Burlington, Ontario

During the course of my life I have visited Burlington, Vermont many times, while never setting foot in Burlington, Ontario (http://www.tourismburlington.com). That all changed recently when en route to Buffalo, New York, we decided it would be nice to stop over somewhere on the way.

Burlington is conveniently located between Toronto and Niagara Falls, at the centre of southern Ontario’s “Golden Horseshoe” and has a population of 175,000.

There are some people I know who base themselves in the Burlington area when visiting Toronto. The Royal Botanical Gardens are a draw, so is hiking on the nature trails, bird watching, museums, and the galleries at the Burlington Art Centre and presentations at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Spencer Smith Park is the large waterfront park where the pier, discovery landing (pond, rink, and restaurant) and major festivals are held.

Looking ahead, the sweetness of Mother Nature launches spring in Burlington with the Maple Syrup Festival at Bronte Creek Provincial Park and Mountsberg Conservation Area. It’s the season to engage your sense of smell and sight with the effervescent lilacs, daffodils and more than 100,000 tulip blooms, all bursting into colour at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

In the summer the waterfront and downtown come to life with the annual Sound of Music Festival. Canada’s largest free music festival kicks off summer festivities the week leading up to Father’s Day. Stroll the downtown streets, lakeside boardwalk or Waterfront Trail; enjoy an invigorating mix of acclaimed Canadian and international performers, and emerging performers on bistro patios and the waterfront stages. There is also rock, jazz, folk, roots, pop, blues, Celtic, country and children’s entertainment – musically something for everyone. And there are many other festivals: watersports, boating, golf and outdoor activities to enjoy at local parks and beaches. Burlington also has a swimmable and sandy beach, something which really intrigues me for a future summer visit. The Beachway Park Pavilion provides change rooms, outdoor showers, seasonal concession facilities featuring the snack shack and year round washrooms. Amenities at the beach include the pavilion, parking, a pay phone, a playground, and lots of sun, sand and water. Yes, I will have to make a return trip.

Go to www.tourismburlington.com for more details.

WHERE TO STAY: I am a huge fan of the Homewood Suites brand of hotels, having stayed there on trips to Washington, Chicago and Dover (New Hampshire). Well we were fortunate to find one in Burlington at 975 Syscon Road, right next to a Hilton Garden Inn owned managed by the same Westmont Hospitality Group. There is free outdoor parking.

The spacious suites come complete with fully equipped kitchens, including a two-burner stove and full-size refrigerator. Guests can choose between studios or one or two-bedroom suites featuring separate living and sleeping areas. You can relax with a coffee in front of the fire in the hotel lodge area and grab any last-minute items at their 24-hour convenience store. Pets up to 25 pounds are welcome here. There is complimentary high-speed wireless internet access and a heated indoor pool.

Mornings start out with a hot full breakfast while complimentary evening dinner and drinks are offered as well Monday through Thursdays between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. which proved to be very convenient when we checked in. They even offer a complimentary grocery shopping service.

Easily accessible from the Q.E.W (at Burloak Drive) and near Highways 403 and 407, the hotel is located in downtown Burlington right on Lake Ontario, minutes away from an extensive selection of restaurants, boutique shopping and popular attractions such as the Lion Safari Ontario.

The hotel has a mobility and hearing accessible non-smoking one bedroom suite featuring one King bed and a roll-in-shower. This suite also has a visual alarm and notification devices for the doorbell or door knock and incoming telephone calls. The kitchen, built to lower scale, is fully equipped down to utensils, and includes a full-size refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and twin burner stove. The dining area can easily double as workspace. This suite provides a private bedroom with a HDTV and a separate living area features a full-size sleeper sofa, chair and HDTV.

DINING OUT: When looking for a good restaurant look no further than next door and the Hilton Garden Inn where the Great North American Grill has much to offer. It serves authentic American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located in the main floor pavilion, the restaurant offers an array of cuisine that changes with the seasons. The chef offers a “daily special” which includes a unique three-course dinner. You can choose from the extensive wine menu or enjoy a cocktail in the lounge area, complete with plasma television, or during warm periods relax outdoors on one of the patios, just off the restaurant. Not far from the hotel, on Burloak Drive, I discovered Pizza Nova (www.pizzanova.com). This is part of an Ontario chain. The thin crust large pizza we ordered was out of this world.

Mike Cohen travels to Vermont: Burlington

Trader Duke's Dining Area

Who does not love the Vermont city of Burlington? Less than two hours from Montreal, it features great shopping, good places to eat and fabulous accommodations. It is also a great place to stay during the ski season as you are near some superb hills, notably in Stowe.

When I was young my family went to Burlington each summer for an extended stay. Looking to break up the drive home from Cape Cod last summer, I decided to extend our family vacation with a few days in Burlington.

Your Vermont vacation is sure to include a stop on Burlington’s award-winning Church Street Marketplace (www.churchstmarketplace.com) pedestrian mall! With over 100 retail shops, restaurants and street vendors, this a popular destination for shopping, dining and people-watching. A recipient of the prestigious Great American Main Street Award, the Marketplace is recognized as one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country.

Burlington Town Center (www.burlingtontowncenter.com) is considered Burlington’s premier indoor shopping center, featuring an exciting retail mix including J.Crew, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Ann Taylor Loft, Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie, Aéropostale, Gap/Gap Kids/Baby Gap, Crabtree & Evelyn and Macy’s Department Store.

Then there is University Mall (www.umallvt.com), Vermont’s largest enclosed shopping center, with over 70 shops and services. Here you can choose from a major selection of major department stores like JC Penney, Sears and the Bon-Ton. Within walking distance, you’ll find HomeGoods, Hannaford Food & Drug, the Sears Automotive Center and one of the most fresh-looking IHOP restaurants I have ever dined at. Plus, there is plenty of free parking!

The Burlington region offers outdoor activities from lake-based kayaking, fishing and sailing to mountain-based hiking, cycling and skiing – and everything in between. Spend your time in Vermont enjoying the area’s fantastic dining, shopping, concerts and special events. Unwind in one of the area’s many excellent hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and resorts. And, of course, enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of Vermont’s Lake Champlain and Green Mountains.

Northern Lights, Vermont’s premier cruise boat, offers daily scenic, lunch and brunch cruises. Weekly dinner cruises including entertainment. This floating venue is an ideal setting for weddings, anniversaries, corporate functions and special events or to simply enjoy the spectacular beauty of Lake Champlain. Departing from the King Street Ferry Dock from May through October.

The Flynn Theatre is a 1,453-seat art-deco treasure and 150-seat “black box” facility hosting over 100 world-class live performances annually – broadway, dance, music (jazz, classical, pop, folk, world), cutting-edge, family and student matinees.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed somewhere new for me. The Doubletree Hotel Burlington (www.doubletreevt.com) is just off I-89 on Williston Road and near the airport. I was struck immediately by what a large and attractive property this was. All standard guestrooms include the Sweet Dreams bed, coffeemaker, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, refrigerator, easy chair, in-room remote printing, Lodgenet with web access and Game Cube, speakerphone and complimentary wireless high-speed internet access. In the suites, there is the main bedroom with a king-size bed, a pullout couch, a working desk with two chairs and two flat-screen televisions. There is a pool, connected to an outdoor patio and an onsite restaurant (Trader Duke’s).

We were greeted with hot chocolate chip cookies upon checking in.

General Manager Rick Milliken has been in the local hotel industry for 32 years and converted the hotel from a Clarion to a Doubletree in 2005, at which time 33 suites were constructed. There are 161 guest rooms in all. You can leave your car here for two weeks when using the nearby airport for a charge of only $25.

Non-Smoking King Standard
DINING OUT: The Sadie Katz Delicatessen (www.sadiekatzdeli.com) is located at 189 Bank Street, just off Church. It is the closest thing the city has to a kosher restaurant. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch there. Owner Glenn Walter opened the place two and a half years ago and the Jewish-style diner has a loyal following. You can enjoy Meredith Mann’s Matzoh Ball Soup, a chopped chicken liver plate, latkes, and knishes. While the fresh deli sandwiches are their specialty, they also have a nice breakfast menu.

One of the more established fish restaurants in town is Shanty on the Shore (www.shantyontheshore.com), located at 181 Battery Street overlooking Lake Champlain. Open from 11 a.m. daily, the restaurant is owned by the husband and wife team of Al and Kim Gobeille. There is free parking, which is a bonus, and a menu that features excellent clam chowder, tasty appetizers, plenty of seafood, chicken, steaks, sandwiches and some tantalizing desserts. General Manager Christian Chardin and his staff merit some applause for the way they will break open a lobster for you and serve it minus any shells. A lot of restaurants won’t go to that trouble. Ask if Big Al’s Platter is available on the night you dine. It consists of flounder, shrimp, clams and either fries, baked potato, or rice.

For those looking for some standard fish options, there is broiled haddock, classic Boston scrod, grilled Atlantic salmon and grilled swordfish. For dessert, save some room for the fabulous Shanty pie – silky chocolate mousse with chocolate crust and whipped cream on top. For reservations call 802-864-0238.

Log on to www.1-800-vermont.com for more details.