Boca Raton Shopping and Dining

While staying in the Miami area recently, I convinced the family to maken a day trip to Boca Raton. It had been more than a decade since I visited the area, but let me confess that I needed an excuse to dine at the fabulous Legal Sea Foods  restaurant, which I had experienced last fall in Boston

Located in Palm Beach County, “Boca,” is known for its affluent social community and high income demographic.  Before embarking upon our amazing dinner at Legal Sea Foods, we explored the different shopping options.

The Town Center (http://www.simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton) on Glades Road is considered to  one of South Florida’s top luxury shopping destinations. It features an outstanding mix of upscale and elite specialty shops and a  lineup of six department stores – Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Sears. Among the 220 stores at Town Center, you will find The Apple Store, Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Lilly Pulitzer and many more. Parking options are more than ample, including three parking decks and valet stations. Conveniently located off I-95 and Glades Road, you’ll find just what you need and more.

Mizner Park (www.miznerpark.com) is an upscale lifestyle center in downtown Boca. Besides upscale shops, Mizner is also composed of rental apartments and offices. The Centre for the Arts at Mizner Park is a cultural center on the north end of the development, which is embodied by an amphitheater and the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The art museum, Victor’s Antiques & Fine Arts, Addison Gallery and the luxurious iPic movie theater are the center’s anchor stores, along with highly rated restaurants Max’s Grille, Villagio, and Truluck’s. Cooper Carry designed the architecture of Mizner as a Mediterranean revival town center. Previously, the site of Mizner Park was a conventional enclosed shopping center called Boca Mall, which opened in 1974 and was redeveloped 18 years later.

The Sample Road Festival Flea Market (www.festival.com) is actually located nearby in Pompano Beach. It is actually the country’s largest indoor flea market, featuring over 500 unique stores under one roof! Aisle by aisle you’ll find everything you ever wanted and specialty items you only dreamed of finding. You can enjoy casual dining in the international food court and a retail shopping experience like no other.  The complex is a quarter-mile long.

DINING OUT:  Legal Sea Foods (www.legalseafoods.com) is located in the  Town Center on Glades Road. At one time there were also Legal locations at the Sawgrass Mills mega-mall and in West Palm Beach. The Boca franchise is strong, popular and extremely well run.

The chain was born in 1950 when George Berkowitz opened a fish market in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He opened it adjacent to his father Harry’s grocery store Legal Cash Market where customers were given “Legal Stamps” (forerunners of S&H green stamps) with their purchases. It’s here that the “Legal” name became synonymous with quality and freshness.

In 1968, the Berkowitz family opened its first seafood restaurant, right next to the fish market. The fish was simply prepared, either broiled or fried, and served on paper plates at communal picnic tables. Despite the low-key trappings, the food was second to none and word quickly spread. This early success led to further expansion and now, six decades later with restaurants along the Eastern Seaboard, the family philosophy endures: Legal Sea Foods is a fish company in the restaurant business.

George’s son, Roger, has been at the helm since 1992 and has expanded the business into new markets while maintaining the company’s focus on its proud tradition and core values.   Besides, of course, Massachusetts, there are Legal  locales in Washington Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

The Boca restaurant has a really pretty look, complete with a large fish tank.  Make sure to ask for manager Laura Nardi, a veteran of the Legal family who makes it her business to visit every table and even assist in the service. Their selection of fresh seafood  is quite plentiful: swordfish, tuna, salmon, rainbow trout, mahi mahi, snapper, grouper, shrimp and sea scallops. Those members of our family who love lobster truly appreciate the serving method here. They take the lobster meat completely  out of the shell, saving you all of the messy cracking and separation. The choice of sides include mashed potatoes, cole slaw, rice pilaf, jasmine rice, French fries, onion strings, spinach.  Legal’s New England  clam chowder is a wise starter. The same goes for the wedge and classic Caesar salads. There are some great desserts here as well, including the three bon bons – bite size scoops of ice cream dipped in chocolate,

Opening hours here are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.,  Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and Noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. You can call 561-447-2112 for reservations.

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 (www.albanyaquaducks.com), 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 (www.cresthillsuites.com), 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 info@cresthillsuites.com. 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 (http://www.desmondhotelsalbany.com/wine-and-dine/simpsons-restaurant.html) 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 p.m.to 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  (www.pfchangs.com) 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 (www.regmovies.com). 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 fandango.com.

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 www.fandango.com 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 (www.dovernh.homewoodsuites.com). This is part of the Lafrance Hospitality Group (www.lafrancehospitality.com), 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 www.dovernh.org.

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 (www.orchardstreetchopshop.com) 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 (www.childrens-museum.org),The Woodman Institute Museum ( www.woodmaninstitutemuseum.org), the Jenny Thompson Swimming Pool (http://www.ci.dover.nh.us/rec_jtpool.htm) represent popular stops for visitors. There are also walking tours and jaunts on trails and at parks to consider. Check out dovernh.org/things-to-do 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 (www.portlandmaine.com) 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 (www.portland.embassysuites.com) 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 (www.davidsrestaurant.com), 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 (www.capeelizabeth.com) marks the entrance to spectacular Casco Bay.

We were lured to Cape Elizabeth by a beautiful resort called The Inn by the Sea (www.innbythesea.com). 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 (www.gatewaytomaine.org) – 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 (www.stageneck.com), 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 (http://www.ogunquitmaine.com/Perkins-Cove.html) 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 (www.mcperkinscove.com), 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 (www.manchestercvb.com) 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 www.lq.com. 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 (roedelcompanies.com) 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 www.visitnh.gov 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 info@mikecohen.ca. Log on to his travel files at www.sandboxworld.com/travel.

New Hampshire:Portsmouth

For years I have heard people speak glowingly about Portsmouth, New Hampshire (http://www.portsmouthnh.com), 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 portsmouthchamber.org 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 (www.dovernh.homewoodsuites.com). 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 (www.watercountry.com). 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 (www.seacoastrep.org), 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 (www.portsmouthoarhouse.com), 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.

Maine: Old Orchard Beach

Old Orchard Beach is a great place to spend the day or evening, but I would strongly suggest for accommodations purposes you stay 25 minutes away in Portland, as we did at the Embassy Suites (www.portland.embassysuites.com).

It’s almost impossible not to have fun at Old Orchard Beach. The low surf makes this a favorite spot for swimming, sunbathing, and making new friends. When the kids get hungry they can explore the boardwalk for pizza, french fries, hot dogs, cheeseburgers and even poutine, or you can choose from the many family style restaurants around town. Try your luck on the video games, jump on a ride, treat yourself to an ice cream or a cold soda. Thrills, chills and frills-take your pick or do it all.

Catering to tourists and families is a way of life in Old Orchard Beach. The beach, the arcades and amusement rides, nightly entertainment, auto races and harness racing are favorite activities in the Old Orchard Beach area. Old Orchard’s Pier is the center of the recreational activities. Extending nearly 500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, it features shops, fast food, and games of skill. During the summer many special events are planned to entertain and mesmerize everyone in the family festivals, fairs, free concerts, street dances, and fireworks most Thursday nights. Besides the Pier, the beachfront businesses offer gift and souvenir shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and arcades.

Old Orchard Beach is easy to reach by the major highways in Maine. Exits 36 and 42 off the Maine Turnpike (I-95) take you quickly into our popular seaside resort, as does the access from U.S. Route 1.
South along Route 9 lies the quiet seaside area of Ocean Park, a historic cottage community noted for its religious, educational, and cultural programs. The Ocean Park Association sponsors numerous lectures, concerts and other events. At the southern end of Saco Bay lies Camp Ellis. Here the mouth of the Saco River meets the sea, and memorable sailboat, whale watching expeditions, or deep-sea fishing trips await. You will also find several interesting shops, a couple of restaurants, and a long breakwater to walk.

The cities of Biddeford, Saco and Scarborough are immediate neighbors, offering a variety of services and shopping. The Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford provides quality medical care for the region. In nearby Prout’s Neck is the Winslow Homer studio where the artist worked at the turn of the century. New England’s largest salt marsh is off Route 9 in neighbouring Scarborough with guided walks and canoe tours.

WHAT TO DO: While Old Orchard’s seven-mile long stretch of wide sandy beach is understandably the major attraction, there is a full range of other things available to see and do in and around the area. Palace Playland (www.palaceplayland.com) is New England’s only beachfront amusement park. It features a giant arcade, beautiful carousel, a kiddieland, a new ferris wheel and the galaxi coaster. It is open Memorial Day to Labor Day and features fireworks every Thursday night by the Pier. What’s great about this place is that you do not have to pay for admission, just for the rides. This can be done by buying tickets or a wrist band for unlimited access. There is no particular entrance or exit, so you can take a break anytime you want and explore the Old Orchard beach strip of shops and restaurants or take a walk on the Pier.
The park is owned by businessman Joel Golder. His son Paul serves as executive vice-president and his brother Fred handles business affairs.
Paul’s wife Silvia works with him at the park. So do his mom Harriet, sister Stacey and Fred’s wife Caron. His Aunt Carole operates two food stands as a tenant in the park. Her son, Adam, works with her, with his wife Thea.

Every effort is made to accommodate special needs patrons. The park itself is easy to navigate in a wheelchair. Individuals with a physical handicap will be given special access to rides when possible.

In 2012 the park added two brand new rides, Riptide and an upgraded kiddie Frog Hopper. Another new addition for the kids is called Dizzy Dragon. It was previously operated at an indoor entertainment center. The new ferris wheel offers a spectacula light show. I was happy to reconnect with Paul, who is very hands on where this park is concerned. We met during my last trip in 2009 and have since corresponded via Facebook. Let me tell you that Palace Playland is a real “upper” on a nice evening and fun for all ages. My favourite experience of the night was Cascade Falls, in which you are pulled up to two steep hills and then dropped down through a stream of water. Be prepared to get soaked. On a warm night, it is an amazing way to get cooled off. There is plenty of parking on adjacent streets for about $5. Take some time to walk the touristy streets where you can buy souvenirs ,beach girl and sample a lot of fun food.
Palace Playland is the perfect place to spend the evening with family and friends. In the summer you are sure to hear a lot of French being spoken as Quebecers travel to this particular part of Maine in drov es.

HISTORY: The earliest records of the Old Orchard Beach area date back to 1653. The first settler, Thomas Rogers, established “Garden by the Sea “in 1657. A few years later ten militiamen repelled 150 attacking Indians near the beach, but a relief party of townspeople coming to support the malitiamen were killed in an ambush, and Roger’s home was burned. The “old” apple orchard, from which the town took its name, a landmark to sailors for many years, was on high land above the long sand beach. In 1820 Maine, formally part of Massachusetts, became a State by act of Congress. In that same year the first Publick House (inn) was opened serving coach travelers and other transients year round. In 1837, E.C. Staples was coaxed into taking summer boarders at his farm for $1.50 per week. Convinced of Old Orchard Beach’s potential as a summer resort, Staples built the first Old Orchard Boarding House near the top of today’s Old Orchard Street. 1842 brought the first steam railroad from Boston to Portland with a station just 2 miles west of town. The first restaurant to sell seafood treats and “shore dinners” opened in 1851 near Staples Street. The Grand Trunk Railroad opened in 1853 connecting Montreal to Old Orchard Beach, enabling Canadian visitors to flock to this closest beach to Montreal and avoid the long carriage trip.The Civil War began in 1861 followed by years of growth and building of homes, streets, stores, livery stables, and beachfront hotels. 1873 brought the Boston & Maine Railroad passing right through Old Orchard Beach and stopping on the site of today’s Chamber of Commerce. In that same year a group of Methodists formed the Old Orchard Campground Association. The Ocean Park Association built “The Temple” in 1881, and nationally known speakers were heard every Sunday all summer.
In 1892 electric trolley cars replaced horse cars to Biddeford and Saco. 1898 proved to be an unfortuitous year to complete the first Pier. Built of steel and measuring 1,770 feet long and 20 feet above the tides, their Pier was severely damaged in November of that same year. 1900 brought the first town hall and 1902 the first amusement area complete with roller skating, merry-go-round, rides, games, and refreshment stands. The Portland to Old Orchard Beach Electric Railway opened in 1903 where 14 miles of track were traveled in under one hour for $20.00. The great fire of 1907 destroyed the entire beachfront as firemen from Portland, Biddeford, and Saco rushed to the beach but struggled to contain the blaze, hampered by low water pressure. Rebuilding began at once, and one project “the standpipe” assured adequate water for all. March 1909 brought another damaging storm destroying “White City” at the end of the Pier and reducing the Pier to 700 feet. An international auto race was held on the beach in 1910 with Dave Lewis winning the 100 mile race. The 1920′s and 30′s were the Big Band era. All the famous dance bands, Guy Lombardo, Rudy Valle, Duke Ellington, and more visited the Pier Casino each summer, and thousands danced over the waves under the revolving crystal ball.

Sparked by Lindbergh’s daring flight, many Trans-Atlantic flights took advantage of Old Orchard Beach’s long stretch of wide hard packed sand to attempt their own crossings. The storm of February 1978 almost demolished the Pier, and a new pier was immediately planned. Today’s Pier opened in June 1980.

New Hampshire: North Conway

With a backdrop of over 700,000 acres of protected White Mountain National Forest and boasting the tallest peak in the East (Mt. Washington 6,288 feet.), visitors to the North Conway area have many activities to choose from which span all four seasons. This includes some of the finest skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, golfing, fishing, canoeing, camping, family attractions, scenic tours, shopping and leaf peeping in the entire country! These activities are complemented by a wide array of lodging choices. While in the area visitors can shop at the outlet malls, and other local hand-craft, antique and gift shops, see a play at one of the area playhouses, ride one of the area’s scenic train rides, visit one of the many area family attractions and enjoy the local cuisine in one of the nearly 100 area restaurants and cafes. And remember, it is all tax free!
For shopping, the Settlers Green Outlet Village on Route 16 and the White Mountain Outlet Stores on White Mountain Highway attract most of the traffic. Log on to www.northconwaynh.com.Santa’s Village and Storyland are nearby and big favorites with the kids, who also have outdoor waterslides, mini-golf, go-karts, museums and trains to select from. This was our third visit to the area. We discovered, for the first time, North Conway Village. This amounts to a few blocks of neat shops and restaurants.

WHERE TO STAY: One of North Conway New Hampshire’s newest hotels, the Hampton Inn and Suites (www.hamptoninnnorthconway.com), boasts a four-storey, attached, indoor water park as well as an on-site fitness center! The hotel only opened in 2006, yet it still looks spanking new. When you check in, there is a large plate of soft chocolate chip cookies to welcome you.

There are 97 rooms and suites here. Our family decided to get connecting rooms, which translated into a very nice suite-like atmosphere. One room had a king size bed and a large walk-in shower; the other two queen beds. We requested a small fridge for the room. A few doors down was a large on-site laundry room. People tend to come here for extended stays to enjoy all of the attractions in the area, so having such an option can be a real bonus.
The hotel has complimentary wireless high-speed internet access, a hot breakfast buffet served until 10 a.m. each day, “on the run” breakfast bags for folks on the go, an on-site fitness center, a business center with computers and a printer, an on-site suite shop convenience store and even a babysitting service.

Hampton’s new Cloud Nine bedding boasts pillow top mattresses and all white duvets. I really appreciated the small portable cushioned laptop tables, which makes typing while sitting in bed or in a chair a great deal more comfortable. There is no extra charge here to bring your pet. Ditto for cribs or rollaways.

The hotel plans different activities, such as movie nights and BINGO games.

Rates here include unlimited use of the indoor water park, home to Fernando the Frog, a six-foot amphibian with a mini water slide connected to a heated pool. The water park features dozens of interactive water activities and slides, twisting flumes, a raining umbrella, and more! I must have gone down the open yellow slide more than a dozen times, lying flat on my back and plunging at a rapid speed. It was a blast. Afterwards I decompressed in the nice warm jacuzzi. There is nothing quite like having access to such a facility and being able to go back and forth to your room in the same building. If you are in the area and staying elsewhere, you can pay a fee to gain entry to the water park.

Water parks have been known to be popular activities for children with autism.

“For the water park, I would suggest this only for a child who would not be over stimulated by the environment,” says Tania Piperni, an Autism Spectrum Disorder consultant at the English Montreal School Board. “If planning to go to an indoor water park, I would suggest parents try going to a local water park first, in order to see what reactions are elicited and it would help them prepare for a future visit.
There are 10 handicapped accessible rooms. Three are specifically for the hearing impaired; five others are accessible for hearing impaired, with bath tubs that have grab bars. One other, also equipped for the hearing impaired, has a roll in shower. The hotel is owned and managed by Olympia Hotels (www.theolympiacompanies.com), headquartered in Portland Maine.

The Hampton Inn and Suites is located at 1788 White Mountain Hwy. For more information call toll Free: (888) H20-PARK or (603) 356-7736.

MINI GOLF: Whenever our family goes on summer vacation, we always seek out a good spot for miniature golf. The much respected Pirates Cove Adventure Golf (www.piratescove.net) chain is present here in North Conway at 2001 White Mountain Highway with not one, but two 18 hole courses. Some people do both of them back to back. Our plan was to do so over two evenings. We started off on what was considered the more challenging course, featuring a neat mountain cave, cascading waterfalls and some tricky holes. It was a great deal of fun. The course itself was nicely arranged and the pirate theme was present throughout. If you are headed to North Conway with a group and wish to arrange a mini-golf tournament, call ahead to Josh Power at 603-356-8807. Oh yes, regrettably it rained the second evening we were there so we will just have to head back to this impressive course on our next trip. This was the first time I played mini golf in two years and I was excited to sink two holes-in-one. There are nine holes on the front course that are accessible and can be played twice., notes manager Josh Power.

DINING: Close to the Hampton Inn and Suites is Merlino’s Steakhouse (www.merlinosteakhouse.com), independently owned and operated by the Luciano family since 1967. Merlino’s features only Certified Angus Beef, which assures customers the finest quality beef available. They also serve some of the finest Italian food, using time tested family recipes, chops and ribs, fish and poultry, Merlinos has a great children’s menu, featuring ziti with jumbo meatball, kids smoothies, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers and pizza. You can even get a kids smoothie. There is a generous assortment of appetizers, soups and salads. I strongly recommend the Prime Rib, which comes in six, 12 and 18 ounce portions. The garlic mashed potatoes on the size are delicious. If Caesar salad is to your liking, a large bowl will be brought to the table for everyone to share. They even serve lobster, in the shell or a lazy man style (all cut up). The lobster macaroni and cheese is a new creation. I had the 14 ounce Delmonico steak and it was tender and juicy. Our server Dan, recognizing that we were from Quebec, brushed up on some of the French he learned in high school and gave us a nice “Bonjour” upon taking our orders and even a “Merci.” The two floor facility was busy on the evening we came, including a spirited engagement party just across the room from us.

Lake Placid, New York

Over the course of many years my family and I passed the exit for Lake Placid, New York on Highway 87 and wondered when we would actually visit the former Olympic Village. Well, over the recent holidays that day finally arrived – several days in fact.

On our way back from New York City, Lake Placid was added to our itinerary and I can now strongly recommend others do the same. This is a four season destination. We got a taste of the winter experience and now we are tempted to go back in the heat of the summer. I cannot say enough about the personnel at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitor’s Bureau/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (www.lakeplacid.com), who really helped point me in the right direction.

In Lake Placid, winter brings the sparkle of snowflakes, the twinkle of lights reflecting on Mirror Lake and the soothing glow of crackling fireplaces in Lake Placid. The area boasts a world-class array of trails for skiing and riding Of course things were a bit different this year. Not much snow had fallen up until early January, when we departed. Therefore the lake was not frozen and automatic snowmaking machines had to work overtime.

For those readers already looking for good March Break options, pencil in Lake Placid. By then you should be able to slide down the toboggan chute on frozen Mirror Lake, go ice skating, take an invigorating dog sled ride, and revel in the beauty of the Adirondack wilderness by snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or ice climbing. There is also the option of exploring the endless Adirondack snowshoeing trails to see the forest from a whole new perspective.

Whether you’re an expert, or it’s your first time trying a new winter sport, Lake Placid is the perfect place to enjoy a winter getaway.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at the 92 room Northwoods Inn (www.northwoodsinn.com), situated right on Main Street, a short walk to the Olympic Arena and Oval, a public beach, numerous restaurants, a movie theatre and quaint shops of Lake Placid. The hotel offers a sidewalk café, two restaurants and “The Cabin,” a warm and cozy fireplace bar overlooking Main Street. Their rooftop bar presents a majestic view of the entire town plus the High Peaks and Whiteface Mountain. The breakfasts and gourmet burgers here have been voted “The best in Lake Placid.”

This is an all suite hotel and includes extended stay spots with kitchenettes and affordable rates. The lakeside rooms offer great views of Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains while others include balconies where guests can sit outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air. All of the rooms feature air conditioning, cable TV and separate sitting areas. There is complimentary onsite parking for overnight hotel guests only. Parking is limited, and in high demand periods, overflow spots are available, for a nominal fee, in the Lake Placid Municipal Parking Lot, one block from the hotel.

The Inn features the Tempur-Pedic “Weightless Sleep” mattresses, coddling you as no other mattress can. The revolutionary pressure-relieving material conforms to every point on your body, with relaxing molecular memory that gives you the best night of sleep you’ll ever have.
The Northwoods Inn is a hotel with lots of character and an interesting history. Since the 1800s, Lake Placid has been a destination to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. By 1900 the village was recognized as a resort destination with seven major hotels and several smaller inns and cottages. A hotelier named Frank Swift had the dream to build a modern, fireproof hotel, where he could host high profile guests with all of the luxuries and comforts of a city hotel. In 1926 he achieved this goal with the construction of the Hotel Marcy. It was named for Mount Marcy, the grandest mountain in New York. In addition to the new building, the Hotel Marcy included several former summer homes to be rented as cottages and the old Northwoods Inn, which was used for housing staff, storage and kitchen facilities. In total, the hotel included 160 guest rooms, 125 bathrooms, a dining room and meeting space.

The Marcy was unlike anything else in Lake Placid and it immediately became popular with both local residents and visitors. It was a choice location for weddings, parties and community events. The hotel also attracted many tourists, including celebrities George Burns and Gracie Allen, Kate Smith, and others from that bygone era.

The Northwoods Inn was purchased by the Smith family five years ago. Gary Smith has handed the day-to-day operations to his son Garrett, who has innkeeper spends a lot of time mixing with guests and getting their feedback. He is working hard at building the property Free WiFi was recently added to all guestrooms and public areas. The renovation of guest rooms is next. For more information you can call 518-523-1818 for special packages, group rates or to make a reservation.

The hotel is well suited for guests in wheelchairs. The parking lot leads to the back entrance of the hotel, where there is a ramp bringing you to either the lobby or the elevator to your room. Door entrances are large and the suites themselves have a nice passageway when you first enter. The elevator will also take you to the street level, where both sides of the street offer some lovely shops and restaurants to explore.

MEALS: From traditional American cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere to a delicious buffet dinner, such as we were treated to on New Year’s Eve at the Northwoods Inn, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your craving. We discovered Milano North (www.milanonorth.com). Modeled on its Albany cousin, this 110 seat, Northern Italian bistro features a dynamic open kitchen design, wood-fired oven pizzas, freshly-prepared homemade pastas and entrees using only the finest of ingredients. Located one block from the Northwoods Inn, Milano North offers a warm and contemporary Adirondack ambience. We absolutely loved our meals: a piping hot and delicious tomato soup, delicious salads and beautifully prepared entrees of grilled scallops, the best veal parmesan I can remember having (with some linguini on the side) and a grilled shrimp dish with fettuccini.

The restaurant offers a nice second floor view of the charming downtown. You can also catch your favorite game at the bar in its relaxed and inviting atmosphere. Head Chef Ryan Preston oversees a very impressive menu and general manager David McKenty greets everyone with a smile and some Lake Placid trivia.

Milano North is fully handicapped accessible from the upper tier of the municipal parking lot. There are a number of handicapped parking spaces located just outside the front entrance to the restaurant and everything inside is all on one level.

WHAT TO DO: Visit Lake Placid and invent your own perfect day. Sheltered among the Adirondack Park’s six million acres, the alpine village offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, unique attractions, shopping, dining and a variety of fun. There are mountains to climb, rivers to fish, serene lakes to kayak and vast evergreen forests to explore. Bring your bike and cruise through the region’s dramatic landscape, from quiet country roads to scenic mountain passes. Or pack your clubs and play a round on some of the beautiful Lake Placid golf courses—the region boasts 13 including five signature championship layouts. You can also attend one of the many enriching events at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts or catch a movie at the old-fashioned theater on Main Street.

OLYMPIC PASSPORT: Lake Placid was the proud host of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic Games. In all of the four seasons, this celebrated history can be experienced with a full range of activities from ORDA – the Olympic Regional Development Authority (http://www.orda.org/corporate). Make sure to purchase the Olympic Sites Passport, which gives you access to every one of the Olympic venues—from Whiteface to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of their ticket offices, the passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value.

ORDA was originally created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. ORDA operates the Whiteface Mountain ski area located in the Town of Wilmington, just 15 minutes outside the Village of Lake Placid; the Olympic Center; the Olympic Jumping Complex and Olympic Sports Complex; and Gore Mountain ski area located in North Creek, New York — 80 miles south of Lake Placid.

Whiteface’s Adaptive Snowsports Program is for adults and children with disabilities who want to learn how to ski and snowboard. First-timers needn’t worry; lessons range from “Never-Ever” to the advanced skier/snowboarder. Lift ticket, lesson and rental adaptive equipment are included. The duration of the lesson is usually two hours, depending on the student. Payment is required at the time of reservation.

ACTIVITIES: Fun in the Adirondacks takes on a whole new meaning when shared with the family. With Lake Placid’s storybook setting, it’s no surprise that this quaint alpine village offers unrivaled thrills, unforgettable adventures and historical exploration for all who visit. From museums and theater performances to classic family amusements such as bowling and miniature golf, the Adirondacks have an array of activities and attractions for moms, dads and kids of any age.

For sports fans, be sure to check out the Olympic facilities including the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and the various sports venues such as the hockey arena, home to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, take a ride on the bobsled run or ski or ride down the highest vertical drop in the East at Whiteface Mountain. For some history and culture, visit the nearby Wild Center Museum or plan on catching one of the family friendly shows at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

SKIING: As America’s very first winter resort, Lake Placid has skiing and riding covered. Whiteface, the only ski area in the East to have hosted the Olympic Games, boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies with terrain for any skill level. The mountain’s 86 trails are serviced by high speed lifts and the Cloudsplitter Gondola—and with terrain parks, slides, glades and miles of groomed runs, you’re sure to find something that suits you. Whiteface is open generally from the very end of November until the middle of April

TOBOGGAN CHUTE: The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute (www.northelba.org/html/toboggan_chute_.html), located on Parkside Drive, adjacent to the Post Office, has been in operation since the 1960’s. The North Elba Park District currently operates the slide. A 30 foot high converted ski jump trestle sends toboggans down ice covered chutes onto frozen Mirror Lake. Depending on weather conditions, toboggans can travel over 1,000 feet once they reach the frozen lake surface. To insure the safety of riders, only one sled is sent down at a time. Families have always said that their visit to the Toboggan Chute was a highlight of their winter vacation.

Since the actual outrun of the slide is the frozen lake surface, the official opening day for operation varies from year to year. They have been open as early as December 26 and one year it wasn’t until February before they were in operation. A good 10 to 12 inches of good solid ice is necessary to insure the safety of the guests.

Admission prices allow guests to slide as much as they can during the scheduled time. Toboggans are rented and can hold two to four people. During Christmas and President’s week lines are often long and the wait can be 15 to 20 minutes between rides. Info 518-523-2591

OLYMPIC JUMPING: See firsthand the ramp that ski jumpers launch from before flying over the length of a football field. Take the chairlift alongside the jumping hills to the glass enclosed elevator to the observation deck of the 120K jump. At the top you will find a panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks as you stroll through the ski jumpers preparation room. Then get a bird’s eye view of what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp. Nearby, aerialists will spring off steep kickers on the freestyle hill in a flurry of twists & turns.
Please log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/index.php.

You can also ride the 26-storey elevator to the top of the tower and view the world from a ski jumper’s perspective while you take in the panoramic view of the beautiful Adirondack High Peaks and other Olympic Venues.

TUBING: The newest attraction at the Olympic Jumping Complex goes downhill fast. Ride a tube down their newly constructed chute for over 700 feet of fun under the lights. With every tubing ticket purchased, funds go to support USA Ski Jumping. This is opened December 26 through March 20 (or as weather permits). The rate is $9 per hour. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/tube.php

OLYMPIC SPORTS COMPLEX: Home to the combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track – the only one east of the Rockies – as well as 50 km of groomed cross country ski trails and a biathlon shooting range, the Olympic Sports Complex is a study in extremes. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a comet, this is the place to start. Bobsled rides, with a professional driver and brakeman, begin at the half-mile point on the track (the same one used by Olympic racers) and wind through Shady, Labyrinth and The Heart–turns known by racers the world over.
You’ll feel the rumble of the sled’s blades passing over the track’s iced surface, slide through one turn, bank high on the next one and pick up speed on the straightaway. You’ll go faster than you’re allowed to drive a car through town. Then you’ll get to the bottom and want to do it again. That is the way the one daring member of our family described the experience. For your bravery, they give you a bobsled lapel pin, a four by six commemorative team photo, t-shirt, a Lake Placid Bobsled Experience sticker and membership in the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton

SKELETON: At the Olympic Sports Complex, you’ll have the chance to try the sport of Skeleton. This is your childhood sled on overdrive. Thirty miles per hour never seemed as fast as when you are lying on your stomach rocketing down an icy chute. Your experience includes: sliding from Start five, a four by six photo of you and your sled, a team t-shirt, a one year membership to the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

OLYMPIC CENTRE AND MUSEUM:
The site of the historic 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games, including the legendary “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in 1980, the Centre houses three ice surfaces, the Convention Center at Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. This unique venue is active year round. The Olympic Center hosts numerous international and national events, youth and adult hockey tournaments, and Figure Skating Championships throughout the year. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/museum.php.
ARTS: It’s no surprise that the Adirondacks have such a thriving arts community—the region’s vast forests, peaceful waterways and scenic mountains have long served as a muse for the creative. The region’s striking landscape offers an inspirational backdrop more beautiful and more vivid than one can imagine—and it changes with each new season. Today, artists and musicians of all genres are inspired by the natural setting and sheltered solitude of the mountains. Lake Placid boasts several venues for the arts and hosts a variety of performances — from classical music, to family-friendly shows, to rock concerts and community plays and musicals.

The Adirondacks are home to professional and community theaters, studios and renowned music schools. Likewise, museums and historical societies dot the region, preserving Lake Placid history and displaying artifacts of the Adirondacks’ storied past.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts offers programs in the areas of music, theater, dance, art and film in addition to galleries, exhibitions and workshops. Similarly, the Lake Placid Institute works to enhance and celebrate cultural life throughout the Adirondacks. Working with other regional art organizations, the Institute develops and presents programs including chamber music seminars, roundtable discussions, and poetry and photo contests, among others.

SHOP: Saunter down Lake Placid’s Main Street and prepare yourself for a singular shopping experience. At first glance, it may seem like Main Street, USA– from the local bakery to the old fashioned movie theatre to the public library. But if you look closer there is a discernible cosmopolitan flair as Lake Placid’s Main Street fuses the special character of the region with the goods, sundries and cuisines of the rest of the world.As you wander in and out of this retail menagerie you may notice that many of the shops’ owners can be found behind the counters. Strike up a conversation—and be sure to take a piece of the Adirondacks and your perfect day in Lake Placid home with you. Whether you’re looking for a fun souvenir, rustic Adirondack furniture, handmade keepsakes, high-tech gear or designer clothes, shopping in Lake Placid offers the full spectrum of unique gifts, necessities and must-have mementos. There are a number of excellent outlet stores , Gap and Van Heusen to name a couple.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont

If you have never been to Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont (www.smuggs.com), then you are missing out on something exceptional.

This is a year round mountain vacation resort, located 30 miles east of the Burlington International Airport and five miles south of Jeffersonville on Route 108. The resort is easily reached from Montreal (91 miles), Boston (225 miles) and New York City (342 miles). We actually came via Toronto, spending a couple of nights first in Burlington –a great place to shop.

Smugglers’ Notch offers a complete Mountain Village with convenient restaurants, lounges, entertainment, sport shop, 10 tennis courts, a driving range, multiple and magnificent pools, Rum Runners’ Hideaway reservoir, playgrounds, woodland miniature and disc golf courses, a full service conference and banquet center, a U.S. Post Office, a real estate office, a country store, TREASURES child care center, a welcome and reservation center, and two teen centers.

Summer programs go from June through September. All accommodations are mountainside condominiums ranging from studios to five bedroom townhouses with fully-equipped living spaces and kitchens. Lodgings and facilities are all located in the walkabout Village. A free on-demand shuttle service also runs daily throughout the Village. We stayed in a beautiful two bedroom slopeside condominium. Homes are prepared for your arrival with bath towels, linens, blankets and pillows. Your condominium will also have hotel size bars of bath soap, toilet paper, paper towels, dish towels, dish soap, sponges and trash bags. The kitchen in your village home includes pots, pans, plates, glasses, silverware, cooking utensils, a toaster and an auto-drip coffee maker. All homes have a stove , refrigerator, a stacking washer and dryer or access to a washer and dryer in the building. We had four flatscreen televisions, a DVD/VCR player and a sound system. Private rooms do not have a kitchen.

Smugglers’Notch currently has 660 units, with a new phase of 35 on the way. “We are growing by about five percent per year,” says managing director Bill Stritzler, who became a homeowner in 1977, was hired in 1986 and bought the resort in 1996.

There are presently more than 7,000 owners, ranging from time-shares of two weeks a year to those who are permanent owners and share in the profits when their units are rented during the year. This is a year-round vacation paradise, with visitors coming from across Eastern Canada, the United States, Europe and Puerto Rico. It is a favorite spot for family and organization reunions.

Here is a look at the summer deals in place:

-New is the Adventure Connection Vacation Package, which maximizes vacation fun for active families with the best adventures Smugglers’ has to offer. Guests on this comprehensive package can create special memories by enjoying thrilling activities like the Zip Line Canopy Tour, llama treks, Segway tours, kayak rental, and more. The Adventure Connection also includes children’s programs for ages three to 17 that include nature discovery, games, arts and crafts, and pool and waterslide fun; in addition, children ages eight to 15 may elect to concentrate on performance, arts and crafts, nature and hiking or adventure and games. This package, with a minimum four night stay, starts at $,2132 for a family of four in a one bedroom condominium.

-The Adventure Connection joins Smugglers’ popular FamilyFest and SimplySmuggs Vacation Packages. Offering fun for kids and freedom for parents, the FamilyFest Vacation Package also includes Smugglers’ award-winning daylong children’s programs. Rates for a family of four in a one bedroom mountainside condominium start at $1,348 for a four day/for night stay on FamilyFest.

-The SimplySmuggs Vacation Package offers flexibility to families who want to make a-la-carte selections from the Resort’s varied menu of award-winning children’s programs for ages three to 17. When registering for those programs prior to arrival, families will enjoy a discounted rate of 25 percent on the children’s programs they select. Vacation package rates for a family of four in a one bedroom mountainside condominium start at $1,060 for a four day/four night stay on the SimplySmuggs Vacation Package.

The SimplySmuggs and FamilyFest Vacation Packages also offer discounts for families interested in children’s specialty camps focusing on outdoor adventure, tennis, skateboarding, and videography, which are included in the Adventure Connection Vacation Package. All three packages include fully-equipped mountainside condominium lodging; unlimited use of eight heated pools and four waterslides; daily guided walks and hikes; two teen centers; mini golf; disc golf; and use of the skate park. Family programs and entertainment included in the package are bingo, dance parties, a family magic show, and more. Nightly entertainment for adults is also included. Each package features unlimited use of the FunZone Family Entertainment Center, an indoor play center for all ages featuring climbing and bouncy inflatables such as a giant slide and obstacle course, plus a kids’ climbing wall, miniature golf, and arcade games.

WATER PLAYGROUNDS: Smugglers’ has four water playgrounds with eight pools and four waterslides. At the Mountainside Pool there is the Giant Rapid River Ride, the Turtle Slide, Little Smugglers’ Lagoon, bathhouse, snack bar, and sun decks. Over at the Courtside Pool, you can enjoy the Flume Waterslide, wading pool, Olympic-sized pool, two 14-person jacuzzi tubs and a bathhouse and snack center. Rum Runners’ Hideaway features 10-acres of natural water, Fidget Ladder, Aqua Jump, fishing, canoe and paddleboat rentals, a picnic pavilion and changing room, with spectacular mountain views. Then there is Notchville Park, a family playground amidst towering maples with the Giant Swing, Raven’s Roost Climbing Tower, three terraced pools with nearly 5,000 square feet of water area, Peregrine’s Picnic Pavilion, sand volleyball court, croquet, tumbling brook, frog pond, and bathhouse. Notchville also features the Twister, a 140 foot body flume waterslide.

The Village and Sterling Ponds provide great trout fishing, and the Lamoille River and Lake Champlain (the “Sixth Great Lake”) are nearby.

SUMMER FUN UNIVERSITY: Each family member is entitled to join in the daily Summer Fun University programs included in the FamilyFest and Adventure Connection Vacation Packages: Discovery Dynamos (for 3-4 year olds), Trail Blazers (5-6), Adventure Rangers (7-10), the Notch Squad (11-15), Mountain Explorers (16-17), and Adult Adventures. Dozens of family activities spanning the ages are also included.

ZIP LINE: Following a mountain brook from high above Smugglers’ Notch Resort Village, the ArborTrek Zip Line Canopy Tour at Smugglers’ descends through mature stands of hemlock, white birch, and sugar maple. The two and a half to three-hour tour includes riding down more than 4,000 feet of zip lines, crossing sky bridges, and rappeling from trees, offering a memorable and thrilling experience for ages eight and older. The tour is included in the Adventure Connections Vacation Package. It just opened last December. “Our partner in this venture, Mike Smith, was driving through the area looking for a spot to introduce zip lining,” explains Lisa Howe, vice-president of new marketing opportunities.“When he pulled into our lot, he said ‘this is it.”

Other unique fee-based programs include fishing and paddling adventures, golf instruction, health and wellness offerings, arts and crafts classes, and more. Special Facilities

TREASURES Child Care Center is a 5,400 foot modern center for youngsters six weeks to three years old with special parent and kid-friendly features such as three age-appropriate playrooms, a fenced adjacent playground, and dedicated parking.

Four playground sites scattered around the resort are fitted with play structures for kids between the ages of six months and 12 years of age. They include the TREASURES Playground at the day care center, the Secret Playground near the Courtside Pool and the Big Kid’s Park nestled among the condominium clusters. Three additional playgrounds are located in condominium neighborhoods for use by those guests.

There are two teen centers: Teen Alley for ages 13-15 and Outer Limits for ages 16 and older.

An on-site outdoor golf driving range with Professional PGA and LPGA instruction for all ages includes equipment. There are 15 stations for golf clinics, private sessions, family fun events, and many organized programs for youth and adults. Several great golf courses are nearby.

Smugglers’ Summer family vacations start at $1,060 for a family of four staying for four nights in a mountainside one-bedroom condominium. Pricing is determined by the length of the stay, the rate period, and the size of the condominium. In addition to lodging, packages include unlimited use of Smugglers’ pools, waterslides, and hot tubs; use of the FunZone Family Recreation Center; daily guided hiking and walking treks; and special entertainment for families and adults. Additional programs are available that are fee-based.

Vacation deposits are refunded on cancellations received seven or more days prior to the guest’s scheduled arrival. Later cancellations will have the deposit credited to a future stay within the next two years. This place guarantees family fun.

AUTUMN FUN: In the fall the Smugglers mountains – Morse, Sterling, and Madonna – in the Green Mountain chain rise to a 3,610 foot elevation from the Village. Historic Smugglers’ Notch pass is an interesting drive; the Long Trail, a hiking path through the entire length of Vermont, crosses Madonna for easy access.

Open daily through mid September, warm weather permitting, is the Mountainside Water Playground with an outdoor lap pool, Little Smugglers’ Lagoon, 330′ Giant Rapid River Ride and Turtle Mini-Waterslide. There is also a bath house with showers and changing rooms. The courtside pool is an indoor heated facility with hot tubs and bath house, available from mid-September on. The Village Pond and Sterling Pond provide great trout fishing, and the Lamoille River & Lake Champlain (the “Sixth Great Lake”) are nearby. Special Facilities

Disc Golf offers 18 holes on a beautiful woodland course. Disc rentals are available. This is a game for all ages that combines a walk through the woods with the fun of throwing a disc.Tennis is available daily and features eight outdoor clay courts and two outdoor hard courts. Equipment is available.

Six playground sites scattered around the resort are fitted with play structures for kids between the ages of six months and 12 years. They include the Pirate Ship Playground, the Fairy Castle Playground, and the Firefly Garden in the main Village; and the Star Playground and the Big Kid’s Park nestled among the condominium clusters. There is also a playground at TREASURES child care center. Vacation Value with Smugglers’ fall packages

An AutumnFest package offers Smugglers’ exceptional lodging and programming at the lowest rates of the year! The package includes lodging and use of the pool and hot tubs. Guests also have the opportunity to enjoy Smugglers’ woodland miniature golf, shuffleboard, basketball and volleyball. The cost for AutumnFest for a family of four staying two nights in a two bedroom condominium is $410; other lodging sizes and stays are available. With stays of three nights or more, an additional night is free.

WINTER: Ski and snowboard season is from late November until mid-April. Three interconnected mountains comprise northern Vermont’s biggest vertical drop at 2,610 feet. Skiers and snowboarders are welcome on all trails. Morse Mountain, the beginners’ haven, rises directly out of the Resort Village. Sterling Mountain’s terrain appeals especially to intermediates, while Madonna Mountain is the expert skiers’ mountain. Snowfall

Smugglers’ Notch averages 316 feet of snow per season(based on a five year average). Snowmaking covers 62 percent of total terrain. The $2.5 million in improvements over the last several years include a 20 million gallon reservoir and additional pumps and guns. More than 100 snow guns are water and energy efficient. Grooming capabilities are enhanced by a winch cat groomer, power tiller, and Zaugg groomer to maintain and contour terrain park features. Lifts

On Morse, The Village Lift is 5,200 feet long and Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift, a special low-to-the-ground beginner’s chairlift, is 4,600 feet long. The Morse Highlands Lift is 1,400 feet long. The Sterling Lift is 5700 feet, the T-Bar on Sterling is 1,300 feet. Madonna I is 6,600 feet, and Madonna II is 4,700feet long. Sir Henry’s Learning & Fun Park on Morse also has a handle tow. Total: six chairs and two surface lifts. On Morse, two conveyor lifts service learning areas. There is an additional conveyor lift at TREASURES Child Care Center to serve the Little Rascals on Snow, a ski instruction program for toddlers.

Smugglers’ famous base-to-summit Madonna 1 Lift offers 360-degree views of Canada, New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the east, and Lake Champlain to the west. Lift Hours Three of Smugglers’ lifts–one each on Morse, Sterling, and Madonna–open at 8 a.m. on weekends. On weekdays, all lifts open at 9 a.m. except the Village Lift and the Sterling Summit Lift, which open at 8:30 am. All lifts close at 4 p.m.
Smugglers’ has 78 trails on 300 acres of marked and patrolled acreage. There are an additional 700 acres of unmarked and patrolled terrain, for a total of 1,000 acres, the largest in Vermont. The longest run is 3 miles from the Madonna summit to the Village. Popular trails include the Garden Path on Morse, and Chilcoot, FIS, Rumrunner, Treasure and Black Snake on Madonna and Sterling. The Black Hole on Madonna Mountain is the only triple black diamond trail in the East. The trail system can be broken down as follows: 19 percent easier, 50 percent intermediate, 25 percent expert, and 6 percent extreme.

Smugglers’ Snow Sport University offers group and private instruction for all ages and ability levels. All-day ski and snowboard camps include Discovery Dynamos (ages 3-5; snowboard camp begins at age 4), Adventure Rangers (ages 6-10), and the Notch Squad (ages 11-14). Mountain Explorers is for teens ages 15-17 and includes two hours of on-slope instruction or a full-day camp during holiday weeks. For beginner boarders, Night School for Boarding is offered evenings twice weekly. The Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Adventure Center provides snowshoe and cross country skiing instruction and outings. Sir Henry’s Learning and Fun Park is worth a gander. Five acres on Morse Mountain make up this park, which is the site of Night School for Boarding for rank beginners on selected evenings, and a tube-sliding area. The Jib and Jump Park on the Log Jam Trail on Morse Highlands offers more space for beginner features such as rolls, a table, a box, and a sculpted trail. Perfect for those new to parks and the fun offered in them!

Birch Run Park has 1,000 feet of park on the lengthened Birch Run trail on Sterling Mountain. This trail is peppered with modified table tops, rolls, and spines for entry and intermediate level skiers and riders – the learning place for those aspiring to big air at Prohibition Park.
The Zone is located on the Practice Slope on Sterling with the biggest hits and rails for expert and championship riders.The Zone is the site for Altitude Adjustment events in which intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders can show their stuff with freestyle stunts. Music, prizes and product giveaways add to the fun. Family Fun Guarantee!
Smugglers’ Notch guarantees Family Fun at Snow Sport University! Smugglers’ guarantees that each member of the family will learn to ski or snowboard or will improve technique, regardless of ability level – or the entire lesson portion of that person’s vacation package will be refunded.

DINING: Three Mountain Lodge (www.threemountainlodge.com) is located on scenic and historic Smugglers’ Notch Road (Route 108) in Jeffersonville, Vermont, just a five minute drive from the resort. Originally built in 1966 by the University of Vermont for their Outing Club, the lodge has a 30 year tradition of hosting good times. It later housed the UVM & Johnson State College ski teams, as well as a state-run alternative school. In the late seventies, Smugglers’ Notch Resort purchased the property, gave it the name Three Mountain Lodge, and returned it to use as a ski dorm. In 1983, Steve and Colleen Blood came to Jeffersonville and began their operation, at first continuing the ski lodging tradition business in winter and a restaurant the rest of the year. In 1984 they purchased the property. With the restaurant’s continued growth, it became hard to accommodate ski groups. To the disappointment of many loyal guests and friends, lodging had to be phased out. This is a popular spot to dine. They are open six days a week and closed on Mondays. Steve or Colleen usually greet you at the door and bring a large whiteboard to your table containing all of the specials. There are plenty of meat and seafood selections. The prime rib is one of their specialities, charcoal broiled in 10 and 16 ounce servings. It comes with two sides. I opted for the mashed potatoes and baked macaroni. Scallops can be prepared broiled or grilled.The steaks, broiled trout, shrimp scampi, slow cooked ribs and rack of lamb also looked great. Make sure not to leave without trying their homemade ice cream . We sampled the blueberry and vanilla flavors. You can call 802-644-5736 or email threemt@together.net.

Stowe: Vermont

Only Stowe, Vermont combines a classic 200-year-old village with Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. This unique juxtaposition imbues Stowe with a character reminiscent of great European mountain resorts. Just log on to www.gostowe.com, where you will find a chalk full of ideas to enjoy at this year-round vacation spot. You can also call 1-877-GOSTOWE.

My family and I recently spent some time in the area. It was in fact our first visit there in a decade. Though Stowe enjoys an international reputation as a winter destination, it is just as exciting in summer. Sparkling streams attract anglers, splashers, and paddlers. Horseback riders gallop through wildflower strewn meadows. Bikers and hikers take to the recreation path and to more challenging mountain trails as well. Stowe’s golf and tennis offer challenges for newcomer and old pro alike or enjoy a glider ride soaring above Stowe’s spectacular terrain.

Stowe was charted on June 8, 1763 when Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire designated 64 men as “Proprietors.'” However, no settlement occurred until 1793, two years after Vermont, as the fourteenth state joined the original thirteen of the U.S.A. The town has 4,700 residents, over 70 unique shops, more than 45 restaurants and cafés and some 50 different lodging options.

Autumn in Stowe deserves special mention. Vermont is world-famous for its spectacular fall foliage, and Stowe is Vermont ‘s most beautiful and dramatic fall foliage viewing venue. You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do in Stowe. You can visit Vermont’s number one tourist attraction: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream plant, a mecca for lovers of premium ice cream. Take a tour of the facility and watch those delicious flavors being made. Samples and gifts are available. Not far up the road are a number of specialty food shops: Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Visitor’s Center and Cafe, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cabot Creamery Annex, plus maple syrup and other goodies for which this part of Vermont is famous. At the Cold Hollow Cider Mill you can watch them making cider from local apple orchards, and sample unique mustards and jams for which they are famous. There are antique shops and craft outlets too.

Of course, downhill skiing and snowboarding are the most popular winter activities, but there are also plenty of other fun things to do! For example: snowshoeing, cross country skiing (there are four touring centers in Stowe), skating, indoor tennis and sleigh rides. Stowe has over 60 retail stores for shopping year round and every one is locally owned! There are many more activities and special events of all sizes!
Stowe is a wonderfully eclectic village that is home to a thriving arts community and exciting cultural happenings. Gifted performers and artists are attracted and inspired by this natural splendor. They, in turn, enrich Stowe with cultural and artistic sophistication more typical of large cities.
There are museums and art galleries right in the village, and an incredible array of artists, artisans and crafts people plying their talents and selling their wares. From painting, photography and sculpture, to jewellery, glass and fashion – something unique and intriguing is always on exhibit somewhere in the village. So, while Stowe is a great place to eat, drink and play outdoors, it’s also a great place to shop and feast on arts and culture.

It is never too early to plan ahead for the summer of 2012. If your trip is targeted for late July try and sample The Taste of Stowe Arts Festival (http://craftproducers.com). This is an unusual event, combining a market for handmade crafts, original art, music, and an array of gourmet edible treats. A colossal 100 foot wide tent houses the artists and artisans and other smaller tents host the culinary components.
The Arts and Craft Tent is a veritable cathedral of creativity. Come on out and see the extraordinary items the artists have presented: birdbaths and marble patio tables; end tables, pitchers, mugs, plates galore; hand painted clothing; furniture; sparkling jewellery; leather purses and bags; photography; original paintings; leather work; wall sculptures; exotic dark chocolates; wall art with clever cartoons poking fun at us all; handmade dog treats; and more. You get to stroll into 150 boutiques and meet the actual artists; that’s right you meet the maker of the works presented!

Stowe’s diversions and activities are as varied and exciting as its lodging and dining. The resort is justifiably world-famous for Mt. Mansfield’s downhill skiing. Stowe is also North America’s finest cross country skiing destination, with hundreds of kilometres of interconnected groomed and backcountry trails. And as if that were not enough, Stowe — home of Tubbs Snowshoes — is the birthplace of modern snow-shoeing. There’s even dog sledding and snow-mobiling!

Laughing Moon Chocolates on Main Street in Stowe Village offers Chocolate Dipping Demonstrations & Tours – Handcrafted candy as an art form! Stop by and learn how they make delicious hand-dipped chocolates with the big picture in mind! Demonstrations are held every day at 2 p.m. Laughing Moon Chocolates is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Boyden Valley Winery Tours is part of a fourth-generation farm in the pastoral Lamoille River Valley. Also on site: corn maze, ice cream stand, Milk House Market (featuring local food products), petting zoo, playground, music pavilion. Winery tours are at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily.

ACTIVITIES TO RECOMMEND: From June to Labour Day (and weekends after that through mid-October), you just have to try the Alpine slide. What you will experience is an exhilarating 2,300 foot ride down Spruce Peak. This is fun and exciting for people of all ages. Hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is free for kids aged five and under; $21 for one adult ride and $42 for three; $19 for one junior/senior ride and $38 for three. I could not believe how fast I was going!

You can also take the easy way up the mountain in the famous Stowe gondola. Spectacular views await you near the peak of Vermont’s highest mountain. From the gondola, access hiking trails or stop for a bite in the lift summit snack bar. This runs daily from mid June until mid-October.

The Summer Inflatable Obstacle Course, located on the same site as the alpine slide, is also a blast. Put yourself to the test and try your luck. This is no easy task, I must tell you. This runs from mid-June to Labour Day and then continues on weekends until mid-October from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adults can get three runs for $21; juniors and seniors pay $18 for the same three. Children aged five and under go free with a paid adult.

WHERE TO STAY: The historic Green Mountain Inn (www.greenmountaininn.com) has been offering travellers respite for over 175 years. Located at 18 Main Street, it features 107 accommodations, ranging from traditional guest rooms to luxury suites and townhouses.

The Inn is owned by the Gameroff Family Trust. Marvin Gameroff was a Canadian businessman who took a liking to Stowe in the 1970s and purposely worked for its preservation through investments that would be both profitable for him and supportive of the village community. One of these, in 1982, was purchasing the Green Mountain Inn, a then–somewhat tattered facility with about 90 acres of land, on Main Street. Built as a home in 1833, it had been an inn for a century when Gameroff bought it. He also bought what’s now known as the Whiskers Building Farmhouse and owned a home in Stowe with about 150 acres of land. He passed away in 2004. His two sons, David and Simon, have carried on the tradition with innkeeper Patti Clark overseeing the day to day operations.

Last year a major renovation project completely refurbished nearly a quarter of the historic hotel’s Main Inn room inventory. Twelve of the hotel’s second floor rooms within the property’s central Inn building underwent a substantial revitalization. There was a complete remodeling of bathrooms, air conditioning system improvements, floor plan readjustments to maximize space, the installation of new high grade noise-dampening windows and the addition of new large screen plasma TVs.

Says Clark, “Our goal has always been to offer comfortable, inviting accommodations which provide our guests real value for their travel dollars. Over the years we have continually re-invested in our facilities to update, renew and enhance our offerings. Every upgrade project – such as this one – has been undertaken with a commitment to preserving the hotel’s unique character and charm so that the Inn remains a destination of choice for our loyal customers.”

The Inn is also home to the wonderful Whip Bar and Grill (http://www.greenmountaininn.com/whipbarandgrill.html). This spot provides travellers respite, refreshment, and fine dining in a casual atmosphere. It features an extensive menu full of flavorful food prepared with Vermont products and the freshest ingredients from local farmers. There are fresh homemade breads and incredible desserts. It is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The bar offers a great selection of Vermont and New England microbrews on tap and a newly revised wine list sure to tempt occasional wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.

I would strongly remember the grilled swordfish, which cuts like butter. It comes with vegetables, but you can switch this for the mashed potatoes.
We shared some garlic shrimp as an appetizer. It came with two sliced baguettes. You can order a half Caesar salad here to save more room for the entrée. There is a kids menu, but the younger ones might want to try the delicious flatbread pizza from the main selections. This is the place for fish – salmon, tilapia, wild striped bass and oven roasted Boston cod. There are also steaks, chicken, burgers and sandwiches.

DINNER AT GRACIES: Many veteran Stowe vacationers also strongly recommended Gracie’s Restaurant (www.gracies.com) at 18 Edson Hill Road. Owners Paul and Susan Archdeacon are wonderful hosts. Paul, known simply as “Archie,” came here in 1972 from Boston to ski and never left. This is where he met Sue. In 1991the couple opened the restaurant, naming it after their new shelter rescue dog Gracie, a Yellow Lab Air dale mix from the South Burlington Humane Society. The name stuck and the restaurant took off. Right from the start Gracie’s was committed to producing as much of their menu as possible themselves. All the breads, rolls and desserts are made on the premises. This led to the introduction of Gracie’s “Doggie Bag.” A penny candy bag painted on the inside with white chocolate, frozen and filled with chocolate mint mousse. When ordered the paper bag is peeled off and the chocolate sack is served over double boil hot fudge. The “Doggie Bag” is garnished with fresh baked sugar cookies cut to look like milk bones. I have not tasted such an exceptional dessert in a long time.

The doggie theme carries throughout the menu with all the burgers, made with Boyden Farms all natural ground beef, named after particular breeds. There is some type of canine logic to the names with the Chihuahua served with a side of quacamole. The barbeque ribs are slow roasted for 12 hours, Memphis style, and slide right off the bone. I combined my order with chicken, garnished in fabulous bbq sauce, along with wild rice and cole slaw. The bar steak, a six ounce filet mignon, is another house favorite. All steaks here are handcarved in the kitchen by Gracies’ chefs. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-253-8741.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and follow him as well on Twitter @mikecohencsl.

Vermont: Burlington

When I was young, Burlington, Vermont would often be the destination for our annual summer vacation. We’d stay at a nice hotel with a pool, do a lot of shopping and enjoy the great restaurants. It was a novelty to do so only two hours from home.

My most recent visit to Burlington was an interesting one. We had actually started off our trip in Toronto. The way the schedule worked out, our next stop was to be a five night booking at the Smugglers’ Notch Resort. Given the fact this was nearly an eight hour drive from Toronto, it did not make a lot of sense to arrive the in the late evening. Burlington was on our radar screen, particularly for its excellent shopping, so we elected to head directly there. It is only 45 minutes from Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe, known as four season destinations.

WHERE TO STAY: This was actually our second trip in as many years to Burlington, as we stopped there on the way back from Cape Cod a year ago.
One of the incentives to return, in fact, was the Doubletree Hotel Burlington (www.burlington.doubletree.com). Located just off I-89 on Williston Road and near the airport, this is a large and attractive property. 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 a main bedroom with a king size bed and flat screen TV, separated by a door to spacious living room area featuring a pullout couch, a working desk with two chairs and another flat screen televisions. The bathroom is conveniently accessed from the living room area, which is especially convenient for families with small children who needn’t wake up parents as they charge to use the facilities early in the morning.

The hotel has a nice pool, connected to an outdoor patio and an amazing workout gym open 24 hours a day. Its treadmills have small television monitors attached, with headphones, making one’s workout so much more pleasant. There is an onsite restaurant called 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 33 years and converted the hotel from a Clarion to a Doubletree in 2005, at which time 33 suites were constructed. There are 161 in all. Richfield Hospitality, the company which manages this hotel and a plethora of others across the USA, thinks so highly of Milliken that they regularly assign him to visit other locations to share his expertise.

The hotel also has a beautiful banquet and conference centre.

“Those that come for a weekend, a few days or during the holiday periods and those who stay over to catch a flight,” says Milliken. “ You can leave your car here for two weeks and we only charge $25.”

It actually turned out to be a great idea to come here first before Smugglers’ Notch as we spent our final day in Burlington doing a little extra shopping before heading up the mountain.

The hotel has five handicapped accessible rooms, two with roll-in showers.
All of the necessary equipment for the hearing impaired is in place. Both the main and banquet entrances are fully wheelchair accessible, with wide sized elevators to transport those booked on the second floor.

This hotel is constantly being upgraded. When we were there, new carpets were being installed in all of the hallways. They will soon introduce a grab and go breakfast option. “Often people check out and then drive to the closest Starbucks to get a coffee and Danish,” said Milliken. “We will now have that option right in front of them when they checkout.”

DINING OUT: We were thrilled to find an Outback Steakhouse (www.outback.com ) only minutes from our hotel at 150 Dorset Street. This has always been one of my favorite chains. Montreal’s West Island had a franchise for about a two year period which we happily frequented. Why it shut down I still do not understand.

Well, if you want to experience this spot, best known for grilled steaks, chicken and seafood, then Burlington represents the closest opportunity for Montrealers. Torontonians can experience it in Niagara Falls.

The Outback also offers a wide variety of crisp salads and freshly made soups and sides. New creations and grilled classics are made from scratch daily using only the highest quality ingredients. Franchise owner Derek Gorman and manager John Legere appreciate the steady flow of Montreal diners.

Our server was a gentleman named Errol Rule and his Australian accent turned out to be the real thing. Errol is from Down Under who actually met a girl named Fiona from Burlington there who just happened to work at the Outback in Burlington. The couple met through a mutual friend on April 24, 2009 at the Gearin Hotel, a local pub, in Katoomba New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In January 2010 Errol decided to come to Montreal to work at Hurley’s Irish Pub downtown while waiting for his US paper work to come through. That process took 11 months. « We finally got married on December 31, 2010, the day before my birthday » says Errol, who started at the Outback the following May of 2011. « The odds of me warning at the Outback Steakhouse in Burlington were very slim to none, but it is warning out well and it is turning out to be an excellent job. »

We had a superb meal. I would recommend the clam chowder, the lobster tails and of course the steaks – either the rib eye or Victoria’s filet. The new menu actually has a calorie count in brackets for every single item, which is great for folks who are watching what they eat. This Outback is opened seven days a week. Call 802-862-0003 for reservations.

The restaurant is wheelchair accessible.

SHOPPING: The Church Street Marketplace pedestrian mall is an amazing place to shop. With over 100 retail shops, restaurants and street vendors, this 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, Aabercrombie, 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 and the Sears Automotive Center. 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.

Plattsburgh: New York

Q: Can you tell me about Plattsburgh, New York?

A : Plattsburgh is a small Amercian city located on the western shore of Lake Champlain in the northeastern part of the state of New York. It is only 60 miles from Montreal.

Plattsburgh was founded by Zephaniah Platt in 1785 after he was granted the land for it by George Clinton. The city government was established in the former Village of Plattsburgh in 1902. With its significant location on a major water thoroughfare and close to the US-Canadian border, Plattsburgh has been the site of a number of historic events including the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Valcour and the War of 1812’s Battle of Plattsburgh. In more recent times, the city has been distinguished primarily by its United States Air Force base and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh, although it is also a node for tourists headed to the Adirondack Mountains. The city beaches and camp grounds are packed all summer long. It is also a spectacular place for boating, wind surfing, or fishing. There are some fun dining spots as well.

Plattsburgh has great shopping, including the large Champlain Centre North with anchor store JC Penny. There are a lot of Montreal Jews who have country homes here. Many Jewish students attend SUNY. I know many Torontonians visiting Montreal who wakeup with a desire for a change of pace from trips to Niagara Falls and Buffalo and check out this type of New York experience. The Olympic village of Lake Placid is less than an hour’s drive offering you world-class recreation and relaxation year round.

On June 19, 2007 the Plattsburgh International Airport (PBG) opened its doors for passenger service. The tiny facility remains very much a work in progress. But it is easy to get to and offers free parking for however long you are away. It is already touting itself as “Montreal’s U.S. Airport.” Delta and Allegiant Airlines presently fly out of there. Allegiant, a Las Vegas based carrier, is presently offering well priced direct flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

ACCOMODATIONS: Given the backups at customs these days due to the strong Canadian dollar, I would strongly recommend you head to Plattsburgh the day before your flight. We did just that, staying at the Comfort Inn and Suites (plattsburghcomfortinn.com) at 411 Route 3. 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. There is also a Boulangerie Café, a lobby coffee shop featuring Starbucks™ Coffee and fresh baked pastries. And Legends Sports Bar is the place to catch the latest game on the tube.

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. It was so nice, we wanted to stay longer. 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. One guest bought four winter tires for his car. “They cost him $240,” said Murray, “compared to $700 in Canada.”

Rooms range in price from $69 to $99 per night. And 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 www.plattsburghcomfortinn.com, e-mail info@plattsburghcomfortinn.com or call (518) 562-2730.

Niagara Falls: Ontario

Both sides of Niagara Falls – New York and Ontario – are spectacular. This was our first visit to the area in more than five years. This trip was during the winter. After spending the first several days in the USA, we stopped over in Canada, settling in at the Sheraton By The Falls (www.niagarafallshotelsheraton.com).This place has a lot of things going for it, notably a passageway to North America’s largest indoor water parks and, if you are lucky, a breathtaking view of the actual Falls.

The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark (www.fallsviewwaterpark.com) is over 125,000 square feet of water park fun across from the Falls. Located on the Falls Avenue Entertainment Complex, this is North America’s largest indoor waterpark and hotel complex. It offers 16 waterslides (some up to six stories high), a 1,000 gallon tipping bucket, a full size wave pool, oversized adult only whirlpools, the Planet Hollywood Beach Club, a beach house, a tiny tots play area, a year-round outdoor pool and sundeck, the Canadian Plunge Bowl and the Fallsview indoor beach. The waterpark features direct connections to the Sheraton, the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Skyline Inn. Admission is $34 per person. There is also a $10 fee ($5 refundable) for a small locker.

Niagara Falls, Ontario is home to the Winter Festival of Lights from early November until the end of January each year. There are lots of events, concerts, activities. The newest other activity is skating at the TD Rink at the Brink -an ice rink right beside the Falls( http://www.wfol.com/TDRINKatTheBrink/index.html). Also taking place in January is the Niagara Ice Wine Festival ( www.niagaraicewinefestival.com), which takes place in Twenty Valley, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and St. Catharines. February brings The Days of Wine & Chocolate (http://www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/dowac.html) , which pairs 25 VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines alongside decadent chocolate pairings. This takes place each weekend in from 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.

I know that we will have to go back again in the near future during a warm weather period. With attractions like Marineland, the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour, Casino Niagara, Niagara Parks Conservatory, Skylon Tower, the Butterfly Conservatory, the Imax Theatre and the Clifton Hills “fun” district, it is no wonder why the area attracts more than 20 million visitors annually. Incidentally, when we were there the attractions were all going full tilt. Between visits to the wax museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the 4D rides, the Fudge Factory and the Hershey Store and Canada’s only Ruby Tuesday restaurant we managed to spend a lot of money in a short period of time.

Tourism Niagara (www.tourismniagara.com) is responsible for promoting all 12 municipalities that make up the region of Niagara and they do a fabulous job. Check out their website, which will lead you in the right direction. There are over 60 wineries you can tour. The performing arts in Niagara includes several facilities that offer wonderful performances, including the Niagara Symphony, Shaw Festival, and the Centre for the Arts of Brock University.

Attraction destinations include the Welland Canal Centre at Lock 3 and Welland Mural Route, the Niagara Wine Route, the Niagara River Parkway, Niagara’s Freedom Trail and the Bruce Trail. Of course, it is the spectacle of the Falls itself which proves most breathtaking. To some, Niagara is the aroma of ripening grapes and the taste of succulent fresh fruit. For families, it is theme parks, 20 historical museums and two reconstructed forts. Sportsmen can take advantage of over 40 golf courses, 30 private campgrounds and fishing on Lakes Ontario and Erie. To newlyweds, Niagara is the honeymoon capital of the world! Gamblers get their fix at Casino Niagara and the Fort Erie Racetrack.

Marineland (www.marinelandcanada.com) is indeed the area’s biggest tourist attraction. At Friendship Cove you’ll enjoy the largest whale habitat in the world. It is surrounded by walkways for above water and dramatic underwater viewing of these amazing marine mammals. Best of all, guests can have the chance, and unique thrill, of being able to feed and touch these friendly ocean giants. Arctic is home to the belugas. Sky Screamer – the world’s highest triple tower ride, will take you over 137.2 metres (450 ft.) skyward giving you a thrilling ride not to mention a spectacular view of the Falls and surrounding Niagara landscape. Marineland has several Jewish school groups and camps that book day outings each year, primarily originating from Toronto and New York. Marineland is open from mid-May to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend.

Don’t miss the historical ride aboard the world famous Maid of the Mist (www.niagaraparks.com), which is accessible via both the American and Canadian sides. Since 1846, millions of visitors have enjoyed the Maid of the Mist boat tours. The powerful diesel-engined boats take visitors to the base of the American Falls and then on to the basin of the magnificent Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Water rushes all around as you “soak” in the excitement and feel the thunder of the Falls. It’s a half hour thrill of a lifetime! Reusable, souvenir rain coats are provided with admission. Trips run approximately every 15 minutes from the Canadian and U.S. sides of the river. And feel the thunder and explore the Journey Behind The Falls. You emerge far below the rim of the gorge. Before you, the mighty river explodes after free-falling more than thirteen stories. The sound is deafening, the sight, awe-inspiring. And this is only the beginning.

The Clifton Hills district is a strip of the major attractions and dining facilities of Niagara Falls for the entire family. A number fall under the auspices of the Clifton Hill Group (www.falls.com) and include the amazing Guiness World Records Museum, the Haunted House, Cinema 180 Adventure Dome, the Fun House and Mystery Maze. And don’t miss out on the MGM Experience which features the MGM Great Movie Journey, the Dino Island and 7th Portal 4D moving theatre rides, the Ride Over the Falls experience and the Pink Panther Balloon Ride.

For more information, call Tourism Niagara toll free at 1-800-263 2988. Stop at the Niagara Gateway Information Centre located at the Casablanca exit off the QEW in Grimsby where Tourism Niagara operates a year-round information centre. Travel counselors can assist you with finding same-day accommodations at discounted prices, booking sightseeing tours, purchasing passports for wine events and even getting last minute theatre tickets. As well, visitors can save even more by purchasing discount tickets at Gateway for Niagara’s most popular attractions. The Centre is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. and 8 am to 8 pm during July and August.

Niagara Falls: New York

When visiting the Niagara Falls, NY area, take my advice and stay in the town of Grand Island, located smack in between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York (www.niagara-usa.com) The Holiday Inn Grand Island Resort and Conference Centre (www.holiday-inn.com/grandislandny) was our base for the second time in almost six years and we simply loved this gorgeous 263 room property, located at 100 Whitehaven Road. We were lucky to get a reservation, selecting a comfortable Jacuzzi suite. This is a great year-round choice. In the winter, the fitness centre, large indoor pool and whirlpool are real bonuses. The property is ideal for business and leisure travel alike. In the summer an attractive outdoor pool is in operation. There is also an on-site health and fitness center, a gift shop and yes, for the business executive, secretarial services.

Niagara Falls New York
Standard Guest rooms have private balconies, flat screen televisions with on command movies and free wireless high speed internet. The hotel has two room executive suites, two room jacuzzi suites or two room hospitality suites, each of which has pull out sleeper sofas and large private balconies facing the majestic Niagara River. They also are equipped with microwave ovens and mini refrigerators. Right next door is the River Oaks Golf Course. On site you can enjoy a delicious meal in Currents “A Bistro on the Niagara” or unwind over a cocktail in the hotel’s comfortable lounge. On Fridays, there is live entertainment. If you are a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, then you have access to an exclusive lounge featuring free refreshments. The hotel recently installed new carpeting new vinyl wall coverings and received new bedding.

Niagara Falls New York
In the summer you can look forward to a number of fireworks displays at the annual Canal Festival. The hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes off of Highway 190, yet secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busy Falls tourism trade. “Sedate” is the best way to describe it. Parking is free in the large outdoor lot and you are only a short drive from a large Tops grocery store and two pharmacies. There are two beaches nearby – Beaver State Park and Sandy Beach. For more information you can call 716-773-1111.

Niagara Falls New York
SHOPPING OPTIONS: There are two fabulous shopping options to consider. The Fashion Outlets (www.fashionoutletsniagara.com) , with 150 stores, can keep you busy for hours, with bargains galore. There is also a Target store nearby. In Buffalo, the Walden Galleria (www.waldengalleria.com) is a fabulously large shopping centre, with major anchors such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Lord and Taylor and Sears. It is a 25 minute drive from Grand Island. We spent six hours there. Our only disappointment was the two hour wait to get into the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant.

ATTRACTIONS: Niagara USA (www.niagara-usa.com) offers visitors “A Great American Getaway” filled with exciting events, one-of-a-kind attractions, fascinating history and adventure that the entire family will enjoy. This place exerts its powerful pull on young and old alike. But anyone who has ever seen the look in a child’s eyes as they experience the Falls region – with its unforgettable natural beauty; year-round activities and enriching diversions for families – will have their own sense of childlike wonder re-kindled, and not soon forget the experience they shared.

Centered by the awesome majesty of the Falls, Niagara USA is a destination unto itself, capturing the hearts of families and drawing them back throughout their lives. And the attractions in the surrounding area are fun, active and exciting for parents and kids alike. The main attraction, Niagara Falls State Park, is the perfect spot for experiencing this magical landmark. There are a number of viewing platforms here, as well as some unusual opportunities to get even closer. For those who don’t mind becoming one with the water, the Park’s Cave of the Winds is a thrilling guided walking tour along wooden platforms at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Participants will inevitably get wet as they walk through the spray. Another wet adventure is the famous Maid of the Mist (www.maidofthemist.com), a boat cruise which takes guests right up to the roaring water at the base of Horseshoe and American Falls (don’t forget to don your free plastic poncho). The Maid of the Mist can be accessed from both sides of the Falls. It is one of North America’s oldest tourist attractions, and its history is resplendent with stories of daredevil rescues and visits from royalty.

Nearby is the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride. Blasted out of solid rock over 140 years ago, the cave system initially served as a tunnel to provide river water for mills and electrical power. Today visitors can walk through the mysterious tunnels as guides talk about the history of the area and point out fossils and other geologic formations in the rock walls. The tour finishes with an eerie half-mile underground boat ride. Every Halloween, the attraction becomes a “Haunted Cave,” drawing thousands of visitors through the month of October. Families with older kids who want a little more adventure have several options. A helicopter tour over the Falls with Rainbow Air provides a unique perspective for viewing the natural wonder of Niagara. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours takes guests on a thrillingly fast upriver Jet Boat ride into the whitewater rapids in the magnificent stonewalled Niagara Gorge canyon. For those seeking a slower-paced journey, two-hour water tours of the historic Erie Canal and its dual locking system are available at Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises. The nearby Erie Canal Museum and cruise exemplify the living history that is widespread throughout the Niagara region.

History-themed attractions will educate younger minds and capture the attention of their mature companions. Old Fort Niagara is a wonderful chance for families to travel back in time, together. Preserved as they stood in the 1700’s, the Fort’s structures (the oldest buildings in the Great Lakes) include several barracks, powder rooms, a bakehouse, an officers club and more. Visitors enjoy touring this large fortress and chatting with the park’s “historical re-enactors” who, dressed in period costume, explain, in character, the various aspects of 1700’s life at the Fort. The Niagara Aerospace Museum lets kids learn about aviation through fun, interactive exhibits. Flight-simulators, aircraft, rocket engines, aircraft models and even personal memorabilia of local servicemen and women illustrate the history of American aviation. Here, you can earn about the extraordinary accomplishments of world-renowned aviation pioneers such as Glenn Hammond Curtiss, Lawrence D. Bell, “Rosie the Riveter”, Chuck Yeager and many others. The “Niagara Frontier Vintage Aircraft Group”, a group of highly skilled and dedicated volunteers, can be seen at the Museum working to bring a classic World War I airplane – the Curtiss J-N4D Jenny — back to life. The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is the only museum in the world housed in an authentic, original carousel factory building. Located in North Towanda, the building is listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Sites and features a series of seven interconnected structures. Open since 1983, the museum hosts some 20,000 visitors each year. Perched above the Niagara river, the Niagara Power Project exhibits the history of energy, electricity and the community’s past through fun, kid-friendly exhibits. The Niagara Wax Museum features life-like wax figures of many of the Niagara frontier’s early explorers. Other displays include Indian villages and historical street scenes. The museum also has a collection of maps and other artifacts related to the Niagara Frontier. Admission is free.

Niagara Falls USA’s Daredevil Museum is noted for holding the barrel used by Steve Trotter and Lori Martins, who went over Horseshoe Falls in 1985 amongst many other artifacts from death-defying feats. The Aquarium of Niagara has more than forty exhibits showcasing 1,500 aquatic animals from around the globe, including a colony of the rare and endangered Peruvian Penguin. Niagara USA’s great outdoors, with its diverse seasonal changes, is also host to its share of family-friendly attractions. Becker Farms in Royalton features a petting zoo, hay and pony rides and live entertainment, along with several summer and fall weekend festivals. A magnificent celebration of the arts happens every summer at Artpark, which is nestled atop the Niagara River Gorge. Artpark offers a full spectrum of entertainment from Broadway musicals, swinging big band and celebrity performances, to free concerts and cultural festivals. The opportunities for enjoying picnics, relaxing, and fishing are endless. Clearly, whatever age or interest, there’s something waiting for everyone (and their families) in Niagara USA.

But for the kids, there is no better place to go than Martin’s Fantasy Island (www.martinsfantasyisland.com), located at Exit N-19 (Whitehaven Road) in Grand Island. It is recognized as Western New York’s most affordable and fun theme park, with more than 100 rides and attractions. That includes a neat water park, complete with slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. There’s theatre, a petting zoo and games. This is, in fact, a place for kids of all ages. Kiddy and thrill rides include the spectacular Chaous, Up, Up and Away Ballooon, Sea Ray, Patriot, Giant Gondola Wheel, Super Sizzler, Wildcat Coaster and The Silver Comet, the latter of which happens to be the newest classic wooden roller coaster in Western New York. We loved getting soaked on the log flume. It is open from mid-May until Labour Day Weekend.

During the baseball season, keep in mind that Buffalo’s beautiful downtown Dunn Tire Stadium is only 15 minutes from Grand Island off Highway 190. This is the home of the Triple A Buffalo Bisons (www.bisons.com), the minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

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 (www.staybridge.com/oakvilleon), 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 staybridgeoakville@whg.com. 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 (www.marquisbistro.com), 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 Toronto East

On our way back from a recent winter trip to Niagara Falls, we had no intention of just passing by Toronto on the way home. We always enjoy spending time in Canada’s largest city and look no further than right off Highway 401 and the Radisson Toronto East. We stayed at this property three years earlier and enjoyed it. The location is terrific, for it is one exit away from the Don Valley Parkway – a quick 20-minute route to the theatre district and Eaton Centre.

The Radisson is managed by the Westmont Hospitality Group, which also oversees Les Suites in Ottawa, the Hilton in Windsor and the Staybridge Suites in Oakville ( places I have stayed at).

Nestled in a corporate hub, surrounded by malls and major attractions, the hotel is precisely located at 401 and Victoria Park. All rooms have Sleep Number Beds, where the firmness of the mattress can be adjusted for your best sleeping comfort. Complimentary high-speed internet is available in each room as well. You can unwind in the bar lounge, take a splash in the indoor swimming pool or tone yourself in the fitness center. Other convenient amenities include a complimentary shuttle service to local businesses within the vicinity. There is a full-service restaurant, Le Café, and room service to take care of your taste buds.
While I usually seek out a suite for my family when travelling, the Radisson Toronto East is excellent for seeking out the option of an adjoining room. We had two rooms, one with two double beds and another with a king. Upon request, we got a fridge and microwave. With a large grocery store only two blocks away we were able to stock up on our own foods to make breakfast and lunch. The rooms have comfortable desks, perfect for working on a laptop, chairs, ample cupboard and drawer space and two telephones. At the front desk, the staff is very attentive to all of your needs.

There are handicapped parking spots in the lot and the entrance is fully wheelchair accessible, leading to three good-sized elevators. Handicapped accessible rooms are available.

The exact address is 55 Hallcrown Place. You can make reservations by calling 1- 1-800-395-7046 or emailing rhi_toea@radisson.com

SHOPPING: There is plenty of shopping in the area. Near the hotel, you will find the Fairview Shopping Centre and the Yorkdale Mall. In terms of dinner and entertainment, Toronto is home to one of the phenomenal Dave and Busters (www.daveandbusters.com) franchises at 120 Interchange Way in Vaughan. This is a gigantic facility where you can “eat, drink and play.” The menu is extensive and the choice of terrific games is pretty endless. You won’t want to leave this place. If you have kids under 19, keep in mind Ontario liquor laws will force you to depart by 10 p.m.

ATTRACTIONS: Toronto has a lot of fun options year-round. Just log on to www.seetorontonow.com for many options. Of course, this place is now kind of famous for its huge musical theatre offerings. We saw the second to last showing of Rock of Ages at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Just go to www.mirvish.com to see what is playing when you are in town. If you are looking ahead to next summer, Canada’s Wonderland and the Toronto Zoo are musts. So is Ontario Place.

If you plan to visit the CN Tower (www.cntower.ca), the world’s tallest building during the busier summer season, the following are a few suggestions from marketing director Irene Knight to shorten or eliminate any potential wait times at the CN Tower and also some cost saving tips: the busiest season to visit is from May to October so come outside of these months and you can usually avoid any potential waits; from May to October, the busiest time of the day is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m; CityPass provides express elevation to see the world-famous LookOut and Glass Floor observation levels at the CN Tower; Total Tower is a “do it all” CN Tower ticket providing express elevation to the Look Out and Glass Floor observation levels at the CN Tower as well as admission to all the attractions available here; online ticket purchases allow you to go directly to the ticketholder line and avoid the box office. At a height of 553.33m (1,815 ft., 5 inches), it is the world’s tallest building, a Wonder of the Modern World, an important telecommunications hub, the centre of tourism in Toronto and a first-class dining and event centre. Each year, approximately two million people visit. Each year, approximately two million people visit.

The Ontario Science Centre (www.ontariosciencecentre.ca) is barrier-free, offering extra-wide parking, free wheelchairs and strollers, wheelchair seating in the Shoppers Drug Mart® OMNIMAX® Theatre and Imperial Oil Auditorium, barrier-free elevators, a washroom for special needs persons and safe areas of refuge in case of emergency. Their Access Guide for Visually Impaired Persons lists exhibits that can be experienced through touch, taste, hearing and smell. Organizations serving disabled people are admitted for free to the Ontario Science Centre, as part of a registered program of therapy. Escorts of disabled visitors are admitted free to the Ontario Science Centre.

Ontario Place (www.ontarioplace.com) is an internationally acclaimed cultural, leisure and entertainment parkland, extending throughout three man-made islands along the Lake Ontario waterfront. It opened in May 1971 and features a five-pod pavilion complex- The Forum, pedal boats, a marina, restaurants and the world’s first permanent IMAX®theatre, the Cinesphere. Built as a showcase for the province of Ontario, this is a great spot to cool off in the summer thanks to Soak City. Toronto’s biggest outdoor waterpark, it features the Pink Twister, Purple Pipeline and Hydrorefuge water slides, as well as the Rush River Ride which allows up to four people to go down Rush River’s eight-story tower in a giant yellow raft. Soak City is also home to Canada’s tallest tipping bucket. There are some 30 other fabulous attractions to explore here, including a variety of rides and live shows on stage.

Canada’s Wonderland (www.canadas-wonderland.com) is Canada’s premier theme park and features over 200 attractions, more than 60 thrilling rides, North America’s greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works, a 20-acre water park featuring over two million gallons of heated water fun. Check out The Plunge, Supersoaker, The Lazy River, and Pumphouse. The park, located in suburban Vaughn just off Highway 400, opens in early May and closes on Canadian Thanksgiving Day Weekend.

Mike Cohen’s e-mail address is info@mikecohen.ca. Log on to www.sandboxworld/travel for his online travel advice.

Mike Cohen travels to Vermont: Burlington

Trader Duke's Dining Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 (www.redjacketresorts.com) 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 (www.goldcoastparasail.com). 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 info@redjacketresorts.com.

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 (www.skipperrestaurant.com). 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.