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Destination Ontario: Bloomin’ Gorgeous

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Destination Ontario: Bloomin’ Gorgeous

Springtime in Niagara

Some 12,000 years ago, the falls at Niagara were defined when melting glaciers formed the Great Lakes. The rushing waters that ran downhill from one lake (Lake Erie) to another (Lake Ontario) carved out a river, and at one point passed over a steep, cliff -like formation – the Niagara escarpment. As the water began to wear its way back up the river, the deeply cut path that was left behind is now known as the Niagara Gorge.

The southern end of the Golden Horseshoe, Niagara Region encompasses the cities of St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland, as well as the charming towns of Niagara-on-the- Lake, Grimsby and Fort Erie. The City of Niagara Falls is a vibrant community that affords residents with a plethora of opportunities in the areas of recreation, arts and culture. While urban amenities are in abundance, there’s still a relaxed stillness that comes with living in this beautiful area.

EXPLOSIVE BEAUTY
Come spring, it’s a visual flower feast. A drive through the Niagara region is an annual ritual for many, as the orchards are bursting with delicate blossoms on fruit-bearing trees. The Japanese flowering cherry trees, found at the Botanical Gardens, Queenston Heights Park and Kingsbridge Park are expected to bloom by mid-May.

Located along the scenic Niagara Parkway is the Floral Clock, which was constructed in 1950. The clock’s face, complete with working mechanisms, is planted two times per year with 15,000 to 20,000 carpet plants arranged in beautiful designs. It is the second most photographed highlight in the region.

Floral clock

Created in 1967 to commemorate Canada’s Centennial Year, the fragrant Lilac Garden is located north of the Floral Clock and features 200 different lilac varieties in a range of colours.

The Botanical Gardens is located just north of Niagara Falls on the Niagara Parkway. For more than 80 years, visitors have found solace while strolling the beautiful gardens. Also located here is the Butterfly Conservatory, and the world-famous rose garden that features more than 2,400 varieties.

Butterfly Conservatory

The first fireworks’ display took place on September 14th, 1860. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the annual Falls Fireworks Series, Niagara Parks has expanded their schedule to include 111 fireworks daily displays throughout the summer. Special holiday shows are scheduled for the Memorial Day long weekend (May 25 to 28).

DAY TRIPPING
View the falls from the water, the air or the ground. No matter your vantage point, it’s an awe-inspiring experience – no matter the time of year.

Less than a half hour drive from the Falls, at the mouth of the Niagara River, is the quaint 18th century town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, often referred to as Ontario’s loveliest town. Home to the renowned Shaw Festival, the town is an eclectic dining, shopping and sightseeing experience.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Old Fort Erie, Fort George, Brock’s Monument and Laura Secord’s homestead are just a few of the landmarks that will delight history buffs. The area was also an important stop on the legendary 1800s Underground Railroad.

In addition to slots and gaming tables, Fallsview Casino Resort showcases international performers.

Niagara boasts close to 100 parks and several championship courses, including Legends on the Niagara, Oak Hall Par 3 and the Whirlpool Golf Course, which was designed by golf architect Stanley Thompson and is rated as one of Canada’s most highly rated public golf courses.

CLIMATE CONTROLLED

Because of the two large bodies of water, Niagara Region is considered to be a moderate climate zone. Southern Ontario is roughly at the same latitude as southern France (Provence). The area’s temperatures make it ideal for growing tender fruit, and the conditions are ideal for ripening many varieties of grapes.

The Niagara Peninsula is one of four recognized viticultural areas by the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) in the Ontario Wine Industry. The European-style vineyards and wineries attract visitors from around the world. Many offer full tours of their facilities, and some have onsite dining, which feature sumptuous menus paired with their own VQA vintages.

The extended warm-weather season is also popular with boating, golf, hiking and biking enthusiasts.

Photography, courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism

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Destination Ontario: Ontario’s Riviera Port Dover & Norfolk County

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Destination Ontario: Ontario’s Riviera Port Dover & Norfolk County

By Cece M. Scott www.cecescott.com

Photography, courtesy of www.norfolktourism.ca

Located on the north shore of Lake Erie in Norfolk County, Port Dover is one of Ontario’s best kept secrets with tropicallike beaches, fresh-water activities and fishing, as well as some of the province’s most beautiful scenery.

Motorcycle enthusiasts from across North America descend upon Port Dover every Friday the 13th. This tradition dates back 20 years. If the 13th falls during the summer months, more than 100,000 enjoy a festivallike atmosphere, making it the largest one-day motorcycle event in Canada.

Friday the 13th

VILLAGE VITALITY

Norfolk County includes eclectic villages, towns and hamlets, such as La Salette (1875), Waterford (1826), Port Rowan (1825), and the county’s main town, Simcoe (1795), which boasts a vibrant downtown, a lush park system and several historic sites. Turkey Point (1793) was previously the county’s capital, and is aptly named for the rafter of turkeys that used to roam the area.

LIFE’S A BEACH

Palm trees on port Dover beach

Norfolk County is flushed with sparkling lakes – providing splashperfect destinations for swimming, fishing, boating and picnicking.

Named one of the Top 10 Beach Weekend Escapes from Toronto (blogTO, 2017), Port Dover touts white-sand beaches and shallow waters. Glorious days can be spent walking the shores of Lake Erie (known as Ontario’s South Point and Long Point), or renting a stand-up paddle board (SUP) from South Coast Paddle Sports.

Port Dover

Enjoy a cold one on the patio of The Beach House surrounded by whimsical palm trees that are planted every year by the owner. Other Port Dover restaurants include Lago Trattoria (Italian with a local twist), the 1946 Erie Beach Hotel (now run by the third generation), and Urban Parisian, which features authentic, French-style bakery items.

Long Point shore fishing

Port Dover has an extensive boating and fishing history, and once possessed the world’s largest fresh-water fishing fleet. Commercial fishing still plays a significant role in the local economy, and restaurants serve up tasty lake perch and pickerel dishes. Anglers can fish from the pier during the summer months, and come winter, ice fishing for pike is a popular past time.

The town’s marine heritage is celebrated at The Port Dover Harbour Museum.

WINE DOWN

The sandy soil and lake-moderated temperatures of Norfolk County are a perfect combination for grape growing. The area hosts 11 wineries, including Villa Nova Estate, Burning Kiln Winery and Bonnieheath Estate, which also grows lavender. Several area wineries have won international awards, both for their wines, as well as their hard ciders. In the process of getting their DVA designation, the region is now considered to be Ontario’s new emerging wine region.

VillaNova girls toasting

Craft breweries are also jumping on board with local favourites from Blue Elephant Craft Brew House and Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm.

GREAT FINDS

Turkey Point, Long Point, Port Rowan and Normandale are great locations for birding and for spotting wildlife. Long Point is home to Birds Study Canada and the Long Point Bird Observatory – considered to be one of North America’s most important waterfowl areas. Sightings include the rare Peregrine Falcons, Cave Swallows, Fox Sparrows and the Horned Grebe.

Norfolk County is one of Canada’s most diverse agricultural regions. Once a tobacco belt, the county is now the country’s top grower of asparagus, cabbage, ginseng and peanuts.

Seasonal, and year-round, farmers’ markets include Simcoe Market held on Thursdays, and Port Dover Lions Silver Lake Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

Lavender field at Bonnie Heath Estate

Great finds can also be found at Franni’s Actic. This destination features close to one acre of treasures and collectibles in a rustic environment, complete with tin ceilings and oiled, hardwood floors. More than 60 vendors carry up-cycled antiques, pottery, textiles, etc. at the Waterford Antique Market. Deer Creek Antiques & Creations sells beautifully aged, and repurposed, furniture.

One of the largest agricultural fairs in Canada, the Norfolk County’s Fair and Horse Show, features fabulous food, a midway and main-stage concerts. Come fall, Waterford hosts an annual Pumpkinfest, Port Dover hosts Beerstock, and Friday the 13th celebrations are a yearly tradition.

 

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Destination Ontario: Collingwood

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Destination Ontario: Collingwood

By Cece Scott www.cecescott.com

A whole lot of shakin’ going on

Collingwood, named one of the 35 most beautiful destinations in Canada (Expedia.ca 2016), is known for its bon vivant spirit, spectacular scenery, fine dining, great shopping and hospitality, in addition to a wide range of naturecentric, four seasons’ activities.

Mill pond dock in summer at Blue Mountain Village

Things to see and do

Collingwood is part of the South Georgian Bay Triangle, and is situated on Nottawasaga Bay – within the shores of Georgian Bay. The area encompasses some touristy hotspots, including Blue Mountain Village and Wasaga Beach – the longest freshwater beach in the world. With sweeping views of the Niagara Escarpment, the Wasaga area is known for great hiking, cycling, swimming and SUP (stand-up paddle boarding). Golf enthusiasts tee off at well-known courses, including Blue Mountain Golf & Country Club, Atoka at Cranberry, and OsterBrook Golf & Country Club.

Elvis Festival – Photo By : Isis Photography

One of the most popular events, is The Collingwood Elvis Festival (the largest Elvis celebration in the world). Now in its 23rd year, the festival (endorsed by both Priscilla Presley and Graceland) draws upwards of 30,000 attendees who sing and groove with more than 100 Elvis impersonators. This year, the festival runs from Friday, July 28th to Sunday, July 30th. The weekend has become such a favourite with Torontonians that they can now hitch a ride to the festival on the Rock & Roll Express from six different Toronto locations.

Blue Mountain, Ontario’s largest mountain village resort, was envisioned as a skiing paradise by Jozo Weider in 1941. Today, skiers can access 42 trails over 364 skiable acres. In the summer, the mountain becomes a bike park with a flowing singletrack and technical downhill descents.

The Scenic Caves, originally home to the Deer Tribe of the Petun First Nations people, are a staple of the Triangle. The caves, some 70 feet deep, were at one time a spiritual Native oasis. Ekarenniondi is a sacred rock at the caves, and was believed to have marked the pathway to the Village of the Souls. Located in one of Canada’s sixteen designated UNESCO biospheres, Scenic Caves Nature Adventures offers a host of other eco adventures, including tree-top canopy walks, 1,000-foot escarpment zip lining, a 420-foot suspension bridge, and 10,000-square-kilometre panoramic views.

Scandinave Spa offers a variety of relaxing treatments. Photo By JoAnn McHardy

Feed your soul

The Triangle offers up some excellent fine dining, both in, and out of, town. Wasaga’s Catch 22 features fresh fish caught in the nearby Georgian Bay waters. The renowned Oliver & Bonancini Cafe Grill, with fire-side tables for cozy après ski and pondside terrace seating for après golf, is located at Blue Mountain Village. Magnone’s Italian Kitchen captures the heart and soul of Italy, and the trendy Copper Blues Bar & Grill has has a more relaxed menu. Fallicious is a great time to visit the village, when many retailers and restaurants offer incentive shopping and dining specials.

Copper Blues Bar & Grill

The Scandinave Spa at Blue is nestled on 25 acres amongst birch, maple and pine trees. Soak in the therapeutic baths and saunas, and enjoy outdoor fires, hammocks and relaxing areas to wile away the day, while taking in the panoramic views of the escarpment.

Walk it off

The Georgian Trail, with magnificent views of the bay and Blue Mountain, runs along the shores of Georgian Bay, through Collingwood, Thornbury and Meaford. With 35 kilometres of trails, its the perfect destination for cross-country skiers, hikers, bikers and walking enthusiasts.

Scenic Caves Nature Adventures – Photo By Image Ontario

Highlights of the four distinctive heritage walking tours revolve around the architectural stylings mastered by local Collingwood architects. The Collingwood Museum features 150 years of marine heritage. A vibrant downtown core serves up unique shops, boutiques and fine dining establishments – all within walking distance in the town of Collingwood.

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Destination Ontario – Alliston – Nov/Dec2016

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Destination Ontario – Alliston – Nov/Dec2016

By Cece Scott www.cecescott.com

Not so far off the beaten path.

Alliston upgraded from a village to a town in 1891, and is widely known as a potato-growing community – celebrated annually at the Alliston Potato Festival. The growth rate of this area has increased by 23 per cent since 2006.

Alliston is part of the Town of New Tecumseth, along with the nearby villages of Beeton and Tottenham, since it’s amalgamation in 1991. Located off of Highway 89, it’s a mere 45-minute drive to Toronto via Highway 400 or Highway 27.

A RESORT-STYLE LIFESTYLE

The Nottawasaga Inn Resort is a family favourite with a three storey, 100-foot water slide within the tropical rainforest-themed indoor swimming pool. The resort also includes a 70,000-square-foot health and fitness centre, in addition to indoor squash, racquetball and tennis courts. The resort also features an arcade and games room, a Jungle Quest mini-golf adventure and three restaurants. The Centre Ice Sportsplex has two professionally maintained NHL-size ice surfaces, and stadium seating for more than 500 people.

After enjoying all the activities, book a stress-reducing, muscle toning massage with one of the inn’s registered massage therapists.

Hockley Valley Resort, named one of Hotelier’s Top 50 for 2013, is nestled in the rolling hills of Mono. The 300-acre resort has 15 runs for downhill skiing and snowboarding, with new lights recently installed for night skiing. Snowshoe enthusiasts and cross-country skiers will delight in the beautiful scenery that the trails have to offer. Restaurant 85, an indoor pool, a hot tub and an 8,000-square-foot European spa round out this exquisite winter getaway. Make sure to sample a glass of wine from nearby Adamo Estate Winery.

Hockley Valley Resort is a four-season get-away. Photo By: Kostel Photo

The Trans Canada Trail, Mansfield Outdoor Centre and Earl Rowe Provincial Park are also dynamite destinations for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking.

LOTS TO SEE AND DO

Formerly a farm implement factory, the Gibson Centre is an authentic, historical area landmark. This lovingly restored 1889 treasure is a showcase of culture at its finest, with a performance hall, gallery space and cafe. Downstairs in the Mercer Pub, you can enjoy local craft beer while listening to live entertainment.

A little further down the road, and well worth the drive, is the Globe Restaurant in Rosemount. Built in 1859 (as the Globe Hotel), it was, in its heyday, both the local watering hole, as well as a respite stop for stage coaches. The refurbished restaurant has a delightful and cozy ambiance, featuring three dining rooms, all with fireplaces, water jugs flavoured with watermelon and lemon swirls, hot homemade biscuits that melt in your mouth, and artistically displayed portions that leave you more-than satisfied. Bottles of their homemade chutneys and preserves, including peppered blueberries, spicy rhubarb and apple mint are available to savour at home.

Photography, (top) courtesy of the Town of Alliston; (below) courtesy of Museum on the Boyne

Sweeten your visit with a stop at the Museum on the Boyne. Sample some old-fashioned rock candy, then tour the museum’s collection of noteworthy buildings, including the 1851 log cabin, 1858 English barn, 1914 Agricultural Fair Building, and Alliston’s old town jail. The Museum is in the throes of gearing up for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Check in with the museum for scheduled festivities planned for the coming year.

Bet on some outsized fun at nearby Georgian Downs, which features 1,000 slot machines, as well as interactive games like Black Jack, Poker and Roulette.

South Simcoe Theatre (SST), housed in the Cookstown Town Hall, is celebrating 50 years of community theatre with their show, 50: Our Golden Celebration, a commemorative retrospective of SST musical offerings.

SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP

A great destination for that special holiday find, Alliston and neighbouring Cookstown, offer quaint, small-town, main-street buying experiences. Shoppers can take advantage of what local merchants have to offer, including funky clothing and artisan boutiques, home and decor shops, antiques, designer jewellery, leather goods, and even a stamp collector’s store.

The nearby Tanger Outlets Cookstown, at Highways 400 and 89, showcase more that 100 brand-name/ designer stores, including the Crocs Outlet, the Royal Daulton Outlet, Under Armour and Calvin Klein.

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