As the wind grows ever colder, and the days shorter – there is an awakening of sorts in our collective psyche. For as long as recorded history, human beings have seemingly shared a common observation as summer turns to fall – and the long dark quickens its approach. [Read more…]
Photos: Heidi Csernak
Summer might be officially over, but the greatest and most exciting events are just getting started here in The Great Waterway! Autumn is an inspiring time of year as South Eastern Ontario’s picturesque landscapes and gorgeous locales take on a vivid spectrum of warm colours. The cool breeze carries with it the whisper of a season’s end – but also promises a wonderful array of new beginnings.
Rather than mourn the loss of another summer, there are several captivating ways to embrace autumn and experience the best the season has to offer. Chief among them is a particularly brilliant and spectacular evening event presented by Parks of the St.Lawrence.
Pumpkinferno is an artistically fueled annual event held at Upper Canada Village, in Morrisburg Ontario. The event offers visitors a breathtaking assortment of handcrafted pumpkin-lanterns, that transform the village into a vibrant and interactive visual journey like none other. When we received an invitation to attend the opening night of Pumpkinferno 2017 – Heidi and I were beyond excited. We were going to be experiencing the event for the first time, and during this year’s premiere no less!
Without further delay, let’s get right into our (mostly) spoiler-free account of Pumpkinferno 2017!
The Elegant Hospitality of Willard’s Hotel
Our evening began with a dinner reservation at the famous and historic Willard’s Hotel. Situated on Queen Street, and just a few steps from Crysler Store, Willard’s is a wondrous and historically significant venue that once operated near Prescott. The building was first constructed in the late 1700’s and remained a hotel until the 1850’s. Today, Willard’s Hotel continues to welcome travellers and visitors alike; operating as an authentic time-period restaurant with an inviting and rustic Victorian charm.
The area where we were seated, was towards the back of the main floor beside a welcoming hearth. The dimly lit area had a wonderful ambience and was decorated to coincide with Pumpkinferno. The special menu we were presented with had some delectable items to choose from. Heidi decided to go with the oven roasted chicken breast, which came with a delicious mushroom sauce, roast potatoes and root vegetables. I could not resist the pork tenderloin with peppercorn sauce.
The food was beyond amazing – and more akin to an authentic homemade meal. The meat was tender, the vegetables were fresh – and the potatoes were roasted to perfection. The peppercorn sauce was rich and had just the right amount of zip – while the mushroom “gravy” that accompanied Heidi’s dish was the perfect companion for the tender and flavourful chicken.
For dessert, we were presented with a number of tantalizing options. In the end, Heidi had the apple rhubarb crumble, and I delved into the sweetest and most delectable British pudding I have ever encountered, which was absolutely drenched in warm toffee syrupy goodness.
If you’re interested in dining at Willard’s as part of your Pumpkinferno experience – reservations can be made by calling 613-543-0660. Walk-ins are typically not an issue, but it’s best to call ahead.
Night Descends Upon the Village
After an amazing dinner, we left Willard’s Hotel to realize that a gorgeous cobalt dusk was settling upon the village. We did a bit of exploring around the Hotel as the night approached. The waning daylight had begun to reveal the illuminated displays that we would soon be observing on our much-anticipated tour. Not wanting to spoil too much – we soon met up with our guide: Susan Le Clair – the Manager of Customer Service & Corporate Communications with Parks of the St. Lawrence.
It was time to begin our journey through Pumpkinferno!
Enter a World of Autumn Fantasy!
Susan led us back to the main entrance of Upper Canada Village which was now beneath a darkening sky. The bridge was adorned with a delightful display of lights and jack-o-lanterns each with a uniquely carved visage.
As we passed beneath their glowing grimaces amid the cool autumn twilight, we had the distinct impression that we were walking into something magical. We were taking a step beyond the confines of reality, and into a realm of creativity and eerie fascination.
Standing ever watchful upon the other side of the crossing, was Pumpkinferno’s official greeter and usher: Jack. This wasn’t the last we’d be seeing of Jack – as he and his multiple selves were waiting throughout the village to guide us along the path.
To prevent from spoiling the entire experience, I’ll only highlight but a few of our favourite exhibits. I don’t want to give everything away. I want you, beloved reader, to feel the same level of excitement and wonder that we did – when you first arrive at Pumpkinferno.
Here, There be Dragons
Early on in our journey, we came face to face with a mythical and larger than life creature born of Far Eastern legend and lore. Towering beyond a large tree adorned with lanterns bearing various ancient symbols was an enormous and elaborately crafted dragon!
This legendary creature and her young hatchling (that’s right, TWO dragons!) were among the very first – and absolutely vexing displays we set our eyes upon. We had hardly begun our tour – and were absolutely blown away by these jaw-dropping carvings of epic proportion! Made up of intricately designed pumpkins – these towering giants were simply spellbinding!
Dia de los Muertos
Likely my favourite of the displays was the striking Day of the Dead exhibit. The elaborately crafted Calaveras (skulls) and dazzling dancers dressed in ornate flamenco fashions were simply breathtaking. I could practically hear the jubilant music, smell the tamales – and taste the sugar skulls as I stood in absolute awe of this intricate and elaborate homage to Mexican folklore. Qué hermosas!
Stroll Through an Otherworldly Art Gallery
Another memorable exhibit was the Night at the Gallery display. Here, we observed an eclectic collection recreations representing the masterworks of several famous artists.
Each piece was an affirmation and testament to the creative talent at work by Pumpkinferno’s amazing artists. These fabulous tributes were easily recognizable – but infinitely unique in their own way.
It was truly astounding to see just what could be done by using pumpkins as an artistic medium. My favourite of these re-creations had to be the portrait of Vincent Van Gogh – showing his good ear of course.
A Celebration of Canadian History & Culture
The core theme for this year’s Pumpkinferno was a diverse variety of authentically Canadian cultural and historical representations. They ranged from wildlife to key time periods and other uniquely patriotic icons. From the Fur Trade to the Aurora Borealis there was a consistent and wonderfully familiar narrative at play, deeply entrenched within Canada’s diverse cultural saga.
So much more than Jack-O-Lanterns
At first, without knowing much about Pumkinferno, you might be thinking: “Ok, big deal, it’s a bunch of jack-o-lanterns.” WRONG! It is so much more than that.
This mystical event takes the concept that began as the traditional pumpkin lantern – and takes things to an entirely new level of awesome. After a guided tour of this captivating and inspiring event – I can tell you with absolute confidence – that Pumpkinferno is the most inspiring and memorable event you can experience this fall.
Prior to attending the event I tried to keep a fresh head – and avoided as many spoilers as possible. I wanted to go into this with a blank slate. This story that we’ve created is but a tiny morsel of the immense and incredible spectacle that awaits you – at Upper Canada Village.
I highly recommend that you fill the car with family and friends – and experience it for yourselves! It’s also worth mentioning that you can visit a really cool “fall fair” styled area of the village called Pumpkin Park. Here you will find an array of fun activities for the whole family, as well as a free WI-FI zone where you can share your favourite pictures on social media.
Be sure to tag us in your #Pumpkinferno memories with #GreatWaterway!
Exit Through the Gift Shop
By the end of our experience, we were absolutely blown away. Pumpkinferno far exceeded our expectations and left us with memories that we will not soon forget. We would like to wholeheartedly thank Susan and the entire staff of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.
Congratulations are also in order – to the numerous artists who poured an immeasurable amount of passion and painstaking dedication into creating this arresting and interactive gallery.
After saying our goodbyes, Heidi and I could not pass up the opportunity to peruse the fabled gift shop, that was filled with vintage finery, irresistible confections – and of course: the ever famous fresh loaves of bread that were nearly picked clean by the time we wrapped up our visit.
Experience the Magic of Pumpkinferno!
Get tickets now!
Autumn is here, and although summer has come to pass, a stunning array of colourful beauty awaits. Already, the days grow shorter, if ever so slightly and the night’s breeze carries a cool whisper of the next changing of the season. The vivid emerald shades of summer are giving way to a breathtaking palette of fiery fall colours that will envelop the region in an explosion of colour and beauty.
As the fall approaches, there is a collective celebration all throughout South Eastern Ontario in honour of the coming harvest, friends, family and most importantly community. Historically, celebrating the harvest season is an important tradition that strengthens our social bond and reminds us that we won’t be facing the cold embrace of winter alone.
Collected here, for your reading pleasure is a fun assortment of fantastic fall festivities and local farms to visit in The Great Waterway this year!
Cornwall & the Counties
Explore a Visual Wonderland at Upper Canada Village’s Pumpkinferno
The brilliant and visually stunning spectacle: Pumpkinferno makes a triumphant return to Upper Canada Village this fall. Take a wonderful stroll through a beautiful outdoor exhibit consisting of 7,000 hand crafted pumpkins that illuminate the night with a warm and gorgeous ambience, arranged along a kilometre-long path situated within the village’s vivid Victorian atmosphere.
Pumpkinferno is only open for select dates between September 29th and October 29th, 2017. This year’s event will have a fun Canada 150 theme that showcases Canadian culture amid a wonderland of glowing pumpkins.
Rideau Heritage Route
Take the Squad Apple Picking at Mountain Orchards
Apple picking with friends and family is a staple and authentically Canadian autumn activity. For the past 44 years, the Lyall and Hobson families have been the proud owners of Mountain Orchards. Originally from Manotick, the families purchased this historic farm in 1973 pursuing a simpler way of life well away from the urban sprawl.
Today, they continue to welcome visitors to their orchards each season. In addition to several varieties of apples throughout the season, Mountain Orchards also has a bakery store that’s filled with delicious delights!
Brockville & 1000 Islands
Score Some Apples, Cider and Baked Treats from Hall’s Apple Market
A short 8-minute drive from downtown Brockville will land you at Hall’s Apple Market – your one stop apple shop in the 1000 Islands region!
Kingston & 1000 Islands
Get Lost in The Wolfe Island Corn Maze
Another staple fall activity is visiting a good ol’ fashioned corn maze. For the past 16 years, visitors have flocked to the famous Wolfe Island Corn Maze for a fun fall adventure. For a closer look at the corn maze, and the owners – check out this blog post by Jordan Whitehouse
This year, the Wolfe Island Corn Maze has two uniquely designed mazes to discover along with a refreshment area in between called the Oasis Rest Stop. Wolfe Island Corn Maze sits on a large 50-acre property that is prime for a variety of fun activities for the whole family!
Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Patches and More at Fruition Berry Farm
When it comes to fun outdoor activities – you need not look further than Fruition Berry Farm in Kingston. From pumpkin picking to wagon rides and a creative and unique corn field adventure – there’s a whole lot happening at Fruition this fall!
This year’s theme for their famed corn maze is “Celebrating Canada 150.” Also – pro tip for any teachers who may be reading this – they do school visits!
Fruition is a great place to bring a picnic lunch and make a day trip of it. After your visit, make sure to pick up some delicious honey, preserves or apple cider to bring home!
Always Something Happening at Glocca Morra Farms
Formerly a dedicated dairy farm, Kingston Ontario’s Glocca Morra Farms has expanded to include several diverse agricultural offerings in its six generations of farming. The Doyle family’s farm, located on Highway 15 very close to the 401 is in a prime location on the Limestone City’s growing East end.
Chickens and a greenhouse now adorn the veteran farm, along with a robust roadside market, a food truck and even a creative craft studio! As the fall season approaches, Glocca Morra is a great place to stop to visit some cows, support a local independent farm and even pick your own pumpkins!
Stay tuned to Glocca Morra’s Facebook page, as they do several events throughout the year; including art classes as well as giant pumpkin carving and family fun events in October!
Celebrate AppleFest With Waddell Apples Orchard & Bakery
Waddell Apples has been in operation since 2003. However, farming has been a part of the family for well over a century. Today, the farm uses sustainable and ecologically sound agricultural practices – and enjoy sharing the fruits of their labour with the public every year during the late summer to fall harvest.
Every year in September, Waddell Apples holds AppleFest, a community fundraising initiative that features family entertainment, live music, orchard wagon tours, a corn roast and much more. The 2017 event has not been announced yet, so be sure to stay tuned to their Facebook page for more info on AppleFest, and a slew of other exciting events at the farm!
Get Scared Out of Your Pants at Fort Henry
For thrill seekers and horror aficionados alike – there is likely nothing as exquisitely blood curdling as a trip to Fort Henry National Historic Site to experience Fort Fright. Prepare yourself for a spine tingling tour into the darkest depths of the fort’s undercroft, filled with marvellous macabre moments and memories you won’t soon forget!
As an added bonus for those who long for thought provoking history, and paranormal intrigue, visitors can also partake in the Haunted Walks Experience at Fort Henry. Take a guided tour through this immense 19th Century fort for a unique and thrilling adventure of the supernatural variety.
To be completely honest, I’m a little freaked out already.
Land O Lakes
Take a Drive to Spring Meadow Orchards, Adolphustown
Located on the scenic Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) Spring Meadow Orchards has been a choice destination for apple picking and family fun since 1969. Spring Meadow is a short and beautiful 35-minute drive West of Kingston, situated close to the Glenora Island Ferry and Prince Edward County.
The main orchard on the farm today was grafted from the famous Macintosh apple originating in the 1900’s. There are now several varieties of apple growing at Spring Meadow, as well as other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Spring Meadow holds an extra-special place in my memory, as it’s where I went apple picking as a kid with my family, and on class trips.
Rideau Heritage Route
A Unique Experience at Wendy’s Country Market – Lyndhurst, ON
Amid the scenic charm at work throughout the Rideau Heritage Route is the unique and wonderful Wendy’s Country Market. Located in Lyndhurst, this market has been featuring the produce of over 70 local farming operations for the past decade. In fact, on August 27th, 2017 Wendy’s Country Market celebrated their 10th anniversary!
Aside from an ample produce market, there is a scrumptious array of food entrees available at Wendy’s. Visitors can pick their own food, and then have it prepared for them in a fantastic farm to table dining experience. During the recent On The Way campaign, our guest blogger Melissa Eapen visited Wendy’s mobile market – and you can read all about it in her awesome blog post!
Prince Edward County
Visit Campbell’s Orchard & Country Market – Carrying Place, ON
Located close to Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Campbell’s Orchard & Country Market is a huge farm with a lot to offer visitors. The farm’s owners Colin and Dianne Campbell have been in business for over 30 years and love to welcome families to their farm. They also help students and visitors alike learn more about agriculture through a variety school tours and wagon-ride adventures!
Campbell’s is a fantastic destination for a range of harvest goodies. They grow over 19 varieties of apple, in addition to fruits and veggies and a robust on-site bakery. Within the bakery, you’ll find a cornucopia of delicious items that can be made to order or purchased during your visit! They also have a great selection of jams and preserves to stock the pantry with!
Have an Adult Beverage (or two) at County Cider Company – Waupoos, ON
We’ve touched on several apple picking venues in this post, each of them fantastic in their own way. There is another Apple-related activity, however, that takes place long after they are picked. And pressed. And fermented! Oh, yes indeed! I’m talking about sweet, delicious cider (the one for the adults) – and Prince Edward County is home to some of the best cideries in Canada.
Well known among them, is The County Cider Co. They have been specialising in delicious hard ciders since 1995, and have won several awards over the years. County Cider Co. is located on a gorgeous plot of land that overlooks Lake Ontario. They offer fantastic educational tastings for groups or individuals and also serve up some amazing food to enjoy while taking in the view.
Bay of Quinte
Join the Festivities at Belleville’s Flavours of Fall Festival
The Flavours of Fall Festival is a spectacular celebration of the fall harvest, held in historic downtown Belleville. Ran and organized by the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, this festival is ideal for families, and will feature an entire day of fun activities, several vendors from the community as well as pony rides, a petting zoo, food tastings and so much more!
The 2017 event is taking place in the former Quinte Hotel’s parking lot on September 30th from 10 am to 3 pm. For additional details, follow the Flavours of Fall Facebook page!
Celebrate the Harvest Season!
As the leaves begin to fall, and the breeze grows ever colder, there is no better time to pack up the car with friends and family and get out for a fun road trip to a local farm, orchard or autumn festival! South Eastern Ontario has a ton of places where you can get your hands on some excellent harvest goodies, and meet the people who dedicate their lives to growing and making it!
I hope this post has provided you with some ideas, and inspiration to make the most of this fall season! As always, check out the Google Map below, which has, even more, epic places to go apple picking, or discover the amazing agricultural features here in The Great Waterway.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
Celebrate Harvest Season!
Explore South Eastern Ontario!
Canada turns 150 in 2017, and to help you celebrate in South Eastern Ontario, here’s a handy list of Canada-themed events happening in the region throughout the year. Check back often because we’ll keep adding to this list.
National Parks and Historic Sites (for free!)
Parks Canada is throwing down the welcome mat with free admission to all of its properties all year long (with a free Discovery Pass). In Southeastern Ontario that means unfettered access to over 10 national parks and historic sites, including Thousand Islands National Park and the Rideau Canal, where lock fees will be waived.
Fort Town Memories
Prescott Public Library, Prescott, Ontario
With Fort Wellington, over 75 historic homes and sites, and the St. Lawrence at its doorstep, Prescott definitely has a few stories to tell about the impact it’s had on Canada. Read, listen to and watch close to 100 of them at the public library, where volunteers have been collecting tales about all aspects of life in the over 200-year-old town.
Sunday Night in Canada
Sundays, until July 1
The Drake Devonshire, Wellington
Take a culinary trip across Canada with The Drake Devonshire as your guide. Every Sunday until Canada Day this gorgeous, award-winning resto on the banks of Lake Ontario will feature a unique heritage dinner inspired by the food and drink of different areas in the country. Each month the $35 menu will be inspired by a different province, territory or region.
Quinte West Multicultural Week
June 25 – July 1
Quinte West, Ontario
The city of Quinte West isn’t settling for just one day of partying. They’re planning a week-long multicultural bash leading up to Canada Day that’ll include daily celebrations. Details are still being set, but events could include a Francophone music festival, an Aboriginal art festival, an Oktoberfest celebration, a Celtic picnic, and an Italian and Greek food fest.
A Royal Visit to Prince Edward County
Wellington Farmers’ Market, Wellington
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will be in Canada to help celebrate our 150th, and they’ve chosen Prince Edward County as one of their destinations during their three-day visit. Arriving at CFB Trenton, they’ll make their way to the Wellington Farmers’ Market for an event that will be open to the public.
Canada Day in Southeastern Ontario
Plans are still in the works for Canada Day festivities across southeastern Ontario, but since a 150th birthday only comes around once, you can count on each community truly bringing it this year. Canada’s first capital, Kingston, will host the biggest bash, but almost every other community in the region will celebrate, too. Stay tuned to our events page, thegreatwaterway.com/events, for details.
The Canadian Adventure
July 1 – August 13
St. Andrew’s, Picton
This month-and-a-half long celebration of Canada will feature a documentary photography exhibition; four Saturday night shows focussing on the sights, sounds and food of a different region; and regular photography workshops and outings.
Eve of Confederation
July 1 – August 19
Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg
Offered on Saturday evenings in July and August, this immersive family-friendly theatre experience will use the historical backdrop of Upper Canada Village to explore the issues and changes about to come with Confederation.
Prices: Not yet set
Oh Canada Art Show and People’s Choice Awards
July – August
Brockville Public Library
The curators of the Brockville Public Library’s art gallery have invited artists to submit works that celebrate Canada’s 150th. Submission will be exhibited throughout July and August, and winners will be chosen by people’s choice ballots. Winners announced July 31st.
Belleville Waterfront & Ethnic Festival
July 6 – 9
West Zwick’s Park, Belleville
Voted one of the top 100 festivals in Ontario, and it’s easy to see why: four days of midway, food from all over the world, adventure sports (zip line or parasailing, anyone?), laser tag, family fishing, a vendor exhibition and even a dog-jumping show. This year, special Canada 150 events will include ParticipACTION Sports Expo and Canada 150 Sesqui Celebration, which is a revolutionary 360° cinematic experience touring all over Canada.
Rendez-Vous 2017: Tall Ships Regatta
July 7 – 9
From June 30 to August 20, more than 40 tall ships will sail Canadian waters to honour the country’s 150th. Scheduled to stop in the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario, the fleet will make its southeastern Ontario port of call in the historic village of Bath. Head to the waterfront and tour these majestic cathedrals of the sea for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see history up close.
Engage for Change Talking Circle
July 13, 10am – 4pm
Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, Kingston
This community talking circle, co-designed with community partners and Indigenous leaders, will be an open discussion on the theme of reconciliation. The intent is to increase our overall cultural competence around Indigenous issues, building on what residents know, how residents feel and how well residents put this knowledge into practice. Additional talking circles will happen throughout the year.
150 Canadian Tastes in North Grenville
July 19, 2pm – 7pm
Kemptville College, Kemptville
Part of the Kemptville Live Music Festival, this special culinary event will celebrate the bounty Eastern Ontario has been bringing to Canada for 150 years. The centrepiece will be a farmers’ market with over 60 vendors, but there will also be food and drink tastings, exhibits from local artisans, and live music to keep you moving.
Rails to Trails
August 10 – 13
Canada’s rail system is like its backbone, connecting communities all across this great land, so it’s fitting that Brockville, home to Canada’s first railway tunnel, will honour it at this special four-day fest. The centrepiece will be the grand re-opening of the tunnel underneath downtown, but there will also be a vintage carnival, a sideshow and even a 5K run.
Wolfe Island Music Festival
August 11 – 12
After a 2016 hiatus, the Wolfe Island Music Festival returns this year. And thank goodness. Where else in the country can you take a 20-minute ferry to an intimate island festival featuring some of the biggest names in Canadian indie music? The headliners this year include Born Ruffians, Land of Talk, Hannah Georgas, Said the Whale, Dilly Dally and Donovan Woods.
Price: $95 – $150
SESQUI 2017 Immersive 360° Cinematic Dome Tour
August 11 – 16
28 Barrack Street, Kingston
Take a ride in an illuminated dragon boat on the Rideau Canal, get enveloped by the Northern Lights and take in 90 other breathtaking scenes in this 20-minute immersive film experience. Featuring scenes shot in every province and territory and over 380 on-screen performers, this visually stunning journey will show you Canada from a whole new perspective.
Innovation 150: Power of Ideas Exhibition
August 18 – 19
Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Kingston, Ontario
Travelling to schools and science centres across the country, this Signature Canada 150 event is all about channeling that inner innovator in all of us. Think immersive, hands-on displays about everything from the world’s largest science experiments to changing ideas about our universe to stories of Canada’s past.
Canada 150 in Lennox & Addington
County Court House, Napanee
Join thousands of spectators for an unforgettable evening of free entertainment outside on the grounds at the Lennox & Addington County Court House in Napanee. On Saturday, August 19th at 7pm, you’ll hear a live performance from headliner The Irish Descendants, as well as from 70’s Revolution featuring Andrew Martin, and Sol & the Switchblades. Circus Orange will also be on hand for an amazing aerial performance. More details at www.County150.ca.
150th Road Rally Celebration
South Frontenac, Ontario
Take a Canada themed road tour through South Frontenac, where locations in each of the four districts will feature special events devoted to a particular province. Locations will include hidden gems, like the train track park in Battersea, Fermoy Hall in Bedford, as well as more well-known venues such as the Point in Sydenham and rally headquarters at Centennial Park in Harrowsmith. Exact date not yet available.
Sesquie for Canada 150
Throughout 2017, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is partnering with orchestras and ensembles across the country for a special pan-Canadian celebration. Over 40 new works — including two-minute pieces called “Sesquies” — will be co-commissioned and presented from coast to coast to coast. Kingston location and concert details not yet available.
Price: Not Yet Available
The Kingston Prize
October 6 – 22
Firehall Theatre, Gananoque
This Canada-wide portrait competition showcases the work of 30 contemporary artists. Open to any Canadian artist who depicts a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, the juried prize is partially meant to develop an historical record of Canadians by Canadians. The winner receives $20,000, and the exhibition of the 30 finalists will be held at two venues: the Firehall Theatre in Gananoque and the Peel Art Gallery in Brampton.
We’ll keep adding to this list all year, so stay up to date on Canada 150 events in southeastern Ontario by bookmarking this page. In the meantime, head over to our events page for even more things to do.
See More Events In The Great Waterway
As we roll into March, there is a resounding sigh of relief in South Eastern Ontario as yet another winter ends up in our collective rear-view. The vanishing snow reveals the once buried grass, and soon enough, the iconic images of shamrocks and other green things mark the approach of Saint Patrick’s Day. [Read more…]
Love it or hate it, winter isn’t going anywhere soon.
While some people tend to hunker down and hibernate the cold months away – others embrace the crisp winds of winter and take full advantage of the broad selection of things to do throughout Southeastern Ontario. Getting outdoors during the winter with friends and family is not only healthy, but a great opportunity to make an otherwise dark and dreary season into a collection of positive memories you’ll keep for life.
One of my fondest memories dates back to my childhood. Every March Break I would go up to Eagle Lake near Parham for a week of ice fishing with my grandfather. We would rip around on his snowmobile and spend hours in the fishing shack listening to old school country tunes. Usually, we would catch a whole lot of nothing.
I remember one momentous day when my grandfather triumphantly pulled a rather large whitefish out of the water, only to watch it fall from his eager grasp and right back down the hole. That was also the day I learned a few bad words, but that’s a different story altogether.
To help inspire your next winter outing, here is a collection of fantastic activities and events happening from Cornwall and the Counties to the Bay of Quinte this winter.
Cornwall and The Counties
Cornwall’s Outdoor Skating Rinks
There’s likely nothing more distinctly Canadian, than hitting up an outdoor skating rink with friends and family, feeling the crisp winter’s breeze in your face until your cheeks tingle and finishing it all off with a cup of piping hot cocoa.
The City of Cornwall has 11 awesome outdoor rinks located throughout town. These rinks are maintained by dedicated community volunteers and are free for public use. To help you select which rink you want to visit, the City has a handy online map on their website.
Two Creeks Conservation Area
Two Creeks Conservation Area offers a diverse selection of ecological points of interest spanning a beautiful 457 acres.
This wonderful network of natural spaces is accessible year round and maintained by both the South Nation Conservation group and local partners.
Among Two Creek’s newest offerings is a breathtaking 4.5 km marked trail that is prime for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking. This particular conservation area boasts a lush biodiversity, with several animal and bird species to observe; so don’t forget your binoculars!
Two Creeks also allow on-leash dog walking, so it’s ok to bring your puppy along for a romp in the wilderness.
15th Annual Alexandria Ice Fishing Derby
Cornwall and the Counties is one of many premier destinations for anglers year-round.
The Annual Alexandria Ice Fishing Derby is an event not to be missed by any fishing enthusiast – especially with over 40,000 dollars in prizes up for grabs.
This classic fishing derby will also have an early morning brunch, and a 50/50 draw for some sweet prizes. The proceeds of this year’s draw will benefit the Optimist Club of Alexandria.
Saturday, February 18th, 2017.
Island Park, Alexandria, Ontario.
For full details visit: AlexandriaFishingDerby.com.
Rideau Heritage Route
Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
Nestled between Westport and Lombardy you will find a majestic destination for x-country skiing, and snowshoeing at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park.
Here, you will find over 20 kilometers of various trails, captivating scenery, and quaint chalets for warming up.
For a more rugged snowshoeing experience there are also non-groomed trails for that purpose. Murphy’s Point has two parking areas maintained during the winter months for day-use.
There are no equipment rentals available, so it’s a bring your own gear scenario. It’s also noteworthy that dogs are not permitted on the ski trails.
For full details, I highly recommend reviewing the Trail Info page over at the Tay Valley Ski Club’s website.
Tay Valley Ski Club Loppet
A Loppet is a fun winter skiing event that draws its roots from Scandinavian history. It refers to a particular route that a former King of Scandinavia skied over 500 years ago.
Today, the Tay Valley Ski Club keeps this tradition alive with a fun filled day of cross country skiing with an emphasis on fun and participation.
Date: Feb. 12th, 2017
Info, Contact & Registration: Tay Valley Loppet Online Registration Site.
The Cataraqui Trail is a former CN railway line that once connected Smiths Falls to Strathcona which is just North of Napanee.
During winter, and when snow levels permit – this sprawling trail is groomed for a variety of uses including snowmobiling, cross country skiing and more!
This beautiful trail is kept in operation thanks to proceeds gathered through donations and membership fees. If you go out and enjoy the Cat Trail – perhaps take some time to visit their website’s support page; to learn more about how you can help this great destination remain open for years to come.
Outdoor Skating in the City of The 1000 Islands
As weather conditions permit, Brockville has two outdoor skating locations. The first is located in the city’s North end at Memorial Park (Laurier Blvd at Bridlewood). The memorial park rinks operate from January to mid-March.
The second outdoor skating venue is located at Rotary Park (King Street West at Gilmour Street.) It sports an artificially chilled natural hockey rink which is open from early December to the end of March.
Rotary Park also has an excellent synthetic rink for casual skating (hockey is not permitted) which runs from November to April. Additional information and contact details are available on the City of Brockville website.
Brockville Winter Classic Weekend
Starting March 3rd, 2017 the Brockville Winter Classic Weekend will return once again to fill the air with a public celebration of hockey and good old fashioned outdoor Canadian fun.
2017 is the event’s third anniversary and will feature a smorgasbord of activities ranging from hockey tournaments, prize draws, community skating, and a headlining hockey game between Boston Bruins Alumni and a local all-stars team.
The full team of Bruin’s alumni isn’t fully confirmed yet, but such greats as Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, and Al Iafrate are set to hit the ice.
For full details including ticketing information visit the Winter Classic Weekend website!
Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
A scenic drive North of Brockville will bring you to Mac Johnson Wildlife area. This breathtaking conservation area spans over 500 hectares of wetlands, rolling fields, critical wetlands and scenic forested areas.
During the winter months, Mac Johnson Wildlife area becomes a sought after destination for outdoor activities and special events.
In addition to the traditional hiking, cross-country skiing, and skating options – Mac Johnson is also host to a great lineup of events this year. Below is a handy list including links to help plan your outing.
Every Saturday in January and February, weather permitting @ 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saturday, January 28 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Monday, February 20 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Epic Snowshoeing at Jones Creek Trails
Parks Canada says it best on the Thousand Islands National Park website: “Don’t let the chill of winter keep you cooped up indoors.” I intend to heed this advice and try snowshoeing for the first time this year.
Jones Creek Trails look like a good place to start out, as their routes vary in difficulty from easy 20 minute walks to more moderate hikes that can last up to two hours or more depending on experience.
To help determine your path, there is a handy downloadable map available on the Parks Canada Website.
Outdoor Skating at historic Springer Market Square
In beautiful downtown Kingston, the winter months are brightened up each year by the opening of the outdoor rink at Springer Market Square.
It’s free to the public, and there are skate rentals, public restrooms and lockers available in the Market Wing of City Hall.
The best part is that Kingston’s fabulous downtown cafes and restaurants are all within easy walking distance to warm up and enjoy some nibbles after a glide around the rink.
The rink is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (closes in March, weather permitting). For full details check the City of Kingston website.
Feb Fest 2017
Since it’s inaugural event over a decade ago, Feb Fest has become a much-anticipated premier winter event in Kingston.
This year’s event kicks off on Thursday, February 2nd and continues until the 5th. As always, Feb Fest will feature a slew of awesome events.
Stay tuned to the Downtown Kingston! Website for news and updates about Feb Fest ‘17.
Little Cataraqui Creek
Owl Hoot & Coyote Howl Hike
This guided night hike at Little Cat Creek is a perfect opportunity to bring the family for an outdoor adventure they won’t soon forget.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll see any coyotes or owls – you’ll likely hear them as they call out across the frosted twilight.
Cost is $2 per person plus regular gate fee. Registration for this event is required to ensure there are enough hike leaders. To book your spot on the hike visit: crca.ca/online-services.
Saturday, January 14, 6:30 p.m. weather permitting.
Starlight Snowshoe Hike
Join the crew at Little Cataraqui Creek for a novice level snowshoeing trek beneath a starlit sky. If you’re looking for a chance to try out snowshoeing, this is an affordable and guided trek.
This is a night hike, so don’t forget to bring a headlamp or flashlight. Hot chocolate and snacks will be available.
Registration is required for this event also. Registration forms are available at crca.ca/online-services. Registration closes Friday, February 10 at 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.
Land O Lakes
Frontenac Provincial Park
Winter is an ideal time of year to visit Frontenac Provincial Park. Visitors can enjoy 11 kilometers of track-set trails that are perfect for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and spotting wildlife.
After the hustle and bustle of summer, the forests and trails of Frontenac become a quiet and tranquil environment perfect for escaping the urban grind.
For details about activities and other helpful info, visit: OntaroParks.com/Frontenac/Activities.
Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race
For those of you with a bit more snowshoeing skills and savvy, the 2017 Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race is something to consider competing in.
The race takes place over a 6.5 km route that follows a rugged, broad and single track that traverses variable terrain with a combination of potentially deep snow and packed sections of trail.
Chances are, that if you’re participating in a snowshoe race, you already have your own gear. If you do not, there are limited rentals available.
January 14, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Race day registration from 8:30 – 9:45 a.m. at the Park Office
Location: Frontenac Provincial Park – at Park Office
For full Details & Online Registration visit: HealthandAdventure.com.
Napanee Winter Chill Festival and Family Day
Last year, the Town of Greater Napanee combined the annual Winter Chill Festival and Family Day to create one huge day of fun.
This year’s event has been confirmed for Monday, February 20th to coincide with this year’s Family Day.
One burning question remains, however. Will the chili challenge be back? Stay Tuned to The Town of Greater Napanee website to find out!
Bay of Quinte
Ice Fishing in the Bay of Quinte
Ice fishing is an activity that has made this list more than once. It’s a great outdoor activity and a staple in Canadian culture.
Each season, the Bay of Quinte becomes a sought after destination for winter anglers from all over. It is, after all, one of the best places in the world to hook some serious Walleye.
To help give you an idea or two, and for some handy links to licensing and other info for anglers in Ontario, check out this post on our blog by Jordan Whitehouse.
Enjoy the Serenity of Presqu’ile Provincial Park
For travelers looking for a mild winter stroll, Presqu’ile Provincial Park offers a relatively flat level of terrain making it accessible to seniors, or novice hikers.
It’s also a prime spot for birdwatching in peak seasons, and the trails are perfect for a relaxed walk or cross country ski among nature.
Family Day Winter Soup Hike at Presqu’ile
Enjoy a fun-filled and educational day at Presqu’ile, which involves birding, animal tracking, plant and fungus identification and more!
After the day’s activities visitors can enjoy a hot bowl of soup or hot chocolate. Cost is 5.00 per person or 8.00 per family. Prices include park admission.
February 11, 2017 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Registration is required. Call: (613)475-1688 ext. 2
For details visit: OntarioParks.com/events
City of Quinte West
Carve Some Powder at Batawa Ski Hill
Situated roughly 15 minutes north of Trenton, Batawa Ski Hill is a well-known destination for families and anyone looking to enjoy outdoor winter fun.
Batawa is a non-profit operation and offers a range of activities including alpine skiing, hiking, and snowboarding. There are also camp programs, and special events including, concerts and more!
Prince Edward County
Milford Winter Carnival
Make sure you visit the County January 27th & 28th for an epic two days of fun at the Milford Winter Carnival!
There will be a great collection of winter activities, a pancake breakfast, hot dogs and hot chocolate (a winter classic) and more!
Some of the activities depend on weather conditions so stay tuned to the event page on the County’s website for details!
Jan 27 – 28, 2017
Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area
Macaulay Mountain is a popular summer destination for hikers and picnickers. The conservation area features over 400 acres and trails offering easy hiking in the lowland area, and more advanced trekking on the escarpment portion.
When winter arrives, and a good layer of snow blankets Macaulay Mountain – it becomes a favourite place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s also a good place to bring your toboggan or sled to shred some hills.
Wellington Outdoor Rink
Enjoy an outdoor skating session at Wellington’s outdoor rink. Located at 266 Main Street Wellington (across from the library).
The Wellington outdoor rink was generously donated by local entrepreneur Michael Hymus, in memory of his late father.
There is a limited amount of skates available (40 pairs total) that range in size from children’s small to men’s large. The skates are available for free to anyone who wishes to borrow a pair.
The rink is open to the public seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Details and other information are available on the rink’s Facebook page
Winterfest at Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park is easily the most iconic attraction in Prince Edward County. Winter is an especially beautiful time of year for the park.
Winterfest is a great activity which takes place on Family Day (Feb. 20, 2017). The event is free and includes all the expected outdoor activities in addition to live music and kids activities.
If you’re musically inclined – make sure to bring a musical instrument and join the “Kitchen Party Jam!”
Feb 20, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Embrace Winter’s Beauty!
After compiling this list of epic winter activities, I can safely say that I will be spending far less time on the couch this year. With such a wide range of places to visit and things to do, I can hardly wait to get out there and show winter who’s boss.
Yes, I get it. It’s cold out there, but trust me. Once you get outside, take in a deep breath and embrace winter’s beauty, you’ll feel a certain warmth in your soul that even Jack Frost can’t nip away at.
Get Out There & Enjoy Winter!
That magical time is just around the corner. Everywhere you look colourful lights are being strung from houses, and beautiful emerald trees are being decorated. The familiar tune of festive songs fill the air, and before you know it, the holiday season is upon us.
Here in the Great Waterway, the celebration is a pretty big deal. From the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties this entire region offers an assortment of prime destinations for those looking to get into the holiday spirit.
Without further delay, here is a collection of merry festivals, events, and other fun-filled activities that are sure to help get even the grouchiest of Scrooge into the spirit of the season.
Prince Edward County
Wassail is a tribute to an ancient tradition that commemorates the harvest and winter’s approach. It stems from the ancient phrases: “wæs hæil” (Middle English) and “ves heill” (Old Norse) both meaning: “Be in (good) health!”
The celebration involved “merrymakers” who would travel from house to house singing songs of joy, sharing in feasts, and raising a glass of delicious mulled cider or wine. Today, Wassail is wonderfully observed throughout The County by similar traditions including the ceremonial burying of grapevines to protect them from the approaching winter.
Prince Edward County Winery Tours
Visitors can take the self-guided route or join bus tours and experience a culmination of the cultural and agricultural elements that make The County’s Wassail celebrations so fantastic.
More information about tickets and participating locations can be found on the Prince Edward County Wine Growers Association’s website.
November 19 & 20, 26 & 27, December 3 & 4 2016.
Sandbanks Estate Winery Wassail & Wreath-Making
Join in the celebration the harvest as the vines are buried in preparation for winter. Enjoy late harvest mulled wine with delicious treats.
Guided tours are available as well as interactive wreath making workshops using harvested grapevines. Details are available on the Prince Edward County website.
November 19, 20 and 26, 27 December 3, 4, 2016
Wreath making: 11AM-3PM
Vineyard tour walk about: 10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m. Saturdays.
Macaulay House (Candlelight Wassail)
The halls of Picton’s Macaulay House are decked in the fashion of an 1850’s Christmas. Sample savoury heritage recipes, entertainment in the parlour and more!
You can also get your hands on some delicious plum pudding and other items in the gift shop. This heritage twist on the holidays is not one to miss!
Full details are available at the Prince Edward County Website.
November 19, 26, and December 3, 2016
Candlelight Tours from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Ameliasburgh Heritage Village
Bundle up and prepare for an afternoon of holiday cheer throughout the beautiful village of Ameliasburgh.
Take horse-drawn wagon rides that stop at various locations including the Town Hall, Library, a Masonic Lodge, the schoolhouse, and more!
Enjoy refreshments, crafting workshops for the kids, irresistible bake sales, and other festive themed events.
For details visit the Ameliasburgh Event Calendar.
December 4, 2016, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Picton Santa Claus Parade
In addition to the seasonal festivities of The County; there is, of course, the annual Picton Santa Claus Parade. Enjoy the music of the marching bands and enjoy the shops restaurants and cafes of Main Street with family and friends alike.
Details of the event are available right here on The Great Waterway.
November 27, 2016
The parade begins at 2:00 p.m. ending with the arrival of Santa.
Bay of Quinte
As the holiday season approaches, the Bay of Quinte transforms into a brightly lit winter wonderland. Several public parks and spaces are lovingly decorated with gorgeous lighting displays.
These vivid and vibrant displays of lights stem from a legendary local history and offer visitors some of the region’s most breathtaking evening walks alongside fantastic options for holiday shopping and dining.
Jane Forrester Park – Belleville
The annual displays of Jane Forrester Park draw thousands of people each year as the park is brought to life by way of brilliant lights and festive ambiance.
There are free coach buses on hand courtesy of Franklin Tours. They will pick up visitors and residents from locations throughout Belleville and shuttle them to and from the event.
This magical lighting ceremony is Belleville’s official Christmas kick-off and can be enjoyed from the first Friday after Remembrance Day until January.
More information is available on Belleville’s website.
Frankford Christmas Fantasy of Lights – Trenton
This event offers visitors a double feature which combines the 27th annual Frankford Santa Claus parade and the Fantasy of Lights.
Enjoy a classic parade featuring Santa himself. Find elaborate floats and fun for the whole family starting at 2 p.m. Later on the Fantasy of Lights kicks off with entertainment by local musician Dave Charron. Follow that up with fireworks and more!
The Fantasy of Lights display will continue until January 2nd, 2017. More info is available on the Bay of Quinte website.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Frankford Santa Claus Parade at 2:00 p.m.
Lighting Celebration at 5:00 p.m.
The Doug Whitney Fantasy of Lights – Trenton
Doug Whitney was a dedicated Trenton City Councillor who served five terms and was well known and loved throughout the community.
To commemorate his service to the community and those whose lives were touched by Mr. Whitney, the Fantasy of Lights event at Fraser Park has been dedicated to his memory.
Tour magical waterfront light displays while listening to classic holiday tunes, enjoy hot chocolate and other tasty treats. Event details are available on the Quinte West website.
November 26, 2016, to January 2, 2017
Hot dogs and hot chocolate starting at 3:30 p.m.
Land O Lakes
The Land O Lakes region is well known for its summer activities. As winter approaches, however, it transforms into a snowy landscape filled with a variety fun activities. The holiday celebrations and the welcoming of the coming New Year are felt throughout the area – and everyone’s invited.
Downtown Napanee Big Bright Light Show
Napanee’s Big Bright Light Show is most certainly something to see. Once the lighting ceremony and block party kick off, this historic downtown strip transforms into Holiday Central.
Browse the shops under the glow of elegant lighting and window displays, and enjoy some scrumptious holiday munchables.
Lighting Ceremony and Block Party
November 25, 2016, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Lights are on each and every night,
from November 25, 2016, to January 31, 2017
9th Annual Downtown Napanee Annual Shopping Party
December 16, 2016 from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Parade of Lights – Napanee
Santa is coming to Greater Napanee on Saturday, December 3rd for the Greater Napanee Parade of Lights!!
Join in the fun as hundreds line the streets and celebrate the holidays with over 70 decorative floats, music, and good old-fashioned fun!
Details are available at the Greater Napanee website.
December 3, 2016, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Lennox & Addington County Archives: A Christmas Tree
Enjoy an evening of holiday cheer, music and goodies as the L&A County Archives hosts the third annual “A Christmas Tree” event.
Bring the kids, and watch their reactions when they get to meet “Father Christmas” himself and some of his reindeer in the courtyard. Full details are available over at GreaterNapanee.com.
I would like to add at this point, that Santa has to got to be the best multi-tasker in the known universe.
December 13, 2016, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Tamworth Village Craft Show
Together, the Tamworth Library and Tamworth Hotel host the Village Craft Show. These fantastic events are perfect for finding unique handmade gifts and stocking stuffers made by local makers.
Remember to bring some non-perishable food items for the Lion’s Club food hamper! Details available at Tamworth.ca.
December 4, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Royal Canadian Legion #458 Santa Claus Parade
Continuing with his planet-wide travels, Santa always swings by Tamworth for a party with his friends at the Royal Canadian Legion.
Check out some locally made crafts, enjoy some refreshments after the parade, and have your kids bring their letters for the big man himself.
This is also another opportunity to contribute non-perishable food items to Lions Club Christmas Hamper. Full details can be found at Tamworth.ca.
Santa Claus Parade starts at 1:00 p.m. December 4, 2016.
This may sound biased since I am a certified and unapologetic Kingstonian, but the Limestone City and surrounding area(s) have everything required to get you amped up for Advent.
In addition to historically themed window shopping, ice-skating in Springer Market Square or the variety of delicious dining options; there are several holiday-themed events that I’m sure Yule fall in love with.
Snow Much Fun
This is a relatively new addition to Downtown Kingston’s series of holiday/winter events. However, it offers a host of fun (FREE) activities for the whole family.
Take a spin on the Holiday Tour Trolley, shop the Holiday Market, Enjoy free ice skating, and epic live entertainment. Visitors can also donate to the Kingston Toy Drive, chill with Santa and participate in fun holiday themed games. Event details are available on the City of Kingston website.
Pro-tip: Make sure you score some of the maple taffy on snow. If “omg” were a flavour, this would be it.
December 9, 2016, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Skating in Springer Market Square begins December 9, 2016 (weather permitting) until spring melt.
More information on skating and rentals are also on CityofKingston.ca.
Little Cataraqui Creek
Winter is by far the most popular time of year at Little Cataraqui Creek. For as long as I can remember people have gathered here each year for cross-country skiing, skating, snowshoeing and scenic hikes.
Equipment is available for rent at the Outdoor Centre. And for complete newbies like myself – they offer cross-country ski lessons as well
The CRCA hosts a series of events each year leading up to and after the holidays making Little Cat Creek a prime destination for near limitless winter fun.
Below is a convenient round-up of events fit for the whole family.
December 3, 2016, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Cost is $2 per person plus the regular gate fee.
Registration is required and available online at www.crca.ca/online-services.
Outdoor Christmas Party For the Animals
There’s nothing more relaxing and grounding than getting in-tune with nature and hand feeding some chickadees.
The best part is, the kids will be blown away as they watch the little birds eat directly from their outstretched palm (if they can hold still long enough)!
December 18, 2016, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Open Year Round, 7:30 a.m. to dusk, daily.
For more information on all CRCA events visit: CRCA.ca.
Starting December 1st, Fort Henry National Historic Site will undergo a transformation of mystical proportions.
“In the magical land of Lumina Borealis, winter’s secrets are kept safe. Visitors will journey across a frozen landscape and into another world, to reignite their winter spirit. They will be guided from ice to fire, and from darkness to light, finding their way through a mysterious land of enchantment, to the very source; where Winter’s secrets are yearning to be discovered and unlocked.”
In Gananoque, the upcoming Holiday Season is marked with a host of favourite events that draw many visitors each year. To top it off, Gananoque’s historic downtown area presents visitors with an opportunity enjoy a nostalgic window-shopping wonderland that’s sure to inspire and enrich the overall experience.
Holiday Gift Show & Before The Rush
If you are looking for some unique ideas for gifts this year, then look no further than the Gananoque Holiday Show. Here you will find a combination of local artisans, creative one of a kind gifts and a welcoming atmosphere. Check Gananoque.ca for details.
Also, be sure to check out “Before the Rush” which is another gift show happening on the same weekend. This show features more in the way of home furnishings, and art. (They also have food & wine!)
Admission to either show is free.
November 25, 2016, from 4PM to 8PM
November 26, 2016, from 10AM to 4PM
November 25, 2016, from 6PM to 9PM
November 26, 2016, from 10AM to 5PM
November 27, 2016, from 10AM to 4PM
Gananoque Horticultural Society’s: Celebrate The Season
Celebrate the Season is a hands-on workshop where participants will create a unique holiday decoration, and enjoy refreshments with excellent company.
More information can be found at Gananoque.ca.
December 14, 2016, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Carols By Candlelight
On December 4th, Gananoque will echo with the sound of the season carried upon the collective voices of the Gananoque & area Choral Society. If you haven’t witnessed a live Christmas Choir, then this is your chance to experience something you won’t soon forget!
Admission to the event is a good will offering (likely a non-perishable food item) check Gananoque.ca for details.
December 4, 2016, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Rideau Heritage Route
This historically rich area of the Great Waterway possesses a uniquely evocative atmosphere for scenic drives, beautiful hikes and a bevy of activities for all ages. From Westport to Merrickville and beyond, the Rideau Heritage Route is a genuinely captivating destination for those seeking the holiday spirit.
Winter Walks at Foley Mountain Conservation Area
After the year’s first blanketing of snow Westport’s Foley Mountain becomes an ideal place to take a romantic winter hike with that special someone.
There are trails suited for multiple skill levels, offering hikers a nice choice of options for exploring this 800-acre conservation area and spotting wildlife.
For more information, check out this post right here on the Great Waterway.
Old Stone Mill National Historic Site’s: Christmas at the Mill
I’ve written about this majestic mill previously, but during the Christmas season this awe-inspiring example of history hosts a holiday event for the ages.
The building is lit up with candlelight as part of Delta’s Celebrating the Season event – and has a unique gift shop open for guests.
For more information see DeltaMill.org.
Mill open from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
November 19, 26 and December 3, 10, 17, 2016.
An Evening Stroll through Lower Beverley Lake Park
The “Celebrating the Season” event involves over 80 THOUSAND lights and a series of seasonal displays that is sure to amaze. Along with this vivid visual display, there are wagon rides which are sure to add a particular element of joy to what is already a grand event.
Open from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
November 19 & 26, December 3, 10, 17, 2016.
For more information see BeverlyLakePark.com.
The Merry Christmas Shoppe
The aptly named “Merry Christmas Shoppe” is the biggest Christmas store between here and Ottawa – and to top it all off, it’s open all year long.
Explore two floors bursting with everything ‘Christmas’ and enjoy a one stop shop for all your decorations and other Yuletide supplies.
“Christmas in Merrickville”
When it comes to finding epic holiday shopping environments, all you have to do draw a big red circle around Merrickville.
This event is a superb place to bring the kids. They can have breakfast with Santa (the big man needs to stop for meals from time to time), go nuts at a petting zoo, and squeal with glee and sing songs on horse-drawn wagon rides.
There is also live music and performances from entertainers, fire barrels for warming up, glass blowing demonstrations, a parade – and my favourite part of all: holiday snacks.
December 3rd, all-day
A detailed list of events and times are available at ChristmasinMerrickville.ca.
Annual Christmas Market
This popular event is held at the Brockville Farmers’ Market and kicks off December 3rd. This market features local crafts and other items of seasonal interest.
Check BrockvilleFarmersMarket.ca for news and updates.
December 3, 10, 17 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Brockville Rotary Santa Claus Parade
Still making his way across the region, Jolly ol’ St. Nick always makes a stop in Brockville for the Rotary Santa Claus Parade.
This year, volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food items to support the Brockville Food Bank so make sure you bring lots of items to contribute.
Also, don’t let your kids forget to bring their letters to Santa to hand to the volunteers who will also be collecting them along the route. Translation: You’ll be able to get your wishlists to Mr. Claus nice and early.
November 26, 2016, at 2:00 p.m.
For more information visit RotaryBrockville.com.
Get Outdoors at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Hike, snowshoe or cross country ski over 11 kilometers of trails woodland, wetlands, and sprawling fields. While weather conditions cooperate – there is also a maintained skating pond on-site complete with a bonfire pit.
Who says it has to be summertime to roast marshmallows and hotdogs? I won’t judge.
Conservation Areas open daily at 7:30 a.m. until dusk
More information is available on the CRCA website.
Cornwall & the Counties
At the Eastern edge of the Great Waterway lies Cornwall and the Counties – home to two particular holiday light festivals that are so epic they can likely be seen from space. This huge list of festive happenings throughout the region may be coming to a close – but don’t worry, we saved the best for last.
Upper Canada Playhouse Presents: Miracle on 34th Street
You may have seen the movie. However, nothing compares to a live production of this essential Christmas story. This December, join the Upper Canada Playhouse cast & crew for their dedicated production of Miracle on 34th Street.
Treat your family and friends to the timeless magic of live theatre and let the Miracle on 34th Street fill you with the wonder and spirit of Christmas!
The phrase “Bah-Humbug!” won’t even exist in your vocabulary after this. I guarantee it.
Running from December 2 to December 18, 2016.
For tickets & showtimes, visit UpperCanadaPlayhouse.com.
Alexandria Festival of Lights
The 11th Annual Alexandria Festival of Lights brings together the entire community from businesses to schools and other organizations as they hoist over 200,000 lights and create a spectacular event.
There’s also free hot chocolate up for grabs and a fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. Visitors can also vote on their favourite displays throughout this month-long event.
More information can be found at AlexandriaFestivalofLights.com.
FREE Nightly, 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
November 26, 2016, to December 31, 2016
Opening Night Celebrations November 28
Christmas Eve – Open all night
Closing Night Fireworks December 31
Upper Canada Village’s: Alight at Night
Bundle up and get ready for a festive and fun-filled evening stroll through a completely transformed holiday version of Upper Canada Village.
Close to one million lights are lovingly strung from the heritage buildings, trees, and fences of this historic village frozen in time. The end result is a truly unique and utterly captivating backdrop for this famous holiday festival. If that’s not enough – Santa will be visiting the festival from December 2nd to 23rd. Is there anywhere he can’t be?
Special Warning: Exposure to Alight at Night may result in exuberant outbursts of joy, spontaneous caroling and a persistent craving for eggnog and shortbread. Speak to your doctor to find out if Alight at Night is right for you.
Alight at Night is not a daily event. For detailed information on dates and times for Alight at Night visit: Alight at Night – Upper Canada Village.
As the saying goes: It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And frankly, I couldn’t agree more. The cider is mulling, the fires are crackling and I can already smell the aroma of festive feasts and hear the songs of unanimous cheer.
Regardless of how you celebrate the changing of the season, and the arrival of a New Year; whether it’s Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, Christmas or Festivus let it be merry, safe and filled with friends, family and those you love.
Plan Your Holiday Trip
Sure, the crisp air and bright foliage may be enough to entice us off the couch in the fall, but for local or long-distance travellers looking for great places to visit in Ontario, autumn has way more perks to keep us happy: no summer crowds, better deals and some of the best local experiences of the year. From harvest-inspired food fests, to voyageur canoe tours, to 1000 Islands helicopter trips, there’s plenty of things to do in southeastern Ontario this season. Here are a few ideas in 8 areas across the region.
Bay of Quinte
Home to more than 200,000 people between Quinte West and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the Bay of Quinte region is known for its fishing and love for the cheese, veggies and other bounty its farmers produce. But insiders also know that Bay of Quinte is a hotspot for golfers, gourmands and theatregoers. Throw in an 85-kilometre waterway, 30 conservation areas, 12 crafter breweries and cideries, and you’ve got the makings for a fall trip for the ages.
2 hours from Toronto
3 hours from Ottawa
3.5 hours from Montreal
Bay of Quinte Fall Activities
Prince Edward County
Though recently dubbed the “gastronomic capital of Ontario” for its 30-plus wineries and gourmet eateries, the County has always been a hidden gem of Ontario travel. Why? Because of gems like Sandbanks Provincial Park and its three sandy beaches or The Regent Theatre and its ever-improving lineup of movies, music and festivals. Whatever your reason for going, expect tasty eats and drinks sourced from stunning local farms, a thriving arts community, and laidback rural island vibes.
2 hours from Toronto
3 hours from Ottawa
4 hours from Montreal
Prince Edward County Fall Activities
Fall Countylicious (October 28 – November 20)
Creepfest Film Festival (October 28 – 30)
From the Farm Cooking School Class
Wassail (November 19 – 20, November 26 – 27, December 3 – 4)
With over 5,000 lakes, almost 600 trails and a population scattered across small towns like Napanee and Tamworth, Land O’Lakes allows you to experience the best of the Canadian outdoors. And when you do, you’ll discover a few of the 356 native bird species, rolling farmlands and beautiful provincial parks that includes the 5,000-hectare Frontenac Provincial Park. Not the outdoors type? Hit up MacKinnon Brothers Brewing, the Lennox & Addington County Museum and Archives or the United Empire Loyalist Heritage Centre and Park.
2.5 hours from Toronto
2 hours from Ottawa
3.5 hours from Montreal
Land O’Lakes Fall Activities
Kingston 1000 Islands
Maybe you know Kingston as the home of The Hip or as Canada’s first capital or as the place to find Kingston Pen. The point is, this vibrant city on Lake Ontario, home to over 100,000 people, has been famous since before Confederation. Today, its world-class restaurants, bustling downtown and renowned arts hubs like The Grand Theatre, The Tett Centre and Isabel Bader Centre keeps it on the map.
2.5 hours from Toronto
2 hours from Ottawa
3 hours from Montreal
Kingston Fall Activities
Rideau Heritage Route
Stretching over 200 kilometres between Kingston and Ottawa and incorporating 47 locks, 16 rivers and 2 lakes, the Rideau Canal is a gorgeous marvel of engineering might. And up and down its banks you’ll find quaint villages and welcoming locals wanting to show and tell its story. At Fort Henry, for example, it’s the story of Canada’s beginnings up close. At Rock Dunder, near Morton, a snippet of the Canadian Shield’s four-billion-year-old tale. While Jones Falls Locks is a testament to the ingenuity that went into building this waterway.
3.5 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
2.5 hours from Montreal
Rideau Heritage Route Fall Activities
Gananoque 1000 Islands
Called “The Gateway to the 1000 Islands” because it sits close to where the 1,864 islands begin, Gananoque is an ideal jumping off point for a cruise, hike, scuba diving trip, round of golf or even helicopter tour. And though it has a population of just 5,000, Gananoque boasts a surprising range of fantastic dining options, not to mention acclaimed theatre and musical productions at the Thousand Islands Playhouse on the banks of the Saint Lawrence.
3 hours from Toronto
1.5 hours from Ottawa
2.5 hours from Montreal
Gananoque 1000 Islands Fall Activities
Brockville 1000 Islands
With attractions like Canada’s oldest railway tunnel, Fulford Place and the Brockville Museum, you might think Brockville’s population of 22,000 is all about its history. But you’d be wrong — there’s far more. The “City of the 1000 Islands” also celebrates its present and future at places like the Brockville Arts Centre, which is one of the finest medium-sized theatres in Canada, and the new Aquatarium, a state-of-the-art, 27,000-square-foot learning centre all about the waters and wildlife of the region.
3.5 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
2 hours from Montreal
Brockville 1000 Islands Fall Activities
Mac Johnson Wildlife Area Fall Festival (October 22)
Hike The Brock Trail
Escape Room (October 18 – 30)
Brockville Farmers’ Market
Brockville Country Club (Golf and Curling)
Brockville Tasting Tours
Haunted Walk on Temperance Lake
Cornwall and The Counties
Anchored by the City of Cornwall, population 46,000 and one of Canada’s oldest permanent settlements, this region includes six other townships: North Stormont, South Stormont, North Dundas, South Dundas, North Glengarry and South Glengarry. When taken together, they all show off the history of Upper Canada, the beauty of the Saint Lawrence and the vibrancy of small town Ontario. Highlights here include Upper Canada Village, a 19th-century replica village; Cornwall’s Waterfront Trail, a multi-use trail that spans the city’s entire waterfront; and the Glengarry Highland Games, the largest highland games celebration outside of Scotland.
4 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
1.5 hours from Montreal
Cornwall and The Counties Fall Activities
McMaze Family Fun Farm
Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Seaway Food Festival Restaurant Week (October 13 – 22)
Martintown Haunted Mill (October 31)
Hike Glengarry Trails
Click Below to Learn More About Our Destinations
Have you ever driven along some county road and come across a hamlet with an old Legion building with a couple of shingles missing or a community hall without a crooked board in sight? Ever wondered what goes on in there? Truth is, the doors are sometimes open, but if you need a good excuse to check out a few of these back road treasures in eastern Ontario this month — and want to hear some good music, too — the third annual Ontario Festival of Small Halls is it.
From September 14 to October 2, two dozen hamlets from Lyndhurst to Spencerville and beyond will open the doors of their community halls to you and 33 musicians, many of the roots, folk and bluegrass-inspired indie persuasions.
Some of those musicians you may know — Basia Bulat or Elliott Brood, for example — but a few you probably don’t. No worries, though. The team behind Ottawa Bluesfest and Ottawa’s CityFolk Festival are organizing this one, too, and they know how to pick them.
“Really, the common denominator in how we choose bands is that they put on a very entertaining and high-energy show,” says Festival Manager Kelly Symes. “It may not be something you’ve heard before, but it’s going to be a great live show because that’s how we choose.”
You may have never heard April Verch fiddle, sing or stepdance before, but you should definitely change that. The Ottawa Valley native will hit four stages at the festival with her two bandmates, one who plays stand-up bass and clawhammer banjo and the other who plays guitar. Expect a lot of variety — old-time Americana, bluegrass, Celtic-influenced stuff, more — and expect a few stories about where they learned their tunes and why they wrote them.
If Verch had to pick a favourite type of venue to tell those stories and play those tunes, a small hall would be it. “It’s where I feel the best connection,” she says. “It’s big enough to have a buzz about it, but it’s small enough to feel like you’re really up close and connecting with people.”
It wasn’t necessarily an easy process for Kelly Symes and her team to pick those 24 halls this year, by the way. Forty halls applied, each judged on the quality of the venue, the capacity, the charm and the enthusiasm of the volunteer force.
“Those community champions were a big part of it,” says Symes. “If we had a strong and enthusiastic person come forward and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got this beautiful hall,’ and it’s within the area that we’re doing the shows, that’s mainly how we chose.”
Many of these halls aren’t just beautiful, though, but historic pillars of these communities as well. Take Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall, for instance, opened in 1932 — just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Rideau Canal — with the Chaffey’s Lock Women’s Institute at the helm. Or Delta Old Town Hall, which has served as a meeting place, courthouse, jail, community theatre, masonic lodge, municipal office and museum since 1880.
If you want to learn more about that history or just meet people from these communities, show up early or stick around after the show. A few venues will host special coinciding events like community suppers, farmers’ markets, a scavenger hunt, an architectural walk, a ceilidh, or even an arts and crafts exhibition.
Judging from last year, those special events should be a hit. And no wonder, says Symes. “You don’t leave the city and go on a road trip so that you can hang out with people from where you’re from. You go and really want to experience the culture and flavour of where you are.”
As for the shows themselves, the reasons for attending may not be so clear. Sure, you could be fascinated by the charm of these halls and the genre of music, but as April Verch suggests, music can satisfy a wide range of personal needs. “And it’s our job to get out of the way and let them take that journey,” she adds. “So when people are leaving our show at the end of the night, I hope that they’re like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t even know that’s what I needed, but that was it.’”
Click Below for the Full 2016 Lineup, Tickets, and More