By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I am turning 50 next year and my girlfriends wish to go away for the May 24 weekend for some celebration. Where can we do the shopping thing, entertainment and bar scene for under $1,000?

A: Generally, the best time to get great deals on most anything is to wait for last minute deals. Then there are the special packages. You'll often find great deals well in advance of the actual travel date. So, it's best to keep your eyes open for great deals. Who knows, there might be a destination with a suitable price tag. With your advanced planning, it'll be difficult to nail down packages at this time. Needless to say, there's something to be said in sticking closer to home.

I've got friends who booked a hotel suite in the city for a weekend and splurged on spa treatments, painted the town and did some shopping. For this route, leave your cell phone at home, get the front desk to take messages and put a big "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.

If you'd like to get out of the city, although often regarded as a civil service town where many joke on how the sidewalks are rolled up after 6:00pm, you might wish to consider spending the long weekend in Ottawa. Not only will you have all the pomp and circumstance associated with the annual celebrations on Parliament Hill but also you've got some great shopping opportunities in the heart of the city.

Your girlfriends can meander through historic Byward Market, stroll through the Rideau Centre and check out some of the cool nightclubs along Bank Street. When I lived here, friends and myself booked an evening at the legendary Barrymore's to support our singer friend during Talent Night. Lo and behold, my friend's performance did not meet the big crowd pleaser's talents of a very young Alanis Morissette who quickly stole the show and went on to fame and fortune.

Lastly, if you're into gambling, Casino Niagara's expansion is scheduled for completion next spring. So you might just want to roll the dice and try your luck in the new digs overlooking the falls. There's sure to be loads of entertainment at this facility. For the shopping thing, there are several factory outlet stores along Lundy's Lane that cater to the big brand name crowd.


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