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USA travel Archives - Air Canada Vacations

09 Jul

By

A Big New Way to Play: Toy Story Land!

July 9, 2018 | By |

The wait is finally over – Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort, inspired by Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story films, is now open!

Toy Story Land dedication

Become an “honorary toy” as you discover the whimsical workings of Andy’s backyard. Here, you’ll be surrounded by giant building blocks, Tinkertoys, board game pieces and more– all while encountering your favourite Toy Story characters. Fun!

“With set pieces, staging, attractions and experiences, Toy Story Land represents the best of Walt Disney Imagineering’s collaboration with our storytelling partners at Pixar Animation Studios,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products. “This new land will place guests inside the wondrous world of Woody, Buzz and their pals – and invite everyone to experience the joy of being a toy.”

Visit Toy Story Land

Here’s everything you need to know about Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort. (Psst! Read on for a very special promo from Air Canada Vacations – Kids Fly FREE!)
Where is Toy Story Land?

Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the new land spans 11 acres. It’s part of a multi-year reimagining of the park, and, is the largest expansion in the theme park’s history! The entrance is located at the very back of the park; stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, curve a right at the Chinese Theatre and make a sharp right just before Pixar Place. When you see a larger-than-life Woody, you know you’re at the right place!

Toy Story Land Entrance

What are the new rides and attractions?

Toy Story Land boasts two new rides and one updated fan favourite. First, you’ll want to jump aboard Slinky Dog Dash. This family-friendly coaster zips up, down and around the entire land, giving riders a birds-eye view of Andy’s backyard. The best part? Slinky Dog Dash features a second launch at its midpoint (a first for a Disney coaster!), adding a thrilling element to the ride.

Toy Story Land Slinky Dog Dash

My take? 5/5! From an intensity standpoint, I’d rank it slightly higher than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but well below Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Admittedly, I was slightly nervous to ride it, but that’s just because I’m not a fan of big drops. If you’re in the same boat, good news: the two drops are winding and super smooth (translation: your tummy will stay intact!).

The second brand new ride is Alien Swirling Saucers. Brace yourself (literally, as you’ll likely smash and crash into your seat mate) as the adorable little green Aliens swirl about in toy rocket ships. The height requirement for this ride is just 32”, ensuring even the littlest Toy Story fans can experience the magic.

If you’ve previously enjoyed Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort, the ride will be very familiar (with all-new theming, of course). However, one major advantage over its predecessor is that Alien Swirling Saucers has shelter from both sun and rain, ensuring there’s no stoppage time in inclement weather.

Finally, Toy Story Mania, arguably one of the most popular rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has been outfitted with a colourful new entrance and a third track, allowing even more guests to enjoy the carnival playset action.

Toy Story Land Toy Story Mania

Who can I meet and greet at Toy Story Land?

Woody, Jessie, Buzz Lightyear and the Green Army Drum Corps appear throughout the land. While you’ll likely have to queue to meet Woody, Jessie and Buzz, don’t be surprised to see Sarge and the Green Army Patrol march through the land, playing games and even challenging guests to drop and give ‘em 10. Bonus: they’re always down for a photo op!

Toy Story Land Buzz Lightyear

Where can I eat?

Grab on-the-go tasty foods and refreshments at Woody’s Lunch Box. Order a grilled three-cheese sandwich, sip an old-fashioned soda float or if it’s been a particularly magical day, grab a “Grown-Up’s Lemonade.” Woody’s Lunch Box features Mini Babybel cheese – the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort.

What’s the must-have merch?

As the land just opened it’s hard to predict if there will be a runaway favourite, but from opening weekend, I can attest that the small scale replica toys of the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction vehicles were flying off shelves, as were the colourful headbands featuring Slinky Dog himself.

Toy Story Land Merchandise

Just outside Toy Story Land, the Little Green Alien Popcorn Buckets can be found at popcorn stands. Fair warning: they’re a hot ticket! They were sold out by 11 a.m. at two stands, so grab ‘em while you can!

When should I head over to Toy Story Land?

At the moment, to be honest, you’re not going to be in the driver’s seat – you’ll need to visit when you have the opportunity (fair warning: there may be a queue to enter Toy Story Land). However, once the initial fanfare has calmed down somewhat, I recommend visiting early morning or late evening, especially during the summer months.

From a comfort standpoint, there is very little shade/ shelter and it’s easy to overheat in the sun. Stay hydrated and wear light, loose clothing! From an entertainment standpoint, the land comes alive at night; the string of Christmas bulbs light up and the tracks on Slinky Dog Dash are illuminated as well. If your FastPass+ is valid after sunset, you’re in for a treat!

How can I save money on my Walt Disney World Resort vacation?

With Air Canada Vacations, kids fly FREE. From now until July 15, when travellers book a flight, an Orlando hotel, and a Walt Disney World Theme Park ticket package, you’ll get two free flights for children 2-17! (Taxes apply). Travel by February 28, 2019.

Air Canada Vacations also has an offer where you can save the equivalent of the taxes on Florida packages; it works out to savings of $300 per family + 4,000 bonus Aeroplan® Miles. Book before July 30, 2018 for departures by February 28, 2019.

Toy Story land army men

This post was written by Lena Almeida, family travel expert and Air Canada Vacations Ambassador. To see more from Lena, visit her website.

 

01 Jun

By

6 Florida Destinations for Family Vacations

June 1, 2018 | By |

It’s no secret that Canadians love a vacation to Florida. Many of us share fond memories of growing up and escaping our harsh winters in the Sunshine State. Where else can you find all-day sunny weather, gorgeous scenery and adventure at every corner?

Discover our picks of the best vacation spots in Florida for a family getaway!

Fort Lauderdale 

Fort Lauderdale

First stop: Fort Lauderdale! Think activity-filled beach days with the kids or a shopping spree on Las Olas Boulevard. Take your family from the streets to the city’s canals with a fun amphibious tour or travel even further…all the way back to prehistoric Florida at the Museum of Discovery and Science. Seeking something completely unforgettable? Opt for a day-trip to the Everglades! Spot gators, turtles, and fish on an airboat tour that zips through Florida’s famous wetlands.

Miami 

ME-1489_Florida Blog Post_896x531_Miami

Family time might not immediately come to mind when Miami is mentioned. Nightlife and glamour, maybe, but family? Let Miami surprise you! Tropical temperatures and laidback vibes make it an ideal destination for everyone. Let your kids go wild at Zoo Miami, home to the planet’s most impressive animals, including elephants, lions and gorillas. For up-close encounters with Miami’s mammals, let your little ones swim with dolphins at the city’s Seaquarium!

Cocoa Beach

ME-1489_Florida Blog Post_896x531_Cocoa Beach

Dreamt of being an astronaut when you grew up? Who didn’t! Big and small head to Cocoa Beach to visit the nearby NASA Kennedy Space Center and learn all about the past and present of space exploration. Who knows, maybe your kids will even be the next ones to journey to Mars! From space to sea, make your way to the Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world’s largest surf shop. Once you’ve stocked up on gear, enjoy the calm, consistent waves of the city’s beach, ideal for learning how to surf.

St. Pete/Clearwater

Clearwater Beach

Sandy shores and sparkling waters; sometimes, that’s all we need! Opt for very best around St. Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach, voted respectively seventh and first among Trip Advisor’s best beaches in the United States. At the southern tip of the area, the Fort De Soto Park welcomes families with sheltered picnic spots, playgrounds, nature trails and a historic fort. Save your sunsets for Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach where painters, magicians and street performers keep your kids entertained, while you settle in for glorious views.

Tampa

Tampa

Favour urban exploration over beach vacation? Try Tampa! This major city on the west coast of Florida offers something for all ages and tastes. Stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk, linking countless attractions, from the Florida Aquarium to the best waterfront restaurants. Art lovers will want to pop in to the Tampa Museum of Art and its neighbouring Glazer Children’s Museum. Follow up art with athletics any day of the week, because it’s always game day in Tampa where the MLB, NFL and NHL each have a team.

Orlando

Orlando

We can’t delay the inevitable: addressing the Mickey Mouse-shaped elephant in the room. After all, Orlando is home to the most magical place on Earth, the Walt Disney World Resort, which includes 4 fantastic Disney Theme Parks, including Disney’s Hollywood Studios where the all new Toy Story Land, opens June 30. Make sure the fun never stops and amp up the thrills at the nearby Universal Orlando Resort. Take a timeout from the theme parks to tee off at one of the city’s golf courses or dine at first-rate restaurants.

What’s next

Re-live your childhood, while making new memories for your kids! Create your dream family trip to Florida with our selection of vacation rentals, hotels and so much more. Hot travel tip: book by July 30 and save the equivalent of the taxes on Florida packages. That’s $300 off per family!

Plan your Florida vacation!

05 Jul

By

7 Family Adventures in Florida

July 5, 2016 | By |

Florida has some of the best beaches in North America and has long been a favourite winter destination for Canadians. But these days, there’s so much going on all year in the Sunshine State that the best answer to the question, “When should I go?” is quite simply: as often as you can. Enjoy theme parks, astronauts, surfing lessons and more.

1. Theme Parks

Orlando is the world capital for theme parks. Your family will love all the famous rides and attractions at Walt Disney World® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando®, Universal Orlando® Resort, and LEGOLAND Florida.

2. Bike Shark Valley in the Everglades

Did you know you can bike through the Everglades? There’s a 15-mile paved cycling path known as Shark Valley that winds through these vast wetlands to an observation tower and back. For a different take on The River of Grass, try an airboat tour. We’ve got lots of choices from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

3. Swim with Manatees

Manatee

These gentle giants can grow as big as 12 feet long and weigh up to 3,500 pounds, but they’re still safe to swim with even for a young swimmer. Manatees love Florida’s Crystal River and gather there from November to March. You can book a convenient, family-friendly excursion from Orlando. 

4. Innertube the Ichetcuknee

InnerTubes

There’s nothing quite like lazing down a refreshing river and Ichetucknee Springs State Park in North Central Florida is one of the best. It’s safe, well organized and offers you a close-up view of some spectacular wildlife. We have 37 hotels in nearby Jacksonville so you’re bound to find something to fit your style and budget.

5. Learn to Ride the Atlantic Blue Crush

Did you know you can learn to surf in Florida? Head to Fort Pierce, about an hour south of Cocoa Beach, for dependable waves that are just the right size for beginners. There are quite a few surf schools as well as rental outlets. Catch the life-size wave and surfboard sculpture at Cocoa Beach Pier, a thrill without the spills.

6. Lunch with an Astronaut

Who didn’t want to be an astronaut when they were a kid? At Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex you can actually have lunch with one of these heroes, like John Glenn, Jim Lovell, Story Musgrave, or Jon McBride. Enjoy a buffet lunch with 30 to 100 other visitors as you listen to one of these great space travellers. Ask questions, shake their hand, get an autograph and a picture. The Space Centre is on Florida’s central east coast, not far from Orlando or Cocoa Beach.

7. Theatre of the Sea in the Florida Keys

Paddleboard Icon

If sea creatures are on your must-see list, then Miami and the Florida Keys are your destinations. Theatre of the Sea in Islamorada lets you swim with rays, sea lions, and dolphins in a salt-water lagoon. The Miami Seaquarium has unforgettable dolphin encounters and helmet diving that lets you get up close to an amazing tropical reef exhibit.

Ready for a fun family adventure in Florida? Check out our website to start planning today.

17 Jun

By

6 Places You Have to Visit in the USA

June 17, 2016 | By |

The USA is full of surprises and wonders that should be on everybody’s bucket list. Family fun in Florida. Amazing adventures in Hawaii. And colourful charm in California. Here are 6 places you have to visit.

ORLANDO_Magic-Kingdom-Fireworks

1. Orlando

The Theme-Park-Capital-of-the-World will never disappoint with world-famous Walt Disney World® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando®, and Universal Orlando® Resort and tons of others choices. Discover great shopping and golf at more than 150 local courses. And be sure to check out the new dining and entertainment options on International Drive.

Where to stay

The Liki Tiki Resort by Diamond Resorts is a beautiful resort-style hotel with amenities for the whole family including a water park. Plus, you’re only minutes from Walt Disney World® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando®, and Universal Orlando® Resort.

At the International Palms Resort, you’re right in the heart of the theme park action of Orlando. Your family will love the free shuttle service to the parks, and great deals on dining.

HONOLULU_surf

2. Honolulu

The heart of Hawaii, the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu is bursting with island magic. Try surfing or snorkelling at Waikiki Beach. Hike Diamond Head Volcano. Or make some colourful friends at the Honolulu Zoo. Enjoy it all with a tropical breeze and the easygoing spirit of the islands of aloha.

Where to stay

The beachfront resort-style Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa has everything you need for a great vacation including restaurants, a spa, a pool and live entertainment. Plus, Waikiki Aquarium and iconic Diamond Head Volcano are close by.

The vast Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort boasts Waikiki’s best stretch of white-sand beach and 22 acres of lush tropical surroundings. Enjoy daily activities, great dining options and luxurious rooms.

MAUI_BluePools Waterfall

3. Maui

Maui is marvelous. No island can boast the incredible diversity of this beautiful place.

Scenic Hana Highway winds through the deep pools and soaring waterfalls of Oheo Gulch. Mt. Haleakala towers above. Snorkellers discover incredible colours and diners delight in a rich and delicious food culture. It’s one adventure after another.

Where to stay

The AAA Four Diamond Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa offers you 40 acres of tropical gardens just minutes from the famous Whalers Village shopping complex. Enjoy 7 restaurants and bars, a water slide and kids’ lagoon, snorkelling and kayaking.

The completely refurbished oceanfront Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa delivers a stylish vacation of modern luxury and conveniences including a new restaurant, Humble Kitchen, by world-renowned chef and Hawaii native Roy Yamaguchi.

Los Angeles

4. Los Angeles

The City of Angels can make any dream come true. From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, to the cooling mountain air and rambling wine country, whatever you’re looking for you’ll find it. And if family comes first, you’ll find theme parks and activities for every age.

Where to stay

One of our most popular hotels in California, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach offers spectacular amenities and great restaurants including Watertable, one of the top 100 Best Restaurants in America. Plus, scenic Orange County is just minutes away.

The Holiday Inn Anaheim at the Park is a great, affordable choice if you’re going to Disneyland! Enjoy the hotel’s facilities or head a few minutes down the street to all the restaurants, shops and entertainment of the Downtown Disney® District.

MIAMI_BeachUmbrellas

5. Miami

Miami is alive with a vibrant art scene, great shopping and activities for everyone. Hit the beach for long lazy days in the year-round sunshine, or go cosmopolitan with gourmet dining and a jumping nightlife. Miami is golden.

Where to stay

In stylish South Beach, the Eden Roc Miami Beach is an upscale oceanfront hotel with a glamorous pool scene. You’re just a 10-minute drive from Lincoln Road’s world-famous shopping.

The ultrachic beachfront W South Beach is across the street from the sophisticated Bass Museum of Art. Discover the hotel restaurants, lively poolside grill, opulent lobby nightclub, and rooftop basketball and tennis courts.

San Francisco

6. San Francisco

The City by the Bay is as beautiful and inviting as you’ve always imagined. Lose yourself in the shops, art galleries, restaurants and theatres around Union Square. Cross the famous Golden Gate Bridge. And be sure to wander through the Victorian architecture of picture-perfect Alamo Square.

Where to stay

Centrally located near Union Square, the upscale Westin St. Francis is just a 10-minute walk from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Enjoy a sophisticated steakhouse, cozy cocktail bar, and a serene beauty and wellness spa.

The contemporary Parc 55 San Francisco – A Hilton Hotel is just a 2-minute walk from Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall and offers a hip Thai restaurant, a gym, and a business center with free WiFi.

Ready to book your vacation in the USA? Get started today.

13 Apr

By

7 Reasons You Should Go To Portland

April 13, 2016 | By |

Keep Portland Weird is the city’s unofficial slogan and the drive behind what makes this such an eclectic, inspiring and wonderful place to visit. Here are 7 reasons you should go. And while you’re there be sure to share, hashtag #PDXNOW.

1. Food Is A Way Of Life

Portland basically invented farm-to-table. For delicious local fare, head to Clyde Common or DOC for seasonally inspired Italian like risotto with spinach-pesto-roasted pepitas. Be sure to stop at one of the 600+ food carts conveniently grouped in “pods”. For the best Thai chicken, look for Nong’s Khao Man Gai, or head to Grilled Cheese Grill where the simple classic is taken to new heights.

2. Coffee Culture Second To None

2013 Travel Portland spring/summer shoot. by Jamie Francis jamierafe@yahoo.com 5039755174 jamiefrancis.com

For lovers of good coffee and delicious pastries, take a break at one of the many artisanal cafés serving a mix of independent roasters. Head to Heart Roasters for a lighter Scandinavian-style roast with subtle fruit flavours and pastries from Bakeshop. Coava serves up some of the best single-origin coffee in the city, while Courier mixes micro-roasting and a deep collection of vinyl.

3. World-Famous Wine, Beer and Cider

2014 Travel Portland beer. by Jamie Francis jamierafe@yahoo.com 5039755174 jamiefrancis.com

The Willamette Valley Winery Tour is a great way to discover Portland’s most famous wine region. This self-guided tour includes stops at David Hill Vineyards & Winery, whose 2012 Estate Pinot Gris earned a rating of 91 from Wine Enthusiast, and Tualatin Estate Vineyards, one of the region’s oldest winemakers. You’ll also find urban wineries offering up sophisticated tasting menus in stylish settings like Hip Chicks Do Wine, which opened way back in 1999.

If craft brews are your favourite thing, Portland boasts over 65 local breweries. Pick up The Portland Beerbook for the most essential choices.

Local orchards support a vibrant cider scene, providing a huge selection of fresh opportunities like Reverend Nat’s blend of heirloom apples, or Swift Cider’s spicy barrel-aged creations.

4. A Whole Year Of Events And Festivals

With a full schedule all year long, you’ll definitely find something to pique your interest. How about the Holiday Ale Festival or the Oregon Brewers Festival for a good brew? If music is your travel passion, don’t miss the PDX Jazz Festival or the Waterfront Blues Festival. But if food is your love, check out the Portland Farmers Market and Dining Month every March.

5. The Great Outdoors

Great Outdoors

About 30 minutes from downtown Portland, you’ll find yourself in the untouched wilds of the great north Pacific Coast. Columbia River Gorge is home to 77 warterfalls and extensive trails. Iconic Mount Hood boasts the longest ski season in North America, old growth forest and 1,000 of miles of trails. Head west to the Oregon Coast for scenic shorelines, nautical history and tasty crabbing.

6. No Sales Tax So Shop Shop Shop

The city has no sales tax! So shop as much as you like, it’s a lot more fun this way. Head to Downtown Portland for famous department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s. Pioneer Place has major brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. For a bit more local whimsy, try the Pearl District and the Northwest / Nob Hill areas.

7. Urban Green

On March 13th, 2015 the cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the downtown water front along the Willamette River in Portland, OR. (NOT published)

Portland has 288 public parks ranging from the smallest park in the world, Mill End Park, to the sprawling 5,156 acre Forest Park with 113 km of trail right in the city. For a more polished green experience, head to the Lan Su Chinese Garden or the expanded Japanese Garden. For a daylong adventure, try the 4T Trail. It’s a self-guided tour that uses trails, trams, trolleys and trains for a close encounter with urban nature.

Interested in learning more about Portland? Click here to find out more or to start planning your trip today!

17 Nov

By

12 New Things to See and Do in Orlando

November 17, 2015 | By |

With a whole new lineup of exciting attractions, entertainment and dining, there’s no better time to visit Orlando.

INTERNATIONAL DRIVE

In the heart of Orlando’s tourism corridor, International Drive has seen great additions recently with exciting new retail, dining and entertainment options.

1. The newest complex is I-Drive 360, which, along with stellar dining options, has opened a trio of new attractions: The Orlando Eye (pictured), is a 400-foot-tall observation wheel providing breathtaking views of Central Florida; Madame Tussauds, the world’s most famous celebrity wax attraction, and SEA LIFE Orlando, delivering new underwater adventures. Restaurants such as the Yard House and Tin Roof: A Live Music Joint add to the experience.

orlando 1

2. Several new restaurants have opened on I-Drive including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Lafayette’s Restaurant & Bar, known for its Southern cuisine and Itta Bena, fine dining and piano club.

3.  Orlando welcomes one of South Beach’s hottest dining and dance clubs with the addition of Mangos Tropical Café. With 55,000 square feet of entertainment space, this Orlando location will offer high-energy entertainment for a wide variety of tastes.

4. Nearby International Drive, The Florida Mall takes colouring to a new level with the opening of Crayola Experience (pictured). The 70,000-square-foot attraction will offer 25 hands-on activities for kids of all ages.

orlando 4

5. “Restaurant Row”, on Sand Lake Road off International Drive, has an array of hot spots like Rocco’s Tacos Tequila Bar and Eddie V’s, and has just added The Whiskey, welcoming lovers of gourmet burgers, craft cocktails and rock ‘n roll fun and more than 100 brands of whiskey for the thirsty connoisseur.

THEME PARKS

6. Walt Disney World Resort is about to completely transform Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, doubling the number of entertainment, shops and dining options, including The BOATHOUSE (pictured) STK Orlando, and Morimoto Asia by celebrity Chef Morimoto.

orlando 6

7. LEGOLAND Florida Resort will open a new land called Heartlake City this summer. The expansion will include a horse-themed disc coaster called Mia’s Riding Adventure, an interactive show titled ‘Friends to the Rescue’ and new shops inside the Heartlake Mall.

8.  Universal Orlando Resort announced a new groundbreaking attraction opening in summer 2016 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” will honour one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong. Guests can explore ancient temple structures while encountering hostile natives.

9. SeaWorld Orlando will unveil MAKO, a 200-foot-tall coaster (rendering below), which will complement an entirely new realm, reminiscent of a giant underwater shipwreck. With shark theming throughout, the new venue will provide plenty of heart-pounding excitement.

orlando 9

DOWNTOWN ORLANDO

10. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, opened in November, 2014, delivers a stellar lineup of entertainment for its second season: Broadway productions, Orlando Ballet and an array of music performances.

11. Orlando City Soccer Club Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team made its debut in 2015 with global soccer icon, Kaká. The Orlando City Soccer Club will kick off their next season in March 2016.

12. Two new restaurants are slated to join downtown Orlando’s already stellar dining line up, including: Two Chefs Seafood featuring comfort food and seafood from former chefs of Emeril’s Orlando and The Palm Restaurant; and North Quarter Tavern, a chef-driven neighbourhood tavern by the team behind downtown Orlando’s power-lunch staple, Citrus Restaurant.

Ready to see and do these 12 new things? Start planning your Orlando vacation today!

 

21 Sep

By

5 Destinations You Have to Visit at Least Once

September 21, 2015 | By |

Whether you’ve travelled a little or a lot, these five places have got to be at the top of your list. They’re fun, lively, exciting and definite essentials for all world-travellers. And if you’ve been to them before, try them again. These places are always full of surprises.

1) London

London

Everyone loves to wander the banks of the River Thames, taking in the most famous landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and more. For a great view of the whole city, try the London Eye; it’s a 30-minute ride that takes you up 400 feet. For something different, try a pre-show drink on Carnaby Street in the busy West End, a great street market in Portobello, or the spectacular Victorian Kew Gardens.

Where to stay: 

The President Hotel is a London classic with an attractive combination of location and style right on Russell Square. Enjoy easy access to The British Museum and a live jazz pianist every Friday and Saturday night.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a beautiful, modern hotel within 10 minutes’ walk of London's key attractions, including Big Ben, the London Aquarium and the London Eye.

2) Paris

Paris

This city really is all about sidewalk cafés, good wine, and incredibly stylish people. The classic view from the Eiffel Tower is a definite must. The Louvre has an enormous collection of masterpieces, and when people tell you that it’s too big to do in one day, believe them. And be sure to visit Versailles. Amazingly, when it was built it was a day away by horse-drawn coach. Now, it’s half an hour by train.

Whatever you choose to do in Paris, just remember this one rule. Make time to sit back and enjoy being Parisian, if only for a little while.

Where to stay:

The Quartier Latin Hotel is right in the heart of the city giving you easy access to the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, Luxembourg Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral. This is a great choice for the traveller on the go.

The Auteuil Tour Eiffel offers a stylishly modern experience in a fantastic location, close to the Eiffel Tower. You’re right in the middle of everything with easy access to river cruises and public transport. 

3) Hawaii

Waterfall at the Blue Pools. Hana, Maui

Colourful, unforgettable and full of adventure, the islands of Hawaii are a must if you’re looking for great beaches, culture and fun. Plan a few days on each island; inter-island flights are so easy.

The Big Island is famous for its Volcanoes National Park where you can walk across lava fields and see lava boil into the Pacific. There is no end to the watersports, dining, and events in Honolulu on the island of Oahu where famous Waikiki Beach definitely lives up to its reputation. Maui, known as the Valley Isle, is often called the most beautiful island. It has an abundance of natural experiences but also offers great bars, shops and galleries. It’s a fusion of Polynesian charm and a modern vacation. 

Where to stay:

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the best hotels in Hawaii. This iconic landmark offers a true island experience with fireworks every Friday, a Starlight Luau, and the longest stretch of beach along a hotel in Waikiki.

The Hyatt Regency Maui & Spa is part of the expansive Ka’anapali Resort complex giving you an unbeatable island vacation. Enjoy restaurants, lounges, free-form pools and an easy walk to the Whaler’s Village for shopping and lots more.

4) New York

NYC

It’s amazing that so much life, so much history and so much fun can fit onto the island of Manhattan, but New York manages it somehow. From Central Park to Wall Street, from the MoMA to street artists, and from a pretzel on the street corner to Michelin-star gourmet, whatever your New York looks like, you’ll find it in spades. And now that Brooklyn is enjoying a spectacular renaissance with a new authentic artisans’ movement, the sky’s the limit. Just stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge for the newest New York experience.

Where to stay:

The Row NYC, just one block from Times Square, gives you a truly New York experience. The unique design is inspired by the city’s famous neighbourhoods. Plus, take advantage of Times Square’s first indoor food market, City Kitchen.

The Night Hotel Theatre District offers a truly contemporary boutique experience. Each of the 73 rooms at the Night Hotel brings the best kind of fun back into travel with trend-conscious design. 

5) Orlando

Orlando_option2

The most famous theme parks on earth are all in Orlando, like Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, SeaWorld® and Legoland® Florida. The choices are endless. For something a little more off beat, try Gatorland, or the famous Kennedy Space Centre, where you can actually see the launch pads and vehicles that have taken people into space.

Where to stay:

The Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites International Drive is perfect for a theme park vacation. Wet ‘n Wild is only two blocks away, and there’s free scheduled transportation to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

The Liki Tiki Village is great for families. Located in Kissimmee, a quick drive from Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, this Polynesian themed resort offers an extensive water play area and lots of other great family-friendly features.

10 Mar

By

Fun With the Kids During March Break

March 10, 2015 | By |

“Are we there yet?” takes on new meaning when you finally arrive with a luggage full of summer wear and a family ready to start their fun.

After all, it is March Break or Spring Break depending on where you’re from and that means one thing: fun in the sun.

Here’s where to get the extra fun breaks that’ll satisfy both adults and the kids.

The Mayan Riviera

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Blue azure sea, white soft sand, and a Caribbean reef that’ll have the kids snorkelling for Nemo are just some of the fun to be had at the Mayan Riviera.

I also love to hang with the critters in a jungle-rich environment at Xcaret Park. Amid the tall leafy trees in this eco-archeological park, you can hear the sounds of the jungle, prowl through the tropical jungle trail, stop at the wild bird aviary and watch entertaining free shows scheduled daily. See big cats at Jaguar Island and discover the ancient culture of the Mayans at the recreated villages. Water activities are popular too. I enjoy the clear, cool waters by the underground river and it’s always a treat to drift down the canyon-like Paradise River with its exotic foliage in a small raft.

Of course, swim spots are totally fun in Xel-ha Park. This water park torques through more Mayan jungles and winds past mini islands. Grab a tube and a lifejacket and prepare to tube down lazy rivers with its jungle backdrop. Xel-ha boasts many attractions and is loaded with activities. On my last visit snorkelling by the natural cove was a huge hit. You can also hike the nature trails to spot jungle critters.

Little kids may not really care for visits to see ancient ruins, but older ones like tweens should drop by with their parents to see Tulum. After you visit this ancient Mayan waterfront site, take a dip in the sea – as clear and sinfully warm as a hot tub.

At Tulum, you’ll learn about the ancient Mayans who were a resourceful, ingenious lot. If you want to dabble further into the world of the Mayans, take a full day excursion by bus to Chichen Itza. Located in the neighbouring state of the Yucatan, it is a bit of a drive (like 2 hours with a very early wake-up) but is well worth the trip to view this massive ancient Mayan site complex. Excursion tours can be booked directly at your resort.

Vegas for families

New York New York Hotel and Casino

Big Apple Coaster at New York New York Hotel and Casino

When you think of Las Vegas, you think of high rollers, casinos, and late nights, maybe not the stuff you want your family exposed to. But let me tell you, there’s a lot more to Vegas than adult entertainment.

There are the gondola rides, roller coasters, animal shows and tasty snacks and that’s just for starters.  I enjoy the variety and the selection in offerings is pretty staggering too.

At New-York New-York, get strapped in for dips and turns and try the Big Apple coaster ride with its Coney Island feel. At the Stratosphere, get strapped in again, but this time, the ride shoots you up into the stratosphere (try 160 feet) in just 2.5 seconds.

In this desert town it’s the hotel pools that make the big splash. Spend hours luxuriating at the poolside or hours at the many other attractions.

Fun in Orlando

Orlando SeaWorld

SeaWorld

Hit the big theme parks in Orlando. Don’t think too much about the line-ups… Just think: it’s not every day the kids get to visit Disney WorldUniversal Studios or SeaWorld.

International Drive is crammed with resorts. In between the pool visits, spa treatments, and great dinners at your property, don’t forget to make time for some quick retail therapy. I love to hang out by the famous Premium Outlet Malls on International Dirve. Scour the shops with luxe brands like Ann Taylor, Kenneth Cole, and Kate Spade New York.

For some downtime, or to flee the crowds at the theme parks, why not mellow next door at the “Gateway to Fun,” known as Kissimmee. This neighbouring city and its surroundings have some of the nicest off-the-beaten path activities. Take a fabulous paddling trip at Shingle Creek Regional Park. Located at the most northerly stream of the Everglades not far from International Drive, this waterway is laden with mangroves and promises fabulous nature sightseeing.

One of my favourite stops in Kissimmee is to spend the day at Gatorland. Dubbed “The Alligator Capital of the World,” the ginormous park is also home to a menagerie of other critters like tropical birds and snakes. Hands-on activities and daily shows with naturalists make it educational without being boring.  Once at Gatorland, you can’t escape hearing the call of Tarzan either. That’s because the park is home to 5 zip lines. Called the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, it’s great fun for the whole family. Note there are certain height and weight restrictions that apply.

Award-winning travel writer Ilona Kauremszky is a co-producer of mycompasstv and mycompass.ca and works with leading publications across North America. She’s been a nationally syndicated travel columnist and has appeared as a travel expert on CBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance and other national broadcasters. Follow her travel pursuits on Twitter and YouTube @mycompasstv.  

24 Feb

By

11 Free Things To Do in Las Vegas

February 24, 2015 | By |

Think Las Vegas and you’ll likely think extravagance: casinos, fancy hotels, elaborate entertainment. A trip to Las Vegas, however, does not have to break the bank. In fact, there are plenty of free things to do in Las Vegas. Here are our top 11 free shows and attractions in Vegas:

Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at Bellagio

Everything at the Bellagio Hotel is an experience, and its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are no exception. There are 5 distinct exhibitions per year: one for the Chinese New Year in January, followed by one for spring, summer, fall and winter. Each exhibition is treated as a theatrical production, featuring a colourful assortment of flowers, plants and trees that requires months of preparation.

The World’s Largest Permanent Circus at Circus Circus

Every half hour between 11:00 a.m. and midnight, the World’s Largest Permanent Circus takes centre stage at the Carnival Midway at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. Each segment lasts about 10 minutes and features stunning performances by acrobats, trapeze artists and jugglers. Make sure to get there at least 15 minutes in advance if you want to get a seat!

Free gaming lessons at various casinos

Are you a novice when it comes to casino games? No need to worry! Several casinos in Las Vegas offer free gaming lessons to get you started. They’ll introduce you to the basic rules, etiquette and strategies for games such as poker, roulette and blackjack. The Luxor, Circus Circus and Excalibur are among casinos to offer such lessons.

The Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace

This 11-minute fountain show takes place inside the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. It tells the tale of sibling rivalry, as the son and daughter of King Atlas battle over who should take over as ruler of Atlantis. The story is brought to life by 9-foot animatronics, as well as dazzling water and fire effects. While you’re there, you can also marvel at the 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium that surrounds the area.

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is like a miniature oasis amid the hustle and bustle of The Strip. Chilean flamingos, exotic ducks, black swans, Japanese koi and yellow catfish are among the wildlife you can observe here.

Auto Collections at the LINQ Hotel & Casino

The Auto Collections at the LINQ is a sort of living antique and muscle car museum, featuring over 250 vehicles. The cars on display are all for sale, so the collection changes frequently. You may also occasionally see iconic cars from famous Hollywood movies or that have belonged to celebrities. For an even more enriching experience, opt for a free audio guide to learn about the history of the vehicles.

CBS Television City Research Center at The MGM Grand

Ever wondered what it’s like to be an executive for a major TV network? At the MGM Grand’s CBS Television City Research Center, you can be a TV exec for a day! You’ll learn the ins and outs on deciding which shows get put on the air, as you view a selection of shows and learn how to register your opinion on the cast and content of each one.

Carnevale di Venezia at The Venetian

No need to go all the way to Italy to get a taste of the Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice). For a quick glimpse into what the Italian festival is all about, head to the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel. Every day (at different intervals), a troupe of gondoliers, living statues and jugglers put together a 15-minute performance that emulates the famous Venetian carnival.

The Volcano at The Mirage

The Volcano at The Mirage is a spectacular sight, featuring 2 volcano systems, a lagoon and fire shooters that shoot flame more than 12 feet in the air. As if that’s not enough, the fireballs move to the sounds of an exhilarating soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian composer Zakir Hussain. The sound is so powerful that you can actually feel the rumble of the volcanic movement.

Paris attractions at Paris Hotel and Casino

No, it’s not the real Paris. But with the amount of detail put into its design, it could be! If you’ve always wanted to see famous Paris attraction like the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera House, l’Arc de Triomphe and l’Hôtel de Ville, just stroll throughout the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino for free!

Laughlin tour

This one is exclusive to Air Canada Vacations. Book a vacation package to Las Vegas and you get a free tour of Laughlin, a city off The Strip that has just as much to do as Vegas does (minus the hustle and bustle). This resort destination has tons of casinos, shopping, spas and golf courses to keep you busy, as well as outdoor activities like fishing, swimming and boating.

 

Wondering what else you can do in Las Vegas? Check out our Vegas page for the full low-down on Sin City, including a multitude of other activities (which may not be free, but can be booked in advance!)

 

21 Nov

By

Hawaii Highlights for the First-Time Traveller

November 21, 2014 | By |

Aloha Hawaii! Pristine beaches, active volcanoes, quaint towns… Hawaii seems to have it all. So where to begin exploring this series of islands? What makes each island different? Whether you want to island hop or stick to one island only, a look at some of Hawaii’s highlights will certainly help. Here is a look at some of the best ofs on 4 of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Kauai: The Oldest of the Hawaiian Islands

Hanapepe: When visiting the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s only fitting to explore its history and culture – both present in the small town of Hanapepe. Historic plantation-style buildings, shops and art galleries abound here. The town’s charm is so palpable that it is often used as the setting for Hollywood films, like Lilo and Stitch and The Thornbirds.

Old Koloa Town is another must-see for history buffs; this town helped shape the sugar cane industry in the 1800s. It’s accessible via the Maluhia Road Tree Tunnel, a stretch of road lined with eucalyptus trees that were planted over a century ago.

The great outdoors: Kauai, deeply rooted in the environment, has outdoor spots that beg to be explored as well. In addition to hitting up Kauai’s beaches, you can visit remote waterfalls and kayak along the Wailua River, hike through the Waimea Canyon and cruise along the scenic Napali Coast.

Oahu: The “Heart of Hawaii”

Surfing: Located on Honolulu’s south shore, Waikiki Beach’s calm waters set the tone for a first-time surfing lesson. The North Shore’s bigger waves are perfect for more seasoned surfers.

Pearl Harbor: The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan is what brought the United States into World War II. This US naval base is now a designated National Historic Landmark with a total of 5 memorial sites.

Leahi Peak (Diamond Head): If hiking and taking in coastal views are on your Hawaii to dos, then reaching the top of Leahi Peak is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Waikiki and Honolulu are visible from here.

Maui: Foodie Favourite and Tropical Paradise

Lahaina: Hawaii regional cuisine is the pièce de resistance in Lahaina, a Maui hotspot. Known as farm-to-table cuisine, this type of fare combines local specialties like seafood with international influences. This town is also a great place to witness a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast with eating, drinking and Polynesian dancing.

Kula: Many of the ingredients used in Hawaii regional cuisine come from the produce farms of Kula. Besides taking a farm tour, you can also visit the Kula Botanical Gardens.

Natural beauty: Maui’s food is not its only highlight – there are lots of natural sights to take in too. Head to Iao Valley State Park to see the famed Iao Needle, a protruding green-mantled volcanic rock that looks like, you guessed it – a needle.  Haleakala National Park, with its numerous hiking trails, is also an ideal location to see natural wonders like the Nene, an endangered species of Hawaiian goose.

Hawaii, the Big Island: Adventure Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park definitely deserves a visit if you’re heading to the Big Island. It is home to 2 volcanoes: Maunaloa and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. In addition to hiking volcanic craters, you can visit the on-site museum or snap photos of some petroglyphs (lava rock carvings).

Sailing the Kona Coast: Several boat tours depart from Historic Kailua Village and Hilo. Diving with manta rays, whale watching, scuba diving and fishing excursions are also possible from Honokohau Harbor and Kawaihae Harbor.

Horseback riding in Waimea: Experience the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) lifestyle by horseback riding through Waimea. Head along the waterfall trails of Waipio Valley or make your way towards Kealakekua Bay to cap off your day with a quick swim.

 

Want to discover more Hawaii highlights? Check out our section on Hawaii travel.