Know What’s Happening in The Great Waterway.
*Listings last updated 6/26/2017.
*Listings last updated 6/26/2017.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 the frosty grip of winter continues to take hold of Southeastern Ontario, we find ourselves in a particularly darker and less colourful time of year. The days become shorter, the nights even longer, and we understandably long for the coming spring and summer’s warm embrace.
My last article presented an epic list of outdoor activities and events taking place throughout The Great Waterway this winter. However, not all of you are the outdoorsy type, and that’s totally fine. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Might I suggest a trip to an art gallery, or four? Art galleries offer a series of visual voyages and epic escapes that are sure to transport you from the monochrome and the mundane, and into a multiverse comprised of vivid colour and life.
Sybil Frank Gallery is a relatively new addition to Prince Edward County’s vast selection of art galleries and artist studios.
Curator, Craig Alexander has gathered an inspiring collection consisting of multiple styles and mediums.
Here you’ll find vivid metal, and glass sculptures as well as bold abstract pieces. The ever changing collection is also complemented by and gorgeous florals, stunning landscapes, and interesting still life examples.
For updates, images, and more information visit the Sybil Frank Facebook Page.
Situated in historic Picton, Arts on Main is a fantastic gallery that is run by a collective of talented artists.
Prepare to be amazed by a collection of sweet eye candy consisting of mixed media, graphic art, sculpture, quilts, weaving, silks, and so much more.
While browsing the Arts on Main Gallery, it’s easy to forget the snowy, slushy noise outside and be captivated by the stunning work on display.
For 27 years, Mad Dog Gallery has been offering visitors an extraordinary collection of contemporary and fine art, created by some of the County’s most talented artists.
Located on the northeast side of East Lake in a spacious renovated barn, the property is surrounded by 25 acres of gardens and walking paths complimented by outdoor sculptures.
Mad Dog Gallery is a short drive from Picton and definitely worth adding to your list of galleries to check out.
For additional information visit Mad Dog’s website.
Gallery 121 is a unique non-profit cooperative gallery that was founded in 1991. Located mere steps away from Downtown Belleville’s shopping and dining, this eclectic gallery is a must see.
The main exhibit changes every six weeks, which means that with each visit, you’ll be treated to something new and exciting.
The styles range from realism to abstract work spanning a broad spectrum of media, including oil, acrylic, watercolour, crayon, graphite, pastel, fibre, clay, and more.
For contact info, hours of operation, and details on upcoming exhibits visit Gallery 121’s website.
Zenergy Gallery & Shop presents visitors with a spacious retail venue containing a diverse collection of items ranging from jewelry to visual art, pottery, and stained glass creations to name but a few.
The owners are committed to providing beautiful Canadian made work but also Fair Trade exotics from around the world.
Best of all, Zenergy features a “Kidz Korner” where the little ones can colour or play games while you experience the gallery in relative peace.
Clarke Art & Projects is a joint venture between artists Ann Clark and Ben Darrah that was officially launched in 2014.
The gallery itself is a historic building dating back over 150 years. Today, the gallery houses a creative hub for the entire community.
Visitors to the website, are encouraged to check out the current exhibition, past exhibitions, and upcoming events pages. Clark Art & Projects also hold several classes and workshops throughout the year for aspiring artists and visitors alike.
The aptly named Piggery Gallery is a marvelous artisan gallery nestled along Lennox & Addington County Road 27 on Wartman road.
The gallery was once upon a time an actual piggery but has been entirely renovated since.
The Piggery is home to a stunning collection of handcrafted and painted furniture, rugs, quilts, pottery and other items to at pizzazz to the home.
The gallery is open Tuesdays, and Friday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. making it an ideal weekend road trip.
Quinn’s of Tweed Fine Art
combines some of Canada’s greatest artists and creators with a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.
The gallery space encompasses an immaculate 6000 square foot historic building. The building’s 12 ft. high walls allow art to be displayed in the classical French Salon style.
A visit to Quinns is an experience in itself shared between building itself, and the captivating selection of fine artwork on display.
Overlooking Kingston’s historic Springer Market Square is Studio 22, a commercial fine art gallery and design studio representing several Canadian artists.
Many of the artists on display are from the Kingston and surrounding area, as well as other creators from Newfoundland and British Columbia.
There are several mediums and styles to observe at Studio 22, many of which utilize innovative techniques and unique materials.
For gallery hours and more information check out the Studio 22 website.
The Tett Centre is essentially Kingston’s creative citadel. Within this lovingly renovated limestone building you will find a broad range of creative activity as well a pair of stunning galleries: Modern Fuel and Creativity Studios.
Side note: make sure you pop by the Juniper Cafe and enjoy a hot beverage or a delectable snack while exploring this fantastic cultural centre.
For 40 years Modern Fuel has represented a catalyst for creativity in Kingston. Upon completion of the Tett Centre, this non-profit, artist-run centre moved in and has called it home since.
There is an ever-changing series of exhibitions to enjoy at Modern Fuel that covers several interdisciplinary methods and fascinating styles. Modern Fuel is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00.
On the Tett’s second floor you’ll find Creativity Studios. It’s a cool studio that’s split into eight spaces which house eleven artists, who are at various stages of their careers.
Feel free to drop by and meet the artists. When I popped in, I definitely walked in on their lunch break – but they were very cool about it.
Ceativity Studios presents the public with an excellent opportunity to speak with the artists and learn more about the people behind the art and the amazing creations they’re working on.
Among the Kingston’s more unique galleries is Martello Alley which branches off from Wellington Street in downtown Kingston.
As soon as you step into the alley, you begin a fun and engaging journey through the collective works of several local artists.
If you happen to visit when David Dossett is there, you’re in for a treat. He is very engaging and greets visitors with a warm and inviting manner.
It’s almost as though David as a sixth sense and knows when visitors arrive before they’ve realized it themselves. Everything you see on your way into, and throughout Martello Alley has a cool story behind it – which is told best by David. You have to experience it for yourself.
Martello Alley is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info check out their website.
The Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University is home to over 16,000 works of art from Canada and around the world.
The impressive collection of Canadian art includes many examples of 20th-century painting and also showcases some truly arresting displays of Indigenous art and Inuit art.
For art history buffs there is an excellent collection of nearly 200 historical European pieces to peruse, including works by Rembrandt.
Throughout the year you can catch some amazing exhibitions at the Agnes – so stay tuned to their website for news and updates!
Heather Haynes Gallery originally opened in Kingston in 2012, but later moved to its new home in Gananoque in 2016.
When I last checked, there was also a display of image art by Kingston photographer Suzy Lamont, and of course the exquisite and thought-provoking art by Heather herself.
The displays rotate on a monthly basis and were established with the purpose of enhancing public awareness and interest in visual art.
It also goes without saying that this is the perfect place to experience some epic performances only steps away from Brockville’s beautiful downtown area.
A stroll through downtown Brockville will also lead you to From Here to Infinity, a remarkable gallery situated in a historic building dating back to the 1840’s.
The gallery operates an archive of historic photographic prints and negatives, in addition to an amazing collection of rare and antique books.
From Here to Infinity is a fresh fusion between a curios shop and gallery, and is certainly worth a visit.
Galop Gallery is best described as a small art gallery with immense purpose. Based in the quaint riverside community of Cardinal Ontario, this little building plays a big role in the surrounding arts community.
Galop is more than just a gallery and is also a meeting space, workshop, studio, and craft market. They offer classes for kids and adults, and also hold events.
For full details and a few examples of what you’ll find visit Galop Gallery’s website.
Housed in what was once the historic Spencerville Hotel, ArtScene is a cooperative gallery created by 12 local artists.
This successful gallery contains a fabulous assortment of art including photography, glass works, pottery, painting, and fabric.
The hours and schedule for ArtScene are variable – so check out their website for full details.
Since ancient times, humans have been perfecting the craft of glassblowing. This millennia-old art form is kept alive at Gray Art Glass in Merrickville.
Between the amazing gallery and studio and live demonstrations, Gray Art Glass is an inspiring and amazing spectacle to behold. For hours and details visit their website.
The Grotto Artworks was founded 12 years ago, when 13 Merrickville artists combined their creative talents and resources to open a year-round venue for showcasing their works.
Today, the gallery offers a broad range of fine local crafts such as: pewter, pottery, jewelry, wood turnings, woven silk scarves, carvings, glass, and textile art.
Also on display are oils, collages, acrylics, watercolours and mixed-media creations including letterpressed prints.
For gallery hours, contact info and more visit the Grotto’s website.
Priests Mill Glassworks is on a mission “to build a Centre of Glass Excellence & Learning while providing a collaborative environment for artists of all mediums.”
One visit to their location in Alexandria Ontario is sure to please, as they are making good on their objective.
In addition to browsing several examples of varying levels of beauty, you can also take lessons!
I’m not going to lie; glassblowing is so hot right now. Especially in Alexandria Ontario.
The Glassblowing Place sports an extensive gallery, a learning space for the visual arts, and stunningly repurposed antiques.
Also worth checking out is the Chillax Café & Creative Lounge, free demonstrations, educational courses, and “Master workshops.”
I feel that one of the biggest contributors to the elusive Winter Blues is the fact that our surroundings transition from the lively and vibrant colour spectrum of summer and autumn, to a drab grayscale backdrop that quickly becomes an eyesore as we traverse the urban grind.
Luckily, Southeastern Ontario is a region teeming with creativity and an abundance of opportunities to appreciate and enjoy the work of our local artisans. Not only that but in many cases, you’ll get to meet the artists and learn more about the people behind the work.
Who knows, after exploring some of these amazing galleries you may find yourself inspired to explore a new creative outlet of your own. Maybe you’ll find a stunning piece of artwork to bring home. Perhaps you’ll create a masterpiece of your own to be showcased.
Either way, I hope that this blog helps brighten things up and gives you a few ideas for your next weekend excursion. Thanks for reading!
Discover Southeastern Ontario’s Artistic Side!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Anne Heathcote—a writer, roadtripper and theatre lover—is counting her blessings in Prince Edward County.
It’s a dismal day, all cumulonimbus, threatening thunderstorms, threatening to rain on my parade. The grey flannel light, the kind that encourages headaches and grumpiness, can’t quite dispel the cheeriness of my Designated Travel Companion (DTC). He’s confident that the clouds will give way to clear skies so we can enjoy Two Gentlemen of Verona outdoors at the amphitheatre in Prescott. I have my doubts. Harumpf. Grumpiness.
Heading east, we stay on Hwy 401 as long as humanly possible, until we trade efficiency for scenery. The Thousand Islands Parkway shoots off from the highway just east of Gananoque, and is a much prettier road, snaking in and out from the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River. Constructed in the late 1930s, the road was very briefly part of the 401 until loud opposition from locals forced the bypass to relocate further north; it was given its current designation in 1970.
The unused westbound lanes from its former days as a four lane highway have been wisely repurposed as a well-maintained, multi-use path. Recently repaved and running about 40km in length, it’s part of Ontario’s Waterfront Trail. We do spy a few steely-eyed cyclists along the way, but the gleeful grey-haired ladies careening past in the eight-person golf cart seem to be having more fun.
We pass by entrances to many private residences and clusters of cottages, but finally dip down into the single, looping road of Rockport for a look-see. You can get a sense of what life was like on the river 150 years ago if you squint a little. Historic buildings still stand, but these days the former boat-making community makes a name as a major embarkation point for the very popular 1000 Islands cruises. A quick peek at an operator’s site provides information in seven different languages.
It’s clear why the area is a tourist magnet; even on this grey day, the views and the air are lovely. Add to that the wealth of things to do, especially if one is outdoorsy. One tourism site lists 16 different kinds of sporting activities including fishing, kayaking and world class freshwater scuba diving at over 200 shipwrecks in the area. No mention of the famed salad dressing, however, which is more my speed.
The entire 1000 Islands area is so rich with history that I’m sorry to have to skim past. I console myself with the fact that I’ll be back next month to explore further, maybe take in a boat cruise myself, when I head to a show in Gananoque.
The meandering along the Parkway puts our arrival into Prescott later than intended. We arrive too late for the Farmer’s Market in the parking lot near the Clock Tower, and somehow miss the Forwarders’ Museum, which is closed tight when I pull on the doors. Which frees up a little time to pop into the Salvation Army store on King Street. As a thrift store aficionado, I am disappointed but not unhappy with this development. In the shop, I witness the donation of a dollhouse and, not two minutes later, someone coming in asking if they have one for sale. I leave empty-handed but DTC finds a clean-lined carafe, made in West Germany, for a buck.
Standing prominently among the beautiful, well-preserved buildings of the downtown area, the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (SLSF) has a well-appointed storefront box office. Besides being able to reserve and pick up tickets, you can purchase SLSF t-shirts and other souvenirs, books about and plays from Shakespeare, puppets, and playbills. You can even get a peek at the costume designer’s inspired sketches for the season’s shows.
It’s a low-key afternoon on the main street in Prescott, although there is a little more activity along the attractive waterfront. Opened in 1989, the Sandra S. Lawn Harbour and Marina offers 148 slips (including free docking for the duration of the show!), a playground, picnic facilities and the amphitheatre. DTC and I take a stroll along the harbour. It’s quiet out on the river today, the water lazily lapping the rocks, nary a freighter in sight. The air is warm and fragrant with the smell of fish. A gang of roving seagulls follows DTC and his bag of peanuts, regularly raining little birdie expletives on him for not sharing.
We walk up to the Kinsmen Amphitheatre which will house Two Gentlemen of Verona later this evening. It is unguarded, save for a warning of security cameras; the stage empty but with a gold and pink Art Deco-inspired backdrop already in place. It’s an outstanding public performance space. We later learn that the city has very recently completed upgrades to the stonework and grass that comprise the seating, and to the landscaping; the latter thoughtfully designed with linden trees and plants inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. I imagine somewhere there must be a rose, by any other name, smelling as sweet.
As the afternoon winds down, DTC and I head over to The Red George Public House . We are seated on the sunken patio, looking out over the parking lot that looks out over the water that looks over to Ogdensburg, NY. It’s well-hidden from the main street, but worth seeking out as much for the atmosphere as for the story.
In 2007, a group of 50 enterprising locals banded together and raised the capital for the pub by selling 100 shares at $5,000 a pop. It was built in the basement of the Moran Hooker Trade Centre, a 1828 warehouse that was part of the Forwarding Trade of days past. The place looks like it’s original to the building, decorated in dark wood and brick walls and gleaming glassware. It’s a good place to pull up a barstool and get the latest gossip.
Ian Farthing, Artistic Director of the Festival and Director of this evening’s production, joins us as our desserts arrive, and tells us a bit more about the Red George. The private room around the back, the one adorned with photos of actors and past season’s posters, is the “unofficial Shakespeare” room and the traditional location of opening night festivities. The pub is extremely supportive of the SLSF, supplying free vouchers for fundraising events, and selling beverages pre- show and at intermission. In fact, it’s so closely tied to the Festival, if there’s a change of venue due to rain, the Red George gets a call so staff can direct the patrons. Tonight, however, it appears that DTC’s prediction is true: the skies have cleared and there isn’t a hint of rain on the horizon.
I ask Ian how a town this size (pop: 4284) can support a theatrical company, especially one that features Shakespeare. He quotes the common Prescott saying: “Summer doesn’t start until the actors get here.” The inhabitants are invested in the success of this festival. Its existence gives them a sense of pride, and they are proud to be a part of it, to the tune of 200 active volunteers, for example. And they support financially, too. A flip through the robust 2014 season program (44 pages!) reveals many ads from local businesses and a lengthy list of donors and sponsors.
The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival also works hard to reach back into the community, to make the theatre an accessible excursion for many. They have a generous ticketing policy which admits children 14 and under for free when accompanied by an adult. Ian says that it’s part of their mandate to make the Festival accessible “not only in terms of the artistic product, but also financially. It makes it a more affordable outing for a family to enjoy the experience, and introduce kids to theatre and Shakespeare in particular.”
And sometimes, it’s the kids who lead the parents. Ian tells us the story of a 4-year-old who plopped down near the beginning of an outdoor rehearsal for Macbeth and stayed for the duration. The Festival’s unofficial slogan is: “This ain’t your High School Shakespeare”. He reminds us that the plays “weren’t written to be read or studied. They were written to be experienced.” So the plays get trimmed, for clarity but also for incredibly practical reasons: “The mosquitoes descend at 9:20 on the dot so we need to be finished by then.” Ian is sure that Shakespeare, a pragmatic businessman, would have approved.
It’s when I return to the amphitheatre for the show that I truly begin to appreciate that sense of community investment. This place is alive and bustling, in a way that was a mere suggestion hours earlier. Audience members stock up on refreshments and souvenirs and rented lawn chairs. Volunteer Front of House staff greet us cheerily, take our tickets and hand over programs. The raffle ticket sellers roaming the aisles are happy and enthusiastic; I’m sold. For $5, I purchase a ticket to win a Big Green Egg. Fingers crossed.
Ian is already halfway through his nightly introduction by the time we arrive, but I do catch a few salient points. As hinted by the backdrop and costume designs, we learn that this production was inspired by The Great Gatsby. He shares a few interesting facts about Shakespeare and warns us that Crabbe the dog is a scene-stealer. Indeed. At intermission, Crabbe (as played by Ellie Mae Casselman, making her professional theatrical debut) has a small coterie of fans surrounding her.
The play begins in the most relaxed and welcoming way. Musicians and actors slowly wander onstage from all points surrounding us, lounge around or converse idly with the audience, then begin to warm up before belting out songs by George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and others popular in the Jazz Age. The costumes are neutral in tone: white and ecru and tan with strong black accents. There’s a flapper aesthetic to some women’s dresses and the men have straw hats and spats. It’s an evocative palette.
The Festival’s mandate of accessibility continues into the performance. The music was deliberately chosen for its familiarity. The audience taps its toes and drums fingers on thighs and hums along in places. Monologues are addressed to us. The actors move through the audience, occasionally sitting down for a spell. Launce and her little dog conscript some spectators at one point in the play. Even the Red George gets a shout out.
And the audience gives back as much as it’s given; they are invested. There are murmurs of delight when Crabbe makes her first entrance; giggles when she yips. Big laughs in all the right places, groans for the worst puns, and gasps of disbelief when one of our heroes turns traitorous.
Two Gentlemen of Verona is “a green play”, possibly even Shakespeare’s first, commonly considered to be one of his weakest. However, the thoughtful editing and deft direction by Ian help the show to zip along playfully. It’s also clear why Ian’s been asked, multiple times over the years, “Who wrote the modern adaptation?”. It’s the ultimate compliment; you know you’re connecting with your audience when they absorb the centuries-old words without a second thought.
The show is an utter delight, start to finish. The action whirls past, in one side, out the other, flowing effortlessly like the river behind. The musically talented cast play multiple instruments and weave songs throughout the scenes and in-between, everything in constant motion. Everyone has great fun with the material; it’s impossible to single out any performance for praise as all are incredibly strong. We leap to our feet at the end, clapping until the last cast member exits up the stairs and out the top of the amphitheatre.
It’s a perfect night. There’s a slight breeze off the river and the sinking sun stains the clouds pink and purple. I see an osprey wheeling through the air, the strains of Gershwin floating away in the dying light. As we begin the drive home (on the 401—it’s dark and it’s a long drive. I’m allowed.), humming Blue Skies and gushing about the show, I’m reminded of Ian’s more expressive extension of the Festival’s unofficial slogan: “It’s not puffy pants theatre.” He’s right. It’s really not. And Prescott likes it that way.
Upper Canada Playhouse – Morrisburg, ON
By Anne Heathcote
The eight kinds of pie, pre-sliced, pre-plated, and carefully arranged on long tables stretched along a paneled wall are what cement my love affair with Morrisburg.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A visit to Upper Canada Playhouse http://www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com/) is my first stop on a season-long plan to travel to a dozen of Ontario’s finest summer theatres, explore the sights, take in a show and then blog about it. My Designated Travel Companion (DTC) for this trip is an old friend and an avid theatre-goer and it’s she who suggests that A Bedfull of Foreigners would be a great way to launch my adventure. And she’s absolutely right.
Finding the balance between expediency (Hwy 401) and beauty, we turn off a half hour west of Morrisburg , and follow #2 along the water. Here, the St. Lawrence Seaway is a broad, beautiful expanse of water and an active shipping throughway allowing ocean freighters to access the furthest reaches of the Great Lakes. In 1958, ten villages along this stretch were flooded (http://www.ghosttownpix.com/lostvillages/index.html) in order to deepen the waterway to improve its hydro-generating capabilities and to accommodate the larger vessels. This strategy caused Morrisburg to lose its entire waterfront downtown. Some houses were relocated, and many businesses moved to a strip mall (Canada’s oldest) up on Hwy 2.
It’s here, in the Morrisburg Village Plaza, that we find Basket Case Café and Gallery. (http://www.basketcasecafeandgallery.ca/) We don’t see the café part immediately upon entering. Instead, there are glass cabinets with antiques and jewellery. Poke around the corner and we find Hanna, the owner, and Sandra, one of her volunteers, relaxed and chatting over coffee. They greet us amicably then seamlessly steer us over to the desserts under glass domes.
My DTC selects Aunt Ada’s Spice Cake with blueberries (no whipped cream)(“I’m a purist” she says), which comes from the baker’s family recipe from the 1920s. Sadly, they are out of apple whiskey cake, the most popular dessert item. No matter, my rhubarb strawberry cake with streusel topping and whipped cream (no purist, me) is the best thing I’ve eaten in forever. It turns out, Aunt Ada’s Spice Cake (no whipped cream) is so light and incredible, my travel companion gobbles it up before realizing she’s failed to share any with me as previously agreed. So I don’t share mine, either.
Hanna and her husband Carl have owned the café for the past seven years. She proudly explains that everything is made from scratch, that they serve fair trade organic coffee and over 70 kinds of tea. The club sandwich is their claim to fame, possibly the reason for an upcoming mention in Food & Drink Magazine. “We use only breast meat,” she beams, “even in our soups”. There is also a large section of the menu that caters to a celiac clientele.
Our conversation meanders like the paintings hung higgledy-piggledy, floor to ceiling. Much of the artwork is on consignment from local artists. Hanna says they don’t care if they make money, as long as the café keeps going. “We are having fun.” Business is brisk when the theatre is in season (April to December) with a noticeable decline in the off months. “If that theatre ever closed, we’d be done.” While the café enjoys visits from dedicated local regulars, it’s the visitors drawn by the theatre that make up the bulk of their traffic. She says this is the case for many of the businesses in the area.
I ask to be pointed to “essential Morrisburg” so I can grab a few photos and a sense of the place. “This is it.” says Carl, lean and towering over me. “People ask me where the centre of town is, and I tell them, ‘It’s wherever you and I are standing.'”
Nonetheless, I am directed to the waterfront to see a few of the older houses left standing along Lakeshore Drive, which once ran behind the main street before the demolition but which now faces directly onto the river. The road is lined with old trees and stately homes and it makes you want to slow down a little. It’s the water, however, that draws my travel companion and me.
At the bottom of Ottawa St., a golden retriever plays fetch in the water near the dock and I glimpse a freighter, slow and silent and moving at a surprisingly good clip across the water. A cerulean sky is populated with The Simpsons-style clouds, impossibly white and fluffy. The park has space to run and play and stretch out; it’s a good place to dip a toe and watch a fisherman cast a hopeful line.
We are on time to meet up with Donnie Bowes, the Artistic Director of Upper Canada Playhouse and director of tonight’s show. He is tall and gregarious and has kind eyes. I like him immediately.
Standing outside the theatre he has helmed the last 14 years, Donnie tells us about the murals painted on the front of the building. They were part of a tourism initiative several years ago and the ones here depict the downtown, before the flooding; they’ve become a tourist attraction themselves.
The Playhouse recently underwent $800,000 worth of upgrades and renovations, partially to appease new fire regulations but also to expand office space and reorganize the backstage area. Indeed, as Donnie shows us around, I marvel at how well laid out the entire place is, given that spaces at either end of the building were add-ons; it feels homogeneous. Most impressive is the fact that this was achieved without government funding. The theatre operates successfully via ticket sales (43,000 last summer season!) and a healthy sponsorship program. This year, 71 establishments have signed up to support them. Donnie tells me how gratifying it is to see so many businesses thrive when the company is in season and also “to see an arts organization acknowledged for not only enhancing a community’s quality of life but also having a significant impact on the local economy.”
In the theatre itself, a very wide, shallow stage takes up a third of the room. Seating – in 275 cushy new chairs, part of the extensive renovation – is broadly spaced but not deep, so everyone is close to the action, with excellent sightlines. The low ceiling did not allow for the rows of seats to be raked in a steep pitch, so some innovation and comprise were called for. It works beautifully; the theatre feels intimate and comfortable, like a living room.
We are running late so our host drives us over to the next stop.
Large salad bowls filled with cubed cheddar, two kinds of pickles, coleslaw, glasses of tomato juice, the aforementioned pie, dartboards hanging on walls, closed and silent, awaiting the end of the meal. We are at the actors’ table at the Royal Canadian Legion in Morrisburg. Upper Canada Playhouse puts on a Country Supper a couple times per run, and it’s an impressive spread. For $10 on top of the regular ticket price, members of the audience get to rub shoulders with members of the theatre company and are served a fine meal to boot. Tonight it’s roast turkey with mashed and stuffing and gravy and a bit of veg. Actors’ table gets to go first.
(Word to the wise: grab your pie before dinner if you have a preference. The pecan and the strawberry are first to go.)
My DTC and I sit with Donnie and several actors from the show: Alison Lawrence, Jamie Williams, Shaun Clarke and Marshall Button. All are longtime collaborators with Upper Canada Playhouse. They chat easily about their day: golf games and laundry and going for a run along the waterfront. Alison and I discover our dinner plates are Fiestaware by carefully lifting the laden dishes above our heads to check the mark, neither of us spilling a drop of gravy.
I try to not ask too many questions about work while they’re eating, but I do corner Marshall between dinner and dessert. He is best known across the country for the four installments of his successful one-man show Lucien. (http://www.lucien.nb.ca/index.php) He also served as Artistic Director of Upper Canada Playhouse for a good chunk of the early years of the company, back when shows were mounted in a permanent tent-like structure that had been raised for a different theatrical venture. It was he who moved the fledgling company into its current home on the main drag, a former toothbrush factory and, even earlier, an argyle sock factory. Legend has it that Marshall and other company members were still bolting seats to the floor just hours before the first audience rolled in. He delights to add that the scaffolding under the seating was rescued from the tent before demolition and then repurposed. As was the large expanse of canvas he uses to keep his driveway clean when mulch is delivered.
It’s a fine night so we decide to walk back to the theatre. Donnie points out that Ottawa St. in Morrisburg leads directly to Bank St. in Ottawa, a mere 50 minutes away. Upper Canada Playhouse, now in its 31st season, draws audiences mainly from 50 villages and small towns within a triangle defined by Ottawa, Cornwall and Brockville at its points.
The next show in the summer lineup is a world premiere of The Ladies Foursome (http://www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com/shows/the-ladies-foursome/) by Norm Foster, Canada’s most performed playwright (http://www.normfoster.com/). It’s a sequel to his popular comedy The Foursome but with new characters and storyline, and is expected to draw audiences from further afield. Donnie says that Norm is here for rehearsals with guest director Jesse Collins because the script is being tweaked during this first rehearsal for the show. It’s quite a coup.
We have a half hour to spare, so DTC and I head over to the Giant Tiger next door, which is apparently the best Giant Tiger in Canada, as exclaimed by Alison at dinner. Donnie told us how the theatre’s Front of House staff have been training the store’s customers for years, helping to hustle them in and stuff their parcels under the lobby seats just before curtain. In fact, he said, several businesses ask for the time the show comes down so they can add staff to handle the inundation of theatre patrons on their way home.
We leave enough time to stuff our parcels into my car before heading to the show.
The theatre is filled to capacity. In the pre-show dimmed lighting, the set, designed and lit by Sean Free, is revealed as a two bedroom hotel suite, with a partial wall dividing the sleeping areas. Tired furnishings, faded upholstery, and just enough mildew creeping up the walls suggest a hotel long past its prime. There are enough doors and windows onstage to intrigue a farce lover like me.
A Bedfull of Foreigners (http://www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com/shows/a-bedfull-of-foreigners/) by Dave Freeman can be most accurately described as a gleeful, madcap romp. In the story, Brits Brenda and Stanley find themselves in the last available room in a French hotel during the Festival of St. Wolfgang. An overwhelmed hotel manager and his shifty handyman accidentally double-book the room. Add in a pompous businessman, his wife, and his mistress, and what follows is textbook bedroom farce: misunderstandings pile one atop another, leading to mounting lies and deceptions, whipstitch entrances and exits, all framed by a rapid-fire line delivery from the superbly talented cast. It’s shameless fun, served up at a gallop that leaves you breathless. Wet trousers, a pink climbing rope and a nun’s costume all figure into the action. Actually, so does a monk’s robe, worn by several actors. Also, a naked lady.
Under Donnie Bowes’ sure hand, the play moves along smoothly at a brisk clip. Every comedic possibility is mined, every transition seamless, and the actors seem to be enjoying themselves, especially crowd favourite Marshall Button.
The audience responds with big open-mouthed laughs then stifled giggles so as to not miss a word of dialogue. A woman a few rows over keeps apologizing for guffawing so loudly. It’s that kind of a show. The evening ends with a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd.
The next show, the world premiere of Norm Foster’s The Ladies Foursome, opens July 3rd.
Anne Heathcote, a writer, inveterate roadtripper and theatre lover, is counting her blessings in Prince Edward County.
Seven wonders of the world- what about the 10 Amazing Places of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere?
This summer, visitors and residents in the FAB region (an area approximately 5,000 sq.km. from Prescott to Kingston, Gananoque to Perth) are encouraged to make this their most Amazing summer yet. Following a community nomination process of over 70 locations across the region, 10 sites have been selected to become Amazing Places that will be showcased online this summer at visitamazingplaces.ca
Every Friday, starting on July 4 and ending Aug 29, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere will release interesting information and photos on their website and social media about a specific Amazing Places site. This schedule delivers 10 weeks of suggested experiences for you, your friends and your family to discover in the area.
Why visit these Amazing Places? Each of these locations has an interesting story to tell about either an ecological, geological, historical or cultural feature. The landscape of the Frontenac Arch makes it one of the greatest crossroads of the continent, and this can be experienced first hand while looking out from some of the high points at Amazing Places like Landon Bay, Jones Falls, Spy Rock, Blue Mountain and the Mink Lake Lookout. Likewise, water features like the St. Lawrence and Rideau Canal have shaped the culture of this region for thousands of years. Visiting Amazing Places like Gordon Island, Fort Henry, Half Moon Bay, Mica Trail and the Old Stone Mill will take you back to the industries at the early stages of this fabulous region.
Challenge yourself to get out and visit as many of the Amazing Places as possible. Each online profile will have driving directions and access information, trail maps and printable interpretive content that explains why that site is so Amazing. You can download an Amazing Places checklist online, and pick up a free Amazing Places postcard at partnering locations. The online profiles will also include submitted stories and photos from the community. If you have something to share about your trip to an Amazing Place, send it to email@example.com and it will be posted on the website.
If you are travelling across Ontario this summer, take a few minutes to explore the Amazing Places at two other UNESO biosphere reserves in Long Point and Georgian Bay. Amazing Places is a UNESO biosphere reserve project that started in New Brunswick at the Fundy Biosphere Reserve and is slowly spreading west. The project provides opportunities to connect people with nature in a fun, interactive, and sometimes an emotional way. Amazing Places encourage people to get outdoors and develop an appreciation for the priceless landscapes and cultures that portray the character of the region.
Whether you are new to the area, or have lived here all your life, make this summer truly Amazing by visiting the local gems that make this region fabulous.
10 Amazing Places in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere
Check the website on these release dates to learn all about why you should visit these Amazing Places.
July 1. Landon Bay: granite-lined fiord, cliff-top Islands to Adirondack views, nature camp, fabulous trails, rich wildlife, inspiration for the soul
July 4. Jones Falls Locks: then, engineering a wilderness with locks, dams and water flow for a nation’s security; now, a world-class history experience
July 11. Spy Rock: experience a cliff-face countryside view where billion year-old granite just beyond your toes fell away when a meteor slammed to Earth
July 18. Blue Mountain: 360 deg. views of lakes, forests, rock ridges from Charleston Lake to the Adirondack Mountains, a hike that’s inspiration itself
July 25. Gordon Island: tranquil nature, unique geology, a 9,000 year history – a legacy of explorers of old, and all experiencing the great river today
Aug 1. Mink Lake Lookout: stand on rocks once buried 20km under massive mountains, look out upon the wildest and quietest place in FAB
Aug 8. Fort Henry: from the ramparts, a commanding view from a defense so well engineered it anchored a young nation, and alive to experience today
Aug 15. Half Moon Bay: glaciers carved a tranquil cathedral where boats are church pews, and the highest of cathedral ceilings from enduring granite
Aug 22. Mica Trail: Follow the trail where once 100 feet underfoot miners sought the fireproof leaf-like mica mineral for woodstove windows of yesterday
Aug 29. Old Stone Mill, Delta: once, the center of a new-settled hamlet, vital flour from farms all ‘round; alive again, 200 years of community pride
Prince Edward County’s sweetest festival, Maple in the County, is back this month for three days of tasting and learning about that quintessential Canadian ingredient: maple syrup. Sugar bushes all across the county will be open for tours, demonstrations, meals, and of course indulging in lots of liquid gold. But it’s not just about the maple syrup. All weekend long, there’ll be plays; activities for kids, including an ice slide and craft centre; winery tours; and a “Sugar Shack Shindig” (more on that later). It’s plenty to take in on one weekend, so read on for a few tips on how to make the most of the sugar fest.
Before you even hit the road or the sidewalk, take a look at the online schedule and figure out what you want to do. Most visits to a sugar bush will likely last about an hour, depending on whether you stay for breakfast or lunch. The good thing about eating at the sugar bush is that it’ll save more time for the other stuff, like a stop by the Maple Artisan Market in Picton or a maple-inspired dinner at a winery.
You’ll be outside for most of the festival, so wear a few layers that you can take on and off easily. If you’re heading to a sugar bush and plan on touring the grounds, pack some boots. Snow pants are a good idea for kids wanting to fly down the ice slide, and don’t forget your blades for free indoor skating on Sunday at the Picton Arena (1pm-3:30pm).
While you’re here, take some time to get to know the county up close and personal. A few of the events happening at Maple in the County can be your guide. Learn about the county’s storied past at the 95-year-old Regent Theatre, for example, where you can take in a kids concert at this year’s festival. Or visit the most charming village in the county during Bloomfield’s Maple-licious, an afternoon of maple treats, music and more at the town hall.
Check out the industry that is revolutionizing Prince Edward County at one—or all—of the five wineries participating in Maple in the County. Try a few wines with a few pairings like maple canapes (Sandbanks) or crostini with chorizo (Keint-he), or take a maple product home from Rosehall Run Vineyard’s grocer. The Grange will have live music as will Huff Estates, which will also host “God of Carnage,” the Tony- Award-winning play presented by Prince Edward County Community Theatre.
Back by popular demand, the Sugar Shack Shindig at Jackson’s Falls Country Inn in Milford combines all things Maple in the County: good food, good people, good fun and, of course, great maple syrup. Jen Ackerman of Milford’s Live, Laugh, Eat will prepare a maple-themed feast that includes a pig roast before foot-stompin’ country rockers Whoa Nellie take the stage (Saturday, 5pm-10:30pm, $20, tickets: jacksonfalls.com). Whoa Nellie will be back on Sunday for the Sugar Shack brunch, which features flapjacks with all the trimmings, a bonfire and make-your-own snow maple candy (Sunday, 11am-3pm, $15, tickets: jacksonfalls.com).
Whether you want to hit up the Sugar Shack Shindig and brunch, you had a few too many wines or you just want to get your maple on all weekend long, stay over at one of the county’s B&B’s, Inns or other accommodation options. A few are offering special packages, such as Bells and Whistles Family Inn outside of Picton and Twin Birch Suites-B&B-Cottages. Visit prince-edward-county.com for more info.
Stop by mapleinthecounty.ca for all of the festival details.
If you’re visiting Belleville, Ontario, you may want to park the car and bring your bike and some good walking shoes so you can enjoy the Bay of Quinte’s beautiful waterfront pathways and parklands.
We traveled from Ottawa, Ontario and stayed at the waterfront Travelodge at 11 Bay Bridge Road for a few days of shows at the historic Empire Theatre, restaurants, and cycling the waterfront trails in Belleville.
Zwick’s Park Trails are right next door to the hotel. They are excellent for cycling, walking, and jogging. The hotel and the waterfront trails are dog friendly too.
The trail rewards with lots of lookouts, park benches, picnic tables, and beautiful pavilions, giving you a choice of places to stop, relax, enjoy the views, picnic, or grab shelter from the sun or rain.
Zwick’s Park Lions Pavilion is located on the west side of Zwick’s Park. It’s a beautiful waterfront venue! It has an open-air design and sound system for outdoor concerts and other events. A large stage is located at the north end of the building which has ample space for seating and dancing. The Pavilion gives you a break from the hot summer sun, and lets the show go on even if it rains.
If you want more waterfront pathway to cycle or walk, you’re in luck in Belleville.
There are two more trails nearby you can catch: The Bayshore Trails (2.5 kilometres of pathway) at Jane Forrester Park further east at 1 South Front Street, next to Meyer’s Pier Marina, or the Moira Riverfront Trail northeast of Zwick’s Park.
To help guide you along the way, you’ll see Waterfront Trail signs and maps as these well-developed pathways are part of a much larger network of trails and cycling routes.
Ontario’s Waterfront Trail stretches some 900 km from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border. It follows the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, so you can choose the sections of path that suit you best for day cycles or multi-day bicycle touring.
The Waterfront Trail varies from city to city. Thirty percent of the Trail is off-road dedicated path and 70% follows residential streets or shoulders of major roads.
In Belleville, we were happy to hop from trail to trail. From the Zwick’s Park Trail loop we cut over to Mary Street and headed up to Dundas Street, making a right towards Front Street near Victoria Park to catch the 4.4 kilometre long Moira Riverfront Trail. It was lunch time, and this is where you’ll find restaurants and shops in the downtown section of the route.
Belleville, Ontario is a small waterfront city on Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte with a population of about 50,000. The Moira River runs through the heart of town. Belleville offers modern amenities, historic charm, lots of waterfront parks, events, a wide choice of lodging and restaurants, and a year-round Farmer’s Market.
Belleville is easily accessible from Hwy 401 and only a few hours drive from:
And, of course, you can get there by boat! Meyer’s Pier Marina is operated by the City of Belleville. Dockage by day/month/season, transient slips, water and power available, washrooms, showers, pump out, gas diesel, laundry, chandlery and sail repair nearby.
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