Milwaukee Bound?

If you happen to be headed for Milwaukee to watch the Raptors & Bucks square off in the NBA Playoffs, I’ll suggest you book a room at the Hilton Downtown. Its location is ideal! Just a few blocks to the basketball arena. (Fiserv Arena).

Less than 1 mile from Fiserv Arena and a 10 minute shuttle to Miller Park baseball stadium

The Hilton also has a lively pub with great food. All ages are welcome.

Bacon topped Wisconsin cheddar soup

The Hilton Downtown Milwaukee also is home to a Starbucks outlet. Just in case you need your Starbucks each morning.

If the Hilton Milwaukee Downtown is sold out, you can book on the next block at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel. It’s just one block away, has modest rooms and amenities but is clean and has excellent service. While there isn’t a pool at the Doubletree, it does have a gorgeous outdoor patio on the 2nd floor where you can go to enjoy a beer in the sunshine.

Skip the rental car in Milwaukee.  There are numerous pubs and brewery tours in this city, and if you want to indulge, you won’t be driving.  And in addition to free shuttles and Uber, you can easily walk from hotel to event, to restaurant. You can even plan a visit to the Harley Davidson museum. I’ll note that in my next post. Cheers!

Milwaukee is a great place to visit. I was last there in April 2019.

Baseball Weekend

This was opening weekend for Major League Baseball. If you knew that already, you’re probably already a big fan of the game. But have you had a chance to sit in the outfield, watch your kids run the bases or sit in the sunshine and enjoy a bag of peanuts and a lemonade?

If it sounds like something you’d enjoy maybe this is your year?  Toronto Blue Jays are Canada’s team and with the addition of the UP train from the airport to the base of the CN Tower, it’s MUCH easier than ever before to hit Toronto for the weekend and catch a couple games.

Step 1) Find the days on the schedule that work for you.

Step 2) Find flights. Or a flight and hotel package (There are several hotels within a few blocks. We stayed at the Hilton Garden last time. The Fairmont Royal York is right next to the UP train station making it VERY convenient. Or the Marriott City Centre is attached right to the baseball stadium.) The Intercontinental is nearby, as is the Holiday Inn Express)  The UP train is $13 per ride and takes you right from the airport, directly to the Entertainment District in Toronto. You’ll arrive in 25 minutes and be right at the heart of the action. Baseball, hockey, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, shopping and more. Absolutely no need to rent a car to catch a ballgame in Toronto.

Step 3) Pick up tickets to the game(s). You could use Ticketmaster, or authorized re-sellers like Stubhub.com. My tip for buying tickets is to divide up your budget 25% – 75%. Spend the least amount on tickets for your first game, and splurge on tickets for the 2nd game. Why? Well, your first day in the ballpark is a little overwhelming anyway. It takes a bit to figure out where you are going and where you want to be. Every ballpark is different. For example, I knew that we would be tired from travelling and my son’s attention span wouldn’t likely last the game on Saturday night. So I bought the $14 outfield tickets. So when he was bored by the 6th inning and asking to go, I was ok with it.  The next day, a beautiful 1pm game, we were pumped to enjoy a day in the sun hoping to catch a foul ball. So that day, we had $70 tickets on the 3rd baseline. It was a much better strategy that spending $40 each game and having the same mediocre view twice.

Step 4) Bring your ball glove and a sharpie. Leave your phone in your pocket. Lots of people bring gloves to the game. There IS definitely a chance that a player will throw a ball into the crowd between innings, or pre-game.  A kid with a glove, is like a magnet. Players are always throwing souvenirs to fans who are engaged and enthusiastic.  There is also a chance of getting that ball signed if you’re on the baseline. IF you spend your whole event with your phone in your hand, you are missing out on the experience AND you could be putting yourself at risk of harm if a ball is hit in your direction while in play.

If you’re ready to go beyond Toronto for a game, but still looking for a ballpark that’s easy to get to from the airport, definitely consider Arizona, San Diego and Denver. I loved all 3 of those parks. Great fan experience. Of those three, I would rate Arizona best for younger kids. The neighbouring hotels are inexpensive and there is the Arizona Children’s museum within about 2 blocks of the ballpark. It was safe to walk in the neighbourhood and most area hotels offered free airport shuttles.

I’ve also been to Cleveland, Anaheim, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and my son has been to Chicago without me. Next up for us, is Milwaukee and Miller Park. If you have a question or want to leave a suggestion for our next ballpark trip, please leave a comment!

My estimate for  a Blue Jay’s weekend is $750 per person.  Flights and hotels, for 2 people, 2 nights $1000. Tickets to 2 games, $100 per person. Meals, train and a souvenir $150 more. You can knock down that cost if you can subsidize your flight or hotels with Air Miles or rewards points.

Flights from Winnipeg, to Phoenix to catch a game in Arizona with hotels, tickets, and meals should come in about $550 per person – BUT then you have to take in the USD-CDN exchange, so it’s about the same.

Let’s start with Palm Springs

If you are a new traveller, a reluctant traveller, or have waited until retirement to travel, Palm Springs California is a great place to start.  I’ll give you three good reasons to put Palm Springs on your list and why I think   it’s a zero-stress vacation.

  1. Flights from Brandon’s little airport (YBR) are very convenient. This travel day is hardly a bother at all. Your flight leaves about lunch time and after a stop in Calgary (YYC) connects through to Palm Springs (PSP) and you’re at your resort by 8:00PM. In Calgary, you’ll deplane, look for your connecting gate and head through US Customs.  Easy peasy.
  2. Driving in Palm Springs is as easy as driving in Brandon. Their downtown area is much like ours, two main roads each one-way and going in opposite directions. Just like Rosser and Princess.  The best part is there’s no ice and snow.  Just outside the city of Palm Springs you’ll find suburb areas like Palm Desert and Palm Canyon.
  3. Golf courses and outdoor activities are easy to find and budget friendly.  Deals for Canadians are even easier to find. Just stop by the tourist booth (on Palm Canyon Drive) and ask. We found a deal we couldn’t pass up. It was breakfast, lunch, a round of golf, clubs and cart rental for $50 a person.  If golf isn’t your thing, there’s walking paths, swimming and tennis at most every resort or hotel. You can catch a baseball game in the area too. There’s a professional league that plays winter ball a few afternoons a week. Tickets are about $5. (Or they were 2 years ago when I last attended.)

I checked Westjet Vacations current offerings. You can stay a week in Palm Springs for under $1100 per person. Car rental and meals will be on top of that.  Do take a look at the flight times! No need for a pre-dawn wake up call.

 

 

Park MGM Experience

I have been to Vegas twice this year. Twice I have stayed at the Park MGM.  And twice I have been very happy with the experience .

I went to Vegas in May for the U2 concert. The concert was taking place at the T-Mobile Arena which happens to be right next-door to Park MGM. Literally, a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the line up to enter the arena.

So, do take note if you’re heading to a hockey game or concert at the T-Mobile arena, the Park MGM is ideal.

From TMobile Arena balcony lounge, looking towards the ParK MGM Hotel & the Park Theatre. (Where Aerosmith, Cher, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars have residency.)

But what is the hotel like?  I really like it. It is modest by my measure of Vegas hotels. It is the old Monte Carlo, but completely redone and rebranded as Park MGM. The rooms are fairly basic (no mini fridge)  but they are modern, the bathroom showers are perfect and they’re nicely decorated.

Think of it as a little sister to Bellagio. It is part of the same hotel chain and even connected by a free tram.  By my estimate it’s 1/5 of the size of Bellagio.  It’s pretty hard to get lost at Park MGM. That’s a good thing.

While the hotel doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants, the courtyard of the arena does. So all you have to do is walk outside the hotel and you have plenty of choices. Also across the courtyard is the NYNY Hotel & Casino which offers a little more action.

The second best asset of Park MGM is the pool area. There are 3 separate pools, lots of great loungers, the poolside food is excellent and there’s plenty of sun.

The 3rd best feature of the Park MGM is the price. It typically falls in the bottom 1/3 of Vegas Strip hotels, depending on events and time of year. Regardless, of whether it costs $50 or $129 per night,  it will be comparatively less then other hotels of equal quality. Based on this I find it is excellent VALUE.

**not a paid endorsement. I’m in no way affiliated with the hotel or MGM chain. I’m just a frequent Vegas visitor with high regard for this renovated hotel. I hope you find benefit in my review.

 

 

Montreal to Boston $148 tax in, return

I’m not even sure why this bargain is on my radar, other than I need something to look forward to and this outrageous bargain fits my Kraft Dinner budget right now.

The hot prices on this route are for October and November 2017. Travel on Tuesdays for the best price.

Boston is high on my list of cities I’d like to visit. I’d love to see it in the fall when the leaves are turning colours. I’d love to sit on a dock and eat a lobster roll and visit some of the diners featured on Diner’s Drive Ins and Dives.

You could also catch a game in Boston. Epic sports franchises in this city.

Typical price for this route is around $300. You can even fly from Winnipeg, quite often, at that $320 price point. But my thought is that you could build an epic fall trip around it. Whether you take the train and see Canada’s east coast, or just cash in some Air Miles for a weekend in Montreal before heading to Boston, you could definitely incorporate the bargain into something bigger.

To start your planning and see why Boston should be on your list too…click over to www.masstourism.com

Screenshot Feb 18th, 2017

 

To Columbus Ohio!

The Columbus Blue Jackets are on quite a roll these days! A legendary season for certain. If you’re a big hockey fan and would like to see them play in person you have a few options, even on a small budget.

  1. Use Air Miles for the flight. 2500 Air Miles and $146 cash (taxes) will get you a return flight from Winnipeg (YWG to CMH)
Dates & availability will vary

2. Use Air Miles for your hotel instead.  Or, use your Marriott/SPG points. The Courtyard Marriott is the closest hotel to Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

3. See them on the road. The least expensive Canadian city to see an NHL game is Ottawa. And if you’re a Brandon Wheat King’s fan, you’ll know that Mark Stone plays in Ottawa. So, you can see two former WK captains with one game. (March 4, 2017) Air Miles flights to Ottawa are 2000 points or less. You just pay the taxes, about $130

March 3-5, 2017 from Winnipeg to Ottawa (YWG to YOW)

(You can even go this month for 1600 Air Miles, if you have some time off right away.) Columbus plays in Ottawa on Sunday January 22nd. Their winning streak could still be alive.

January 21-23rd, Winnipeg to Ottawa (YWG to YOW). Availability subject to change without notice

Tickets to the games can be purchased through Ticketmaster or Stubhub.com for as low as $30 each.

If you are a hockey fan and love the big game, you’ll see why this could be an epic road trip.

No Air Miles? No problem at all! Air Canada and Delta both have flights on sale right now, for about $400 (Canadian funds and taxes included.) Hint…. or buy your Spring Break flights now (to most any NHL city) and catch your favourite team just before playoffs.  

If you’re a Winnipeg Jets fan, and believe this is their playoff year, you’ll want to plan ahead for April 6th in Columbus. It could be an intense game in their quest for a playoff spot.  Air Canada, April 4-7th flight is just $400.91 at today’s price.

January 4th screenshot

Or finally, you can bundle the April 4th to 7th, with hotel, through Expedia.ca with the above noted Air Canada flight for $685 with a downtown (near arena) Holiday Inn. Tickets for that Jets’ game are currently $28 & up (US funds on Stubhub.com).

It pays to plan ahead! Especially for your Spring Break hockey trip.