Big City Tales

Pomp and Circumstance in Ottawa

March 8, 2018
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When it comes to global capital cities, Ottawa, Canada is still a relative “young pup” next to the likes of London, England or Paris, France. 2017 was a significant milestone year, however, and there was no lack of fanfare to mark the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday, especially in its capital region. Indeed, the pomp and circumstance in Ottawa on Canada Day (and throughout the year) extended from the heights of the iconic Peace Tower to the far reaches of the Rideau Canal and beyond instilling a strong sense of pride within the hearts of all Canadians in our nation’s symbols, institutions and its historic landmarks.

The Maple Leaf

Canada may have declared itself a country in 1867 but its national flag, known as the Maple Leaf, wasn’t unveiled until nearly a century later in 1965. True, debate over using the maple leaf had been going on since 1895 when the idea was first suggested but subsequent committees struck to broach the subject in more depth could not reach a consensus. It wasn’t until Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was in office during the 1960s that the contentious matter was finally resolved and the maple leaf has been flown high and proudly worn ever since.

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Parliament Hill

The primary venue for Canada Day celebrations on July 1 is Parliament Hill (commonly referred to as ‘The Hill’), an area of Crown land located on the southern side of the Ottawa River. The Hill features a suite of three modern Gothic Revival buildings that make up the Parliament of Canada.

The main building of Canada’s parliamentary complex is referred to as the Centre Block. It contains the House of Commons and Senate chambers, as well as the Library of Parliament, administrative offices and ceremonial areas such as Confederation Hall and the Hall of Honour. The Centre Block is one of Canada’s most recognizable buildings, particularly because of the Peace Tower that fronts the building and dominates the downtown skyline. Standing nearly 100 metres high, it is both a focal clock and bell tower, as well as a memorial to Canadians who died during World War I.

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The other two buildings on The Hill are the East Block and West Block that contain offices for ministers and senators along with meeting rooms and other general administrative spaces.

The grounds surrounding The Hill cover close to 90,000 square metres and include a quadrangle where many public events are staged, a gazebo and a series of English-style gardens featuring statues and monuments mostly of famous politicians and monarchs.

Confederation Square

Located to the east of Parliament Hill, Confederation Square is noteworthy for its association with the City-Beautiful Movement that was prevalent around the turn of the 20th Century, as well as its central location and proximity to landmark historical buildings such as the Chateau Laurier Hotel, the National Arts Centre, the Central Post Office and Langevin Block, the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council.

The square is considered to be the second most important ceremonial centre in Ottawa, after Parliament Hill, and is the proud home of the National War Memorial that commemorates all Canadians killed in past or future conflicts, as well as the Valiants Memorial.

The main features of the National War Memorial are a tall granite arch, bronze sculptures, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The bronze figures underneath the arch represent the branches of the Canadian forces called into war and who subsequently helped to forge peace, which is symbolized by the figures shown in movement emerging through the arch from war on one side to peace on the other.

The Valiants Memorial commemorates fourteen of Canada’s key military heroes and consists of nine busts and five statues. The figures chosen to be memorialized date back as far to conflicts that occurred when Canada was part of New France, and more recently to participants in World War II.

Rideau Canal

Operated by Parks Canada, the Rideau Canal is a waterway that connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The canal uses a lock system to transport boats through it between mid-May and mid-October. As the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

When the water freezes during the winter, a portion of the canal is transformed into an outdoor skating rink, the world’s largest in terms of width and second longest. The skateway is the focal point of the annual Winterlude festival that takes place in February.

Tulip Festival

Tulips may be the symbol of Holland and Amsterdam but Canada has also become famous for this beautiful bulb. The Canadian Tulip Festival held annually each May in Ottawa displays over one million tulips of all colours at five theme sites around the city:

  • Lansdowne Park – The Art & Culture Tulip Experience
  • Commissioners Park/Dow’s Lake – The Garden Tulip Experience
  • ByWard Market – The Urban Tulip Experience
  • Garden Promenade – The Community Tulip Experience
  • Zibi Gatineau — The Culinary Tulip Experience

Of note, Canada’s association with tulips dates back to World War II when the Dutch Royal Family sought refuge from the fighting in Ottawa, and Canadian troops helped to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. As a show of thanks after the war, the Royal Family sent a gift of 100,000 tulips and has continued to do so to this day. The Canadian Tulip Festival was established in 1953 to acknowledge this generous gift and showcase the flower as an ongoing symbol of friendship and peace.

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Victoria’s Crown Jewels

March 7, 2018
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Named after Queen Victoria of England, the city of Victoria, British Columbia has its fair share of crown jewels to boast and brag about. From historical buildings to a picture-perfect postcard worthy inner harbour and glorious gardens, the city attracts people of all ages eager to soak up its beautiful landscape and relaxed pace of life.

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British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Whether it’s being used for celebration or protest purposes, one of the premier spots for people gatherings in Victoria is at the parliament buildings.

Commissioned in 1893 and opened in 1898, the Neo-Baroque design of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings features a large central dome, two end pavilions and numerous historical and allegorical sculptures carved into the stone exterior. The main dome is topped with a golden statue of Captain George Vancouver, the famed British British Royal Navy officer who explored and charted the Pacific Northwest between 1791 and 1795.

In addition to a regal statue of Queen Victoria that graces the front lawn, a soldier’s monument honors British Columbians who served and died in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

At night, the building’s exterior is lit up by over 3,000 bulbs that cover its full width and height.

Royal British Columbia Museum

Adjacent to the parliament buildings is another gem of a building that is of prime importance to British Columbians.

Containing three permanent galleries and the provincial archives, the Royal BC Museum is comprised of approximately 7 million objects.  The three galleries explore natural history, modern history, and local First Nations’ history.

One of the most popular exhibits in the Natural History Gallery is the life-sized woolly mammoth that roamed the Fraser Valley region in prehistoric times.

The Modern History Gallery features the Old Town exhibit that showcases what life was like in Victoria between 1870 and 1920.

Many of the artifacts in the First Peoples Gallery come from the Haida nation, as well as other communities such as Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitxsan, and Nuu-chah-nulth. Along with Totem Hall, the central exhibit that showcases a variety of indigenous carvings, the gallery depicts technologies, ways of life and First Nations art. A traditional longhouse (residential building) where Chief Kwakwabalasami lived in the community of Tsaxis (Fort Rupert) can also be found in the gallery along with masks, garb and other ceremonial items.

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Thunderbird Park

Located behind the Royal BC Museum, Thunderbird Park contains many totem poles as well as other First Nation monuments. One of the most elaborate monuments is an authentic Kwakiutl house created by Mungo Martin, the famed chief, artist, singer and songwriter from the Kwakwaka’wakw community.

As part of the museum’s ‘Cultural Precinct’ district, the park also contains other historical sites and monuments such as an old schoolhouse (St. Anne’s built in 1844) and Helmcken House, one of the oldest homes in British Columbia that was built in 1852.

The Empress Hotel

Occupying prime real estate on Government Street that faces the inner harbour, the Empress Hotel is one of Victoria’s oldest and most iconic buildings. Recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada since 1981, the hotel has been in operation since 1908 and over the years has hosted monarchs and celebrities along with general tourists.

Known for its spacious rooms and suites, many offering a lovely view of the waterfront, the hotel is also famous for its Victorian-era afternoon tea service. Offered during the summer months, ‘Tea at the Empress’ will cost you a pretty penny but it’s an experience not to miss from the formal china to the sandwiches, scones and clotted cream that are served in the Tea Room to over 400 daily guests. Reservations are recommended well in advance to guarantee a seating.


Heading north of the inner harbour, another National Historic Site of Canada is soon encountered. Victoria’s Chinatown has the distinction of being the oldest of its kind in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco.

The neighbourhood dates back to the late 1850s when the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush resulted in a mass influx of immigrants. An estimated one-third of newcomers to Victoria at this time were of Chinese descent who were seeking not only wealth, but a more safe and secure environment than their war-torn and natural disaster riddled homeland.

Some of the main attractions in Chinatown are the old Chinese School, the Gate of Harmonious Interest, Fan Tan Alley, and other well-preserved buildings and Chinese businesses.

Craigdarroch Castle

From one end of the social ladder spectrum to the other, Craigdarroch Castle reveals what life was like for the privileged elite in the late 1800s. In stark contrast to the trials and tribulations of Chinatown’s poor immigrant population, the wealthy Dunsmuir family lived a life of ease and elegance in their Scottish Baronial mansion located high atop a hill in the prestigious Rockland district.

With 39 rooms covering 25,000 square feet, the mansion (referred to as a “bonanza castle”) features an eclectic array of building materials and architectural styles. From sandstone, granite and marble to wrought iron, slate and terracotta tile, no material expense was spared. Per the bonanza castle/symbol of success mentality of the day,  the more costly and opulent the better in an effort to show off and flaunt the family riches. Design-wise, the exterior is noted for its steep roof, spires and gables towering four stories high; the interior for its lavish furnishings, elaborate stained glass panels and ornate wood carvings.

When the house was first built, the grounds totaled 28 acres and its formal gardens were immaculately attended to.

Today, Craigdarroch Castle is a house museum and is a designated National Historic Site of Canada.

Victoria Harbour

All roads lead to the waterfront in Victoria and whether you’re interested in an aquatic or land-based adventure, the harbour is truly the place to be.

Discovered by Captain James Cook on the last of his Pacific Ocean voyages in 1778, one of the harbour’s showcase pieces is the Monument to Captain Cook that stands high above the water on the boardwalk looking toward the Empress Hotel.

In addition to several docks and marinas, the harbour is a seaplane airport and serves as a cruise ship and ferry destination.

The boardwalk offers indoor and outdoor shopping and dining options, as well as a variety of buskers showing off their talents. On a warm, sunny day it’s an idyllic place for catching some rays while people watching.

The harbour is also a popular place for whale watching. Offshore tours run from spring until early fall in Victoria, but for those who can’t stomach the idea of being tossed about in choppy waters to catch a glimpse (or not!) of magnificent killer whales and other large marine species, the next best thing is enjoying creative artistic renditions. Photo opportunities of Orca statues along the boardwalk and in the inner harbour area are guaranteed and you can get as close as you want without fear of being splashed or upsetting a mother with her offspring.

Butchart Gardens

Victoria is known as “The Garden City” and one of the best examples of its fertile soil and long growing season can be viewed at Butchart Gardens.

Located 30 minutes from downtown, the gardens are open year-round and offer visitors a spectacular array of flora, fountains, rock formations, arches and bridges among other features. Each of the six main areas has a unique theme and design: admire the view of the Sunken Garden from the lookout; visit the Wishing Well in the Rose Garden; follow the streams in the Japanese Garden; or nuzzle the snout of Tacca, the boar statue in the Mediterranean Garden. Along the way, the kaleidoscope of colourful flowers will dazzle your senses and linger long in your memories of one of Victoria’s loveliest crown jewels.


A Wonderful Winnipeg Walkabout

March 6, 2018
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For a city known for its long, cold winters and short, mosquito-plagued summers, trying to figure out when to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba can be a challenge. As it happened, the end of August/beginning of September turned out to be a good time for a wonderful walkabout.

Truth be told, Winnipeg is actually my place of birth but, aside from a short pre- and post-delivery stay with my mom and my twin sister at the Women’s Pavilion (now Women’s Hospital), I technically never lived in the city. It was thus a real treat to have the opportunity to explore it as an adult and yet see it with somewhat of a bright-eyed kid’s perspective.

So it was on a slightly overcast, but warm late summer morning that my eagerly anticipated foot tour of Winnipeg began at the provincial legislative building.

Manitoba Legislative Building

Standing 77-metres in height and sheathed in limestone, the building is known for its Beaux-Arts Classical architecture and its ‘Golden Boy’ dome topper, which denotes Manitoba’s eternal youth and progress.

The statues around the grounds reveal some of the colourful and charismatic characters that have contributed to Manitoba’s and Canada’s storied past, including Queen Victoria, Louis Riel, and the Famous Five.

Another noteworthy statue is the ‘Bitter Memories of Childhood’ monument that commemorates the survivors of forced starvation in the Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 who emigrated to Manitoba.

Also located on the grounds is Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the place where members of the monarchy and other dignitaries often stay when visiting Winnipeg. The large, stately mansion is approximately 20,000 square feet in size and features a series of manicured gardens, one known as the ‘Queen Elizabeth II Gardens’ complete with a statue of Her Majesty.

Bears on Broadway

While there is a polar bear exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a collection of inanimate, but colourfully painted polar bears behind the legislative building.

Part of the ‘Bears on Broadway’ fundraising project that commemorated the 75th anniversary of CancerCare Manitoba back in 2005, each pre-cast bear measures 7-feet tall and boasts a particular theme designed by a local Winnipeg artist. The bears were ultimately sold to bidders from the corporate and government sectors, raising over $500,000 in the process.

Downtown Business and Shopping District

Heading due north of the legislative building, Portage Avenue was my next destination. Home of Portage Place Shopping Centre, Bell MTS Place (formerly MTS Centre) and the corporate headquarters of Investors Group and Manitoba Hydro among others, Portage Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare and is part of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Inside the Portage Place shopping mall is the towering Edmonton Court Clock that is the centrepiece of the 100-foot tall glass atrium. One of the unique aspects of the clock’s bell system is that in addition to traditional hourly chimes, a keyboard can be connected to it allowing for custom tunes to be played such as festive Christmas carols or Top 40 pop music from current and past Winnipeg-born artists. Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Neil Young and Chantel Kreviazuk are just a few of the singer/songwriters who hail from Winnipeg.

Portage and Main

No visit to Winnipeg is complete without a pilgrimage to the intersection of Portage and Main, a.k.a the “Crossroads of Canada” because it is roughly the longitudinal centre of the country.

The intersection is also notorious for being the coldest and windiest in Canada, and has often been used in song lyrics. While the temperature outside wasn’t cold, the wind was certainly whipping the flags about as I passed by en route to the Museum for Human Rights.

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Canadian Museum for Human Rights

As the only national museum to be located outside of Canada’s capital region in Ottawa, the Museum for Human Rights explores the broad spectrum of global human rights issues from a Canadian perspective.

Fittingly, close to the museum is a bronze statue of Mahatma Ghandi, the eminent political leader who lobbied for pacifism and peaceful protest versus violent action. Ghandi is shown in his typical simple attire and demonstrates a humble attitude while out for a stroll among the people.

Heading north of the Ghandi statue, the pathway leads to the Esplanade Riel river crossing, a side-spar cable-stayed bridge design that is cantilevered on one side only.

Esplanade Riel

Named in honour of Louis Riel, the famous Metis political leader known for mounting two rebellions against the Canadian government, the Esplanade Riel is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Red River and connects Winnipeg with the city ward of St. Boniface.

The bridge offers a wide walkway and large open plaza area to host events at, and also includes a restaurant with an eastern river view.

St. Boniface

As its name suggests, St. Boniface is home to Winnipeg’s Franco-Manitoban community and landmarks such as the St. Boniface Cathedral, the Tache Promenade, and Pont Provencher. The Royal Canadian Mint is also located in St. Boniface.

The grounds of the cathedral include a Roman Catholic cemetery where Louis Riel is buried along with other famous citizens of the Red River district such as Joseph-Norbert Provencher, the first Roman Catholic Bishop in the Canadian West.

The Tache Promenade is a scenic riverfront pathway that offers a self-interpretive walking tour of historical sites in St. Boniface. The area is also one of the most popular places to view the Winnipeg skyline from.

The Forks

After crossing the Esplanade Riel back to downtown Winnipeg, my next stop was The Forks. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974, the area is the most visited tourist destination in Winnipeg and appeals to both young and old.

The Forks celebrates over 6,000 years of human history from the earliest Aboriginal peoples to the European fur traders, Metis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers, riverboat and railway workers, and thousands of immigrants that followed.

In addition to the riverfront park, there is a traditional Oodena Celebration Circle, a large market area, an historic railway bridge and several other interesting attractions to keep you happily occupied for hours on end.

The Wild Blue Yonder

With the day quickly winding down and turning to night, I headed back to where my Winnipeg Walkabout journey began at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

As the cloudy conditions had now cleared, the vivid electric blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for my final pictures of the building and the Airman Training Monument located in Memorial Park. Like the airman gazing into the sky above, I was filled with an equal sense of wonder about Winnipeg and its wild blue yonder…truly wonderful!

Along the Banks of Cincinnati’s Beautiful River

March 2, 2018
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When it comes to cities with interesting and expansive riverfront development, Cincinnati ranks right up there with the best of the best. There is truly much to please the eyes along the banks of its beautiful river, the mighty Ohio, and the views are fantastic be it day or night.

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John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge

For anyone who has flown to Cincinnati and stayed in a downtown hotel, they know that the road from the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky (CVG) airport in Hebron, Kentucky to Cincinnati’s city centre travels across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. They also know that when the river valley and city skyline suddenly appear as you proceed along the interstate, it is a breathtaking sight to behold.

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, formerly known as the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, spans the Ohio River and was once the longest suspension bridge in the world. To this day it is still an impressive structure, especially when lit up at night from end-to-end.

Along with its heavy automobile traffic, the bridge is a popular pedestrian route particularly when Cincinnati’s professional sports teams have home games at Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, or U.S. Bank Arena. Fans living in or staying at hotels on the Kentucky side of the river can enjoy a leisurely stroll to and from the games instead of being stuck in a log jam of pre- and post-game vehicle traffic. They can also take advantage of a vibrant bar and restaurant district called Roebling Point, which is located at the foot of the bridge on the Kentucky side.

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Smale Riverfront Park

With its prime location and pristine scenery covering 45-acres, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s interests at Smale Riverfront Park. Kids gravitate to the splash parks to cool off in on hot summer days; adults congregate on porch-like swings to rest their weary feet and enjoy the river view.

Other attractions include an old-fashioned carousel with brightly painted animals of historical significance to Cincinnati, a memorial that honors African American volunteers who protected the city during the Civil War, and numerous gardens and green spaces along the Ohio River Trail.

Great American Ball Park

Home of the Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park is named after the Cincinnati-based Great American Insurance Group. The company’s corporate headquarters overlooks the stadium and both are impressive structures.

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As baseball’s first professional franchise, the ball park and Hall of Fame Museum is full of historical references to the great players, coaches and sports media personalities of the past. For example, a rose garden was planted in the area where the ball from Pete Rose’s record-breaking hit landed when the Reds played in the old Riverfront Stadium. The ball park also features two large smokestacks in right-center field that pay homage to the steamboats that used to regularly travel along the Ohio River.

National Steamboat Monument

Located in the riverside park known as Sawyer Point & Yeatman’s Cove, the National Steamboat Monument is an exact replica of the original red paddle wheel from the American Queen riverboat.

Standing three stories in height and weighing 60 tons, the monument highlights the historical contribution of the riverboat trade in Cincinnati. At its peak, Cincinnati was one of the largest ports in the region and was known for manufacturing companies that produced quality steamboats.

In addition to the paddle wheel monument, there is also a series of 24 metal smokestacks that are found in the area known as the Dan and Susan Pfau Whistle Grove. The smokestacks demonstrate the importance of steam technology that powered the earliest steamboats.

The Whistle Grove is an interactive display that is controlled by synchronized computer motion sensors that are activated as people walk by. Along with the emission of steam, other sounds are offered including an old-fashioned calliope steam organ, a steamboat whistle, and the voices of riverboat workers talking about the trials and tribulations of the trade.

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Purple People Bridge

It’s purple and it’s all about people!

The Purple People Bridge connects downtown Cincinnati to the city of Newport, Kentucky across the Ohio River. Beyond its unique color, its other notable characteristic is that it is pedestrian-only.

The primary purpose of the bridge is to make it easy for people to cross the river and access the myriad entertainment options and open park spaces in both regions that are minutes away from the bridge off ramps.

For those not in a rush to get from one side of the bridge to the other, there are festive floral displays, cheery benches and clear views looking west toward Cincinnati’s football and baseball stadiums.

Racing Through Indianapolis on Foot

February 28, 2018
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While it’s mostly known for the annual Indy 500 motorsport event, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana has some other interesting claims to fame that are best discovered racing around on foot versus fast cars.

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White River State Park

Encompassing 250 acres in the heart of downtown, White River State Park contains multiple attractions on both sides of the river. To the north is a scenic walkway and  White River Gardens that is part of the Indianapolis Zoo; to the south is the Central Canal and series of museums that stretch along 1.5 miles through the inner city.

Butterfly Bonanza

Featuring 40 species of butterflies flitting and floating about as they please, the indoor section of White River Gardens is the place to see the daily dispatch of hundreds of new butterflies.  The eye-catching exterior is just a hint of what to expect inside.

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NCAA Hall of Champions

There are 24 sports played at the collegiate level in the United States and the heroics of individual student athletes and teams are celebrated in the Hall of Champions. The main floor area is called Arena and includes team rankings and school artifacts. The second floor area is called Play and is an interactive area offering both virtual and hands-on opportunities to shoot some hoops in a gymnasium or hit the slopes on a ski simulator.

JW Marriott “Big Blue”

One of the most recognizable buildings in Indianapolis is the JW Marriott Hotel, also known as “Big Blue” for its bright, bold exterior of blue tinted glass. The hotel is connected to the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium via an enclosed sky-walk bridge, and is across the street from White River State Park making it one of the most desirable places to stay at in the city.

Lucas Oil Stadium

Fans of NFL football will want to check out Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to its retractable roof and stellar views of the city skyline, the stadium has an impressive Pro Shop and is also just minutes away from other downtown attractions.

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Monuments & Memorials

As state capitals go, Indianapolis has its fair share of government buildings and stoic statues of famed political leaders. What is interesting to note is that aside from Washington, DC, Indianapolis has more monuments and memorials than any other city.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors all veterans who served in wars prior to World War I. It stands 284 feet tall and is located in Monument Circle in the heart of downtown. An observation deck at 275 feet provides a 360 degree view of the skyline.

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Canada’s Gateway to the West Rolls Through Thunder Bay

February 27, 2018
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Situated on the banks of Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario, the city of Thunder Bay has long been an important region and natural wonder in the heart of Central Canada. From its early beginnings as a First Nations gathering place to its emergence as a fur trading post and eventual shipping and railway transportation hub between Eastern and Western Canada, there is much to experience and enjoy in “Canada’s Gateway to the West.”

Mount McKay

Offering a gorgeous view of the city and western shore of  Lake Superior, what better way to begin exploring the city than a visit to the Mount McKay Scenic Lookout where the Thunder Bay eagle looms large and majestic. Located on the Fort William First Nation, the lookout includes a walkway and other tributes to the city’s indigenous people such as the Mountain Chapel and Memorial that honours those who died in the world wars.

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Chippewa Park 

After soaking up the views on high at Mount McKay, head on down and take a short drive along City Road to one of Thunder Bay’s grandest and oldest lakefront recreation spots.

Chippewa Park features an old-fashioned carousel and other rides along with a dance hall, picnic areas and long stretches of sand along Sandy Beach looking out toward the famous Sleeping Giant located on Sibley Peninsula.

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The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

While there are a few versions of how the Sleeping Giant land formation came to be, one of the most common centres around an old Ojibwa story.

Legend has it that the spirit figure, Nanabijou, was turned to stone and fell into his final resting place in the waters of Thunder Bay after the secret location of a silver mine known as ‘Silver Islet’ was revealed to white men.

The mine and its riches were intended to be a reward to the Ojibwa for their loyalty and peaceful way of life provided the mine’s whereabouts was safeguarded. Unfortunately, the consequences of its discovery meant instant peril for Nanabijou and the Ojibwa tribe; the great Spirit of the Deep Water was frozen in stone for all eternity and the silver treasure was lost forever.

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Prince Arthur’s Landing at Marina Park

From the winding shores of Sandy Beach at Chippewa Park a good spot to check out next is Prince Arthur’s Landing, a large waterfront complex located in Marina Park.

Whether you fancy a stroll along the boardwalk or a sail on the lake, there is plenty to keep you happily occupied. Public art installations are prominently featured along the pier area, as well as a splash pad/wading pool and skateboard/BMX park for all ages to utilize.

Marina Park is also home to The Anchorage Memorial that honours naval veterans from World War II and the old C.N. Station which was designed in the popular “Railroad Gothic” style of architecture that was popular from the 1880s to the 1930s.

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Fort William Historical Park

The early economic history of Thunder Bay comes to life at Fort William, the world’s largest fur trading post where employees of the North West Company alongside the Ojibwa conducted their business centuries ago.

A large native encampment on the fort’s perimeter showcases traditional wigwams and fur drying techniques along with other crafts and cooking.

Inside the fort over 30 historical buildings depict the day-to-day life of the fur trade industry representatives.

For its time the fort was a grand undertaking and reflected the wealth and success achieved by the North West Company. All necessities were provided including a hospital, apothecary, powder magazine, observatory and jail.


In addition to the intrepid French voyageurs and British settlers who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the fur trade, Thunder Bay also has a large Finnish population. Migrant workers from Finland were instrumental in fostering positive labour practices in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Finnish Labour Temple was built in 1910 and proudly flies the flag of its adopted homeland. Right next door you can get your fill of Finnish pancakes at Hoito Restaurant.

Kaministikwia River Heritage Park

More commonly referred to as Kam River Park, the area features a long walkway and scenic views of the Kaministikwia River.

Historical structures such as the 100-year-old James Whelan Tug boat and a vintage VIA Rail train can be found here along with newer public art installations such as the beautiful Animikii – Flies the Thunder sculpture.

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Thunder Bay Museum

Before it was a museum, the building was first known as the Donald Street Station, which was the police station and courthouse for the historic City of Fort William.

Covering the periods of early native life through to modern times, the museum features three floors and six galleries of permanent and rotating exhibits. It’s a wonderful place to get a sense of the local, regional and national influences that contributed to Thunder Bay’s development.

“Superior by Nature”

Thunder Bay’s “Superior by Nature” corporate tagline reflects two equally important aspects about the city: its location in proximity to Lake Superior; and its beautiful natural environment that can be enjoyed year-round.

From lakes and rivers to mountains and forests, the diverse terrain provides the perfect landscape to explore the great outdoors in myriad ways.

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Run for the Roses and River Views in Louisville

February 20, 2018
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Whether you’re coming to take in the spectacle of the annual Kentucky Derby or take in the splendor of the sprawling banks of the Ohio River, the city of Louisville, Kentucky will have you cheering loud and long for its famed “Run for the Roses” horse race and impressive river views.

Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs covers 147 acres and is a designated National Historic Site. The derby, also known as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport,” takes place on the first Saturday in May and features the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

The twin spires on the grandstand and the Barbaro memorial statue are two of the most recognizable architectural features and symbols of Churchill Downs. While the grounds are mostly serene and empty during the year, come race day crowds can reach over 150,000 with 50,000 lucky enough to have seats to witness the first leg of the famed Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Gateway to the South

Situated on the southern banks of the historic Ohio River (The Beautiful River), Louisville has the unique distinction of being influenced by both southern and mid-western cultures. One of the city’s nicknames is “Gateway to the South” due to its status as a major shipping port and transportation hub for both trains and airplanes.

The city boasts many outdoor recreation areas, including Waterfront Park that stretches for over a mile along the Ohio River. The park features playgrounds, historical statues and artistic landscaping, and offers stellar views of both the city’s downtown core and the river.

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Main Street USA

There’s nothing more American than baseball so it is fitting that Main Street is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum and the world’s largest baseball bat. Some of the other quaint and quirky sights along Main Street include the 21c Museum Hotel that features a double-size replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David covered in gold paint, numerous “Horse on Barrel” painted statues, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, and the headquarters of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Center for Higher Learning

Louisville is proud of its numerous academic institutions and the acclaim the likes of the University of Louisville has achieved for its hand and artificial heart transplant efforts.

The university is also home to a bronze cast replica of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture that was the first of its kind and was personally supervised by the artist.  The statue is situated in front of the university’s administration building, Grawemeyer Hall, which is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

The Call of the Wild in Whitehorse

February 17, 2018
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In a region where critters actually outnumber humans, the Yukon Territory truly is where the wild things are but a quick trip to the capital city of Whitehorse revealed a highly civilized and very friendly environment as well.

For anyone who has been hearing the ‘call of the wild’ but has yet to answer and explore Canada’s north, Whitehorse and surrounding area is a good place to start. 

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Majestic Mountains

While much of Canada’s north is flat tundra, there are many majestic mountain ranges.

The Saint Elias mountains along the western border of the Yukon are noteworthy for being the home of Mount Logan, which is Canada’s highest peak, and for being snow-capped throughout the year.

On clear days, the mountains in all their glory are visible on flights into Whitehorse and certainly paint an inviting picture of the beautiful and epic northern landscape.

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MacBride Museum of Yukon History

If your preference is museum exhibitions over mountain expeditions, the MacBride Museum is a recommended venue that offers a taste of the ‘great outdoors’ in a controlled indoor environment.

From the early beginnings of its First Nations people to the intrepid northern explorers who sought to conquer the land and strike gold, the museum pays homage to many of the Yukon’s bravest and most colourful characters.

Located along Whitehorse’s quaint and picturesque Front Street, the museum houses close to 30,000 historical and cultural artifacts.

Gold, Gold and More Gold

The ‘Gold to Government’ exhibit winds along the Yukon River that is painted on the museum’s floor. The exhibit tells the story of early prospecting efforts that gave rise to the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s and the eventual establishment of a formal government and capital city in Whitehorse some 50 years later.

As the gateway to the Klondike, prospectors stocked up with basic necessities in Whitehorse before heading out on the long haul journey to Dawson City. The General Store offered a wide array of goods and the Miner’s Saloon served as the local watering hole where some celebrated their success; while others drowned their sorrows. Other amenities included a hospital, barber shop, confectionery and road house.


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Critters, Critters and More Critters

Another main attraction of the MacBride Museum is the Wild World exhibit that showcases the most common mammals and birds found in the Yukon, depicting them in their natural habitats and all their life-size glory.

The standing grizzly bear is seven feet tall and the antler span of the grown male moose is up to six feet.

Population-wise, there are 170,000 majestic caribou in the Yukon, along with 70,000 moose and 17,000 bears.


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Indigenous People

With a total of 14 First Nations groups calling the Yukon home, native history, art and culture feature prominently in the MacBride Museum and in other Whitehorse venues.

The Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, situated along the banks of the Yukon River, celebrates the traditions, language, values and practices of the Kwanlin Dun First Nations people. The centre is also a gathering place for all cultures to come and learn about the unique aspects of the Kwanlin Dun, participate in festive ceremonies and observe canoe carving techniques with traditional hand tools.


A True Local and National Treasure

Home of  largest sternwheeler vessel to travel the Canadian waters of the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson Creek, the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site pays tribute to the glory days of river transportation.

The S.S. Klondike was indeed a mighty vessel. Its sternwheel design gave it incredible power to haul silver-lead ore, as well as general goods and passengers.  Another notable distinction was that one of its pilots was the only First Nations man to ever obtain Master papers.


Building Art

One of the most interesting and unique aspects of Whitehorse is the large number of murals painted on building exteriors. Ranging from small to large and covering historical to contemporary subject matter, the murals definitely add a lot of colour and character to the city’s streets.

One of the largest murals (and the first to be painted) is found in the parking lot behind the Hougen’s retail complex on Main Street.  Painted to look like a frontier main street during the filming of a movie in 1993, old-fashioned storefronts and a vintage pick-up truck make up the main scenes.

Depictions of the Klondike Gold Rush are also prevalent, along with First Nation, riverboat and train transportation, and general wilderness exploration themes.


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Land of Midnight Sun 

During the summer months, the natural phenomenon of the ‘midnight sun’ is experienced in the Yukon offering extended daylight.

There’s no need for flashlights, headlights or reading lamps in the late evening/early morning hours, which makes for ample time to explore the wonderful wilderness that lies beyond Whitehorse.

Due west of the city along the historic Alaska Highway is Kluane National Park and Reserve that offers mountains, glaciers, forests and lakes in over 22,000 square kilometres of wide open space.

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Exploring the New Found Land of St. John’s

January 30, 2018
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As one of North America’s first established settlements, the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland is also the continent’s most eastern point. Rich in both natural resources and natural beauty, and full of history and lore, St. John’s is a city worth exploring by land, sea or air.

Location Location Location

Located on the Avalon Peninsula, the city’s harbour flows into the Atlantic Ocean and was an ideal landing port for European explorers sailing from Spain, Portugal and England as far back as the late 15th century.

While John Cabot is largely considered the first explorer to make landfall in St. John’s in 1497 and claim the region for the King of England, it would take the Brits nearly a full century to officially establish the city in 1583.

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Signal Hill

Given its strategic location overlooking the harbour, fortifications were constructed on the top of Signal Hill many centuries ago to provide protection and alert the locals of impending enemy attacks by sea.

In addition to its military value as a flag mast signalling post, the site eventually became useful for testing and completing the first transatlantic wireless communication between North America and Europe in 1901. Signal Hill was also utilized by the Americans during World War II to thwart off German aircraft and marine vessels attempting to attack the east coast.

While it’s just a mass expanse of ocean water looking to the east of Signal Hill from Cabot Tower, the view to the west includes St. John’s Harbour, Gibbet Hill and Deadman’s Pond. The latter two names may be morbid, but it’s actually a very pretty and peaceful area complete with whimsical heart-themed arches and flower beds along a winding gravel path.

Government House

Whether driving or walking along Military Road, it’s not hard to miss the grand main entrance to Government House.

As the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, Government House is a two-storey Georgian-style stone home situated on sprawling grounds complete with gardens, stables and a greenhouse.

Completed in 1831, the design of the house was intended to reflect the status of its occupants and thus included a salon, dining room, and ballroom meant for entertaining dignitaries. The main entrance hall was also configured to allow for full pomp and circumstance ceremonial processions.

Military Monuments

The National War Memorial in downtown St. John’s is the most elaborate World War I monument in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The base of the memorial starts on Water Street and extends up to the large cenotaph on Duckworth Street.

The five figures depicted in the cenotaph are representative of Newfoundland involvement in World War I. The centre female figure symbolizes devotion to the Empire and the fight for freedom. The two figures below are representative of the fishermen and lumberjacks who enlisted and served with the Merchant Marine and Forestry Corps. The two figures on the right and left pay tribute to those who served with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Further west along Water Street is the Thomas Ricketts Memorial. Ricketts was only 17 years old when he began his service in World War I and was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of bravery on the battlefield, the youngest ever army recipient in a combatant role.

The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Dedicated in 1855, the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is situated on the highest ridge overlooking St. John’s.

At the time of it’s opening, the basilica was the largest Irish cathedral anywhere outside Ireland, was the largest church building in North America, and was notable for its base materials. Limestone and granite were imported from Galway and Dublin, Ireland; 400,000 bricks came from Hamburg, Germany; and local sandstone was quarried from St. John’s and Kelly’s Island in Conception Bay.

Today, the basilica is recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada and is the mother church and symbol of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland.

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Jellybean Row Houses

Perhaps one of the most charming aspects of St. John’s is its brightly coloured row houses.

Local lore suggests that fishermen of yore started the practice to help them pinpoint their lodgings during foggy weather, but the reality is the initiative is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Back in the late 1970s, the downtown core was in dire need of a revitalization effort and paint was used as a way to spruce things up and add some cheer to rundown buildings. The idea caught on and eventually spread to the city’s outer neighbourhoods; local businesses also joined in by modifying their storefronts.

When it comes to paint colours in St. John’s, the brighter the better reigns supreme and there’s no need to be matchy-matchy with the trim: contrasting colours are just fine.

Quidi Vidi

The fishing village of Quidi Vidi is famous for its microbrewery and Mallard Cottage, one of the oldest wooden structures in North America.

The district extends inland and includes Quidi Vidi Lake where the Royal St. John’s Regatta is held the first Wednesday in August, weather permitting. The regatta is North America’s oldest annual sporting event and attracts numerous men’s and women’s crews (6 members and a coxswain) eager to navigate the course and lay claim to the coveted rowing championship.

Terry Fox Memorial – Mile 0

In 1980, a heroic young man who lost his right leg to cancer began a cross-Canada run called the Marathon of Hope to raise funds for cancer research.

The starting point of Terry Fox’s epic journey was in St. John’s Harbour and the Mile 0 memorial fittingly marks the spot where Terry dipped his artificial leg into the North Atlantic Ocean and headed out for the TransCanada Highway.

Tragically, Terry’s cancer returned before he could complete his journey (he had to stop in Thunder Bay, Ontario and he ultimately passed away in 1981), but his Marathon of Hope efforts continue to this day.

Terry Fox Memorials can also be found in Thunder Bay and Victoria, British Columbia.

The City of Fog, Wind and Cloud

Not surprisingly, considering St. John’s geography the city is the foggiest, windiest and cloudiest in Canada. The good news is that while socked in dense fog conditions are common, once the wind picks up it rolls out the fog as quickly as it rolled in. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue, there’s nothing like a stroll along the harbour to take in the large shipping vessels docked and waiting to head out to sea.

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The Pride of Pittsburgh

January 11, 2018
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Even with one of its nicknames being “Steel City,” Pittsburgh is a city that has long intrigued me. True, some historical references conjure up images of thick black plumes of smoke hovering over dreary factory buildings in a landscape devoid of green spaces. But that was then and this is now. The industrial town of old has definitely made way for a new cosmopolitan vibe that is attracting curious visitors like me in droves. Indeed, in recent years the city has received notable accolades for its livability, culture, foodie scene and economic prosperity.

Yes, “The ‘Burgh” or “City of Bridges” as the city is also referred to today is chock-full of amazing architecture, museums, parks, educational institutions, restaurants, and sports & entertainment options on par with New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major US cities. Whichever nickname you prefer, each truly represents the best of Pittsburgh’s past and present.

Here is a sampling of the Pride of Pittsburgh:

A “Top 10” City View

As the locals have long been aware, Pittsburgh has a lot of attractions to be proud of. The view of downtown from the Mt. Washington district at the top of the Duquesne Incline (pictured below) is one of the city’s shining gems. This vantage point also just happens to rank in Fodor’s Travel “10 Most Incredible Views of America’s Cities” and shows off many of the city’s bridges, skyscrapers and the fountain at Point State Park, a national historic landmark.
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When dusk makes way to mid-evening and late night, the city lights begin to twinkle and reflect off of the river waters making for a glorious sight that photographers of all levels clamor to capture. Even my humble 35mm point and shoot digital camera produced a decent shot. Having enjoyed a lovely panoramic nighttime view of downtown, I was looking forward to getting a closer look in the daylight of Pittsburgh’s iconic buildings.

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It may not be the tallest building in Pittsburgh, but PPG Place certainly caught my eye as it sparkled against the backdrop of a crystal blue sky.  The complex towers above most of the city’s skyline and its series of buildings stretch over three city blocks. PPG Place is noteworthy for its matching glass design consisting of six buildings, 231 spires, and 19,750 pieces of glass. At ground level, a large plaza paved in a mosaic of red, grey and black granite provides a gathering place for various seasonal activities such as an outdoor skating rink during the winter months and a fountain feature from spring until fall. For those who prefer an indoor refuge, the Wintergarden is a glass-enclosed garden oasis located in the main tower that is open year-round.

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PPG Place is also located next to the Market Square district where restaurants, cafes and retailers cater to tourists, as well as the regular Monday to Friday downtown business crowd. One of the popular casual dining haunts in Market Square is Primanti Brothers, known for their colossal “Almost Famous” sandwiches of grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based coleslaw, tomato slices, and french fries piled high between two pieces of thick Italian bread. Believe me, you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day, and you’ll probably want to head to one of the city’s nearby world-class museums to walk off some calories!


From history to art, to soldiers and sailors, or the celebration of the bicycle, Pittsburgh’s wide variety of museum options offers something for everyone’s taste and interests. 

Heinz History Center

Located in the Strip District, which is a one-half square mile shopping area northeast of downtown, the Heinz History Center is Pennsylvania’s largest history museum and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The center showcases Pittsburgh’s past and highlights its tradition of innovation, notably that Pittsburgh is known as a city of “firsts” such as the first Big Mac hamburger at McDonald’s, the first retractable roof, the first drive-in gas station, the first ferris wheel, etc. As depicted in its many permanent and rotating exhibitions, the city is the headquarters of the Heinz food empire, is where famed explorers Lewis & Clark launched their epic trek from Pittsburgh to the Pacific from, and is where the beloved children’s show, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” was filmed at the local public broadcasting station. A unique feature of touring the museum is that you can start in the stairwell and view highlights of the city’s 250-year history on the walls and steps as you wind your way to the top floor and then work your way down. I highly recommend this approach before taking in the full exhibits; the incline is not too steep and the museum is only six floors so you don’t have to be in tip-top shape.

Andy Warhol Museum

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Before he took New York City and the entire world by storm with his abstract art (most notably Campbell’s soup cans and images of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), Andy Warhol was a fresh-faced kid from Pittsburgh. Located in the city’s North Shore district, the Andy Warhol Museum holds the largest collection of Warhol’s artworks and archival materials, and is the largest single artist museum in North America.

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I found it interesting to see Warhol’s development as an artist before and after his fixation with Campbell’s soup cans, and late in his career when he started using computer generated design and color techniques. It also surprised me to learn that he was a pack rat and amassed quite a collection of knickknacks.

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Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History Museum 

Founded in 1895 by renowned businessman Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Museum of Art is considered to be the first museum of modern art in the United States. With paintings ranging from Monet to Whistler, the museum’s impressive collection also features one of the largest collection of plaster casts of architectural masterpieces in the world that are housed in the massive Hall of Architecture wing. The statues and building facades may be plaster, but they certainly looked authentic which speaks to the high quality of the replication process. The Porch of the Maidens installation captured my attention along with an elaborate burial shrine.

The Natural History Museum is noted for having one of the finest collections of dinosaur skeletons in the world, but has many other exhibits covering subject matter such as minerals and gems, Ancient Egypt, life in the Arctic, and geology. The museum’s high vaulted ceilings are the perfect construction to show off the towering heights of long extinct species.

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Educational Institutions

Situated in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh campus, the Cathedral of Learning stands 535 feet tall and contains 42 floors.

Aside from its magnificent Late Gothic Revival exterior, the interior features the infamous Nationality Rooms that are located on the first and third floors. The rooms are representative of various cultural and ethnic groups that have settled in the Pittsburgh area. When not in use, the public is free to explore the rooms; there are also great city views from the windows on the 35th and 36th floors.

Sports & Entertainment

Pittsburgh has a stellar record of winning sports franchises and an impressive array of venues to show off their talents in. PPG Paints Arena is the home of the 5-time Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League; Heinz Field is where the 6-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League play; and PNC Park is where the 5-time World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball hear the cry “Batter Up!” Even if ‘black and gold’ aren’t your colours, there’s plenty to cheer about and admire in this amazing “City of Champions!”

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