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Activities & Interests

Past travel articles organized by activity and interest.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I didn't sign up to be a caroller

Sometimes things don't go as planned - and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

Location: Cook Islands;

Subject: christmas; tourism; travel

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Did this town inspire a Christmas classic?

Around this time of year, fans of the classic Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life sometimes wonder, ''Is there a real Bedford Falls?''Many of us wish we lived in a place like the film's fictitious setting, where the taxi driver knows your name and guardian angels like to hang out.

Location: New York; Seneca Falls;

Subject: christmas; motion pictures; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 14, 2013


concierge@globeandmail.comThe question: Holiday travel is a nightmare. Any tips to make it easier? THE ANSWERI've endured a stocking-full of seasonal airport stresses over the years, including arriving at a jam-packed Christmas Eve terminal without my passport; queuing for two hours to check-in - then spilling a glass of wine over myself; and almost getting trapped in snow-slammed Boston when my Dec. 22 flight home was cancelled.

Subject: christmas; list; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Christmas markets are best seen at night: It's easier to keep illusions alive. In the dark, makeshift wooden stalls groaning with wooden toys look like Santa's workshop. Kiosks wreathed with curtains of hanging ornaments shimmer in the moonlight; wandering the rows of stalls, a visitor can feel like an elf filling orders. Look up and there's always a towering fir tree covered in sparkling lights. Breathe deeply and you'll pick up the peppery, cinnamony scent of mulled wine - its Christmasy smell warming your soul before you've swallowed a drop.

Location: Germany;

Subject: christmas; shopping; tourism; travel

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Get your yule on

ClevelandVisions of sugar plums: This Ohio city nails Christmas. Die-hard fans of A Christmas Story will be pleased to know that Ralphie's yellow clapboard house has been restored to exactly as it appears in the 1983 movie, both inside and out - right down to the tacky leg lamp in the window. There are tours daily, as well as an on-site gift shop selling Red Ryder BB guns, pink bunny pyjamas and talking action figures ( Afterward, head over to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (, where horticulturists create a winter wonderland every year with ''snow'' (real stuff outdoors, fake stuff indoors) on the trees and 3,000 holiday-themed plantings that go way beyond poinsettias. Kids can hop aboard the Garden Express, a train that rides through the children's garden, and make last-minute requests to Santa at the wishing tree.

Location: British Columbia; Cleveland; New York; Nuremberg; Ottawa; Reykjavik; Whistler;

Subject: christmas; cities; list; tourism; travel

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas traditions worth travelling for

Fete de la Dinde, FranceThis is one beauty contest you don't want to win: From Dec. 10 to 12, the best-looking of Licques's famously tasty turkeys are paraded through town to the abattoir, to be served at a dinner-dance capping this 20-year-old festival and food market in northern France. Stay at five-star L'Hermitage Gantois in nearby Lille, and visit Lille's and Arras's Christmas Markets on the drive back to Paris.;

Subject: christmas; list; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 3, 2011


concierge@globeandmail.comI'll be on my own for Christmas. Where can I go for the holiday where I won't be overrun with families celebrating?***I once spent a Christmas in Rajasthan, India. It was refreshing to be in a place not obsessed with the shopping countdown; no big build-up, no bluesy day-after letdown. Instead, for the special day, my then-boyfriend and I splurged on dinner at an upscale hotel (where an employee was wandering aimlessly in a Santa suit).

Subject: christmas; list; tourism; travel

Friday, December 24, 2010


concierge@globeandmail.comThe question Help! I'm travelling over the holidays. Any survival tips?The answerAllison Dunfield, a pal who has spent many a December zipping between Toronto and Winnipeg and Saskatoon, has experienced it all: A purse and airline ticket forgotten in a taxi. A suitcase loaded with gifts lost in transit. Kids gone wild at 35,000 feet.

Subject: christmas; travel; vacations

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The home of Christmas artisans

High in the Ore Mountains, tucked into the valleys and protected from the cold winds that blow in from Russia, lie the small towns of Saxony that have collectively become known as the Land of Christmas. These towns are instantly familiar - when you conjure a Christmas scene or see one of those decorative little wooden villages, chances are that the model for those buildings came from these streets. The narrow roads, steeply pitched slate roofs with their tall gables and classic German architecture are securely anchored in the Christmas vernacular because of the area's local artisans.

Location: Germany; Saxony; Seiffen;

Subject: christmas; manufacturing; tourism; toys; travel

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday shopping, without leaving the hotel

SLS Hotelat Beverly HillsLos Angelesslshotels.comPhilippe Starck-designed Regalo is a shop without walls: Glass and steel display cases are grouped within a restaurant, The Bazaar by Jose Andres, and meant as a gift-strewn path for diners to meander through at some point during their meal. The shop serves up Assouline luxury books, Baccarat handmade crystal, curios by D.L.andCo. Modern Alchemists and Purveyors of Curious Goods, and Kiki de Montparnasse's slinky lingerie. Andres, who was short-listed for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant, hawks eponymous olive oils and a cookbook, Made in Spain.

Subject: christmas; hotels; list; shopping; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lose yourself in London

It's Saturday on London's Oxford Street. I am groggily euphoric after the long haul from Vancouver the day before. Surfacing from the Bond Street Tube station, I am swept up in a choppy sea of Christmas shoppers - all one million of them, the TV news says later. I bob, cheek to jowl, with the crowd, fighting my way in and out of John Lewis and Selfridges, where there is a lineup to get into the Louis Vuitton boutique. Are they giving away handbags? No. This is just London, and if you have money, there is no better place to blow it than here.

Location: Great Britain; London;

Subject: christmas; cities; tourism; travel

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Yuletide road trip

It may be the day before the night before Christmas, but as Don Mooney says, ''the business world never sleeps.''It just goes undercover.He should know. Concierge for the executive Gold floor at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for the past three years (and at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary before that), he's worked eight of the last 10 Christmases.

Subject: business travel; christmas; hotels

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dreaming of a green Christmas

As we wake up at Pinehurst Resort on Christmas morning, my wife and I joke that we hope Santa has brought us new golf swings.An hour later, to the sound of church bells ringing in the distance, we optimistically tee off at the resort's No. 2 course, hallowed ground for every golfer and the marquee attraction of a bucolic North Carolina village known as the ''Home of American Golf.''

Location: North Carolina;

Subject: christmas; golf; resorts; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A CHRISTMAS CARIBBEAN CRUISEThe buy SeaDream Yacht Club has a winter sale that includes a one-week Dec. 20 voyage out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.The savings 57 per cent: the sale price is $4,938, down from the brochure rate of $7,776. If you book by Dec. 15, you also receive a $200 (U.S.) spa credit.

Subject: christmas; tourism; travel

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An icy voyage to Santa's home

When my young nephew learned that I was going to the North Pole, he quickly seized on his chance to have a letter hand-delivered to Santa.A Nintendo Wii, a helicopter and Power Rangers were but a few items on the list, along with a canny suggestion that Santa lighten his load by letting uncle truck the booty home. This would, not incidentally, advance

Location: North Pole; Canada;

Subject: christmas; travel; cruises

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A city of verticality, plurality - and possibility

Adam Gopnik is best known as a staff writer with The New Yorker, where his essays have covered everything from 9/11 to a child's imaginary friend. His new book Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life will be published next month.

Location: New York;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; statements; list

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mulled wine and carols in J.M.W. Turner territory

The vicar is almost vibrating with enthusiasm. It's close to midnight on Christmas Eve, and on this night everyone in the village has come to St. Peter's. They have filed through the low, stone gate of the churchyard, across its damp grounds, past ancient, leaning gravestones and huge monkey-puzzle trees, to fill the narrow wooden pews of the 12th-century church.

Location: West Sussex; Great Britain;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; list

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I dream not of a white Christmas

At the post office, I watched harried shoppers, all desperate to ship their goods across the globe in the (likely vain) hope they would arrive in time for the big day. As I waited in the interminable lineup, my mind wandered off to a Christmas spent halfway around the world.

Location: Vanuatu;

Subject: christmas; travel; culture

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Windows into another world

Earlier this month, I stood in front of the dressed windows of Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps, two of the oldest department stores in Paris, my two small children by my side. I was looking for Christmas and thought that the festive window displays, an annual Paris tradition, would satisfy my growing hunger for some holiday cheer.

Location: Paris; France;

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The quality of a handshake

The hotel Villa Sol was crude but spirited after the fashion of the revolutionary heroes whose black-and-white portraits adorned the walls. At 9 o'clock on Christmas morning, the old 50-bed hostel was cool, the heat of the sun not having penetrated its concrete walls. I was standing on my balcony waiting for Maria Gomez, a member of the faculty of the University of Cienfuegos, whom I was to accompany to mass.

Location: Cuba;

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism; religion

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Solstice storiesTorontoWith Friday marking the shortest day of the year, check out the Spadina Museum for its winter solstice celebration. Nestle in for an evening of ethereal, traditional Japanese music and storytelling courtesy of the Katari Storytellers, with James Thompson providing musical accompaniment on the flute.

Location: Toronto; Ontario; Alton;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; events

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Hanukkah in HavanaToronto Celebrate Hanukkah in Havana at the downtown Jewish community centre with some klezmer-Cuban fusion fun. Jewish and Cuban musicians, including pianist-composer Hilario Duran and David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana, get things moving while local Latin jazz singer Amanda Martinez provides vocals. There are also visuals in the form of a photo exhibit, Let There Be Light: Jewish Life in Cuba.

Location: Ontario; Toronto; Parry Sound;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; events; hanukkah

Saturday, December 1, 2007


The first exhibition and sale of more than 50 original conceptual storyboards from Tim Burton's groundbreaking, stop-motion feature The Nightmare Before Christmas as well as The Corpse Bride will be presented at the Animazing Gallery in New York this month. The works vary from pen and ink to mixed media to colourful tempera on board and are attributed to Burton and the films' creators (a certificate of authenticity is included). They range in price from $5,000 to $6,000. The exhibition runs Dec. 7-31 at 461 Broome.

Subject: art; exhibitions; the nightmare before christmas; the corpse bride

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Northern LightsOwen Sound, Ont.If you're a Christmas-lights nut, head to Owen Sound this weekend for the 20th annual Festival of Northern Lights. Think 327 sparkly, 3D trains, fire-breathing dragons, trees and other festive displays equalling more than 18 kilometres of light strings winding along the banks of the Sydenham River. Opening-night festivities start at 7 on Friday, although fireworks light the sky at 6:45. The eco-conscious should take note: Festival organizers have been converting to LED lights for the past few years.

Location: Ontario; Guelph; Owen Sound; Walkerton;

Subject: christmas; festivals; tourism; travel

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Remembering the past London, Ont.In some ways, it's a testament to Canada's peaceful recent history that Remembrance Day ceremonies take on a certain sepia hue for kids. To give them a feel for what really went on, take the family to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum for its Remembrance Day service. Sit beside a Spitfire fighter plane, a B-25 bomber and at least 1,800 other people for a moment of silence. The indoor ceremony takes place in a hangar housing the museum's vintage collection of aircraft.

Location: Toronto; London; Oakville; Ontario;

Subject: travel; tourism; hockey; oakville christmas art and craft fair; remembrance day

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Ask anyone who has lived abroad what the most poignant time of year for the expatriate is, and he or she will almost certainly say Christmas. There is something about this particular run of days that sings with deep longing for home. So we, the self-exiled, cobble together a melange of old traditions, on-the-spot traditions and some local ones, and concoct a celebration that in future years we can look back on and remember as our quirky African or Asian or Latin American Christmas, as distinct from our real Christmas.

Location: Ethiopia;

Subject: christmas; travel

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Mere hours after Santa's sleigh has made the rounds this year, I'll be airborne as well, flying south to warmer climes on Christmas Day.This is something I vowed I would never do. The first time my parents announced Christmas was a ''moveable feast,'' and summarily shifted the family celebration to Dec. 23 so they could fly to the Caribbean on Dec. 25, the ''kids'' were miffed (even though we were adults). We were used to being the sun their lives revolved around.

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Follow me with merry pleasure . . .

When you first took my handOn a cold Christmas EveYou promised meBroadway was waiting for me -- Fairytale of New York Rinks and Rolls in New York The holidays are always a big deal in the Big Apple, whether you're drawn to the city's classic charms or the Pogues' Fairytale of New York version of events. Whatever your inclination, this year the city's most famous festive symbol is celebrating a milestone. When the Rink at Rockefeller Center opened its ice surface for the season, it marked the 70th consecutive year skaters have filled the iconic plaza.

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism; list

Saturday, December 2, 2006

From Tokyo to Sao Paolo, it's a Miracle on 34th Street

Since the heyday of the department store in the 20th century, the Christmas holidays and their bustling halls have been inextricably linked -- just think of our perennial viewing of the classic film Miracle on 34th Street, or the annual Macy's parade in New York.

Subject: christmas; retail trade; stores; shopping; cities; travel; list

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The out-of-office party

Company holiday parties can go very wrong: one lonely drink ticket, some bar downtown you'd never ordinarily set foot in, and your boss's daughter's boyfriend DJing as if you're all on ecstasy, which, as the night drags on, starts to seem like an appealing option. All this can serve to achieve the opposite of the purpose of such events: Instead of a big thank you for jobs well done, it can come across, even with the best of intentions, as a hearty slap in the collective face -- and still cost thousands of dollars.

Location: Canada;

Subject: christmas; entertainment; companies; travel; tourism; list

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Christmas light showBurlington, Ont.So you think your Christmas lights look good? Chances are, the Musson family of Burlington has you beat. The Mussons have been stringing up lights for three decades now, and in that time their display has evolved from a simple outline of the house to a light show that would put Pink Floyd to shame. Don't miss the fire-breathing dragon, the melting snowman, saluting soldiers and an animated Harley-Davidson that was built as a tribute to Cam Musson, who died in an accident in 1998.

Location: Burlington; Toronto; Bancroft; Ontario;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; spas

Saturday, December 3, 2005


The fact that the Spanish have the most extended Christmas season in Europe is further evidence, should any be needed, of their dedication to the never-ending bash. In Madrid, this year's Navidad will kick off in earnest today, the first day of a long weekend during which thousands of locals and visitors will flock into the old town for the illumination of Christmas lights. Celebrations then stretch right until a night of partying after the traditional parade of Los Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men, who take the place of Santa Claus here) on Jan. 6.

Location: Madrid; Spain;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; festivals; events

Saturday, December 3, 2005


Best known for his practical travel guides and PBS series about Europe, Rick Steves veers away from the nitty-gritty for a whimsical romp through the Christmas traditions and foods of seven countries. Colour photographs and more than a dozen recipes (anyone for julekaka or panforte di Siena?) capture the spirit of the season from Norway to Italy.

Subject: cookbooks; review; rick steves' european christmas

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Santa-free zones from Edinburgh to NYC

Ah, the joys of the season: Graceful drifts of lily-white, new-fallen snow; rosy-cheeked, cherubic children singing Silver Bells; coloured lights gaily twinkling in every window on the street; and a hearty ''ho, ho, ho'' from the jolly old elf himself.

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Yule rules Indiana, Germany and the Grenadines

''My worst fears have been realized,'' my husband, Dave, laments as we drive up to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the self-proclaimed ''World's Largest Christmas Store,'' in Frankenmuth, Mich. Its 11 hectares of landscaped grounds sprawl before us, loaded with tinsel, lights, life-sized creche scenes and five-metre-tall Santas.

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism; list

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Santa or Scrooge?

DEC 10MONTREAL Maybe it's the glowing cross atop Mount Royal that draws them. Or perhaps it's the Quebecois joie de vivre. Each year at 8 p.m., thousands of Montrealers and visitors join in the Marche de Noel aux Flambeaux, a candlelight procession through the Plateau area. Just remember to bring a toque.

Subject: travel; tourism christmas; list

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Northern Noel

To survive the preliminary cold snap, I borrow a down-filled parka from Anne Saunders, the librarian at Dawson's Public Library. By Christmas week, there have already been a few nights of minus 45 and frost flakes drift, with no real daylight before 11 a.m. Anne's army fleece is much warmer than the old toggle coat I can wear back East even on our coldest days. Its hood, with the caribou decorations, protects me from frostbite as I hurry along the snapping boardwalks to a service at St. Mary's, though my beard is a frozen mop when I get there.

Location: Dawson City; Yukon;

Subject: christmas; travel; tourism; ecology

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ontario residents are on the move over the holidays

If they knew no one's feelings would be hurt by the news, 50 per cent of Ontarians would trade a traditional visit home for a more exotic vacation, according to a recent survey.

Location: Ontario;

Subject: christmas; travel; surveys

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Scores of ships entering festive Vancouver event

More than 80 boats are being decorated with about 150,000 twinkling lights as part of Vancouver's annual Carol Ships Parade of Lights in Coal Harbour, which kicked off Wednesday and runs through Dec. 23.

Location: Vancouver;

Subject: christmas; events

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Mission site holds Christmas event

Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, the recreated 17th-century French Jesuit mission near Midland, Ont., will present its third annual ''First Light'' Christmas event for families. It runs tomorrow through Saturday. Festivities will include Christmas choirs, children's heritage crafts, costumed staff, 17th-century cooking and the glow of over 2,000 candles. Admission is $3 a person plus a non-perishable food item that will be donated to a local charity.

Location: Ontario; Midland;

Subject: tourism; christmas; festivals

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Holiday hideouts

After years of hosting up to seven siblings and their spouses and children on Christmas Day, and then trying to schedule another dinner with her in-laws, one of my sisters has started heading south in December with her husband and two kids. ''Now, I don't have to worry about a thing,'' she says.

Location: Canada; Caribbean;

Subject: travel; tourism; cruises; christmas

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Christmas festival returns to Quebec

Quebec City kicks off 31 days of Christmas season festivities Dec. 2 with special activities -- such as parades, fashion shows, carriage rides and choral performances -- scheduled on the streets of Petit-Champlain, in Place Royale, Old Quebec City and the markets of the Old Port.

Location: Quebec City;

Subject: christmas; festivals; travel

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Christmas comes to Hong Kong

The 2004 edition of Hong Kong WinterFest opens Nov. 26 and continues through the holiday season until Jan. 2. Located in and around Statue Square, the festival features a towering Christmas tree, Santa's Town and a Mistletoe Boulevard. The 35-metre-tall tree will be decorated with lights, garlands and ornaments, and will be visible at night from both sides of Victoria Harbour. Santa's Town, meanwhile, will offer traditional cultural performances and carol singing, a Christmas merchandise market, bakery workshops for children and Santa's Post Office. Other events in the city during WinterFest include a nightly light display, a Nov. 28 performance by the National Ballet of China and a variety of concerts and sporting events.

Location: Hong Kong;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Not home for the holidays

It was the beginning of Christmas week, and I was alone in Lisbon. I had come to the Portuguese capital to avoid looking at the same lights and living rooms as the year before.

Location: Lisbon; Portugal;

Subject: cities; travel; tourism; christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Not home for the holidays

The intolerable prospect of spending yet another home-alone Christmas can send one packing for a very long trip -- in my case, it was to Australia and New Zealand, where for 31/2 weeks I would tour both countries with a small but outspoken group of Americans who had the same idea.

Location: Great Barrier Reef; Australia;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

German markets serve up an Old World Christmas

There are things I love and hate about the Christmas season. For example, I love shopping, but I hate standing in long lines to pay inflated prices when surrounded by frantic, Scrooge-like shoppers.

Location: Dresden; Frankfurt; Germany;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Bagging the Big Apple

Ah, the streets of Manhattan in mid-December. Lamp posts and brownstones twinkle with yellow fairy lights, the sweet waft of roasted chestnuts fills the air, and at every pedestrian-clogged corner fanciful storefronts offer an enticing pre-holiday invitation: SALE.

Location: New York;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; shopping; stores; gifts

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Avoiding holiday havoc in NYC

If you're visiting New York between now and New Year's, chances are you'll make time to see the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Or perhaps you'll brave the crowds to go ice-skating, or you may choose to wait on the sidewalks, along with everyone else, for a glimpse of the holiday-themed department store windows.

Location: New York;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas

Saturday, December 6, 2003

Setting the mood for a capital Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like you-know-what in London this week after Thursday's unveiling of the giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, the traditional start of a month-long feast of seasonal events in the British capital that should thaw the hearts of any visiting Scrooges.

Location: Great Britain; London;

Subject: travel; tourism; christmas; cities

Saturday, December 6, 2003

O little town of ... Bala?

The streets in the Ontario town of Bala will be closed off today for the 10th annual Trek to Bethlehem.The event commemorates Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth on the night Jesus Christ was born.

Location: Bala; Ontario;

Subject: christmas; festivals

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