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An Ontario Getaway At Long Point Eco Adventures

We’re always looking for great new places to visit in Ontario, especially ones that promise unique experiences, opportunities to challenge ourselves, and pretty much anything to do with good food. So, we were especially excited when Attractions Ontario told us  about Long Point Eco Adventures, a place that offers all three of these in one destination and that makes for a fantastic getaway in Ontario.

Long Point Eco Adventures is located in Norfolk County, an easy 2 hour drive from Toronto and is a destination all in itself, even though the surrounding area is also quite a beautiful and interesting place to discover with Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point National Wildlife Area, a whole bunch of waterfront activities and small town charm along Lake Erie.

Whether you choose to spend some time sightseeing or not, you’ll find that pretty much everything you need, from accommodation to recreation, can be found at Long Point Eco Adventure. Our time there was spent enjoying nature while camping in style, overcoming fears while participating in exhilarating activities and dining on some delicious food after sipping on great wine from the vineyard right across the street.

Here’s a little look at what there is to do at, and why we love, Long Point Eco Adventures:

Luxury Glamping

You’ll find three types of accommodation at Long Point Eco Adventures and while one is rustic, the other two take camping from roughing it to living in luxury.

Long Point Eco Adventures Cabins

For those who prefer a more comfortable camping experience, the wilderness pods are a great alternative that will have you feeling like you’re still camping in the wilderness but without any hint of ‘roughing it’. These pods have a comfortable queen bed, a mini-fridge, couch and table with chairs. It also has a deck with chairs, a washroom with a flush toilet and running hot and cold water, though you will be using shared shower facilities. Since there are electrical outlets and wifi as well, you’ll have everything you need to disconnect and relax or connect if needed. You’ll also find a hot complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning.

long point eco adventure wilderness pod

If you want to step up the luxury factor even more, there are wilderness suites that will help you do just that. Spacious long tented structures, queen or king-size beds, all the amenities of the wilderness pods with the addition of a ceilingless shower allowing you the incredible experience of showering under the stars. It’s an incredible glamping experience and perfect for a weekend getaway or longer.

Of course, if you’re more into an authentic wilderness vibe, you can try one of their camping pods which are cabins with twin or queen beds, none of the interior amenities of the other options and shared outhouses and showers.

Eco Adventures & Outdoor Recreation

From the ground to the sky, it’s an incredibly fascinating destination that offers so much to do. You can tailor your visit to whatever you enjoy doing as much, or as little as you want, tapping into their eco adventures and outdoor recreational activities.

long point eco adventure ziplining ontario

For us, the huge draw was the ziplining and canopy tour which had us zipping through tree tops, catching great views of Long Point Bay and Turkey Point and completing a 40 ft rappel. It’s an exciting experience that can be done during the day or at night with 8 ziplines and 2 suspension bridges. We found it an amazing first ziplining experience and those on the tour with us said it was a great ziplining course even for experienced zipliners.

It was also an opportunity to challenge ourselves as Carolann managed to face her fears and push her boundaries. She fell in love after the first zipline and had a smile on her face until the very end.

We also got a chance to join in on axe throwing in the evening which had us learning some new axe throwing techniques by an expert and teaming up to compete in one epic axe throwing competition (we can’t help but brag, et, mention that our team won both games). It really offered the best axe throwing instruction we’ve had and was a ton of fun.

long point eco adventure axe throwing ontario

For those spending more than one evening at Long Point Eco Adventure, you’ll probably want to get involved in some more of the activities they offer. Between their zodiac boat tours, kayaking, fishing tours and mountain biking, you’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment during the day. Later at night you can take a peek at the sky in the observatory where you’ll get a full astronomy experience and then sit by the campfire, with the bright stars above, before heading to bed.

Culinary Exploration & Excellence

If you like the idea of glamping and want to pair it with more laidback and low-key activities, or add some culinary pursuits to your already adventurous itinerary, Long Point Eco Adventure has got you covered. In fact, there’s a lot to do outside of the high-energy recreational activities they provide.

After our thrilling canopy tour and ziplining, we wound down by heading across the street to Burning Kiln Winery for a tour and tasting. Staying true to the area’s history in the tobacco industry, the Burning Kiln has incorporated architectural elements like the tobacco barn and even uses tobacco kilns as part of an innovative winemaking process.

We found it an incredibly interesting tour with some truly unique elements and discovered some great Ontario wines in the process.

The Burning Kiln Winery Norfolk County

For dinner, we headed to the restaurant on site. The Burning Kiln Restaurant welcomes David’s Restaurant on Tour for lunch and dinner from May to September and has some spectacular dishes to choose from. We had cauliflower bites to start and chose the beef tenderloin and the burger of the week as our mains and thoroughly enjoyed each one. It was a great way to end the tour of the winery and a fantastic meal to remember

The Burning Kiln Winery Restaurant

If you’re looking for more culinary adventures, Long Point Eco Adventures offers an apiary tour where you can don a beekeeping suit and learn all about the hives, honey bees and beekeeping. You’ll also get a chance to taste what the bees are all fussing over – the honey!

Taking a day to explore the forest and learn how to find and pick wild, edible mushrooms is another option. The guided tour will have you collecting mushrooms along the way which will later be used to prepare a meal for you and paired with wines from the Burning Kiln Winery.

 

Whether you’re looking to relax in style in your accommodation the whole time and venture only for food and wine or are interested in a full-adventure experience, Long Point Eco Adventure has something for everyone and makes it one of the best destinations in Ontario for a getaway.

 

A huge thanks to Attractions Ontario for making our stay at the Long Point Eco Adventure possible. If you’re looking for other amazing things to do in Ontario, head over to the Attractions Ontario website!

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24 Hours of Food in Orillia, Ontario

We love it when we stumble across a town or city that has an unexpected culinary scene. That’s exactly what happened when we recently visited Orillia, Ontario and found an abundance of incredible food at every turn. Though we could put together an extensive list of restaurants, we’re going to highlight a few restaurants that will get you through a day (or weekend) trip to Orillia and have you licking your chops long after you’ve left!

Breakfast: Shaws Maple Syrup Bush Pancake House

shaws maple syrup bush pancake house

If you’re in Orillia from February to April, you’ll probably not want to miss the chance to try some freshly made maple syrup from Shaws Maple Syrup Bush. Their pancake house is pretty much a perfect breakfast place in Orillia where you’ll find fluffy pancakes, delicious french toast, fresh pork sausages and maple syrup galore! We also tried some of the maple baked beans which we were told was a must – and we agreed!

Lunch: The Grape & Olive

The Grape & Olive Dinner

Though The Grape & Olive is a great restaurant any time of the day, it makes for a great lunch spot if you’re out and about in Orillia. They have a variety of menu options, great service and some dishes that will leave you satisfied and full, ready for whatever the rest of the afternoon holds for you. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there and, as a tip, if you like bread, you may want to ask for an extra order of theirs before you even start!

Dinner: Rustica Pizza & Vino

Rustica Pizza & Vino Dessert

Rustica Pizza & Vino has become one of our favourite restaurants, especially for pizza. The flavour profiles are phenomenal, the wood oven pizza is created to perfection and it has a great atmosphere. We’d pretty much recommend any of the pizzas on their menu and if you can, take a peek at how they make them – the extensive training to master the art and technique of creating such a delicious pizza is visible as they work. What’s great is that the rest of their menu is just as fantastic, whether you are ordering a salad, some arancini or dessert. While the photo above doesn’t show one of their pizzas, it does show their incredible culinary talent with these pieces of fried pizza dough, nutella and strawberries!

All of the above & late night: Casino Rama Resort

St Germain's Casino Rama Meal

Since Casino Rama Resort is an entertainment destination, you’ll find more than just one restaurant here and even if you’re not staying at the resort itself (Casino Rama has some incredible hotel rooms!) you can still stop by for some food at one of their eight dining options.

Whether you go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-night meal, there’s pretty much something for everyone from their steakhouse to their pub. You’ll find a buffet with a huge assortment of food, a Chinese restaurant, a noodle house and more. We always find ourselves trying new dishes whenever we go and we’ve enjoyed every meal, no matter the time of day!

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A Winter Getaway in Orillia

Ontario’s Lake Country is a gorgeous area that, as the name suggests, has stunning landscapes of lakes and rivers and Orillia is one of the city’s in the area that not only has natural beauty but also cultural and historical finds as well. As it’s only a short drive from Toronto, it is an amazing destination to escape to – whether it be for the day, a weekend or even a week. It caters to locals and tourists alike with things to do and see for all four seasons making it a place you can return to again and again. Since Ontario has several months of winter weather, Orillia is a fantastic destination for a winter getaway – so, if you’re looking to head there in the colder months, we’ve put together a list of some of the amazing things you can do and see while there!

Maple Tree Tapping and Pancakes

maple sap samples orillia ontario

There’s really nothing like fresh maple syrup and whether you’re Canadian, or just visiting, you’ll appreciate the connection between maple trees, maple syrup and the country. You’ll definitely gain a larger appreciation while learning more about maple syrup production and luckily, there’s one must-see place in Orillia that will allow you to eat some amazing maple syrup AND learn about the whole process.

Shaws Maple Syrup Bush has been tapping maple trees since 1904 but there’s also so much more to do while there. We walked through the Maple tree bush with 4000 trees and saw the interconnected tubing that brings sap right to the processing area, saw the sap boiling area (there are times to view the boiling process) and, the tastiest part of the day, got a chance to enjoy recently produced maple syrup at their Pancake House! Here’s where you can try some fresh-made pancakes and french toast and several other maple-influenced items like maple baked beans and maple tea. It’s definitely a perfect breakfast in Orillia with a little something more!

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Horseshoe Valley Resort

Cross Country Skiing Horseshoe Valley Resort Orillia

There’s really nothing to do about winter and snow in Canada other than getting out and enjoying it and if that’s what you’re looking to do, Orillia has got you covered! There’s one place in particular that we enjoy because of the sheer number of options for outdoor fun in the winter – Horseshoe Resort. As the two of us are composed of a skier and an non-skier, hitting the snow in anything other than boots can be intimidating for the one half of us that is, shall we say, winter-sport challenged (hint: if you want to know who we’re talking about, take a look at the person on the RIGHT of the photo above…). Horseshoe Resort offered different activities for our comfort levels, amazing instructors and great ways to warm up after!

It was here that we first tried cross country skiing and snowshoeing and had an absolute blast. Downhill skiing is also available and while we were up for giving the slopes a whirl, the temptation of trying some of the other activities won out. Our instructor for cross country skiing was amazing and the trails for it and snowshoeing were a pretty sight with the white snow glistening. We also had the chance to go tubing which was not about skill but instead about pure fun! Warming up for lunch had us enjoying a great meal and heading back outside to sit by an outdoor fire and roast marshmallows.

Since they also have fat biking and snowmobiling, and we didn’t end up downhill skiing, it will definitely be somewhere for us to return to next time we’re in Orillia in the winter!

Explore Art & History

The Orillia Museum of Art & History Orillia

Though it may be considered a small town, Orillia has a cultural scene that shouldn’t be missed. From the Rama First Nations history, art and culture to the town’s own history and art scene, there’s something to be found if you’re looking.

We made a stop in to the Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) and found some incredible talent along with some interesting tidbits of local history. OMAH is dedicated to showcasing local history and art as well as the artwork of surrounding areas. They have some incredibly interesting exhibitions that move through and we were fortunate to be able to be there for the 21st annual International Women’s Day exhibition with a theme of ‘renewal’.

History of the area is displayed in various artifacts and in the story of the building itself and these, combined with the stellar art, give a glimpse into the community of Orillia.

Exploring the Orillia Museum of Art & History is just one way to experience the arts and culture scene and a great way to spend some time out of the winter weather outside.

A Getaway at Casino Rama Resort

Casino Rama Resort Orillia, Ontario

Orillia is usually closely linked to Casino Rama Resort and is often what is first thought of by people from outside the area… and with good reason. The sprawling resort is more than just a casino, it’s an entertainment destination with so much more to do than just gaming and has been dubbed ‘The Great Indoors’.

It’s also a fantastic place for a winter getaway in Orillia – the spacious hotel rooms, multiple dining options, theatre that hosts amazing performers and the casino floor itself offer a multitude of activities and make for a perfect place to spend time while in Ontario’s Lake Country whether you plan to combine it with some outdoor fun or just stay inside the resort the entire time!

Imagine a cold winter day while inside the resort, swimming in the saltwater pool and taking some time in the sauna before heading in for a spa treatment. Whether you top that off with a fantastic meal and maybe a show is up to you, but either way, it’s a pretty fantastic plan for a day in the great indoors!

Tour The Phenomenal Culinary Scene

Rustica pizza and vino orillia, ontario

The food scene in Orillia may just blow you away. We know were were absolutely blown away by the meals we enjoyed while there. In truth, you could spend your entire winter getaway in Orillia hopping from restaurant to restaurant enjoying incredible food, but then you’d also be missing out on all the other things to do that we just mentioned!

If you’re already intrigued by the pancake breakfast at Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush, we’ve got a couple more recommendations to make sure your meals are covered while in Orillia – Rustica Pizza & Vino and The Grape & Olive.

Rustica Pizza & Vino not only serves ridiculously good wood oven pizza but also a variety of Italian dishes that are perfectly executed. We started off our meal with some arancini (rice balls) which were scrumptious and followed it up with some pizza – each option as good as the other but all of them out-of-this-world good. Seriously. We are planning to drive to Orillia again soon just to dine at Rustica. Their dessert solidified it for us – we had fried pizza dough with nutella and strawberries and we really don’t have to say much more than that, do we?

We quickly realized that The Grape & Olive would become one of our staple restaurants when visiting Orillia. The service was impeccable, the food was delicious and we had a fantastic dining experience overall. Though we ate off one of their featured menus, we took a look at their regular options and we’ve chosen a few dishes we’ll be ordering the next time – or we may even go as a group and check out the interactive dining that they have available where the chef will prepare your 3-course meal right in front of you!

 

No matter how long you plan to stay in Orillia, there’s no shortage of things to do and planning a winter getaway to the area gives you access to a whole host of activities to help you enjoy the cold weather and snow!

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6 Things To Do At Casino Rama Resort Beyond Gaming!

Though Casino Rama Resort offers an extensive gambling floor with over 2500 slot machines, including some of the latest technology, 100 table games and a room dedicated to poker, there’s a whole lot more to do beyond the casino once you are there. In fact, there’s an entire property offering many things to do whether you’re there for the day, a weekend or longer. “Casino” may be the first word in the name but the “resort” component shouldn’t be overlooked and after staying at Casino Rama Resort on two separate occasions and visiting the property for day trips several additional times, we’ve seen what a fantastic entertainment destination it is for visitors.

What To Do At Casino Rama Resort If You Aren’t Gambling

Please gamble responsibly. If you think you, or someone you know, may need help with a gambling problem, please visit the Responsible Gaming Council Site for more information & to find help if you are in Canada. In the USA? Visit the site for the National Council on Problem Gambling

With a location not far from the Toronto area, it’s definitely a fantastic option for a getaway or day trip, whether you’re headed to the casino area or not. To give you a better idea of all there is to do at Casino Rama off of the gambling floor, we’ve put together 6 things to do there that make it a destination in itself and a resort you’ll be excited to visit!

1. Watch A Show

Casino Rama Stage Entertainment Centre

There’s nothing that showcases Casino Rama Resort as an entertainment destination more than the 5000-seat entertainment centre where world-famous comedians, musicians and performers grace the stage. Whether you’re staying at the resort or just dropping in for a performance, watching a show is a great way to enjoy your time at Rama.

In fact, it’s an experience all on it’s own and we’ve had the chance to see several shows there between the two of us. From comedy acts by Russell Peters and Whoopi Goldberg to concerts by various artists from around the world, we’ve seen some incredible shows on their stage. What is especially great is that no matter where your seats are, you’ll find you have a fantastic view.

It’s definitely one of the parts of the resort that makes it stand out and is a huge draw when visiting the hotel, the casino and the area.

2. Enjoy Delicious Food

St Germain's Casino Rama Meal

With eight dining options, you definitely won’t be going hungry and each restaurant offers a different atmosphere and fare. It’s here that you can explore the culinary side of the resort and enjoy some truly great cuisine.

There’s St. Germain’s a steakhouse with absolutely phenomenal service and delicious, beautifully plated meal. They have superb cuts of meat, a variety of seafood and a dessert menu by an award winning pastry chef. It’s one of our favourites and we know we will always find a dining experience to remember.

There are also a variety of options for more casual dining like Simcoe Yard House, a sports bar and restaurant where we love to eat whenever we’re at Casino Rama. Their Ultimate Hot Dog – a half yard in size – is a fun and tasty meal to try. The Weir’s restaurant and Cedar are alternately open and also offer casual dining and a many menu options. For us, we tend to head to The Weir’s for breakfast and Cedar for a late night snack.

From the Noodle Bar to The Willow, serving Chinese cuisine, the Firestarter Lounge by the lobby to the Couchiching Court buffet, you’ll definitely not go hungry nor will you run out of options or variety.

The best part of it all? The food is exceptional at all of the restaurants so you really can’t go wrong with your choices!

3. Have A Spa Day

Casino Rama Spa

Casino Rama Resort has an entire oasis for anyone looking to get away and get pampered for a day… or longer! Their Balance in Life Spa offers massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and other treatments and it’s a great place for a little relaxation.

We both recently enjoyed a massage and can honestly say it was one of the best we’ve had. Though we went individually, there are packages for couples as well and we may just be looking into those the next time we go!

The other great thing is that even if you aren’t a hotel guest, spa guests have access to the pool and amenities and as you’ll see below, they’re pretty fantastic on their own!

4. Enjoy The Pool & Amenities

Casino Rama Pool

For guests of the hotel, there are additional amenities that are available. The pool area has long been a highlight for those we’ve talked to who have stayed at Casino Rama Resort. Their indoor salt water pool and hot tub are a draw for those looking to unwind during the day or get a few gentle laps in while feeling the incredible effects of the salt water on their skin. We especially love the patio connecting the pool to the outdoors. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to go to dry off and enjoy some sun.

The eucalyptus steam room is also an amazing amenity and a great place to start before a spa session or after a workout in their adult-only fitness room.

It’s really a great space to spend some time while at the resort and a definite attraction for those who want to book a room and stay at the hotel.

5. Relax In Your Spacious Room

Casino Rama Hotel Room

The rooms at Casino Rama Resort are a destination on their own. They offer an inviting and spacious sanctuary with comfortable beds and a great sitting area with a large screen TV. It really is a fantastic place to relax and unwind, get cozy and spend some time.

The gas fireplace is a great touch in the cooler months and can add to the romance of the room if you’re there with a special someone.

No matter what you’re at Casino Rama for, you’ll want to spend some time in the room – ordering in room service, enjoying a bath in the Jacuzzi tub, watching some TV in the living space, and you may not want to leave at all!

6. Explore Rama First Nation Culture

Rama First Nations Casino Rama

Throughout the resort, you’ll notice architectural and artistic designs that illustrate Rama First Nation culture and history. There’s a lot to see and we’ve learned a lot by delving deeper into what the art and symbols mean and represent. Even the names of some of the resort’s features – like St. Germain’s – hold significance to the Rama First Nation peoples.

You can also stop into one of the shops and browse arts and crafts, gifts and clothing linked to Rama First Nation and beyond.

 

Casino Rama Resort really is an entertainment destination on its own and it only takes a short time there to realize there’s a whole lot to do and that there’s a reason why it’s called “The Great Indoors” – while they have a state-of-the-art casino floor that’s sure to impress, there’s a whole resort to explore and enjoy!

 

A huge thanks to SJ Consulting for the invitation & to Casino Rama Resort for hosting us. As always, all opinions are, and always will be, our own!

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Things To Do In Toronto In The Winter

There’s something electric about the city of Toronto that makes it a perfect place to spark a little romance. With an unending list of activities, events and experiences, it’s a city that is always bursting with activity and excitement, no matter the time of year. It’s probably this infectious enthusiasm of the city that makes it an environment perfect for all couples, whether they’ve just met or have been together for years.

Sure, warmer seasons may seem like the best time to get out and explore a city as a couple but in Toronto the winter is actually chock full of opportunities to have fun, get active or even cozy up together. You may not be aware of it, but you don’t have to look far to find those opportunities. All it takes is for you to put on your coat, throw on your hat and gloves, grab your special someone and get those winter boots out into the city!

5 Date Ideas For Some Winter Fun in Toronto

In case you need some help planning, here are some great things to do in Toronto in the winter that also make for great date ideas in the city for any couple, whether you’re looking for a day of art, nature or recreation!

Enjoy Winter Festivals in the Distillery DistrictDistillery District Light Festival Toronto

One great thing about Toronto is the steady stream of festivals that take place and the winter weather only brings more unique events to the city, especially The Distillery District. It’s one area in Toronto that never fails to offer enjoyment during colder weather.

If you’re looking to plan your date before the New Year, a visit here will see you walking through Toronto’s Christmas Market. As you stroll the cobblestone streets, you’ll see the classic wooden huts reminiscent of the European Christmas markets it is based on. Decorations and activities, food and drinks and shops along the way to duck into and escape the cold will also line your way.

After the New Year, you’ll want to plan your date night around the Toronto Light Festival an exhibit of light art throughout the Distillery District that will illuminate the city at night and blends art, colour, light, movement and architecture. It’s a unique place for a date night and will offer something special on an evening out in Toronto.

Adventure To The Islands

The Toronto islands are probably one of the last places most people think of when planning a date in the winter but that only means they’re missing out! True, it’s not the tourist hub of the warmer months but what it doesn’t offer by way of tourist comforts, it delivers in privacy and charm along with some unique winter activities.

You can easily spend an entire day on Ward’s island, skating on the water if the weather is right, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing… or even all three! After some time in the snow you can find your way indoors to warm up and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants that are open year-round like The Rectory Café. If you really want to kick up the romance, booking a night at a B&B and heading out to enjoy the view of the Toronto skyline together at night would make the evening complete.

With regular ferries to Ward’s Island, you’ll be able to come and go as you please and plan your date around whatever schedule you want.

Take A Winter Walk Hand-In-Handgraffiti alley toronto

Embrace the romance of the outdoors by taking a secluded walk through one of the city’s parks or trails as you hold hands and have some quiet conversation. Some of the more public areas, like Riverdale Park, still offer some quiet trails but will also give you the option of enjoying winter activities like tobogganing. It’s also one of the best spots for a view of the city line so an improvised picnic outdoors, with hot chocolate or coffee, while sitting on a bench could really up the romance factor.

A winter walk in an urban landscape, like Graffiti Alley, is also a great date idea. Stroll down the alley surrounded by stunning and colourful street art before heading to one of the area’s many cafes and restaurants where you can continue the conversation and exchange hand holding for some playful under-the-table footsies!

Find Outdoor Adventure Together At The Winter Village

If recreation and adventure is more your style, heading to the Evergreen Brick Works Winter Village may be your idea of a perfect winter date in Toronto.  A free skating rink, nature trails that you can take by foot or experience while fat biking (yes, it’s a real thing!) and campfires await any couple looking to spend the day enjoying winter activities. There are over 40 acres of outdoor space to enjoy and embrace nature while having fun and looking out for some winter wildlife.

The great thing about the Winter Village is that you can combine the day of outdoor fun with some culinary treasures at the Street Food Market. Local food trucks and restaurants can be found dishing out some amazing eats and demonstrating why the city is considered a gastronomic powerhouse. After a day of activity together, winding down with some delicious food is a perfect ending to a date at The Winter Village.

Explore The Art Scene Outside & In!toronto cityscape and street art

It’s no secret that Toronto is home to some spectacular art galleries and museums but before you go inside to escape the cold and warm up on indoor displays of art and culture at places like the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum, take a look at the winter art installations that are making the city vibrant even in the winter season.

Though the Waterfront and Lakeshore areas are prime spots for couples to flock to in the warmer weather, these areas turn into creative masterpieces in the winter worthy of a visit during any romantic outing. Make a plan to walk together to each of the five incredible outdoor art displays part of Ice Breakers. Spread out along the waterfront, you’ll pass by interactive designs meant to inspire and add to the beauty of the already spectacular area.

Winter Stations will also grace the city’s waterfront areas as lifeguard stands will be used to create temporary installations as part of an international design competition. Take some time to explore the brilliant work of artists, designers and architects as you walk along the waterfront with its own stunning views.

For some indoor winter date ideas in Toronto, check out our article on SeeTorontoNow.com: How Locals Do Date Night in Toronto: Winter Edition.

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Must Visit Toronto Neighbourhoods

Toronto. A constantly changing metropolis checkered with recent history and populated with people from all walks of life. If you’re taking your cue from the rapper Drake, you probably know it as “the 6”, though for years it was affectionately dubbed the ‘T-Dot’. Whatever you choose to call it, Toronto is for any traveller and, as Canada’s largest city, a destination that offers some of the most multicultural and dynamic experiences in the world.

If you’re headed to Toronto, the sprawling cityscape, vast network of roads and unending number of neighbourhoods, blending from one into the other, may leave you wondering exactly where you should be going to optimize your time in the city. Even to those of us from Toronto and the surrounding area, the districts tend to blur, though each one is unique in its own way.

Exploring Some of the Best Neighbourhoods in Toronto

Toronto Neighbourhoods Union Station

To help you narrow down the areas and explore the city even better than a local, we’ve teamed up with Expedia.ca to put together some of the best neighbourhoods in Toronto to visit! In case you want to know more about the city or need even more Toronto inspiration, check out their Toronto Travel Guide!

Bloor-Yorkville

Looking for gourmet restaurants and designer shopping? Elegance and fine dining combine in one of Toronto’s most fashionable neighbourhoods. This area is a huge shopping district boasting haute couture while also offering visitors a taste of Toronto’s theatre and fine art scene.

Each year, the restaurants, shopping and art of this chic neighbourhood draw stars and film buffs alike who have come to the city for the Toronto International Film Festival. Take a stroll in this area at the right time of year and you may find yourself bumping into Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Plummer or Drew Barrymore.

You’ll also find city parks like the Village of Yorkville Park, which continues the neighbourhood theme of art and design, or Ramsden Park, which offers a taste of nature and outdoor sport in the middle of a commercial hub.

Not enough culture and art for you in Yorkville? Just a short walk away gets you to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Planetarium.

**Bloor-Yorkville is approximately within the boundaries of Bloor St West, Avenue Road, Davenport Rd and Yonge Street. Closest subway stations for this area include Museum, Bay and the Yonge/Bloor Interchange.**

Harbourfront

Toronto Harbourfront area

If you head to the Harbourfront in the summertime, you’ll find yourself in a lakefront playground with a whole host of daily activities. It’s one of the most popular areas for tourists and with good reason.

A wave of events and festivals are ushered in with the warm weather offering music, dancing, food, film and theatre often incorporating the international flare so integral to the whole of the city. The Harboufront Centre is the main hub of activity where you’ll find most of the events of the area and is also a place we love to frequent to see what new festival or event happens to be going on.




Prefer to get on the water rather than enjoy the view from the shore or boardwalk? Boat rentals are available if you’re looking to cruise the lake and see the city line from the waters. If you’d rather be a spectator, you can hit up a baseball game at the SkyDome (true Torontonians will rarely call it The Roger’s Centre!), an event at the Air Canada Centre or observe an underwater world at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Of course, no visit to Toronto, or the Harbourfront, would be complete without a closer look at the CN Tower, probably the most well-known and visited attraction in the neighbourhood.

**Harbourfront is approximately within the boundaries of Bathurst Street and Yonge Street on the North shore of Lake Ontario below Queens Quay. Closest subway station for this area is Union Station.**

Entertainment District

Just a short distance away from the Harbourfront is Toronto’s Entertainment District. It’s here that you’ll find the most activity during the Toronto International Film Festival. Fans and celebrities flock to the area to walk the red carpet and watch those films that have yet to make it to the big screen. It is such a huge event, it’s often been considered second only to the Cannes Film festival.

If you’re more partial to live theatre, the famous Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre can also be found here. Walking just outside these buildings will have celebrities like Jim Carrey and Rachel McAdams literally underfoot… on the stars of Canada’s Walk of Fame that is!

As day turns to night, no matter the season, the entertainment district becomes party central with nightclubs and lounges drawing in crowds looking to dance, enjoy a variety of music and experience the nightlife in Toronto.

**The Entertainment District is approximately within the boundaries of University Ave and Spadina Ave around King Street West. Closest subway stations for this area are Union, St. Andrew and Osgoode.**

Chinatown

Chinatown Toronto Neighbourhoods

Though the greater Toronto area has seven Chinatowns, the most well-known is located on Spadina and is often referred to as Old Chinatown. As one of the largest in North America, we are often in awe at the atmosphere and look of the area. It is completely reminiscent of the streets we walked in Beijing with colourful authentic signage and decorations gracing the many storefronts and restaurants. For us, dim sum is our first stop but you’ll also find many Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.

With fresh markets and many places to find a cheap but delicious meal, Chinatown is a great place to visit to experience some of the cultural diversity of the city. If you’re visiting Toronto in the beginning of the year, this is the place you’ll want to be to celebrate Chinese New Year.

No matter the time of year though, a walk through Chinatown will have you enjoying the cuisine, style and traditions of a culture half the world away.

**Chinatown is approximately within the boundaries of Phoebe St and Oxford St along Spadina Ave. Closest subway stations for Chinatown are Queen’s Park, St. Patrick or Osgoode.**

Queen West

While you’ll want to visit Yorkville to find all the designer shops you need, if you’re looking for some of the most trendy shopping in the city, Queen West is where you should head. Also known as the Art and Design District, Queen West is a 2km (1.2 mile) strip lined with over 300 businesses including vintage clothing stores, shoe stores, arts and craft shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. It’s in this area that creativity abounds.

Extending further, West Queen Street West is considered a separate area though the vibe and creative bent continues from the Art and Design District. If you’re looking to discover some hidden gems, chances are you’ll have good luck in this neighbourhood.

Funky, original styles, boutique shops, many art galleries and small cafes are hallmarks of this area that is quite possibly one of the most artistic neighbourhoods in Toronto.

**Queen West is approximately within the boundaries of the King St, Queensway & Roncesvalles Ave intersection and Yonge Street along Queen Street. West Queen Street West lies on Queen Street between Bathurst St and Gladstone Ave. Closest subway stations for this area are Queen or Osgoode. The Queen St streetcar, Route 501, services the entirety of Queen St.**

Old Town

Toronto Old Town Neighbourhood

An original neighbourhood in Toronto, and the first to have an official nickname, Old Town is where you’ll find loads of history. Exploring this area offers a glimpse of the past when horse-drawn carriages clip-clopped their way down cobble stone streets, warehouses and factory buildings pumped out cast iron products and metalwork and distilleries poured with local brew.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to scope out the Victorian-era architecture that abounds in the area or are more interested in experiencing the revitalization of Old Town with its shops, restaurants and galleries, you’ll find this area provides a unique glimpse into Toronto’s heritage and local culture.

One of the must-see spots within Old Town is the St. Lawrence Market. It has been considered one of the world’s best food markets and is an integral part of Toronto’s history and current culture. You’ll also find some great deals and fresh local products from the 120 vendors that open shop 5 days a week.

For those of us who grew up in the area, regular visits as children to the market to pick up meats from the butchers, fresh produce from local farmers and straight-out-of-the-oven bread was commonplace. It’s an institution in the city that’s rooted in the history of Toronto and the memory of residents and visitors alike.

Every Sunday, when the St. Lawrence food market is closed, an antiques market is opened in the north building. Here you’ll find collectibles, antique books, vintage jewellery and a host of rare and unique items.

**Old Town is approximately within the boundaries of Queen St E and Front St E, and between Parliament St and Church St. Closest Subway Station to the Old Town is King Station.**

The Beaches

Think you can’t find sun and sand in Toronto? Think again! While not the white sand of some southern destinations, The Beaches is as close to a tropical oasis as you’ll find in Toronto with four beaches and, even though many people aren’t aware, waters that are safe to swim in.

The area is reminiscent of any other beachside town with a boardwalk for a leisurely stroll, some jogging or rollerblading, areas for beach volleyball and numerous cafes and clothing shops off the water.

Perhaps one of the biggest annual draws to the neighbourhood is the Beaches International Jazz Festival. One of Canada’s largest free jazz festivals, it spans over 10 days and draws international performers and local talent in addition to the hundreds of thousands of attendees yearly.

It’s probably not what you would expect to find in a large metropolis like Toronto but then, visitors will soon realize there’s a bit of something for everyone if you delve under the surface of the city.

**The Beaches is approximately within the boundaries of Coxwell Ave and Victoria Park Ave below Kingston Road. Take the Queen Street East, Route 501, streetcar to the Beaches.**

Distillery Historic District

Distillery Historic District Toronto

Though technically part of the Old Town, the Distillery Historic District could probably be considered an area to itself. If the Old Town as a whole offers you a glimpse of the past, the Distillery District transports you there. Abandoned Victorian buildings have been restored and turned into restaurants and storefronts to create a small village-like area open year-round to visitors.

During the holiday season, the Distillery District is transformed into a Christmas market that reminds one of those found in Europe and is a definite must see local attraction in Toronto. The cobblestone streets are lined with wood cabins selling a variety of holiday goods, food and handmade items. A festive, and enchanting, atmosphere is created by the lights and holiday decorations while people stroll the area grabbing some hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm up from the cold, before enjoying some of the delicious food offered by the many vendors. It’s a festival we attend every year, if we are in the area!

If you’re looking to tap into the history of Toronto – Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter – the distillery district is one place you shouldn’t miss.

**The Distillery District is approximately within the boundaries of Mill St and the Gardiner Expressway and between Parliament St and Cherry St. The closest subway station to the area is King Station though the King St East Streetcar has closer stops.**

Downtown Yonge

One of the areas where everyone in Toronto wants to be is Downtown Yonge. With The Eaton’s Centre, downtown Toronto’s largest mall, and a seemingly unending number of restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping options, it’s a popular stop for residents of the city and those just passing through.

At the heart of Downtown Yonge is Yonge-Dundas Square, an outdoor space that hosts events, concerts and other live music showcases in the summer. If the outdoors isn’t where you’ll be entertained there’s a movie theatre across the street and Massey Hall is close by!

**Downtown Yonge is approximately within the boundaries of Richmond St and Grosvenor St and between Bay St and Church St. The closest subway station is Dundas Station.**

Bloor West Village/High Park

High Park Best Toronto Neighbourhoods

 

Perhaps one of our favourite neighbourhoods to visit, Bloor West Village is located in the outskirts of the downtown core and has such a relaxed vibe you really do feel like you’re in a village rather than the busy city that is Toronto.

Though largely residential, the shopping district offers trendy restaurants and cafes, small markets with fresh produce and a variety of specialty shops selling clothing, food and household goods. We love walking down the street, taking in the people passing by and window shopping as we go.

What may be the highlight of this area however, is Toronto’s biggest park – High Park – though whether it is actually a part of Bloor West Village is debated. Walking trails, playgrounds, dog parks, cafes, a nature centre, a pool, a winter ice rink, and a zoo are just some of the activities and features of High Park. In the warmer months, it is a popular place for all manner of people looking to get active, relax in the shade of a tree, or just enjoy being in the outdoors.

Our favourite reason to visit High Park? The Sakura, or cherry blossoms, that bloom sometime at the end of April or beginning of May, if the weather is right. With a full bloom, the park is transformed into a magical, light-pink wonderland.

**Bloor West Village is approximately within the boundaries of Jane St and Olympus Ave along Bloor Street West. The closest subway stations are Runnymede Station or Jane Station for Bloor West Village, and High Park Station for High Park.**

Church-Wellesley Village

Church-Wellesley Village is an LGBT community that is inclusive of all people and is located right in the downtown core. Heading here you’ll find an eclectic variety of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Two larger events occur in this area annually. The first event, Halloween on Church, is a massive street party on October 31 where thousands of people dress in costume and head out to the streets to enjoy the festivities including live music, food and mass amounts of celebrating!

The second event is Pride Week which is centred around this neighbourhood and is one of the largest pride festivals in the world. Ten days of parades, concerts, events and parties celebrate the diversity of the city and the pride taken in Toronto’s acceptance of all people.

**Church-Wellesley Village is approximately within the boundaries of Yonge St and Jarvis St and between Charles St E and Gould St. The closest subway stations are College and Wellesley.**

Kensington Market

Kensington Market Toronto

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a round-the-world trip, you’ll not need to go any further than Kensington Market. It is a diverse neighbourhood of narrow streets lined with colourful Victorian houses and all manner of shops and restaurants.

Here you’ll experience the very definition of multiculturalism and take that trip around the world as you find shops and goods from the Middle East, South America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

If you’re around in the summer, head down on the last Sunday of each month when the streets become pedestrian-only and street performers emerge to entertain shoppers as they browse the goods available!

**Kensington Market is approximately within the boundaries of College St and Dundas St W and between Bathurst St and Spadina Ave. The closest subway stations are Queen’s Park or St. Patrick station though the College St or Dundas St West streetcars have closer stops.**

Centre Island

Since it is bordered by water, we consider Centre Island a type of neighbourhood or district in itself. Located a short ferry ride from Toronto’s downtown, it is one of the chain of islands off Toronto Harbour. Though it may not be what you typically think of as an island getaway, it has many components of that ideal image: beaches, canoe and kayak rentals to take out onto the water, outdoor sports areas and restaurants. The only thing missing is accommodation which can easily be found back in the city by Toronto Harbour or on one of the neighbouring islands, Algonquin Island, which has a bed-and-breakfast.

Centre Island is also home to Centreville Amusement Park, popular with families for its rides, bumper boats, water slides, miniature golf and animal farm. For those looking for more adult entertainment, music festivals are held on the island in the summer including Electric Island, a concert held at least once a month from May to September.

**Centre Island can only be accessed by ferry. See: currentCentre Island. The closest subway station is Union and the Spadina streetcar has a closer stop.**

 

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Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre – Where to go in Toronto to Find Happiness

Happiness. At times elusive, at times all-encompassing. It’s what we all chase and yet it’s what many of us can’t seem to find. In Toronto however, there is one place where happiness isn’t just found… it’s the norm.

Famous People Players Front Entrance

Finding a Treasure – One of the Most Unique Things To Do in Toronto

We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled into the commercial lot in an area outside downtown Toronto. The nondescript multi-unit building is not what typically comes to mind when the term “dinner-theatre” is used but we threw aside our first impressions and parked the car. What we didn’t know in those moments from the time we turned into the lot until we opened the front doors, was that hidden within the unprepossessing exterior, was a pearl of a treasure.

As we stepped through the doors and took our place in line to enter the dining area, we were greeted with a friendly ‘hello’ and directions to the washrooms, should we need. Already we were smiling in reaction to the warmth of the greeting. Those smiles seemed to reappear frequently throughout the entire evening. As the line continued to move, we took a look around the entrance. What we saw spoke of an amazing history and a profound impact on the community.

From the ceiling hung large stars adorned with the photos and names of former and current employees, and a description of all that Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre meant to them, in their own words. Along the wall, photos of performers and performances throughout the years were displayed along with pictures of famous personalities who have attended one of their shows around the world at one time or another.

It was, in fact, Liberace who discovered this spectacular show, bringing it to Vegas as his opening act for years where it captured the hearts of stars and audiences alike. Touring the world, collecting experiences and fans, the show settled back in Toronto and delivers the same kind of sensational performances for which it was first recognized.

What we hadn’t fully realized was the profound impact it has, and has had, on the performers and staff as well as the community as a whole. That is, until we were seated for dinner and had the privilege of talking to the staff themselves.

Famous People Players Dining Room

It’s More Than Dinner & A Show… It’s Where Special Happens

The slogan of Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre, “Where Special Happens”, hints at something deeper than just a spectacular show of dazzling talent and entertaining puppetry. It breaks down, into three words, what is at the very core of the company, its history and its purpose.

Diane Dupuy, the founder of Famous PEOPLE Players, began working with individuals with learning disabilities over 40 years ago when she started the theatre. She herself had struggled in school failing to find an outlet for her creativity and suffering from difficulties with attention that, at that time, were not regularly identified or aided in the school system. Identifying a need to remove limits and offer hope she developed a much sought after production that impressed audiences and saw them heading to Broadway, Las Vegas, and many countries around the world. At the same time, she provided a creative outlet and a unique form of expression for herself and those involved.

The staff and performers are still largely comprised of people with learning disabilities who have found a home with Famous PEOPLE Players and whose stories are a testament to the amazing impact and work of Diane as well as an inspiration to all who hear them.

Diane Dupuy Famous People Players Theatre Toronto

While we ate our dinner, we were fortunate to have been able to start up conversations with many of the waiters and staff who were busily working around us. Each one had a unique story. Each one changed because of Famous PEOPLE Players. Each one brightening as they spoke, eyes shining with happiness.

There was Nastasha, the girl who refreshed our water. In fact, we don’t remember when our water was ever empty over the entire course of our meal and each time our glasses were refilled, a smile was on her face. We were told when she first came to the theatre she was so shy she didn’t want to let go of her mother, her chin tightly hugging her chest in an attempt to avoid eye contact. It didn’t take long before she found her place and became the talkative, smiling girl we met.

Then there was Michael, one of the kitchen staff, who we spoke to as he passed. He’d worked at other places, he said, but none of them understood him or what he needed, When we asked him what it was that he needed he said simply, “patience”. That is what he has found at Famous PEOPLE Players and he said that he is now happy every day he comes to work.

Perhaps one of the most memorable of the staff was Benny. With Famous PEOPLE Players almost from the start, he leaves an impression on all who have the chance to meet him. It was his story that really stuck with us. Joining the theatre at age 16, Benny still had yet to speak. Not one single word. Though he was uncommunicative verbally he was still able to participate as a performer. Unfortunately, he struggled on stage, missing cues during practice and twice during performances. Diane reminded him that three mistakes on stage meant he would be reassigned to a job off-stage. After making that third mistake, knowing that he would be removed from the show and his mother would be present for a performance that day, Benny looked at Diane and spoke his first words…ever: “I have to perform because my mother will be watching!”

Stories like these abound and showed us that the experience was more than just a dinner and a show… it really is where special happens.

famous people players toronto black light show

A Truly Entertaining Black Light Show

It is true that the history and purpose of Famous PEOPLE Players is extraordinary. It made us especially happy to be present for the evening. But beyond its inspirational story is an internationally-renowned, simply entertaining performance using puppets and black lighting, music and humour. The magic produced on stage is often spell-binding. Performers are not seen but instead, illuminated objects are brought to life by the cast dressed from head-to-toe in black. Then there are the puppets. Some of the show includes songs performed by, often life-sized, puppet-versions of the original artists. The movements so life-like that you often forget you’re watching an imitation of the real thing.

As the puppets and bright shapes and objects floated and danced across the stage, our smile that had carried on from the beginning of the evening grew wider, our laughter a common occurrence. At the end of the show, when they turned up the lights and provided the audience with a behind the scenes glimpse as to how the puppets are brought to life by the cast, our appreciation for the talent and hard work only grew. It is a show unlike anything we’ve seen before.

famous people players dinner

Where To Go In Toronto For An Unexpected Fine Dining Experience

The evening started with a meal in the dining room before we were lead to the theatre to watch the performance. It was during this meal that we were able to speak to so many of the staff whose stories touched us deeply. It was also here that we enjoyed one of the best fine dining meals we’ve had in Toronto.

Our culinary experience started with a fresh salad and some entertainment by a phenomenal jazz quartet. While they are not present every evening, we were lucky to have them there to enhance our dining experience. When the main came out we were pleasantly surprised. Though we knew celebrity Chef Christopher Woods created the menu, we weren’t expecting the exceedingly high level of fine dining fare. Between us we had a perfectly cooked steak and a deliciously seasoned salmon, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of veggies.

dessert at famous people players theatre

With happily sated appetites, and equally full hearts after speaking to so many happy staff, we moved onto the theatre before returning for dessert. The dessert was a special treat by Chef Dufflet and for those who are familiar with Toronto’s food scene, the name Dufflet Pastries will ring a salivating bell. We were treated to a mini cake each for dessert – one black and white mousse mini and one lemon raspberry mascarpone mini – and without leaving a single crumb, we finished both while being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator.

Though the mealtime entertainments change, we can’t imagine the quality of the culinary experience doing so as well!

A Night In Toronto That Leaves You… Happy

From the minute we walked into Famous PEOPLE Players theatre in Toronto, when we were greeted by that first smile and the rotating stars hanging overhead, to the exquisite meal we enjoyed over conversation about the incredible impact the theatre has had on its members. From the one-of-a-kind performance of lights and music, to the 5 star dessert we gobbled up. The night started with a smile that held throughout and it ended with us realizing that, for several hours, in a theatre just outside of Toronto, we felt simply and purely, happy.

 

Heading to, or in, the Toronto area? Find out more information about Famous PEOPLE Players, their showtimes and their not-for-profit work by visiting FamousPeoplePlayers.com or calling 416-532-1137 / 1-888-453-3385.

 

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Toronto Christmas Market – A Distillery District Winter Wonderland

Toronto Christmas Market – One Of The Top Things to Do in Toronto in the Winter

The holiday season is synonymous with tradition. No matter what you believe in or what holiday you celebrate, for most of us it is a time for family and kindness, reflection and warm wishes. For us, we are immersed in traditions we’ve developed with family, friends and each other. One tradition that we started during the first few months we were dating is a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market.

While there are many things to do in the Distillery District year round, the Toronto Christmas Market is definitely one of the top things to do in Toronto in the winter and always one of our favourites. If you’re visiting Toronto, or are already in the area and looking for something to do as the weather turns colder, here’s what you can expect to find when visiting the Toronto Christmas Market.

Street Vendors & Shops

toronto christmas market vendors

The streets at the market are lined with European-style wood cabins selling a variety of different products for purchase by the people strolling by them.

Christmas market Toronto 2015

You’ll find chocolate, stuffed animals, Christmas decorations, jams and other goods, meats and breads, handicrafts and knit products, and so much more.  Each year the local artisans, entrepreneurs and businesses set up shop and impress us with what they have to offer.

Toronto Christmas Market ornaments

Not only can you purchase goods at one of the many cabins, the shops that are permanent residents of the distillery district are open as well and offer not only an added variety of goods to peruse, but an escape from the cold when needed!

Food & Drink

Eating chimney stax at the Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto CHristmas market foodBeer garden toronto christmas market

 

 

 

 

The highlight of our travels usually comes down to our culinary experience and our visits to the Toronto Christmas Market are no exception. Schnitzel and sausages, poutine and sandwiches, fudge and donuts, hot chocolate and Gluhwein (mulled wine) and various other tasty treats are available for purchase throughout the market at the stalls that are set up. Added to that, the local shops also include cafes and restaurants where you can find some more amazing food and drink as you explore the market.

Chimney stax toronto christmas market

Chimney Stax Toronto chimney stax baking co toronto christmas market

 

 

 

This year, we were excited to see one of the Toronto food trucks represented at one of the cabins. Chimney Stax Baking Co. is a food truck we’ve been trying to hunt down so when we heard it would be at the Christmas Market, we bee-lined it to the stand to purchase one of their amazing looking treats – cylindrical baked dough rolled in a variety of toppings and filled with a variety of options. We went for the one just rolled in sugar and were left speechless over just how good it was. We will definitely be hunting this truck down again to try more of the flavours available.

Activities and Entertainment

Toronto Christmas Market

The decorations and lights create such a festive and enchanting atmosphere and the activities and entertainment throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market only add to the holiday cheer. Carolers and dancers on stage, rides for the children, a 50+ foot Christmas tree, Santa Claus and Rudolph, and regular contests, events and holiday fun can be found throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market.

Toronto Christmas market crowds

There’s always something different going on so it’s good to check the schedule and see what’s happening. We happened to visit this year on ‘Red Nose Weekend’ which meant we got a red nose and got to see Rudolph roaming around the market!

A Festive Atmosphere

Toronto Christmas market sign  TOronto CHristmas Market santa

As we approach the entrance and look up at the lit sign that reads “Toronto Christmas Market” we always feel a small rush of excitement. The warmth of familiarity washes over us. This is our home. This is something that is rooted much deeper than a superficial glance or fleeting moment. It is tied to strong memories of good times and emotional connections with loved ones. Each year that we walk the brick-paved streets of the Distillery District in Toronto, we marvel at the transformation that has taken place to turn this area into a magical Christmas wonderland.

Toronto Christmas Market Snowman

With the sounds of Christmas carols and laughter in the background, we inevitably grab some hot chocolate to warm ourselves from the cold and usually find something ridiculously delicious to eat from one of the vendors. We stroll along the streets, enjoying the activities and holiday spirit and relish the time we have to soak up the warmth of the festive atmosphere. At the Toronto Christmas Market, we forget the hustle and bustle of the city streets beyond and find some time to really enjoy the holiday season

Getting There and More Information

Toronto Christmas market 2015

Hours & Admission:

Toronto Christmas Market 2016 runs Nov 18 – Dec 22.

Open Tuesday to Thursdays, 12pm – 9pm – FREE Admission

Open Fridays, 12pm – 10pm – FREE Admission before 5:00pm

Open Saturdays (10am – 10pm) and Sundays (10am – 9pm) – Cost: $6.00

Mondays: CLOSED

 

Getting There

The Toronto Christmas Market provides detailed directions, parking options and methods of transportation

 

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The Lancaster Smokehouse

This past winter, after taking a web coding course, we both felt a hankering for Southern BBQ.  Luckily enough, we were a town over from a restaurant we had heard of which supposedly had amazing Southern fried chicken and, something we always wanted to try, hog tails. The Lancaster Smokehouse, in Kitchener Ontario, is deceivingly bare on the outside, so much so that we almost passed it completely, but since we never judge a restaurant by it’s storefront, we weren’t concerned in the least.

smoke house outside

The inside of the restaurant took us straight to the South with wood from floor to ceiling and the smell of BBQ permeating the air. The casual, rustic dining space was larger than we expected and featured a fairly centrally located bar. We arrived close to 5 and it was already starting to fill up. By 5:30 the place was pretty packed and we were glad we had already ordered our meal.

smoke house bar area

 

Since they don’t accept reservations on Fridays or Saturdays, we would suggest getting there early if you plan on having dinner on either of those days.  As incentive for braving the crowds, there is usually live Blues music on these days which most certainly would intensify the Southern soulful, and soul food, vibe.

smoke house food

The menu offered a vast assortment of Southern, often Cajun, meals and sides. We opted for ordering what we had been craving all along, Southern fried chicken as our one dish and thought we’d try the beef brisket as our second. Since hog tails seemed to be a theme of the restaurant, it only seemed right to get a hog tail to try.  We found the sauce on the hog tail to be a little over sweet for the meat and was a little overpowering but we’d like to give it a second shot as we weren’t sure what to expect our first time tasting it.

smoke house brisket

Texas Beef Brisket with molasses baked beans, Waterloo County potato salad and sweet honey cornbread – $18.00 CDN

The beef brisket was tender and while neither of us found the sauce to be our favourite, it was still a good pairing to the 12 hour smoked meat. The potato salad was the highlight of this dish, neither too salty nor too bland, and a perfect blend of flavours. The baked beans were also good and all together, the trio worked well.

smoke house fried chicken

The General’s Southern Fried Chicken with fries, braised collard greens and sweet honey cornbread – $17.00 CDN

The fried chicken we were craving on the way to the restaurant was, in our minds, crispy, juicy, and seasoned to perfection. What we got met those cravings exactly. Crunchy and seasoned well on the outside, moist on the inside, the fried chicken is definitely a recommended dish. The collard greens were good, if a bit bland, the fries were delicious and the sweet honey cornbread tasted fresh and home baked.

If you are looking for a Southern, bluesy restaurant to satisfy your Cajun and fried chicken cravings, this is a great restaurant. Even though it was crowded and noisy by the time we finished our meal, we found the fried chicken more than made up for it. A word of advice: choose your sides wisely as the perfect combination can greatly enhance the meal, while the wrong ones can detract from the overall experience.

The Lancaster Smokehouse

574 Lancaster St W

Kitchener, ON

N2K 1M3

519-743-4331

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Table for Two – Stoney’s Bread Company

 

Since one of our hobbies as a couple is trying different restaurants, we like to keep our ears open for any reviews on local establishments. We had heard from quite a few people that Stoney’s Bread Company in Oakville, Ontario offered some pretty good food.  When we finally saw it on an episode of “You Gotta Eat Here”, we knew it was time to try it.

The restaurant itself is cozy and while it definitely gives that effect of an intimate night out, it is contrasted with a casual, relaxed feel as you order and pay at the counter and take a number to the seat of your choice. The restaurant boasts a menu of home-made pastas, sandwiches, pizzas and breads and even offers a daily breakfast menu. Their Sunday Brunch menu from 9am to 3pm adds additional mouth watering items to an already impressive looking list.

On our visit, we opted for a sandwich and a pizza and as we waited we started to doubt whether we made the right choice since all the dishes passing by looked so good. We most certainly were not disappointed though.

 

stoneys flat iron steak sammy

The Flat Iron Steak Sandwich with goat cheese, caramelized onions, fried mushrooms, spinach, and sundried tomato aioli on ciabatta – $16.00 CDN

This place knows its bread. The bun was fresh and soft on the inside but lightly crunchy on the outside. The steak was cooked to perfection and the mix of flavours of the garnishes were a delightful addition without being overpowering. It’s a good thing they give you a knife and fork for this sandwich but while it may not be the easiest sandwich to devour, it may just be one of the best.

stoneys pizza

Giuseppe’s Pizza – pepperoni, calabrese, capicola, bacon and mozzarella with fire roasted tomato sauce – $15.00 CDN

As we stated, this place knows their bread. The crust was thin and crunchy, but soft on the inside – just how we like our pizza crust.  There was plenty of toppings to have each bite packed with delicious meaty-flavour and the fire roasted tomato sauce blended well. The pizza was large enough that we had to take a to-go box for what was left.

This was one of the few restaurants we have tried after hearing much acclaim and actually agreed it was deserving of such high reviews.  This restaurant definitely provides a satisfying experience and is worth a second visit. Since this visit, we’ve tried a few other restaurants we’ve seen on television programs and, while not all were at the calibre we expected, there were two incredible restaurants that were. Click to read our reviews of 11th Street Diner & L’Avenue.

 

Have you ever tried a restaurant you’ve seen on TV? Comment below and tell us about your experience!

 

Looking to visit Stoney’s Bread Company?

Stoney’s Bread Company

325 Kerr Street

Oakville, Ontario, Canada

905-849-3627