Times Square. The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details. From near to far, iconic to historic, the result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.
For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them. The tone they set during their daily meetings set the literary style of the 1920s. After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”

Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. Always one step ahead of everyone else, the hotel was the first to offer accommodations to actors and single women travellers. We stayed in a very comfortable one bedroom Noel Coward Suite, named for the legendary playwright, composer, actor, singer and director. There are framed Playbill covers from Coward’s productions in the room.

The layout was ideally suited for us. There is a nice sized entrance, with the master bedroom to the right, a large bathroom straight ahead and the living room with a pullout couch to the left. But that is not all. The latter is also somewhat of library, with shelves of books to choose from. You can also download the special Folio app, which will provide access to a wide variety of ebooks you can read as long as you remain on the premises.

The Algonquin was recently the site of a large pre-Tony Award party for the creative team and cast of Waitress.  Delighting thirsty revelers when it opened at the demise of the Prohibition in 1933, The Blue Bar has moved – both physically and eruditely – through decades of Times Square hotel bar trends. There is also The Round Table Restaurant and the casual Lobby Lounge.
As a cat lover we are always excite to see Matilda, the house cat. She is a real beauty and can be found sleeping in atop her cat house at the front desk or making her way through the different cat doors on the main floor. Matilda is a large ragdoll cat, soft as velvet.

For many years the history of The Algonquin Cat was believed to have its origins in the 1930’s, when a stray cat came wandering into the hotel for food and water. After the hotel acquired an out-of-print book written by the hotel’s first general manager, Frank Case, a chapter was discovered about a cat named Billy. Based on the timeline of the book, the hotel is now proud to say the lineage of The Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920’s. Two days after Billy passed, a stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, was a resident at the time in the early 1930’s and Rusty was renamed Hamlet in his honor. Hamlet is said to have been Barrymore’s greatest stage role. The hotel has had a total of 11 cats, including Billy. The lineage includes seven Hamlets and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a rescue. In 1980, author Hilary Knight immortalized The Algonquin Cat with his cartoons for a children’s book on which he collaborated with Val Schaffner. The current Matilda began her residence in December 2010.

Today, Matilda is looked after by the hotel’s Chief Cat Officer, Alice De Almeida. The hotel’s executive chef cooks her special meals on holidays. She receives fan mail and gifts constantly, from around the world, including Japan, Australia and Russia. Matilda can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She can also be reached via e-mail:
The hotel hosts an annual cat fashion show where the cat models— “mewdels” – were mostly stationary, arranged on a circle of tables in the Oak Room, just off the main hotel lobby. The traditional sold-out show benefits charities such as the animal-welfare non-profit the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, in addition to paying tribute to New York City’s first responders.
It should come as no surprise that with the return of the musical Cats on Broadway, a special partnership has been developed with the Algonquin. A variety of promotional activities will be lined up, including the wrapping of elevators and the introduction of a “Cats” suite.

In the book the Algonquin Kid: Adventures Growing Up In New York’s Legendary Hotel, author Michael Colby tells the story about his grandparents Mary and Ben Bodne built this legendary landmark. Southern Jews, they owned the hotel from 1946 to 1987. As a kid, Colby and siblings visited their grandparents every weekend. Colby took up permanent residence in the hotel at the age of 18 and made his way into the theater world as a librettist, composer and lyricist. His musical, Charlotte Sweet, an all-sung, all-rhymed original musical with libretto by Colby and music by Gerald Jay Markoe, received three Drama Desk Award nominations and was critically lauded as “adorable, strange and delectable” by the New York Times, ”
The Algonquin, its bar and restaurant, have easy access for wheelchairs from the street. There is valet parking. The hotel has six ADA rooms and one ADA suite. There are two elevators. Staff are very helpful and friendly.

DINING OUT: New York City is indeed the place to dine, with an endless array of choices to please your palate.

For dinner one night we made our first visit to the fabulous Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House ( This is an energetic, luxurious three-story restaurant, located at 1221 Avenue of the Americas. To say we were impressed is an understatement. General Manager Orlando Santana sat us at a beautifully placed top floor table of this seasoned dining establishment, which can accommodate more than 500 people at a time.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House New York_Main Interior

Del Frisco’s was established more than 20 years ago. The cornerstone of the menu is aged USDA Prime Beef. They serve only the best hand-cut steaks, chops and freshest seafood, including Australian cold water lobster tails while using the freshest ingredients to create mouthwatering appetizers, flavorful side dishes and irresistible desserts. The sommeliers are on hand to guide you through their very extensive wine list while the bartenders will lift your spirits with hand-shaken martinis and handcrafted cocktails. We lucked out, with sommelier Kristin Beckler and our waiter Tim. Kristin mixed and matched our selections of wine impeccably with the items Tim recommended. Did we really need to read the menu? Perhaps not, for we put our trust in Tim and the experience exceeded our wildest expectations.

We started off with their signature VIP cocktail, Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian pineapple. Then came the appetizers. We shared another one of the house specialties, the crab cake with Cajun lobster sauce, shrimp cocktail and a Caprese salad – a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and green basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. It closely resembles the colours of the Italian flag: red, white and green.

When it came to main appetizers, we also decided to share. Since Del Frisco’s is known for its fantastic steaks, that is what we wanted to sample. Tim recommended the bone in filet and the bone in prime rib eye. As sides, he suggested we try the Cauliflower and Brie au gratin and the Lobster Mac and cheese. We trusted him implicitly and he did not steer us wrong. Tim was accompanied to the table by three other servers who cut the meat and apportioned the sides. First class all the way around!

As for Kristin our sommelier, this lady clearly loves her job. She is, of course, a walking encyclopedia on their huge selection of wines. We started off with the Corra “Tail Feathers” 2015 from Rogue Valley, Oregon – a Viogner/Muscat Blanc/Riesling. Kristin soon came back with another bottle, this time the Pierre Bouree Fils 1er Cru “Les Morgeots” 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet. When dessert came she concluded our evening with a sweet Royal Tokaji “5 Puttunyos” 2008 from Hungary. Oh yes, the dessert. We left just enough room to enjoy their fabulous lemon cake split in three and a serving of their equally spectacular chocolate mousse.

Out of the 12 Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House locations across the country, this one is an iconic staple and flagship. The 18,000 square foot restaurant boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking views of Sixth Avenue, truly bringing midtown Manhattan to life for every diner as Radio City Music Hall’s lights shine brightly in the distance. Our table faced the Fox News building. As a new junkie it was unique to see the latest headlines flash across the screen on the facility’s façade.

The restaurant is often packed with the city’s broadcast, business and sports elite and is an ideal locale for visitors looking for a top-notch dining experience before or after a Broadway show.
Del Frisco’s Steak House also recently unveiled new menu updates to appeal to guests’ modernized palates and now offer a refreshed take on the restaurant’s classic steakhouse fare. In addition to staples such as rare cuts of wet-aged steaks and fresh seafood, the menu now includes a variety of elevated classics including Wagyu Beef French Dip, Lobster Roll and Sautéed Chicken Picatta, along with eclectic appetizers and sides like Seared Rare Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Crab Fried Rice and Thick Cut Bacon Au Poivre. It has a wine list of over 1,200 selections.

Del Frisco’s offers specials tailored to holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as prix fixe menus to make things a little simpler for everyone. If you’re planning a bigger gathering for holiday celebrations, their private rooms can accommodate anything from a couple of tables to 75 or 100 people, with amenities like a separate bar, dedicated service, flat-screen TVs and other niceties. All it takes is a phone call to one of their coordinators, and they’ll be happy to set you up with whatever your holiday plans might entail.

The restaurant is owned by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which is based in Southlake, Texas. It owns and operates three contemporary, high-end, complementary restaurant concepts: Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s Grille. Each of our three concepts offers steaks and other menu selections, such as chops and fresh seafood, complemented by an extensive wine selection.

The main entrance and floor is handicapped accessible.  You can call 212-575-5129 for reservations.  One dining establishment that had never been on my radar screen before was Patsy`s Italian Restaurant ( Well it sure is now! Located at 235 West 56th Street, just a few short blocks from Times Square, this legendary Midtown Manhattan spot had been known for years as Frank Sinatra’s restaurant of choice and has become a favorite with countless stars including Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, George and Amal Clooney, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few.

PatsySal and George Clooney 2015

Founded in 1944 by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo, Patsy’s has been in its current and only theater district location (in the building next to the original site) since 1954. In almost 70 years of existence, Patsy’s Italian Restaurant has had only three chefs; the late Patsy himself, his son Joe Scognamillo, who has been at the establishment since the tender age of seven, and Joe’s son Sal Scognamillo, who has been manning the kitchen for the past 29 years. I had an opportunity to meet Sal, an incredibly friendly and personable gentlemen. He greeted me with signed copies of his two cookbooks, one with a foreword by Ben Stiller and the other by Nancy Sinatra. Not only are the recipes and accompanied photos superb, but so are the stories about the celebrities who have dined there. Sal even sent me away with a jar of one of their homemade pasta sauces. These famous sauces, made from the freshest ingredients, are available in supermarkets and specialty food stores throughout the U.S. The tomato-based sauces, 100 percent natural, with no preservatives or added sugar, are available in six varieties, including marinara, tomato basil, Fra Diavolo, puttanesca, vodka and pizzaiola.

Sal is a proud owner. While his 84 year old dad still comes in regularly, he is preparing for the next generation. His eldest son Joe, 20, is completing university and working at the restaurant when class is not in session. Sal and his wife, who gave up her law practice to join the team at Patsy’s, live on Long Island. Sal comes in almost every day, working a 10 am to 11 pm shift, and loves every minute of it. He spends the early hours in the kitchen and during the evening works the two floors and mixes with the customers. The restaurant can seat 180 people and with its lunch and pre-theater specials, is busy all of the time.
Patsy’s attracts a varied clientele, including an extremely loyal following of regular patrons, Italian food aficionados, tourists, and celebrities. They enjoy the restaurant’s remarkable signature dishes, including succulent veal chops Siciliano, spicy lobster Fra Diavolo, tender chicken contadina, and savory calamari stuffed with seafood. Spectacular seafood such as striped bass marechiare, lobster oreganata, and shrimp scampi are always requested, as are meat favorites like sirloin steak pizzaiola with peppers and mushrooms, stuffed veal chop marsala, and chicken livers cacciatora.

I was dining alone on this evening, as other members of the family enjoyed a show nearby. My server Tony gave me time to review the appetizing menu and then helped with some recommendations. I started off with orders of fried calamari and fried zucchini. The former was served with yummy marinara sauce on the side while the latter was prepared in the form of French Fries – crispy and delicious. I followed that off with a magnificent chopped salad, one of the best I can remember having in years. For the main course there were so many options. Tony assured me I could not go wrong with the spaghetti and meatballs and he was correct. The meatballs cut like butter and melted in my mouth. By this time I literally had to take a break in order to regain enough of an appetite to sample some of the mouthwatering homemade desserts that passed by my table on a large cart. When I had a hard time choosing, Tony made it easy. He provided me with the equivalent of one piece of cake in three different variations: chocolate mousse, cannoli and Napoleon (custard, whipped cream and puff pastry). I was glad that I had a nine block walk to meet up with my family, for I needed some exercise after this very special dining experience.

For more information call (212) 247-3491, e-mail or log on to where you can view the entire menu. Sal wanted me to share with readers the fact this is “the only” Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in the world that his family runs. The temptation to franchise might be there, but why mix with perfection?

CITY PASS: Before your departure look into purchasing the New York CityPASS ( You will save 42 percent on the city’s six best attractions -plus skip lines. New York CityPASS includes admission to the Empire State Building Experience, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The cost is $114 for adults (a $195 value) and $89 for youth (aged six to 17, an $89 value. It is valid for nine days. You can purchase the booklets or printable vouchers at or at participating attractions for the same low price.
-With files from Alexandra Cohen
Mike Cohen can be reached at See his travel advice column at

Atlantic City: New Jersey’s The Palm Restaurant

It’s called the “Entertainment Capital of the Jersey Shore” for its exciting mix of world-class entertainment, dining, shopping, beaches and all-around fun. While in Wildwood for vacation, my family and I decided to take a day trip to Atlantic City ( It currently boasts eight hotel casino gaming properties – the Tropicana, Bally’s, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, Resorts, and Trump Taj Mahal – along with several popular beach bars, free beaches, internationally-acclaimed and neighborhood-favorite dining, state-of-the-art conference/meeting venues, historic Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Aquarium, world-famous Boardwalk, Steel Pier, outlet and destination shopping at Tanger Outlets The Walk and Bass Pro Shops, respectively, and of course the Miss America Pageant and Show Us Your Shoes Parade.


We spent the first part of our day at the Tanger Outlets, known as The Walk. It was a lot of fun. Located at 2014 Baltic Avenue, it is one of the first things you will see upon exiting the Atlantic City Expressway. You can valet park for $12 or self-park for $10. Once on site, there are more than 150 stores and restaurants to choose from. We found many good deals, even with the exchange of the Canadian dollar.

For complete information about visiting Atlantic City, log onto, where you can find visitor information as well as a calendar of events, entertainment and tours that is updated regularly.

I have travelled to many cities where the Palm Restaurant ( exists. But it was not until Atlantic City when I finally experienced this culinary masterpiece inside the Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort at 2801 Pacific Avenue. Prior to our reservation we took advantage of the valet parking covered by the restaurant and explored the hotel, visiting the different shops and of course trying our luck on the slot machines. But unquestionably our choice of the Palm was right on the mark. Friends had told me this was “the” best dining establishment in Atlantic City and based on our dinner I must agree.

The Palm philosophy was born in 1926, when Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi opened their first location in New York City. From day one, Pio and John shared their commitment to quality and generosity of spirit with every guest who walked through their doors. What began as a restaurant became a legend – a place to not only enjoy an excellent meal but also catch up with old friends, meet new ones, close business deals, and celebrate family milestones. Still owned and operated by members of the Bozzi and Ganzi families, The Palm continues to serve as a second home for countless patrons, thanks to the exceptional standard of hospitality established by its founders.

When you start with the best ingredients available, you don’t need to rely on overly elaborate recipes or culinary fads. That’s why The Palm Restaurant’s menu features honest, satisfying dishes that reflect the best of its Italian-American heritage – from prime aged steaks and jumbo Nova Scotia lobsters to Italian classics like Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Martini.

There are 21 Palm restaurants across the United State, plus a Palm Bar & Grille at JFK Airport. It was not hard for us to see why The Palm is one of the most popular restaurants in Atlantic City. It all starts with Paul Sandler, the happy go lucky general manager who has been at the helm since this locale first opened in 2005. He is so hands on that when I called to make a reservation he answered the phone himself.


“It’s been a good ride,” Sandler says. “It’s a pleasure to work with a company that shares the same values as yourself. For The Palm, it’s all about the hospitality piece, not putting numbers through the door and making as much money as possible. Hospitality and quality come first and then the money will always follow.”
Sandler noted that what differentiated The Palm Atlantic City from others in the family is the casual atmosphere. “This is a beach town,” he remarked. “They can come in wearing what they want. I think people appreciate that.”


The walls of the restaurant feature painted portraits of international and local celebrities, along with loyal diners.

“The company hasn’t changed, and neither have we,” Sandler says. “It stands by its original core values of dedication, loyalty, quality and the whole nine yards. I think the only thing that has changed because times have changed is that the controllables at store levels have changed, so operators don’t have to compromise service and quality while still remaining profitable. But customers would never see that. We still have the same prime steaks and Nova Scotia lobsters since the first Palm opened in New York in 1926. We are just more astute to remain a profitable business.”


Our server, Danielle Wilson (pictured below), has been on staff for nine years and it shows. She was a walking encyclopedia on the menu, the specials and items that were not even listed. When we asked for her to recommend a drink that had a bit of a fruity taste to it she listed the Little Vixen. It was right on the mark. There were three of us and to start up we shared an amazing Seafood tower, which included oysters, clams, lobster and shrimp. This could have been a meal itself. The oysters were amazing, as were the other items included. We shared what is called the Monday Night Salad – finely chopped romaine, iceberg, tomato, onion, roasted pepper, radish, scallion and anchovy. It was fantastic! Moving on to the main course, we decided to share a Jumbo Nova Scotia Lobster for two. It was steamed and already cut up nicely. A member of the dining staff removed the meat from the shells for us. As well, we shared a gigantic Porter House steak. It came pre-sliced and cut like butter. We enjoyed each morsel. For our sides we chose the three cheese potatoes au gratin and the wild mushrooms, again both outstanding. I cannot remember having a potato dish this delicious. All of their sides by the way are served family-style for two or more.


We did save room for some of the scrumptious desserts on the menu, sampling the key lime pie and an extraordinary bag of warm doughnuts, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate and raspberry sauces. If you are going to Atlantic City, Wildwood, Cape May or Philadelphia anytime soon, then make sure to experience this particular location for The Palm. It is worth the trip alone!

The Palm is open from 4 pm to 9 p.m. Sundays, 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
There is disabled access through the front door on street level or via elevator from The Quarter.
For more information call 609-344-7256 or go

Cape May, New Jersey

Fine wines, outstanding restaurants, classic jazz festivals and special events year ’round. Some things just get better with age, and charming Cape May, New Jersey is no exception. This historic Victorian seaside gem is the oldest resort and one of the most beautiful spots in the country. The entire city is a National Historic District, with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings. – See more at:

It is a mere 20 minute drive from Wildwood.

CAPE  RESORTS:  In terms of places to stay, the Cape Resorts ( offer everything you can ask for and more. Each of  this group’s hotels has its own deeply individual personality. That means beautiful settings, approachable design, an array of wonderful dining options, plus fun activities from sunrise till evening. There is Congress Hall, The Virginia, The Virginia Cottages, The Beach Shack, the Sandpiper Beach Club, The Star  and  Barons Cove Sag Harbor All of the hotels and restaurants are serviced by Cape Resorts’ very own 62-acre Beach Plum Farm, located about  one mile away from the properties. The farm provides the restaurants and hotels with fresh eggs, produce, flowers, pork, herbs  and more.

Congress Hall (1)

CONGRESS HALL: We chose  Congress Hall to experience Cape May. This is  both Cape May and America’s oldest seaside resort. The hotel is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. We booked a fabulous beach tent for three. After purchasing our beach pass, we were escorted to our tent. Staff helped us set up in this utopian location on the gorgeous beach, just steps from the water. For the ultimate experience in relaxation, rent one beach tent and learn firsthand just how good a perfect day at the beach can feel. When you get thirsty, someone will bring you a bottle of ice-cold water. Order a tall iced lemonade or a refreshing fruit smoothie for the perfect summertime treat. Building sandcastles can always work up an appetite, so you can order from their delicious lunch menu, made fresh and delivered right to your beach chair. Since these beach tents have a reputation in relaxation, they are very popular and are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis for either a full or half day. These rentals include: two lounge chairs (we requested three), plush beach towels, a cooler filled with water, soda, and iced tea (Congress Hall and Virginia Beach Tents only) and table and food service. In addition, we got three chairs and two umbrellas and a few more towels placed just in front of our tent. This was the perfect place for us to sit first when we came back from our numerous trips to the ocean. The water was quite warm in July, a real bonus compared to the temperatures we experienced in the past in places like Cape Cod and Maine.

The three lounge chairs sat atop a wooden deck. There was a menu on a clipboard. All we needed to do was place a flag in front of our tent and one of the staff members took our order and delivered the food right to our seats. It does not get much better than that. We thoroughly enjoyed our choices of a beach burger, a black mako (shark) sandwich and a Congressional Caesar salad, with grilled chicken. In addition, we ordered a couple of smoothies – mango and strawberry.

Later in the day we spent some time poolside at Congress Hall. There is one small pool – beautifully heated- for adults and a larger one for kids and families.

Congress Hall Pool (1)

Providing hospitality since 1816 and celebrating its bicentennial this year with newly renovated rooms, Congress Hall   is a haven of relaxed elegance, fun, historic charm and luxury at the New Jersey shore. Set amid landscaped grounds overlooking Cape May’s broad sandy beaches, the iconic Congress Hall is just a few steps from the ocean in the heart of Cape May’s famed historic district.

Guests can dine at The Blue Pig Tavern, the hotel’s signature restaurant that features farm-to-table menu items from Cape Resorts’ very own 62-acre Beach Plum Farm located one mile from the hotel. Additionally, Congress Hall guests, Cape May visitors and residents can experience the luxurious, accessible and relaxing Sea Spa. Acknowledged by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the top 75 hotel spas in the United States, the Sea Spa interior is designed to look like the inside of a beach tent to further enhance the feeling of a seaside getaway. During the summer season, guests can also enjoy beachside spa services. Congress Hall was additionally honored by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the top US hotels in the Northeast, made their list of the Top 10 Hotels in the Mid-Atlantic, and was most recently awarded the number two spot on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2015 Reader’s Choice Awards Top 20 Hotels in the Mid-Atlantic and New York. The property offers a wide variety of entertainment, including the Boiler Room, a live entertainment lounge offering wood fire pizza, a fun atmosphere with a New York downtown nightclub vibe, and the Brown Room, a sophisticated lounge where hotel guests and locals mix and mingle while enjoying cocktails and delicious appetizers which also highlight ingredients from Beach Plum Farm. Congress Hall is located at 200 Congress Place.

Summer vacations in Cape May are a time-honored tradition passed down from generation to generation. Congress Hall, America’s original shore getaway, embodies the best of that tradition in America and one that all started with this iconic hotel. Three major celebratory events were scheduled during the year on  Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, paying homage to the past, present, and future with live entertainment and various classic American festivities. Throughout the year meaningful items were collected at the hotel and through social media from past and present guests to be buried in a time capsule.

Owner Curtis Bashaw, and his sister Colleen Bashaw, who designed all the interiors, are proud of their property’s milestone  anniversary. They have had an almost 50 year involvement with the property, starting when their grandfather, the Reverend Carl McIntire, purchased it and they spent their summers there as children. “Having grown up in Congress Hall with my family during the summers, I appreciate how important traditions are and how special places impact those traditions” explained Curtis Bashaw. “When Congress Hall opened in the summer of 1816, the United States flag had only 15 stars and the county was only 40 years old. For Congress Hall – which has endured fires, storms, economic disasters, wars, massive changes to building and fire codes and evolving consumer preferences – to have survived 200 years and be a thriving resort today is a truly remarkable accomplishment. We are proud and excited to celebrate this milestone with concerts, dinners and festivities all summer long.”

While staying at Congress Hall, guests can enjoy newly renovated rooms thanks to an extensive, multimillion-dollar renovation of all 110 guestrooms and the creation of four new suites  named after the presidents who have stayed there. Congress Hall was once known as the official “Summer White House” of President Benjamin Harrison, who conducted state business there in the summer of 1891. The American Institution has also hosted Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, Chester Arthur and James Buchanan, all while in office. While the room design may be new, interior designer Colleen Bashaw, describes her design inspiration as follows: “The architecture of Congress Hall is grand in scale yet simple in ornament. My goal with the interior design is to maintain that perfect balance spoken through the architecture of the building; luxurious while accessible with a dash of whimsy. A driving force for me is the thought that generations of families call this their summer home. I want my work to be part of the reason they return.”


DINNER: We had the opportunity to enjoy two nice meals at the Cape  Resorts. Following our day at the beach, we took a five minute walk to the Rusty Nail Bar and Grill, located at the Beach Shack, for a really fun dinner. It represented a fabulously relaxing backdrop to dine at during a warm summer evening. We were seated  at a  table near the bar.

Rusty Nail 2

A revived beachfront motel, the Beach Shack features 65 spacious efficiency style rooms, including dog-friendly accommodations, all of which offer an ocean view, and a clean, sophisticated beach resort vibe, providing the perfect place to relax for man and man’s best friend. Decorated in a casual, mellow, beach-style, guestrooms are all about comfort and are located steps away from the beautiful beaches of Cape May and the hotel’s beach tents and service which offers menu items from The Rusty Nail, or “The Nail,” as it’s known by locals — The Beach Shack’s famed iconic surfer bar that made a name for itself in the 70s.  Named by Travel + Leisure as one of the Top Beach Bars, the Rusty Nail attracts everyone from lifeguards and surfers to beautiful beach bunnies, who gather around the wood bar that is rumored to be the longest in Cape May.  With live music, a fire pit, weekly pig roasts, shuffleboard and sand bar, The Rusty Nail is an authentic and cool beachside hangout.  The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is located at 205 Beach Avenue.

CH Beach Tents

The Beach Shack and the Rusty Nail are dog friendly. The restaurant even holds an annual dog pageant each September and offers a dog menu. This is a laid-back beach restaurant, so do not worry about attire.  We started off with some drinks, thirst quenching pina coladas and a Rusty Rum Runner, a tropical blend of pineapple, orange and mango juice, banana liqueur and Bermuda rum.

As an appetizer, we shared the Nail sampler. This included some shrimp, oysters and crab meat, served with dijon mayo, cocktail sauce, and lemon. The menu has a wide array of choices. We settled on the fish and chips, an order of roasted scallops and two jumbo lump roasted crab cakes. Along with each main course you can pick two from buttermilk mashed potatoes, baked potato, French fries, baked yam or side of pasta and a seasonal vegetable selection.
The following evening we returned to Congress Hall for dinner at the Blue Pig Tavern  ( Its name derives from a gambling parlor sited in Congress Hall in the mid-1800s. Earlier still, in the 1700s, Elias Hughes operated a tavern for whalers on this site. It was the first tavern in Cape May. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, we were told that there is no better place to enjoy classic American comfort food. In the warmer months, you can dine on their wonderful, secluded patio. In the cooler months, cozy up to the magnificent dining room fireplace. Executive Chef Jeremy Einhorn has implemented a delicious farm-to-table menu featuring fresh produce, herbs and eggs from the Beach Plum Farm. Jeremy, a member of the Jewish community, has been in his position since 2010. He paid a friendly visit to our table, located outdoors in a courtyard beneath some umbrellas on a warm summer evening.

Blue Pig Tavern Exterior

After some drinks, we shared the Raw Bar Sampler. It consisted of six oysters and six clam claws, with a few dipping sauce choices. We next ordered some salads- a red and yellow endive and another called Beach plum farm greens.  The former consisted of farm lettuce, crisp endive, walnuts, apples and roasted shallot vinaigrette. As for the latter it contained tender beach plum farm lettuce, also tossed with the same vinaigrette.

For the main course we settled on the steak and crab cake entrée and the half roasted chicken. They came with sides of beach plum farm seasonable vegetables and roasted potatoes, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, creamed Jersey corn, green beans and herb jus. For dessert we shared a piece of apple pie with ice cream.
There is free valet parking at the restaurant, located directly at the entrance to Congress Hall.  For reservations call 609-884-8422.

New York City: The Algonquin

NEW YORK CITY: My family and I recently returned from a wonderful five days in New York City. Of course, the Big Apple is also one pretty terrific place to shop, from the boutiques of Madison Avenue, the iconic department stores on Fifth Avenue, the world’s largest Macy’s, the two bargain-packed Century 21 locales and the fashion-forward shops in SoHo and the Village. There are many great museums to choose from as well.

Among the most popular tourists stops in the Big Apple are the 9-1-1 Memorial, the Empire State Building, the Museum of Civilization, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park/the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo.

CITY PASS: Before your departure look into purchasing the New York CityPASS ( You will save 42 percent on the city’s six best attractions—plus skip lines. New York CityPASS includes admission to the Empire State Building Experience, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The cost is $114 for adults (a $195 value) and $89 for youth (aged six to 17, an $89 value. It is valid for nine days. You can purchase the booklets or printable vouchers at or at participating attractions for the same low price.

The one place I wanted to explore was Top of The Rock (, translating into climbing 70 floors to the top of iconic Rockefeller Center. With my City PASS in hand I went there on several occasions, only to be turned away due to zero visibility. For future reference, all hallways, exhibits and restrooms are handicapped and wheelchair accessible. Power assist doors are located at the main entrance on Fiftieth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Elevators are available at all Top of the Rock entrances and on street level on Forty-Ninth and Fiftieth streets for access to the concourse entrances. Washrooms have designated wheelchair accessible stalls. Guides are trained to accommodate anyone in need by leading the tour through wheelchair accessible routes and at an appropriate speed. For all short films played during the Top of the Rock experience, printed transcripts are available upon request from any Top of the Rock staff. All visitors are given a personal headset with a closed circuit connection to allow optimal audio clarity. Guides are trained to speak at an appropriate volume and speed upon request. Service dogs are welcome in all public areas.

By the way I picked up my City PASS at the Official NYC Information Center at Macy’s Herald Square. In addition to the city specialists who are there to answer any of your questions, the center also features touch-screen information kiosks to help you plan your trip, featuring Google maps and the ability to print directions; a multitude of guides and maps; and tickets for various attractions (many discounted). Visitors can also enjoy a Macy’s 10 percent off visitors Shopping Pass, which is obtainable for free from the center’s specialists or by using a driver’s license or passport at one of the kiosks. Located inside the Macy’s flagship on 34th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, the center is convenient not only too many subway lines, but also the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak—which all operate in and out of Penn Station, located across the street. In addition, 34th Street is a major shopping hub in Manhattan and the location of a number of flagship stores.

BROADWAY: Unquestionably “the draw” in New York City remains its extraordinary Broadway productions. Be prepared to pay big dollars, even for a seat that is the second to last spot in the house at the top. Here is a tip though. Go online via Ticketmaster or Telecharge, check out the precise availability and call the toll free number so that you can get a more accurate route of what is available. While they offer to mail the tickets at least 48 hours before the show, we recommend that you either print them out online or ask to pick them up at will call. In some cases you can even buy cancellation insurance. The biggest hit on Broadway these days is Hamilton, the musical exploration of political mastermind Alexander Hamilton. It is a rap history lesson starring Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. We began looking for tickets months in advance, but they were sold out going the conventional route. Somewhat reluctantly, we went on Stubb Hubb and paid an insanely high price. The show is spectacular. We were able to secure tickets for Fun Home, a refreshingly honest coming of age story of seeing your parents through grown-up eyes. It is told by the main character as a child, teen, and adult. The show is done in an intimate circular theatre. Five of the actors were nominated for Tony awards.

WHERE TO STAY: We really wanted to stay close to Times Square on this trip and hit the jackpot with the famous Alonquin Hotel ( Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands the center of 44th Street, close to the bustling heart of Times Square and Fifth Avenue. The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details. From near to far, iconic to historic, the result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel is the first New York City property to become a part of the collection. “The Autograph Collection is a very cool brand,” says Nicholas Sciammarella, manager of marketing and e-commerce. “Each hotel in this group is really unique and different to stay at.”


For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them. The tone they set during their daily meetings set the literary style of the 1920s. After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”

Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. Always one step ahead of everyone else, the hotel was the first to offer accommodations to actors and single women travellers. We stayed in a very comfortable one bedroom suite named the Robert Sherwood Suite.

 Michael Rubenstein

Delighting thirsty revelers when it opened at the demise of the Prohibition in 1933, The Blue Bar has moved – both physically and eruditely – through decades of Times Square hotel bar trends. There is also The Round Table Restaurant and the casual Lobby Lounge.

As a cat lover I was eager to meet Matilda, the house cat. She is a real beauty and can be found sleeping in atop her cat house at the front desk or making her way through the different cat doors on the main floor. Matilda is a large ragdoll cat, soft as velvet. Operations manager Abeer Soliman was kind enough to bring her out so I could pet her.


For many years the history of The Algonquin Cat was believed to have its origins in the 1930’s, when a stray cat came wandering into the hotel for food and water. After the hotel acquired an out-of-print book written by the hotel’s first general manager, Frank Case, a chapter was discovered about a cat named Billy. Based on the timeline of the book, the hotel is now proud to say the lineage of The Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920’s. Two days after Billy passed, a stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, was a resident at the time in the early 1930’s and Rusty was renamed Hamlet in his honor. Hamlet is said to have been Barrymore’s greatest stage role. The hotel has had a total of 11 cats, including Billy. The lineage includes seven Hamlets and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a rescue. In 1980, author Hilary Knight immortalized The Algonquin Cat with his cartoons for a children’s book on which he collaborated with Val Schaffner. The current Matilda began her residence in December 2010.

Today, Matilda is looked after by the hotel’s Chief Cat Officer, Alice De Almeida. The hotel’s executive chef cooks her special meals on holidays. She receives fan mail and gifts constantly, from around the world, including Japan, Australia and Russia. Matilda can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She can also be reached via e-mail:

The hotel hosts an annual cat fashion show where the cat models— “mewdels,” – were mostly stationary, arranged on a circle of tables in the Oak Room, just off the main hotel lobby. This year’s sold-out show benefited the animal-welfare nonprofit the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, in addition to paying tribute to New York City’s first responders. Accordingly, each cat was outfitted as a different civil servant. A cat dressed in an M.T.A. uniform lolled in front of his food bowl, and a Persian in a tiny fireman’s hat snoozed next to a neighbor dressed as a paramedic. Cami, a rescue representing the nurses of New York, reclined near a stethoscope with a small, clear plastic cone around her neck, which was practical, not aesthetic.

“Matilda lives in a custom-made pet home perched atop the front desk. She freely roams the luxurious property (except the kitchen and dining areas), takes plenty of catnaps (which are in her job description), and receives fan mail and gifts from all over the world (including the aforementioned pet home). We got to pet her a few times.

I received a copy of a book about the hotel when I checked in called the Algonquin Kid: Adventures Growing Up In New York’s Legendary Hotel. The author is Librettist/Lyricist Michael Colby, whose grandparents Mary and Ben Bodne owned the hotel from 1946 to 1987. As a kid, Colby and siblings visited their grandparents every weekend. Colby took up permanent residence in the hotel at the age of 18 and made his way into the theater world as a librettist, composer and lyricist. His musical, Charlotte Sweet, an all-sung, all-rhymed original musical with libretto by Colby and music by Gerald Jay Markoe, received three Drama Desk Award nominations and was critically lauded as “adorable, strange and delectable” by the New York Times,”

The book also reveals how the Bodnes turned the hotel into a haven for victims of 1950s McCarthyism and a home away from home for such Black Americans as Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Wilkins, and Maya Angelou. I could not put the book down and finished it before checking out. Colby is an excellent storyteller. Colby grew up on Long Island. He, his parents, and two younger brothers, Douglas and David, looked forward to those weekends with the Bodnes who made room for them in their huge suite on the 10th floor.

The Bodnes made a fortune in the oil business in South Carolina. In 1946 they bought the Algonquin for $1 million, pouring $300,000 in for renovations. Michael’s dad, Sidney Cohen, wanted a career as a broadcaster and changed his last name to Colby. That career never panned out and he reluctantly accepted the post of general manager of the hotel. He was an unhappy man and Michael pulls no punches in telling his sad story, passing away at the age of 43 after falling down the stairs at home.

In the book it is astonishing to see the stars who stayed at this hotel, from Maya Angelo, Ella Fitzgerald and Julie Andrews to Whoopi Goldberg (who registered under her real name Caryn Johnson), Anthony Hopkins, Dick van Dyke, Joel Grey, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Eva Gabor and so many more.

Michael had an extraordinarily close relationship with his grandparents, who owned and lived at the hotel for more than 50 years. If you have never stayed at the Algonquin before, this book will make you want to. It is available at and

“My grandparents gave me an incredible gift,” recalled Colby. “They turned an unused portion of the hotel into a studio. I got to work with a lot of stars. I think they came because they knew they’d get a free lunch at the Algonquin.”

DINING OUT: New York City is indeed the place to dine, with an endless array of choices to please your palate.

We enjoyed our first experience at Benjamin Steakhouse (, located at 52 East 41st Street, one block from Grand Central Station. From their juicy cuts of dry aged beef, to old world charm and elegant ambiance, Benjamin’s ensures that only the best USDA prime beef is used, and every cut is carefully dry-aged in specially handcrafted aging boxes, chilled to the precise temperature and humidity level, for a minimum of 28 days. The key effect of the dry aging process is the concentration of flavor. There is another locale just north of the Big Apple in Westchester County.


Since its opening in 2006, it is easy to see why this place has established itself as one of the Big Apple’s premier steakhouses, attracting business professionals and celebrities alike. In fact there are wall to wall framed photos of owner Benjamin Prelvukaj with A-list celebs, from talkshow host Jon Stewart to well known athletes. Prelvukaj and Chef Arturo McLeod have combined their 30 plus years of experience into a menu complete with amazing selections.

Chef McLeod personally patrons New York’s top meat markets to carefully select prime USDA meat that fits his highest-level of criteria. Benjamin also features delectable non-red meat dishes; such as rich and buttery Chilean sea bass or grilled Norwegian salmon, with its mild and delicate flavor. Diners are also passionate about the extravagant seafood platter, which consists of fresh oysters on the half shell, jumbo shrimp, half-lobsters and juicy lump crabmeat. We absolutely loved that item and especially appreciated the care our waiter Charley took in recommending exactly what to order. Alberto Belegu, one of the managers, is very hands on with the customers and paid a lot of attention to our table. He personally portioned out the contents of the seafood platter for each of us and recommended a white wine to have with the appetizers and a red to go with our main course. General Manager Mario Buqaj is also very present in the restaurant.


Our waiter Charley had started us off with some warm onion rolls and butter, followed by the extraordinary seafood platter and some baked breaded clams. The three of us then shared a delicious Benjamin’s salad. For the main course we let Charley steer us in the right direction. We shared porter house and rib steaks, both of which cut like butter and were cooked to perfection at medium. We decided on three sides: the Benjamin home fries, steamed asparagus and sautéed mushrooms. It was a meal fit for a king! Did we have room for dessert? The choices were pretty difficult to ignore. We settled on the decadent chocolate mousse cake and the tantalizing creme brûlée. I have been to a number of steakhouses in New York. My favorite for years was Ben Benson’s, which closed down a few years back. Benjamin’s combination of amazing food, service and ambiance brings it right to the top.

The restaurant has three levels. It is handicapped accessible from the street level. An elevator goes down to the lower floor where the washrooms are. For reservations call 212-297-9177.

And now for another culinary experience. Having dined for the first time last summer at Maison Boulud at the iconic Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal last summer, I was anxious to try one of famous chef Daniel Boulud’s eight restaurants in the Big Apple. My choice was db Bistro Moderne (, home of the famed “db Burger ” and literallu right next door to the Algonquin. It is located at 55 West 44th Street. The bistro is considered Boulud’s contemporary interpretation of the Parisian classic and a restaurant where traditional French cuisine meets the flavors of the American market. The seasonal menu highlights the quality of fine ingredients served in a casual setting. This is one of New York’s top-rated bistros offering easy going, and delicious dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is a favorite pre- and post- theater destination.

I dined solo on this occasion and received a friendly welcome from general manager Rachel Ossakow who went over the menu for me. I started off with a plate of smoked salmon, with bagel chips and cream cheese and sampled the roasted mushroom crostini, featuring house-made butter, garlic confit and chives. Before the main course I enjoyed a delicious bowl of fall squash soup, which contained spaghetti squash and pumpkin seeds. There were so many mouthwatering selections to choose from, but I went for the house specialty – the original db Burger. This is a sirloin burger, served medium or rare, and filled with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle inside a parmesan buns and pommes frites on the side. I will have to go back as the seafood dishes, the duck, lamb, chicken, steak, salads and side dishes looked very appetizing. The dessert menu was not too shabby either. I settled on the Toasted Sesame Bavoiroise, a flourless chocolate biscuit with blood orange and mandarin sorbet. As well, a nice cup of chamomille tea concluded my order. The restaurant has a very extensive wine list and an on-site sommelier. Log on to to see this menu and the others from the Boulud group. You can call 212-391-2400 for reservations.

If you are headed to South Florida anytime soon, Café Boulud Palm Beach at the Brazilian Court Hotel now features an expanded and relocated bar, sleek contemporary design, and an exciting new menu featuring the French cuisine Boulud is known for, with a lighter approach. Boulud and Executive Chef Rick Mace introduced a menu that balances signature Boulud dishes and French favorites inspired by his restaurants around the world with a spotlight on the region’s incredible seafood and produce.

At its core, the menu showcases classic French dishes synonymous with Boulud himself, but modernized to suit the cosmopolitan palate of Palm Beach: local Blackened Mahi with squash gratin and buttermilk; and Swordfish with sweet corn succotash and sauce diable, as well as beloved seafood dishes like Dover Sole Meunière, fileted tableside. Appetizers like Beet and Endive Salad, Pheasant Pâté en Croûte, or Pumpkin Velouté highlight the season’s freshest bounty. Main courses include 14 oz Grassfed Beef Striploin, Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, Roasted Farm Chicken and a luxurious Chateaubriand for two, and all come with seasonal and local accompaniments. A raw bar-style menu highlights favorites like Local Rock Shrimp, Florida Stone Crab Claws, and Oysters on the Half Shell.

At the center of the new renovation is the enlarged bar area–at 15 seats, it is three times the size as before. Already drawing crowds, the bar’s menu includes an inventive new cocktail list, craft beers on tap, and food served throughout the day allowing guests to drop in at any hour for a quick bite or a relaxed meal.

The Bar Menu features dishes perfect either for sharing, a selection of soups, salads and sandwiches, and perennial favorites including a Cubano with house-cured pork, pickles and mustard, Maine Lobster Roll, and the CBPB Burger named ‘Best of Palm Beach’ by the Palm Beach Daily News. In a shift away from tropical and traditional Palm Beach décor, the new design is lighter and elegant, achieved with unique touches like a shimmery ceiling made from sea shells and Pecky Cyprus, improved lighting, and warm wood flooring surrounding the glowing bar.

The lounge at Café Boulud’s entrance sets the scene to see and be seen while enjoying an evening of excellent food and drink. Or relax and enjoy great conversation in our inviting, upholstered seating areas.

The Courtyard Terrace at the Brazilian Court, a longtime favorite place to dine among Palm Beach locals, remains untouched.

“Our goal was to create a contemporary design for this classic restaurant that retains its elegance while providing a refreshing and accessible modern look in harmony with the hotel,” said Lauren Hastings, Senior Designer of LSI Designs, a division of Copperline Partners.

Café Boulud’s Ballroom and Conservatory, among Florida’s most popular private venues for weddings, celebrations, and corporate events, have been similarly transformed. The French doors separating the two spaces have been removed allowing contiguous seating for parties up to 150. The Ballroom’s high-drama, glass skylight has been tripled in size, allowing an attractive glow of natural light into the room.

The conservatory has been freshened up and lightened to showcase the sun-drenched, open and airy room.

Executive Chef Rick Mace rejoined the Daniel Boulud team in 2013, but his ties date to 2007.

Finally, a note on what is becoming a traditional stop for us while in New York. I am talking about TAO Uptown on East 58th Street near Madison Avenue. This spectacular Pan Asian restaurant specializes in authentic Hong Kong Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines. Save room as well for their amazing desserts. There is also a downtown location and another in Las Vegas.

Hockey Night in Brooklyn

HOCKEY NIGHT IN BROOKLYN: I have always wanted to see a professional hockey game in New York City. That recently became a reality when I took the trip from the Algonquin Hotel near Times Square to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to watch the hometown Islanders faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And I did so from the press box.

It is less than 30 minutes by subway, taxi or car. The 2015-16 season marked the first in Brooklyn for the Islanders. The team spent its entire 42 history at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, aka Long Island. With the arena outdated and no new facility on the horizon, ownership turned towards the Barclays Centre – home of basketball’s Brooklyn Nets. The announcement of the move was actually made three years ago. They have a lease here now until 2040.
The team still has its practice facility in Long Island. Four Stanley Cup banners are already hanging in the Barclays Center. In addition, banners hang for retired players Billy Smith, Mike Bossy, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin as well as former coach Al Arbour and former general manager Bill Torrey.

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, at the crossroads of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, Barclays Center boasts one of the most intimate seating configurations ever designed for a modern multi-purpose arena. For hockey the capacity is just over 15,000; 17,732 for basketball and up to 18,000 for musical or other performances. It opened on September 28, 2012 with eight consecutive sold out shows by JAY Z. Since that time it has continued to host the world’s most renowned performers, including Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Andrea Bocelli, Dave Matthews Band, Bruno Mars and Coldplay, all worthy of top billing on the arena oculus.
I enjoyed the experience immensely and strongly recommend it to anyone visiting New York. As Mike Bossy told, this is indeed a work in progress. Most of the team’s loyal fan base is still in Long Island. They either drive in or take the train. I spoke too many of them as I walked through the arena. While some complained about the commute of at least 45 minutes, they pledged to support the team. Communications manager Jesse Eisenberg told me the adjustment is going well and that sponsorship opportunities in Brooklyn far outweigh those in Long Island, where the team still practices. The players are doing their best to make this work as well. After the game I stood outside the Isles’ dressing room as a slew of players came out to take part in promotional meet and greets.
“I am happy with the move,” forward Matt Martin told me. “We will get new fans, but the old ones are still coming as well.”

Before the game I met with Montrealer Marc Champagne, one of the team’s goalie consultants. He spends seven to 15 days a month with the Islanders and has a personal background with number one netminder Jaroslav Halak, whom he coached in junior. Halak was out with a lower body injury on this night. J.F. Berube, a former member of the former Montreal Juniors, has also been with the squad and is injured as well.
There was a great atmosphere in the rink and so many fans wearing Islanders jerseys, most with number 91 Tavares on the back (for captain John Tavares). There are all kinds of neat promotions going on – seeking the loudest fan of the game, the best beard, the best dancer, guess the autograph and seat upgrades. At one point during the game a member of the US Army was introduced to the crowd and got a long standing ovation. The team mascot Sparky actually skates around the ice, something the Habs’ Youppi can’t seem to do.
TRANSPORTATION: Eleven subway lines stop near the arena: 2, 3, 4, and 5, B, D, N, Q, and R to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center C to Lafayette Avenue G to Fulton Street. Travel Time from Penn (2, 3, C) and Grand Central (4, 5) is 22 minutes.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Access-A-Ride bus stop at Barclays Center is located on Atlantic Avenue, between Ft. Greene Place and 6th Avenue. The stop is situated on the South Side of Atlantic Avenue, adjacent to the arena, and is nearest the Emblem Health Atlantic Avenue Entrance. Barclays Center has been equipped with the most advanced assisted listening devices (ALD). Headsets and receivers are available at no charge at Guest Services. A driver’s license, credit card, or some form of identification will be required as a deposit. Guests who choose to bring their own headset and receiver may access the system on a standard FM broadcast.
Every concession stand and bar is accessible to guests with disabilities. If assistance is required at any of the food service areas, please contact the nearest staff member. Elevators for guests with disabilities are available in the Barclays Center on the Main Concourse, Lower Suite Level, Upper Suite Level and Upper Concourse. Predesigned elevators leading to the Event Level are also available for guests with ADA needs. Guest Services escorts can be provided when guests with disabilities are in need of event level access.
Patrons requiring interpreting services for concerts should contact our Guest Services Department no later than three weeks after concert ticket sales begin. All Barclays Center affiliated lots will have accessible parking spaces available. All public restrooms are accessible to our patrons with disabilities. Animals are not allowed in the Barclays Center, however, an exception is made for patrons with service animals.

Barclays Center provides wheelchair and companion seating with appropriate sight lines on all levels. Be advised that Center personnel reserve the right to take appropriate legal action against individuals who fraudulently


POUGHKEEPSIE: When travelling to New York City, our family always likes to stop over somewhere on the way in order to make the most of our first day in the Big Apple and avoid getting stuck at the border. For our most recent trip we decided to go a little bit further than Saratoga or Albany and targeted the Town of Poughkeepsie (, a mere 90 minutes from New York.

Poughkeepsie, nestled in the majestic Hudson Valley, is home to 45,000 residents. The town is rich with culture and steeped in history and the home of such prestigious institutions as Vassar and Marist Colleges as well as Dutchess Community College. Along with these institutes of higher learning, they also have Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel F.B. Morse (as in the founder of Morse code). The 180-acre estate of Samuel F. B. Morse includes an Italianate villa designed by Alexander Jackson Davis containing extensive collections of American and European decorative and fine arts. Three miles of carriage roads wind through landscaped grounds, romantic gardens and a shady grove.

WHERE TO STAY: For the two trips we made as a family to Cape Cod, we stayed at a Sheraton Four Points managed by the Linchris Hotel Corporation. I was most impressed with the operation. My main contact is Robb Moskowitz, Senior Vice-President of Operations. When we decided to stop over in Poughkeepsie, I remembered that Linchris had a property there so we promptly booked a room at their Holiday Inn Express at 2750 South Road. General Manager Rachel Kuhn and her team are in the midst of a $3 million redecoration plan in 2016. Linchris has owned this hotel since 1995 and likes to promote its ideal location. As Kuhn notes, if take the train you can be at Grand Central Station in New York City in 90 minutes. Kuhn has been with Linchris for 15 years, having previously worked for them in Boston and New Hampshire. She has found a home in Poughkeepsie, which is where she wants to stay.

We stayed in a one bedroom suite, which included a sleeper sofa and a Jacuzzi tub. There was a coffee maker, microwave oven, mini refrigerator, plates/glassware and silverware. I really liked the layout. In the main bedroom there was an extremely comfortable lounge chair. The bathroom was gigantic, with two access doors. This is very convenient for the person on the sleeper sofa, who does not have to worry about waking anyone up.

The hotel has 121 rooms and attracts both leisure and corporate travelers. A free hot buffet breakfast, as well as one of the continental variety, is offered daily. The lobby is very welcoming to someone like me who likes to work on his laptop late into the night and not disturb others in the room. I set up shop at one of the comfortable tables, helped myself to some coffee and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie from the front desk and got to work. It was a most comfortable work environment.

The 24 hour fitness room features everything you’ll need to stay on track with your routine: a treadmill, lifecycle, stair master, recumbent bicycle, free weights, and a two-stage universal gym. There is also a 24 hour business center and a seasonal outdoor pool.

The hotel provides accessible parking and self-parking, van accessible self-parking., portable tub seats, communication kits with visual alarms and notification devices, TTY for guest use and closed caption televisions.

For more information log on to or call 1 877 660 8550.

WHAT TO DO: The 22 parks in the area offer recreational activities such as hiking and walking trails in Peach Hill Park. Fine dining is abundant, while art exhibits, festivals, fairs and farmer markets are bountiful.
Poughkeepsie is situated in Dutchess County! Covering 800 square miles, there’s an abundance of natural scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, historic landmarks, restaurants, festivals and more. Activities range from strolls across the Walkway over the Hudson, treks through the Appalachian Trail, and sips along the Dutchess Wine Trail. Tours of the FDR National Historic Site, spins on the Dutchess County Fair Ferris Wheel, and tastes of the Culinary Institute of America restaurants are also highly popular as are cruises down the Hudson River, bushels of pick-your-own apples, and contemporary art from modern masters.

Some places you might want to check out include The Bardavon 1869 Opera House (home of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic), The Mid-Hudson Civic Center (the one-time filming location for WWF Championship Wrestling), The Chance (home of live rock concerts), the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, The Barrett Art Center, The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center, Bananas Comedy Club and Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music. In 2011 Empire Cruise Lines began the operation of the first dinner and tour boat to call Poughkeepsie homeport in nearly two generations. The M/V Mystère is a 60-foot (18 m) double-decked tour boat which departs from Waryas Park at 29 North Water Street.

For shopping and movie theater entertainment, the Poughkeepsie Galleria is located in the town of Poughkeepsie. The mall, which opened in 1987, consists of two floors with 250 shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Regal Cinemas theater has 16 screens. Current anchor stores within the mall include Macy’s, J. C. Penney, Target, Best Buy, H&M, and Sears. I was really impressed with this mall. We were thrilled to find one of our favorite restaurants, Ruby Tuesday, home to a great salad bar and a fun menu. It is truly one of the chains I wish we had in Canada (12 other countries do). Services was fantastic. When I ordered something which I envisioned being cooked differently I told the server Daniel. Even though this was my mistake, she took it back and did not even charge me for the item. A classy move.

Myrtle Beach

For many years now my family I have contemplated a summer vacation in Myrtle Beach (, dubbed “the jewel of South Carolina.” In early winter, we had a family meeting and decided that the time had come to finally experience a week in the area popularly known as the Grand Strand. I can now enthusiastically share with readers how extraordinary this place is. In fact, there was nowhere near enough time to see everything on our “to do” list. That means a return trip will be necessary.

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Stretching from Little River to Pawleys Island, and comprising 12 communities along the South Carolina coast, Myrtle Beach is home to world-class golf, 60 miles of sandy beaches, exciting entertainment, family attractions and Southern hospitality. The area welcomes more than 16 million visitors a year.

I must give immediate credit to the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau (, which does a fabulous job promoting the area. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @MyMyrtleBeach and on Facebook at They go the extra mile to attract tourists. My first encounter with them was a few years back when they visited Canada and invited local journalists to come meet with them. Never before have I worked with an outfit like this which was so responsive to my needs and questions. They indeed serve as a model for how all visitors bureaus should operate.

Myrtle Beach has everything you could possibly ask for to have fun year-round, but I must say that sitting by the pool or the ocean on a hot summer day tops my list. There is an endless array of activities to enjoy.

WHERE TO STAY: There are approximately 425 hotels and 98,600 accommodation units in the Myrtle Beach area. From elegant golf and seaside resorts, to rustic cottages, bed and breakfasts and mom-and-pop motels, the area offers accommodations for every taste and appeals to every type of traveler. There are also several campgrounds located between Myrtle Beach and the South Strand, many of which are oceanfront or just steps away from the beach. There are also a number of beach homes and condos available for rent, thereby giving vacationing families a true home away from home.

1 Bedroom - Bedroom Shot

We stayed at the Island Vista (, a resort locally owned by the Chapman family that has been in the Grand Strand area for decades. The hotel originally on the property was called the Sea Island Inn and was torn down in 2004 and rebuilt as a luxury resort two years later with a wonderful fine dining restaurant called The Cypress Room. Many of the waiters who work at the restaurant have been here for decades, dating back to its previous incarnation. The resort, with 149 rooms, is centrally located in Myrtle Beach, but in a quieter section of the strip and is surrounded by residential homes and no other hotel towers. It has a very homey feel to it. I have never met such a polite staff, from the maintenance man to the front desk personnel.

Hotel - Back

All units are ocean front suite/condo style. We reserved a one bedroom suite with two queen beds in the separate bedroom and a nice pull down Murphy bed, as well as a sleeper sofa, in the living room. The unit also has a full kitchen with dishes and silverware, a washer/dryer, a dining room table, three comfortable chairs, two televisions, an in room safe and an oceanfront balcony. Stephen Chapman, his wife Shelley and his sister Julia Singleton manage the property. They gave me a look at some of the larger suites – two, three and four bedrooms- and let me just say I know what is on my “wish” list for a future trip. Suites range in size from 677 to 2,300 square feet and are highlighted by elegant traditional furnishings such as shuttered headboards, rich draperies and bed coverings, tile flooring, granite counter-tops, plush carpet and floor-to-ceiling windows offering amazing ocean views.

Parking is made simple here, with two multi-level lots. We rented a car from Alamo at the airport, which generally has the best deals, and with our GPS and some printed Google map directions we had no trouble finding our way around.

The hotel has a fitness and health centre, wireless internet and indoor and outdoor pools. We absolutely loved the pool setup. I felt like I was on a tropical island as our space was just steps from the beach and looking straight ahead at the gorgeous ocean. It is best to get up a little early to secure some chairs and an umbrella. Towels are provided via a special dispenser which recognizes your room card. You can rent chairs and umbrellas right on the beach from the lifeguards.

Pool Deck 1
The resort’s swimming complex features an indoor and outdoor pool area with a wide range of water amenities. Unlike any other on the Grand Strand, Island Vista’s indoor pool area reflects a serene Romanesque theme accentuated by a cascading waterfall pouring into a 200 foot lazy river. The indoor area also features a large pool, a Jacuzzi and a kids’ pool featuring pop jets and water games. The indoor facility opens to the outdoors during the summer months and is fully enclosed during the winter. Island Vista’s two outdoor pools overlook the Atlantic Ocean and features pop jets, leaping streams of water and a splash pool. I loved being able to connect to the free Wi-Fi from the pool deck all day. It was quite a novelty and saved me a lot of money on cellular data.

“The Island Vista truly embodies low country elegance in a relaxing, family friendly resort atmosphere,” said Chapman. “The Island Vista provides guests with luxurious and spacious suites and pristine ocean views as well as a host of outstanding amenities. Island Vista is one of the finest oceanfront properties on the Grand Strand and the responses from our guests have been overwhelmingly positive.”

Dedicated to preserving the style and grace of the Sea Island Inn, the Island Vista’s elegant design features architecture reminiscent of Howard Mizner and his style crafted in South Florida in the 1930’s. Don’t want to break from your fitness routine while away? The Island Vista has you covered with a nice fitness center which overlooks the indoor heated pool area. It is open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and offers stationary bikes, elliptical machine, treadmills and weight-training equipment. There is an in-house golf director here who is knowledgeable about the many courses to choose from. Special activities for children aged five to 12 take place during Easter Week and from June through August. There are even Kid’s Night Out activities, which provide mom and dad with a break. Each room has a DVD player. When you check-in you are given a card to take out DVDs for free from a special machine in the lobby – yet another plus in terms of customer service.

Island Vista’s gourmet restaurant, The Cypress Room, is located off the hotel’s main lobby and features an array of European-infused low country dining selections including signature dishes such as pan seared pork chops with apple and cornbread stuffing, crispy fried oysters with roasted red pepper tartar sauce, bourbon creamed corn and sweet potato hash, and pecan-crusted trout, with herbed butter noissette served over Basmati rice with wild mushroom ragout. Our group shared a crab and lobster timbale appetizer and sampled the risotto with provencal vegetables, roasted asparagus and red onion marmalade with lobster and the fish special of the day, a perfectly grilled Mahi Mahi. We also ordered room service on a few occasions, which enabled us to enjoy longer days at the pool.

The Cypress Room also serves a great breakfast daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning order of two eggs, potatoes, toast, juice and a warm cup of coffee. There is also a full service bar providing alternate seating, as well as a selective range of the finest wines, liqueurs, domestic and international beers and specialty cocktails.

There is a large Food Lion Grocery Store just a short drive away. We stocked our fridge immediately with bottled waters and other staples.

The hotel has facilities for the disabled and is handicapped accessible. There are ramps at the front and rear entrances and the hotels has purchased its own beach accessible wheelchair. They have a lift to assist the physically handicapped to go in and out of the pool. Some rooms have walk-in showers and benches and chairs to sit on. It is important to share any special requests when making a reservation.

For more information about Island Vista, call 800-548-0767 or visit

DINING OUT: There are approximately 1,700 full-service restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area and it’s no surprise that seafood is one of the primary cuisines. Murrells Inlet is nicknamed“the seafood capital of South Carolina” and Calabash-style restaurants are popular in the Northern Strand, as well as Carolina Coastal Cuisine. Visitors will also find a range of other cuisines to satisfy their appetites, including steak, ribs, barbecue, home-style cooking, international fare and regional specialties.


We liked what we heard about Thoroughbreds Chophouse ( at 9706 N. Kings Hwy, between Magnolia Plaza and The Galleria, in Myrtle Beach’s Restaurant Row and secured a reservation before we left.

Since opening in 1988, Thoroughbreds has become widely known as one of the locals’ favorite fine dining restaurants after being recognized year-after-year in the categories of most romantic and best fine-dining by the locals. General Manager David Amend and his staff pride themselves in serving only the finest beef and ultra-fresh seafood.

The menu’s course options are neatly arranged to fit with the restaurant’s name, beginning with The Starting Gate. It features some salads, escargot, tuna sashimi, shrimp cocktail, colossal crab cake, duck tenderloins, fried calamari, chilled and hot seafood samplers, blackened lollipop lamb chops and sea scallop ramekin (jumbo sea scallops baked with bell peppers and scallions in a crispy golden brown cake). The latter represented the best from of sea scallops I have ever tasted.

Next is the Clubhouse turn, French onion soup or prime rib potato and mushroom soup. The Belmont Steaks –filet mignon, different cuts of steak, prime rib or pork chops – are served with a house salad and your choice of mashed potatoes or vegetable du jour. The Chateaubriand Bouquetiere at $76 per couple appears to be the house favorite. A slow-roasted and specially seasoned beef tenderloin, carved and flamed tableside by your server it is accompanied by creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, house mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus. Our server was Joshua Amend, the brother of David and quite good at what he does.

“Josh represents our style of service, as well as any member on my staff,” said his brother. “He is professional and personable. Every server here has their own personality. We do not try to stifle our servers’ character. I want our customers to have fun, and enjoy that Southern style of professional service. We also want our staff to enjoy the environment that has been created. It is rare to see a server here who does not have a smile on their face. We encourage our staff to interact with their tables. Every customer is different, and our staff is well-versed in situational awareness. At the very least, each customer will be treated with respect and courtesy. At the same time, their every need will be catered to in an unobtrusive manner.”

Caesar salads are prepared tableside by your server and made for two. The full list of sides includes caramelized onions, creamed spinach, burgundy sautéed mushrooms, sautéed asparagus, cold water lobster tail, shrimp scampi, crab cakes or shrimp. Seabiscuit offers the likes of tuna, breaded and baked grouper, salmon provencal, colossal crab cakes and a bouillabaisse (fresh catch, jumbo shrimp, mussels, calamari and crab in a fennel lobster broth). Then there is the Preakness, featuring veal, chicken Dijon, calf’s liver, Cuban congri, Australian rack of lamb, a 12 hour short rib and pan-seared duck breast. I opted for the latter, something not many restaurants offer. It was cooked to perfection and cut like butter.

The Home Stretch offers a terrific dessert selection: the triple crown of chocolate, grand marnier crème brûlée, apple spice cake, the Kentucky Derby pie, New York style cheesecake, key lime pie, flaming bananas foster, a wide selection of martinis and other drinks. We shared the Triple Crown and the key lime pie – both excellent choices. I must say that this was a true dining experience and a place I would strongly recommend.

Chef John Tapper takes his job very seriously and writes a blog (Pearl Onion Culinary Arts Blog) on Facebook. “Chef John is amazing,” says Amend. “His creative genius is evident in the dishes that he creates. He is passionate about his job, and actually enjoys creating new combinations of ingredients. His vibrant attitude is contagious. Our kitchen works as one cohesive unit. He has truly helped keep that flame alive after 27 years of being in business. Our future looks brighter than ever, and much of our current success should be credited to him.”

As for the history of Thoroughbreds, it is really a story about family and tradition. The original owner of this restaurant was a fan of horse racing. He loved how these animals could be powerful, wild, and unpredictable, yet at the same moment, show grace and elegance. He realized that the mass majority of people will never have the chance to experience The Belmont Stakes, or walk the halls of Churchill Downs. His vision was to combine the aesthetic beauty of these prestigious venues with the allure of Southern charm, cuisine, and hospitality.

Adds Amend: “We believe that a restaurant is built upon four vital pillars of success – cultured ambiance, delectable cuisine, professional service, and consistency. Whether it has been 10 days or 10 years between visits, our goal is to deliver a consistently memorable experience each and every time they walk through our doors. We remain, to this day, family owned and operated. Many of our employees have called this place home for over 20 years. We respect our employees and their contributions to our success. In return, we have received loyalty, support, and a staff that ranks second to none along the Grand Strand. I feel blessed to lead this team of professionals on a daily basis. We have become a small family with big dreams. Our sales continue to rise every year, even with the arrival of many corporate chain restaurants dotting the shores of Myrtle Beach. We remain true to our ideals and will continue to build this family of unique professionals.”

For reservations call 843-497-2636

The Aspen Grille (www., located at 5101 North Kings Highway and owned by Chef Curry Martin, is another must stop on the dining circuit. Martin says that when he decided to open his own restaurant he knew he wanted to offer something different from the usual dining experience in Myrtle Beach – something with a sophisticated, yet simple and absolutely fresh menu and a place where people could sit and relax in a warm and comfortable environment and enjoy each other’s company over a nice meal and a glass of wine. This is a place where music and conversation fill the air. Aspen Grille is the perfect place for a quiet night out for two or a lively group event. We enjoyed our dinner experience immensely.

Martin is a 1996 graduate of the Johnson & Wales University Culinary School in Charleston, South Carolina. He began his culinary career at Noble’s Restaurant in North Carolina. There, he strived to uphold Noble’s mantra on absolute freshness, and keeping flavors of foods as natural as possible. In 1997, he moved to California to take a position at Domaine Chandon Winery in Napa Valley. While there, he also worked at Hudson House, the hospitality kitchen at Beringer Winery. “During my year stint in California, I came to appreciate the role of wine with food and the subtle changes we make as chefs that can really affect a wine’s characteristics, ” said Martin, who also travelled to France and began working at Restaurant Pierre Orsi in Lyon and then Restaurant Michel Rostang in Paris. Upon returning to the U.S., he worked at Sonoma Bistro in Charlotte and Prestige Wines. When he finally decided to open a restaurant of his own, Martin was determined to stand out from the typical dining options found in Myrtle Beach by serving dishes driven by freshness and balanced flavors, and by offering diners a sophisticated yet extremely comfortable setting and exceptional service.

AG_Chef Martin_Kitchen

Dishes here are based on traditional Southern cuisine, with Chef Martin’s own personal twist. The menu changes seasonally and offers simple, but flavorful dishes with ingredients sourced from the best local suppliers. You can pair any dish with a wine from a hand-selected list to create an exceptional meal. Appetizer options include escargot, fried North Carolina oysters, local shrimp risotto, sautéed angus beef steak tips, seared yellow fin tuna, warm goat cheese crostinis, fried green tomatoes, cold water oysters or the superb pan seared jumbo lump crab cake, which was on special on the night we were there. You can select from the soup du jour or enjoy French onion and there are a variety of salads to choose from. The chef`s selections include the 10 ounce bone-in duroc pork chop, the Cedar Springs domestic lamb rack, local pan seared flounder and shrimp, market fresh fish, pan roasted Ashley Farms duck breast, pan roasted Springer Mountain Farm`s chicken breast, shrimp and grits, filet mignon, angus beef New York strip and ribeye, seared New Bedford sea scallops and the braised black angus short ribs. The latter three were our choices and they were each spectacular – the short ribs cutting like butter and the steak cooked to perfection.

You can add a lobster tail to your meal or a variety of sides such as Brussel sprouts, rice, creamy cheddar grits, and fresh asparagus, and house cut fries, mushroom risotto, roasted potatoes. sautéed mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, spinach and Yukon mashed potatoes. Desserts include apple crumble, mixed berry bread pudding, chocolate chip brownie sundae, vanilla bean crème brûlée, peach crumble or flourless chocolate cake. We shared the latter two and they were amazing, particularly the former.

“My passion lies in the overall dining experience,” says Chef Martin, who purchased the restaurant with his wife Jennifer in 2009. “We want people to come to Aspen Grille and feel comfortable and relaxed, and know that the next couple of hours are all about them – not necessarily my cooking ego.”

Our server was the very charming Dee Shook. She shared with us the specials, one of which was a pan seared jumbo lump crab cake, and went over the menu selections in great detail.

Call 843-449-9191 for reservations or email

GOLF: The Myrtle Beach area boasts more than 100 championship golf courses and 30 miniature golf courses, making it a premiere destination for golf enthusiasts and aficionados. There are approximately 3.4 million rounds of golf played annually in the Myrtle Beach area.

Check out Hawaiian Rumble, where they host the Masters Tournament of mini golf every October. Yes there is such an event. It is owned by Bob Detwiler, who serves as the president of the Pro Mini Golf Association. They take their mini golf seriously. It is located on Highway 17 and very popular as was illustrated by the lineup when we arrived at 7:30 one evening. We appreciated the Hawaiian theme at each hole and the replica volcano, which erupted with fire every 30 minutes or so. There were quite a few Montrealers on the course that night including a large family from Montreal North right behind us.

A SAFARI EXPERIENCE: As an animal lover, the moment I learned more about T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) I knew that I wanted this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of our itinerary. We reserved our spots immediately and let me say this was indeed a major highlight from our trip.

Liger, Doc, Kody, and Rajani

The man behind this operation is Doctor Bhagavan Antl, who started out training animals for movies and TV and they wanted a place where many went to essentially retire. They offer a guided safari like experience through a 50 acre preserve where many of the animals crawl right on top of your lap. A percentage of the revenue from the T.I.G.E.R.S. experience goes to the Rare Species Fund, which provides funding for on the ground international conservation programs. Where is this specifically located? I cannot put that information in print. Those who sign up are given a rendez-vous point of where to show up. You will have to experience it to learn more about this part of the journey. In order to maximize the peace for the animals and the privacy for guests, this preserve cannot be found on Google or MapQuest. Any address that you may find for this company is the one to Preservation Station in Barefoot Landing – 15 miles south of the actual location.

Saiuka the Baby Gibbon_1600x1074

The VIP Wild Encounter Tour does not have the capacity to accommodate wheel chairs or walkers. You must be able to walk/stand for 20 minutes and make your way up a flight of approximately 20 steps. Needing assistance of a cane and/or family member would be fine. You must be at the preserve no later than 9 a.m on your chosen day. No late arrivals are accepted, so give yourself plenty of time to get there. Any children (18 or under) on the tour must either be accompanied by a parent or guardian or arrive with a fully completed and signed release. The minimum age is six.


No personal cameras, video cameras, or cell phones are allowed on the tour. Professional photographers shoot studio quality photographs and video. This gives you the opportunity to take home a set of portraits and phenomenal videos that are incomparable to any other photo opportunity. The $200 fee is well worth it. Tours run three to five days a week, from mid-March to early October, and cost about $300 per person.

Close-toed shoes are required. That means no flip-flops or sandals. It is recommend that you do wear pants that come down to your knees. The animals will be crawling across your laps and they do have nails and although trimmed this can still be uncomfortable. No dresses or skirts are allowed on the tours. Avoid anything hanging off of you that an animal could get caught, which means no straps, purses or backpacks.

Any item that may be needed due to a medical condition (i.e. insulin/small prepackaged snack for diabetes, medicine/epi-pen for severe allergies etc.) should be brought in and left behind the desk. White clothing is also frowned upon as it can interfere with flash photography and you will also be outside on the ground with animals.

It is recommended making your reservation at least two weeks in advance. Tours are generally more popular during the summer months and holidays. No matter the size of the tour, it is an intimate experience. They adjust the time you spend with the animals accordingly, so every tour gets the same experience. It also operates rain or shine. A large majority of the tour is covered and they have the capacity to move portions of it inside if needed. They do have complimentary umbrellas available, but recommend that if it is raining that you bring your own rain jacket/poncho and wear clothing you do not mind getting a little damp in.

This is a fully interactive activity. You will get to meet, pet, and hold a large variety of the animals. After filling out the necessary forms and getting a pep talk from long-time animal ambassador Rob Johnson, our group was introduced to a liger- a 900 pound hybrid between a male lion and a female tiger. We first watched it march around through a glass window and then got to look at in the flesh from about 12 feet away before they snapped our photo with the big cat in the background. Our group was then told to sit as tightly as possible on a horseshoe configuration of benches and then put our hands out. Soon after a binturon walked across our laps, allowing everyone to pet her. A binto what, you ask? This is a medium sized carnivore, also known as the Asian bearcat. Their fur is thick, coarse and black in colour and they have a long, bushy tail.

The animals on each tour vary depending upon the day and the time of year, but you will always get to spend time with the tiger babies, hang out with the monkeys or apes and meet exotic animals you’ve probably never even heard of before.

All of the animal actors can be seen up close and uncaged in close personal contact with their trainers. The trusted relationship they have with their handlers can be seen and felt by the audience. This makes them perfect for live shows or personal appearance. Because Dr. Antle and his trainers have hand raised these animals, they are cooperative and safe and that saves valuable production time and money. People often think it is dangerous to get so close to wild animals like these, but the handlers at T.I.G.E.R.S. have been with these animals since they were babies and have developed a special friendship based on love and respect. In fact, Dr. Antle and his partner Kheira have actually delivered many of the cubs in the enclosure with the mothers because of their special relationships. T.I.G.E.R.S. has a proven method of training these animals: Never treat them as pets, lots of tender loving care, and thousands of hours of one-on-one handling. They even live with the animals 24 hours a day. As Rob Johnson told me, many of the staff like him live on the property and are literally married to their job. Antle’s son and daughter grew up here and are part of the team.

The tour itself lasted about three hours. Early on we sat in a covered enclosure and they brought us baby tigers, lions, lynx and wolves to touch and hold. They were all so gentle. During a refreshment break in a tree top location we observed some members of the cat family let loose and running upwards of 45 miles per hour to try and catch a snack on a rope. Rob Johnson introduced us to a very intelligent eagle, which followed all of his commands.

During these one of a kind shows, you see the animals interacting with their handlers who have developed a very special rapport with them. You will not see our animals sleeping or pacing in cages, as you may find in “traditional” zoos. Instead you will have a look at some of the most magnificent creatures on earth up close and uncaged doing all of the natural activities they would normally do in the wild. Why go to such great lengths? Because the team at T.I.G.E.R.S. feel that if people can get an up-close and educational view of these glorious beasts, they will be eager to learn of the plight of endangered species.

During the Myrtle Beach Safari tour guests will have the opportunity to watch the trainers swim with the tigers. This is not something that they can allow the public to do so bathing suits are not required on the tour.

There are some incredible personal/private encounters. A long standing favorite is to swim with Bubbles the elephant in the intra-coastal waterway on the edge of the preserve. You may want to spend more one on one time with the cubs, have an adventure through the forest or paint with the great apes. These encounters start at $5,000. Email for more information on that. We all got to meet, pet and feed the gigantic and gentle Bubbles.

T.I.G.E.R.S. works closely with international wildlife conservation projects in Africa and Thailand. In addition to providing much needed funds for these programs, personnel have been involved in field research as well. Through our appearances on the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and NBC’s Tonight Show they have been able to reach hundreds of millions of people with an educational message of the importance of wild animal conservation. The animal actors have appeared in over 500 films, television shows, commercials and advertisements worldwide. You have seen some of these animals in great films such as Ace Ventura, Forrest Gump, Dr. Dolittle, Mighty Joe Young and many others.

For more information, log on to and

T.I.G.E.R.S. works closely with international wildlife conservation projects in Africa and Thailand. In addition to providing much needed funds for these programs, personnel have been involved in field research as well. Through our appearances on the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and NBC’s Tonight Show they have been able to reach hundreds of millions of people with an educational message of the importance of wild animal conservation. The animal actors have appeared in over 500 films, television shows, commercials and advertisements worldwide. You have seen some of these animals in great films such as Ace Ventura, Forrest Gump, Dr. Dolittle, Mighty Joe Young and many others.
Info: Email

HELICOPTER RIDES: There is nothing like a helicopter ride to truly see all of what Myrtle Beach has to offer. Ocean Front Helicopters ( provides some of the best deals and we can personally vouch for an amazing experience. Formerly known as Huffman Helicopters, every one of their tours take you along the coast for gorgeous views of beautiful, sunny beaches. They have over 40 years of experience in the aviation industry, having maintained a perfect safety record from day one. Our pilot Nick told us that on some days they take as many as 400 trips.


There may be other helicopter companies in town, but Oceanfront offers the only $20 flight that will actually take you over the beach! “Why pay twenty bucks to look at the tops of buildings when you could be treating yourself to stunning views of beautiful coastline?” they ask. There are southbound tours that fly over estuaries and marsh land for nature lovers. There’s a tour that flies north for fantastic views of the Skywheel and Boardwalk and there is even one that flies along the “Golden Mile,” a stretch of coastline where million dollar mansions are nestled into the dunes.

Whether you’re just looking to add some variety to your annual family vacation or a first-timer looking for something fun and unique, there’s no better way to make this a memorable vacation than to see the beach from a birds-eye view in any one of our amazing helicopter tours!

Maintenance personnel are factory trained, and the ground crew are handpicked for their skills, professionalism, and personality.

The Inlet Tour is the one we opted for. The views are simply breathtaking, such as low country marshes, untouched sand dunes and a bevy of native wild life. Several bird species, alligators and turtles all call the marshlands home. The length of this tour -15 to 20 minutes- also greatly increases the chance of spotting a pod of dolphins playing in the water or even a lone shark hunting for its next meal!

The untouched sand dunes take you back to the natural beauty of a coastal treasure from yesteryear. This tour is capped off with an awe-inspiring view of the mouth of the inlet. The sheer magnitude of this feature where the ocean meets land can’t truly be appreciated until you see it from a bird’s eye view. The cost is $129 per person.

Bring your camera on this tour and snap some photos that will make all of your family and friends green with envy! Personnel will take a nice shot of your party in front of the helicopter when you land and print four by six for you. The location is right by the airport, with plenty of free parking. This is a well-oiled machine. No reservations are required. Just line up for your tickets and you will be told which line number to queue at. When it is your group’s turn personnel will load you on to the chopper, fasten the seatbelts and hand you headsets so you can communicate with the pilot. We appreciated Nick’s descriptions of what was below. He even recommended specific restaurants. Always tip your pilot as that accounts for an important part of their livelihood.

“Our pilots come from a variety of backgrounds,” says marketing director Tom Printz. “We employ many ex-military pilots, flight instructors and pilots with previous experience flying sight-seeing tours. We take great pride in our perfect safety record and employ only the most qualified candidates.”

The company can accommodate handicapped passengers. Wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and any other device that assists with motor functions will be brought right up to the helicopter. The loading staff will place the individual inside of the helicopter and their device will be set off to the side of the landing pad area. Once the flight is over, staff will bring the devices back onto the helipad and assist the individual out of the helicopter. As for the intellectually handicapped, as long as they are able to receive instruction and can follow safety guidelines, they can enjoy the tours as much as anyone else! “We take great pride in making sure special needs individuals are properly taken care of and that they have an amazing time with us!” says Printz.

The $20 tour is considered an “Intro Flight.” It is the least expensive tour offered and is intended for those who may be on the fence about flying. The short ride will get them up in the helicopter and accustomed to what it feels like, but it is also short enough that if they don’t like it they will be back down on the ground quickly. “Soon after we created this tour, many of our customers who can’t afford the longer flights would purchase it just to be able to say they have flown in a helicopter!” said Printz.

They operate seven days a week, 365 days a year. During the non-summer months the company maintains a smaller staff, but as long as weather permits they do fly.

For more information call (843) 946-0022.

ATTRACTIONS: The beach is certainly the Myrtle Beach area’s top attraction, but the fun does not end with surf and sand. The Grand Strand offers a wide range of unique attractions and exciting entertainment options from shopping, dining, water sports and theme parks, to live entertainment theaters, nightclubs and celebrity concerts. The Myrtle Beach area boasts more than eight live theatres with a total of over 11,577 seats.

ALABAMA THEATRE: For my family, no holiday is complete without a live show and that is exactly what we got at the Alabama Theatre ( There is good reason why this is recognized as the number one entertainment venue in the area. Located at 4750 Highway 17 South next to popular Barefoot Landing, the theatre opened in 1993 and got its name directly from the country music super group Alabama whose members decided to build this state-of-the-art facility.


Gaylord Entertainment was eventually brought on board to collaborate in writing, directing and producing a nightly show incorporating many musical genres. Gaylord Entertainment, then owner of the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland USA Theme Park, Opryland Hotels, TNN & CMT, was no stranger to big time show business and brought a talented team from Nashville, Las Vegas and Los Angeles to write, choreograph, costume and produce the first season’s shows called American Pride and Christmas in Dixie.

Turn the page to 2015 and the Alabama Theatre remains at the forefront of entertainment venues on the East Coast with Gaylord Entertainment continuing to produce their signature ONE The Show and the South’s Grandest Christmas Show. The Guest Artist Concert Series also brings in top touring acts once a week like Alabama, Vince Gill, Josh Turner, Engelbert Humperdinck, Temptations & Four Tops, Loretta Lynn and many more.

Planning for each year’s shows begins many months prior to the grand opening before a live audience. Creative direction is set first with the goal of making the new year’s show fresh and exciting for returning patrons by introducing new songs, scenic elements, costumes and performers. Next, writers, choreographers, music directors and technical experts develop the new show and prepare for rehearsals and scenic implementation. Extensive rehearsals follow involving the singers, dancers and band learning the new show under the direction of the production team. Even the technical crew is integral to the rehearsal process since they must perfect the flow of the show backstage. The Alabama Theatre shows remain on the cutting edge of entertainment technology by adding new scenic, video and sound elements to the 2015 shows.

We saw ONE The Show and it was nothing less than spectacular. What a quality evening of entertainment! The presentation from a talented group of singers, dancers and musicians features everything from country, gospel, broadway, pop and rock to plenty of hilarious family comedy. We heard songs from Michael Jackson, Frozen, Mary Poppins, the Rat Pack (Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.), Les Miserables and classics like Putting on the Ritz and Amazing Grace.

The talented entertainers, extravagant costumes and extraordinary scenery will make you feel like you are in New York or Las Vegas – at a fraction of the price! Emcee and featured vocalist Greg Rowles is quite personable and changes his suit every five minutes or so. Remember the name Ricky Mokel. This is the alter ego of stand-up comic Grant Turner. He introduces himself to the audience before the actual show begins as a stage hand and reads out a series of instructions. With a thick Southern accent, he has the crowd roaring with laughter in seconds. Throughout the evening he comes back to perform small bits and at intermission and the end of the night signs autographs in the lobby. He does perform solo occasionally. Ventriloquist Todd Oliver and his talking dog Irving, America’s Got Talent semi-finalists, are also part of this year’s lineup.

ONE runs from February through October six nights a week. Kids are admitted free between Memorial Day and Labour Day (two kids aged 16 and under per paid adult). A special Christmas show runs in November and December. One day each week the theatre generally presents a guest artist.

If you want an evening filled with song, dance and laughter, the Alabama Theatre is the place you want to visit while on vacation with your family and friends! The memory will last a lifetime. Purchase your tickets today by calling 1-800-342-2262 or online.

Handicapped parking space in their large lot are available for vehicles bearing handicapped parking stickers or license plates. These spaces are located on the south side of the theatre. Wheelchairs may be reserved in advance to assist in transporting guests from their vehicle to their seats. Parking lot assistance may also be arranged for people with disabilities. Just let reservations know when ordering your seats. Accessible restrooms are available in the main lobby. An amplified hearing device and wheelchair and sight-impaired seating are available. Sign language-interpreted performances may be arranged for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

SKYWHEEL: Check out the SkyWheel for what promises to be a very enjoyable eight to 10 minute flight. The recurrent hours of operation are Sunday to Saturday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., barring of course inclement weather or lightning. Email for more information. Anywhere from two to six people can fly at one time. For the VIP flight, up to four can fly. And don’t worry – if there are just a few of you, no strangers will be put in with you. Each flight is your own private experience!

skywheel top

If you’d like the easiest access to the SkyWheel, there is a paid parking lot right next door. For a quick visit, have a handful of change and use some metered spots all along Ocean Boulevard.
Situated as a centerpiece of the 1.2 mile-long Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade, the SkyWheel is surrounded by some tasty eats, great shopping and the pristine sands of the Atlantic. When you’re done having your breath taken away by the view from your flight, browse the LandShark SurfShack and then do some browsing at all of the shops.

RETAIL: The Grand Strand shopping complexes are destinations within themselves, including more than 300 outlet stores. Visitors can stroll along boardwalk promenades on warm
evenings, venture in and out of hundreds of unique specialty stores, and dine in exceptional restaurants along the way. We checked out the Tanger Outlets and were impressed with the deals available at the major brand name stops. Ditto for Broadway at the Beach, a gigantic and fun complex of food and fun.

FAMILY REUNIONS: The Myrtle Beach area is an ideal location for multi-generational travel or family reunions. For visitors both tall and small, the Grand Strand offers attractions certain to please every age group. Beachfront hotels, timeshares and cottages offer spacious options that will accommodate families of all sizes.

ROMANCE: With dazzling sunsets painting the horizon, and palmetto trees swaying in the gentle breezes, the Myrtle Beach area offers a picturesque location for a romantic getaway or
beach wedding. The picturesque beach setting also makes the Grand Strand an ideal spot for newlyweds to spend a romantic and fun honeymoon.

AMUSEMENT PARK: Located at 300 Ocean Boulevard in the heart of Myrtle Beach, Family Kingdom ( has been a tradition here for locals and visitors for more than 40 years. Opened originally as Grand Strand Amusement Park in 1966, it was rechristened “Family Kingdom Amusement Park” after being purchased in 1992 by the Ammons family, owners of the landmark Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort. It has 39 rides. Family Kingdom is the home of the legendary Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster, the Giant Wheel, and over 37 other great rides and attractions for all ages. Here you get the full amusement park experience with midway games, family entertainment and traditional park temptations such as funnel cakes, cotton candy and corn dogs. Family Kingdom is also home to “Splashes,” a beachfront water park located across Ocean Boulevard from the amusement park. Splashes features exhilarating water slides with breathtaking drops of as much as 100 feet; open and enclosed wet and wild flume rides; and a spacious 425’ long lazy river with waterfalls. There are also splash pools, eight kiddie slides and two rain trees. This is another place we did not have time to visit. More information about Family Kingdom Amusement Park and Splashes is available at

In 2013 the park added four exciting new rides including the Twist ‘n Shout steel roller coaster. And in 2014, they introduced the interactive bouncing on the Jump Around Dune Buggies, and the Magic Bikes. Longstanding favorites include the Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster, the Log Flume, bumper cars and go-karts. The Picnic Pavilion is a covered dining area that can accommodate up to 100 guests for birthday parties, family reunions or any group outing.

SHAWN’S BACKWATER TOUR: When in Myrtle Beach we strongly recommend you experience some jet skiing, more specifically via Shawn’s Backwater Adventure ( and This was on our original itinerary, but had to be scratched due to some scheduling conflicts. I did a lot of research before choosing this company and wanted to give them some well-deserved exposure,

Shawn Zimmerman and Steve Wiegel are the men in charge here and they know what they are doing. Their company, Myrtle Beach Water Sports, opened its first location in 1996 with three jet skis. Today they have over 50 jet skis, 10 pontoon boats, two 75 foot dolphin cruise boats, a pirate cruise boat and more. “We are proud to say that we offer a little something for everyone with locations and activities from one end of the Grand Strand to the other,” says Shawn. He and Steve are always on hand to greet their returning guests that come year after year. Their parents and kids are active in the day to day operations of the business as well.

“Myrtle Beach Water Sports is committed to complete customer satisfaction,” says Shawn. “We provide the newest and best equipment available to serve you with safety being our number one concern.”

The waters of South Carolina have been Shawn’s playground for the past 16 years. He has explored and rode South and North Carolina’s backwaters since he moved to Myrtle Beach in 1995. At Shawn’s Backwater Adventure, you’re not just renting a jet ski, you are taking a tour of the Waccamaw River’s beautiful winding trails!

Shawn and Steve are originally from Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Shawn moved to Myrtle Beach in 1995. Growing up, he worked as a bartender at night and a Jet Ski rental guide during the day. This is where he found his love for the water and the thrills a jet ski can bring. After working for a rental company for the summer, the duo I turned their passions into a reality by purchasing four rental skis and officially opening Myrtle Beach Watersports in 1997. They have been showing locals and tourists alike a great time on the open water, now I’m taking it to the back country where you can ride on glassy smooth water through the moss covered oaks. It’s a beautiful sight that you’ll have to see to believe!

We were told that the one hour intra-coastal tour is a thrilling ride down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the scenic backwaters of the historic Waccamaw River. These beautiful waters are lined with oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Experienced guides lead you on an extraordinary ride, twisting and turning through narrow fingers that branch off the waterway and river you will get to see giant Osprey and their nests, turtles and even hear lions roar as you pass by the zoo.

Rider safety is of utmost importance for any level, but they put a little extra emphasis on this when it comes to their entry level series to ensure the safety of you and your family. Best of all, the central location makes this very day trip friendly. The cost for one hour is $89 and $99 to double up. You must be 16 years of age or older to operate a personal watercraft and18 years of age to operate with a passenger. Children passengers ages five to 12 ride free. Nobody under five is allowed.

Guests must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure time. All members of the party will need to bring a valid form of ID. A credit card is required to hold the reservation along with a 50 percent deposit. There is a 48 hour cancellation policy and any cancellations within that time, or arriving late for check-in will result in a charge for the full amount of your reservation total. In case of bad weather and your stay is over, refunds or rescheduling will be made. . For reservations call 843-685-1006.

NEXT TIME AROUND: So what have I placed on my list for “next time?” Shopping at the Market Common and Coastal Mall. Evenings of entertainment at the Caroline Opry, Legends in Concert, the Palace Theatre, Medieval Times Dinner Theatre and the House of Blues. Stops at Brookgreen Gardens, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hollywood Wax Museum, Wonder Works Indoor Amusement Park, MB Zipline Adventures, Waves water park and perhaps even some minor league professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs affiliate the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Check all of these places out on the web.

GETTING HERE: Located just one mile inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) provides easy, non-stop and connecting flights to more than 350 destinations worldwide. Rather than take the 16 hour drive from Montreal, we decided to take a direct flight from Plattsburgh International Airport via Spirit Airlines ( There are flights directly from Toronto too, but the Plattsburgh route is indeed a fabulous incentive for Montrealers to make this trip. The Plattsburgh International Airport (, dubbed Montreal’s US airport, is in the midst of some expansion. Spirit Airlines is the ultra-low cost airline of the Americas and home of the Bare Fare and the chief reason why we went to Myrtle Beach because of its direct flights. Given the traditional backups at customs, I would strongly recommend you head to Plattsburgh the day before your flight. We did just that, staying at the Comfort Inn and Suites ( at 411 Route 3 in a one bedroom suite. It worked out exceptionally well. There was no need to wake up especially early. Waiting for us was a generous hot and cold breakfast absolutely free. If you sleep in, a new Perkin’s Restaurant is attached and it serves breakfast 24 hours a day.

Myrtle Beach Via Plattsburgh

For our recent summer family holiday to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina we decided that a 16 hour drive from Montreal was not on our wish list. There is a viable alternative in Spirit Airlines ( and we happily took advantage of it, flying directly to our destination via Plattsburgh, New York. This has long been a favorite stop for Montrealers, given its close proximity. The city beaches and camp grounds are packed all summer long and it is also a spectacular place for boating, wind surfing, or fishing.

We left a day early and checked in at the Comfort Inn (, spent a few hours at the Champlain Mall and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Butcher Block Restaurant ( It was the right decision for we did not have to worry about being held up at customs and got to sleep in a little before our 2 p.m. flight. We landed at 1 p.m. on the return home and following a stop for groceries we were home for supper.


Spirit is known as the ultra-low cost airline of the Americas and home of the Bare Fare. What this means is that fares are unbundled, reflecting the cost of taking customers to their destination without any extras. Every customer gets frill control: the ability to choose what perks and options you’d like to add, independent of the choices of other passengers. Officials at the airline maintain that by structuring fares this way, every passenger has a chance to fly for less than any other airline. Spirit currently operates more than 380 daily flights to 57 destinations within the U.S., Latin America, Caribbean and Canada.

We were very happy with our Spirit experience. The flight to Myrtle Beach was just over two hours. Spirit charges you separately for checked bags and carry on items. In actuality, all airlines charge for these items, but they bundle them in the price. One small personal item that fits under your seat is permitted for free. The planes have wider seats in two by two seating configuration with extra-large leg room, Spirit calls them the Big Front Seats, which are about the size of a first-class seat, but available for around $25. Make sure to check in online 24 hours before the flight print your boarding pass at home. If you wait until getting to the airport, that will result in an extra $10 charge per booking.

Spirit, recognized as the fastest growing airline in the Americas, recently received a respected, independent endorsement that being different makes them one of the best. Air Transport World named Spirit as the Value Airline of the Year at its 41st annual Industry Achievement Awards ceremony. This marked the first time Spirit had received the award. The air carrier known for its bright yellow planes and humorous emails, has only been operating in the low-cost space since 2007.

“At Spirit we are focused on providing the lowest possible fares to our customers, and that means we do things a little differently,” said Ben Baldanza president and CEO. “We’re honoured that ATW recognizes our differences and that you can run a successful airline and not charge high fares.”

According to the Department of Transportation statistics, Spirit fares are, on average, 40 percent lower than other airlines. Even after adding additional items like seat assignments, bags, and refreshments, Spirit’s total price is 35 percent lower.

“We invest heavily in safety and people,” added Baldanza. “But what we don’t invest in are things that raise ticket prices like multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, multiple-class cabins, and heavy satellite and Wi-Fi equipment which adds a lot more weight to the plane causing inefficient use of fuel. We also don’t force our customers to pay for items they may not want in the form of higher priced all-inclusive fares.”

“Spirit is changing the way leisure flyers approach air travel,” according to an article written in Air Transport World Magazine to announce Spirit’s achievement. “For some families, Spirit has provided the first-ever opportunity for them to fly to a vacation destination or to visit relatives rather than spending hours and days on the road.”

“Winning this award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our Spirit Team Members to save our customers money and run a good airline,” added Baldanza. “This may be our first time to receive this recognition but we want to win it each and every year.”

Spirit recently introduced five international and four new domestic routes to its ever expanding network. “Spirit’s growth continues to be focused on places our customers want to fly to for less” said Mark Kopczak,vice-president of Network Planning. “Our bare fares™ plus frill control™ allow our customers to customize their travel experience while saving money, whether it’s for a trip to Latin America from Houston, to visit friends and family in one of the new cities that Spirit will add from Atlanta this summer or for an excursion from Latrobe/Pittsburgh to see the sights in Chicago. Cost-conscious customers can save on travel to more places than ever with Spirit.”


Spirit Airlines suggests that any travellers with special needs identify where they may needs assistance at the time of booking. Customer service personnel have been specially trained and are aware of applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) disability regulations. Spirit offers a special TTY/TDD reservations service in conjunction with AT&T Relay Service. Customers may take wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, or assist devices, in addition to one carry-on item. Devices can be stowed in an overhead bin, underneath the seat or in the forward cargo bin. Spirit works closely with the airports they serve to ensure that all facilities are accessible to everyone. Personnel are available to assist customers with disabilities in boarding deplaning and connecting with their flights. They will provide assistance in getting customers to and from gates. However, they are not equipped to provide full monitoring while waiting at the gate. Theo will provide transfer service on and off the aircraft using boarding or aisle chairs that are designed for aircraft aisles. If you are making a connection, they will provide assistance between flights using our wheelchair service. If requested and needed, they will make available your own wheelchair from the aircraft cargo compartment for your use during your layover. The airline will do its best to offer specific requests in seating for customers with disabilities. Although they offer assigned seating, it is on a first come first serve basis, and it is suggested you check in at least one hour prior to departure to better serve your request. Service animals trained to assist customers with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities, in the aircraft cabin are permitted. A service animal must occupy the floor space where the customer sits and cannot obstruct an aisle or areas that must remain clear in the case of an emergency evacuation.

PLATTSBURGH AIRPORT: Myrtle Beach is a year-round tourist destination and as such the direct route from Plattsburgh International Airport ( is a successful one. “We have had Myrtle Beach service since 2008, first with Direct Air and then with Spirit Airlines,” says airport manager Chris Kreig. “Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for travelers using the airport.”

Created from the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the airport it is quickly establishing itself as a multi-purpose aviation and aerospace complex serving the entire Plattsburgh/Montreal/Lake Placid region, including northern New York State, southern Quebec and Vermont. A massive, multi-modal facility, the airport has an established record of success as a fully operating industrial airport and aerospace park, handling large and small aircraft daily for its tenants and others. We left our car at the airport. Republic Parking charges only $8 a night and it is free if you are there for six hours or less). Just steps from the terminal, a free shuttle service is available to and from the lots.

Amber Parliament, a spokesperson for the Adirondack Visitors Bureau, a division of the North County Chamber of Commerce (, notes that the airport is currently in the middle of a $55 million expansion with an expected two year construction project. The airport is proud to have bilingual signage, aimed at making it easier for Quebec travellers.

Kreig says he anticipates the terminal expansion project, with the exception of the Customs facility, to be complete by late summer/early fall 2016. “Once completed, the expanded terminal will resolve capacity issues that currently exist and will accommodate future air service growth,” he says. “Completion of the Customs facility will allow for international air service from the airport.”

Kreig says he does not have exact data on Montreal-specific traffic, but in the broader spectrum, approximately 70 percent passenger traffic comes from Canada, with passengers traveling from as far north as Quebec City and as far west as Ottawa. The catchment area for the airport is quite large due in part to the combination of the destinations served, ease of access, and pricing.

The official title of the Airport is the Plattsburgh International Airport. The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, which is contracted by the airport to provide marketing support, uses the term “Montreal’s U.S. Airport” as part of their marketing efforts, but Montreal is not part of the official title of the Airport.

The airport has handicapped accessible parking, washrooms, and an elevator and there are wheelchairs available. In addition, there are boarding ramps that accommodate wheelchairs for those aircraft which conduct ground boarding.

ACCOMODATIONS: The Comfort Inn and Suites ( at 411 Route 3 has tended to be our “go to” spot in Plattsburgh over the years. They have one bedroom suites, which includes a fairly large bedroom, work desk and television and a separate living room containing a pullout couch, a TV, sink and a microwave and fridge.


There is a free hot and cold breakfast. If you sleep in, a new Perkin’s Restaurant is attached to the facility. There is also a Boulangerie Café, a lobby coffee shop featuring Starbucks™ Coffee and fresh baked pastries. Legends Sports Bar is the place to catch the latest game on the tube. The hotel is now in the midst of doubling Champy’s Fun Zone, their family entertainment center, to 12,000 square feet. They will add a two story lazer tag arena, an elaborate two storey soft play full of the latest innovations, Lazer Maze, indoor bumper cars and a Build a Bear area. This is in addition to their current 18 hole indoor mini golf, miniature bowling alleys, redemption games and video games. Outdoor batting cages and mini golf are planned for some time in 2016.

You might want to find time to check out the hotel’s health club and fitness center, entertainment room, indoor heated pool complete with a waterslide and other features young children will particularly enjoy. Of their 114 rooms, 28 are suites. They come complete with fridges, microwaves and a kitchenette sink. A gigantic Wal-Mart Super Store is literally in the parking lot while the Champlain Mall and Price Chopper supermarket are a short walk away.


Owner Jim Murray and his partner Terry Meron opened the locale in 1988. Murray was a teacher by profession. Meron owned an Italian restaurant. He wanted to get into the hotel business and asked Murray to come aboard. Before you could say “reservation” they had a Comfort Inn franchise, which they have expanded substantially over the years. It has a games room, party room and banquet facilities. They secured the Perkin’s franchise in 2006 to give customers another reason not to have to leave the facility. Canadian clients come to Plattsburgh for the great merchandising deals.

The hotel has several handicapped parking spots in front of the main entrance. Large-sized elevators will bring you to the second floor. Make sure to advise them of any special needs when making a reservation for there are some suites on the top floor which you can only access by stairs.

If you forgot to bring along any necessities, the front desk has a magic drawer complete with toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream and razors.

For more information you can log on to their website at, e-mail or call (518) 562-2730.

One of the perks of staying overnight in Plattsburgh is a chance to dine at the Butcher Block, which has been around for decades at 15 Booth Drive. While the menu includes scrumptious chicken, pasta, and other quality delights, seafood and beef still grab most of the headlines. They have a nice kids menu as well. On the night we were there you could hear the French language emanating from many tables.

Since opening in 1975, the Butcher Block has become a mainstay of the restaurant trade. The menu is eclectic and unpretentious, but done with flair. Daily featured entrees are written on a board in the lobby and repeated at the table by the wait staff. This place has an excellent soup, salad and bread bar. It comes with all main entrees or can be ordered as a meal. I highly recommend the prime rib. For fish lovers, the maple Dijon salmon is top-notch. As a side, the loaded mashed potatoes are a good option. If you have room for dessert, consider a hot fudge sundae.
The entrance to the restaurant is handicapped accessible and so are most of the sections.

For reservations call 518-563-0920. It is open for lunch seven days a week, (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.); dinner Monday to Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday dinner, 4 p.m. To 9 p.m. You can access the entire menu at

Richmond, BC: River Rock Casino

I have been to Vancouver many times. On my most recent visit I was actually based in the suburb of Richmond just by the airport, the site of an animal welfare conference I registered for.

Richmond ( is actually the fourth largest city in BC, just 25 minutes south of downtown Vancouver and 25 minutes north of the United States border – a city of stunning mountain vistas, beautiful waterfront sunsets and vibrant urban living. It is also where they shoot my favorite television series, once Upon a Time – more specifically the seaside village of Steveston.

I was fortunate that the National Animal Welfare Conference was being held at the amazing River Rock Casino Resort ( The casino itself has 90,000 square feet of game floor, 115 table games, 1,100 slot machines, a dedicated poker room and high limit rooms.


The resort has a swimming pool with big Jacuzzi and 70 foot waterslide, a spa with six private treatment rooms, a work-out gym and weight room, a very popular show theatre presenting some of the top modern artists in music, comedy, theatre and more. There are seven bars, restaurants and lounges spread throughout our property as well as live music with no cover charge four nights a week at Lulu’s, a beautiful marina and boardwalk overlooking the Fraser River and a heated waterfront patio. There is a 24-hour food court, as well as Java Jack’s, a convenient stop for quality artisan coffee, smoothies, soft drinks, pastries, sandwiches and more.

Back to the casino for a moment. Some slots are games of pure chance, such as penny and quarter slots like Wheel of Fortune, while others will test your skill, such as video poker. You can choose to play a progressive bank like Casino Cash, or try your luck to win a brand new car at Race to Win.


There certainly have been some good Montreal connections at the resort. The Lara Fabian Greatest Hits Tour just appeared there while April Wine was also on the list.

River Rock is centrally located between two major shopping districts: the diverse, world-class shopping centres and niche neighbourhoods in Vancouver, and the bustling and uniquely Asian-Canadian Richmond area shopping attractions. You can reach downtown in no time at all by taking the Skytrain, which also brings you directly to the airport.


As for the rooms, we stayed in a lovely 525 square foot one bedroom suite. This featured a luxury Euro-top cashmere King bed, with 300 thread count sheets and down/feather (60/40) duvet. There is a sofa bed with seven inch mattress in living room , a 42 inch TV in the living rooms and a 32 inch model in the bedroom, am iPod dock and speaker with alarm clock, quality bathroom amenities, a mini fridge, 24 hour room service and upon request a crib, a humidifier and microwave. It was very spacious and comfortable.

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Several accessible parking stalls are available on each level of the parkade near the elevators. The sidewalk leading to the hotel entrance is accessible, with curb cuts to parking surfaces. The main entrance has three sets of double swinging doors (one set is powered. There are two elevators from the lobby to guest room floor, both accessible and with control panels featuring tactile and Braille). As for the guest rooms, five are fully accessible, including wheel-in showers. Five other rooms are also available featuring light alarms, for visitors with impaired hearing.

WHERE TO DINE: While there are certainly some fabulous restaurants in Richmond, we could not resist the temptation of once again experiencing our favorite dining establishment in the heart of Vancouver – Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House ( on Thurlow Street. We were a party of four on the night we chose to eat there and this was an extraordinary dining experience from the moment we were seated. This is indeed one of the city’s finest restaurants.

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Our waiter Jamie, who has worked at Joe Forte’s for many years, gave us a very good presentation of the specialties.

One of Joe Fortes many unique qualities is the immediate sense of character and personality that guests recognize the moment they step inside. The large, bright room feels instantly powerful yet inviting, and it’s no coincidence that these qualities were also embodied by the legendary figure that the restaurant takes its name from: Seraphim “Joe Forte. In 1885, this burly seaman landed upon Vancouver’s shores and settled into a cabin in English Bay. There, Joe quickly became one of Vancouver’s most popular citizens, serving Vancouverites in a variety of ways first as a bartender and later as Vancouver’s first official lifeguard. Today, he is remembered by a monument near the site of his home, and his popularity lives on inside the welcoming walls of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.

With a commitment to freshness, the Joe Forte’s kitchen receives daily local deliveries, ensuring that you’re guaranteed to find the freshest ingredients on your plate every day.
The restaurant is owned by noted restaurateur David Aisenstat. Born and bred into the restaurant industry, he first learned his chops from his father Hy Aisenstat, founder of the famous Hy’s Steakhouse chain. His ability to recognize and retain talented people, and his passion for art and design, combine for what have been consecutively successful ventures in the industry. He has since continued on to become a legendary restaurateur in his own right, as the owner of The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, Hy’s Steakhouse Cocktail Bar, Gotham Steakhouse, The Shore Club, Ki, and now Joe Fortes.

Scott Garrett is the general manager. For seven years he ran the Walt Disney Resorts in Florida’s food and beverage programs as the restaurant guest services manager, receiving AAA’s coveted Four Diamond Award for service excellence during his tenure.

The main dining room is anchored by a soaring horseshoe oyster bar. This Grand Room boasts large, cozy booths, perfect for hosting a high-powered lunch or dinner meetings, as well as intimate dinner dates. From the mezzanine, diners enjoy a bird’s eye view of the action and live musical entertainment below.

The mahogany-walled wine room offers guests a unique and discreet setting in which to enjoy an intimate lunch, or a private corporate celebration. The more casual side of Joe’s is experienced in the bistro and bar area where locals and out-of-towners alike mingle, soak up the live music and keep their eyes open for visiting celebrities.

For a breath of fresh air, guests can step up to Vancouver’s most desirable roof garden and into an urban oasis featuring a living green wall, cozy outdoor fireplace and bustling horseshoe bar.
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House has been specializing in classic, American cuisine since 1985. It is a tribute to Executive Chef Wayne Sych and his dedicated kitchen staff that Joe’s has maintained its unparalleled popularity with both locals and tourists alike for more than 20 years – an astonishing feat in the restaurant business. But even a cursory glance at the menus reveals why Joe’s stays at the top of our customers’ minds and, quite literally, at the tip of their tongues.

The Joe Fortes kitchen prepares each dish with a focus on natural flavours and features the finest ingredients collected from Pacific Northwest farmers, fishermen and food artisans. Serving more than 50 kinds of fresh fish, including their legendary three-tiered Seafood Tower on Ice, premium oysters and succulent chops, their signature dishes have become a favourite of locals, celebrities and tourists alike.

We decided to share the magnificent Seafood Tower, featuring Atlantic lobster, chilled crab, local oysters, clams, mussels, scallop ceviche, smoked local albacore tuna and poached jumbo prawns. Not too many restaurants anywhere I have travelled in the world can make something as appetizing as this. It is $59.95 a tier. We also started off with a small order of scallops – cooked to absolute perfection.

For drinks, members of our party had some prosecco, bitter sweet bliss, sparkling pear and Joe’s cranberry cocktail.

One member of our party vividly remembered the mouth-watering miso marinated sable fish from our visit two years earlier so there was no question what was on her list to order. It came with baby bok choy, mushrooms, ginger scallion butter and jasmine rice. She was not disappointed. The appetizer version of the scallops prompted another to order the Jumbo scallops as her main course – a wise choice. We rounded out our selections with the nine ounce filet mignon center cut filet, with café de Paris butter, scallop potatoes and market vegetables and a sensational bone-in rib steak (14 ounces) for myself with bacon, horse radish, mashed potatoes and market vegetables. To say this was the best steak I have had – well since I last dined at Joe Forte’s – would be accurate.

Save room for sweet indulgences. We shared the Dessert Trio – a Tahitian vanilla crème brulee, tiramisu, chocolate raspberry truffle tart, brandied cherries, biscotti and vanilla gelato. What a treat! In addition, we somehow found room to try the Pavlova crisp meringue, with fresh fruit, lemon curd and cream.

Reservations are required. Call 604-669-1940 or email They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

SPECIAL NEEDS: Upon arrival at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), located in Richmond, visitors with mobility or agility challenges will appreciate innovative features such as tactile guidance maps of the terminal building, information kiosks equipped with closed-captioned decoders, and ticket counters with amplified hand-sets. YVR is connected to Richmond city centre by a fully-accessible transit system that includes the new Canada Line rapid transit system. From the city centre, getting around Richmond is easy because of the city’s flat, mostly sea-level topography and its many wheelchair-accessible walking trails.

More than 110 Richmond hotels, restaurants, retailers, attractions, and other tourism businesses have made it easy for visitors to identify their level of accessibility by displaying icons on doors, windows, websites, and marketing materials. The level of mobility, hearing and visual accessibility was assessed by 2010 Legacies Now and nearly half of Richmond’s participating businesses rated four or higher out of five. Twenty-four of Richmond’s brand-name hotels now offer wheelchair accessible rooms, and the city’s five modern shopping centres – Richmond Centre, Lansdown Centre, Aberdeen Centre, Yaohan Centre, and Parker Place – are all fully accessible options for convenient one-stop shopping.

The city also encourages full participation of citizens with disabilities. Richmond is the long-time home of Canada’s Man in Motion Rick Hansen, who has won six medals as a Paralympian since being paralysed from the waist down in a car crash at the age of 15. The Rick Hansen Foundation, which operates out of the BCIT Aerospace Campus in Richmond, helped to fund three newly opened playgrounds in Richmond that are specially designed to meet the needs of children with disabilities. These fully-inclusive play spaces along the Middle Arm Waterfront Greenway enable the children to play side-by-side with their friends and families.

Adjacent to the Middle Arm Trail is the Richmond Olympic Oval, which exceeds national standards for accessibility. It features standard ramps, wheel chair accessible washrooms, automatically opening doors, and oversized main elevators that can comfortably transport multiple athletes in wheelchairs. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible indoor rowing and paddling centre. The Richmond Olympic Oval plays a key role in its legacy phase as a multi-sport venue for sport hosting for people with accessibility needs.

Richmond has already successfully hosted the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby championships in May 2009, the World Wheelchair Basketball tournament in August 2009, the 2010 Canada Deaf Curling Championships, the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and of course they played a key role in the 2010 Winter Olympics.