Archive for July, 2009

Ontario’s July/August Civic Holiday weekend has finally arrived and Resorts of Ontario has all kinds of neat ideas (and good deals) for families eager to get out of the city for some summer fun. Here’s a sample of family deals available across the province: Family Deals

Serious recreation at Pine Vista Resort in The Kawarthas

Serious recreation at Pine Vista Resort in The Kawarthas

For a complete listing and links to over 100 resorts across Ontario, see this alphabetical listing.

Wakeboarding at Scotsman Point Resort on Buckhorn Lake

Wakeboarding at Scotsman Point Resort on Buckhorn Lake

Waterskiing at Beauview Cottage Resort on Lake of Bays near Algonquin Park

Watertubing at Beauview Cottage Resort on Lake of Bays near Algonquin Park

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Part of the millpond at Blue Mountain Resort, Collingwood, Ontario

Part of the millpond at Blue Mountain Resort, Collingwood, Ontario

Blue Mountain Resort is better known as a winter destination, but we decided to check it out at the height of summer. Our ride up Hwy 400 from Toronto was brutal. Heavy rains all the way. But when we arrived at this Ontario playground on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, the rain had moved on.

View of the pooldeck from our room at Mosaic, Blue Mountain

View of the pooldeck from our room at Mosaic, Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain Village is similar to other Intrawest properties such as Mont Tremblant, Panorama and Whistler. Even in summer, you get the feeling that this place rocks in winter with its apres-ski. As we walked through the village, we passed by all kinds of great shops, including Azul Jewellery. I’m a big silver fan and I fell in love with a beautiful Edwardian-style brooch while Glenn hit an expresso bar for a coffee and snack. From there, we passed  a martini and tapas lounge, a wings joint, 3 Guys & A Stove, which I first saw in Huntsville so, I guessed they’ve opened a sister restaurant here. We also passed several gift and clothing stores before I spied a “board” store. Snowboarding and wakeboarding are both big in these parts and this store had all the latest. Blue Mountain is also hosting “Wake Stock” on August 7-9, a big action sport and music festival.

The resort spreads out at the bottom of the ski hill.

The resort spreads out at the bottom of the ski hill.

Half way across the village, we saw the Gondola Rides sign and headed for it. Even though the upper Blue Mountains were shrouded in fog, we decided to take a gondola to the top so we could get some pictures of the resort village below. Normally the gondola would be packed with mountain bikers but because of the heavy rains they had closed the trails for the day. This is big bike country and we were keen to see some of the trails that we’d heard so much about. What I didn’t expect to see were the amazing wildflowers. Much of the top of the mountain is meadow-like. Just gorgeous. I was also taken by the shale. The Blue Mountains are part of the Niagara Escarpment, a huge ridge of land stretching from Niagara all the way north to Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron. The ridge is some of the world’s oldest rock and at the top of the Blue Mountains, much of the vegetation has worn away, exposing the shale. It’s also exposed some caves. We found a small one off one of the trails. Further west, at the Scenic Caves, you can actually go splunking, take a zipline or canopy walk or cross a huge suspension bridge that gives you one of the best views of Lake Huron found anywhere.

Jozo, the founder of Blue Mountain Resort

Jozo's is a great bar where the locals hang out, named after the founder of Blue Mountain Resort

We chose FireHall Pizza for dinner and walking in I thought oh, oh, popular with young families, this boomer couple may be sorry. So I suggested to Glenn that we sit at the bar away from the crowd. The gal behind the bar was really friendly and recommended the vodka penne so, I took her advice and I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised. Glenn thought the nachos were great too. After dinner, we continued our Blue Mountain walk and ended up at the Blue Mountain Inn. Built by Jozo Weider, an athletic Czech immigrant with a love for skiing, this is the original Blue Mountain resort. The architecture is right out of the 60s. Larry, a guy who has been working here for 25 years told us a bit about the place and about Blue Mountain Pottery. According to him, Blue Mountain was an early ski destination and Jozo, keen to have an off-season income, opened Blue Mountain Pottery. There are clay deposits west of Collingwood so, there was always a steady supply of clay for the company which, at its height, employed 125 people. It closed in 2005 but pottery lives on at Blue Mountain. Recently a Crock a Doodle opened in the village where you can transform ready-to-paint pottery pieces into your own works of art.

Samples of Blue Mountain pottery

Samples of Blue Mountain pottery

We’re just back from checking out Blue Mountain Resort’s own private beach, a little beauty right on Georgian Bay. A beach event had been cancelled because of the weather so, we had the place all to ourselves. Now we’re settling in for the night in our home away from home – a gorgeous suite in the resort’s newest addition, Mosaic. It comes complete with gas fireplace, a balcony overlooking an outdoor pool, lap pool and hot tub and a kitchen that includes a hot plate, microwave, fridge and toaster. Tomorrow we’ve got Scenic Caves on our list before heading back into the city. This has been a fun summer getaway.

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A good way to get behind-the-scenes of a resort is to read its blog. More and more are popping up on individual resort sites linked to Resorts of Ontario. Here are three that I reviewed for this blogpost:

Bondi Village Resort near Algonquin Park hosted its annual Island Marathon Swim this week and Nanci Tapley added some great pics to her Bondi Village blog. Three young guests ages 11, 12 and 13 years beat their Uncle James back to the resort dock, swimming a distance of 1.6 km. The kids were delighted that they “won” the race. Now call me a romantic but that’s the stuff that memories are made of. So’s the video of a bunch of guys making home made maple taffy in the snow. She’s also got a link to a really neat wildlife site at Algonquin Park that I had never seen before.

Fawns in the garden of one of the cottages at Bondi Village Resorts

Fawns in the garden of one of the cottages at Bondi Village Resort

Recent Scottish guests discovered Beauview Cottages while surfing the net. They knew all about the place and about Muskoka Lakes, Algonquin Park and Huntsville long before they crossed the Atlantic thanks to Gord Bell’s blog. I’d call that The Long Tail effect that Chris Anderson writes about. Something for everyone somewhere that can be easily sourced online. Gord’s also got a webcam which I think can be a valuable traveler resource provided it’s maintained. Gord updates his daily and in early spring when I wanted to know what the ice conditions were like on the Muskoka Lakes, I used Gord’s webcam to check. My absolute fave on this blogpost tho’ is Gord’s video of Snowtubing at Rock Ridge Park. I wanna go!!

Sunrise from the dock at Beauview Cottage Resort

Sunrise from the dock at Beauview Cottage Resort

This month, Anne Marshall wrote in her Elmhirst Resort blog about Odile Rablat, a gal from France who landed her ultralight at Elmhirst enroute to to Canada’s west coast. Wow, that’s impressive!! Elmhirst has its own airstrip and regularly entertains pilots from around the world. Some stay over and some as Anne’s July 5th post suggests even fly in for an Elmhirst brunch. The resort has its own farm on site so the eggs are as fresh as you can get, and so are the veggies. Steak is a house specialty since Black Angus are bred here too. A bunch of us enjoyed a steak & frites dinner here last winter washed down with some great reds from the resort’s million dollar all-Canadian wine cellar.

The wine cellar at Elmhirst's Resort on Rice Lake

The wine cellar at Elmhirst's Resort on Rice Lake

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The Niagara River runs northerly for about 58 km (36 mi) between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The steelhead fishing is great, as long as you don’t get too close to the waterfall, where four to six million cubic feet of water per minute plunges straight down for 57 m (188 ft).

The Riverbend Inn on the Niagara Parkway
The Riverbend Inn on the Niagara Parkway

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a popular tourist town about one hour west of Toronto, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. The place has an interesting history. American forces burnt the town to the ground in 1813. In retaliation, British and “Upper Canada” (as Ontario was called back then) forces caused a little of their own destruction on the US side. In 2012, this town will be the place to be for history buffs as the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is celebrated.

Château des Charmes winery
The Château des Charmes winery is a jewel of the Niagara countryside.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the heart of wine country. There are dozens of wineries within ten minutes of town. You can easily get to them by car but many travelers tour them on bicycles. Several of the wineries are found on back roads with little traffic, or along the Niagara Trail, a 56 km paved cycling route that hugs the Niagara Parkway. I think it was Winston Churchill who once called it “the prettiest Sunday drive in the world”. The Shaw Festival Theatre, which is devoted to George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries is also in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and so are some wonderful inns where you can dine or overnight.

The lobby at The Pillar and Post Inn, Spa & Conference Centre
The lobby at The Pillar and Post Inn, Spa & Conference Centre

This is a great area in which to experience both the pastoral country life of rolling vineyards and the high culture of award-winning restaurants and celebrated chefs. There are also plenty of historic inns. We stopped at one, the Riverbend Inn on the Niagara Parkway. Lots of people were out on its patio enjoying a glass of vino while gazing out over the vineyard. This establishment takes advantage of the Niagara microclimate and harvests its own signature wine from its own vineyards. The chef has a “Secret Garden” here too, an impressive affair that front desk staff told me is their main source of produce during the summer months.

For inns and resorts around Niagara-on-the-Lake, check out the Niagara Falls region on the Resorts of Ontario website.

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It’s going to be a big weekend of hanging out at a fabulous resort, eating and drinking really good stuff (and lots of it) and trying to spot the occasional celebrity. (I saw Martin Short there once).

Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka

Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka

The executive chef at Deerhurst Resort, Chef Rory Golden, has cooked up Thrill Of The Grill, a new celebrity event to promote the resort and some of the best products from Muskoka and Ontario farmers, wineries and breweries. This weekend, July 3-5, 2009, the Muskoka Food & Drink Festival at Deerhurst will be featuring Food Network Canada Chef Rob Rainford.

It’s all part of a package (details below) which will cost you and a friend about $800 for the weekend, but, for the price of a donation to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, everyone is invited to the Gourmet Griller Marketplace on Sunday afternoon, July 5, from 11:00 to 3:00pm. This will include at least one workshop, likely all about ribs, with barbecue champ Danielle “Diva Q” Dimovski.

Chef Rory Golden from Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka

Chef Rory Golden from Deerhurst Resort

Thrill of the Grill is a new package at Deerhurst, and the most extensive in a series of seasonal gourmet getaway weekends.  In addition to accommodation it includes a casual Friday reception featuring sampling stations with chef Brian Morin from Toronto’s Beer Bistro and Big Rock beer, Saturday breakfast, admission to the Saturday afternoon Gourmet Griller Marketplace with vendors’ sampling, Saturday night’s dinner/wine pairing event with Rob Rainford, and silent auction, followed by access to a post-dinner campfire, and Deerhurst’s famously lavish Sunday brunch.
Rate: Two night package, from $399 per night, based on two adults.

Check out the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance for info on this and other foodie events.

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