Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Canada?

Collingwood, Ontario, Canada

When people started talking about their fall break plans, I was so excited to tell them about our upcoming trip to Canada.  Most of them asked this question:  Why Canada?  Almost everyone we knew were making that annual trek to Orlando, Florida and the famous mouse.  So, why in the world would anyone want to go north?  What could be so intriguing way up there?  What is there to do in Canada?

Oh, people, if you only knew!

Canada, during any time of year, is absolutely breath-taking. The drive alone is worthy of a visit--sweeping vistas of farms and forests, foaming and granite-filled beaches along those super lakes, majestic mountains--I could keep going but trying to pinpoint only ONE thing to love about Canada is almost impossible.  Located within 12 hours of Louisville, Kentucky, it is more accessible than Florida and has a much more beautiful drive.  Ontario is the closest to where we lived and is the most populous Canadian province.  It is widely-known for the winter skiing, but it is an amazing trip during anytime of the year.  This time, we visited in the fall and I don't think there could have been a better place to experience the fall foliage.  Yes, I did say experience it, not just SEE it.  Canada is all about the experience of being outside and enjoying nature, rather than driving by and taking pictures. 

I highly recommend taking the scenic route once you come out of Detroit.  Take the road less traveled and you will have memories to last you the rest of your life.  The Georgian Bay is along Lake Huron and will take you all the way to our location, Collingwood.  And, on the way back, go another scenic route and hit Niagara Falls.  It will only add about 3 hours to your trip and will be well worth it.  It is absolutely the best fall vacation we have ever experienced!  If you've never travelled internationally, start with Canada. You won't miss that mouse one bit.

Things to See and Do:

  • The Best View.   The best view is definitely to had at Scenic Caves.  Don't picture those underground caves here in the US.  These caves are all outside and are more like collapsed rock formations you can walk through.  They are no less beautiful and eerie than the US counterparts, though.  This is more of an adventure park than just a tourist attraction.  There are so many things to do here for the whole family--ziplining, hiking, and a suspension bridge that has the best views you will ever see.  Thunderbird Twin Zipline was absolutely amazing and gave 'thrilling' a whole new meaning.  To get to the tower, you had to climb to the top of the small mountain and then climb another two to three stories.  From there, it is a self-guided rush to the bottom, racing a partner the whole way.  The EcoAdventure Tour and Treetop Canopy Walk was my favorite activity on the whole vacation and something I had never done before.  Planks and boards are suspended in the forest at Scenic Caves among sixteen trees and you are harnessed in, walking the planks.  It was the best way to see that fall foliage up close and personal.  The end is a short zip-line to the bottom and the guides let you hang upside down, go backwards or both!  After that, it is a short ride to the bottom of the mountain once again.  For more information, visit Scenic Caves Nature Adventures.
  • The Top of the World. If the view from Scenic Caves didn't tickle your fancy, don't despair.  Blue Mountain has just what you are looking for.  Blue Mountain Resort is world-class, world-renowned resort for skiing and golf.  If neither of those things are your cup of tea, there is also putt-putt, a mountain coaster (a personally guided roller coaster down the mountain), and shopping in an Alpine village with dozens of shops and unique restaurants.  Still not hooked?  Then, buy a ticket for the Gondola to the top of the mountain and take a Segway tour!  Zipping through cross-country trails on a Segway is a whole new way to experience the fall leaves.  This tour is located at the top of the mountain and the view is stunning.  For more information, visit Blue Mountain Resort.
  • Wined and Dined.  There are two wineries in the area and both are worth a visit.  Both are very different in both taste and ambiance. Georgian Hills Vineyards is located down gorgeous, winding country roads.  We were fortunate to be there during the apple harvest and fruit-laden trees were down every road.  Farmer's markets, stands and local festivals made it a fun time to visit this winery.  They do have a tasting room and the drive takes you right past the vines used to make the wines.  For more information, visit Georgian Hills Vineyards.  A completely different experience, and in a completely different direction, is Coffin Ridge Winery.  Coffin Ridge is a boutique winery and one of the most unique I have ever been to. Their tasting room is beautiful and be sure to check out the bathroom while you're there, even if you don't need to go!  The deep red walls and black toilet makes you feel like you've landed in Hades' house.  While you're sitting in there, you can also watch an episode or two of The Addams Family!  This is no shtick winery, though.  They have delicious wines and the view off the back deck was the most beautiful of any winery we've ever visited.  (That's a lot, folks!)  For more information, visit Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery.
Places to Eat:
  • If wings are your thing, look no further than Beaver & Bulldog Sports Pub & Wingery.  They have over twenty varieties of wings from the mundane BBQ and Jasmine to the more exciting Exorcism and Suicide.  While you're there, try the side dish Canada is known for, the poutine.  It is french fries with cheese curds topped with hot gravy.  Incredible food and fun!  For more information, visit Beaver & Bulldog Sports Pub & Wingery.
  • A landmark of Collingwood is The Alphorn Restaurant, a Swiss restaurant popular with skiers and winter tourists.  The Alphorn is open all year, though, so don't wait to try it out.  The weinerschnitzel is absolutely amazing and they offer different variations from the traditional, like smothered in mushroom gravy or with melted Swiss cheese on top.  The portions are big enough for a giant, so be warned!  Another really interesting taste was the raclette, an appetizer than was melted cheese with potatoes, pickles and pickled onions.  Sounds crazy?  It is a new favorite of mine!  Everything we ordered was so good, from the noodles to the salad.  For more information, visit The Alphorn Restaurant.
  • Want the convenience and ambiance of an old-fashioned pub and the cuisine of a fine restaurant?  Look no further than The Dam Pub Gastro Pub and Whisky Bar in Thornbury.  The Dam Pub has over 675 different kinds of whisky.  Patrons can sample flights or single nips of anything on that vast menu.  If you don't know what to order, the wait staff is very knowledgeable and can point you to some unique and tasty selection.  The drinks aren't the only fun side of this place, though.  The meal are prepared by a chef and lend to the Scottish side.  From bangers and mash to shepherd's pie, you'll feel ready to take on any rainy or winter day.  We had the Half Pounder sandwich--one-half pound of pure meat!  Delicious and sinful!  All this while traditional Scottish music plays in the background and shelves of old books darken the walls.  Cozy, and perfect.  For more information, visit The Dam Pub.