Daycationing Over the Border
A sample of ice wines from Peller Estates.
Photo by Jennifer Merrick
The word daycation may be relatively new, but the concept isn’t. It dates back to the early days of railway excursions, when Victorians using Day Tripper tickets would travel to a scenic spot for a day out. This way of travelling is somewhat of a lost art, but it’s a time efficient and less expensive way to make the most of our short summers.
What would your ideal daycation look like? A first-rate theater performance followed by a decadent chocolate creation? Perhaps a forested hike to a stunning waterfall? What about the thrill of big city sports game? Wine tasting? Farmers market? With so many choices waiting over the border (and such a favorable exchange rate), there’s no time like the present to take advantage of what Ontario has to offer this summer.
Stratford: Bard, brews, and chocolate
The Stratford Festival, a repertory theater event that has been showcasing the best of Shakespeare as well as Broadway favorites since 1953, is what this town in southwestern Ontario is best known for. This year’s lineup includes Little Shop of Horrors, Billy Elliot, Othello, The Neverending Story, Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry VIII.
But Stratford’s appeal goes beyond the stage. Whether it’s feeding the swans on the idyllic Avon River, sampling a cocoa creation on the Chocolate Trail, or tasting brews at the Jobsite Brewing Company, you’ll be glad you didn’t rush home after the performance.
Niagara: Ponchos, plays, and wine pairings
How long has it been since you donned a poncho and cruised close to the Falls? New this year is a $7-million funicular that transports guests from Clifton Hill to Hornblower Niagara Cruises’ two catamarans. Farther afield in Niagara-on-the-Lake, catch a performance of the hit musical Brigadoon or Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie at the popular Shaw Festival, now in its fifty-seventh year.
Of course, you can never go wrong with a winery visit… or three. At Peller Estate Winery, choose one of its innovative tours (my choice would be the Everything Chocolate) or create your own itinerary with the Sip & Savour Tasting Pass.
With Raptors fever lingering, Torontonians are turning to other sporty diversions until the next NBA season. Toronto’s FC soccer team with its slogan “All for One” unites super fans from all parts of the world for lively matches at the BMO Field at the Exhibition Place. Also playing at this stadium on the lakeshore are the Argonauts (Argos). Canadian football has a bigger field and slightly different rules than its American counterpart, which some might say adds to the excitement. On sunny days, the roof of the Roger’s Center opens up to blue skies to watch a Blue Jays baseball game. Or grab a window seat at Sportsnet Grill at the Marriott City Centre Hotel and take in the action while you nosh on game day specials. The Leafs are not on the ice for a couple of months, but hockey addicts can get their NHL fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
At the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), Canada’s largest fair that runs from August 16 to September 2, you can view the seventieth anniversary of the Canadian International Air Show, featuring the return of Britain’s renowned Red Arrows. On a non-sports related note, new to the CNE this summer is the travelling exhibition, 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic.
St. Jacobs: To market, to market
As you stroll down the small-town streets lined with artist studios, quilt galleries, bakeries, and even a broom maker, don’t be surprised if the sound of traffic is punctuated by the clip-clop of hooves. These horse-drawn buggies belong to Old World Mennonites, about 4000 of whom make the Waterloo region their home. Telling the Mennonite Story is an exhibit at the Visitors Centre, that reveals more about the history, faith, and the way of life of these private, industrious people. You can also observe Mennonites on market days when some Old World farmers sell produce and handicrafts from the back of their buggies at the popular St. Jacobs Market. Over 500 vendors offer everything from fruits and vegetables, meat, and baked goods to antiques, furniture, fashion, and houseware products. It’s open year-round on Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as Tuesdays in the summer.
Prince Edward County: Natural beauty, lavender and culinary delights
Located in southeastern Ontario, the county’s hub is the town of Picton, where an obligatory stop is Slickers Ice Cream. After this creamy indulgence, there are innumerable daytripping options to choose from. At the Prince Edward County’s Lavender Farm, breathe in the scent of these floral fields and sip a lavender lemonade on the patio. Sandbanks Provincial Park is known for its hiking trails, crystal-clear turquoise water and eighty-foot sand dunes. Or hit the Taste Trail, a self-guided route, linking restaurants, artisanal food producers, wineries and distilleries.
Chasing Waterfalls in Hamilton
“The Hammer,” as this city two hours north of Buffalo is nicknamed, has been increasingly recognized for its thriving art scene. On the second Friday of every month, there’s an art crawl, and thousands head to James Street North to explore the shops, restaurants, galleries, and studios in this artistic neighborhood.
What’s less well known is that the Hamilton Region is home to more than 100 waterfalls dotting the Niagara Escarpment cutting through the city. Webster Falls is the largest and most popular. On summer weekends, shuttle busses operate from Christie Lake Conservation Area. Busses also take visitors to nearby Tews Falls to view its 135-foot drop (second only to Niagara Falls in Ontario). The Webster Side Trail leads to Dundas Peak, a lookout with jaw- dropping views of the valley.
Other waterfalls include Tiffany Falls, where a short walk along a forested trail and over bridges leads you to this beauty hemmed in by cliffs. Devil’s Punch Bowl (gotta love the name) consists of two separate falls that create one of the escarpment’s most impressive and geologically significant views with its layers of stratified rock.
I know I’ve been fighting the urge to jump in my car while I was writing this article, so I hope I’ve inspired you to take a daycation or two this summer, too!
Jennifer Merrick is a freelance writer, photographer, and avid traveler based in Toronto.