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Kicking it Low Key in Canada


By Jill Fergus

Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday throughout 2017 with special celebrations and events, so there's never been a better time to head north of the border. While perennial favorites Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City are definitely worth visiting, here are a few more lesser-known Canadian destinations to discover.
 

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE
This charming Victorian town in Ontario is less than an hour from Buffalo, N.Y. – making it the perfect weekend getaway. Get your bearings on Queen Street, lined with 19th century redbrick buildings that house cafes and shops, as well as a few tasting rooms: Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for its many vineyards and wineries (there’s an annual ice wine festival in January). There are plenty of places to dine, including Escabeche (grilled lamb loin, maple-cured pork belly, etc.) at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and Treadwell Cuisine, a stylish wine bar with a seasonal menu located within 124 on Queen, a contemporary hotel featuring a spa and fitness center.

NOVA SCOTIA

One of Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia is a peninsula connected to New Brunswick. In Halifax, the compact capital, head to the waterfront area to sign up for a whale watching cruise or sail aboard a historic tall ship, then check out Titanic artifacts at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. In warm weather, have a lobster roll in one of the rustic food stalls. The South Shore, just southwest of Halifax, is a laid-back coastal region with small fishing villages and lighthouses (Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of Canada’s most photographed attractions). The jewel of the coast is the village of Lunenburg, known for its boat-lined harbor and seafood restaurants.

In nearby Shelburne, be sure to visit the Shelburne County Museum, where you can browse among old maps, period costumes and other memorabilia. You can learn about the craft of dory building at The Dory Shop and even take a ride around the harbor in one of the traditional wooden fishing boats.

Tip: The fast CAT car ferry sails from Portland, Maine, to the town of Yarmouth, on the southwestern edge of the island. The crossing takes 5 1/2 hours and onboard amenities include a cafeteria, cafe and a children’s play area.

NEW BRUNSWICK

Bordering Maine on its western edge, this Atlantic province is home to the famous Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides on earth (they can reach up to 56 feet!). One of the best places to explore the bay is in the coastal town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea, founded in 1783 by Loyalists from Maine. Sign up for a whale watching cruise aboard a Zodiac boat or take a half-day kayaking tour.

You can also visit Covenhoven, the former summer estate of Illinois-born Sir William Van Horne, the creator of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The 50-room mansion is located on Ministers Island, a large tidal island.

Back in St. Andrews, stay at the AAA Four Diamond Rated Algonquin, a grand Tudor-style resort. It’s an hour drive to the province’s largest city, Saint John, where you can learn about its rich maritime history at the New Brunswick Museum, then grab lunch (try the fish and chips) at the historic Saint John City Market. Nearby, you can bike the Fundy Trail Parkway, featuring cliffs, waterfalls and beaches.

Tip: St. Andrews has casual seafood spots (perfect for a lobster roll), but it also has two fine dining restaurants within upscale inns (the Kingsbrae Arms and the Rossmount Inn), both of which incorporate local ingredients in its dishes.

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Score a Great Deal On Your New Wheels


By George Morse

Buying a car can be exciting, but stressful. Getting a good price will lessen the latter.

John Paul, AAA's Car Doctor, has the following advice to help you get a fair deal on your next purchase.

  • Research the market. The internet is loaded with resources for research- ing vehicle prices. Websites such as www.nadaguides.com provide price ranges for new vehicle sales, as well as factory invoice prices so you know what vehicles cost dealers. You can also look up used vehicle prices, and, with websites such as www.cargurus.com, can see pricing on similar used vehicles in your area.
  • Look into rebates and anticipate sales. Always ask about rebates or incentives. Don’t assume salespeople will mention them. Also, be mindful of when you're buying. Prices for 2017 vehicles could fall when 2018 models hit the lot, and we've all seen holiday weekend sales commercials. You may find deals at the end of the month – or year – as dealers work toward sales quotas.
  • Conduct background checks. There are multiple places online where you can view vehicle history reports using a vehicle identification number. You'll want to know if a vehicle has been in a body shop or has any other sordid hi• story when assessing its price.
  • Call an expert. Like the previous entry, this tip is geared toward used vehicle purchases. Ask to have a vehicle inspected by a trusted repair technician. If a dealer refuses, this could be a valuable red flag. And knowing future maintenance expenses can help you determine if you're getting a good deal.
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Top 10: Chicago


By Jill Fergus
 

The Cubs finally won the World Series – after a 108-year drought – last November, but the celebratory buzz will likely remain for a long time to come. Catching a game at Wrigley Field, baseball’s second-oldest stadium after Boston’s Fenway Park, is a must for Chi-Town visitors, as is visiting its museums, lakefront parks, funky neighborhoods and architecturally rich buildings – not to mention trying its deep-dish pizza and other local treats.

1. One of Chicago’s grandest boulevards is North Michigan Avenue – specifically a stretch called Magnificent Mile – lined with luxury hotels, designer boutiques and trendy restaurants.

2. Visit Millennium Park to check out Cloud Gate, the beloved Anish Kapoor-designed, bean-shaped stainless steel sculpture. It’s highly reflective and captures the skyscrapers behind it.

3. The Art Institute of Chicago is a can’t-miss attraction. The massive museum is home to several national treasures including “American Gothic” by Grant Wood and “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

4. Down by the Navy Pier, kids will love taking a ride on the Centennial Wheel – offering 360-degree views of the skyline and Lake Michigan – and trying the hands-on exhibits at the Chicago 9 Children’s Museum.

5. A great way to see Chicago’s legendary architecture (the world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built here in 1885) is to sign up for a guided boat tour along the Chicago River.

6. Catch a game at Wrigley Field. Dating from 1914, the iconic stadium is known for its ivy-covered brick outfield wall, rooftop bleachers and red marquee sign over the main entrance.

7. Check out Sue, the world’s best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Field Museum of Natural History, which boasts plenty of other dazzling artifacts and specimens in its vast collection.

8. Deep-dish pizza and Chicago hot dogs are some local foods to sample, but you can also try the food truck scene. Fat Shallot has sandwiches like truffle BLTs and the Slide Ride sells gourmet sliders.

9. The city has no shortage of fine dining restaurants, including many that are AAA Diamond Rated. The AAA Five Diamond Alinea, helmed by highly creative chef Grant Achatz, serves New American tasting menus.

10. An elegant spot to have a cocktail is The Bar at the Peninsula 10 Hotel. Long a favorite of celebrities and local pro athletes, the dimly lit lounge has a large selection of martinis and single- malt whiskeys.

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Vermont’s Kingdom


By Mindy J. Ginley

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is undoubtedly the state's most beautiful and undisturbed region. It got its name 60 years ago from George Aiken, a former governor of Vermont and U.S. senator who thought the area was so spectacular it should be a kingdom.

The nickname stuck.

With every changing season, the Northeast Kingdom has new adventures to offer. My boyfriend and I recently experienced its many wintertime offerings during a stay at the ski-in/ski-out Burke Mountain Hotel & Conference Center, which opened in September. Conveniently located in East Burke, just 7 miles off Interstate 91, it’s an easy three- hour drive from the Pioneer Valley. The hotel has 116 suites, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, that feature local accents, kitchenettes and complimentary Wi- Fi. Our suite had a slopeside balcony and one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in. The hotel offers many indoor amenities including a family arcade, fitness center, spa, retail stores, a pub, coffee shop and cafeteria. It also offers ski rentals and repairs, and a 5,000-square-foot conference center.

“This hidden gem provides a classic ski feel with a modern beautiful hotel,” said Jessica Sechler, the hotel’s marketing manager. “From endless outdoor adventures to the exquisite indoor amenities within our hotel, our goal is to provide you with an authentic experience uniquely your own, one which you can’t wait to share or treasure yourself.”

Renowned for its breathtaking views and ski racing heritage, Burke Mountain is the best-kept secret in the Northeast. The 3,267-foot-peak features 36 trails, three terrain parks, four lifts and 178 skiable acres. It’s also home to Burke Mountain Academy, a highly acclaimed ski academy with 45 Olympians to its credit. If alpine skiing’s not your thing, you can enjoy a moonlit snowshoe trek or cross-country skiing on picturesque trails at the Nordic Center.

After spending a day on Burke’s challenging trails, we headed to the Bear Den Lodge to relax with a Vermont brew and some live music. That night, we enjoyed dinner and cocktails slopeside in Willoughby’s Restaurant, which features local beers, libations and ingredients.

At our waiter’s recommendations, we started with The Willoughby – a cocktail with Barr Hill Tom Cat gin, Orleans Herbal Aperitif cider, fresh lemon juice and a dash of Vermont maple syrup. It was herbal, bitter and citrusy with a kiss of Vermont sweetness. Dinner was a melt-in-your-mouth bacon-wrapped filet mignon topped with blue cheese butter and served with herb-roast- ed fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was perfection!

The Northeast Kingdom also offers endless summer adventures like mountain biking, hiking and paddling. The Burke Mountain Bike Park has been voted one of the top five best regional bike parks by riders in the Northeast. Looking for an exciting outdoor adventure opportunity for your children this summer? Check out Mountain Bike Adventure Camps. And as a bonus, the hotel offers secure, indoor bike storage, bike-and-stay packages and a AAA discount.

East Burke is also home to one of the best mountain biking trail systems in the world. Kingdom Trails is an impressive multi-system with an extensive network of scenic recreational trails designed to accommodate all levels of ability, where riders can enjoy 100 miles of trails on and around the Burke Mountain Hotel & Conference Center.

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Wander Emerald Isle


By Jill Fergus

If you’re looking for a destination to put on your 2017 wish list, consider Ireland. Researching your ancestry, discovering the country’s rich history – who doesn’t love castles? – and taking in the legendary landscapes are just a few reasons to visit. And there are numerous ways to experience the country, from an escorted tour to a customized, private trip or perhaps a self-drive vacation. Here are some of Ireland’s most popular regions.

DUBLIN

The capital is known for its historic attractions, including Dublin Castle, Trinity College – home of the beautiful Book of Kells – and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Follow in the footsteps of writers and poets like James Joyce and Seamus Heaney while on a literary pub crawl and don’t miss a visit to the Guinness Brewery, where you can learn about the famous stout and even enjoy a free sample.

THE SOUTHWEST

County Kerry, especially around Killarney, features some of the country’s most lush scenery with mountains, crystal-clear lakes and verdant valleys. Explore the rugged coastline of the nearby Dingle Peninsula and visit the foodie town of Kinsale in County Cork, where you can dine on local seafood, oysters and wild salmon, then head to a cozy pub to catch some traditional Irish music.

THE WEST

If you’re a fan of “The Quiet Man,” you likely know it was filmed in County Mayo, where tours of the film’s locations are available. Mayo is also home to one of Ireland’s top hotels, Ashford Castle, which features a billiards room, afternoon tea and activities like fishing, falconry and archery. And in nearby County Clare, have your camera ready for a visit to the 702-foot-high Cliffs of Moher.

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