Toronto is more than just an underrated city on the rise. It's a unique home from home this side of North America that has everything for everybody in this small, but vast world.
CN Tower: In Toronto-or Canada as a matter of fact-nothing scales higher than the CN Tower and as you ascend this sensational, spike structure be prepared to see this city like you've never seen it before. One of the worlds tallest structures let's you see every building and boulevard in all its beauty. The city is yours but THIS is its pinnacle. Just make sure you look at this needle piercing the sky first from outside as you look up to where you're about to climb.
Niagara Falls: Some of the wonders of the world may leave you wondering 'where's the definition to this word exactly' but not these falls. Shared by America's New York and Canada's Toronto (and if you turn around what looks like a mini-Vegas) this is the perfect rest-stop for a drive across the two countries. It's even more amazing than seeing the worlds largest frying pan if you're taking John Travolta's 'Michael' along with you. Just don't expect any white-water rafting type fixes for your adrenaline. They don't let people ride down the falls in barrels anymore.
Toronto Islands: Across Lake Ontario the Toronto Islands give you a vivid view of the stunning skyline of this city including the CN Tower in it's perfect place. Still, this land isn't just for your boats and cameras however. There are beautiful homes and walks in the best gardens you'll find this side of New York's eden. This all makes for the perfect venue for the Summer festival circuit which joins the islands other seasonal amusements. Let's hope that sole fire station and truck can handle it all.
City Hall: On the outside Toronto's City Hall looks like a vision for the future straight out of an 80's sci-fi movie. Still what it really offers-apart from the boring stuff-is a great landmark and place to do more than just have your lunch on a quick break. There's ice-skating here for those 'Serendipity' moments with your date that you may not be able to make it to New York for. Plus when it comes to New Year it's all fireworks like Drake featuring Alicia Keys. Thank me later.
Much Music: What looks like Canada's answer to MTV is actually Canada's answer to fan interaction this side of the new generation of social media in this day and age. You can do more than just peek through the windows to see who's who and what's going down when it comes to this entertainment network. During live shows the window opens up during breaks for the celebrities to come and do the autograph and 'selfie' thing. Depending on your calender. One day it could be Miley, the next day Billy Ray...but your at least guaranteed to see someone famous.
Air Canada Centre: From the ever improving Toronto Raptors franchise that is showing the NBA and the Memphis Grizzlies that basketball is not extinct North of America, to the legendary Leaf franchise in hockey this is the arena. Awesome facilities, state of the art surroundings and enough concessions to not need seconds this is a top sporting venue which also makes for one of the best places to catch whatever stadium set makes for the gig of the year, whether you prefer your piano being played by Bill Joel or Bruno Mars.
Rogers Centre: When your in the ball-park watching the game this Summer what better way to enjoy it than knowing that if it gets too icy in this cold Canada, then the retractable roof will close for your cooling convenience? This convertible car like stadium may no longer be considered that latest and greatest of innovative ground designs but it's still one of the first and best. A true classic that also houses concerts and some formidable festivals across the years calender. Still one of the greatest looks may be the view of the CN Tower peaking above the roof. Just make sure you wave at the people up there trying to catch the game.
Loose Moose Bar & Grill: Sports bars are America and Canada's hallmark tradition and you don't have to walk far to find one that plays the game and serves a decent brew. Still when you see the frames of trading cars as you enter under the antlers of the Loose Moose you know you've found your place. Especially as there are more screens than an ESPN set to keep your sports fixed entertained no matter what your ball game of poison is. Just don't count on much variety on-screen of the leafs are playing however. This is the country of ice and puck. It's the real tradition. Like those Loose Moose fries...to die for.
Hockey Hall Of Fame: Do you know your Wayne Gretzky from your Sidney Crosby? Even if the only ice involved with your favourite sport resides at the bottom of your glass you'll find a lot of interesting exhibits from top to bottom here. From the distinct look on the outside to all the knowledge you'll find inside this is more than just a part of sports. It's a part of Canada. Just remember, no fighting.
The Museum Of Shoes. 'SHOES'?! You cry. Yep, judging from the massive stiletto-which is a sight in itself-on the outside the museum of shoes is definitely not a guys first choice. Then again if you're taking your date here you'll need this for your trips itinerary. Who knows maybe they'll have a section for Jordan's? Still, this is some girls greatest dream this side of walking into a place this big and stocked with so many heels with the words 'Sale' blazed across the front. Just make sure you don't her them to the gift shop.
Royal Ontario Museum: The Science Centre and Art Gallery are more than just places of interest for your travel guides but if you have to pick just one place to walk around for the day then it has to be the Royal Ontario Museum which is so full it's even renowned for loaning artifacts to other museums. Still, even with everything you can find under this one roof it's the glass pointing pyramid structure of the outside that may just have the most lenses on it.
The Harbourfront Centre: The Harbourfront Centre offers you more than just an ice rink for you to embarrass yourself on dates if you have two left roller feet. It's the perfect place to experience the beauty and tranquillity of Lake Ontario leading out to the Toronto Islands. So whether your the old fashioned type that likes romantic walks late at date night, or someone that prefers the company of Dylan or Marvin on the iPods of an early morning jog this is the perfect path.
Ireland Park: Explore the T-Dot's Irish roots-along with your own perhaps-in this picturesque park. The Rowan Gillespie sculptures that commemorate the arrival of refugees after the great famine of Ireland are as moving as they are inspiring. What was once known as Cabbagetown now holds great farmers markets and vegetable stalls keeps it's Irish roots firmly planted into one of the nicest neighbourhoods here that it has grown into.
Eaton Centre: This is the town that gets so cold icicles may hang off your beard as well as you car. So much so that you can find the lions share of shops and places to eat underground in a subway of shopping style. Still if you want to avoid the bunker the Eaton Centre makes for the perfect shopping centre from the bargain basements to the high-end boutiques. This is the place where Toronto puts it's Christmas tree and once that comes down in the New Year you know you'll want to come here for the sales.
Le Meridien King Edward: If you want to live like a King..or at least stay like one how about Edward's hotel? There's a lot of cool and classy places to stay in this eclectic city no matter how far your wallet opens but here scales everything else, no matter if you're staying in the penthouse suite or on the ground floor. The soaring marble surroundings all around are a site in themselves and reminds you that even at an extra expense you're staying somewhere that helps you live it large while your away. It's your vacation...what else are you supposed to do?
Polson Pier: This entertainment complex may just be the place of new and traditional ways of spending your hard earned bucks on some after work fun. If your a golf fan, you're on course here for a treat of swinging those irons on a lazy day out the office, but if you prefer your drive a little more 50's romantic than why not take a convertible to this drive-in movie theatre it converts to at night? Just like the good ole days all you need now is a leather jacket and 'Saturday Night Fever' on the radio. Let's hope 'Pulp Fiction' is playing.
Bad Dog Theatre Company: Despite the cold-front, Canada is a warm, laugh loving place. This is the land that gave us comedy legends like John Candy and Jim Carrey. The Bad Dog Theatre Company also produced the greats Mike Myers and Colin Mochrie. This improv venue will even have you if you think you could write the perfect one-liner. If not don't heckle what this stage offers you because it might just be the next Steve Martin.
Balzac Coffee Roastery: We could go to all the Starbucks and Pret's ever corner has for the rest of our lives but there's nothing like a more personal coffee house to define the street of a city and your morning routine. Whether your doing the run for work or running over the events of last night whilst nursing a hangover the Balzac is as fresh as the beans that are roasted on premises. It's retro, it's real and it's refreshing and more than just a big businesses Summer campaign. Each day of the year you'll be able to find more types of tea in this home of the leaf.
Republik: Whether you spend most of your nights on Tinder or with the wedding planner we all like to have a club night once again whether it's with our boys or the one we love. Toronto offers a lot for any crowd, but if you want to see just how crazy and cool it gets than the young vibrant crowd heads for the bright and sparkling lights of Republik. There's even a waterfall in the middle of this place. It may not be Niagara, but its certainly something else.
Toronto Theatre District: You're in for a show here even if you just like walking down the street and taking it all in. Still from the Royal Alexandra Theatre to all the shows you can act through you're bound to find something here that's just the ticket. Still it's when September starts that this city truly wakes up from it's underground Winter. Here is when you can see any film or famous face worthy of Academy and Blockbuster company in the crazy weeks that define this month in this places year. The Toronto Film Festival is so good that this Canadian place is second only to Cannes. Take that London! Need we say anymore? TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Purple, this city may as well be painted down to its streets with it. This is the land that birthed both the 'Purple Rain' of music superstar Prince and the reign of the storied Lakers NBA franchise before they moved to Los Angeles (you know there's no 'land of lakes' in L.A., there's barely a drop of water in that dry house). Sure, that's enough to get this writer excited but believe me this city has a lot more to be proud of than just one of the worlds greatest musicians and ball-clubs. Besides these days they've got the Minnesota Timberwolves and Bon Iver singing songs about them for the twin cities hospitality. As cold as the ice that hangs off your windows and as hot as the hell of a good time yo'll have in Summer, no matter the season this place has reason to visit. Besides they have a shopping mall with a rollercoaster in the middle of it and dinosaur parks. What more could you ask for? If you're planning a trip take it from Jurassic Park legend Jeff Goldblum..."must go faster, must go faster".
The 48th largest city in these 52 States is home to Charlie Brown, the 'Great Gatsby' writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (his soloemn statue is here too) an epic menu worth of places to eat, a libaries worth of places to read, a 'Mall Of America' literally defining place to shop and a massive spoon with a cherry on top in the middle of it all too...literally. The land of twenty lakes and wetlands is a feast for the eyes and when the ice catches them as well as your throat it'll make for some of the best photo albums you've ever developed or shared on social-media. This is your time however so witness this great place in all its glory while you can because from superb suberbs to downtown developments this place has it all. You may want to lay your hat a little longer here because this welcoming place in one trip is one you can call home, whether your on a layover or pernament vacation like Aerosmith. As beautiful as Boston, as American as Kentucky and as young and hip as Portland this is another great American city that shows and tells you this land isn't just about New York or Hollywood. There's real depth here for you to explore.
Make a note in your travel journal to visit a place that is more than just the business connection between Chicago and Seattle. The home of the 'Chains Of Lakes' draws creation to the city by the writer, musician and artist load. You do remember the 'Jazz Age' of 'Gatsby' was birthed in writing here and not New York right? With the Mississipi River uniting Minnesota and Saint Paul, Minny draws everything in like a grand gesture. This big city is great all year round. Visit Lake Calhoun in Summer if you want to bring your fishing line and the forzen over Lake Harriet in Winter if you want to bring your kite for that festival. It's crazy to think that what you and your kids are standing on is inches of ice that seperates you from the coldest, chilling water. Trust me, however it's not as scary as you think, it's all fun and they've got hot chocolate (with marshmellows) and burgers too...sold?! The water tower of Prospect Park may be this places highest point, but this down to earth city is all about the little things. The places to eat, drink and hear great music with some great friends, and I tell you it doesn't get much better or cooler than Psycho Suzies. It's one of those places that you don't want to tell people too much about, because you wan't them to explore it themselves. So no spoilers here, just go, the only thing it'll ruin is all the other bars you go to back home.
From the Minneapolis Institue Of Arts to the science museum (want to see some real dinosaurs? They do actually plan on having some on their tour!) there's plenty of tourist things to do that are more than just the brochure to go along with the parks and rec of the great outdoors. So raining or sweltering you'll always find something to do even if you have a coat or not. Make sure you pack your thermals, scarfs, gloves and long-Johns however in the early months because jeez Louise it's going to be chilly. Still, that doesnt matter because what other place can you have a great time even if you feel like your about to lose your nipples? This place is more than just the great shops, bars, restaurants, parks and lakes however. It's about the people you meet and the experiences you have on a day to day basis. Sure you can take a picture of all the tourist landmarks you want and sure that'll be amazing, but it's the memories you leave behind here that really matter for your memories. They once said, 'take only photographs, leave only footprints' and when it comes to the beautifully simple ways of just truly living on vacation instead of rushing through it, Minnesota has it down. The M.P.L.S. Lakers may have left town, but Prince and his Paisley park haven't and you wont want to either. That't the long and short of it. For a couples retreat in a couple of weeks, it's all about the twins. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
"Kentucky, you are the dearest land outside of Heaven to me", The Everly Brothers sang. You can hear it 'Foreverly' on the new covers album of the brothers hits by todays pairing of modern greats Norah Jones and Billie-Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Or you can just see it for yourself. Miles and miles of beautiful country, Kentucky is the place to be. Even if you've seen New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, San Fransisco or Los Angeles, THIS my friend is America. This my friend is the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The home of one of the proudest and best college Basketball franchises of all-time and not to mention coaches. This is a place where you can find a falls more picturesque than Niagara. This is a place famous for Bourbon, big trucks, even bigger roads and even bigger personalities still. Yep, you're not going to find much nicer people this side of Canada than the warm welcome you'll receive in Kentucky.
Make a drive to the big city of Lexington then you'll see plenty of cool stuff for your cameras, along with a lot of shops, places to eat, drink and a real cool old fashioned stretch in this modern place. You can even catch a U.K. game at the Rupp Arena as the University Of Kentucky are known for the NBA great likes of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and John Wall...and that's just over the last few graduations. Don't make us list the whole roster. This legendary legacy is one of the reasons you see the symbol U.K. on every drive and in every car rear-window and just everywhere like you where in England. The other is simply dedication and devotion. People here don't give up and after meeting some of the locals you'll feel like you've been here for years...and you wish you could stay that long too. Lexington and Louisville (where the greatest Muhammed Ali came from) offer you big hoops, lights and the big city, but if you want to see the heart of Kentucky and therefore the real America its time to hop in your pick-up and head to Corbin. It's got a few shops, places to grab a good bite to eat ('Crackerbarrell', the 'Waffle House' and everything else is a roadside must), a great new coffee shop that offers books, bands, board games and a place that'll put the chains to shame (the aptly named 'You & Me, Coffee & Tea', it really is the new hot cup of Joe spot to be) and a cinema. Still, this isn't why your on holiday. These things are cool but you can do these things at home. Your here to relax and see the real landscape of this place.
A place where just simply driving around from the streets to the highways is a tourist experience in itself. With beautiful mountains and greenery no matter what time of the year that you'll drink in like a shot of Bourbon, just make sure you watch the road and your camera hanging out the window. Still, there's more than just a backseat view to take in when touring this town. From the beautiful, vast Cumberland Gap to the crafted 'Chained Rock' on Log Mountain there are countless feats of nature and man to explore. With each place steeped in rich history I hope you have a great tour guide or have a friend that can tell you all the stories that speak loudly and proudly out of this cool and calm place. Now, if you want to see one of the best things you'll witness in the United State of Kentucky and all of America then you have to go to Cumberland Falls. It's known as 'Little Niagara', but with all due respect to one of the eight wonders that connects Toronto and New York, this is better than big brother. No hand me down in any way Cumberland Falls is incredibly beautiful. Words on this page, or pictures found don't do justice to what you will witness with your own two. Plus when you turn around you don't see a mini Vegas or Atlantic City either. With all due respect to Niagara (and Vegas and Atlantic) it is incredible, a wonder in itself and perhaps seeing it in December was the wrong idea. Still, even in late January and all frozen over to the end of the waterfall the Cumberland Falls still looked like nothing else especially iced over to a true Winter wonder.
Just wait until you go there in the Summer because if you think this place is beautiful now then there's a lot more in store. Like the NIBROC (Corbin backwards you know) festival of open-air concerts, carnival attractions and one hell of a parade. Or fishing and even scuba diving in Laurel River Lake. Through all these parks, roads and rivers you're going to work up more than an appetite, so how about some history while you eat? If you visit the first ever K.F.C, in the world you'll see that Kentucky is the true home of fried chicken. You won't find a better wing or side of slaw anywhere. Plus with the original roadside shop and hotel preserved in it's original way, with photos and more documents detailing its history this place is a museum in itself. Here you'll see how Harland Sanders (I know right...you thought his first name was 'Colonel' too?!) revolutionised the fast-food game. Proud of its seasoning, this place offers more than a quick bite or trip however. There's much more for all the senses in this place to smell, taste, feel, see and hear. So it's time to stop reading and get out there and start experiencing. More than just a simple holiday this is a place that you'll feel settled in like you want to live and even for a small-trip you'll feel truly relaxed and refreshed. After all isn't that why we "get away" in the first place? Like The Everly Brothers sang, Kentucky will see you soon. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Welcome to 'Music City', U.S.A. This is Nashville and if you want to see more of this city than just the T.V. series of the same name then it's time to ride a steel horse with a six-string on your back because Bon Jovi or not this week in this city your a cowboy. Or at least an honorary one with the tip of the local Stetson to you. O.K. let's not get too corny but this is the capital of country music in not only in these United States but the world. It doesn't get much more distinctly American than this when it comes to the definitive wide range of diverse landscapes on this continent. Just a couple of albums drive from Memphis, Tennessee, you'll see a lot of the states son and rock and roll king Elvis Presley here, but when it all comes down to it and you drive from one soundscape city to another down that beautifully grand highway-as your radio tunes into a more country frequency-its all about the boots and spurs clicking music down here thank you very much. You can buy a decent pair, or two (or three with one locals buy two get the third free offer) and walk the walk while taking a tour down the main street of shopping and knee slapping, with some of the best places to spend your money that your wallet will ever find.
You've got classy clothes stores, inspired independent shops of the sort and a hell of a lot of super souvenir shops for your memories memorabilia. For the record, music shops aren't dying out here, with record stores a plenty where you can find it all under one roof...so long as it's got a good story. This is the city that Dolly Parton built and her and all her country friends keep this street running past 9 to 5. Even White Stripe, Raconteur and Dead Weather bandsman Jack White has a record store here, on his Third Imprint. It doesn't get much cooler that that. No wonder everyone from homegirl Taylor Swift to Tennessee kid by way of Memphis Justin Timberlake have homes here. Still its the legends that leave a legacy on the streets here all the way to the Country Music Hall Of Fame where you can see Willie Nelson and all the friends he's made music with. Still hello, what about the 'Man in Black' who's name is Johnny Cash? Well the 'Ring Of Fire' legend himself has his own museum and shop that will take you from Folsom Prison all the way to the 'American Recordings' with Rick Rubin that closed and defined the final years of his life. You can see all this for around the price of one of his albums. Like The Beatles museum in Liverpool this is a historical must for this city.
Still, if you'd rather see some of the local acts that aren't world famous yet the whole street is littered with great hallmark American bars playing country strong music by the songbook of their traditional American bands. The only thing that feels more alive then this place live after hours on Saturday night, is this place live after hours at night on New Years. Still, if you want to calm it down a bit and are sick of country music by now you could cross that grand, epic bridge to the sports stadiums and suburbs, where all the major sports and spots are found. Out of town you've got even more real nice, self-owned places to have a coffee or a hearty bite for your independent soul and it all looks so green and beautiful no matter the time of year. Sure it gets cold here, but one travelling day for research in January was like a perfect July one. There's a lot of great parks and recreational activities for your sunny days to and why not look up 'Him & Honey' if your on a couples retreat for the perfect photo album memory and tour of this city? Take the bridge and the massive main road in the opposite direction however and you'll pass plenty of pizza places and named chains for your fill, but before the hotel district and all your budget and brilliant places to stay there's a small strip of shops and a Barnes & Noble bookstore that doubles up as a University store and Starbucks. If reading dates and a spot of small, boutique shopping is your forte this is the quiet evening for you.
Further up the road the hotels offer a great, unforgettable view of the Vanderbilt University sports stadiums if you want to see just why college sports are considered even more fan fareing, passion proud, epic events then the majors...especially around March. The University campus is beautiful too and classic America if you're thinking of taking the studying route. After you've checked into your hotel, hostel or dorm you have to check out what's available to eat and trust me this place as got as many great spots as it has walls with murals (a picture perfect guided tour in itself). Our top pick however is 'Ted's Grill', what better thing to order in this part of America than BBQ? As well as a wood saloon, atmospheric decor that would have made Capone proud to eat here this traditional place doesn't have to change with the times when it not only has the best burgers in town, but the best-whether beef or speciality bison- in the world. Trust me, this is a guy whose eaten more burgers than Morgan Sperlock. Still this isn't quite your fill when it comes to Nashville, all the hotels surrounding this area are located next to the grand park that leads to the Parthenon, Nashville's perfect answer to Washington's Lincoln Memorial. Just don't watch 'Percy Jackson-Lightening Thief', before you go...because you might not want to. Still this is the iconic landmark of this town whose roots sing deeper than country music. This is a city that has everything you could want on one big and all encompassing road, you barely have to take a left to find what's right for you. With all this on the playlist this itinerary makes Nashville sound like the next place that needs to hear from you. Make the play. TIM DAVID HARVEY.