The In-Between Week

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of my favorite times of year was the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

I saved a few holiday days so that I could leave work before Christmas Eve and not return until after the New Year.

We invariably had a stressful Christmas Day – dangerous driving through the crappiest weather imaginable, rushing from one parent’s home to the other, trying and failing to keep both sets of parents happy. So it was great to have a few days to decompress afterwards.

What we usually did was travel some more – this time across the border to Niagara Falls, New York.

Most visitors to Niagara Falls stayed on the Canadian side. You had more attractions there, and the view of the Falls was better. The American side was quieter and less kitschy although the city itself was larger. There were plenty of hotels and restaurants, and the Christmas lighting was still going strong on the Falls. We always looked to stay in a hotel with an indoor pool and stuff for kids to do.

And of course the American side had one big attraction in the early 1990s. Cross-border shopping.

The area near the falls was great for sleeping, dining and sightseeing but as for shopping – forget it. The only mall in the area – the Rainbow Center – was on its last legs and soon expired. No, for real hard core bargain hunting you had to drive out to Military Road to the Outlet Center.

This place was overrun with Canadians back in the day – the store clerks couldn’t figure out why they were working and we were still shopping – Boxing Day was over.

As you can see, the Outlet Center has become a lot more suave and sophisticated since the early days when we were shopping there. I think there are about 200 outlet stores now. But we had a lot of fun buying Gap and Limited outlet stuff in the early 90s. Bass shoes too, and Polo. We came back to Ontario looking like walking designer labels.

I’m sure the kids today wouldn’t be caught dead wearing an Izod label. That is so J C Penney. But we loved it back then.

Add in a dinner at Friendly’s and a splash in the pool, and that in-between week was something to look forward to every post-Christmas season.

Thirty years later, the same labels we looked for are available in Ottawa and with the exchange rate, the bargain hunting wouldn’t be as good. And we don’t have to decompress any longer. But we sure have great memories of the Holidome in Niagara Falls.

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