In Arts & Life /

Ottawa

Ottawa’s main attractions may be an old government building and a frozen canal, but that doesn’t mean cash-strapped students can’t have a good time in our nation’s capital. If you’re a cyclist, look for a variety of bike trails to take advantage of. For the academics among us, there are quite a few museums, like the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. But it’s after dark, when people start to flock to the pubs and clubs, that the city really starts to shine. All it takes is a four-and-a-half hour ride on the VIA Rail to transport you from quotidian Toronto life to the heart of downtown Ottawa. For students, it’s only about $145 for a return trip, tax included.

Accommodation

Check out the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel. A converted prison, the hostel provides all the thrills of being a jailbird without the criminal record, or cost to the Canadian taxpayer. A double “cell” is about $40 a night, per person. If you’re looking to serve your sentence more luxuriously, the Warden’s Quarters are available for $150 a night.

Entertainment

Anyone with a love of dancing and nostalgia will appreciate Barrymore’s Music Hall where Thursdays are Retro 90s Night, and 80s bands are spun non-stop on Sundays. Madonna mash-ups, anyone?

Must see

Avant-garde Bar and Gift Shop! Even the most stringent capitalist will be intrigued by this bar. Covered in Soviet-era propaganda and Lissitzky-style artwork, this place is pretty intriguing. And if the concept doesn’t draw you in, the $4.50 beers will.

— Allyssia Alleyne

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is the ultimate tourist city. Every year, millions flock to see its famous falls. Though it might seem like all this city has to offer is fast-flowing water, the area has a lot family-friendly, genuinely interesting activities to busy yourself before night falls. Then it’s time to hit up some of the Niagara’s many anonymous bars. And it’s cheap to get there. Students can make the two-hour trip on the Greyhound for as low as $15.

Accommodation

Students can reward their economical transportation choice by splurging on lodging. Book into the Marriott Fallsview Hotel’s Junior Presidential Suite (complete with a view of the Falls, fireplace and whirlpool tub) for about $220 a night.

Entertainment

Those of you who are too young, poor or intelligent to spend your entire day gambling at the city’s casinos might enjoy The Mob Tours. For a mere $20, you can have a tour guide dressed like an extra in The Untouchables and talk to you about the history of a 1920s mob boss. Oh, and they promise to give you your money back if you don’t enjoy yourself. Seriously.

Must see

Brick City. Anyone who is even slightly interested in Lego will be captivated by the miniature city (including a 10 foot CN Tower) and life-sized works of art made completely out of the toy blocks.

— Allyssia Alleyne

Southwestern

Wanna go to a cheese factory? Set between two Great Lakes, southwestern Ontario offers a fun mix of history, culture and outdoor activities for your spring break enjoyment. With a ton of parks and museums, like Lake Erie’s Rondeau Provincial Park, the London Museum of Archaeology and the Ingersoll Cheese Factory Museum, there is more than enough to fill up your week. And if you are a vinophile, the Pelee Island Winery’s Wine Pavilion, boasts a host of vintages, including seven award winners from the 2009 All Canadian Wine Championships. A round trip VIA Rail train to Windsor will cost around $115 and the bus will cost around $85.

Accommodation

If you have some extra chedder, you could crash in an elegant room at the Highland Manor in Owen Sound for $770 for a week’s stay. Spring break Victorian style.

Entertainment

If you are feeling in the mood for some museums, try the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum or the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s.

Must see

Probably the most interesting site in Southwestern Ontario is the Black Heritage Route, which features numerous historic sites and museums that retrace the route of the Underground Railroad which brought African American slaves from the United States to Canada for freedom.

— Michael Duncan

Eastern

Do you like forts, scary stories and clubbing? Who doesn’t, right? If you’v never had a night with both ghosts and dancing, think about visiting Kingston for spring break. Sheila Edwards, a first-year arts and contemporary studies student, grew up in Kingston. “If you feel like clubbing or going to a show you can, but if not, there are other options like the creepy Haunted Walks of Kingston and Fort Henry,” Edwards said.

Accommodation

The Ambassador Resort Hotel offers two Queen size beds for $130 per night.

Entertainment

Home to Queen’s University, Kingston has a good nightlife scene aimed at university students. Try the Merchant Pub which features live, local entertainment. Or you can hit up the recently renovated Grand Theatre. If you’re there for reading week, Grand Theatre is hosting the comedy troupe Women Fully Clothed on February 19.

Must see

For scary movie lovers, check out the Haunted Walk of Kingston. They are best known for evening walking tours sharing Kingston ghost stories and dark history. Make sure to bring a flashlight.

— Gianluca Iglesi

Central

During the winter in Tiny, you’ll find more snowmobiles than cars. Michelle Henderson, a first-year arts and contemporary studies student, suggests spending time outside soaking in the rays and playing in the snow. “You get on your snowmobile and drive until you hit a patch of ice and fly off of it,” she said. “The tail end hits the water and you keep gunning the snowmobile along the water until you hit the next piece of ice.” While it may sound like a description of a “do not try this at home” warning, Henderson and her friends have coined this dangerous activity “puddle jumping.” All this and more in central Ontario.

Accommodation

Bring a date and check out the Romantic Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge. Rates range from $69 – $109 per night.

Entertainment

For some old-fashioned fun, check out Orillia’s winter carnival from Feb. 12–14. Also consider Dorset’s Snowball winter carnival from Feb. 19-20 for broomball, hockey nights, polar bear dips and ice sculptures. And even if you hated Snow Dogs, don’t write off all dogsled adventures. Haliburton Highlands Dogsled derby is running Feb. 13-14. No pun intended. If you prefer other outdoor activities, you can attempt ice fishing on Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie or snowshoeing on Wye Marsh. Feeling lucky? Don’t just hit that button on Google, try your luck at Casino Rama, Barrie and Georgian Downs horse racing.

Must See

Blue Mountain Ski Resort (Collingwood, Ontario). For avid skiers or beginners, Blue Mountain is considered one of the best places to ski in Ontario. While it’s defintely not Whistler, Blue Mountain is fun if you like chalets, hot chocolate or picking up hotties on the slopes.

— Rebecca Burton

Northern

If things like nature and the wilderness intrigue and excite you then northern Ontario may be just the paradise for your spring break vacation. Featuring the raw beauty of snow-capped forests, exotic wildlife, rivers and Lake Superior (the world’s largest fresh water lake)the northern region is yours to explore. Or at least get lost in. While Northern Ontario may not be your typical sun-soaked hotspot for spring break debauchery, it will certainly be more fulfilling when you are sipping hot buttered rum by the fireplace after a long day of ice fishing and snowshoeing. The train up north along one of VIA Rail’s four northern routes is certainly the most scenic, it will cost you around $130 for a round trip at a student rate. If you are looking to save a bit of money then try a round trip on the bus for just over $100 for students.

Accommodation

One of the perks about northern Ontario is how inexpensive accomendation is. For example, a week at a Super 8 or Best Western hotel in North Bay will cost between $600 and $800 for a seven-night stay. Divide that between three or four of your best buds and you’re looking a a pretty affordable get-a-way.

Entertainment

Places like North Bay and the Lake Superior Provincial Park have outdoor activities galore including mine explorations and nature hikes.

Must see

If you ever wanted to get up close to a polar bear — now’s your chance. Check out the bears at the Polar Bear Habitat & Heritage Village in Cochrane. And if you are more adventurous, you may run into one at the mouth of the Moose River on James Bay.

— Michael Duncan

Greater Toronto Area

Have you found yourself giving ’Sauga the shaft? There’s more to discover in this GTA ’burb if you just set aside your preconceived notions of fun. Home of Canada’s headquarters for Pepsico, Microsoft and Wal-Mart, Mississauga also holds a few interesting surprises.

Accommodation

Just because you can’t afford to leave Toronto, doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to an indoor pool, sauna, and exercise room. Stay at Four Points by Sheraton near Pearson Airport. Grab some friends and watch movies in a bed you don’t have to make. For grub checkout the Pinnacle Restaurant and Lounge or go all out and order room service.

Entertainment

Catch a show at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre (LAC), which hosts some of the world’s most renowned performing artists. Also drop by the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM), which includes four exhibit spaces displaying works by local artists.

Must see

You won’t find a Mississaugan who hasn’t heard of Square One Shopping Centre — and for good reason. With over 1.6 million square feet of retail space, it is one of the largest shopping malls in Canada. And why not chat up some hotties? Another perk of staying in Toronto for reading week — your spring fling only ends if you want it to.

— Jen Tse


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