As we roll into March, there is a resounding sigh of relief in South Eastern Ontario as yet another winter ends up in our collective rear-view. The vanishing snow reveals the once buried grass, and soon enough, the iconic images of shamrocks and other green things mark the approach of Saint Patrick’s Day. [Read more…]
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.
Prince Edward County
Sybil Frank Gallery
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.
Arts on Main Gallery
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.
Mad Dog Gallery
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.
Bay of Quinte
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.
Land O Lakes
Zynergy Gallery & Shop
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 and Projects
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.
Stone Mills Township
The Piggery Gallery
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
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.
Tett Center for Creativity and Learning
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.
Agnes Etherington Art Centre – Queen’s University
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
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.
Brockville Arts Center
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.
From Here to Infinity
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.
Rideau Heritage Route
Gray Art Glass
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
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.
Cornwall & the Counties
Priests Mill Glassworks
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!
The Glass Blowing Place
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.”
Vivid Visual Escapes in Southeastern Ontario
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!
It goes without saying that 2016 has been a particularly unique year.
Here in Southeastern Ontario, this past year has been particularly exciting for travellers and locals alike. Spanning from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties, 2016 has been a year brimming with fun-filled activities, wonderful special events, delicious culinary experiences, and great music festivals.
In the short time since I first joined in on the journey, we’ve traveled to some fascinating places together. We’ve gone off the beaten path and visited a remarkable variety of destinations hidden in plain sight. We bravely explored The Great Waterway’s paranormal history – and even stepped through time to rediscover this region’s rich and living heritage.
As we rapidly approach the New Year, it’s the perfect time to take a look back and reflect on 2016’s outstanding events and happenings. Without further delay, here is a collection of some of our favourite moments from 2016.
BAY OF QUINTE
Return of the Quinte International Airshow
June 25-26th 2016 saw the triumphant return of this epic aviation event after a long, seven-year hiatus. Roughly 75,000 spectators gathered at CFB Trenton to marvel at aerobatic performances by the Snowbirds, the ever popular CF-18 demo, and a variety of other gorgeous aircraft from both the Royal Canadian and United States’ Air Forces.
If you’ve never experienced the thrill and adrenaline rush of an air-show, fear not! The 2016 Quinte International Air Show was so successful that it has been confirmed to be a biennial event, coming back in 2018!
Trenton Scottish Irish Festival
The Trenton Scottish-Irish Festival is always a fun event for the whole family. September 2016 marked a bigger than ever celebration of the Bay of Quinte’s Celtic ancestry with a variety of traditional music, highland games, and authentic heritage foods.
The 2016 festival’s most unforgettable moment perhaps, was a fantastic performance by Alan Doyle, best known for his vocals in the popular Canadian Celtic band: Great Big Sea!
Savour: Bay of Quinte Food and Drink Festival
Savour was an especially tasty event held in October at Trenton’s Knights of Columbus Hall. It brought together a spectacular collection of local wineries, brewers and culinary masters from the surrounding area, resulting in a casual and uniquely local celebration of music, food, and beverages, as well as beautiful exhibits of fine art.
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
20th Anniversary of the Prince Edward County Authors Festival
April 2016 was a rather momentous occasion for the Prince Edward County Authors Festival as attendees helped celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. This literary festival began as a “small idea in 1996″, first originating in Milford Ontario.
Two decades later, the PEC Authors Festival has grown into a four-day extravaganza featuring poetry readings, kids story sessions, and in-depth conversations with Canadian literary icons including Linwood Barclay and Nino Ricci, and more!
Stay tuned to their website for details about next year!
Countylicious is a bi-annual celebration of Prince Edward County’s unique culinary creativity and talent. During the 2016 celebration, chefs from participating restaurants carefully crafted County inspired three-course meals that came at incredible ‘prixe-fixe’ rates.
Great Waterway blogger: Jordan Whitehouse took us behind the menus of Countylicious and sat down with three of the participating chefs to get an insider’s look into this famous (and delicious) event.
Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area
The cosmic events viewable from the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area top the list of The Great Waterway’s far from ordinary activities. This ideal destination for astronomy enthusiasts and stargazers alike offers some of the best views of our night’s sky.
Professional astronomers have described the Dark Sky Viewing Area as the most southerly point in Ontario, presenting a “perfect” and undisturbed opportunity to observe some amazing interstellar sights including the Northern Lights, the Perseid meteor showers, constellations and so much more.
For directions and more information check out the L&A Dark Sky Facebook Page.
Subterranean Adventures at the Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves
While many of our stories take place among scenic driving routes, picturesque national parks, and other fantastic attractions – one destination, in particular, showcases a wondrous world of discovery directly underground. Back in June, The Great Waterway’s adventure blogger: Jenn Pinarski took her family to the Hell Holes and gave us a first-hand glimpse into this fascinating underworld.
The Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves near Napanee boasts a huge choice of geological attractions including walking trails, a mini-like rainforest environment, and some seriously cool caves ripe for spelunking.
Seed to Sausage’s 5th Annual Day of the Pig
For the fifth year in a row, Seed to Sausage has hosted the ‘Day of the Pig” food festival in Tichborne Ontario. The festival boasts an eclectic gathering of chefs, craft brewers, wineries and other artisan food producers from Southeastern Ontario and beyond.
In May 2016 visitors flocked to the Land O Lakes region to indulge their taste buds with a menagerie of mouthwatering local fare. Day of the Pig has been growing each year in popularity and is sure to make a return in 2017. Stay tuned to Seed to Sausage’s Facebook for details.
The Tragically Hip Celebration in Springer Market Square
August 20th, 2016 was the day that Kingston became our nation’s capital once more. The Limestone City was the final stop for The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem Tour, and perhaps the band’s last show.
Over 25,000 fans flocked to Kingston from all over Canada to pay homage to Gord Downie and collectively celebrate an iconic group of Canadian musicians in their very own hometown. We were on hand to attend the celebration in Springer Market Square, where we spoke with fans and stood witness to a momentous occasion fit for the history books.
Re-opening of Kingston Pen Tours
For nearly a century and a half, Kingston Penitentiary has stood as an infamous and formidable structure looming over Portsmouth Village with an ominous air of history, and intrigue. Some of Canada’s most notorious criminals have been incarcerated here over the years, and some have even escaped from this massive limestone prison.
In June, Jenn Pinarski bravely took us beyond the North Gate, and into Kingston Pen’s labyrinthian cell blocks and it’s deepest dungeons on an incredible exploration of this iconic destination.
Kingston Pen Tours will be returning from May to October 2017, so be sure to stay tuned for ticket info!
Lumina Borealis surprised us all in a good way and took the region by storm after launching on December 1st, 2016. This mystical adventure of mythic proportions has transformed Fort Henry National Historic site into something out of a storybook.
Our very own Jenn Pinarski wrote an excellent article about her magical experience at Lumina Borealis and how this event offers a unique and creative winter attraction for the entire family.
The best news is that Lumina will continue until February 4th, 2017 so there is still time to score tickets and experience it for yourself. This winter, make the trip to Kingston and unleash your imagination in the frozen fantasy realm of Lumina Borealis!
The Launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park
I can remember being a kid, watching Return of the Jedi for the five hundredth time, and wishing I could run around in a real life Ewok tree village. Thanks to the 2016 launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park that childhood fantasy has pretty much, become a reality.
This fantastic outdoor attraction is Ontario’s largest zip lining and canopy adventure park featuring a tree-top village for the kids in addition to a selection of courses that meet a variety of skill levels.
The park is closed for the winter, but this article on our blog should give you a good idea of what to expect when Skywood re-opens this spring!
Gananoque Nickel Cup Hydroplane Regatta
Hydroplane racing has been a popular event in the 1000 Islands region since the 1940’s. Back then, the event was made possible through the sponsorship of Gananoque native: Frank LaQue, the Vice President of the International Nickel Company.
To this day, the Gananoque Nickel Cup still draws thousands of spectators to watch these fascinating speed boats reach pulse-pounding speeds more than 200 miles per hour and revel in the rumble and roar of the engines.
BROCKVILLE & 1000 ISLANDS
Brockville Tall Ships Festival
On September 16-18th 2016 Brockville’s waterfront was graced once more with the elegant majesty of the Tall Ships Festival. For three exciting days, an estimated 40,000 or more visitors amassed along Brockville’s scenic waterfront to view a venerable fleet of ships representing several eras of maritime heritage.
Like silent, graceful gods of the sea, these beautiful ships sailed through the St. Lawrence and perhaps time itself; as they paraded before a massive crowd. Visitors were also able to step aboard some of the ships, meet the crews and come face to face with history.
The Brockville Aquatarium Officially Launches
The long-awaited grand opening of the Brockville Aquatarium was held on May 6th, 2016, after over half a decade in development. This interactive marine centre presents visitors with a fun and experiential way to learn about the St. Lawrence River’s history and ecology.
The Aquatarium is a 25.5 million dollar labour of love that is open year round to visitors. There are so many fun activities to choose from, that you could easily spend an entire day at this amazing attraction. Luckily, we have you covered with this handy guide.
New Craft Brewery and Craft Distillery lift spirits in Johnstown
In tandem with the 178th anniversary of the famed Battle of the Windmill, the Windmill Brewery opened it’s doors in Johnstown on November 12, 2016. This new, up and coming Ontario craft brewer is located only steps away from the historic site for which it is named. Their crisp, golden Czech style pilsner uses local ingredients and is a must try for any who enjoy a cold pint.
Right next door to the brewery is yet another new, and welcome addition to Ontario’s roster of craft beverage producers: King’s Lock Craft Distillery. King’s Lock opened their doors in June 2016 with a debut selection of handcrafted spirits using local, organic ingredients and sustainable practices.
RIDEAU HERITAGE ROUTE
The Ongoing Rejuvenation of The Opinicon Dining & Resort
At the end of the 2012 season, the famous and legendary Opinicon Resort had to close its doors due to several overlapping economic factors at the time. For a while, it was uncertain as to what would become of this cherished summer escape.
In September 2015, the Opinicon made international headlines when it was confirmed that the resort would once again reopen. Ever since the reopening the beloved Ontario destination has been undergoing renovations with each passing moment. The exciting journey of the Opinicon’s is lovingly chronicled on their Facebook page by the current owner, with regular video blogs.
As recently as November 2016, the Opinicon’s comeback story was presented to the Canadian Senate. The Opinicon’s return has been hailed as an economic boon for the Rideau Lakes community and tourism sector.
After a successful launch in 2015, Rideau Tours has expanded their 2016 offering from what was only a few custom tours and bike rentals to a great selection of “signature experiences.” The new roster of activities includes kayaking, cycling adventures and even boat trips.
What’s more, Rideau Tours has also added fun packages like gourmet picnics for the family, in addition to a steadily growing list of features. The picnics include delicious foods sourced from local sources and offer an excellent way to relax and enjoy a picnic while exploring the magnificent Rideau Canal.
200th Year Anniversary of the Settler’s Trek
Two hundred years ago, some of the first settlers of Upper Canada embarked on a perilous 100-kilometer journey from what is now Brockville to Perth. They were promised land and a fresh start in a new world, but it did not come to them with any level of ease.
Today, this historical trek is commemorated by a dedicated group of community organizers at the Settler’s Trek; who just celebrated the event’s bicentennial journey in 2016. By today’s standards, a 100 km drive doesn’t sound like much. But in 1816 it was a grueling six-day journey where survival was not guaranteed.
If you’re up to the task and want to literally walk in the steps a 19th-century settler, day trekkers can register and join in on the journey for a small fee. Emergency medical assistance is available throughout the trek, but luckily your chances of contracting scurvy will be slim and nil in 2017.
CORNWALL & THE COUNTIES
Glengarry Highland Games
Whether ye have some Scottish in ye or nae – The Glengarry Highland Games are the grandest spectacle of traditional games, music and cultural entertainment this side of Edinburgh. The inaugural games were held in 1948 by a group of businessmen who wished to preserve Scottish traditions and heritage while inspiring younger generations to carry on these ancient and cherished customs.
2016 was the 69th anniversary of the Glengarry Highland Games, which drew thousands of visitors to Maxville to witness or even take part the games. The 2017 event will be held on Aug 4, 2017 – Aug 5, 2017, and will surely draw visitors from far and wide to help celebrate the games’ platinum jubilee.
Cornwall’s Summer Beer Fest
The Cornwall Summer Beer Fest is an interactive wine and beer tasting festival which draws its roots from the Seaway Food Festival. Visitors can sample a range of tasty beverages and foods, as well as meet the talented people who make them.
The 2016 festival added some great new features including educational workshops that allowed attendees to learn about food pairings, beer making, and other fascinating topics. The 2017 dates are still to be announced so stay tuned to the festival’s website for details!
Apples and Art: 25 years of Celebrating the Arts
For the 25th consecutive year, the Apples and Art Studio Tour took place in Stormont, Glengarry, and Dundas. This last event featured over 60 artists showcasing their creations in 26 locations throughout Cornwall and the Counties.
The 25th annual tour was the biggest yet, with more artists and locations along the route than ever before. Visitors were treated to a diverse range of mediums including paint, sculpture, ink, wood, glass and more. In addition to the variety of creations guests also had an opportunity to meet the artists and chat with the creative minds behind the artwork.
Happy New Year!
With the passing of each New Year, there comes not an ending, but a bounty of new beginnings. 2016 was most certainly an excellent year for Southeastern Ontario – filled with fun activities, delicious foods, stunning artwork, and jubilant celebrations shared from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties.
These unforgettable moments would not be possible without such a fantastic network of communities. Everywhere you go throughout this stunning region; you encounter an amazing culmination of people who continuously make Southeastern Ontario both a premier travel destination and a place I am very proud to call home.
What are your fondest memories of 2016? Let us know on our Facebook page, hit the comments below – or share your pictures with us on Twitter or Instagram! Don’t forget to use the hashtag: #GreatWaterway!
Start Planning Your 2017 Trip
I love everything about winter in southeastern Ontario. I celebrate each snowfall, look for new trails to ski and snowshoe on and do all I can to spend as much time as possible in The Great Waterway region. But for people who would rather hibernate, the months between December and February can be long and colourless. However, Kingston’s newest winter attraction, Lumina Borealis, will bring even the most reluctant adventurer into the outdoors to embrace the season.
Lumina Borealis has been somewhat of a mystery: the event was a carefully guarded secret two years in the making, teased out to the public with stunning Instagram photos, Facebook posts and tweets. Billed as a multimedia and immersive outdoor winter attraction, those close to the project would only tell me I needed to experience it for myself to understand Lumina Borealis – which I did in early December with my two young children (ages six and nine) and husband. And while I won’t reveal all of the secrets of Lumina Borealis, I can assure you that it lives up to all of the hype – and offer tips to make the most of your visit.
I was invited my my friends at @LuminaBorealis to experience their new winter attraction first hand. In a season that has everyone rushing, #luminaborealis encourages you to slow down. Best experienced with friends, family, warm mitts and curiosity. #greatwaterway #winter #winterwonderland #freshmadedaily #kingston #loveygk #ygk #discoverontario #discoverON #familytravel #travelON
Remember what it’s like to be a kid again
No one loves winter more than a young child, and their natural curiosity is at home at Lumina Borealis. Watching my kids interact with each element of Lumina reminded me to always ask questions about what I’m seeing – there’s often a hidden story waiting to be told.
Walk slowly through the Sleeping Woods
Just like in nature, woodland creatures can be shy. Walk slowly through the Sleeping Woods, where fresh evergreen trees greet you with their bracing fragrance and twinkling lights. Stay long enough and you can watch the wildlife wake up from their winter slumber. This was a highlight for my children.
Cozy up to the warming hearths at the Storyteller’s Flame
This was our family’s favourite part of Lumina Borealis. Not only were there deliciously warm fit pit (continually stoked by Fort Henry staff) but there are truly secrets here to be revealed. Fort Henry staff gave us a few clues on how to unlock the secrets here, but I encourage you to take a few moments by the fire to discover them for yourself.
Sing like no one is listening
Make new friends at the Frozzinator
Where does winter really come from? The Frozzinator, of course! The magic of Lumina is displayed here in a whimsical and interactive game that invites you to toss golden globes to make up a cheery tune. Step up to the mic again to sing your favourite carols. Seeing adults and children laughing together as winter creeps closer on this frozen finale is the heart of Lumina Borealis and not to be missed (this is also where warm gloves come in handy!)
Lumina Borealis: Know before you go
Where: Fort Henry National Historic Site, Kingston, Ontario
When: Thursday to Sunday, Dec. 1, 2016 to Jan. 11, 2017, 5 to 11 p.m.
Fridays & Saturdays, Jan. 12 to Feb. 4, 2017, 5:30 to 10:00pm.
Thursdays & Sundays, Jan. 12 to Feb. 4, 2017, 5:30 to 9:00pm.
Cost: Adults – $12, Children 6-12 – $10, Children 5 and under – free. Buy tickets
What to wear: warm winter gear (mittens or gloves, hat, boots, coat). Hand warmers to stash in your pockets would keep tiny fingers warm. The terrain can be uneven, wear sturdy boots to navigate the snow.
Bathrooms: at the beginning and end of the tour
How to get there: Free parking is available at Fort Henry (1 Fort Henry Dr.) but you can also take the free shuttle that leaves from the Visitor Information Centre across from Kingston City Hall.
That magical time is just around the corner. Everywhere you look colourful lights are being strung from houses, and beautiful emerald trees are being decorated. The familiar tune of festive songs fill the air, and before you know it, the holiday season is upon us.
Here in the Great Waterway, the celebration is a pretty big deal. From the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties this entire region offers an assortment of prime destinations for those looking to get into the holiday spirit.
Without further delay, here is a collection of merry festivals, events, and other fun-filled activities that are sure to help get even the grouchiest of Scrooge into the spirit of the season.
Prince Edward County
Wassail is a tribute to an ancient tradition that commemorates the harvest and winter’s approach. It stems from the ancient phrases: “wæs hæil” (Middle English) and “ves heill” (Old Norse) both meaning: “Be in (good) health!”
The celebration involved “merrymakers” who would travel from house to house singing songs of joy, sharing in feasts, and raising a glass of delicious mulled cider or wine. Today, Wassail is wonderfully observed throughout The County by similar traditions including the ceremonial burying of grapevines to protect them from the approaching winter.
Prince Edward County Winery Tours
Visitors can take the self-guided route or join bus tours and experience a culmination of the cultural and agricultural elements that make The County’s Wassail celebrations so fantastic.
More information about tickets and participating locations can be found on the Prince Edward County Wine Growers Association’s website.
November 19 & 20, 26 & 27, December 3 & 4 2016.
Sandbanks Estate Winery Wassail & Wreath-Making
Join in the celebration the harvest as the vines are buried in preparation for winter. Enjoy late harvest mulled wine with delicious treats.
Guided tours are available as well as interactive wreath making workshops using harvested grapevines. Details are available on the Prince Edward County website.
November 19, 20 and 26, 27 December 3, 4, 2016
Wreath making: 11AM-3PM
Vineyard tour walk about: 10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m. Saturdays.
Macaulay House (Candlelight Wassail)
The halls of Picton’s Macaulay House are decked in the fashion of an 1850’s Christmas. Sample savoury heritage recipes, entertainment in the parlour and more!
You can also get your hands on some delicious plum pudding and other items in the gift shop. This heritage twist on the holidays is not one to miss!
Full details are available at the Prince Edward County Website.
November 19, 26, and December 3, 2016
Candlelight Tours from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Ameliasburgh Heritage Village
Bundle up and prepare for an afternoon of holiday cheer throughout the beautiful village of Ameliasburgh.
Take horse-drawn wagon rides that stop at various locations including the Town Hall, Library, a Masonic Lodge, the schoolhouse, and more!
Enjoy refreshments, crafting workshops for the kids, irresistible bake sales, and other festive themed events.
For details visit the Ameliasburgh Event Calendar.
December 4, 2016, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Picton Santa Claus Parade
In addition to the seasonal festivities of The County; there is, of course, the annual Picton Santa Claus Parade. Enjoy the music of the marching bands and enjoy the shops restaurants and cafes of Main Street with family and friends alike.
Details of the event are available right here on The Great Waterway.
November 27, 2016
The parade begins at 2:00 p.m. ending with the arrival of Santa.
Bay of Quinte
As the holiday season approaches, the Bay of Quinte transforms into a brightly lit winter wonderland. Several public parks and spaces are lovingly decorated with gorgeous lighting displays.
These vivid and vibrant displays of lights stem from a legendary local history and offer visitors some of the region’s most breathtaking evening walks alongside fantastic options for holiday shopping and dining.
Jane Forrester Park – Belleville
The annual displays of Jane Forrester Park draw thousands of people each year as the park is brought to life by way of brilliant lights and festive ambiance.
There are free coach buses on hand courtesy of Franklin Tours. They will pick up visitors and residents from locations throughout Belleville and shuttle them to and from the event.
This magical lighting ceremony is Belleville’s official Christmas kick-off and can be enjoyed from the first Friday after Remembrance Day until January.
More information is available on Belleville’s website.
Frankford Christmas Fantasy of Lights – Trenton
This event offers visitors a double feature which combines the 27th annual Frankford Santa Claus parade and the Fantasy of Lights.
Enjoy a classic parade featuring Santa himself. Find elaborate floats and fun for the whole family starting at 2 p.m. Later on the Fantasy of Lights kicks off with entertainment by local musician Dave Charron. Follow that up with fireworks and more!
The Fantasy of Lights display will continue until January 2nd, 2017. More info is available on the Bay of Quinte website.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Frankford Santa Claus Parade at 2:00 p.m.
Lighting Celebration at 5:00 p.m.
The Doug Whitney Fantasy of Lights – Trenton
Doug Whitney was a dedicated Trenton City Councillor who served five terms and was well known and loved throughout the community.
To commemorate his service to the community and those whose lives were touched by Mr. Whitney, the Fantasy of Lights event at Fraser Park has been dedicated to his memory.
Tour magical waterfront light displays while listening to classic holiday tunes, enjoy hot chocolate and other tasty treats. Event details are available on the Quinte West website.
November 26, 2016, to January 2, 2017
Hot dogs and hot chocolate starting at 3:30 p.m.
Land O Lakes
The Land O Lakes region is well known for its summer activities. As winter approaches, however, it transforms into a snowy landscape filled with a variety fun activities. The holiday celebrations and the welcoming of the coming New Year are felt throughout the area – and everyone’s invited.
Downtown Napanee Big Bright Light Show
Napanee’s Big Bright Light Show is most certainly something to see. Once the lighting ceremony and block party kick off, this historic downtown strip transforms into Holiday Central.
Browse the shops under the glow of elegant lighting and window displays, and enjoy some scrumptious holiday munchables.
Lighting Ceremony and Block Party
November 25, 2016, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Lights are on each and every night,
from November 25, 2016, to January 31, 2017
9th Annual Downtown Napanee Annual Shopping Party
December 16, 2016 from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Parade of Lights – Napanee
Santa is coming to Greater Napanee on Saturday, December 3rd for the Greater Napanee Parade of Lights!!
Join in the fun as hundreds line the streets and celebrate the holidays with over 70 decorative floats, music, and good old-fashioned fun!
Details are available at the Greater Napanee website.
December 3, 2016, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Lennox & Addington County Archives: A Christmas Tree
Enjoy an evening of holiday cheer, music and goodies as the L&A County Archives hosts the third annual “A Christmas Tree” event.
Bring the kids, and watch their reactions when they get to meet “Father Christmas” himself and some of his reindeer in the courtyard. Full details are available over at GreaterNapanee.com.
I would like to add at this point, that Santa has to got to be the best multi-tasker in the known universe.
December 13, 2016, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Tamworth Village Craft Show
Together, the Tamworth Library and Tamworth Hotel host the Village Craft Show. These fantastic events are perfect for finding unique handmade gifts and stocking stuffers made by local makers.
Remember to bring some non-perishable food items for the Lion’s Club food hamper! Details available at Tamworth.ca.
December 4, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Royal Canadian Legion #458 Santa Claus Parade
Continuing with his planet-wide travels, Santa always swings by Tamworth for a party with his friends at the Royal Canadian Legion.
Check out some locally made crafts, enjoy some refreshments after the parade, and have your kids bring their letters for the big man himself.
This is also another opportunity to contribute non-perishable food items to Lions Club Christmas Hamper. Full details can be found at Tamworth.ca.
Santa Claus Parade starts at 1:00 p.m. December 4, 2016.
This may sound biased since I am a certified and unapologetic Kingstonian, but the Limestone City and surrounding area(s) have everything required to get you amped up for Advent.
In addition to historically themed window shopping, ice-skating in Springer Market Square or the variety of delicious dining options; there are several holiday-themed events that I’m sure Yule fall in love with.
Snow Much Fun
This is a relatively new addition to Downtown Kingston’s series of holiday/winter events. However, it offers a host of fun (FREE) activities for the whole family.
Take a spin on the Holiday Tour Trolley, shop the Holiday Market, Enjoy free ice skating, and epic live entertainment. Visitors can also donate to the Kingston Toy Drive, chill with Santa and participate in fun holiday themed games. Event details are available on the City of Kingston website.
Pro-tip: Make sure you score some of the maple taffy on snow. If “omg” were a flavour, this would be it.
December 9, 2016, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Skating in Springer Market Square begins December 9, 2016 (weather permitting) until spring melt.
More information on skating and rentals are also on CityofKingston.ca.
Little Cataraqui Creek
Winter is by far the most popular time of year at Little Cataraqui Creek. For as long as I can remember people have gathered here each year for cross-country skiing, skating, snowshoeing and scenic hikes.
Equipment is available for rent at the Outdoor Centre. And for complete newbies like myself – they offer cross-country ski lessons as well
The CRCA hosts a series of events each year leading up to and after the holidays making Little Cat Creek a prime destination for near limitless winter fun.
Below is a convenient round-up of events fit for the whole family.
December 3, 2016, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Cost is $2 per person plus the regular gate fee.
Registration is required and available online at www.crca.ca/online-services.
Outdoor Christmas Party For the Animals
There’s nothing more relaxing and grounding than getting in-tune with nature and hand feeding some chickadees.
The best part is, the kids will be blown away as they watch the little birds eat directly from their outstretched palm (if they can hold still long enough)!
December 18, 2016, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Open Year Round, 7:30 a.m. to dusk, daily.
For more information on all CRCA events visit: CRCA.ca.
Starting December 1st, Fort Henry National Historic Site will undergo a transformation of mystical proportions.
“In the magical land of Lumina Borealis, winter’s secrets are kept safe. Visitors will journey across a frozen landscape and into another world, to reignite their winter spirit. They will be guided from ice to fire, and from darkness to light, finding their way through a mysterious land of enchantment, to the very source; where Winter’s secrets are yearning to be discovered and unlocked.”
In Gananoque, the upcoming Holiday Season is marked with a host of favourite events that draw many visitors each year. To top it off, Gananoque’s historic downtown area presents visitors with an opportunity enjoy a nostalgic window-shopping wonderland that’s sure to inspire and enrich the overall experience.
Holiday Gift Show & Before The Rush
If you are looking for some unique ideas for gifts this year, then look no further than the Gananoque Holiday Show. Here you will find a combination of local artisans, creative one of a kind gifts and a welcoming atmosphere. Check Gananoque.ca for details.
Also, be sure to check out “Before the Rush” which is another gift show happening on the same weekend. This show features more in the way of home furnishings, and art. (They also have food & wine!)
Admission to either show is free.
November 25, 2016, from 4PM to 8PM
November 26, 2016, from 10AM to 4PM
November 25, 2016, from 6PM to 9PM
November 26, 2016, from 10AM to 5PM
November 27, 2016, from 10AM to 4PM
Gananoque Horticultural Society’s: Celebrate The Season
Celebrate the Season is a hands-on workshop where participants will create a unique holiday decoration, and enjoy refreshments with excellent company.
More information can be found at Gananoque.ca.
December 14, 2016, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Carols By Candlelight
On December 4th, Gananoque will echo with the sound of the season carried upon the collective voices of the Gananoque & area Choral Society. If you haven’t witnessed a live Christmas Choir, then this is your chance to experience something you won’t soon forget!
Admission to the event is a good will offering (likely a non-perishable food item) check Gananoque.ca for details.
December 4, 2016, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Rideau Heritage Route
This historically rich area of the Great Waterway possesses a uniquely evocative atmosphere for scenic drives, beautiful hikes and a bevy of activities for all ages. From Westport to Merrickville and beyond, the Rideau Heritage Route is a genuinely captivating destination for those seeking the holiday spirit.
Winter Walks at Foley Mountain Conservation Area
After the year’s first blanketing of snow Westport’s Foley Mountain becomes an ideal place to take a romantic winter hike with that special someone.
There are trails suited for multiple skill levels, offering hikers a nice choice of options for exploring this 800-acre conservation area and spotting wildlife.
For more information, check out this post right here on the Great Waterway.
Old Stone Mill National Historic Site’s: Christmas at the Mill
I’ve written about this majestic mill previously, but during the Christmas season this awe-inspiring example of history hosts a holiday event for the ages.
The building is lit up with candlelight as part of Delta’s Celebrating the Season event – and has a unique gift shop open for guests.
For more information see DeltaMill.org.
Mill open from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
November 19, 26 and December 3, 10, 17, 2016.
An Evening Stroll through Lower Beverley Lake Park
The “Celebrating the Season” event involves over 80 THOUSAND lights and a series of seasonal displays that is sure to amaze. Along with this vivid visual display, there are wagon rides which are sure to add a particular element of joy to what is already a grand event.
Open from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
November 19 & 26, December 3, 10, 17, 2016.
For more information see BeverlyLakePark.com.
The Merry Christmas Shoppe
The aptly named “Merry Christmas Shoppe” is the biggest Christmas store between here and Ottawa – and to top it all off, it’s open all year long.
Explore two floors bursting with everything ‘Christmas’ and enjoy a one stop shop for all your decorations and other Yuletide supplies.
“Christmas in Merrickville”
When it comes to finding epic holiday shopping environments, all you have to do draw a big red circle around Merrickville.
This event is a superb place to bring the kids. They can have breakfast with Santa (the big man needs to stop for meals from time to time), go nuts at a petting zoo, and squeal with glee and sing songs on horse-drawn wagon rides.
There is also live music and performances from entertainers, fire barrels for warming up, glass blowing demonstrations, a parade – and my favourite part of all: holiday snacks.
December 3rd, all-day
A detailed list of events and times are available at ChristmasinMerrickville.ca.
Annual Christmas Market
This popular event is held at the Brockville Farmers’ Market and kicks off December 3rd. This market features local crafts and other items of seasonal interest.
Check BrockvilleFarmersMarket.ca for news and updates.
December 3, 10, 17 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Brockville Rotary Santa Claus Parade
Still making his way across the region, Jolly ol’ St. Nick always makes a stop in Brockville for the Rotary Santa Claus Parade.
This year, volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food items to support the Brockville Food Bank so make sure you bring lots of items to contribute.
Also, don’t let your kids forget to bring their letters to Santa to hand to the volunteers who will also be collecting them along the route. Translation: You’ll be able to get your wishlists to Mr. Claus nice and early.
November 26, 2016, at 2:00 p.m.
For more information visit RotaryBrockville.com.
Get Outdoors at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Hike, snowshoe or cross country ski over 11 kilometers of trails woodland, wetlands, and sprawling fields. While weather conditions cooperate – there is also a maintained skating pond on-site complete with a bonfire pit.
Who says it has to be summertime to roast marshmallows and hotdogs? I won’t judge.
Conservation Areas open daily at 7:30 a.m. until dusk
More information is available on the CRCA website.
Cornwall & the Counties
At the Eastern edge of the Great Waterway lies Cornwall and the Counties – home to two particular holiday light festivals that are so epic they can likely be seen from space. This huge list of festive happenings throughout the region may be coming to a close – but don’t worry, we saved the best for last.
Upper Canada Playhouse Presents: Miracle on 34th Street
You may have seen the movie. However, nothing compares to a live production of this essential Christmas story. This December, join the Upper Canada Playhouse cast & crew for their dedicated production of Miracle on 34th Street.
Treat your family and friends to the timeless magic of live theatre and let the Miracle on 34th Street fill you with the wonder and spirit of Christmas!
The phrase “Bah-Humbug!” won’t even exist in your vocabulary after this. I guarantee it.
Running from December 2 to December 18, 2016.
For tickets & showtimes, visit UpperCanadaPlayhouse.com.
Alexandria Festival of Lights
The 11th Annual Alexandria Festival of Lights brings together the entire community from businesses to schools and other organizations as they hoist over 200,000 lights and create a spectacular event.
There’s also free hot chocolate up for grabs and a fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. Visitors can also vote on their favourite displays throughout this month-long event.
More information can be found at AlexandriaFestivalofLights.com.
FREE Nightly, 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
November 26, 2016, to December 31, 2016
Opening Night Celebrations November 28
Christmas Eve – Open all night
Closing Night Fireworks December 31
Upper Canada Village’s: Alight at Night
Bundle up and get ready for a festive and fun-filled evening stroll through a completely transformed holiday version of Upper Canada Village.
Close to one million lights are lovingly strung from the heritage buildings, trees, and fences of this historic village frozen in time. The end result is a truly unique and utterly captivating backdrop for this famous holiday festival. If that’s not enough – Santa will be visiting the festival from December 2nd to 23rd. Is there anywhere he can’t be?
Special Warning: Exposure to Alight at Night may result in exuberant outbursts of joy, spontaneous caroling and a persistent craving for eggnog and shortbread. Speak to your doctor to find out if Alight at Night is right for you.
Alight at Night is not a daily event. For detailed information on dates and times for Alight at Night visit: Alight at Night – Upper Canada Village.
As the saying goes: It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And frankly, I couldn’t agree more. The cider is mulling, the fires are crackling and I can already smell the aroma of festive feasts and hear the songs of unanimous cheer.
Regardless of how you celebrate the changing of the season, and the arrival of a New Year; whether it’s Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, Christmas or Festivus let it be merry, safe and filled with friends, family and those you love.
Plan Your Holiday Trip
When a month kicks off with a week-long arts celebration throughout Kingston and ends with a four-day bluegrass jamboree in Prince Edward County, you know you’re in prime festival season. Especially when there’s a multicultural fest, world-class fishing derby, wine and food gala, and Queen Victoria’s birthday party peppered in between. Here’s the lowdown on 10 festivals you can’t miss across The Great Waterway this month.
1. The Juvenis Festival
May 1 – 8
The first week of May is National Youth Week, and to celebrate the youth-run theatre company Blue Canoe has organized K-Town’s first ever youth arts festival. Happening all over Kingston, The Juvenis Festival gives young people between the ages of 13 and 30 a chance to act, sing, dance, perform and showcase their talents, as well as take free workshops and masterclasses to develop their artistic chops. juvenisfestival.ca. (Photo: Louis Vest/Flickr CC)
2. Brockville Multicultural Festival
May 6 – 7
Brockville Memorial Civic Centre
Since 1981, this weekend salute to music, dance and food from around the world has been attracting visitors from near and far wanting to tap into what makes this country great. This year over 20 performers will take the stage, including Scottish dancers, an East Indian dance group, a Spanish folk art troupe and a Dutch choir. Kids under 5: Free. Students and seniors: $4.50. Adults: $5. brockvillemulticulturalfestival.com. (Photo: Brad Smith/Flickr CC)
3. Kiwanis Walleye World Fishing Derby
May 6 – 8
Bay of Quinte
This is your chance to catch the big one — and catch a big prize at the same time. Now in its 36th year, this derby and youth fundraiser on the beautiful Bay of Quinte is on most expert anglers’ lists, but as any fisherman will tell you: you don’t need the best gear to snag a winner. Prizes for the 10 biggest walleye and pike in senior and junior categories include boats, trips, gear and more. Adults: $50 (includes 1 kids ticket). Kids under 13: $15. kiwaniswalleyeworld.com. (Photo: Joe Rex/Flickr CC)
4. Terroir: A Spring Food and Wine Festival
Crystal Palace, Picton
An annual showcase of County wine, food, artisan bread, preserves and more at Picton’s glass beauty, the Crystal Palace. Over 50 vendors will be there this year offering samples and a chance to learn the story behind the County’s bounty. Seminars will range from “Cooking with Wine” to “Beer Tasting 101,” and when you get full, dance it off under The Hayloft’s new music tent. Free shuttle from Belleville, Wellington and Bloomfield. Admission ($40 in advance, $45 at the door) includes 10 tasting tickets, a souvenir glass and all seminars. countyterroir.ca. (Photo: The Great Waterway)
5. Spring Birding Festival
May 14, 15, 21, 22, 23
Prince Edward County
The birds are back and chirping their sweet song, and at this yearly fest hosted by the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory you’ll get a chance to learn all about Prince Edward County’s feathered friends. The lineup includes guided walks and tours (including a nighttime adventure), a two-day boot camp for birders, a photo contest, and a talk by award-winning nature writer Steve Burrows. peptbo.ca. (Photo: Peter Miller/Flickr CC)
6. Rideau Lakes Spring Fly-In
Westport/Rideau Lakes Airport
At the west end of Upper Rideau Lake near the village of Westport lays a small airport with a 3,000-foot grass runway. Stop in to see what happens there at this annual event where over 40 aircraft (and sometimes a helicopter) are usually on display. Enjoy a sausage on a bun breakfast, visit the hangars, and watch flights land and take off. Donations welcome. Contact Bill Green at 613-273-5282 for more information. (Photo: Martin Pettitt/Flickr CC)
7. Frankford Riverfest
May 21 – 22
Frankford Tourist Park
For one weekend every year in May, the sleepy village of Frankford comes alive for two days of family fun. Both days this year will feature a midway, live music and a vendors’ village, while Saturday will also include brunch at Frankford United Church, balloon twisting, a petting zoo, a hula hoop fun zone, a dance demo and fireworks to end the night. Sunday’s big draw will be the classic car show. facebook.com/FrankfordRiverfest. (Photo: Frankford Riverfest)
8. Queen Victoria Birthday Celebration
Upper Canada Village
The May long weekend is usually the unofficial launch of summer, but don’t forget: it also marks Queen Victoria’s birthday (May 24, 1819). Celebrate while stepping back to the Queen’s time at Upper Canada Village, a 19th-century replica village. Sing “God Save the Queen,” hear historical patriotic speeches, see grand military manoeuvres, lace up for the 1860s athletic games, and enjoy a piece of birthday cake. Adults: $19. Seniors: $18. Kids 6 – 12: $12. Kids under 6: Free. uppercanadavillage.com. (Photo: Alex Luyckx/Flickr CC)
9. Quinte Isle’s Bluegrass Celebration
May 26 – 29
Quinte Isle Camp Park, Prince Edward County
Get out those dancin’ boots and brush up on your quick-step — local and regional bluegrass bands are coming down from the hills to put on a four-day jam session in Cherry Valley. Ten bands will be there, but if you want to pick too, the open mic is on Thursday evening. A barbecue will be onsite from morning to night, and if you want to camp, there’s plenty of room. Don’t forget your fishing rod and lawn chair. Various ticket options. quintebluegrass.com. (Photo: Quinte Isle Bluegrass Celebration)
10. Doors Open Brockville – Thousand Islands
May 28 – 29
Ever walked by a heritage site and wondered what’s behind the front door? Good news: you can find out (in the Brockville and Thousand Islands area, at least) at Doors Open, the annual festival that lets you explore some of the region’s most cherished buildings. There are 33 participating sites this year — six new ones — including lawn bowling greens, serene churches, armouries, railway tunnels and art galleries. Free. doorsopenontario.on.ca. (Photo: Fulford Place – Ontario Heritage Trust)
It’s safe to say that The Aquatarium is one of Brockville‘s most eagerly anticipated attractions. An ambitious $25 million dream five years in the making, the 27,000 square foot interactive learning centre is dedicated to showcasing the waterways and wildlife of the St. Lawrence and 1000 Islands. Excited by the prospect of peeking inside a warship, seeing river otters up close and trying out the ropes course, I recently visited The Aquatarium with my 6-year old daughter and 9-year-old son. While each of the exhibits garnered comments like “this is so cool!” from my children, we consider these seven to be must-sees at The Great Waterway’s newest family-friendly attraction.
Ropes Course and AquaDrop
If you’ve ever imagined climbing the rigging of a tall ship, the Ropes Course is your chance! My agile and fearless son loved the course, which features rolling barrels, narrow planks and a mast. Instructors fit you with harnesses and a helmet and give you a short lesson on how the carabiners work, plus follow along behind you to ensure your safety. When you’re finished, take the gentle slide or the much more exciting AquaDrop – the 40 foot harnessed and controlled drop to the ground. Age restrictions are enforced for safety reasons (no, your mature and tall 7 year old should not do the ropes course).
Power of Water
Two hands-on exhibits make a splash here (literally). At one, the St. Lawrence River is re-imagined as a kid-friendly water table, complete with the Thousand Islands Bridge, the Lost Villages and functioning lock systems – and children can float foam ships down the seaway. At the second, kids learn the complexities of generating hydro electricity as they try to harness the power of water with miniature dams (go head-to-head with another family to see who can generate the most power from their dams). Plastic aprons are available, but your kids will love getting wet here.
Salt Water Touch Tank
Sea stars, spider crabs, star fish, anemones and more are housed in the salt water touch tank near the Creation exhibit. While these creatures are not native to the region, it’s a rare and fascinating opportunity to see them up close. Knowledgeable Aquatarium ambassadors help small hands gently pick up tank residents – but mind your fingers with the crabs!
Singer Castle Library
Singer Castle is one of the River’s most recognizable landmarks and its mysterious library is recreated here (can you find the secret passage?). It’s a quiet escape from the busier exhibits, with colouring and activity sheets, iPads and quiet toys when you need downtime, making it a great spot for kids who are easily overstimulated.
A replica of the British warship that was shipwrecked on October 31, 1780, this version of the HMS Ontario is full of nooks to hide in, rope ladders to climb and the interactive Captain’s Table. Kids (and adults) will be amazed at the touch-activated artifacts that cue up videos about the region’s watery legends. Nearby is a sensory bin of kinetic sand that will keep wee hands busy while bigger kids explore.
The St. Lawrence’s most playful residents, river otters, are the stars of the show here. You are most likely to see the three otters during the 1:30 pm feeding, so you may wish to plan your visit accordingly. During our visit, one shyly poked her head out of the water and swam towards my kids during a break in the crowds.
As avid fishermen, we all loved this exhibit because it was a chance to see our most common catches up close. Three tanks representing the region’s lake, river and shore habitats house bass, perch, pumpkinseed and sturgeon. The crawl tunnels underneath Aquaria let kids (and curious short adults like myself) poke their heads up into tanks for a unique look.
Know before you go
Location: 6 Broad Street, Brockville.
Driving time: From Ottawa 1 hour, 15 minutes / From Kingston 59 minutes / From Oshawa 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Hours of operation: 10 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week
Best time to visit: We visited in the late afternoon on a weekday and the crowds had fallen off by 2:30 pm. Expect The Aquatarium to be busier during fish and otter feeding times.
Admission: Adults $19.95 / Senior (65+) $14.99 / Youth (13-17) $14.99 / Child (4-12) $9.99 / Child (3 & under) FREE / Groups (15+) $12.99
Ropes Course: admission fee + $7.00 (minimum age 8 years old, kids 8-12 years old must be accompanied by an adult)
Aqua Drop: admission fee + $5.00 (minimum age 8 years old, kids can do this one solo)
Save on admission fees: An annual Family Pass is $149.97, a worthwhile investment if you plan on visiting more than twice per year, a family of 5 or kids age 13-17. Brockville residents can checkout an Aquatarium pass at their public library with a valid City of Brockville library card.
Speed up the Ropes Course process: download the waiver forms here and fill them out before you arrive to minimize wait times.
Parking: There are several pay-per-hour parking spots within a short walk of the Aquatarium which accept credit cards or coins. Two-hour complimentary parking spaces throughout downtown Brockville are available, but you will spend more than two hours here and the parking bylaws are enforced (you will be ticketed if you exceed the time limit). Park in the facility’s heated underground garage (great for families with little ones) for $2 per hour.
Family-friendly factor: Elevators and family bathrooms are roomy for strollers and visitors requiring wheelchairs. Washrooms are all equipped with change tables. Exhibits for the most part are child-sized, and when they aren’t stools and benches help kids get the most from their experience. Staff go out of their way to make sure that you are having fun and learning.
What to (and not to) bring: Snacks are not permitted inside The Aquatarium, so make sure your children are well fed before starting your adventure! Your kids WILL get wet – a change of clothes and small towel will come in handy for the hands-on water exhibits. If you plan on doing the ropes course, bring a pair of running shoes (flip flops are not permitted).
My favourite part of the holidays are the traditions we share as a family. Last year was our first Christmas in The Great Waterway and it was a special opportunity to not only take joy in the traditions we’ve had for years (such opting for brunch on Christmas Day), but also new ones. A wealth of experiences, especially these three live performances, are sure to be must-see memory makers.
With a sugar plum fairy literally dancing before your eyes, The Nutcracker is what holiday memories are made of! It is no wonder The Nutcracker has captured hearts for generations, with graceful dancers, sumptuous costumes and exquisite sets that immerse you into a delightful dreamland.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of The Nutcracker is the ways each ballet company interprets E.T.A. Hoffman’s magical tale. For example, the world-renowned Moscow Classical Ballet, which visits Kingston’s The Grand Theatre for the first time, has kept Vasili Vainonen’s classic choreography, but has re-staged the first act to bring it a family-friendly. In an equally decadent performance, The State Ballet Theatre of Russia visits the Brockville Arts Centre, offering the young and young at heart a magical experience.
Amy Paauw, with the City of Kingston’s Cultural Services Department says that The Nutcracker is on her holiday must-see list. “I took my five-year-old daughter last year and we had such a great time that we have decided to make it a holiday tradition. Getting dressed up, out for a meal and then to The Grand Theatre to see the show!”
A Quinte Christmas
Though Michael Norris with The Quinte Symphony jokes that people have been hearing Christmas music since the stroke of midnight on October 31, there is definitely an element of truth in what he says. This is why A Quinte Christmas will be such a treat, and a performance you should include in your holiday festivities.
“We are taking a bit of a departure for part of the program and playing works which demonstrate the considerable skills of this fine community orchestra, in addition to a delightful selection of Christmas classics,” says Norris.
From Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67, perhaps one of music’s most recognized motifs, to arrangements of your favourite holiday songs, A Quinte Christmas will fill your heart with joy and before you know it, you’ll be singing along too (in fact, it’s encouraged!). The performance takes place December 20 at 2:00 pm at Centennial Secondary School in Belleville. Buy your tickets online from The Quinte
Buy tickets to the December 20 performance online from The Quinte Symphony.
George Frideric Handel composed Messiah in 1741, and it’s hard to believe that this centuries old oratorio was at first not well received. Today, more than 270 years later, Messiah is possibly one of the most beloved pieces of music. No matter your beliefs or religion, the experience of hearing Messiah performed live is a holiday tradition that is sure to find a way into your heart. In The Great Waterway, there are two opportunities to enjoy a performance of Messiah. Under the direction of Gordon Sinclair, the Kingston Chamber Choir performs Messiah on December 13 at St. George’s Cathedral. On December 20 at the Wall Street United Church, Artistic Director Dr. Heather E. Eyerly with the Brockville Chamber Choir, brings the sounds of Messiah to Brockville, with part of the proceeds from the event supporting area food banks.
While there is no snow on the ground and Christmas classics aren’t being played on the radio, December is around the corner and the holiday season is about to begin. If finding the perfect gift for a loved one or a thoughtful thank you for a host is at the top of your to-do list, think outside of the box store and shop locally in The Great Waterway. Craft shows and boutiques this time of year are brimming with lovingly made jewelry, decor, artwork and artisan foods – all perfect for gift giving.
Holiday craft shows
Craft shows, like The Maker’s Hand are truly a must-sees for high quality hand made items such as designer fashions, hand blown and sculpted glass, contemporary wood, fine jewelry, iron and metal works, exotic ceramic and clay pottery and mixed media art. This juried craft show showcases works from local artists including Maggie Murdoch of Wellington Pottery in Wellington, Caroline Shuttle of Elements Glass Studio in Bloomfield and Gary Mathews of Woodturners in Tamworth.
“As organizers, one of our favourite things about the Maker’s Hand is the excitement during of the artisans who love to be in our show and the visitors who come back year after year to buy quality one-of-a-kind items. The energy in the room for the three days is palpable!” says Mary Sinclair, Director of Publicity and Advertising for The Maker’s Hand. This year’s show will be held November 6 to 8 at the Picton Fairgrounds in Prince Edward County.
Other popular craft shows in the region include the Rotary Christmas Craft Fair in Gananonque (November 7), Cornwall Heritage Craft show (November 6-8), the Holly & Ivy tiArts Fair in Gananoque (November 21- 22) and the Fat Goose Craft Fair in Kingston (November 22).
Boutique shopping experiences
Cities and villages in The Great Waterway have thriving downtown streets boasting boutique-lined streets. Each season brings a fresh new shopping experience, with the holidays offering special events, such as downtown Kingston’s inaugural Shop After Dark.
“There is something so magical about bundling up and shopping with decked out holiday windows lighting up the streets. Shop After Dark shows off all of the things that make Christmas shopping in Downtown Kingston a wonderfully unique experience – wandering between the historic buildings, seeing beautifully decorated holiday windows, shopping locally, bumping into people you know – all those special things,” says Downtown Kingston’s Erin York.
You will enjoy VIP treatment during Shop After Dark, with retailers offering shoppers heartwarming extras like small gifts, treats or warm drinks. “I’m looking forward seeing just how creative Downtown Kingston’s businesses are!” enthuses York!
Etsy with a local twist
Etsy, long famous for selling unique handmade and vintage items online, has been given a decidedly local twist with the Etsy Kingston and Area Local Artisan Team, headed up by Grace Tran.
“Kingston is a treasure of well known and emerging artists who are finding creative ways to express themselves in our community. Having a Etsy team helps local artists find support and get noticed,” says Tran, who also owns the stunningly curated Muse Art Annex in downtown Kingston.
Tran notes that there are benefits to shopping online for local art. For customers outside The Great Waterway, they can connect with their favourite artists that they may have met at a craft show and shop conveniently for a specific gift. Since artists can regularly add new pieces to their Etsy stores, customers can shop for the newest art, handmade crafts and jewelry by their favourite artisans.
An artist herself, Tran crafts intricate wearable art such as jewelry and functional fashion from her studio near the Rideau Locks, drawing inspiration from The Great Waterway’s beauty. “I am extremely grateful to live in this region, which is a muse that has inspired ideas for my artwork. Muse Art Annex is located in downtown Kingston where there are so many amazing waterfront access points that inspire artistic creations,” says Tran.
Christmas is coming. And with it impending arrival, the quest for the perfect gift is also there. If you’re like me, not just any gift will do. I always have good intentions of hand making gifts, I have a stack of past holiday issues of Martha Stewart’s Living in the closet (I haven’t flipped through them in two years now) I spend hours on Pinterest. I can, I bake, I knit. But then it is the second week of December, and I have numerous un-finished hand made gifts. My husband recently discovered craft fairs (as a venue to sell his craft) Which means I have recently discovered craft fairs. A room FULL of lovely, (finished) hand made gifts, ripe for the picking. When you purchase one, you are not only giving a gift of handmade beauty, you are also supporting a local artist (and they thank you for that support!)
Kingston and surrounding area boasts a number of different craft fairs. From church fundraisers, to farmers markets, to outdoor festivals, to juried shows, there are plenty of opportunites for both the shopper and the crafter throughout the year. In 2009, after recognizing a demand for more interesting and accessible venues among local makers looking to showcase and market their work, a dedicated team of like-minded craftspeople and artists got together, and the Fat Goose Collective was born.
The Collective hosts The Fat Goose Craft Fair at Grant Hall, a beautiful historic building on Queen’s campus, on Sunday, November 22 from 10-4pm. The Fat Goose Craft Fair offers people an opportunity to engage one on one with the makers and find out more about the story behind their practice. As a shopper, you can be assured of quality goods, as this is a juried show. Artists applied to the show back in September, and were juried by the Fat Goose Collective. The jurying process ensures that participants in the show reflect the high quality of craft in Ontario. The fair is juried according to the following criteria: work should be local, represent unique and original ideas, add to the diversity in products available at the fair, and demonstrate depth of process and high quality of finish. The Collective aims to enrich the local economy with art and fun, creative and community-minded events while partnering with local community groups.
This year, the fair will be showcasing 56 artists including Papillon Press, Gold &Ginger, Salvage Jewelry Co. and Capucci Knits Personally, I enjoy attending fairs such as this because I like to meet the artist, I enjoy purchasing from someone who enjoys creating their wares. I like hearing their stories, and seeing their pride in their work. I like that I am supporting an individual rather than a corporation. I like being able to tell the story behind a gift I may give.
As you start to prepare yourself for the shopping frenzy that December brings, consider attending this, or other craft fairs. A few tips when shopping a craft fair: take the time to visit all the vendors, take cash, bring a shopping bag and resist the urge to haggle prices, it is likely that the work is underpriced for the time spent and materials used.Give the unique gift of handmade this year!