Broadway hit Be More Chill to close on August 11

By Alexandra Cohen

The Broadway hit Be More Chill has been the “little show that could’” since its premiere almost four years ago at New Jersey’s Two River Theater. It ran in 2015 for only one month and its only legacy was a cast album. This was ultimately the spark that ignited a flame, turning the show from a regional theatre production into a viral sensation.

The manner in which Be More Chill gained its popularity, years after its brief regional production, is utterly unprecedented. Prior to even opening on Broadway, the original cast album had been streamed over 250 million times, with the show being the second-most talked about musical on Tumblr, following only Hamilton.

Be More Chill, based on a 2004 novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini, tells the story of high school student Jeremy Heere, a self-proclaimed “loser” whose life is transformed when he spends his bar mitzvah money to buy a Squip, a pill that implants in his brain and teaches him how to be cool. Being popular, Jeremy learns, however, comes at a cost, which involves leaving behind his best friend and sacrificing his own moral code.

The show’s fan-favorite moment comes in the form of the song “Michael in the Bathroom,” performed with gusto by actor George Salazar, who fulfills the role of Jeremy’s aforementioned best friend. Michael in the Bathroom, the ultimate Broadway underdog song, should be relatable to anybody who has ever felt even a moment of social anxiety or abandonment in their lives—the song is so beloved that when I attended, only seconds after the intro music began to play, the audience began to scream with excitement. This was before the singing had even begun. As Salazar signed autographs following the show, nearly one 100 theatergoers could be heard belting out the entire song from beginning to end, much to his amazement.

Lead actor Will Roland, previously seen in the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen, delivered a fantastic performance, alongside the rest of the 10-person cast, who all provide highly energetic and nuanced performances of the traditional high school trope characters.

When Be More Chill opened on Broadway, The Wall Street Journal called it “one of the strongest new musicals of the past decade.” True to this review, Be More Chill is chock-full of both humor and heartfelt moments, featuring other earworm songs penned by Tony-nominated composer Joe Iconis, including “I Love Play Rehearsal”, “Two-Player Game”, and “More Than Survive.” The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available digitally on all streaming platforms.

Be More Chill closes its Broadway run at the Lyceum Theater on August 11, 2019, so hurry up and catch it while you still can!

For more information about the show log on to

A new Homewood Suites by Hilton opens in Poughkeepsie, NY

When traveling to New York City, our family has become fond in recent years of stopping over in the Town of Poughkeepsie for the night in order to make the most of our first day in the Big Apple. It is just over 90 minutes from Manhattan.

Poughkeepsie, nestled in the majestic Hudson Valley, is home to 45,000 residents. The town is rich with culture and steeped in history and is 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 (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.

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.

WHERE TO STAY:  There is a fantastic new hotel in Poughkeepsie that opened in May 2019, Homewood Suites by Hilton (  made that decision a lot easier. This is a beautiful property. The suite we had was very spacious and comfortable.

Conveniently located off Route 9 and I-84 at 900 Thomas Watson Drive, the hotel is within walking distance of IBM and is minutes away from the Culinary Institute of America, Vassar, Bard and Marist Colleges. The hotel also places guests close to Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall, rich historical sites and a variety of great restaurants, breweries and wineries.

The property is owned and managed by Briad Lodging Group, LLC, the hotel division of Livingston, New Jersey-based The Briad Group.

 “Situated in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, Homewood Suites by Hilton Poughkeepsie is the perfect location for our newest property,” said Hans Kleinganz, general manager. “Our spacious suites offer all of the comforts of home, and we look forward to welcoming guests and ensuring they enjoy their stay with us.”

This hotel offers a combination of spacious studio and one-bedroom suites, featuring fully-equipped kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas. Guests are also provided all the essentials needed for a smart, reliable and convenient stay including complimentary hot breakfast seven days a week, evening social with complimentary beer and wine* served Monday to Thursday, complimentary shuttle service within a five-mile radius and complimentary advanced Wi-Fi.

The hotel makes it easy for travelers to unwind with an outdoor patio area, featuring multiple fire pits, an outdoor kitchen under a large pergola and a putting green. The property boasts a 750-square-foot fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, including a Peloton bike, an indoor saline swimming pool and an outdoor sports court. The property also offers more than 1,000 square feet of flexible space that is ideal for meetings and social events.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Poughkeepsie is part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 14 distinct hotel brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels save time and money and gain instant access to the benefits they care about most, such as an exclusive member discount and a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay. Members can also redeem their points for free nights, to gain access to unique events through the Hilton Honors auction platform, or to make purchases at with Amazon Shop with Points. For more information or to make reservations, visit or call 845-462-0030.

Briad Lodging Group was formed in 1997 when Briad became a Marriott franchisee. Five years later, the company added Hilton to its portfolio. Since obtaining these franchise rights, Briad has developed more than $600 million in real estate, concentrating on focused-service and extended-stay hotels, including the Courtyard, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites brands. During the past decade, Briad has developed, operated and managed 34 properties and has built more than 3,800 hotel rooms in the tri-state area.

WHAT TO DO: With an assist from Wikipedia here are some details of what Poughkeepsie has to offer in terms of a number of notable institutions for arts and entertainment. The Bardavon 1869 Opera House, located on Market Street just below Main Street, is a theater that has an array of music, drama, dance and film events and is the home of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. The Mid-Hudson Civic Center, located down the street from the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, hosts concerts, professional wrestling, and trade shows and has an ice rink next door for hockey events. From July 1984 to August 5, 1986, the Civic Center was the location for filming WWF Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation’s nationally and internationally broadcast weekly television program of the time

The Chance, located at 6 Crannell Street in downtown Poughkeepsie, hosts live rock concerts with local as well as major artists. The collections of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 15,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. The Barrett Art Center at 55 Noxon Street offers exhibits, classes, lectures, and demonstrations focused on the visual arts. Twice yearly it presents nationally acclaimed shows, juried by curators of notable museums. It also operated Barrett Clay Works at 485 Main Street, with studio spaces for individual artists, and a street-level space devoted to instruction in various methods of “working clay” for children through seniors.

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. The Galleria is owned and managed by The Pyramid Companies, a group that manages and owns other sister mall complexes.  We love dining at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant there, home to a great salad bar.

The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, located at 75 North Water Street, serves the city and region as an educational resource center, family destination, and tourist attraction. The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center at 9 and 12 Vassar Street provides venues for both professional and amateur artists to showcase their talent in music, dance, and the visual arts. Bananas Comedy Club is a comedy club that presents comedians such as Jim Norton, Rich Vos, Patrice O’Neal, and Nick DiPaolo. Jimmy Fallon started his career performing at the club  Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music is a sound-art installation on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, allowing listeners to hear it played like a musical instrument. A recording of the results, the 2009 CD Bridge Music (on the Delos label DE1045), entered the Billboard Classical Crossover Music Chart at #18 and has been released globally. The Bridge Music Listening Stations (which play selections from the CD) are located on the pedestrian sidewalk of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, at each of the bridge’s towers. They are open from dawn to dusk from April 1 through October 31. Additionally, Park Radios on 95.3FM play the same music year-round, in Waryas Park, Poughkeepsie and Johnson-Iorio Park, Highland.

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 that departs from Waryas Park, 29 North Water Street.

Sprout Creek Farm is an educational farm that rents out a cottage for weekend trips.

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

Albany, New York

Shopping in Albany, the capital of the State of New York, has always been a joy for my family. Crossgates Mall and the smaller, but equally impressive Colonie Center, can keep you busy for a couple of days.

We recently spent four days in Albany. With a great place to stay, excellent restaurants to choose from and, of course, the endless shopping experience, it proved to be the perfect getaway.

Albany Skyline Rejuvenate

Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days.  Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snow-shoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.

Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.

There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and  Boston. I have also heard very good things about the Albany Aqua Ducks & Trolleys (, an amphibious tour and trolley tour company featuring historic tours of Albany. The Ducks offer unique, educational and fun-filled tours. You can see the historic sites and then Splash into the Hudson River for a mariner’s view of the city’s skyline and others who call the Hudson “home” including the USS Slater and Dutch Apple Cruises. The Trolleys operate a seasonal Trolley loop tour and are available year round for charters and events. The Ducks and Trolleys are available for parades, festivals, family reunions, bar/bat mitzvahs, corporate events or any special occasion that needs to be “Just Ducky!” Info: Bob Wolfgang at 518-858-9690

The Crossgates Mall is home to 250 stores, restaurants and kiosks, including big box tenants Macys, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JC Penny (now called JCP).

The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site.  You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near the Macys entrance.

The Dave and  Buster’s restaurant and games and arcade chain will open its first Albany location at the Mall soon. We spent nearly seven straight hours there on a first day and went back for another three the following afternoon.

ACCOMMODATIONS: When in Albany we enjoy staying at the Cresthill Suites (, an extended stay hotel located at 1415 Washington Avenue. It turned out to be most convenient for us. There were large Hannaford’s and Price Chopper grocery stores nearby, as well as plenty of restaurants, the Crossgates Mall, the Colonie Center and two movie theatre complexes. Cresthill is in fact part of a small chain, with other locales in Syracuse, NY and Wichita, Kansas.

albany sandbox world

I would strongly recommend this place for families. Our spacious two bedroom suite had all of the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and appliances and free wireless internet. We had a comfortable living room, with a couch, chair, table and chairs, three flat screen TVs and plenty of cupboard space.  Whether you’re staying for a night or a month in any one of these suites, the hotel offers an array of services to accommodate your travel needs. In the morning, you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and in the evening, a light fare reception and social hour is available every Monday through Thursday.  There is daily housekeeping, same-day valet service, a grocery shopping service, free guest laundry, a fully equipped fitness center and a seasonal courtyard with a pool, patio and grills. General Manager Lisa Druckreier notes that the 10 year old property has a regular clientele who stay there for long periods of time,  be it people working on big projects in town and in construction, those relocating, fire victims and of course vacationers who want to enjoy all of the comforts of home.  The hotel has a number of handicapped accessible rooms and handicapped parking spots at the front door. There is elevator access to each floor and level crossings in the hallways.

The hotel is currently replacing sofas, chairs, ottomans and carpets in all rooms.

I found the staff at the front desk exceptionally helpful. While the room was very comfy, I also enjoyed spending time in the large lobby area and sinking into the big sofa in front of a TV.  A self service coffee, tea and hot chocolate is available 24 hours a day. For more information call 1.888.723.1655 or email You can also register online.

WHERE TO DINE:  We had a marvelous meal at Simpson’s Grille, where five chefs have shared 83 years of experience to create menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner to tantalize even the most discriminating taste buds.  This is the type of place where sole Françoise and grilled Atlantic salmon meet New York sirloin and filet mignon. The restaurant is located at The Desmond Hotel & Conference Center, a magnificent facility at 660 Albany Shaker Road.  The Desmond is also home to the AAA four diamond-rated Scrimshaw Restaurant and The Tavern, an English style pub. There is free parking.

sandbox world albany

I started off with a warm bowl of New England clam chowder. For the main course, we selected three different items:  the seafood penne alfredo, a combination of Alaskan crabmeat, jumbo gulf shrimp and Georges Bank sea scallops tossed in a garlic cream sauce; pesto herb sea scallops, coated with basil pesto and fresh herbs, broiled and finished with tomato vinaigrette; and a char grilled ribeye, 14 ounces, well marbled and full of flavor.  All main courses come with a signature house or Caesar salad, choice of potato or rice pilaf and the chef’s fresh vegetable of the day.

The menu also includes chicken, different fish entrees, prime rib of beef, filet mignon and veal piccata.

The hotel entrance is perfectly wheelchair accessible and so is the entire restaurant, located right by the front desk. This is a pretty venue, featuring booths and tables, and popular with tourists and locales.

After dinner I took the opportunity to explore the property. One section of rooms are located in an area that was once outdoors and makes for a pretty interesting view.

Not only can you log on to the restaurant’s website ( to download the menu, but you can also book your table here, which is very convenient. Simpson’s Grille is open Monday to Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 10 p.m.  On weekends they are open from 6:30 a.m.  straight through 10 p.m.

Take the time to walk around the facility before or after dinner.  It includes 323 guest rooms   and suites, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access, free parking and airport shuttle service, a newly renovated fitness center, indoor pool with Jacuzzi, 24 hour business center and two beautifully landscaped all-season atria. The conference center offers 22 unique meeting spaces and over 24,000-square-feet of flexible function space and an amphitheatre.

The Tavern is cozy, warm, inviting and considered “a place to relax and unwind.” Here folks tend to   sink into one of the leather sofas by the fireplace or root for their favorite team while watching the big screen televisions.  Cocktails, cordials and an endless line of beer taps accompany a lite fare menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.

Scrimshaw at The Desmond is the only AAA Four Diamond Award winning restaurant for three consecutive years in the Capital Region. It recently introduced a newly renovated fine dining room and exquisite new menu. New Chef de Cuisine Stephen Fratianni and Director of Restaurants Frank Rivera have teamed up to combine classic favorites with unique new menu offerings, including market fresh seafood options which change monthly and select table-side preparation to create a truly memorable and one of a kind fine dining experience.

The P.F Chang’s  at Colonie  Center  in Albany is top notch. We strongly recommend it to anyone passing through.

Each dish on the P.F. Chang’s  ( menu is prepared to order using the freshest and highest quality ingredients. The environment at each location combines  influences of Chinese and American cultures. A panoramic, hand-painted mural depicting 12th century China, is visible from the main dining room and commands attention as the restaurant’s centerpiece, while several terra-cotta warriors stand guard. The majestic 11 foot  tall horses grace the entrance to many of the restaurants. This horse symbolizes the original Forbidden City in China, which was built for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

The Albany location has been  in operation for five years.  This was our second time there and we remembered the excellent and quick service. The menu is tantalizing and features a much appreciated calorie count next to each item. So what can Montrealers look forward to? Well, first of all the prices are very reasonable and it is highly recommended you share a few dishes. On this night my two dinner partners and I started off with some won ton and egg drop soups. The former includes pork wontons, mushrooms, fresh spinach, water chestnuts, chicken and shrimp in a savory chicken broth; the latter is the P.F. Chang’s version of the traditional soup, with egg, julienne carrots and green onion.

You really must start off with the P.F. Chang’s signature chicken lettuce wraps: wok seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks with cool, crisp lettuce cups.

Select your sharing dishes wisely. My recommendation is the Mongolian beef (tender flank steak wok-cooked then quickly tossed with scallions and garlic), crispy honey shrimp (lightly battered and tossed in a sweet and tangy honey sauce with green onions), double pan-fried noodles (crisp egg noodles stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, celery and onions and comes with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetable) and a bowl of steamed rice.

You can check the full menu out online, including a full selection of gluten free items, lunch specials and kids choices. There is also a delicious array of signature desserts.

The sidewalk leading to the restaurant, the entrance and the entire restaurant is handicapped accessible.

AT THE MOVIES: The Albany area has some wonderful movie theatre complexes, each operated by the Regal Entertainment Group ( We have a particular fondness towards the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13. This four year old movie complex encompasses around 64,000 square feet, with more than 2,800 seats in a total of 13 auditoriums. It is right next to two of my favorite restaurants, PF Chang`s China Bistro and the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Barnes &  Noble, great to know when you are planning an outing. The seats at this theatre are very comfortable as they swivel. We actually stopped by the evening before our show to pick up tickets in advance. You can also purchase them online at

Once in the theatre we were entertained by a feature called First Look, which included previews of upcoming film and DVD releases and a series of very amusing commercials. You can also log on to and purchase your tickets online.

Hearing impaired devices are available upon request and the complex is very wheelchair friendly, with elevators at every level, ramps in each theatre and handicapped seating.

New Hampshire: Dover

Well this was a new stop for our family. While we originally looked at staying in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, getting a booking there was no easy task. Most of the rooms were already spoken for by government personnel attached to the Naval Shipyard and these individuals tend to stay there for extended periods of time. Always a fan of the Homewood Suites chain, I found one in the suburb of Dover ( This is part of the Lafrance Hospitality Group (, which also owns a Comfort Inn and Suites and a Hampton Inn nearby.

Dover is about 15 minutes from Portsmouth and 25 from beautiful Rye Beach. You are also only a 30 minute drive from the Maine beaches.

As Michael Bolduc, head of the Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce notes, the city has a well earned reputation for thriving businesses, an expanding arts and cultural scene, a wide selection of dining establishments, a notable history, a strong sense of community and beautiful scenery. The city’s waterfront district is currently undergoing an intense beautification and revitalization effort that will only add to the quality of life. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the city’s parks, trails, and outdoor activities. For example, the self-guided historic walking tours lead to the renowned Woodman Institute Museum and other historically relevant locations that underscore the significance of New Hampshire’s first permanent settlement.

This New Hampshire Main Street community offers exceptional shopping and dining opportunities—and with no sales tax in this state, shopping dollars go so much farther. Dover’s tree-lined downtown is brimming with quaint shops, boutiques, and restaurants of all types. Dover’s cultural scene is strengthened by fine art and craft galleries, arts collective at One Washington Center, a variety of music venues (including the Rotary Arts Pavilion in Henry Law Park) and the Garrison Players theater group. Dover is also home to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and the Woodman Institute Museum.

The Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce presents a number of community events throughout the year, including the award- winning Cochecho Arts Festival. This free, outdoor, summer-long family concert series features an array of acclaimed entertainers and comprises the Tuesday Liberty Mutual Children’s Series, the Thursday Luncheon Concert Series, and the Friday Evening Concert Series. Apple Harvest Day, held on the first Saturday in October, draws more than 35,000 people to downtown Dover to enjoy more than 120 hand crafters, children’s activities and games, food, and more.
Dover is easily accessible from all directions. Take the I- 95 to Route 16 and use Exits 6 through 9 (8E is recommended for access to downtown). For more information visit

WHERE TO STAY: I have always enjoyed my stays at The Homewood Suites. In Dover this was no different. Located in the heart of the business district, at 21 Members Way, this hotel is just minutes from downtown Dover and many fine restaurants and shops. It is the perfect place for short and extended stay accommodations. We were there for five days and it proved to be a great base for our activities. Their sister properties, the Comfort Inn and Suites and the Hampton Inn, also have solid reputations. General Manager Scott Goldberg has a decade of experience in the industry and he is only 29.

This Homewood Suites Dover only opened in 2008 and still looks spanking new. It offers all of this on a complimentary basis: a daily Suite Star hot breakfast buffet; dinner and beverages Monday through Thursday evenings at a Welcome Home Reception; parking; high-speed internet access; shuttle service providing transportation to the surrounding area, including downtown Portsmouth; a business center, with print, photocopy, and fax capabilities; Neutrogena bath products; a fitness center, indoor heated pool, whirlpool and outdoor patio. There is also a 24-hour Suite Shop convenience store.

With its spacious suites, fully equipped kitchens, and separate living and sleeping areas, this hotel is perfect for families who need some space and naturally a good choice for the corporate field and travellers looking to remain productive while on the road.

We really appreciated the fully equipped kitchen in our one bedroom suite, complete with full-size refrigerator, microwave oven, two-burner stove top, and coffee maker. There were two televisions with a video player, two telephones with data ports, an iron, ironing board and hair dryer. Pets are allowed here (maximum 50 pounds) for a fee of $50 a night. The third floor of the hotel is reserved for this. Just up the street are a number of restaurants, grocery stores, a Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx and more.

WHERE TO DINE: The Orchard Street Chop Shop ( gets my vote for the top dining option in Dover. The magnificent dining room is one of the most elegant on the seacoast. It seats 78 people at the main level, 100 upstairs and 32 on the seasonal patio. The restaurant features floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, oversized booths, Brazilian Cherry wood floors, bronze chandeliers, and wines scattered around the open-grill dining room. This room can be separated for private dining rooms or the entire room can be booked for any special occasion.

Open Monday through Saturdays at 5 p.m. for dinner, The Orchard Street Chop Shop is housed in the original Dover Firehouse. Built in 1865 for the horse-drawn fire trucks, it is one of the oldest historic landmarks in the city. It was used as the firehouse up until the 1970’s when it was converted to the Firehouse I restaurant. It has been a dining establishment ever since.

On Easter Sunday 2003, a fire gutted the kitchen and did extensive smoke damage to both the first and second floor. The Firehouse I closed its doors for good. In January 2004, Chris Kozlowski, better known as “Koz” and owner of the famous Crescent City Bistro and Rum Bar, had the opportunity to purchase the building and began rebuilding the interior. After four short months and close to $1 million later, Koz opened up the new Orchard Street Chop Shop, a prime steakhouse. The Chop Shop is touted among the top steakhouses in northern New England, specializing in dry-aged USDA Prime steaks and an extensive all-American wine list with many older vintages.

“We get people from all over New Hampshire, Maine and northern New England,” says Koz. “The furthest reservation we have ever gotten was from Iraq. They were coming back from being stationed there and decided to call for a reservation because she wanted a big steak. That was pretty neat.”

Koz got his start as a prep cook at a small camp in Wolfeboro, NH in 1989. A few years later he then went to work in the kitchen for Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith, NH, a local favorite. Working there for a few summers while attending college, Koz moved up the ranks and became a kitchen supervisor by the early 1990’s. While attending college at Colby-Sawyer College, Koz studied business management with a concentration in hospitality. He soon became class president both his junior and senior years. During the summer of 1994, Koz moved down to St. Croix, U.S.V.I. and completed his internship for the Chart House restaurant corporation as one of the managers there.

During his senior year at college, Koz was accepted at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY where he started in 1996. At the CIA, Koz developed a liking for home brewing and founded the CIA Home brewers Club. Soon after, Koz got heavily involved in extracurricular activities and was elected president of the Ale & Lager Educational Society, one of the most popular clubs at the CIA. Finally, he joined the Student Council during the final year there and was voted President, the most celebrated position a student could have at the school. Koz graduated in early 1998 with the Student Council’s “Distinguished Service” award.

After graduating, Koz was offered a position brewing beer at Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport, ME, Shipyard Brewing Company’s pilot brewery. After working there for a few months, Koz moved up the ranks and became head brewer before leaving there in the winter of 1998. He then went back to work as sous chef for the William Tell Restaurant in Campton, NH under the highly acclaimed Swiss-chef, Franz Dubach. This is where Koz completed his CIA externship as well. Chef Dubach is one of Koz’s greatest culinary influences to this day.

During the summer of 1999, Koz packed his bags and moved out to Calistoga, CA to learn how to make wine at Vigil Vineyards, a small boutique zinfandel producer in northern Napa Valley. This is where Koz picked up many contacts in the wine world and rounded out his education on the beverage side of the hospitality industry.

In the winter of ’99, Koz moved back to New Hampshire and took over at the helm of the kitchen at the Governor’s Inn in Rochester. He became the youngest executive chef in the State and brought the restaurant up to a four-star establishment. After garnering many accolades at the Inn, it was time for Koz to move on and open up his own place. In September 2001, Crescent City Bistro and Rum Bar opened its doors to a very enthusiastic following. After being open for only nine short months, the restaurant had to expand to more than double its size to accommodate the following he had built.
After a few successful years, the opportunity arose to buy the Firehouse I restaurant in January 2004 after being gutted by a fire the previous year. After a number of months completely refurnishing the inside with a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen, cigar lounge, glassed-in wine room, and two new dining rooms, the Orchard Street Chop Shop opened its doors in April, 2004.
Koz has been credited with starting the new culinary renaissance in Dover and restaurateurs from all over the country are now following in his footsteps.

The Chop Shop Orchard offers the finest selections of meats and seafood, skillfully prepared with a stunning assortment of traditional steakhouse sides and sumptuous desserts – all house made. We started off our dinner with some salads (wild field green and Tuscan caprese). Two members of our party chose the eight ounce petit filet mignon while I opted for the 14 ounce Delmonico steak. Each main item comes with your choice of two sides. The smashed potatoes won us over.

WHAT TO DO: The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (,The Woodman Institute Museum (, the Jenny Thompson Swimming Pool ( represent popular stops for visitors. There are also walking tours and jaunts on trails and at parks to consider. Check out for more details.

SHOPPING: Fox Run Mall is a one level enclosed regional shopping center located in Newington, 15 minutes from Dover. It is the only regional shopping center within a 40-mile radius and features national tenants including Macys, JC Penny, LOFT, Abercrombie & Fitch, PacSun, Express, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Gap, Men’s Wearhouse, American Eagle Outfitters, Pandora and Hollister Co. New Hampshire does not have a sales tax which draws shoppers from neighboring states of Maine and Massachusetts.

Maine: Portland

Three years after our first family vacation to Maine, we returned recently and once again chose Portland ( as our base. We really enjoyed the accommodations at the Embassy Suites last time, so that certainly helped with our decision when they had availability and the spacious two bedroom suite we had our eyes on. This was a significant upgrade for my family. The large living room in the middle was perfect for me to work late into the evening or early in the morning without disturbing anyone.

Portland is Maine’s business, financial and retail capital and the largest city in the state. Seascapes and cityscapes blend harmoniously in Portland, perched on a peninsula, jutting out into island-studded Casco Bay. The metropolitan hub of Maine’s south coast region, Portland is a progressive, lively city incorporating the character of yesteryear into a modern urban environment. Historic architecture blends gracefully with the new as you stroll along her working waterfront or the cobblestone streets of the restored Old Port section of the city.
With a metro population of 230,000, the Greater Portland area is home to almost one quarter of Maine’s total population. The city itself has 64,000 residents. Their economy is strong and bumper-to-bumper traffic and gridlock are unheard of. Portland is an easygoing city, with friendly, hardworking people. Ranked nationally as one of the ten safest, culturally most fascinating US Cities and one of the top cities for doing business, it is no wonder 3.6 million tourists a year visit, including 41,000 cruise ship passengers.

In the Old Port, great brick buildings, once warehouses for local merchants, now hold a myriad of original shops, galleries and restaurants. Its history intricately bound to the sea, Portland remains proud of its working waterfront and the celebrated beauty of its rock-bound coast. The waterfront provides access to the sea for commercial shipping and a host of pleasure activities.
Portland boasts a thriving arts scene and an exclusive Downtown Arts District. As one of the premier cultural centers in northern New England, Portland’s visual and performing arts rival those of regions much larger in size. Stroll through the world-class Portland Museum of Art, or wander the cobblestone streets in search of local galleries. Shop for gourmet foods in the bustling Public Market and in the evening dive into a nightlife that features award-winning local brews and a flourishing live-music scene. From classical to cutting-edge, performing and visual arts are vibrantly alive in Portland and infuse the region with a surprising sophistication.

WHERE TO STAY: The Embassy Suites Portland, Maine hotel ( is centrally located and right next to the Portland Jetport. It is just four miles from the famed Old Port. Moreover, the hotel is just a few miles from Maine’s beaches and scenic walking, hiking, and biking destinations. What I like best is the easy five minute drive to the beautiful Maine Mall and known chain restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday’s, IHOP, Pizza Uno Chicago Grill, Friendly’s and even a Tim Horton.

All accommodations feature two flat screen televisions, a refrigerator, microwave oven and coffee maker, complimentary wireless high-speed internet access, two telephones and a comfortable work area with desk. There are 119 suites in the hotel. Only five are of the two bedroom variety so book those early. KTB Hospitality owns this hotel and five others in the state.

You can start your day here with a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, including omelettes and pancakes. Grab a bagel and coffee on your way to a business event or to Portland’s attractions. In the evening, the atrium lobby is the site for the complimentary Manager’s Reception. Here you can sip a cocktail or refreshing beverage and enjoy a variety of snacks. You also have the option of savouring fresh local seafood and American cuisine at Café Stroudwater, their casual restaurant.

Looking to stay in shape? Work out in the state of the art fitness center or swim laps in the indoor pool, which as of this writing is about to get a facelift. The BusinessLink Business Center enables you to remain productive and manage work-related tasks. This is a popular spot to host a business conference or special event for up to 100 guests in one of their flexible meeting spaces. There is complimentary outdoor parking, always a bonus.

The hotel is located at 1050 Westbrook Street. For more information call 207-775-2200 or 1-800-Embassy.

DINING: Greater Portland offers a robust selection of restaurants, specialty foods and brewpubs, totalling over 200 dining choices. The amount of money spent in restaurants per capita ranks third in the country, behind San Francisco and New York. Local foods are featured at century-old outdoor farmers’ markets, a new year-round public market, and at a variety of smaller specialty stores that offer a blend of prepared, imported and local foods. The microbrew industry is well represented in Greater Portland with nearly 20 breweries, some recognized nationally.
We were directed towards David’s Restaurant (, located at 22Monument Square in the Arts District. Owner David Turin is an award winning chef and artist in residence.
David’s has a pretty extensive menu, from an array of soups, salads and appetizers to meat, seafood and pasta dishes. There are also daily specials. One member of our party chose the open faced lobster “ravioli” which included Maine lobster, day boat scallops, Gulf shrimp, herbed ricotta and sherried lobster cream. Given the fact that the other two individuals at the table were having a very difficult time making any selections, we were offered a tasting menu. This was indeed a treat. It started off with some greens (arugula, spiced pecans, blue cheese, shaved red onion and black currant vinaigrette). I actually substituted that portion for a delicious blend of David’s clam chowder, containing thyme, brown sugar and bacon. A sampling of lobster was next, butter poached, with chanterelle risotto cake, citrus truffle and micro salad. This was followed by tuna (pepper crusted sushi rare, sesame peanut soba noodles, Szechuan citrus sauce and asparagus), sorbet (honeydew with cucumber vodaka), ravioli (forest mushrooms, leeks, shallots, oven dried tomatoes, goat cheese, arugula and Madeira truffle sauce), duck (crispy skin, garlic, ginger and soy with sesame spinach and mushroom risotto) and finally some ice cream (sea salt and caramel, chocolate sauce and crumbled chocolate cookies).

BEACHES: As far as beaches go, our original plan was to commute to Old Orchard Beach. But then our hotel recommended Scarborough and Crescent Beaches. Both are popular family swimming beaches with fine sand, picnic tables, snack bars and washrooms. There is parking, albeit of a nominal fee, but it is fine spot to relax and take in the sun.

Maine:Cape Elizabeth

Extending 12 miles into open ocean, rimmed by craggy shores and sandy beaches, the Maine town of Cape Elizabeth ( marks the entrance to spectacular Casco Bay.

We were lured to Cape Elizabeth by a beautiful resort called The Inn by the Sea ( Voted a World’s Best Hotel by Travel + Leisure Magazine, 2011, this very pet friendly venue is located on a mile of sandy beach and just 15 minutes from Portland. There are 61 guest rooms, suites and cottages making the property the perfect luxury Maine beach hotel for couples or family travel. Rauni Kew, the head of public relations and green programs, gave me a tour of the property. Rauni gave me a peek at some of the extraordinary and spacious rooms, including one of 10 new ocean view, luxury one and two bedroom suites. Meanwhile, she also showed me a stylish loft one bedroom suite. They both had nice outdoor balconies, full kitchens, lavish bathrooms, gas fireplaces, flat screen TVs and ipod docking stations.

The Sea Glass restaurant offers panoramic views of Crescent Beach from its intimate dining room or al fresco deck. Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich features the best of Maine’s oceans and farms in his seasonally appropriate menus. Here you can enjoy signature cocktails or selections from an award-winning wine list. Both the hotel and the restaurant are involved with an underutilized seafood program orchestrated by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, (GMRI)- which includes local fishermen, regional talented chefs and GMRI’s research to interest restaurant diners to enjoy lesser known, but delectable seafood fresh from the Gulf of Maine.

“By eating underappreciated fish, that are both delicious and abundant, we help the sustainability of Maine’s fishing industry, the fishermen, and the health of the Gulf of Maine,” explains Rauni.

Chef Kaldrovich marries the freshest regional ingredients with his Argentine roots to create a unique and memorable culinary experience. Sea Glass serves breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round and an all-day light fare menu in the lounge. Hours vary by season and reservations are recommended by calling 207.799.3134 or booking online. It is open to the public. We enjoyed a delicious lunch by the lovely salt water heated pool, sharing some pita and hummus, a grilled chicken Caesar salad and a Maine lobster roll.

This venue has been nationally recognized for its green and pet-friendly hotel practices. It is a particularly popular spot for weekend getaways, wedding celebrations at the beach or group meetings.

Spa at Inn by the Sea offers a full complement of beach inspired body treatments, massages and aesthetics. Here you can unwind and be soothed by luxurious facials, massages and treatments. There are six elegantly appointed treatment rooms and private spaces for men and women, featuring relaxing steam and experience showers. The Spa offers a full array of natural and maritime-inspired massages, facials and body treatments. A room-for-two can be reserved for treatments with that special someone and men’s and women’s sanctuaries allow for quiet repose before and after spa services. The spa was designed and built with eco-friendly materials and offers treatment products that specifically complement our reputation for environmental responsibility while offering natural chemical-free ingredients to promote wellness. One member of our party enjoyed an extraordinary relaxing massage while raving about the therapist. The Spa is open to the public, but try to make a reservation as far in advance as possible.

The hotel is just around the corner from the Portland headlight, commissioned by George Washington. This is one of the oldest and most famous lighthouses in the country and its small museum represents a fun stop. The lighthouse has been painted by numerous artists. There is also a wonderful nature walk around the 125 acre Great Pond behind the Inn.

The boardwalk that leads to the beach is 150 yards long. Pool attendants walk umbrellas and chairs to and from the beach and set them up for guests. They will also help carry beach toys and other items.

RECREATION: Inn by the Sea and the surrounding area is rich in scenic and recreational opportunities. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy a hundred outdoor activities like fishing, boating, sports of many kinds, and exploring nature. Culture vultures will find music, theatre, museums and more just a few minutes away in Portland.

Crescent Beach State Park opened in 1966. Sandy oceanfront beaches, saltwater coves, wooded areas, and rock ledges provide seashore recreation for beachgoers, fishing and water sports enthusiasts, and nature observers. Crescent Beach State Park is a classic saltwater beach park with beach grass-studded sand dunes, ocean breezes, herring gulls, picnic areas and views of fishing boats and an offshore island.
The park’s signature feature and namesake is a mile-long, crescent-shaped beach ideal for strolling and sunbathing, where relatively warm waters and light surf make swimming and boating a pleasure. A few feet from the crowded summer sands are trails for walking and nature watching. In the off-season when the park is closed to vehicles, walkers are welcome to enjoy the tranquility of the beaches and trails. In the winter, visitors can hike or cross-country ski on paths under a canopy of snow-covered evergreen boughs.

Maine: York and Perkins Cove

YORK MAINE AND PERKINS COVE: From our base in Dover, New Hampshire recently, we spent a day in York Harbour, Maine ( – a mere 30 minute drive and moved over to Perkins Cove in the Ogunquit area for the evening.

York is considered the Gateway to the Maine Beaches. We were there a few years ago to visit their wonderful zoo –York’s Wild Kingdom. This time we decided to spend the day at the Stage Neck Inn (, a complete boutique resort in the New England tradition. The Inn is situated at the mouth of the York River, with breathtaking ocean and harbor views at every turn. Resort facilities include a fitness room with sauna, indoor atrium pool with Jacuzzi, sandy beach, oceanside fresh-water pool with snack bar, seasonal clay tennis courts, spa treatments at The Spa at Stage Neck and 18-hole golf privileges at two of the area’s finest courses: the Ledges and the Links at Outlook. Other renowned courses are nearby.

Stage Neck Inn is on the ocean’s edge, adjacent to York Harbor Beach. This is a beautiful sandy beach with a gradual incline, making it ideal for wading. The tides vary throughout the day. You’ll enjoy the sound of the waves on the sand, as well as on the rocky peninsula upon which the Inn is situated. The crannies and nooks of the cliffs are an excellent spot for beach combing for shells and for other treasures. Beyond the beach is a scenic cliffwalk which takes you past the “summer cottages” of York Harbor. About a mile from the Inn is Long Sands Beach which offers a long expanse of sandy beach with views of the Nubble Lighthouse. York is also home to Short Sands beach, which offers a beach-resort atmosphere with an arcade, band stand, playground as well as restaurants and shops.

The Stage Neck Pool and Tennis Club features a gorgeous, oceanside fresh water swimming pool. It is open in the summer months only. The area includes lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas for those who don’t want to get too much sun. The pool offers harbor views, ocean views, and views of the Inn and stately seaside “cottages.” They also have a nice lunch menu, with a unique ordering formula. All you need to do is take a red flag and stick it in the ground near your poolside spot. A server then comes over and takes your order. This is one place my family and I hope to explore more of at a future date.

PERKINS COVE: Perkins Cove ( is a small but popular artist colony and tourist area in Ogunquit, with shops, restaurants, lodging facilities and breathtaking views of the ocean. It is also known for its historical trail known as the Marginal Way. Once recognized as a fishing village, Perkins Cove is now an outdoor mall of shops and boutiques. It has been a favorite place for artists, painters and tourists for generations and represents a great place to spend a day and or evening strolling the shops, the Marginal Way and having fresh seafood at area restaurants. It’s even better to spend a few days or a week exploring the entire area, including Ogunquit and nearby towns like Wells and other nearby coastal towns. Somehow I never even stepped foot in the area during my last visit.

I must confess that during my previous trip to Ogunquit I never even knew Perkins Cove existed. It was Israeli-born neighbor Chaim who sang the area’s praises, insisting that we visit the next time we traveled to Maine.

We had an amazing dinner at MC Perkins Cove (, which I must recommend as “the spot” to dine there. It offers spectacular ocean views with contemporary American food created by James Beard Award winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows Restaurant. The upscale casual setting offers a raw bar, lounge, two bars, two beautiful dining rooms, and a private dining room all overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. MC offers lunch and dinner as well as a bar menu throughout the evening, a full bar and extensive wine list.

Hats off to their manager, Norman Dufour. On the night we visited the lineup to get in was out the door. Despite the hectic pace, Norman handled the anxious diners with style and made sure everyone got seated and served. Members of our party started off with the Caesar Jai Lai Palace Salad and an amazing clam and haddock chowder, with potatoes, yams, saffron and tomato cream. For the main course there was so much to choose from: shrimp, lobster, fish (rainbow trout, plank roasted Atlantic salmon, swordfish brochette), chicken, steak and hamburgers. Well two of us had the steamed whole Maine lobster, served completely out of the shell in garlic butter with delicious jasmine rice on the side. The other order was an MC lobster “mac and cheese” elbow macaroni with cheddar, lobster and herb bread crumbs. We had just enough room to share an amazing homemade dessert, warm Maine blueberry and peach crisp with vanilla ice cream. Be sure to make reservations in advance at 207-646-6263. Arrive early, park and explore the area.

New Hampshire: Manchester

Recognized as New Hampshire’s commercial and industrial leader, as well as its largest city and the home of nearly 10 percent of its population, Manchester ( is only 58 miles from Boston.

My family and I often make a point of stopping in Manchester, either on the way to or back home from a destination either elsewhere in New Hampshire or somewhere in Maine or Massachusetts. We usually head right to the Mall of New Hampshire

SHOPPING: The Mall of New Hampshire, which has 125 specialty stores, four full-service restaurants and a 550-seat Food Court. Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, and Best Buy serve as the anchors and a Ruby Tuesday Restaurant pleases our taste buds. There is now a new attraction in the suburb of Merrimack as Premier Factory Outlets has set up shop there. There are 100 amazing outlets here and let me tell you, this is enough of an attraction to add at least another full day for your stay.

HISTORY: Manchester first gained national fame in the 1800s as the home of the massive textile mill of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. Nearly five million yards of cloth were shipped weekly from the mill, which employed thousands of workers and covered more than eight million square feet. The mill thrived until the 1920s, when competition from southern mills and obsolete technology took their toll. In 1935, Amoskeag went bankrupt. Despite losing its major employer, Manchester rebuilt itself as a commercial and industrial center by diversifying industries.

Today Manchester is home to a melting pot of high tech companies, banks, business services enterprises, retailers, manufacturers and health care professionals. Commerce is just one part of Manchester’s appeal. The city is also the focal point of the state’s cultural community and home to many of the region’s eight colleges and universities. Cultural institutions such as the Currier Gallery of Art and Palace Theatre join with the new Verizon Wireless Arena and outdoor concert venues to attract world-class performers and exhibits to the city. Performances, exhibits, classes, workshops and lectures are offered to the general public at many of the area’s institutions of higher education. Other city attractions include the Manchester Historic Association, Franco-American Centre and the SEE Science Center.

The region is made up of Manchester, the state’s largest city, and nine surrounding communities, each with a unique personality. The delight of living in the Manchester region is that you don’t have to sacrifice country living to work in the city, or vice-versa. From city apartments and historic row houses, to farms and country homesteads, the Manchester area has something to offer everyone.

ACCOMODATIONS: On our previous trips to Manchester we always stayed at a place called the Highlander Inn. Well, when I called recently to book a room the line kept ringing. When I could not find the website I knew something was wrong, so I googled the hotel name and sure enough it had closed – not due to bad business. The nearby airport needed the land.

While the Highlander may have closed, a brand new La Quinta Inn and Suites recently opened at 21 Front Street in the former Clarion Hotel. Ironically, sales manager Steve Morabito previously held the same post at the Highlander. Located in the historic Millyard district, this hotel and conference center (that part known as the Falls Center) overlooks the beautiful Amoskeag Falls. There is a convenience store in the lobby, free high-speed wireless Internet access throughout the hotel, a fitness center, business center, seasonal outdoor pool, meeting facilities, an airport shuttle and pets are welcome. Guest rooms are furnished with La Quinta’s signature pillow top mattresses, microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker, iron, ironing board, hair dryer, as well a 32 inch flat panel HDTV with over 35 HD channels from which to choose. Breakfast here is free, including waffles, hot and cold cereals, bread and muffins, fresh fruit, coffee, juice, pastries, bagels and milk.

This four floor facility has 109 rooms, including three suites. It is located off of Exit #6 of the I-293. You can call 603-669-5400 or go to Rooms can start as low as $79 a night. Following a multi-million dollar year and a half renovation, Alta Properties in partnership with Roedel Companies ( officially opened the hotel in April 2012, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring the mayor, the head of the Chamber of Commerce and La Quinta executives.

Morabito shared with me the fact that this is actually the only hotel in Manchester with an outdoor pool and a beautiful one it is, complete with comfortable lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas. We happened to be there on a very hot day and ended up extending our stay just to enjoy the pool. As of this writing work was underway to add a conference centre and restaurant to the facility.

As for guests with special needs, the hotel is fully compliant. A ramp to the pool can be accessed via the fitness room. There are five ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible rooms, two with roll-in showers. All rooms/areas have smoke detectors for the hearing impaired.
David Roedel, a partner of Roedel Cos., explained that the improvements for The Falls Center and La Quinta Inn and Suites met the organization’s original objective of improving the building’s overall functionality. The site also offers the Greater Manchester community and those visiting the Queen City a completely revitalized option.
“Designed as a sister property for our award winning Hilton Garden Inn Manchester, The Falls is virtually a brand new hotel with contemporary architecture and interior design,” said Roedel. “It provides exceptional price value and excellent service that our guests will really enjoy.”

AIRPORT : Centrally located in the heart of the region’s primary business and financial district, Manchester Airport is less than an hour’s drive from the region’s most popular ski areas, scenic seacoast beaches and peaceful lakefront resorts. Easy access, ample, inexpensive parking, competitive airfares and a growing schedule of non-stop and direct jet service to leading U.S. cities make Manchester Airport a grand first impression of our city and state.

Manchester Airport is served by Air Canada, American Eagle, Continental Airlines, Continental Express, Continental Connection, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection-COMAIR, MetroJet, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways and U.S. Airways Express.

ACCESSIBILITY: The State of New Hampshire and businesses and organizations throughout the state have made an effort to make New Hampshire accessible to all. If you are using the website to locate lodging properties or attractions that are accessible for people with disabilities, go to the Advanced Search option from any of the search pages. You can then select « Accessible » as an option to narrow your search.
The New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Disability is an excellent resource for information on the many services, laws, and regulations that affect citizens or visitors with disabilities. They also keep a list of recreation resources in New Hampshire that people with disabilities may be able to enjoy alone or with their families and friends. For winter sports, the Commission on Disability also maintains a list of New Hampshire ski resorts offering adaptive ski programs.

Mike Cohen’s e-mail address is Log on to his travel files at

New Hampshire:Portsmouth

For years I have heard people speak glowingly about Portsmouth, New Hampshire (, a city of roughly 21,000 people that sits near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, which divides New Hampshire and Maine. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth claims to be the nation’s third-oldest city. It served as a focal point on the Eastern seaboard until the late 1800s when rail travel did in the shipping industry. John Paul Jones’ ship The Ranger was built in Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (which lies across the river in Maine) was established in 1800 as the country’s first of its kind.

The geographic location, historic past and cultural strength of Portsmouth regularly lands it on various “best places to live” lists. Prevention Magazine named Portsmouth one of the top 100 walking cities in the America for 2008. The region as whole is noted for its many restaurants, attractions and shopping opportunities, which include downtown Portsmouth, outlet malls in nearby Kittery, Maine, as well as the large Fox Run Mall in Newington.

Funky shops, elegant inns, varied restaurants and fun clubs make Portsmouth’s historic brick and cobblestone downtown one of Northern New England’s most popular tourist destinations. Anywhere you land in downtown Portsmouth, you’re never more than a 10-minute walk from your diversion of choice. From early summer right through the dead of winter, people stroll the narrow, colorful streets, watch the tugboats guide huge freighters out of the harbor, take in free outdoor by-the-sea performances at scenic Prescott Park, or just people watch in Market Square over a cup of high-octane coffee. Twice a year – Market Square Day in June and First Night Portsmouth on New Year’s Eve – the quaint downtown becomes a giant pedestrian mall dotted with street performers, vendors, musicians, and parades, and always, lots and lots of food.

There’s a lot to do in Portsmouth besides eating and shopping. Music fans can hear live bands in downtown clubs. Local theaters and the non-profit Prescott Park Arts Festival produce plays throughout the year. The historic Music Hall attracts nationally prominent performers. Local cinemas feature hard-to-find independent flicks.
The beaches of Rye, North Hampton and Hampton in New Hampshire and York/Ogunquit in Maine are a short drive out of Portsmouth. Boat cruises, deep-sea fishing trips and whale watches run daily from Portsmouth and Rye harbors during the warm weather.

Portsmouth is steeped in history. The Strawberry Banke Museum and historic mansion tours replicate life in Portsmouth throughout its 300-plus-year history. There are many different tours in Portsmouth including: the Black Heritage Trail; Ghostly Lighthouse Walk; Historic Portsmouth Legends and Ghost Walk; and the Portsmouth Harbour Trail featuring 10 National Historic Landmark buildings.

Portsmouth is intricately tied to its maritime history and working seaport. Summer visitors are missing out if they do not take a cruise out to the Isles of Shoals, nine miles off the coast, or experience a kayak tour. The white sandy beaches from New Castle to Hampton are a traditional summer destination for many Canadians and those from around New England and farther.
Visit and click on the downloadable Seacoast Guide for pictures, lists of hotels, restaurants, shops, historic homes, calendar of events, attractions, activities and a map of the downtown that might help you get the lay of the land.

WHERE TO STAY: Take my advice and stay in nearby Dover, a mere 20 minute drive from Portsmouth via Highway 16. We loved the accommodations at the Homewood Suites ( The Lafrance Hospitality Group operates this property, as well as the nearby Hampton and Comfort Inns. The Homewood Suites is just off Highway 16, near plenty of shopping and restaurants and really has all of the comforts of “home.” With 88 suites, there is plenty of space for a few family members. We loved the full kitchen, terrific drawer space, the morning breakfast and weekday manager’s reception. You can cool off in the indoor pool (leading to an outdoor patio) and relax in the jacuzzi. Parking is free. Just so you know, most hotels in Portsmouth tend to be costly and during peak season rooms are not easy to find.

WATER COUNTRY: A trip to Portsmouth during the summer months is certainly not complete without visiting Water Country ( This is New England’s largest water park, featuring signature thrill rides for a full day of fun for the entire family. Situated at 2300 Lafayette Road, daily admission is $37 for those 48 inches or taller and $24.99 for those under that height and seniors. Children two years old and under enter free.

Water Country is one of the few amusement parks in the US to allow and encourages its guests to bring picnic lunches into the park. A number of large picnic areas are available for free at various points throughout the park so guests can eat without having to leave. Owned by Palace Entertainment, Water Country tests the limits on Double Geronimo or Thunder Falls and allows one to take a break in the relaxing Adventure River. The slide we liked the best is called the Screamer. It is lightning fast, but too quick for one to be scared by the steep drop.

There are over 26 acres of fun here. We went on a busy Sunday, opting for the preferred parking option ($15). This represented a very short walk to the front entrance. We rented a locker, which had plenty of room for the three of us to store all of our gear. The wait in line for different slides was not exceptionally long. Staff here are on the ball and take all safety precautions necessary.

The newest attraction this year is Dr. Von Dark’s “Tunnel of Terror,” the first water ride of its kind in New England. Two people at a time descend in a two-person tube into a twisting 40-foot plunge through a totally enclosed, totally dark tunnel. Along the way, a wicked tornado funnel leaves your head spinning and your fears in your throat! It’s a 300 foot trip into the dark side of thrills, their website reads.

The park does pay close attention to guests with special needs. I saw many people in wheelchairs the day of our visit. Pathways leading to every part of the venue are very much wheelchair accessible.

Says Marketing Manager Danielle Barry: “We’ve had guests with physical limitations who were unable to enjoy certain attractions in the park with our standard ride tubes, so for these guests we allow them to use a ‘double tube’ to comfortably accommodate their needs where safely permissible to do so such as the Wavepool, Adventure River and the Whirlpool. We have some pools with a sloped entrance that will allow a guest in a wheelchair to enter the water axel deep – at that point they are submerged enough that they can easily transition from their chair to a tube.”
You can rent cabanas here, available for up to eight people. Guests with special needs may contact Guest Relations at (603) 427-1112 for information regarding admission, locker accessibility, and wheelchair usage.

SEACOAST REPERTORY: We were fortunate to be in town recently when the musical Chicago was playing at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre (, located 125 Bow Street and better known as the Rep.
The Rep is a not-for-profit arts and educational institution and has been in business since 1988. Until the 1970s the facility actually served as the warehouse for the Portsmouth Brewing Company. This is the Seacoast’s only professional, year-round live theater. It is dedicated to enlightening and entertaining the broadest possible audience through professional Main Stage productions and programs that expose all ages to the experience of live theatre. The Rep’s Main Stage season selections blend musical and drama, the familiar and the classic-to-be, the thought provoking and the just plain fun. In addition to this, The Rep supports engagement at all age levels through hands-on programming and performances designed to entertain the very young.

Locally and regionally, I am told, people plan their summers around their productions and travel to the Seacoast to experience live theatre. In the winter its year-round subscribers engage in a dialogue around compelling and high quality work including packed pre-show symposiums and post-show discussions. The local community has ownership of the theatre as a vital component of its social fabric and the transient community supports the theatre for the dynamic, provocative and yet entertaining element to their summers and weekends.

The presentation of Chicago was first class, featuring an excellent cast, great sound and terrific use of a small stage space. I loved the cozy layout of this oval theatre. There is truly not a bad seat in the house. Artistic Director Craig Faulkner opened the show with some words of welcome. He even sold snacks at intermission, interacting with the audience. There are clearly many regulars here, but this is also a popular spot for tourists.
Over the past two and a half decades, more than 300 Main Stage and youth productions have been presented. Chicago had been preceded this season by Ain’t Misbehavin’, Things We Do For Love and the Full Monty.

THE OAR HOUSE: With more than 40 restaurants in downtown alone, Portsmouth is one of the eating capitals of New England.
The perfect spot for a pre-show dinner turned out to be the Portsmouth Oar House (, located at 55 Ceres Street in the historic Merchant’s Row building at the edge of Portsmouth’s old harbor. This spot serves fine food in a setting filled with mementos of the city’s long and proud maritime heritage and features live music inside on Thursdays through Saturdays. The waterfront deck is open in summer and there is on-site valet parking. This turned out to be a real bonus for us. We were able to leave our car here for the evening and walk a few minutes down the street to the Rep.

We were thrilled to see one of our favorite New England dishes, the Lazy Man’s Lobster Pie, on the menu. The seven ounce Maine lobster, completely cut up, featured sherry butter and seasoned crumbs. Owner Raymond Guerin takes pride in the many appetizing choices available. The Lobster Bisque turned out to be a delicious appetizer as did the Caesar and Caprese salads. As for the homemade desserts, do not leave without trying the key lime pie. You can also sample shrimp, grilled pizza, a variety of seafood options (pan seared salmon, broiled Atlantic Haddock, scallops) as well as meat and poultry dishes.

The Oar House is located in Portsmouth’s Old Harbour area, which in the late 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving seaport. In December, 1802, 120 buildings burned in Portsmouth’s most disastrous fire, including the wooden mercantile structures that occupied the restaurant site. The citizens of Portsmouth rebuilt almost immediately, in the early months of 1803, using brick to eliminate future fire hazards. The buildings on Ceres Street, including the one now occupied by the Oar House, were constructed at this time. Owner Raymond Guerin has many historical photos on the wall of historical ships in Portsmouth’s history.

Mike Cohen travels to Oakville: Ontario

The Staybridge Suites Oakville Burlington offers one and two-bedroom suites, with all the conveniences of home to suit your extended stay or short-term needs. The hotel offers apartment-like suites featuring fully-equipped kitchens, cable TV, free wired and wireless internet and direct dial phone number with personalized voicemail. There is a 24-hour business center with free internet, print/fax/copy capabilities, free laundry facilities, a fitness center, an indoor pool, a home theatre room with a 50-inch plasma TV, gas BBQ grills, a putting green, the Bridgemart “Suite” Shop, a free deluxe breakfast buffet, evening sundowner receptions (Monday through Thursdays) and signing privileges next door at the Marquis Bistro Restaurant and Grill, which is also under the WHG umbrella. You can help yourself to free soft drinks and juices in the lobby 24/7. This hotel is pet friendly so that of course includes service animals. It is fully wheelchair accessible and has one room with accessibility standards and handicapped parking at the front entrance.

A vibrant and impressive community within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Oakville is a beautiful lakeside town with a strong heritage, preserved and celebrated by residents and visitors alike. Founded in 1857, this thriving municipality of about 165,000 residents provides all the advantages of a well-serviced urban center, while also maintaining its small-town ambiance. Along historical downtown streets, Oakville offers a mix of converted 19th-century buildings which accommodate over 400 fine shops, services, and restaurants.

A 30-minute drive from downtown Toronto, and an hour’s drive from the U.S. border, Oakville boasts an $88 million tourism industry, with over 1.4 million visitors annually. On our recent trip to the Niagara Falls area, we decided to stop over in Oakville for a day. We checked into the beautiful Staybridge Suites Extended Stay Hotel Oakville Burlington (, located at the QEW and Bronte Road at 2511 Wyecroft. This three-year-old property still looks spanking new. It is managed by the Westmont Hospitality Group (WHG), which I hold in high regard, having stayed at their locales in Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor.

Our one night there went too quickly and we will definitely be back. For reservations call 1 877 660 8550, 905-847 2600, or email The hotel lobby is fully wheelchair accessible.

DINING: When in Oakville I would recommend you make it a point to dine at the Marquis Bistro (, a 60-second walk from the Staybridge Suites lobby. It is open for breakfast, lunch and supper. We chose to have dinner there and were very pleased with the quality of the selections. The menus are all online. We shared the lemon calamari and the pan-seared scallops to start and give high marks for the spaghetti bolognese, the chicken parmesan and the delicious chocolate bundt cake for dessert. There are also a number of soups and salads to choose from, such as other pasta dishes, steaks, racks of lamb, and seafood. For reservations call 905-465-4480.This is a very pretty restaurant, with booths and tables. There is a large flat-screen television and an attractive wine cabinet when you walk in.

WHAT TO DO: Residents and visitors enjoy theatre, dance, music and comedy performances at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. They can visit the museum at Erchless Estate, located in the home of the Chisolms, Oakville’s founding family. Other points of interest include galleries, historical societies and local architecture, especially in heritage neighbourhoods.

Among the many special attractions and activities for the whole family, Oakville’s annual WaterfrontFestival and Jazz Festival draw crowds from around the GTA. The community also provides plenty of recreational opportunities. Golfers can play at one of seven golf courses, including PGA-recognized Glen Abbey Golf Course, which has hosted the Canadian Open for many years.

Enjoy over 2,400 acres of park space, many with groomed hiking trails, or join a recreation center that provides programs for all ages. For boaters, Oakville features two picturesque harbors with docks and slips for sail and powerboats. The Oakville Public Library’s Events Calendar is the ultimate resource for everything happening in the Town of Oakville, including the acclaimed Jazz Festival.

The Town of Oakville hosts the Community Spirit Awards, and the ever-popular Santa Claus Parade, and is often the host venue for the Black History Month Kickoff Celebration at the beginning of February. The Oakville Museum at Erchless Estate also celebrates Oakville’s Black History with a travelling exhibit as well as a permanent bilingual exhibit called, The Underground Railroad – Next Stop, Freedom!

Every November, in honour of Remembrance Day, Town Hall hosts the Shadows of War exhibit, which is generously provided by the Oakville Museum of Erchless Estate. The Oakville and Bronte legions also organize their own public Remembrance Day ceremonies in early November.

A vibrant community filled with culture and natural heritage, Oakville is renowned for its beautiful shopping districts which include the historic, yet sophisticated Downtown – one of the foremost shopping and dining destinations in Ontario – with architecturally preserved storefronts, the quaint waterfront Village of Bronte and the eclectic multicultural Kerr Village. Each shopping district offers an assortment of cafes, restaurants, spas, galleries, and nearby parks and trails to unwind and enjoy the change in seasons.

Photos courtesy of the Town of Oakville.

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 ( 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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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 ( 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 (, 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 for more details.

Mike Cohen travels to Cape Cod: Yarmouth

My family and I recently returned from our first trip to Cape Cod in six years. Based on previous experience I started the process of booking accommodations in January. We began our summer vacation with a four-night stay at the Red Jacket Beach Resort ( in beautiful South Yarmouth and what an excellent choice this was. We actually squeezed an additional full day at the beach by packing our car up before checkout time, keeping our safety deposit box and requesting the front desk to place our cooler of perishables in their fridge. That turned out to be an excellent decision.

Nothing can quite compare to this locale. Situated directly on the beach, we secured a spacious family room with a balcony overlooking the ocean and only seconds from the heated outdoor and indoor pool, the latter of which also has a whirlpool. You can practice your swing on the private tennis court or enjoy a quiet afternoon game of shuffleboard. There is also a spa on the premises. Wireless internet is available throughout the complex and in each room. The resort has 150 guest rooms and 14 cottages totaling 164 total guest units.

The convenience of being able to go back and forth to your room cannot be understated. Upon entering the private beach you are provided with towels, beach chairs and umbrellas. Because this is the South Side of the Cape the water is exceptionally warm. The hotel is humming with different family activities. You can also choose from a variety of water sports offered by Gold Coast Parasail ( We opted in favor of the jet ski ($115 plus $15 per passenger) and banana boat ($25 per person for 20 minutes) options. Just a mile down the road from the Red Jacket are sister properties the Blue Water and Riviera Beach Resorts. The former is where we went for the banana boat ride, which I strongly recommend. You need to actually swim over to the boat, which found kind of cool.


Gold Coast Parasail is operated by Kurt Kossman and his wife Sarah. Kurt, 39, is also a race car driver. One of the most amazing aspects of his successful career is the fact that he lost his left leg to cancer in 1988. Kurt was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had to have an above-the-knee amputation. Even with the amputation, Kurt was given only a 30 percent chance of survival. He underwent 13 months of chemotherapy and through strength and perseverance, he survived. While in the hospital Kurt designed a unique prosthetic so that he could shift the race car flawlessly and continue his racing career. He parasails, jet skis and in the winter skis down the steepest hills of snow. His message to others in his predicament? “You have to learn to adapt. It definitely changes the way you do things. “
The staff here aim to please. Ken Smith, director of operations for the Red Jacket group, has been with the company for 25 years while Red Jacket Beach general manager Thomas Moore has been on board for a decade. As explained, every effort is made to organize different activities for the kids such as hermit crab races. There are evening buffets, with live music.

You can call 1-800-CAPECOD or email

The area: Three villages make up the 17 square mile town of Yarmouth: West Yarmouth, Yarmouthport, and South Yarmouth. Each village has a distinctive character formed by over 350 years of history. A community shaped by its seaside heritage, Yarmouth has retained much historic charm while integrating the present into its surroundings. To gain a true perspective of this town you must stray from the major roadways of Route 6 and 28 that traverse from Hyannis to the West and Dennis to the East. Yarmouth is the second oldest town on Cape Cod, and it is filled with historic charm.

Yarmouth’s rich history has grown a Cape Cod seaside community that offers a potpourri of activities for area vacationers. For the outdoor-minded, Yarmouth boasts 15 of Cape Cod’s finest fresh and saltwater beaches to laze away the days, four golf courses challenging all levels, 14 tennis courts for the more active, and many hiking, and conservation trails. Yarmouth truly has something for everyone. On the Northside in Yarmouth Port, tree-lined historic Route 6A hosts an array of country inns and quaint bed and breakfasts, complemented by antique and craft shops. The Southside along Route 28 offers the hustle and bustle of a summertime resort town, from factory outlet shopping to sea lion shows to the most adventurous mini-golf.

West Yarmouth offers the visitor a variety of family attractions, various lodging establishments, beaches and fine restaurants. West Yarmouth houses the historic Baxter Grist Mill, a 27-hole public golf course, miniature golf, trampolines, a small children’s petting zoo, fishing piers, and close proximity to island ferries. In the summer months, ride Yarmouth’s Easy Shuttle along Route 28 to public beaches, downtown Hyannis, local shops and dining establishments. West Yarmouth offers any family or individual traveler a number of exciting things to see and do. The South Yarmouth/Bass River village blends the past and present. You will find oceanfront resorts, cottages for rent, bed and breakfasts, a driving range, two 18-hole golf courses, boat tours, a windmill dating back to the 1800’s historic homes, and churches. The large Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis is an easy 15-minute drive from the hotel. That could be a little longer during the very busy traffic season.

Dining Out: When seeking out a dining spot in Yarmouth, someone pointed me to the website of the Skipper Restaurant and Chowder House ( As an old fan of the TV show Gilligan’s Island, I was immediately intrigued by Skipper’s take on the show’s theme song. The Skipper was established in 1936, and it is one of Cape Cod’s oldest waterfront restaurants with pristine views of the Nantucket sound. The Skipper Crew has made this restaurant the huge success that it is, by hard work and taking care of customers.

Owner Alan Delaney and his chefs work hard to present the finest and freshest fish you can find, Angus cuts of beef and not to mention their award-winning clam chowder. All entrees are cooked to order and they have a great kids’ menu. Located at 152 South Shore Drive, the Skipper is open from mid-April until October 31 and only minutes from the Red Jacket. Delaney bought the restaurant in 1998 and has expanded the building’s size in recent years and just added an ice cream bar. The night we went folks were lined up outside the door for tables. It is no wonder why. The chowder was superb. Ditto for the crispy calamari and my family’s selections of the skipper scampi, the seafood trio (shrimp, scallops and lobster sautéed in a saffron tomato cream sauce with rice or pasta) and a pound-a-half lobster which our waitress Miriam cut up nicely for us.

Since there are no kosher restaurants in the area, Skipper’s swordfish, haddock, salmon and yellow fin tuna are all good options. You can also choose from among the different salads or opt for a dish of angel hair pasta.

Open for lunch and dinner, you can call 508-394-7406 for reservations. The Skipper is wheelchair accessible, with a ramp at the entrance. Make sure to book a table on the first floor.

There is a marvelous restaurant chain in Massachusetts called the 99. I had never heard of it before. We went to the South Yarmouth location, got a beeper and waited 30 minutes. It has an extensive menu.

Mike Cohen travels to Cape Cod: Chatham

In the affluent Cape Cod town of Chatham, visitors are drawn to the expansive and magnificent beaches, the lighthouse, wildlife, nature trails, bike path, and stunning views of the ocean. Chatham ( has a special blend of the past and present with quaint streets lined with historic sea captains’ homes, a fine selection of historic museums, and a walking downtown area with unique shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Lodging options range from a spectacular oceanfront resort like the Chatham Bars Inn, to lovely bed and breakfast inns tucked in throughout this picturesque seaside village.

Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod surrounded on three sides by water. Located halfway between Falmouth and Provincetown, it extends out to sea as the most easterly point in Massachusetts. Once a quiet farming and fishing community, Chatham has become a vibrant tourist destination. Rich in its maritime heritage, as well as a spirited New England town with a variety of small businesses, Chatham is a special place for year-round residents and visitors alike.

Chatham Bars Inn ( is a gorgeous property catering to a very affluent clientele. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and then spend the day at their private beach and enjoy lunch at their Beach House Grill.

The Chatham Bars Inn has been an idyllic Cape Cod family vacation retreat noted for its excellent service, fine cuisine and beautiful surroundings since 1914. The Inn is nestled near the heart of Chatham on 25 beautifully landscaped acres overlooking Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

This world-famous turn-of-the-century landmark has a remarkable ambiance. The expansive lounge, front veranda and main dining room have been returned to their original grandeur, affording panoramic ocean views and gentle sea breezes. If you’re looking for boat charters on Cape Cod, you’ll love the top-notch fleet operated by Chatham Bars Inn. A variety of luxury boats offer unforgettable Cape Cod experiences. Memorable and unique boating excursions offered by Chatham Bars Inn include Cape Cod sunset cruises on Pleasant Bay, big game sport fishing, sailing tours, family activities, and private charters to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. You’ll also love their Cape Cod sailing packages, including the popular Cape Cod Sunset Cruises Package.

In addition to popular Cape activities such as golf, tennis, fishing, water sports, and bird watching, guests also enjoy summer beachfront theme dinners, spa treatments, and an array of children’s programs and family activities: everything you need for a summer vacation in Cape Cod. Most important, the grand tradition of relaxing in casual, unhurried comfort continues year-round at this historic Cape Cod vacation resort.

In 2007, Chatham Bars Inn completed a $14 million upgrade to the resort, including guestrooms, landscaping, dining and public facilities. They also added the Japanese gardens and a year-round relaxation pool at The Spa at Chatham Bars Inn.

In 2006 Capital Properties, the New York-based residential and commercial real estate development and management firm purchased the property for $166 million. The transaction marked the first venture into hospitality real estate for Capital Properties. “This year-round landmark resort holds a lot of personal significance for me,” said Richard Cohen, founder and president of Capital Properties. “I grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts and continue to maintain offices in Boston, so my ties to the East Coast remain strong, as does my commitment to maintaining the charm and integrity of this historic gem.”

A noted Historic Hotel of America and a member property of Leading Hotels of the World, Chatham Bars Inn is New England’s celebrated oceanfront resort and a classic Cape Cod landmark. Consistently maintained and updated since its initial construction in 1914, the historic Main Inn sits gracefully atop a seaside bluff, offering spectacular views of Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic. Two hundred and seventeen distinctively appointed guestrooms occupy this main building, including 68 sumptuous suites, each designed to preserve an elegant turn-of-the-century ambiance. There are 34 quaint Cape-style cottages offering guests an exceptional level of privacy and housing luxurious guestrooms and master suites.

Renowned as an ultimate, year-round getaway, the Inn offers a variety of meeting and banquet facilities ideal for lavish destination weddings or other special events, as well as extensive conference space equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual technology. Celebrated local caterers and professional event planners wrap up every necessary detail.

A Visitor Information Center is located in the town-owned David T. Bassett House, 2377 Main Street, at the intersection of Routes 28 and 137 in South Chatham. The Information Booth is located at 533 Main Street, next to Town Hall. It is under the supervision of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the Town of Chatham.

The sport of kings is the sport for everyone. For the boys and girls, there are flounder, and the experts match their skill against the striped bass, bluefish, and tuna. The waters of Cape Cod off Chatham offer some of the best-striped bass fishing in the world. No permit is required for saltwater fishing. There is excellent fishing in many of the freshwater ponds near Chatham. You may purchase a freshwater fishing license from the Goose Hummock Shop in Orleans at 508-255-0455. Non-resident shell fishing may be done in any area that is not marked “Closed to Shell Fishing,” but only by special fee permit available from the Permit Department on George Ryder Road. Harbor and gray seals are the most common species in Chatham, and can often be seen resting or hauled out on rock piles, ledges, sand bars, and jetties exposed during low tide around the Chatham shoals from the North Beach break-through to South Beach and Monomoy. They’re also found resting on isolated beaches, in marshes, and on floating docks at all tide stages.

The best time to see seals is within two hours of low tide on a sunny midday afternoon. Because seals cannot move well on land, during high tide they position themselves over submerged jetties. When the tide goes out they are left exposed, sitting on the jetty basking in the sun. If left undisturbed, they will stay on the rocks until the tide comes in again. If conditions are right, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 seals can be seen in the afternoons at Monomoy Island. There are several local companies offering exciting seal tours along the beautiful Chatham Harbor waterways between North Beach, Chatham Light, and the Break

Every Friday evening at 8pm from July 2 to September 3 all roads on the Cape lead to the band concert at Whit Tileston Band Stand—Kate Gould Park on Main Street in Chatham. As many as six thousand people attend these concerts, and it will be one of the highlights of your Chatham summer. There will be dance numbers for grownups, folk dances for the children, and community singing for everyone. Members of the colourfully uniformed 40-piece band live in Chatham and the surrounding towns. Each Monday evening during the winter the band meets for rehearsal. Funds for the maintenance of the band are voted on at town meetings. The band members are not paid and the concerts are their contribution to the summer life of Chatham. Don’t miss these concerts. They’re great fun!

Mike Cohen travels to Cape Cod: Eastham

With miles of sandy coastline, the Cape Cod towns of Eastham, Orleans and Wellfleet represent a haven for beachcombers and pail-toting youngsters. Only 25 miles up Route 6 from the bustle of shopping in Hyannis, this Gateway to the National Seashore is often referred to as the Cape’s little secret. If you are planning a holiday here, consider this area for your base.

The western border of Eastham is lined with six miles of beautiful beaches overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Just as magical as the National Seashore, Cape Cod Bay offers calmer and warmer waters, amazing flats at low tide and breathtaking sunsets. We enjoyed Coast Guard Beach, only a few blocks from our hotel. It is $15 to park your car and take a shuttle. Limited handicapped parking is available directly on the beach, where they also have beach wheelchairs. There is a free beach pass for those who are permanently disabled or legally blind.

The most notable and largest Eastham bay beach is First Encounter, the location where the native Indians first encountered the pilgrims in 1620. It’s great for kids, with its extraordinarily low tides. Buy them a net and watch as they scoop up crabs of all shapes and sizes in water up to your ankles.


Where to Stay: When we last visited this area six years ago we discovered the Four Points by Sheraton Eastham Cape Cod (, a modern full-service hotel which just kind of appears before your very eyes as you travel on busy Route 6, which consists mainly of small motels. For summer trips, an early winter booking is highly recommended. Hyannis is only 45 minutes away. The hotel has beautiful indoor and outdoor swimming pools and is close to the beaches. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the indoor pool, which is beautifully heated and a fabulous place to go after returning from the beach. There is also a jacuzzi. This hotel has one of the most magnificent suites I have seen in a long time. The Nauset Suite has two separate bedrooms – one with a king bed and another with two twins. There is ample cupboard space. Each has a flat-screen television The very large living room also has a flat-screen, a couch, four comfortable cheers, two end tables, a large working desk, a dining room table for four, another clothing closet and a small kitchen with full-sized fridge, a microwave, dishes and silverware. In the bathroom, you will find a large shower with glass doors. Oh yes, let me tell you about the balcony. It is gigantic, with two lounge chairs, two picnic tables and 10 plastic chairs – ideal for entertaining friends or family. This is traditionally used for businessmen, as the hotel hosts a lot of conferences. But for a family seeking good space for everyone, this is a luxury.

The free wireless high-speed internet is indeed “high speed” and faster than what most other hotels offer.

There is also great service from the front desk, starting with the printout of descriptions and directions to the local beaches.

This hotel also has a fitness facility, a game room, refrigerators and coffee makers in each standard room, an on-site restaurant (Bellamy’s) and five meeting rooms in case you want to hold a company conference here. The front desk will get you anything you need, be it a dining reservation, tickets to a show, or a car rental. Check out the Cape Cod Rail Trail Bicycle Trail, only 100 feet away.

The hotel has two rooms with a roll-in shower and five handicapped-accessible rooms in all, located on the first floor. They have wider doorways, raised commodes, hearing-impaired smoke detectors and lowered thermostats, etc. The hotel also has TTY equipment and closed captions on all televisions. General Manager Jacqui Frost says all staff is required to watch a video on disabilities to have a better understanding of guests with disabilities and how best to accommodate them.

Mike Cohen travels to Cape Cod: Hyannis

Hyannis is a town made famous by the Kennedy family. The Kennedy Compound can be seen from afar and is always under tight security.

There are 100 miles of splendid public beaches in Barnstable County. On the quiet north side is Sandy Neck, an eight-mile-long barrier beach with dunes, beach grasses and marshlands alongside Cape Cod Bay; to the south are the warm waters of Nantucket Sound and popular Craigville Beach; Kalmus Beach, where windsurfing is available; Orrin Keyes or Sea Street Beach and sheltered Veterans Beach, which I personally would not recommend. A major summer highlight is the Barnstable County Fair (, which takes place annually at the end of July. This is an extraordinary experience, featuring a variety of shows, exhibits, concerts, food, animals and carnival rides. The petting zoo and livestock displays are an experience, especially for the younger ones. They’ll also enjoy the 40-minute circus show. The large fairgrounds where this event takes place are in East Falmouth, a mere 11 miles from Hyannis. However, given the fact you must take one-lane Routes 28 and 151 to get there, the drive there will be very long unless you depart early.

Cape Cod ( is located in the midst of a major migration pattern for saltwater fish, which provides for a plenitude of fishing from early spring until late fall. The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce really does a marvelous job promoting this area. Get a copy of their official guide before you start planning your trip. They also produce an excellent restaurant book ( and offer gift certificates for travel, dining and shopping.

In addition to the beaches, fishing, golf and kite flying, the Hyannis area has playgrounds, miniature golf courses, bike paths, tennis and racquetball clubs, windsurfing beaches and a bowling facility. There are amusement centers located on Main Street and Route 132. Be sure to allow some time to sample some of the area’s fine retail shops and art galleries and the very large Cape Cod Mall. In addition to the historic Hyannis Main Street Waterfront District, investigate the 100-plus stores in the climate-controlled Cape Cod Mall on Route 132. There is also Cape Town Plaza, Southwind Plaza, and Festival at Hyannis along the same route as well as the wonderfully imaginative Christmas Tree Promenade. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is a multimedia exhibit designed to open a window into the days JFK spent on Cape Cod. The exhibit features over 80 photographs spanning the years 1934 to 1963 and is arranged in thematic groupings to reflect John F. Kennedy, his family, his friends and the Cape Cod he so dearly loved. In addition to photography, a video narrated by Walter Cronkite depicts the president’s experiences on the Cape. Several themed areas include charged oral histories of JFK’s friends.

Before you go, log on to and check out the best guide for parents and grandparents available in the region. You can order a hard copy by mail, which I strongly recommend, allowing you to plan your trip accordingly. Copies are free once you arrive. Inside you will find a wide array of activities and attractions, such as the Cape Cod Children’s Museum (

Mike Cohen travels to Cape Cod: Orleans

Nestled between spectacular Nauset Beach on the Atlantic and tranquil Skaket Beach on Cape Cod Bay, Orleans offers something for everyone. One of the primes draws in Orleans is its Academy of Performing Arts (, Cape Cod’s finest quality theatre and studio. Located at 120 Main Street in what was once Orleans Town Hall, the Academy Playhouse delivers the best drama, musicals, comedies and original works you can find on the Cape. It is a year-round source of great entertainment for all ages. Established in 1975, this non-profit organization is dedicated to producing high-quality performances and nurturing the artistic development of our community. Last summer my family and I attended a performance of Rent. I must tell you that I am still humming the songs to this day. This is not an easy show to put together, with 36 songs in all, but the young cast pulled it off beautifully.

The cozy 162-seat theatre, which captures the essence of the live theatrical experience, hosted an enthusiastic crowd the evening my family was in attendance. The cast is all volunteers, hoping for future stage careers. Take Nic Chad for instance. The 19-year-old was the “Season’s of Love: soloist. At my hotel, the Four Points Sheraton in Eastham, there was Nic working behind the front desk. He spoke about what a thrill it is to be part of this theatre group. “We rehearsed for two months straight and we the show six days a week,” he said. “It is a great experience. We all want careers in this business. I will be pursuing mine by going to school in Los Angeles.”

I would strongly recommend you make a visit to the Playhouse part of your itinerary. It is fully air-conditioned, something which was not the case six years ago when I last visited.

The Playhouse is not presently wheelchair accessible. You need to climb stairs to get to your seats. Plans are now in place to mount a rigorous capital campaign to restore the front of the theatre, as well as to provide ADA-compliant handicap accessibility by installing an elevator

Dining Out: The top restaurant on our list from the last trip was the Orleans Waterfront Inn ( Right on Route 6A, in a beautiful setting overlooking the water and next to Windmill Park. Just like last time we made this our dinner prior to going to the theatre. Our waitress Kara, an aspiring performer herself, was wonderful in getting us our dinner in enough time for us to get to the show on time.

This is a family-owned establishment. Ed Maas, his wife Laurie and their eight children have all played a role in making this historic property a must-stop since purchasing it 14 years ago. The restaurant offers the finest menus, from a varied selection of fresh local seafood, produce and grill specialties. There is a kid’s menu, offering everything from chicken fingers and burgers to pasta and pizza. Homemade desserts, specifically the chocolate layer cake, are to die for. If you order lobster, this place will crack it up for you. Also, try the clam chowder.

Ed’s two twin daughters and his eldest son now manage the restaurant. Three of his children were adopted and each of them has special needs. Two work at the restaurant, which is fully wheelchair accessible with a ramp at the front.

The Inn itself was built in 1875 and eventually served as a boarding house, a summer vacation hotel and a restaurant. While it presently boasts 11 beautiful guest rooms, the place is mainly used for weddings and corporate functions in the elegant downstairs Cove Room. It leads to the waterfront deck and has a seating capacity of 150. Ed Maas told me that there have been many Jewish Simchas held at the Inn. Ed’s brother Fred is the chief of police in Sunny Isles, Florida, the home of a large Jewish community.

Dinner on the evening we went was delicious: clam chowder, an appetizer of seafood cakes, a 12-ounce teriyaki ginger-crusted sirloin steak, lobster and scallops. The triple-layer chocolate cake was perfect to share for three. Ed was busy attending to two of his grandchildren. He has four in all and a fifth on the way.

There are no kosher restaurants in Orleans, but the Inn offers a number of salads and items such as grilled Atlantic salmon, fish and chips and pasta.

Also worth checking out is Hearth and Kettle, a small Cape Cod chain of restaurants that serves breakfast items from morning until close. They have an extensive menu with other options as well. We ate at the Orleans location on West Road, located in a large strip mall with Shaw’s grocery store.

A huge Stop & Shop grocery store is across the street from the Orleans Inn. It is conveniently opened till midnight and has everything and more you wish to stock your fridge with. A CVS Pharmacy is just a few more blocks up the road.

Michael McCarty

Mini-Golf: The Lower Cape’s largest and best 18-hole mini-golf course is located right at the Orleans Rotary (next to Wendy’s). Cape Escape Adventure Golf ( is operated by the McCarty family and has the backdrop of a beautiful nautical setting, featuring waterfalls, fishing vessels and live koi fish you are encouraged to feed. Michael McCarty has been working at the course for 19 years since he was 12. It is open from April until October ( 9 a.m. until the last group enters the course at 10:30 p.m.). We really enjoyed the ambiance. The course itself was fun. Good music played in the background and everyone was friendly. Each hole is named after a different town in Cape Cod, with Plymouth, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket added in for good measure.
While individuals in wheelchairs cannot navigate this course, McCarty says clients with crutches have managed to complete the course. There have also been many visually impaired individuals as customers.

The McCarty clan actually operates this entire block. Across the street are Mike’s Bike Rental, Mandy’s Cape Creamery and the Cape Tradewinds gift and beach shop. Make sure to give this spot a visit the next time you are in this part of the Cape.

Miami: Greater Fort Lauderdale

A destination once famous – or infamous – as the top U.S. Spring Break haven, Greater Fort Lauderdale today stands as South Florida’s transformation story and one of the most revitalized destinations in the country. During its peak in the mid-1980s, Spring Break in Greater Fort Lauderdale attracted some 400,000 college students over a six-week period, a non-stop party where motel railings were used as pool diving boards and the area’s beautiful golden sand beaches were left littered with beer cans and cigarette butts.

It took a dedicated effort to bid Spring Break adieu. Despite concerns from local businesses that thrived on the annual phenomena, a public and private sector initiative was created to rid the destination of Spring Break for good. The hospitality industry expanded, modernized and improved. Millions were spent on new hotel developments and upgrades. New facilities such as the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the 600,000-square-foot Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center were built. Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport – which now stands as the fastest growing large airport in the U.S. over the past decade – was greatly expanded and Port Everglades emerged as the country’s top luxury cruise port.

Today, Spring Break has been transformed into beach chic. Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Blue Wave beaches – so certified for their outstanding beauty and cleanliness – have been complemented by upscale hotels and a wide variety of top attractions and activities. Casual, yet sophisticated, Greater Fort Lauderdale is South Florida’s renaissance story. Trendy boutiques and luxury retailers line Las Olas Boulevard, Greater Fort Lauderdale’s unofficial “Main Street,” and the upscale Galleria mall is the result of a recent $100 million renovation. More than 60 golf courses make the destination a golfer’s paradise. Attractions such as Butterfly World – the largest butterfly aviary in North America – and the natural wonder of the Everglades bring visitors in touch with nature and native culture. A three-tiered coral reef system and more than 75 wreck sites draw novice and expert scuba divers, while kayaking, parasailing, kiteboarding and snorkeling entertain those looking to stay above water.

Need proof of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s transformation? Just head to the Intracoastal Waterway, where some 42,000 registered yachts make Greater Fort Lauderdale the yachting capital of the world. Or see an acclaimed exhibit at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale. Or dine at one of the destination’s trendy nightspots or chic restaurants.

Two of my favorite Greater Fort Lauderdale destinations relate to shopping. Sawgrass Mills at 12801 W. Sunrise Blvd. is simply Florida’s largest retail and entertainment center , featuring 350 name-brand stores, outlets, restaurants cinemas and entertainment venues and home to Wannado City, America’s first indoor role-playing theme park for kids!

The Swap Shop , at 3291 W. Sunrise Bvd is the largest indoor-outdoor flea market in South Florida, featuring an air-conditioned entertainment and food court area and a 14 screen drive-in theatre.

The new Greater Fort Lauderdale is a vibrant, year-round destination offering more than 33,000 hotel rooms at a variety of hotels, resorts, and Superior Small Lodgings, plus several new upscale resorts opening soon. More than ten million annual visitors enjoy Greater Fort Lauderdale’s 23 miles of Blue Wave Beaches, 300+ miles of inland waterways that run from the Intracoastal to the Everglades, 4,000 restaurants, top shopping, and a thriving arts and culture scene. For more information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 22-SUNNY or visit ( ).

DINING OUT: I must admit that a particular fish restaurant proved to me the real draw. Many people I know had been raving about the 15th Street Fisheries ( ) , a Fort Lauderdale legacy since 1979. It is located at Lauderdale Marina (1900 SE 15th Street), providing a spectacular view of the Intracoastal Waterway. In addition to their world-famous award-winning cuisine, the location is by far one of the best in South Florida. You just can’t get closer to the water or to the nautical history of the area. Dine here above the docks where a daily parade of boats keeps the vistas fresh. We sat in a room called “The Porch.” Manager Guillermo Puthon, who just a few years ago worked on the cruiselines, pointed to some large fish swimming below. The large tarpons are fed by customers throughout each day. This is quite a sight, especially at night. Lights have conveniently been installed at the bottom of the water. There are some other pretty fish to view upon your entry. And just in case you wondered, there is no fishing permitted here.

Against miles of open water and sky, the nautical show unfolds. Gulls tip their wings to yachts sailing the calm waters of the Intracoastal. Giant silver tarpon leap along the dock. Boaters in the know tie up at the pier, a favorite table in sight. Winter, spring, summer and fall, the 15th Street Fisheries – just a water taxi ride away -always feels like home.

Emphasizing seafood, the restaurant offers a casual dining environment on the lower floor, featuring sandwiches, oysters and peal and eat shrimp. Upstairs dining is more formal, with an abundance of seafood appetizers and entrees, along with steaks, ribs, prime rib, and chicken as well as exotic foods from around the world and local specialties.

Homemade breads, a specialty, come with a cheese-and-chive spread and they are served by a “bread girl.” Grilled mahimahi and alligator are among the more than 50 entrées. Our servers Rich and Veronica were superb, welcoming us with a unique menu displayed on a large billboard. Rich provided detailed explanations of each dish. We began with salads and some clam chowder and then decided to share an order of stone crabs as an appetizer. For the main course, three of us split a pair of two pound Maine lobsters which were beautifully pre-cut making then dining experience that much easier. The key lime pie for dessert was outstanding.

The 15th Street Fisheries is located on SE 15th Street (of course) in the heart of Fort Lauderdale. From I-95, take I-595 east to US-1 (Federal Highway). Travel north on US-1 for 1.5 miles to SE 15th Street. Turn right and go all the way to the end of the street. You’ll find us inside Lauderdale Marina Reservations are required for dining upstairs. Call 954-763-2777 Valet parking costs $2 at dinner, but it’s free at lunch.

For more information on Greater Fort Lauderdale go to ( )

Michigan: Frankenmuth

When I planned our trip by car to Chicago, I decided that we would make two stops on the way from Montreal: one in the Toronto area and another in Michigan. I must admit that I had never heard of the small Michigan town of Frankenmuth ( ) before my brother-in-law flagged it for me.

Frankenmuth is considered “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” and it delights over three million visitors annually with loads of unique attractions, shopping, restaurants, hotels and camping, festivals, and family fun! Regardless of the time of year, the festivities are always in full bloom. Whether you come for a chicken dinner, to buy a special ornament, attend one of Frankenmuth’s many festivals or to simply see what’s new, Frankenmuth welcomes you with its flower-lined streets and Bavarian hospitality. The community of Frankenmuth is conveniently located just minutes east off I-75 between Flint and Saginaw, Michigan.

The draw in Frankenmuth turned out to be Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark ( ), which offers 152 deluxe accommodations including 63 new suites and over 30,000 square feet of aquatic fun with their Splash landing play area, Dumping Bucket, Giggling Gorge and Perilous Plunge four storey tube slides. Here you can also relax in a whimsical whirl hot tub and float along a Crooked Brook Creek lazy river. A towering 26-foot tree is a prominent feature in the new hotel lobby with a large gas fireplace built into the trunk. Zehnder’s Splash Village includes elves and fairies as part of the waterpark and hotel’s overall theme. There is also an 18-hole championship golf course. The waterpark is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m Friday through Sunday and in the summer months.The waterpark is fully staffed with certified lifeguards. Water toys and non-approved flotation devices are prohibited. Towels, inner tubes and life jackets are provided at no additional charge. Standard rooms and family suites come with four passes, and family loft suites come with six passes. Additional passes can be purchased at $15 per person per day. The purchase is limited to the maximum occupancy of your room. I strongly recommend a stay of a few nights here. You can call toll free at 1-800-863-7999.

Rooms range in price from $129 – $374, depending on the dates of stay and type of room you would like. Standard rooms sleep four guests and include two double beds. Family suites sleep four to six guests and include two queen beds, two televisions, microwave, fridge, and fireplace. Loft suites sleep four to eight guests and include the same layout as a family suite, plus : a loft with an additional queen bed, and television upstair. Parlor suites sleep up to four guests and include a king bed, double sized pull-out soft, wet bar, microwave, mini-fridge, two flat screen televisions and a jacuzzi tub.

DINING: Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is the heart of Midwestern hospitality. In its ten dining rooms, which can seat more than 1,500 guests, Zehnder’s offers a full-service menu that features all-you-can-eat family-style chicken dinners, seafood, steaks, fresh baked goods and European desserts. Each year, Zehnder’s serves nearly a million guests with the superb hospitality that has made it a world-wide attraction. Dinners range from $15.25 to $21.50, with children’s portions and special event menus available. Our luncheon menu is available Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. Zehnder’s is open seven days a week. (For full hours of operation, see left). We are only closed on Christmas Eve, and for our annual employee Christmas party in early January.

A tradition of good taste began 150 years ago when The Exchange Hotel opened its doors in 1856. The Zehnder family purchased the hotel in 1927 and the tradition of good food and hospitality continues today at Zehnder’s of Frankemut Hospitality abounds with traditional family style chicken dinners and tantalizing breads and pastries in the world-famous Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurant.

GOLF: The power of nature shaped into one of Michigan’s most beautiful golf courses, The Fortress defends itself with its terrain, challenging bunkers and signature island hole. Situated just 435 yards from the front porch of Zehnder’s in downtown Frankenmuth, The Fortress encompasses 6,813 yards of formidible play on an 18-hole, par 72 course. About 25,000 rounds of golf are played on the course every season.

WHAT TO DO: Frankenmuth’s two world-famous landmark restaurants, along with Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, anchor the city’s picturesque Bavarian village area. Take a promenade along the main street, just a short drive or walk from the hotel and there are a variety of shops to explore not to mention a few yummy fudge stores. Choose your favorites at wine and beer sampling. Frankenmuth River Place also has 36 unique shops and attractions that include a paddlewheel riverboat and a free nightly laser show.

Frankenmuth is a family affair. Bring them all: kids, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Suzy, Uncle Ned and anybody else who wishes to tag along. The reason is entertainment, shopping,and dining enough to build memories for the whole family, wrapped in the beat of oom-pah-pah music and the traditions of its Bavarian heritage.Kids will head for River Place for AMaze- N Mirrors, losing themselves in the maze of glass and mirrors. Still more fun can be had at the haunted Midnight Manor while the teen’s head for their games and arcades. Mom, Grandma and Sister Sue head for the gifts and jewelry, boutiques, and antique shops, with a side trip to Prime Outlets of Birch Run with over 150 stores. The men in the family may prefer golf, the leather shop, and Michigan’s Own Military & Space Museum. It’s a family gathering again at the weaving shop, the 18th century flour mill, and the covered bridge over the Cass River. Kids lead the way to the glockenspiel to watch the marking of time in the tower.

As evening shadows drape the town in twilight, gatherin the Festivalà Platz of FrankenmuthRiver Place to watch the free Lights Fantastic laser show. For more activities, schedule your visit during one of Frankenmuth’s numerous festivals. With the family along, you may want to consider lodging with a pool. Riverboat tours are fun for the whole family. Proud of their Bavarian Heritage, but remembering they are Americans first, Frankenmuth citizens refer to the present in the upper part of their shield and to the past in the lower part. The American eagle stands proudly with its wings outspread over the vertical stripes denoting the 13 original states.The word “Franken” represents the Province of Franken in the Kingdom of Bavaria from where the original Frankenmuth settlers came. “Muth” means “courage” in German, thus FRANKENMUTH means “courage of the Franks.”

Frankenmuth plays host to the annual Zehnder’s Snowfest in January, the World Expo of Beer in May, the Bavarian Festival in June, the Volksläufe (People’s Race) in July, the Summer Music Fest in August, the Autofest, Oldies Fest and Oktoberfest all in September, and the Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk in November.

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Rhode Island

Legendary Newport, Rhode Island and its wonderful suburb next door called Middletown is a very beautiful, historic American city only 75 miles southwest of Boston. It is a fabulous place for a family vacation, particularly in the summer. Whichever spot we placed our towels on the beach, there was a mom and dad with children of all ages swimming, jumping the waves and building sandcastles. So if you are traveling with an only child, there will be built in playmates guaranteed. The beaches, incidentally, are superb here. Not only are they well maintained, with concession stands, washrooms, showers and lifeguards, but the water in the summer is very warm.

In addition to its stunning seaside mansions, Newport offers beautifully restored colonial landmarks and many fine small museums. Fort Adams, the Newport Art Museum, the Newport Artillery Company, the Museum of Yachting, Redwood Library, the Tennis Hall of Fame, Touro Synagogue, Trinity Church, and more offer visitors an unrivaled opportunity to explore many aspects of America’s history. Music festivals, such as the Jazz and Folk Festivals and the Newport Music Festival, draw thousands to Newport every summer.

Kids will love the Norman Bird Sanctuary for a day of peaceful hiking and nature walks, or for viewing the marine life bring them to the Newport Aquarium. Families with young travelers will especially enjoy the exhibits at the many museums of art, history, science, naval heritage, yachting, and tennis. And the young ones will be in awe as you take them for a very educational and fun-filled tour of one of the mansions. The Breakers, for instance, is a national historic landmark built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895.The 70-room Italian renaissance-style home includes a 45-foot high central great hall. Yourself at least one hour for each tour. Packages are available which will enable you to see several of these properties for one price. Also check out the Touro Synagogue ( ) at 85 Touro Street. It just happens to be the oldest synagogue in America, having just celebrated its 350th anniversary. A symbol for the nation, today, it continues as a living house of worship, and the destination for tens of thousands of visitors every year from all over the world who come away deeply affected by its ageless beauty and inspired with an appreciation of religious freedom

In terms of accommodations, this town gets extremely crowded during peak season so once you have selected the time of year you wish to visit book immediately. We recommend the Hampton Inn and Suites ( ) in Middletown, a suburb of Newport only two miles from downtown and the home of CBS TV Survivor star Richard Hatch. This year old 95 room property features 20 studio suites, four one-bedroom suites and 71 traditional rooms. The hotel features free high speed Internet access in the lobby area, business center, suite shop, guest laundry facilities, an indoor heated pool and spa, tennis courts and two meeting rooms. You can call 1-800-HAMPTON or (401) 848-6555 for more details. It is owned by a group which also operates the 35 year old Howard Johnson Inn right next door. Middletown is literally five minutes by car from Newport and I would strongly recommend you select a hotel along the West Main Road strip. Places like the Hampton Inn and Suites offer everything you need and more and at a price which is affordable. The free continental and hot breakfast is not only a bargain, but a tantalizing offer at that. If you are traveling with your extended family, the double suites allow for a lot of room including a door separating the main bedroom from another which has a pullout sofa. This place has an extraordinarily friendly staff.

As for family dining, The Mooring ( ) is Newport’s premiere waterfront restaurant in the heart of the downtown historic district. It is located on Sayer’s Wharf, directly off America’s Cup Avenue. Keep your car in the parking lot as you stroll by the different shops afterwards. Try to book seating in the Harborview Room, which presents a spectacular waterfront dining experience to enjoy the finest New England seafood and lobster. The portions here are very generous. In the spring, summer and fall, your party will enjoy ocean breezes, classic yachts and magnificent sunsets. In the winter, the warmth and New England charm of our fireside dining offers a luxurious atmosphere. The restaurant’s chefs continue to delight guests with creatively prepared meats, glacial salads, and the freshest of local fish, seafood and lobster. There is also an extensive wine list, which received the prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine five years in a row – 1996 to 2003. Start off with a look at the raw bar or choose from chowders, salads or delicious appetizers such as lump crab cakes, some tantalizing fried calamari, smoked salmon or popcorn shrimp. The main menu offers a choice of grilled seafood, grilled meats or « Mooring » classics like Seafood scampi, stuffed shrimp or lobsters. Portions are large. For the kids, there is always chicken fingers. Save room for dessert, from key lime pie to triple chocolate truffle pie, you’ll walk out of this place beyond satisfied.

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