Published online at www.msn.ca June, 2010.
While we all live for our long weekends, oftentimes ambitious plans to stretch out the holiday by venturing afar leads to more time spent on the road, rather than spending it lake-side with a beer. Remember, time is a terrible thing to waste.Which is why we thought we’d offer a few long weekend ideas in a thematic order. Follow these ideas and you’ve booked almost every weekend in the summer. Some can be done close to home, a few require a short drive away, and others a bit of pre-planning. But all take advantage of an extended weekend to banish thoughts of Mondays.
Check yourself in to citizen rehab
You’ve worked hard all week and deserve a long massage — and not the pitiful ones your partner does for you, karate chopping your back as if you were a set of drums. The laundry’s piling up, the fridge is empty and you swear you just saw a white hair in your eyebrow. If you live near a major urban centre, check in to your local citizen rehab centre, aka, swank hotel, and book a luxury suite to pamper yourself. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, take advantage of the hotel’s spa services and get a couples massage, facials, and pedicures. Sleep in 1,000 thread count Egyptian sheets, and let someone else make the bed for you. Order room service and eat breakfast at 11 a.m. in plush robes and hotel slippers. If you have kids, make sure to book a hotel with a pool. Many hotels also offer babysitting services so mom and dad can get away for a while.
Contrary to our uniquely Canadian mentality, one does not have to drive five hours outside the city for an outdoor vacation to be legitimate. Make nature the theme for one weekend and pitch a tent in the backyard with the kids to make it a strict gadgets-free, offline weekend. Check out your local offerings, like the botanical gardens you’ve always meant to visit, but never got around to. Take the kids to the zoo after watching a few DVDs of BBC’s Planet Earth to get in the mood (we’ll make this one exception to an unplugged weekend as it’s educational). Make bird feeders together, and try and identify the winged creatures as they drop by. You’ll remember what life was like without the incessant murmur of a computer nearby — that and life before Justin Bieber songs. Those were the good old days.
Ah, our favourite weekend getaway idea. Dedicate one of your summer weekends into a culinary orgy by challenging yourself with new food adventures. Look up local agritours at farmsteads nearby, where you can chat with the growers directly and pick your own fruits and vegetables. If you’re lucky, some farms also offer gourmet, multi-course meals prepared on site using their fresh, sustainable ingredients for a summer al fresco feast.
Make a point to buy strange and new produce at the farmer’s market, things you’ve never tried before. Take cooking classes with your spouse, or kiddie baking classes with or organize your own Iron Chef with friends, choosing a secret ingredient with which to engage in a “battle for culinary supremacy.” Seek out a new ethnic cuisine you’ve never tried before and make reservations.
Go on the Antiques Roadshow
This one’s for those who enjoy the thrill of bartering an antique wind-up alarm clock from $2 to 75 cents — and those who secretly long to be on Antiques Roadshow. Summer weekends are perfect for hitting antique and outdoor flea markets which are most often found in quaint little towns. Those with an eye for a diamond in the rough do well here and can find valuable, one-off pieces for their homes and closets. Novices, meanwhile, may be inspired by the eclecticism of market offerings, or buy back a piece of their childhood with old Nancy Drew books or G.I. Joe action figures. More often than not, areas that are densely packed with antique markets also offer fun, sweet indulgences like locally made fudge and farm-made pies. Or cruise your area for garage sales, where you can meet your neighbours, snoop through their things, maybe put in a bid on an old dresser that would go well in your guest room.
Seriously. Get lost. It’s our opinion that GPSs have only succeeded in slowly eroding the natural, human impulse to explore. People are no longer submitting to complete abandon anymore, or letting their curiosity — not a computer generated voice — lead them astray to hidden gems that are off the map. And it’s a shame. Why not turn off the GPS, pick a general area you’ve never been to, stock the car full of your favourite driving tunes, and take a road trip with nowhere in particular to go. You may be surprised at what you discover. Like that truck stop along the highway that makes the best meatloaf you’ve ever had, or the quirky roadside attraction of the world’s largest, fork-impaled perogy (Glendon, AB). And, invariably, after you get lost, you can always turn your GPS back on to find your way back home. But you may not want to.
Tap, or strum, into your creativity
If you’ve always lamented giving up your piano lessons when you were a kid and effectively ending what was supposed to be a virtuoso career, or regretted not pursuing a career in art and awakening the world to your genius, why not dedicate one summer weekend to the arts and culture? Take a weekend art class, painting buff bods and rotting fruit. Pitch an easel by a creek or scenic vista and paint. Hit up an art gallery or photo exhibit for inspiration. Pull out the camera and capture the world in freeze frames, playing with the light and different angles. Enroll in music classes, and tickle the ivories or the guitar and then hit a weekend concert where you can hear the pros go at it (and perhaps remember why you never pursued a music career in the first place?). Take the kiddies to the museum, or a historical, pioneer village where you step back in time, make sausage and bread from scratch and check the iPods at the door. Cuz it’s hamma time.
Book yourself into a B&B
For most Canucks, we all live within a stone’s throw of a quaint, charming small town with a ticklishly pretty bed and breakfast inn. Why not book a weekend at a Victorian B&B in a small town where time slows to a crawl and tea and crumpets are served in English china? Small towns are great reminders of life’s simple pleasures, like sweet, fragrant air, freshly-squeezed lemonade, and receiving a smile and hello from strangers. Everything has a wholesome air, and every floral patterned-trinket delightful. The country charm is sure to soften even the most hardened, corporate heart and esthetic minimalist, as the sound of crickets lull you to sleep and songbirds wake you in the morning. By the end of the weekend, you’ll go Mary Poppins on everyone.
Be it an amusement park, science centre, aquarium, or all of the above, dedicate one full weekend to the kiddies and let them boast about it to their little friends. Take the family to a water park with accommodations so you don’t have to deal with cranky, tired children on the drive home. Or, mix a little fun with education and take them to a science centre. You’ll also hit a strike if you take the troops bowling, or go-karting if they kids are a little older. The idea is to give your kids full reign (within reason, not recommended if your kid is blessed with an overextended imagination) and let them take over for the weekend. Each child gets a turn choosing the activity or meal they want, to ensure democracy and avoid a barrage of “That’s not fair’s.” You can also use this one weekend a year as leverage, and remind them of your benevolence when they start whining. That or threaten to never do it again.