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Review of the Regina Airport Hotel

I have stayed at the Home Inn Express twice in the past – once before going fishing, and another on my way to Lethbridge. Both times it was in Medicine Hat, and both times I had excellent service. The room looked the same both times so either I had the same room, or the visitor experience is universal.

Last year I had fellow blogger Jeanine, from Jsask's Mom's Blog, contact me and ask where she should stay in Regina for Country Thunder. Since the Regina version, the Home Inn & Suites – Regina Airport, is only minutes away from the airport, I recommended they stay there.

But, I felt a little guilty recommending the hotel. I've only been to the Medicine Hat variant, not our own, and decided I had to change that. I reached out to the hotel and arranged a room after the holiday rush was over for Jessica's and I's anniversary in early January.

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My 2019 In Review

With the twilight of 2019 upon us, I thought I'd recap a year of ups, downs, achievements, failures and lots and lots of blogging. To start things off, when I entered this year, I had the goal of making "Kenton de Jong Travel" my own personal version of Tourism Regina. After Tourism Regina and I broke ties in 2018, I thought I would take the opportunity to cover more local events and festivals without worrying about stepping on their toes.  

But, going forward into 2020 I think I will dial that back a bit. It wasn't received as well as I had hoped so I'll be looking at what to do different next year. For those who missed them, some of the local events I covered this year included:

I really wanted to cover The Trial of Louis Riel and Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures too, but both of those fell through this year. My trip to Coleman, Alberta also fell through, which is too bad, but hopefully, I can go next year.

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Reviewing Authentic Dutch Christmas Candy

It would probably astound you how many people pronounce my last name wrong. If they're spelling it out, they will probably spell it wrong too. Whenever somebody looks for my name up in a computer, it usually takes several attempts. Is there a space? No space? Try searching just "Jong"? I get weekly emails and letters addressed to "Mr. Jong" all the time. Potential employers even admitted they were surprised to see me walk through the doors, as I am as far away as an Asian man as one can get.

But in a small country on the coast of Europe, my last name is as common as North America's "Smith". In fact, "de Jong" is the most popular last name in the Netherlands, and I have a lot of extended family living out there. As fate would have it, earlier this year I was even lucky enough to meet one of these relatives while she was in Regina.

As a gift, I mailed her a FLAT Bunnyhug, and she mailed me back a box of various Dutch chocolates and candy. I've always enjoyed trying sweets from other countries, so I figured I would make an article about them.  

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What to See With 24 Hours in Calgary

It's been a few years since I last visited Calgary, but all previous trips were either with the Canadian Junior Football League (go Thunder!) or for various concerts. Although this time it was for my "day job", I still made sure to give myself some extra time to see the city before I left.

I've heard a lot about Calgary since high school. One by one I saw my friends move there and start new lives. Since I had some extra time to explore the city, I was interested to see what Calgary had to offer, and what made the draw so impressive.

Although Calgary was a nice city, it wasn't the best day to explore. The windchill was around -20 Celsius, the sky was cloudy, a snow squall was forming, and the streets were empty. (And I only had my phone camera with me, ouch!) My friend Muna, who was acting as my guide, told me that the city was in a recession and that a lot of businesses were hurting financially – although you wouldn't know it by all the high-rise buildings they keep constructing. I didn't see a lot of foot traffic when we were there, but it was also an ugly day out. What I was surprised to see, however, was although it was cold and windy, there was still a lot going on. We spent a bit of time on Calgary's main pedestrian shopping street – 8th Avenue Southwest – and we saw a mini outdoor concert, an Elsa and Anna cosplay and a half dozen enclosed firepits. These little firepits were burning freshly cut wood so the whole street smelt like a campfire.

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Christmas Gifts for the Traveller in Your Life

Is there a traveller in your life? Somebody who loves exploring new places, trying new foods, driving long distances for a picture and who will yammer on and on about their travels if you let them?

For the first time in Kenton de Jong Travel history I decided to put together a list of gifts you can get the traveller in your life. Many of these gifts I own, so I can testify that they are worth investing in.

Many of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy the products I recommend, I may get a little financial kickback.

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Must See Things for Your Toronto Bucket List

Toronto is one of the most vibrant cities in the world and is home to a mix of cultures unlike anywhere else in Canada. It is the personification of Canada's proverbial mixing-pot. Toronto is comprised of six different districts, each its own unique neighbourhood. Much like the people who live in Toronto, the areas of Toronto are just as diverse.

With so much to do and see, many travellers are overwhelmed. If you're in town or passing through, here are some sights near Toronto that should be on your bucket list:

Toronto is proud of its arts and has one of the most progressive music scenes in the world. In fact, it's impossible to visit the city without sampling this iconic music scene. If you are a musicophile and you want to take in a live music performance or opera in Toronto, you will want to visit the Roy Thomson Hall.

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Exploring Moose Jaw's Abandoned Zoo

Before you read this article and freak out over the amount of snow you're about to see, I want to clarify that I took these pictures last March. Moose Jaw had a lot more snow than they do at the time of publishing this. I just postponed the article to prevent you from any winter PTSD during the summer months.

The Moose Jaw Wild Animal Park opened in 1929 as a 540-acre zoo. It contained over 200 types of animals from across Canada and the northwestern United States. For almost eighty years the zoo was in operation, educating visitors on different animals and environmental preservation. It started with bison, bears and wolves, and eventually expanded to include more exotic animals such as lions. It was difficult to get numbers, but it had an average attendance of almost a million people per year.

All this ended in 1995 when the zoo failed to gain the necessary liability insurance. On September 28, 1995, the Environment and Resource Management shut down the zoo. In 1997 the zoo's property was sold to the City of Moose Jaw for $1, with the provincial government providing a $50,000 grant to restore the area.

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How To Get Inside Chernobyl's Reactor 4

When I visited Chernobyl in 2016, very few people had ever heard of it. Fast-forward to 2019 and Chernobyl is one of the fastest-growing tourism spots in Europe, thanks to the HBO mini-series Chernobyl. It has grown so much, so fast, that in July 2019 Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky even declared it an official tourism destination.

It's been incredible to see this location get the international recognition it deserves, but with it comes the question of what to do with Reactor 4 – the unfortunate reactor that exploded and radiated the area. The reactor is imprisoned inside the "Sarcophagus" and is now covered in the New Safe Confinement structure. This means that hopefully, no radiation will escape its fiery, burning pit.

But what if somebody wanted to get inside?

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The Horrors of the RCMP Heritage Centre's Black Museum

They say dead men tell no tales, but these ones do.

The RCMP Heritage Centre's Black Museum only opens for a couple of weeks every few years, with the last time being in 2015. I loved the museum and am disappointed every year that followed when it didn't open. I heard a rumour that it was opening this year after a four-year hiatus, so I reached out to the Heritage Centre and they confirmed the rumours to be true. A few days later, I was there, camera and notepad in hand.

The Black Museum opens with Oliver, a terrifying mannequin that once toured across northern Canada for Christmas shows. Although Oliver says he'll be your guide through the displays of horror that await you, you never have to see him again. However, some people say his eyes follow you as you walk around the room, so don't be surprised if you turn around and he's staring right at you.   

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Review of Inim Bala by Alchemy Prophet

I first met Matt Lay when I partnered with Paranormal And Supernatural Team (PAST) during a paranormal investigation of Boards n Beans last summer. I've heard about Lay in prior work with PAST, but it wasn't until that night that I met him and saw some of the technological wizardry he creates.

Lay has been creating music since he was a child, with his focus being violin and electronic keyboard. Many of his musical inspirations include The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Gustav Holst and Mike Oldfield. He's always had a love for music, although his life has often led him down different avenues of expression.

Lay's story starts in the 1980s when he lived in Mobile, Alabama. Lay was very open about spiritualism and didn't agree with the mantra of mainstream religion. However, he found the culture in the southern United States very restrictive with religion and spiritualism. He would move to the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia in 1989 for a fresh start. However, when he was setting up his new life, the United States fell under the "Satanic Panic". Lay found himself once again harassed by hate groups and ridiculed by local churches, many misunderstanding his ideas, teachings and lectures. This was a difficult time for anybody pagan in the United States.

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Journey to Grey Owl's Cabin - Part 2

Normally I sleep very well, but our night in Prince Albert National Park was rough. I woke up a half dozen times, each time curled up at the bottom of my tent, with both my arms on fire. I knew my arms were sore from the sixteen kilometres we canoed the day before, but the pain seemed much worse than normal. Had it been cold out, I would have assumed my muscles were cramping, but it was warm in the tent so that wouldn't make sense. I was too tired to understand why so I straightened myself and attempted to get some sleep.

I woke up to my alarm at seven in the morning. After a little tossing and turning and denial of the day ahead of me, I got up around eight when I heard Kevin getting up.

We brushed our teeth, splashed some of our drinking water on our faces and broke down camp.

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Journey to Grey Owl's Cabin - Part 1

It's been about fifteen years since I last visited Grey Owl's Cabin. I went with my elementary school's Outdoor Ed program when I was about thirteen, and the only highlight I remember was missing school when I got back because of the blisters on my feet.

It was also around fifteen years ago that I last paddled a canoe.

So, it's fair to say I wasn't prepared for the 40-kilometre canoe trip to Grey Owl's Cabin. To make sure I didn't lose my way or end up being bear-food, I asked my good friend Kevin Dunn, the former 2018 Saskatchewanderer, to come along with me.

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5 Fun and Budget-Friendly Travel Ideas

I don't know about you, but I could really use a vacation these days. After all the hustle and bustle of the summer, it seems there wasn't any time to relax. What's worse is that it seems whenever I have a chance to save up any money to get away, life throws me a curveball. For many, money and a budget is the key to making your travel dream come true... but it doesn't have to be.

Many people think that you need wads of cash to travel, but that isn't true. You don't have to save up tens of thousands of dollars to go on a vacation. Chances are you can make by with a couple hundred. I've talked about a few different ways to save money while travelling on this blog before, but here are a few other options you can consider:

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the trips you hear about are the only ones worth going on. Thinking outside the box is one of the best things you can do if you're serious about saving as much money as possible. You can start by looking at alternative destinations that aren't as expensive as others, although equally as enjoyable. For example, Ukraine is often cheaper than England, and Greece is often cheaper than Italy.

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Weyburn's Soo Line Historical Museum

Weyburn's Soo Line Historical Museum is a surprising gem of The Opportunity City. Inside the shell of a former factory, the museum embraces the city's colourful past -- both the things they are known for and the things they try to forget.

Like many Saskatchewan museums, the Soo Line Historical Museum showcases early snapshots of prairie history. I expected this going in, but what I didn't expect was a section about early Indigenous people. My reaction might seem unwarrented, but I couldn't think of another museum in Saskatchewan (besides the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) that has a section about Indigenous people. Not only was this exhibit a surprise, but it had a piece of history that I have never heard about before!

This piece of history referenced the Cree "Grandfather Rocks" – basketball-size stones with faces carved into them. These "Grandfather Rocks" were used by Cree medicine men to help carry spirits from this world to the next. Several of these stones were on display in the museum.

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Celebrating Summer with Regina's Summer Bash

If you've been driving around Regina any time the past few months, you've probably seen the signs for Summer Bash. At only three years old, this annual festival seems to be the talk of the town and has taken the southern community of Regina by storm.

This past summer, Summer Bash has rolled out five free movies, from July 4 – August 22, as well as a Summer Market on August 11 and their main festival this upcoming August 25.

Their main festival at the end of the summer is Harbour Landings answer to the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in May, which marks the beginning of summer. Because of the huge success of CVAF and its legacy in the city, Summer Bash is using them as a model to promote local businesses, vendors, musicians and artists.

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selfless in the Age of Social Media

Do you ever feel lonely? Or worthless? Or like you're not good enough?

There's a chance you're not alone.

More and more people feel this way each year, yet our network of people is becoming ever larger. We have a plethora of ways to share our opinions and thoughts, but it seems the more we share, the hollower we become. It's as if the more we put out there, the less we have to ourselves.

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Day Trip to the Cochin Lighthouse

I haven't gone on a major trip since my journey to Riding Mountain National Park last autumn, so I booked off a week to travel out west. However, things didn't work out as I had planned, and my vacation turned more-or-less into a staycation.

Thankfully, it wasn't all for naught. I managed to get away one day, and I did a couple of little day trips throughout the week too. The day I got away I wanted to go as far north as possible, and I chose the Cochin Lighthouse.

The Cochin Lighthouse is just north of the Battlefords and it is the only lighthouse in the landlocked province of Saskatchewan. It sits on the top of Pirot Hill in the village of Cochin and shines a light out onto the nearby Jackfish Lake – or as locals call it, the "Cochin Ocean".

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Visiting The Grave Of Canada's Largest Mass Hanging

I've wanted to visit the Battlefords in Saskatchewan for a few years now. As somebody who loves history, just to visit a city that once housed the capital of the North-West Territories is reason enough. I'm sure I've passed through the city when I was younger, but I've never had the chance to explore it as an adult.

My interest in both cities grew when I was doing research for my 2017 article, "6 Saskatchewan Cemeteries to Visit This October". One individual I interviewed for the article was Don Light of the North-West Historical Society. Light was tasked with the sensitive job of moving about eighty graves within The Battleford Cemetery. Relocating graves is always the last option when it comes to a cemetery, but in this case, they had no choice. The Battleford Cemetery sits on the edge the North Saskatchewan River, and the banks of the cemetery were slowly eroding. Had the graves been left undisturbed, headstones, monuments and caskets would start falling into the roaring river below.

Light and I had an excellent chat that day and he told me many fascinating stories about what they found when they were moving the graves. Some of the graves he had to move were Metis graves, all while under the supervision of police and Indigenous professionals. Many of these caskets had rotted and were open, and they found a plethora of Roman Catholic crosses and First Nation beadwork, a sign of traditional Metis culture.

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When A Swastika Isn't A Swastika

You probably clicked on this article because of the swastika. Many people feel strongly about it and believe that it is offensive to show any swastika, at any time, absolutely ever.

But the thing is, what if it isn't a swastika? What if it's a sauwastika?

"It doesn't matter!", some would say. A swastika is a swastika is a swastika. Well, not exactly. To start, the swastika, and its inverted counterpart sauwastika, have been used for millenniums by civilisations around the world. They have been used by the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Vikings, First Nations, Egyptians, Celts, Mayans, Greeks, Africans, and everybody in between. Some refer to it as a symbol of good fortune, while others say it is the symbol for the top of the earth, the centre of the universe or the passaging of time. The Buddhists recognise the swastika as the symbol of Buddha's footsteps. Where his teaching goes, so does good fortune and the swastika.

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Hitting Like A Girl at the Regina Fringe Festival

Where normalcy ends, fringe begins.

Every July, the Regina International Fringe Theatre Festival hosts five days of drama, dance, comedy, magic and theatre. This event brings in performers from around the world, and every show is vastly different from the next. This form of abstract thought is something that is so diverse – so orthodoxly perverse – that there are no limits to what it might create.

This is what Devon More's performance Hits Like A Girl intends to explore. Abstract thought is the very essence of creativity, but what happens if you lose the ability to use it? Without the boundaries of normalcy, there is no fringe; and without fringe, there is no normalcy.

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Win A Trip to the Strangest City in the World

Frank Albo is known to many as "The Dan Brown of Canada". He gained this informal title through his many decades of research, interviews and investigations into the secrets of the Manitoba Legislature. Through his work, he claims that Winnipeg was meant to have a much larger role in Canada – going so far to say that it was to be the "Jerusalem of the New World".

It may sound odd, but there are a lot of strange motifs within the Manitoba Legislature that otherwise wouldn't make sense. These include being the exact dimensions of King Solomon's Temple, having medusas and demons guarding the entrances, and a "black star" of sacrifice beneath the rotunda. Stranger still is that none of these symbols are in the visually similar Saskatchewan Legislature which was constructed about the same time and for the same purpose. For some reason, the Manitoba Legislature was uniquely created in this manner.

Albo's research has not only gotten a lot of attention in Canada, but international attention too. One of these people was His Excellency Konstantin Zhigalov, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan. While visiting Winnipeg in 2014, Zhigalov attended Albo's tour. After it concluded, Zhigalov pulled Albo aside and invited him to the capital of Kazakhstan. The request was peculiar, but the moment Albo arrived, he knew exactly why he was chosen.

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Tastes & Treats at The Food Truck Wars

When I was younger, I prided myself on having a hollow leg and the ability to eat much more than the average man. However, last weekend at The Centennial Market's second annual Food Truck Wars, I finally met my match.

I've written about The Centennial Market a few times, and I've watched it grow in leaps and bounds the last few years. The market is inside the shell of the former Sears Outlet building, a building where I spent much of my childhood. Sears closed this outlet building in 2016 and shortly afterwards The Centennial Market opened in an attempt to save the shopping centre.

The market grew quickly, and the parking lot of the building has become a hub of events throughout the year. One of the biggest events is the annual Food Truck Wars.

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What HBO Got Wrong About Chernobyl

Those who attended my Chernobyl lecture at the Queen City Collective earlier in May would have heard me singing praises about HBO's new miniseries Chernobyl, and for good reason. HBO did a fantastic job on the miniseries by immersing the audience into mid-1980s Soviet Ukraine and by peeling back the layers of the disaster.

With that said, there were some liberties HBO took while making the show. As somebody who spent two days in the Exclusion Zone in 2016, I know a thing or two about how the events unfolded, and a few parts of the miniseries weren't accurate.

Chernobyl began by tackling a nearly impossible task. The miniseries had to break down one of the largest cover-ups in human history. They had to show the devastation of the world's deadliest nuclear disaster and also highlight the many countless heroes who stepped up to make a difference. It's natural to expect HBO to simplify this – and they only had five episodes to do it. I don't blame them for some of these mistakes, but I felt they should be pointed out.

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Meet Your 2019 Saskatchewanderer

Zane Buchanan is your typical run-of-the-mill Saskatchewanian. He was born in White City, just outside of Regina, and attended Greenall High School in Balgonie. He graduated in 2010.

After graduation he moved to Victoria, then Toronto, then Vancouver and then Toronto again. He took theatre and then shifted over to journalism. He started as a arts and cinema critc and then moved over into being a copywriter. Like anybody in their 20s, he was trying to find his place in the world.

Although he left Saskatchewan for schooling, Saskatchewan never left him. It didn't matter if he was in Vancouver or Toronto, he was always "the Prairie kid" or "that guy from Saskatchewan".

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110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

I've known Jenn Smith Nelson for several years now, and I often look up to her for inspiration and guidance on how to grow with my blog. I remember hearing about her book over a year ago, and I've been holding my breath in anticipation ever since.

Smith Nelson teamed up with Doug O'Neill, another talented travel writer, to cover two Canadian provinces. Their new book, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, is a part of a Firefly Books series that showcase Canada's diversity of nature.

 (Other books in the Firefly Books series include 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta, 100 Nature Hot Spots in British Columbia and 110 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario.)

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13 Churches to Visit Before You Die

The recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral got me thinking about how lucky I was to see such an incredible building – and how lucky we all are that it's still standing. In honour of its survival, and the Easter Season (assuming I can get this out prior to Easter Sunday), I thought I would put together a list of some of the most beautiful churches I've seen in my travels – and hopefully inspire you to see them too.

This article only lists churches I've been to, but there are countless others that people should visit too. Are there any other churches you think people should visit? How about temples or mosques? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

St. Paul's Cathedral has been an iconic structure in London for over a millennium.  The current cathedral was constructed in 1697 after the previous (fourth) cathedral was lost to the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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5 Awesome Things to do in Malaga

Written by: Nicola Kennedy, Connect 2 Spain.

Steeped in history dating back to the Phoenicians, Malaga, Spain has always been a trading post for the countries of the Mediterranean Sea. Both the Greeks and Carthaginians settled the area, with the Romans finally creating the first municipality. Originally, Malaga thrived on the export of meat, salted fish, olive oil and raisins.

When the Roman Empire fell, the Visigoths arrived and ruled the city until the Moors established their Caliphate somewhere between 714AD and 716AD. They continued to use Malaga to not only export foodstuffs but also products from a burgeoning textile industry.

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Dog River After Corner Gas

Dog River, the fictional town of Corner Gas (2004 – 2009) is in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, about 40 minutes south of Regina. This town was once the home for over 100 episodes, a movie and now an animated series. During production, buildings were renamed, structures were built, and the streets were full of actors, comedians, politicians, filming equipment and tourists.

Corner Gas was popular in Canada, the United States and Europe, getting somewhat of a following like Anne of Green Gables has in Japan. Many European tourists came to Saskatchewan just to see the set, visit the locations from the show and experience small-town Saskatchewan life. The show was such a success that April 13 is even designated "Corner Gas Day" in Saskatchewan.

Once the show ended, many expected Dog River to become something like Avonlea in Prince Edward Island. It had the potential to be a thriving tourism centre, with live-action characters, running gags, scenes from the show, themed restaurants and Corner Gas merchandise.

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Moose Jaw's Medieval Château

It was fifty years ago that the Château Room was brought to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, but only a few people have ever heard of it.

If you've never heard of the Château Room, you aren't alone. There's no conspiracy to keep it hidden; in fact, people visit it every day. The reason few people ever talk about it is because it's only accessible to military personnel.

So, as a civilian, it took me months to arrange a finally get a tour, and when I saw it… Well, why don't we start from the beginning.

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Saskatoon's Escape Manor is the Place to Beat

About five years ago I tried my first escape room, and I've been a fan ever since. Solving puzzles is something the web developer in me absolutely loves, and I've lost count of the amount of escape rooms I've attempted. Each one I've done has been fun, challenging and rewarding, although often very frustrating – all of which keeps me going back for more.

Many escape rooms offer board games, food and drinks before the "big escape" but Escape Manor's new Saskatoon location brings entertainment to a whole new level. Along with drinks and delicious food from partnerships with a select group of restaurants downtown. They also have custom board games, axe-throwing and bocce ball. Axe-throwing is something I've seen before (and, yes, thank you everybody who messaged me on social media – I know there are axe-throwing places in Regina...) but I've never seen it offered in an escape room setting. After I saw it, I thought it fit in perfectly. The gleaming axes and splintered wood go along perfect with the lanterns, chains and distant screams of madness from down the hall.

Saskatoon's Escape Manor also has a pillory as opposed to the Regina's Escape Manor's electric chair. I'm not sure which one I like more, since both are very cool, and very uncomfortable, but it does give the location an iconic touch.

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Top 10 ½ Tallest Statues in Saskatchewan – Second Edition

We all make mistakes, and Norway's crossing of Moose Jaw won't be forgotten anytime soon. With a lasting Moose Truce nowhere in sight, tensions between The Land of the Living Skies and the Land of the Midnight Sun have never been more antler-raising. Moose Jaw is holding a summit of Norwegian politicians the next few days to find a moos-lution and Justin and Greg have opted to flee the country all together (or maybe they went to a hockey game in Vegas… tough to tell what those two are up to sometimes!).

In the meantime, unlike Norway, I can admit when I made a mistake. A few weeks past I wrote "The Top 10 ½ Tallest Statues in Saskatchewan" following countless hours of research… and within 30 minutes of hitting "publish", I received a correction. As the days rolled by more and more corrections came in, I decided a whole new list would be needed.

When creating this revised list, I had to make one rule: vehicles on top of stilts or on tall platforms do not count as statues. I didn't think I would have to make parameters around what a "statue" is, but I had to enforce this one or else I would be calling farms all around the province. So, sorry, Craik's Motorcycle Tower! Your farm owner didn't call me back and now he ruined it for everybody!

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Taboo

Disclaimer: This article is about sex and sexuality. If you don't feel comfortable reading about that, please feel free to skip this article.

Taboo… The Naughty but Nice Sex Show is coming to Regina this weekend and with it comes many questions you probably didn't know how to ask. As somebody who has never gone to Taboo, I have done the down-and-dirty research to figure out what to expect during your first time.

Taboo runs from February 22nd – 24th at the Conexus Art Centre and is more of a trade show than an actual performance. The premise of the show is mostly education, not just entertainment. It's important to remember that adult entertainment is just that: entertainment. It is based around reality, but it has an element of fantasy attached to it too. Just like how movies and video games take everyday life and puts it in fantastical situations, adult entertainment does the same.

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The Magic Behind Cirque du Soleil's Crystal

Would you rather live in a perfect fantasy, or a flawed reality?

This is the question Crystal from Cirque du Soleil's latest performance must ask herself. Is the pain and suffering we go through on a daily basis worth only a few moments of joy? Or would it be better if there was only joy and no pain at all?

Crystal might be the 42nd Cirque du Soleil performance created, but it is the first to mix ice-skating with acrobatics. It isn't all skating and twirling, though, as twenty-two of the thirty-four performers are professional acrobats.  

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Review of TiVo - The World's Smartest PVR

Last month I wrote about Access Communications' new TiVo system. As the month has gone by, I've used it more and more and in return it's learned more about me. TiVo is known as "the world's smartest PVR" because of its artificial intelligence. You can vote content up or down to give TiVo a hint, or you can just watch the content you enjoy, and TiVo does all the algorithmic work in the background.

But what does that mean for user experience? Well, let's talk about it.

One of my lesser-known passions is urban planning. I love learning about how to house, transport and feed people more effectively. Not to get all hippy-dippy, but I believe we are at cross-roads between a dystopia like Kowloon Walled City or a utopia like Orbit City.

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Top 10 ½ Tallest Statues in Saskatchewan

This list is incorrect. Please go read my updated version.

Saskatchewan is known for its quirky statues but lately one of them has made international news.

If you haven't heard, Justin Reeves and Greg Moore of Justin and Greg reported that the people of Oslo, Norway have created a moose statue slightly taller than Saskatchewan's Mac the Moose. Moose Jaw's mayor said that if you mess with a moose, you'll "get the antlers", while the deputy mayor of Stor-Elvdal, Norway said they will do "whatever it takes" to keep their title. To reclaim their title, Moose Jaw is considering everything from putting stilettos on Mac's feet, to giving him a hat, to making his antlers slightly larger. Whatever it takes to outdo Norway's chrome monstrosity, Moose Jaw is willing to do it.

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Top 10 Creepiest Dolls From The Island of the Dolls

It's the time of year people start heading south to Mexico to escape the winter blues. About two years ago I took my first trip to Mexico too, but I went to the Mexico City and Puebla instead of a beach-front destination. While preparing for my trip to Mexico I remembered that Xochimilco is just south of the Mexico City, and that this Venice-like community was home to the famous "Island of the Dolls."

I've written about my time to the island before so I won't go into too many details in this article. Instead, in honour of my almost two-year-anniversary of my trip to one of the creepiest places in the world, I put together a list of my Top 10 Creepiest Dolls From The Island of the Dolls.

(I would say "enjoy", but c'mon now, you know this is going make your skin crawl.)

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My 2018 In Review

This past year was a big year for my blog, but it didn't go exactly as planned.

Just over a year ago I chose to leave my job as a web developer in the hopes of being a successful full-time blogger. While I haven't exactly accomplished that, I have been able to keep the lights on and pay rent.

I started the year off with a new initiative: find advertisers to keep the blog afloat. The first organization I worked with was the Downtown Business Improvement District. I started working with them at the end of 2017 and it carried over into 2018. I wrote a few articles for them but then they had a change of staff and we never officially collaborated again. This was okay though, since we did team-up a few more times throughout the year, such as during Parking Days and Work Outside the Box.

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12 Ways to Use TiVo During the Holidays

Access Communications asked me to try out TiVo, the world's smartest personal video recorder (PVR). As a millennial who doesn't watch any television, I wasn't sure what to expect. I cancelled my basic cable package years ago and never looked back. Would this advanced artificial intelligence program change my mind?

When Access hooked up TiVo, the installer told me it takes about 4-6 weeks before TiVo really gets "smart". Since I haven't had TiVo long enough for it to figure out what I like to watch, that will be the topic for a future article. For now, let's talk about the holiday that's on everybody's mind: Christmas, and how TiVo can be used during it. 

The tradition of a yule log – the festive Christmas log that burns during the holidays – dates to at least 1184 CE. However, as humanity became more advanced and less people have a need for a fireplace in their house, the yule log fell out of fashion. That all changed in 1966 when television station WPIX, based out of New York, aired a live broadcast of the yule log. Since then, this ancient tradition has now become ingrained with our modern celebrations.

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Craik's Surprisingly Creepy Secret

Earlier this year I did a presentation at The Artesian about the Spanish Influenza. It was the first time I had ever done a presentation like this and I was nervous about the number of people that might attend. I told my mother I would be thrilled if five people came that night, but forty people showed up instead. For a topic that very few people know anything about, I was excited to see so many people interested.

But one person in the audience was so interested that several months later she reached out to me to see if I wanted to do my presentation again. Instead of doing it in Regina, she asked for me to travel to Craik, Saskatchewan to tell the Craik Museum and Oral History Society about what I had learned.

For knowing so much about a topic nobody ever asks me about, I was super excited to talk about it. The organiser reached out to Craik School to ask if the students would be interested in attending the lecture too. The teacher said they wouldn't be able to make the time slot work but asked if I could speak to the students about being a blogger at a different time.

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Welcome to Eden - Cannabis Store Review

Disclaimer: I worked alongside Allen Kilback, the owner of Eden Cannabis Co., and a team of talented professionals, to help launch Eden's online presence. My role was to develop his website. This gave me some insight into their business model, and the legislation they must abide by. Although we have a business relationship, this article was not paid for or sponsored by Allen Kilback or Eden Cannabis Co. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On October 17, 2018, it happened.

Cannabis, in all sense of the word, was legalised across Canada. Nobody knew what to expect, or how it would be handled. Speculations ranged from the population becoming so stoned that the economy would crash, to mass revolts against the government. But, over a month later, society hasn't changed all that much. People who smoked weed still smoke weed, and people who don't, just don't.

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7 Oddities Around Regina

One of my friends recently asked me to tell her some "legends" about Regina to share with her friends in Germany. My mind immediately went to the macabre and I began sharing stories of flying canoes full of people during the Regina Cyclone (didn't happen), the story of a family that survived the sinking of the Titanic but died in the cyclone (also didn't happen) and even a bit about how Regina handled the Spanish Influenza (because, of course I mentioned that).

When I was done, she sent those stories to her friends and they came back and said Regina sounded like something out of Creepypasta – a website dedicated to paranormal fiction. I loved the idea of that and decided to do my own research into some "odd" places and things around Regina. Some of these are spooky, some of these are interesting, but all of them are very odd.

Are there any you'd add to the list?

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Explaining the Unexplainable at Devil's Night

Escape Manor in Regina, Saskatchewan celebrates Halloween a little differently than most places. While some people embrace Halloween, most don't try to actively contact spirits. But, Escape Manor, alongside Jeff Richards of APTN's The Other Side, does just that.

Every October 30th Escape Manor and Jeff Richards host Devil's Night, a night dedicated to solving escape rooms and contacting the deceased.

I wrote a lot about ghosts and ghouls on my blog, but I have never seen a ghost. Like how I've never seen a kangaroo, I believe they exist although I have never verified it personally. Jeff made an excellent point when discussing this during Devil's Night. The human brain will try to piece together the unexplainable with rational thoughts. Why did the bell ring? Where did the voices come from? Why was there a strange shadow? We will try to rationalise any paranormal event until it makes sense, even if it doesn't.

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5 Spooky Stories from Around the World

Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Over the past few years I've visited some spooky and unusual places around the world and I've heard my fair share of ghost stories. Every culture has their own stories and it's interesting – and terrifying – to hear them. I don't claim to be an expert in the paranormal, but some people consider me their "go-to guy" for anything spooky.

Because of this, the folks over at invaluable.com sent me their article about 15 Chilling Folktales, Traditions, and Objects from Around the World to take a look at. I absolutely loved it, so I thought I would expand on some of their stories and reprint a handful of them here.  

Some of their stories I've heard before, like the Headless Horseman or the Terracotta Army, but some I have not. I tried to pick some lesser known ones for this article, but you may know some of them anyway. Let me know in the comments how many you knew.

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Journey to Spookytown

Imagine a town full of zombies, ghouls, ghosts and spooks, all living in harmony. It's tough to wrap your head around (unless your name is Linda Blair) but that's exactly what you'll find in Spookytown – a miniature Halloween village, created by Jessica Nuttall.

Spookytown began in 2004 with the purchase of Castle Blackstone. This towering fortress began a 14+ year passion to build a community for the living, dead and undead to coexist together. After Castle Blackstone came the construction of the cemetery, the business district and then the "spooky" end of town, which holds the magnificent Victorian Mansion. The town includes hotels, cathedrals, restaurants, cafes, museums and a grain elevator. The town is like any other small town during the day – quiet, peaceful and relatively pleasant, but once night falls, Spookytown becomes a creepy village full of flashing lights, blood curdling screams and eerie music.

When asked about the population of Spookytown, Nuttall answered "Dead or alive?", followed by a mischievous smile. A quick headcount found about 75 spooks hidden among the village's dozen buildings, but that might not include the ones living in the buildings or sleeping within their coffins.

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Jack Keaton's Review: Spend Your Time Somewhere Else

I rarely give a bad review of a restaurant. I try my best to always give companies and restaurants the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes things don't happen exactly as they should in the kitchen, and as somebody who is culinary challenged, I totally understand this.

But, a restaurant isn't just about food. It's also about class.

And that's what Jack Keaton's BBQ and Bar doesn't have.

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Fort Fright: Canada's Scariest Haunted House

A few years ago, my girlfriend and I travelled to Milestone, Saskatchewan, a small town about an hour south of Regina. Out of all the buildings in Milestone, the largest is the historic Milestone Homestead, which is a former hotel that now operates as a bar. That year the community had come together and transformed the upper levels of the hotel into a spooky haunted house. Although it was a volunteer community project, it was fairly well done – at least from what I saw. Most of my time in the house was spent cowering behind Jessica with my eyes closed as she led the way. But, after we got out, and Jessica told me it was safe to open my eyes, I admitted it wasn't that scary at all.

Then I asked if we could go home and never do it again.

One year later I travelled to Kingston, Ontario to take in one of the scariest Halloween attractions in Canada. Not only is Kingston a lively and beautiful city, it's also plagued by the supernatural. From haunted bars to alleyways, hotels to houses and cemeteries to penitentiaries, there are plenty of creepy stories to go around.

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Blogger Interview: Dates in the States

Earlier this year I was featured on Dates In the States, an American-based travel blog. They interview various different bloggers to share their travel stories so I was really excited when they approached me. It was a pleasure to work with Crystal and Shane and I love their work, so I thought I would return the favour and interview them back.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your blog and how it all got started.

My name is Crystal and I am the writer and creator of Dates in the States. Shane, my boyfriend, is the brains and helps me come up with the content and ideas. Without him, Dates in the States wouldn't be where it is now! We've recently grown our social media exponentially, created an online course, and a Patreon Membership for our followers.

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A Paranormal Investigation into Boards n Beans

As much I love travelling the world, my absolute favourite thing is all the creepy, spooky stories that come along with it. If there is a dark story, I'm always keen to write about it. But, to be honest, although I've travelled to many of the world's most disturbing places, I've never had a ghostly encounter. I've never taken a picture of a ghost, I've never seen one, I've never heard one, nothing at all.

But, that doesn't mean I don't believe in ghosts. I would absolutely love to catch evidence of a ghost sometime. So, when Alyson Ford, Matt Lay and Cory Nagy of Paranormal and Supernatural Team Saskatchewan (PAST) reached out to see if I wanted to join them for an investigation I immediately jumped at the chance. We would also be joined by Justin Henry, a new member to the organization. I've chatted with PAST a few times over the past year, so I was excited to spend a night with them. For this investigation they would spend a night at one of Regina's most popular board game cafes, Boards n Beans, on 1840 Rose Street.

PAST's philosophy is to not only document hauntings, but also help the people that are being affected. Often hauntings can be caused by either bringing in negative spiritual energy, or by having underlying issues like anxiety, insomnia, depression or addiction. External elements can cause supposed hauntings too, like an over exposure to Wi-Fi or electricity.  PAST goes into to prove hauntings, but also to bring solace to those who want to know what's really going on around them.

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What to See and Do in Riding Mountain National Park

There is a change in the air. T-shirts are being replaced by bunny hugs and coffees are being replaced by pumpkin spice lattes. For a few weeks, the air is crisp, the skies are blue, and the trees are on fire with orange, red and yellow leaves. Autumn has finally arrived to the prairies.

To celebrate this, I recently attended a trip to Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) alongside Tim Johnson of Tim Johnson Travels and Marc Smith of Marc My Travels. It was made possible by our tireless organizers Guy Theriault and Megan Dudeck of Parks Canada and Reba Lewis of Travel Manitoba.

This was my first time to ever spend a night in a national park, so I was very excited to try out an oTENTik. For those who have never stayed in one before, oTENTik are a glamping enthusiast's dream. The "missing link" between a tent and cottage, these fully electric cloth buildings have a built-in heater and one third of them have a stove. The weather was still warm when we were in the park, so we opted not to use the stove, but we were told that in the winter – yes, you can glamp in the winter! – these make the tents nice and cosy.

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Five Things Not to Miss in Lethbridge

Written by Paula Worthington.

It's hard to pick just five great attractions in a city made for exploring. For too long, Lethbridge has been seen as a "drive through" city, but in recent years, it has confidently put itself on the map as a destination in its own right.

Here are five not-to-miss attractions on your next visit to Lethbridge:

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