Archive for November, 2009

snowshoe tracks in the winter snow

Snowshoe tracks in Algonquin Park near Algonquin Log Cabin Lodge

As promised in last week’s post, we’ve got some great ideas for New Year’s Eve this week: a family New Year’s Eve in Niagara Falls, elegant dining north of Toronto and in our nation’s capital and an Algonquin Park wilderness adventure complete with a log cabin lodge stay.

The Americana Conference Resort & Spa in Niagara Falls has “Family Spectacular” – non-stop New Year’s Eve fun for the whole family. It’s a big hit every year with an all-you-can-eat buffet and lots of entertainment like The Smudge Fundaes and the Zero Gravity Circus. More info here.

Wave pool at the Americana Resort in Niagara Falls

Water bucket and wave pool at the Americana in Niagara Falls

The Americana also has one- and two-night packages with the new Rink at the Brink. The one-night package includes tickets to the Rink at the Brink which is right by the falls, passes to Americana’s Waves Indoor Waterpark as well as your accommodation. Two night packages are the same except they’ve added a $50 meal voucher for the in-house restaurant and Waves snack bar.

Check out Tourism Niagara for more news on Rink at the Brink and other things to do in the Niagara region.

Christmas decorations at the Millcroft Inn and Spa

Holiday decorations at the Millcroft Inn and Spa

In the Caledon Hills, 45 minutes northwest of Toronto, the Millcroft Inn and Spa will ring in the new year with its “New Year’s Eve Gala Getaway”. You get two nights at the inn, a welcome reception on December 30th and then a three-course dinner from their a la carte menu. On December 31st there’s a Country Continental Breakfast Buffet, an Al fresco Lunch (on the Pinnacle or wedding garden, weather permitting).  The New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner has live entertainment with the Brenda Lewis Jazz Band, festive party favours and a champagne toast at midnight. January 1st starts with a light breakfast buffet. But if you sleep in, you can catch the New Year’s Day Brunch a little later.

Gratuities on food and beverages are included. This package starts at $299 CAD per person, per night (plus taxes, based on double occupancy and a two night stay, subject to availability). Valid December 30-31, 2009.

To get in touch with the Millcroft, call them at 1-800-383-3976 or check them out on the web. Also see the post we did on them last August and some comments about their food from last week.

couple dining at Brookstreet’s Perspectives Restaurant

Brookstreet’s four-diamond Perspectives Restaurant

The elegant Brookstreet Hotel might be the way to go in Ottawa. It has a seven course New Year’s Eve dinner planned. The food at Brookstreet is exceptional (CAA four-diamond rating for both hotel and restaurant) and the place has a real contemporary feel. You can get late night seating times for dinner priced at $149.95 per person and, if you decide t0 make a night of it, they’ll throw in a room for $99/double occupancy. Taxes and gratuities are extra. Personally, I have my eye on the 850 square foot Master Suite with Jacuzzi and balcony, but I haven’t called for a price on that yet. There are a lot of package options at this time of year, so check out the website for details and pricing.

Algonquin Log Cabin in winter near Algonquin Park, Ontario

The Algonquin Log Cabin

This next New Year’s Eve idea combines a log cabin stay in the Canadian wilderness with traditional Canadian winter activities. The place is Algonquin Log Cabin near Algonquin Park. Nothing beats a jump in the snow fresh out of this lodge’s wood-fired sauna! But hey, that’s just my opinion. If you want black dresses and high-heels on New Year’s Eve, you may prefer the Brookstreet or the Millcroft.

“Snowshoeing, Torch Lit Skating and Backcountry Skiing” are planned from December 31, 2009 to January 2, 2010 at Algonquin Log Cabin. This spectacular split log lodge with its huge fieldstone fireplace is on a lake bordering Algonquin. In winter, the park is a land of frozen lakes, waist-deep snow, and lots of crisp clear air.

Accommodation at the lodge is double occupancy with shared indoor washrooms, as well as a sauna and shower cabin. Group size is limited to 12 guests and two guides who prepare all the meals. After an invigorating day on the trail, it’s the perfect place to hang out. This New Year’s Eve getaway is priced at $475 per person. Add-on activities include ice fishing and dogsledding. Return transportation from Toronto is available for $175 per person. See the website for further details.

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horse-drawn sleigh rides at Pine Vista Resort

Old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rides at Pine Vista Resort

Last week, we blogged about the Idlewlyd Inn’s Dickens Dinner, Bayview Wildwood’s family Christmas plans, a Pillar and Post’s icewine lovers’ getaway and a Shamrock Lodge snowmobile package that’s close to OFSC trails.  This week’s post brings you holiday news from five more Resorts of Ontario: Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, the Little Inn of Bayfield on Lake Huron, Pine Vista Resort in the Kawarthas, The Briars on Lake Simcoe, and the Millcroft Inn in Caledon Hills.

water slide at Great Wolf Lodge

Santa and his elves on the water slide at Great Wolf Lodge

Holiday time in Niagara Falls is the season to combine waterslides and Niagara’s Winter Festival of Lights. From December 1-24 Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor waterpark resort, has tons of family things to do. There’s a gingerbread house so big you can eat in it. Santa pays a visit on December 5th. Family scavenger hunts and family dances will be held on Saturdays up to December 18th and Winter Friends Story Time is on every night at 8pm. Best of all, a one night stay gets you two days of water park play. Combine all of this with a visit to Niagara Falls’  Winter Festival of Lights and you’ve got yourself a great Niagara getaway. Great Wolf’ Lodge has a Winter Wonderland overnight that includes lunch in the Antler Shanty, one colour-you-own-craft for each child, 20 arcade tokens for each child and a 6X8 Thrill Pix photo and frame. Log on to the  Great Wolf Lodge website for rates and availability or call 1-888-878-1818.

ice hockey at Pine Vista Resort

A pickup game of hockey at Pine Vista

How about a bit of stargazing with your family in a big outdoor hot tub? You’ll find one at Pine Vista Resort. It’s on Stoney Lake in the Kawarthas, 90 minutes northeast of Toronto. Each of Pine Vista’s cottages and townhouses come with a fully equipped kitchen so you can cook your own Christmas turkey. They also  have jacuzzi tubs, TVs, DVD players, woodburning fireplaces and decks with BBQs. Over Christmas, a mini winter carnival is planned with face painting, movie nights, outdoor games, maple toffee-making, campfire, and crafts. There will be horse-drawn sleigh rides too, along with skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and  tobogganing. An indoor hot tub and games room are available and if a spa treatment sounds good, the resort can arrange that too. Affordable three-night Country Christmases are priced at $610 for a family of four or $505 a couple. To book, click here or call 1-800-634-2848.

Dancing Santa at The Briars Resort

Dancing Santa at The Briars

We visited The Briars earlier this year and blogged about its fascinating new history room. The resort is in Jackson’s Point,  Ontario’s first cottage country, an hour north of  Toronto. People used to travel to this little Lake Simcoe community from Toronto by radial railway (somehow that sounds incredibly civilized!). Two and three-night Christmas packages are available.  If you’re a crowd,  look into their lakeside family lodges. They sleep up to twelve comfortably. Highlights of a Briars holiday itinerary include a mulled cider welcome, an Irish Coffee party, a champagne breakfast followed by guided country walks or horse-drawn sleigh ride. They’ve even got a treat-making workshop for winter birdwatchers. On Christmas Eve, a festive buffet dinner with  live entertainment and a visit from Santa is planned. Christmas Day includes the resort’s annual snow golf tournament followed by a punch party and a Christmas feast with all the trimmings. There’s also an afternoon at the movies, and to work off all the food and drink, a fitness centre with indoor pool, sauna and  hot tub. Yoga lovers, don’t forget your mats!  There are yoga classes here too, along with a wonderful spa. To book, call 1-800-465-2376 or book online

Two more inns sent us their Christmas menus this week. Both have loyal food-loving fans:

The Little Inn of Bayfield, 45 minutes west of Stratford on Lake Huron, is Ontario’s oldest hostelry. In the 1830s it operated as a stagecoach stop. Today it caters to those with a nose for fine food and wine. Cooking class weekends and winemaker’s dinners are held every month. Positive reviews have come from a long line of respected Canadian and US food writers. Every year, the Little Inn posts its Christmas menus on its website. A quick peek by yours truly made my mouth water. All  Christmas meals will be paired with outstanding Ontario VQA wines and depending on the meal, meal prices range between $45 and $100 per person. If you and your significant other or the family want to make an overnight of it, check the Little Inn’s selection of one to four-night Christmas packages.

plate of gourmet food from Little Inn of Bayfield

Food-lovers can expect great fare at the Little Inn of Bayfield

In early September, I blogged about my visit to the Millcroft Inn & Spa with a Canwest food writer. Roberto Fracchioni is the well-loved chef here. He hosts monthly cooking sessions that always draw a crowd. This holiday season Chef Fracchioni has planned a  Christmas Day Dinner menu as well as two Christmas menus suitable for larger family gatherings.  Lots of house delicacies are on all three menus. Dinners run between $56 and $65 per person. Chef  Fracchioni and Pastry Chef Enrico Schulze will also create a customized menu experience if you want your own holiday event. Now, that would be a treatl!  The Millcroft has a spa that is one of the largest in Ontario. Its spa menu for men has received a lot of attention. A Winter Bliss getaway ties this inn’s spa and culinary together nicely. It includes a three-course dinner for two, breakfasts, a $100 spa credit, and an ovennight at the inn. Priced per person from $282, double occupancy, Sunday through Thursdays. On Saturdays, the price is slightly higher at $295 pp/do. To view this and more Millcroft getaways, click here.

More new package deals are included in a monthly Resorts of Ontario newsletter. To sign up, click here.

Next week, we’ve got  New Year’s Eve ideas  from Resorts of Ontario, so stay tuned.

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lobby of the Pillar & Post Inn, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Holiday decorations at the Pillar & Post

Every Christmas we used to be like hamsters running flat out on one of those wheels. His mother would want us to spend Christmas with his family. My mother would want the same. Our holidays were one big blur.  We’d entertain his family with a Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange, then stay up into the wee hours cleaning up before heading out at some ungodly hour to make it to my family’s Christmas gift-opening. Then one year I got smart and told my husband, “That’s it, no more. Let’s make this easy for ourselves and start to truly enjoy our families and the holidays.” Now we book dinner for everybody at a fabulous country inn. And you know what, everyone loves it. No dishes, no cooking, not even any Christmas shopping to speak of.  Just great conversation, good food and fine wine. So, if you’re the ‘old us’ trying to keep everyone happy during the holiday season, here’s some ideas to inspire you to try something new. Check back often. We’ll be posting more over the coming weeks:

book cover Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Calling all foodies! Isabella Mary Beeton was a contemporary of Charles Dickens and the author of “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management“. One of the famous cookery writers of the Victorian era, Mrs. Beeton’s recipes are the inspiration behind a Dickens Dinner to be held at the Idlewyld Inn in London, Ontario on Sunday, December 6th. Intriguiing dishes like Mulligatawny Soup from the days of the British Raj and Nesselrode Pudding, a frozen pudding with ground chestnuts, candied fruit and liqueur will be served at the six course dinner. There will be readings by Charles Dickens and carolers too. Two seatings are planned for 5:30pm and 8pm. $65 per person. To reserve, call the Idlewyld Inn at 519-433-2891.

If you’re looking for a storybook setting to celebrate, Niagara-on-the-Lake is about as picturesque as it gets. You won’t find the golden arches in this architecturally pleasing town. Home to the Shaw Theatre Festival, this  historic town’s buildings are beautifully decorated and strolling carolers are known to take to the streets during the holidays. At the town’s Pillar & Post inn, a former Niagara fruit cannery, they’ve put together an Icewine Lovers Getaway. Available until the end of February, it includes a three-course dinner and full breakfast in the inn’s Cannery restaurant as well as a night of accommodation. If you book mid-week, it is priced at $143 per person, double occupancy. Weekend rates run from $163 per person, double occupancy.

Since  the 1880s, the Stanton family at Bayview Wildwood Resort has been involved in the business of travel in Ontario. So you might say they’ve figured out what makes a resort family Christmas truly special. Just 90 minutes north of Toronto on Sparrow Lake, this classic lakefront resort is a picture postcard setting. In winter, skating, snowshoeing and tobogganing are all popular and it’s not unusual to see families face off in a lively game of broomball too. Traditional horse-drawn sleigh rides always draw a crowd, and for the young fry, a popular entertainer hosts a special Christmas Eve family music revue which culminates with a visitor from you-know-who. Besides an indoor pool and whirlpool, the Bayview Wildwood has its own squash courts to work off all the good food. A three-night family package running from December 24-27th includes eight full meals, supervised children’s programs, evening entertainment and all the fun you can manage. Priced from $354 to $441 per person, double occupancy. One child stays for free.

Shamrock Lodge in winter snow

The Shamrock Lodge

Finally, for all you sledders looking for a place to park your special “sleigh” Muskoka’s  Shamrock Lodge in Port Carling is an affordable choice if you’re looking for somewhere to head during Christmas week. Open from December 27th, this cozy lakeside lodge has easy access to OFSC trails. There’s also homecooked country meals, a floodlit skating rink, Hot Stove Lounge and games room with billiards, and indoor pool, hot tub and sauna. Call for rates which include most meals and box lunches for the trails.

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With Winter 2009-10 fast approaching we thought it might be fun to check out some of the ski deals that Resorts of Ontario will be offering this year. The resorts included in this post either have their own ski hills or they are offering a ski deal with lift tickets included. However, there are plenty more out there with great winter deals that are close to Ontario’s downhill ski centres. For a complete list of these, check here.

Blue Mountain, Ontario’s best known ski destination, gets a lot of newbies wanting to try skiing or snowboarding so it developed a Discover Ski & Snowboard program. Since the program began, hundreds of couples, groups of friends and families have learned to ski and snowboard at the resort. This year, Blue Mountain Inn has a new Stay & Learn to Ski package to go along with its Discover Ski & Snowboard Program. The package includes one night of accommodation, a beginner lift ticket, equipment rental and lesson, a breakfast and a Pottery Restaurant dinner and is priced per person, double occupancy. Village Suites has a similar package with breakfast as a buy in option. If you decide to book either deal, drop by Jozo’s in Blue Mountain Inn for some great apres ski. When we visited Blue Mountain earlier this year, we heard it’s where all the locals hang out after a day on the hill. Similar getaways are offered at other Blue Mountain accommodations. For the best rates, reserve online or call one of the resort’s leisure and travel representatives at 705-445-0231 or 877-445-0231.

WaterSpa at Sir Sam’s Inn

The new WaterSpa at Sir Sam’s Inn

Looking to combine romance and skiing? Sir Sam’s is the perfect find. This romantic Haliburton-area inn not only has its own ski hill, its WaterSpa is spectacular and the inn’s dining and wine list are both superb. Its ski hill has lots of gentle runs and a welcoming atmosphere for newbie skiers. This winter, Sir Sam’s has a two-night “Learn to Ski” package that includes accommodation, dinner and breakfast each day, plus a day on the hills with full equipment, lift ticket and lesson. Save $55 and go mid week when this getaway is priced from $670 per couple.

Eastern Ontario’s Calabogie Peaks and Dickson Manor have developed a fun package for couples looking for a brief escape from the holiday crazies. Running from December 20-23, the package includes an overnight in one of the manor’s deluxe rooms, dinner for two in its Canthooks Fine Dining Restaurant, 20% off of ski or snowboard lift tickets and complimentary ice skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. It’s priced at $199 per couple. Dickson Manor also has an outdoor hot tub, indoor pool and fitness centre.

A room at Hidden Valley Resort

One of the rooms at Hidden Valley Resort

Hidden Valley Resort is just outside of Huntsville, Ontario. Considered to be a good value ski hill with no line ups, Hidden Valley has its own luxurious hillside resort and restaurant. Ski & Stay packages here start as low as $85 per person, per night, double occupancy. Learn to Ski/Skateboard are two night packages starting at $215 per night, double occupancy. A variety of ski lift tickets are also offered to guests at a discounted rate.

Horseshoe Resort is just over an hour north of Toronto near Barrie, Ontario. It has a Ski & Stay package this season that combines unlimited skiing or snowboarding for two with one night of accommodation and breakfast, based on double occupancy. All rooms have wireless hi-speed internet, movies and video games. And here’s something worth noting, this hotel is pet friendly and has an 8000 square foot dog park. Priced from $2o3 per night, double occupancy, the package runs November 27-28, December 4-5, 2009 and then from December 11, 2009 – March 21, 2010

horseshoe-resort-chalet

View from the deck of The Chalet at Horseshoe Resort

Close to Horseshoe Resort, you’ll find Carriage Ridge. This family-oriented resort has partnered with two area ski hills this winter; Horseshoe Resort and Mount St. Louis Moonstone. Its open-concept condo suites are suitable for couples, small families or groups of friends. The suites include kitchen facilities, a king side bed, queen sofa-sleeper, balcony and living area. One or two bedroom suites with full kitchens, fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs are available for larger groups. There’s also an indoor pool, kids pool, hot tub and games room. A “Ski-Xtreme getaway” is one of several offered this winter. It includes a one night stay in one of the oversized condo suites, a lift pass for Mount St. Louis Moonstone or Horseshoe Resort, lunch voucher and skiers welcome gift. Packages start at $89 per person, double occupancy and kids stay free.

Hockley Valley Resort

The main buildings at Hockley Valley Resort

Hockley Valley Resort is another ski resort close to Toronto. We wrote a bit about it in last week’s post. It has a bunch of great ski packages listed on its web site starting at $229 double occupancy but we liked its Winter Bliss package. It includes one night’s accommodation, lift ticket for skiing or snowboarding, full buffet hot and cold breakfast, three-course dinner for two and a $75 spa credit per person for Hockley’s hillside spa. Priced from $463, double occupancy.

For more resort packages, sign up for the Resorts of Ontario newsletter.

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