Well, it’s con season again in St. John’s. And I did not go. Although I did continue my annual SFOTR tradition of going to an escape room at Escape Quest with my brother. He also did not attend SFOTR as he had to work all weekend and thus it made no financial sense to buy a pass. This meant that we did not attend the special Escape Quest event at the con. Instead, we headed down to the actual Escape Quest location on Duckworth. Grabbed some con-going friends and survived the Great Fire of 1892.
That happened Saturday and what a Saturday it was. My biannual “the seasons have changed” cold is upon me so April 29 was the day winter officially ended and spring began. It was a warm, sunny day and I was out on an adventure with the mother and the aunt. We ate at Jungle Jim’s, looked at crocuses in random downtown front yards, saw a random chicken, and went to Cape Spear to see the remains of an ice burg before it was time for me to meet up with the brother. Then brother, friends and I had a treat at Coffee Matters and went to brave the fire.
Which is all to say: cons are also a great way to check out local places!
Now, I’ve never con to the mainland just for a con. My friends and I usually stay a full week and take in the sights. Sometimes it’s touristy stuff, other times it’s the theatre. In the case of local convention Avalon Expo (year one) we went to the playground next to the building and played on the swings.
I’ve seen Linkin Park and Voltaire in concert, explored Casa Loma (a must see sight for any geek as many a movie was filmed there), visited some incredible shops and saw so many Broadway shows.
One of my favourite shows was an off-Broadway play called “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” I recently learned that Phillipa Soo, the Natasha in our show, was the original Eliza Hamilton in the hit Broadway show “Hamilton”. She’s now performing in “Amelie.” So that’s almost the same as seeing “Hamilton” right? Actually, it’s better because the theatre we were in served food and we got to try the most God-awful beet drink. That was an experience! And Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams, Doctor Who) was also in the audience. We also saw shows like “Cats” (pretty good), “Rock of Ages” (amazing!), the” Lion King” (don’t bother) and the Blue Man Group (loud and messy but totally fun). I’ve been to two Cirque du Soleil shows on top of all of this.
If you are in Toronto, go to Stratford. Just do it. There’s a shuttle that picks you up in Toronto and takes you out to Stratford. I think it was $20 round trip? The Stratford Festival is known for Shakespeare so I saw “King Lear” with Colm Feore. That’s one of the tragedies and although I couldn’t catch all that Shakespeare talk, I was devastated at the end of it. Luckily, I also had tickets to “The Man of La Mancha” and that was beautiful, funny and mostly lighthearted (there was some dark scenes). It was a nice ending to a wonderful day of theatre.
Travel is also a great time to get some culture in. And it can be weird culture too. Last time Mad Maddox and I were in Toronto we went to the Bats Shoe Museum. It’s filled with shoes. Just shoes. Well, there were a couple of dresses too. But it was predominately shoes. We also checked out the Gardiner Museum, Canada’s only museum that specializes in ceramics. There were some lovely pieces but there was also a special show on called “Clay is Gay.” It was an exhibit on gay artists. We saw a lot of dick that day. I can’t find any penis art photos so we must not have been allowed to take photos in that exhibit. I would have taken pictures if it was allowed. Some of those statues were pretty special.
Visit Toronto Zoo or Ripley’s Aquarium if you love animals. Check out New York Botanical Gardens or Allan Gardens in Toronto if you love plants. Go to Medieval Times if you love food, horses and jousting. If you are a total morbid freak like me then there are graveyards! I have an entire tourist book on graveyards in New York and the various famous dead people in them. The girls and I personally checked out Woodlawn and it was amazing. There are as many dead people in Woodlawn as there are living people in the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Obviously there are the traditional tourist destinations as well- CN Tower, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (which is haunted btw), the Empire State Building and The Rockefeller Center. Plus the traditional museums like the Museum of Natural History and The Royal Ontario Museum.
SFOTR and Avalon Expo are both downtown this year so you can go up to Signal Hill for drinks at the Newfoundland Chocolate Café and cosplay photos. There’s so many places to eat as well. You can go to Escape Quest like I did or check out the Rooms. Especially do these things if you aren’t living in St. John’s and are just visiting the cons.
Conventions are so much fun. But they are also crowded, hot and sometimes overwhelming. Break up that time with an adventure. It is both an enjoyable time and an enriching experience.