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!
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What a whirlwind month! When I was first approached to travel through The Great Waterway with the ‘On the Way’ team, I knew this would be a rare and unique opportunity. After 32 days of amazing moments, wonderful adventures and awesome food, I have no regrets, it was truly incredible.
For 32 days we hit the road and explored the regions of The Great Waterway, which include; The Bay of Quinte, Prince Edward County, Land O’Lakes, Rideau Heritage Route, Kingston 1000 Islands, Gananoque 1000 Islands, Brockville 1000 Islands, and Cornwall and the Counties. As a pretty seasoned traveller, if I’m not on an adventure, I’m planning one. For example, right before this trip, I was lucky enough to go to Iceland, then head to Vancouver for a few weeks. Now, after exploring The Great Waterway, I realize how much diversity we have right here in South Eastern Ontario. Now I don’t have to go far to discover tons of great things! I’m going to continue travelling through this part of Ontario, whether it’s hiking through Rock Dunder, taking a cruise through 1000 Islands, visiting breweries and vineyards; there’s so much to do and see right in our own backyard.
Here are some of my favourite stops along the Great Waterway:
Prince Edward County
Visiting Prince Edward County was a great way to kick off this campaign. This region is up and coming, with so many great things to see and do. A trip to The County can include everything from touring breweries and vineyards to seeing local artisans work to visiting quaint shops and so much more. With so many experiences to try, travellers are sure to find something that interests them, whether it’s adventure, relaxation or even a new hobby! While there, we were able to participate in many activities and one of my fondest memories was our visit to Parsons Brewing Company. The food was fantastic and the beer was delicious. We even had the incredible opportunity to talk with the owners about their inspiration behind the beer and brewery. Ever since visiting Parsons, I’ve been following them on Instagram and can’t wait to take a trip back.
Bay of Quinte
Admittedly, I had no idea how many things this region has to offer until stopping here – we had so much fun! First there was the incredible adrenaline rush that we had kayaking through in the region with Twiggy of Cruising Canoes and then wakeboarding for the first time at Trenchtown Wake Park. This region also had the cutest coffee shop called The Brake Room, which is also a bike shop. The coffee was great and the vibe was even better. While in Belleville, I had the best Indian food I’ve ever had in Ontario, at the Royal Haveli. The Bay of Quinte should definitely be a stop for any adventurer in South Eastern Ontario.
Ah, Land O’Lakes, our location where weather was not on our side. There were many stops on this trip that had to get rescheduled due to wet weather and unfortunately this happened a lot in this region. We were able to have a quick stop on Wolfe Island before the rain hit and I’m excited to go back to explore it more for myself. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co. It’s one of my favourite breweries, so this was an incredible experience! While there we were able to see the farm and taste some of their delicious beer. Luckily, in September, we will be back in this region for the #OnTheWay campaign, so check in then to catch all the things we will be exploring!
Kingston 1000 Islands
My oh my, exploring Kingston was a real treat. As a resident of Kingston, I find that many people often take the beautiful architecture and history of Kingston for granted. Having the opportunity to travel through Kingston like a tourist opened my eyes to a lot that Kingston has to offer. We were able to visit the Kingston Pen, which has been on my list of places that I wanted to visit. The architecture and history is absolutely incredible. If you haven’t visited the Pen yet, drop everything you’re doing and book a tour now!
The Kingston Food Tour was also a great experience and allowed us to taste food at many different locations in Kingston. The food was great but what I really appreciated, was learning about how many restaurants in Kingston use local suppliers for food.
Gananoque 1000 Islands
In this stunning region, we were able to explore by land, water and sky. We started by touring the area from above with 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours – so amazing! Then we saw the region by kayaking on the water. 1000 Islands Kayaking Co. made sure we had everything we needed to have a fantastic time paddling. We also spent time exploring the waterfront and driving through the area. It was incredible to see how beautiful this region is from every angle. Many people travel to waterfront properties and beaches in different countries, but Ontarians should definitely be spending their time here instead. The 1000 Islands is one of the most beautiful places on earth and there are so many fun things to do!
Brockville 1000 Islands & Rockport
This is the region where we finally had the opportunity to visit Boldt Castle! After hearing so much about it and seeing it from the sky, it was amazing to finally be able to set foot in this majestic castle. The castle and the island have an interesting history that includes a love story that’s both tragic and beautiful, read about it here.
One of the most thrilling parts of our entire trip was being able to visit Skywood Eco Adventure Park. Here, we navigated through the treetops on a series of adventure courses that included ropes and zip lines. It was a fun challenge and I definitely want to go back to try the expert course one day!
In Brockville, we were able to get a sneak peek of the Railroad Tunnel, which is an incredible location and is now open to the public!
Rideau Heritage Route
The best way to describe this region of Ontario is by comparing it to a remote oasis. Filled with beautiful small towns and peaceful nature, it’s the perfect destination if you want to spend some time outside. Rock Dunder, which recently became a popular go-to spot because of numerous posts on Instagram, is a great spot to hike and see awesome water views. If you’re a fan of cliff jumping, there’s a great spot to do this at Rock Dunder.
Another great spot here is Jones Falls; I’m a huge fan of history, so I loved that local historical interpreters teach visitors about the area. There are many areas to explore in this region, making it a fun adventure for all ages!
And last, but certainly not least…
Cornwall and The Counties
I just need to start off by saying I dream about the poutine we had in Cornwall, I even wrote about it in the blog for that region. Needless to say, it was the best poutine I’ve ever had and totally worth a visit to Cornwall to try it at Sheep Head’s Bistro.
Being a penchant for history, I loved that we were able to visit the Historic Cornwall Jail. It was interesting to learn about the prisoners and executions that took place there. Another wonderful spot to visit and learn about history is Upper Canada Village. Plus it’s always a fun time for any age group!
So there you have it. 32 days travelling with someone who I didn’t know at all beforehand and it was a total blast! Now, I tell everyone how amazing this region is and I totally recommend traveling here. Before booking your next trip anywhere else, consider making this region your destination location. There’s so much to do, so many great people to meet, local food to taste, and so much more! Follow The Great Waterway on Instagram to see what all this region has to offer!
In the coming months, our full video adventure will be released. Be sure to check back soon!
The Rideau Heritage Route is a beautiful area that has become popular with millennials, as the entire region is completely Instagram-worthy. With stunning landscapes, unique local shops and amazing food, I highly recommend visiting this region. I loved it so much that I returned the weekend after I was there with the “On The Way” team!
Day 31: August 2, 2017
We began our first day in the region with breakfast at Hotel Kenney, which is also where we were staying during our trip. Hotel Kenney is located in Jones Falls and right on the water. They have different rooms to suit your budget and a menu that changes every day!
After breakfast, we walked to the Jones Falls Lockstation, which is about a thirty-second walk from the hotel (probably not even that far!). There are two separate locks, which change the elevation by 18 meters. The lock system was handmade, which completely blows my mind! Another incredible aspect to this location is the hydroelectric power generation, which resulted in what looked like a very strong waterfall.
We also took a walk to the blacksmith’s shop, that’s just a stone throw’s away from the lock station and watched the blacksmith in action. He talked to us about the history of the building and we also learned about his craft. Scott and I even got to help a little bit!
The blacksmith suggested we stop in at Sweeney House; which was a defensible stone house built in 1841. Once there, we learned about the life of Peter Sweeney, who was the lockmaster from 1839-1871. Sweeney documented the early history of the canal operation in his personal diary and his life is now interpreted at the house. At Sweeney House, historical interpreters in period clothing take you back in time to the 1800’s when Peter Sweeney’s was at the lock station.
After all of the walking, we were a bit hungry so we headed to Westport for lunch! We went to The Cove Country Inn Restaurant & Boat Launch, which is beautifully located on the water. The menu was vast with lots of options, so everyone in our group found something to their liking! After exploring Westport a bit, we were off to Wendy’s Country Market.
Wendy’s Country Market is located inside a historic schoolhouse that was built in the late 1900s, and offers organic and locally grown produce from over 70 local farmers and artisans. There’s a wide variety of options, from fruits to cheese and everything in between!
We had a really unique experience while we were there, that was a lot of fun. Chef Mark, showed us how to forage for our own food, then that food was included in our Farm to Table dining experience! I learned a lot about which weeds could be eaten and the nutritional benefits of foraging. It was incredible and so tasty!
The meal had many different courses; starting with an incredible charcuterie board, an entree with boar and chocolates handmade by the chef. The entire experience is difficult to describe in words – it was magical. We sat outside the herb garden under a white tent eating this meal from the land around us. Wendy chatted about the renovations that her and her business partners are doing at Furnace Falls Farm, which is located across the road. They’re re-using as many of the old materials as possible, while still making it fresh. When they are finished, this cool space will be a B&B, with cooking classes! I’m excited for them to open and I’m definitely booking a night there.
Day 32: August 3, 2017
Our final day. So bittersweet.
We started the day by traveling to Merrickville, which is a beautiful town filled with unique and quaint local shops; many of them offering handmade items. Our first stop was Nana B’s Bakery, where we had some incredible butter tarts (I went back to get seconds a few days later). They were amazing and tasted like honey. My favourite was their plain butter tart, although there was nothing plain about the flavour!
After filling up on more butter tarts that we probably should have eaten in one go (so worth it!), we headed to Gray Art Glass Glassblowing for a glass blowing demonstration. We learned a lot about this art form and were amazed to see how talented these artists are! If you had a chance to see my Facebook Live video, you’d know that we watched an artist make a horse out of absolutely nothing! Needless to say, we were all stunned by what we saw.
Next stop: food! We headed to the Yellow Canoe Cafe, which was delicious. The food was incredible, tasted fresh and there were so many different options. Everyone loved their meals and their patio had a great atmosphere.
After lunch we jumped in the car, traveled to Chaffey’s Lock and hopped on paddle boards with Rideau Tours. We paddled in the area above Chaffey’s Lock and it was a lot of fun! I’m not the strongest swimmer, so water sports always make me a bit hesitant, but paddle boarding felt secure and steady. It took a bit to get the hang of it, partly because I was distracted by all of the fish and turtles that were swimming underneath but soon I was off! We finished with a “Flavours of the Rideau” gourmet picnic and guess what they included? More, butter tarts, yum!
We quickly went home to change and then headed to the Opinicon Dining & Resort for dinner. This restaurant has a beautiful ambiance, decorated very crisp and white and the food was amazing. After our meal, we went into the tiki bar area, where we played some board games, met some other travelers from Brockville and enjoyed our last night on this journey.
And sadly… that’s a wrap! The entire crew had an amazing time on this journey and you may see us back in a few weeks to try some things that we missed along the way due to the weather. We had a blast and I hope you follow in our footsteps and plan your own trip to The Great Waterway regions! You will not be disappointed.
I’ve never been to Cornwall before. I’ve driven through it multiple times on the way to Montreal and I’m glad I had the opportunity to check it out during this trip! Now, I not only have a place to stop through on my travels, but it is now one of my new destinations!
Before our “official” leg of the trip in Cornwall began, we had an amazing meal at Sheep’s Head Bistro. I have since been dreaming about the Reese’s Pieces cheesecake we had there and craving their poutine. It was by far the best poutine I’ve ever had; the cheese curds are mixed in with the gravy while it’s cooking so the cheese gets really soft and gooey. It’s amazing. If you’re a poutine lover, make sure you head to Cornwall to grab some poutine at Sheep’s Head Bistro!
Day 27: July 29th, 2017
In the morning we headed to Love Love Food Cafe for breakfast and man oh man, this was a fantastic way to start off a day. We had french toast waffles for breakfast, served with farmhouse sausage and maple syrup. Not french toast and waffles, but waffles that were dipped into french toast batter. They were incredible.
We then had a bit of a break until it was time for lunch at Mindful Cookery & Food Market. We’ve had so many wonderful meals during this trip and this restaurant didn’t disappoint. Everything was fresh, organic and wholesome. As a lover of cold press juice, it was a fantastic stop on our trip.
After lunch, we headed to the Historic Cornwall Jail. With a penchant for history, especially crime-related history, I was excited to learn about the inmates and hangings that happened at the jail. Built in 1833, the jail operated until 2002. Many areas of the jail are set up as they would be when it was a functional prison, such as the cell blocks and common areas. There were a few hangings that took place at this prison, the most notably of Peter Balcombe, who was the last of the hangings.
After a fantastic experience at the Cornwall Historic Jail, we travelled to Rurban Brewery. Rurban Brewery is an independent family owned small batch brewery. As Cornwall hasn’t had a brewery in over 100 years, Rurban Brewery brings unfiltered and unpasteurized beer into the community. My favourite beer that we tried there was “Sit, Russ” (say it fast, do you hear the dad joke?), which is an American wheat, featuring lime zest, mandarin orange and kumquat juice! I can certainly say that before drinking this beer, I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer (or any other drink) with kumquat juice. It was a perfect summer patio drink.
To finish the night, we headed to Truffles Burger Bar. This restaurant has such a powerful backstory. Within months of opening, the historic building Truffles was located in burned to the ground. The owners powered through and rebuilt their business from scratch, even adding an additional restaurant, Table 21, above Truffles. Truffles has some incredible burgers, most notably the Solid Gold Burger, which was beef and foie gras, with black truffle shavings, 23 carat gold dust (yes, actually!) and a glass of champagne. They even have some exotic burgers, such as rabbit, duck, llama camel, alligator, kangaroo, boar and more!
To begin our day, we headed to Nautica Grill and Wine in Dundas and Glengarry County. Located on the water, the patio offered a beautiful view of the area. Nautica is a family run restaurant, with a casual setting.
Day 28: July 30th, 2017
Before heading to Upper Canada Village, we toured the Long Sault Parkway. We stopped at a few different locations such as a park and beachfront and both were calm and serene.
Upper Canada Village, located in Morrisburg, had been on my to-do list for quite some time. I’ve been there a few times in the winter when the village itself wasn’t open, so it was amazing to be there when the lively village was in full swing. Time for another history lesson! In 1958, construction of Upper Canada Village began, which required the permanent flooding of ten communities now known as the lost villages. Upper Canada Village was part of the heritage preservation plan, and many buildings were transported directly from The Lost Villages. If you visit Upper Canada Village, any of the buildings that have an arrow on their plaques were moved to Upper Canada Village.
Day 24: July 26th, 2017
We started our day by having breakfast at Island View Restaurant in Rockport. We sat on the patio that overlooks the water and enjoyed the beautiful view. We arrived just after the restaurant opened, so it was peaceful and quiet. We then walked over to the Rockport Boat Line, which meant I was finally about to take the tour to see the inside of Boldt Castle! (If you’ve had a chance to read my Gananoque post, I’ve basically seen Boldt Castle from every angle – both sky and water – but haven’t yet been inside). The smooth ride to Boldt Castle took only 30 minutes on the Rockport Boat and I’m happy that it was a short ride because it meant we arrived at Boldt Castle quickly. If you’re not familiar with Boldt Castle, it is the physical memento of a tragic love story.
Time for a quick history lesson! Bold Castle was created by George C. Boldt, the millionaire proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. He loved spending time near 1000 Islands and as such he wanted to create a grand castle as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Starting in 1900, construction began on the 120 room castle that would be six stories high. In January 1904, Louise passed away, leaving Boldt broken hearted. He couldn’t imagine his castle without Louise and commanded workers to immediately stop construction on the castle. From 1904 to 1977, the castle was left to be destroyed by vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority then acquired the property and have put millions of dollars into rehabilitating Boldt Castle.
When we arrived at Boldt Castle, we quickly went through customs and finally were able to see the castle! It kind of felt like seeing the castle from Beauty and the Beast- it is incredibly majestic and beautiful. We walked into the castle and toured various rooms and reconstructions of the castle. It was interesting to see the contrast of the rehabilitated rooms of the tower, compared to the old rooms that had not been redone and were still covered in graffiti. I personally hope that the entire castle doesn’t get rehabilitated, just so everyone can see what the castle looked like compared to the rehabilitation. Both are beautiful, in different ways.
The ride back to Canada took us an hour, as the boat takes a different path to get back to Rockport. After docking, we quickly changed and headed to Skywood Eco Adventure Park, which was by far the most adrenaline-packed adventure of our trip!
Located in Mallorytown, Skywood Eco Adventure Park is Canada’s largest aerial adventure and zip line park. I had mistakenly thought Skywood only had zip lines, but it has so much more. It is basically an extremely fun obstacle course up in the trees. Being at least 15 feet off the ground navigating through the forest canopy on wooden planks or ropes is super fun (and for some less daring, possibly a bit scary). We started with the beginner course and made our way up to intermediate. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to conquer the advanced course, which means I’ll be heading back there soon! After the course, we zip lined back to the base. It was an incredible experience and I highly recommend checking it out with your family or friends. Pro tip: Take bug spray with DEET and water! You’ll need both, I promise.
After quickly freshening up, we headed to Tall Ships South Coast Grille for dinner, located above the Aquatarium in Brockville. Not only does this restaurant have a beautiful view of the water but the menu is incredible with lots of options.
Day 25: July 27, 2017
I’m a huge animal lover, so I get really excited to see animals regardless of if they are land or water dwellers. It made my day when we started off the morning with a visit to the Aquatarium in Brockville. Scott and I raced on antique row boats (I obviously won) and then we began to explore the aquarium. There were so many creatures, but my favourite animals were the otters! They were incredibly adorable and it was a fun experience to watch them get fed. I would never have known, but the Aquatarium also has a high ropes course! At first, I thought it was designed for children as it was themed to resemble a ship, but as soon as I started climbing, I realized that it was actually fairly difficult! It was a good challenge. Similar to Skywood, it was a lot of fun and it makes you feel preeeeetty invincible!
After the Aquatarium we headed to The Brockberry for lunch. The Brockberry has a southern inspired menu, with items such as “Southern Fried Buttermilk Chicken”, “Memphis Pulled Pork”, “Low Country Cornbread” and more. They also have some fantastic traditional unsweetened iced tea that they make in house.
Then we were off to Fulford Place. We had driven by this beautiful mansion a few times and now we were finally able to go inside and explore. Another quick history lesson: Fulford Place was built by Senator George Taylor Fulford, who made millions of dollars from “Pink Pills for Pale People”. It was a patented medicine he created in Brockville and sold around the world. With his success, he was able to build the 20,000 square foot Edwardian mansion, Fulford Place, between 1899 and 1901.
The house is incredibly beautiful, with original tapestries, paintings and more items collected during their world travels. It’s very grandiose, with large rooms and expensive decor. Fun fact: The family often hosted many Canadian Prime Ministers in this house for dinner! And last, but not least, we ended our leg in Brockville by having a sneak peek of the railway tunnel. Man oh man, I had seen a few sneak peeks of this on Instagram before, but it was absolutely incredible. It felt like we were transported to a different world, and the lights and sounds were absolutely beautiful.
Canada’s first railway tunnel was built in 1860 in Brockville. It was completed 21 years before the Canadian Pacific Railway and was very controversial for its time. It is now being restored for access for the general public and act as a connection from the Trail at the city’s waterfront, through the Gorge, and to other sections of the Trail. The Railway Tunnel opens on August 12, 2017, so make sure to check it out!
And there ends our journey to Rockport and Brockville. We only have two more destinations left; are you following along? Check out the live stories on Instagram at @greatwaterway, and check out some of the other destinations we went to, like Prince Edward County, Bay of Quinte, Gananoque, and Kingston!
Brockville/Rockport Blooper Reel
Enjoy Scott’s rendition of MTV Cribs at Boldt Castle!
I never grow tired of writing about South Eastern Ontario’s vast historical significance. Every destination from The Bay of Quinte to Cornwall, and beyond is built upon a fascinating series of stories, each chapter contributing to the overall story of Canada itself. The chapter that we will be exploring in this article is a personal favourite of mine: Transportation. [Read more…]
South Eastern Ontario is a world famous destination for summer escapes. Places where you take your family, or friends to do away with the trifles of urban existence. You know what I’m talking about. That place where you can kick back, unwind, and be immersed in pure tranquillity. [Read more…]
Oh yes, my friends! Time for another Instagram photo challenge post! This has to be one of my favourite things about this job. Every two weeks I put out a new #PhotoChallenge to our amazing community via Instagram – and each time I am absolutely blown away by the response. [Read more…]
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.
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