Once again, ladies and gentlemen; we find ourselves quickly approaching that #festive time of year. The trees are being raised in every town square, colourful lights are hung from the lamp-posts with care – and that all familiar music suddenly fills the air.
Here in The Great Waterway, the holidays are a pretty big deal. From the Bay of Quinte to the 1000 Islands region and beyond – South Eastern Ontario is a prime destination for those in search of the holiday spirit!
And now, my dear reader – we present to you, this year’s bigger and better than ever Holiday Festivities Guide! By the time you finish reading this, you’ll practically taste the eggnog and smell the roasting chestnuts. I promise!
Cornwall & The Counties
At the Eastern edge of the Great Waterway lies Cornwall and the Counties – home to some particularly famous holiday lighting festivals that are so bright they can likely be seen from outer space.
Upper Canada Village Presents Alight at Night
On the heels of Pumpkinferno is another legendary and absolutely beautiful spectacle to behold at Upper Canada Village! Alight at Night is a magical evening event that draws scores of travellers to Morrisburg Ontario each year.
Close to one million lights are lovingly strung from the village’s buildings, trees, and fences resulting in a truly unique and captivating experience. Better yet, we’ll be present for the opening night of this year’s event so stay tuned to our blog for an upcoming feature!
For tickets, schedules and more info, click here!
Light Up Cornwall en lumière – Lamoureux Park
“Putting The Red on Run” – ‘Mettons Le Rouge will bring Lamoureux Park to life this winter! This fun and healthy outdoor activity invites visitors to walk or run beneath the gorgeous lights displayed throughout the park. There are 3km, 5km and 10km options – making this a great physical event that is adapted to various age groups, and comfort levels.
Saturday, Dec 2 2017 – 6:00 p.m to 9:00. For more info check out the event page on Facebook.
Also, Lamoureux Park will be decorated in brilliant holiday light displays all winter long! The Clock Tower, Citizen of the Year walkway – and other landmarks will be lit up for all to enjoy! The paths in Lamoureux Park will be cleared for walking during the winter months.
There will also be skating at the pond in the Rotary Eco Garden and slopes for tobogganing near the children’s play area. For full details visit the Cornwall website!
Upper Canada Playhouse Presents: Mistletoe Magic, The Sounds of the Season
Enjoy an evening with Leisa Way & the Wayward Band during this new Christmas performance! If you were a fan of their Have Yourself a Swinging Little Country Christmas, you’d be delighted with what Leisa and her band have cooked up! Filled with toe-tapping fiddling, sing-a-longs and step dancing reindeer (you read that correctly) this holiday extravaganza is sure to invoke that festive spirit!
Spoiler Alert: I’ve heard a few leaked rumours that there will even be some celebrity guest-spots including Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley and (still unconfirmed) Santa Claus himself! This show is running from Friday, December 1st to Sunday, the 17th, 2017. For tickets & showtimes, check out UpperCanadaPlayhouse.com.
Cast Left to Right: Nathan Smith, Bobby Prochaska, Bruce Ley, Leisa Way, Fred Smith, Sam Cino
Rideau Heritage Route
This historically rich region 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 during the holiday season.
Celebrate the Season in Delta Ontario
Nothing warms the cockles of one’s heart like a splendid evening stroll through Lower Beverley Lake Park, followed by the Christmas celebrations in historic Delta Ontario. Classic Christmas carols will be heard throughout the park, which only further set the mood before a stroll through Santa’s Workshop and a tour of the Old Stone Mill National Historic Site.
If you have never set eyes on the Delta Mill when it’s all decked out for the holidays, then this remarkable holiday event belongs on your travel list this year. Along with a wide range of events, you can experience a pleasant wagon ride which is sure to add a particular element of joy to what is already a grand event in rural Ontario.
For park schedules and more information, visit the Lower Beverly Lake Park website.
A Merry Experience in Merrickville
When it comes to finding epic holiday shopping environments, look no further than Merrickville Ontario! For example, 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.
Also worthy of a road trip is the fabled Christmas in Merrickville event which happens for one day only on Saturday, December 2nd! 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! For more information visit: ChristmasinMerrickville.ca!
The City of The 1000 Islands comes to life during the holiday season in a fantastic way, with local craft markets, parades and several other seasonal activities fit for all ages. With a variety of beautiful shops, attractions and excellent dining options – a trip to Brockville certainly belongs on your list of weekend road trips during the yuletide season!
Annual Christmas Market
This popular event is held at the Brockville Farmers’ Market and kicks off on Saturday, December 2nd. This market features local crafts and other items of seasonal interest. It’s also a great way to get out and support local makers!
December 2, 9, 16 2017 Check BrockvilleFarmersMarket.ca for news and updates!
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 to enjoy a nostalgic window-shopping wonderland that’s sure to inspire and enrich the overall experience.
Town Park & City Hall Tree Lighting
Town Park and the brilliant tree at Gananoque’s Town Hall have been lit. Both are fantastic to behold, and certainly worth a day trip to explore the Gateway to the 1000 Islands! Spend the day perusing Gananoque’s picturesque downtown shopping and dining options, followed by a memorable stroll through the magical Town Park.
This may sound biased since I am a certified and unapologetic Kingstonian, but the Limestone City and surrounding area(s) have everything you need to get amped-up for Advent.
In addition to vintage style window shopping, ice-skating in Springer Market Square or the variety of delectable dining options; there are several holiday-themed events that I’m sure Yule fall in love with.
Starting this December, 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.”
Snow Much Fun and Skating at Springer Market Square
This family favourite event offers a host of fun (FREE) activities for the whole family to enjoy. 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.
December 8 2017: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Lantern Hike Under The Stars at 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.
Saturday, December 2, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information visit the event page on Facebook.
Land O Lakes
The Land O Lakes region is well known for its summer activities. As winter approaches, however, this breathtaking area becomes a snowy landscape filled with a variety fun activities.
Parade of Lights – Napanee
If you missed Napanee’s famous Big Bright Light Show on November 17th, don’t worry! The downtown shopping area of Napanee remains decorated until January – and the biggest show has yet to happen!
The big man himself will be stopping in Greater Napanee on Saturday, December 2nd 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 for the whole family!! Details are available at the Greater Napanee website.
Bay of Quinte
As the holiday season approaches, the Bay of Quinte transforms into a brightly lit, and visually stunning 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.
Glanmore by “Gaslight” Evening Tour, Glanmore National Historic Site
Christmas At The Pier, Jane Forrester Park in Belleville
Nothing invokes the holiday spirit like a casual stroll through Jane Forrester Park in Belleville. Grab a hot cocoa, escape the malls and enjoy a tranquil walk through this brilliantly lit waterfront park in The Bay of Quinte.
The annual displays at 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 on specific dates. They will pick up visitors and residents from locations throughout Belleville and shuttle them to and from the event. More information is available on Belleville’s website.
Frankford Christmas Fantasy of Lights – Trenton
This event offers visitors a double feature which combines the 29th 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 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 25, 2017. More information is available on the Bay of Quinte website.
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.
Marvel at magical waterfront light displays while listening to classic holiday tunes, enjoy hot chocolate and other tasty treats.
Sunday, November 26, 2017, to Monday, January 1, 2018. Event details are available on the Quinte West website.
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.
Wassail In The County
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.
November 18 & 19, 25 & 26, & December 2 & 3, 2017 More information about tickets and participating locations can be found on the Wassail in the County website.
Wassail By Candlelight at Macaulay House
The halls of Picton’s Macaulay House are decked in the fashion of an 1850’s Christmas. Sample savoury heritage recipes live music and more!
You can also get your hands on some legendary plum pudding as well as other locally made items in the gift shop. This heritage twist on the holidays is not one to miss!
November 18, 25, and December 2, 2017. Full details are available at the Prince Edward County Website.
Christmas at Chetwyn Farms
Hang out with some adorable Alpacas and experience a unique holiday celebration at SHED – Chetwyn Farms in Prince Edward County! Share in the joyful and age-old tradition of handcrafted gift giving. Sample some savoury County mulled cider, and pick up some locally crafted Alpaca gifts or accessories!
For more information about dates, please visit the event page on Facebook!
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 – may it be merry, safe and filled with friends, family and those you love.