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Five Reasons Why: Montreal

September 25, 2019
It’s often said that Vancouver, by proximity, feels a lot like Seattle. Toronto is sometimes used by film production companies as a stand-in for New York City. But there may be no American equivalent for the beauty and the culture of Montreal. There’s no match for its bilingual nature, either, nor for “The Main,” which is what locals call Boulevard Saint-Laurent and where Francophile Montreal once met Anglophile Montreal. It’s a beautiful destination to visit, filled with attractions, gorgeous city walks, and great food and drink options.

Want to offer your donors a trip to Montreal? Here are five reasons why they’d be lucky to bid on such a prize.

History: Montreal has a well-earned reputation for feeling like a European city plopped down in North America. Founded in 1642 by French colonists, the occasional cobble-stone streets and the stunning, Old World-esque churches give a feel that is as much Paris as it is Toronto. It was home to the 1967 World Expo and the 1976 Olympics. Combine that with Montreal’s bilingual leanings, and it’s the closest one can come to Europe without leaving the continent.

The Underground City: How can you get your donors to go to a city that might be defined by cold weather? The Underground City is a shopping favorite, but it’s also a great way of getting around the downtown area in the winter. It runs more than 20 miles, including several subway stations and even the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadians. When those temperatures dip below 0 degrees Celsius, any visitor can find refuge – and still get around – by going underground.

Festivals: Each year, Montreal hosts scores of street festivals (as many as 90, by some counts). Whether its local art, theater, comedy or music, aficianados of nearly every strip get a weekend or a recurring night to shine somewhere in the city. Some of the biggest include POP Montreal, a five-night music affair that is headlined this year by artist Laurie Anderson and gospel singer Mavis Staples, Montreal Jazz Festival (considered by some to be the biggest jazz fest in the world) and Just for Laughs, a comedy festival that brings in performers from around the world and features a large number of free shows.

Public Art: In terms of Canadian cities, Montreal may be the street art capital. There’s an annual mural festival that brings artists from around the world to the city, but Montreal is open for new art all year, and street artists like D*Face and others come here to take advantage. Walking tours of the city’s major mural spots are easy to find. It’s also become a way of memorializing the city’s greats, like…

Leonard Cohen: The legendary poet, writer and musician was raised here, and many of the city’s sights made their ways into his songs; when he sang about how the sun poured down like honey on the “Lady of the Harbor” in his classic “Suzanne,” he was talking about the angel above Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. He maintained a house here along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, otherwise known as “The Main,” until his death, and was a regular at local bagel shops and delis. And his visage can be seen on the sides of two different buildings in the city. Both before and after his death in 2016, Cohen’s home has had nothing but love for its son.


Harvest Season

September 18, 2019
The changing colors of the leaves is one of our favorite sites of the fall. But when it comes to travelling during the season, it’s important to think about the other senses – specifically, taste.

Fall’s eye candy may be nice, but farm-to-table restaurants, food festivals, and even wineries show that the taste of fall comes from the harvest. Those crops that have grown throughout the spring and summer are ready to be plucked, picked or otherwise gathered, and in some regions that means celebrations as big as any national holiday.

If your donors want a fall escape, offer them a non-profit fundraising auction travel package to one of these harvest-happy destinations.

Maine should be on all the must-see lists for the fall as it is; the foliage views in the state are spectacular. In addition, though, Portland hosts one of America’s best harvest festivals each year. Harvest on the Harbor takes place each fall, usually in October, just an hour and change away from Boothbay. Kicking off with a chef and farmer harvest dinner, the event includes oysters, spirits, and a ten-course lunch to determine who is the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year. Go hungry!

Harvest on the Harbor is not the only place that offers travelers the opportunity to eat the bounty. A trio of our favorite southern destinations are perfect to do just that, with farm-to-table restaurants leading the way. In Asheville, The Dining Room at the Biltmore Estate not only received a coveted rating of Four Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, but also operates its own field-to-table program, growing vegetables and ranching cattle on site. In Charleston, restaurants like Husk and Fig change menus regularly depending on what’s in season and what can be sourced locally. And in Music City, 5th & Taylor, 2|22 (the restaurant of the Country Music Hall of Fame), and the aptly-named The Farm House bring the food of the farms and fields surrounding Nashville straight to diners’ plates.

And while your donors won’t be able to, say, harvest grapes and immediately drink their alcoholic final forms, harvest season – both here and abroad – is a great time to visit wine country. In Napa Valley, grape picking and stomping let your supports get a hands-and-feet-on experience, while the area’s restaurants are flooded with local produce.  In France, there are harvest festivals throughout the country; it seems like every winery of any size has their own!  Be careful, though, as some wineries are so small as to need all hands picking during September, meaning there’s no one left to pour wine tastings to visitors. If your donors have a particular region in mind, they’ll want to do their homework to see who’s open for business during this very busy season.


Ditch the Thermometer

September 11, 2019
Before a vacation, there are two websites that become “must check” for travelers: The airline’s home page for travel delays, and a favored weather forecast. Worrying about the weather before hitting the road is a regular feature of travel, and with good reason: Spend a beach week indoors because of rain or a ski vacation at the chalet because there’s no snow, and it’s easy to believe that the trip was a waste.

There are ways, though, of avoiding weather-based anxiety before you travel. Some destinations work year-round, unfazed by atmospheric concerns, for multiple reasons. If you want to save your donors this one type of pre-trip stress, offer them a chance to head to one of these great destinations with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages.

People connect New York City with the outdoors in two separate ways: Central Park, and the busy city sidewalks. But beyond that, what draws tourists to the Big Apple each year is a full roster of indoor activities. Most theater (aside from Shakespeare in the Park), museums and other artistic spaces don’t suffer from bad weather, and the city’s amazing restaurant scene features few patio meals. And with the omnipresent taxis and ride share vehicles, New York – even in the gloomiest of weather – is navigable. Whether it’s the middle of a muggy Manhattan summer or a snowy winter day, the city is a destination unlike any other.

In other locales, the seasonal weather change can alter the itinerary of a visitor – but for the better. In Telluride, Colorado, and other skiing locations, a winter down the powdery white slopes can turn into a summer of hiking, mountain biking, and camping. Telluride, in particular, displays different sides of beauty throughout the year, with green summers (thanks to the snow runoff), colorful falls and then snowy winters. All of that comes with a low amount of rainfall, too; the ski town only gets 2.7 inches of rain at its heaviest, and June in Telluride might be the most gorgeous month to go; it has an average high temperature of 72 and only four days with precipitation.

Of course, the easiest way to weatherproof a vacation may be to head to a place where the weather doesn’t change. Southern California cities like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego are relatively consistent year-round: the wine country of Santa Barbara averages 283 sunny days a year, L.A. comes in at 284, and San Diego has 266. Those aren’t the highest totals in the country, but unlike cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, heat rarely gets oppressive in Southern California. These three cities are 365-day outdoor destinations, and they make perfect antidotes for the summertime and wintertime blues.


Travel-Worthy Rivalries

September 04, 2019
Looking at the schedule, one might reasonably believe that the college football season builds to a crescendo in late December and early January, with the four-team playoff and the national championship game. But to jump forward to the best four teams is to miss the best part – the rivalries.

There may be no more intense set of rivalry games than those involving college teams. With not just students, but alma mater so passionate about their schools, the intensity is unmatched. These are the types of contests for which alumni travel.

Our “The Best of NCAA Games” package can get your donors in to some of the biggest rivalry games in the country. But whether or not they attended one of the schools in question, these five matchups will attract big bids from supporters.

Auburn-Alabama: There may be no better rivalry game in terms of skill level than the Iron Bowl. Nine of the last 11 games played have been one by a team ranked either the second-best or best team in the nation (the others were won by Auburn, ranked fourth for one and sixth for the other). At the ESPYs, the 2013 game was named Best Game of the Year, and its last play (a 109-yard missed field goal return) was named Best Play of the Year.

USC-UCLA: The crosstown rivalry has not been as important in terms of national standings for the past few years, with USC not threatening for a national championship during the decade – and UCLA sometimes struggling to stay above a .500 record. But it’s rare for one city to have two high-profile Division I teams, and it’s even rarer to have important games played in the sunny, late-November weather of Southern California.

Army-Navy: The intra-military game has been contested 119 times, with the first coming 1890 (the Midshipmen among your donor base will be quick to point out that Navy won that affair 24-0). But wins and losses are secondary to most of the country; the yearly celebration is a chance to thank these students for their upcoming service.

Michigan-Ohio State: It’s been one-sided in recent years, with Ohio State winning 15 of the 19 games contested this century, but what is simply known as “The Game” in the upper Midwest still might be college football’s literal biggest rivalry; the teams’ respective home stadiums combine for more than 210,000 seats for spectators.

Harvard-Yale: There are few traditions in college football older than the one between these Ivies. Former presidents have been involved, both on the field and off (most recently, George W. Bush was a cheerleader during his time as a Yalie). The game itself has been one-sided recently, with the Crimson taking 15 of the last 18, but that includes two Yale wins out of the last three games played.