Archive for August, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009 is Labour Day. Here is a short list of Resorts of Ontario members that are running two- and three-day Labour Day Weekend packages. The prices mentioned here are approximate, so check the links below for specific details.

Bayview Wildwood Resort – 1-800-461-0243    Viamede Resort – 1-800-461-1946    Sunny Point Resort – 1-800-265-0432    Fern Resort – 1-800-567-3376    The Briars Resort – 1-800-465-2376    Pine Vista Resort – 1-800-634-2848

Packages can also be booked online at www.resortsofontario.com.

Bayview Wildwood Resort is a great place for kids and families.

Bayview Wildwood Resort is a great place for kids and families.

Bayview Wildwood Resort on Sparrow Lake in Muskoka has a three-night Labour Day special Starting at $384 pp/dbl. Friday, September 4 to Monday, September 7 – two Children stay for free. Their website has lots more information and there is a great photo gallery here.

Viamede Resort, “the Grand Lady” of Stoney Lake, has been hosting families and groups in the Kawarthas since Colonel Sam Strickland’s time in 1870! This luxury conference resort and spa is about 30 minutes north of Peterborough, Ontario. I just got off the phone with them… if you book for the three nights over Labour Day, they will give you 15% off the regular rates. Nice people. This is their website.

Sunny Point Resort is on Otter Lake, two hours north of Toronto. It has pet-friendly, waterfront, private housekeeping cottages and a main lodge/inn. Their three-night Labour Day Weekend package includes a boat and motor rental. It starts at $525 for three people in a Junior Suite, to $1995 for up to 14 people in the Grand Muskokan. Sunny Point Resort, Cottages & Inn

Fern Resort near Orillia – the home of rolls and honey

Fern Resort near Orillia – the home of rolls and honey

Fern Resort has introduced RSVP rates (Recession Sensitive Vacation Plan). Three nights over Labour Day weekend at Fern for a family of four will run about $1300. Fern Resort is an “American Plan Resort”, which means that all meals, entertainment and most sports and recreation facilities are included in quoted prices. Check the site or give them a call for exact details. Previous blog post on Fern Resort.

“The Briars” has been a fixture of the Ontario resorts industry for generations.

“The Briars” has been a fixture of the Ontario resorts industry for generations.

The Briars Resort & Spa has been at Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe for about 165 years! They have a wide variety of inn rooms and housekeeping cottages beside the golf course and along the lake. Check their website for availability. They have both two-night and three-night Labour Day packages starting at about $700 for two adults.

Pine Vista Resort in The Kawarthas is one of the finest housekeeping resorts in the province.

Pine Vista Resort in The Kawarthas is one of the great housekeeping resorts.

Pine Vista Resort on Stoney Lake has a two-night Labour Day package that includes a boat cruise and organized activities. It starts at about $500. Here is the website if you need details. 1-800-634-2848

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Millcroft Inn & Spa, Alton, Ontario

Millcroft Inn & Spa, Alton, Ontario

We were served dinner in the popular dining pod at the Millcroft Inn.

We were served dinner in the popular dining pod overlooking the millpond waterfall at the Millcroft Inn.

I’m settling into my Croft suite at the Millcroft Inn & Spa following an awesome seven-course tasting menu. The dining room manager suggested a superb  2002 Rief Estate Merlot First Grow to pair with our main dish of local venison prepared by the Millcroft’s executive chef, Roberto Fracchioni. Roberto (aka Frac) is a culinary wizard. Not only are his meals extraordinary, he’s personable which is probably why his cooking classes are so popular. Held once a month on Saturday afternoons, they fill up quickly so, if you plan to try one out, book early. You can get more information on them from the Millcroft website but I did check out his next two classes. September 19th is on garlic and October 17th will cover festive entertaining.

The Millcroft is on a 100 acre spread in Alton, Ontario, 45 minutes north of Toronto and the Toronto Airport so, it was a good choice for our weekend stay. I am traveling with a food writer from Vancouver who is flying out on Sunday afternoon. I like the Croft suite I’m in. It’s loft style with a relaxed, Canadiana feel.

Millcroft trail to Alton Mill

Millcroft trail to Alton Mill

The fireplace burns real logs and there’s a stack of them piled beside the hearth. The furniture is a mix of knotty pine, big L-shaped sofa, blanket box coffee table, flat screen TV and I’ve got a screen door out to my own private patio. My upstairs bedroom overlooks the inn’s heated outdoor pool. We’ve been on tour all week and have eaten an incredible amount of food at four Ontario resorts so, I took advantage of the pool this afternoon and swam some laps.Later, I walked over to the Alton Mill via the Millcroft’s trails. The innkeeper tells me these are well used by her guests who often try out the inn’s mountain bikes and cross-country skis on them. Unfortunately, I arrived at the Alton Mill after 5pm so, it had closed for the day but I’ve visited before. It houses some great art galleries and plans are underway to add a new restaurant.

The Headwaters Arts Festival includes the Alton Mill.

The Headwaters Arts Festival includes the Alton Mill.

Alton was a thriving mill town. The Millcroft was built as a knitting mill in 1881 and made long underwear for WWI troops. According to a young woman I met outside of the Alton Mill, it was once a rubber mill that made  rubber gloves and of all things, condoms. Apparently, the mill’s old rubber molds are still in place. Now, there’s a conversation piece. This fall, the Alton Mill is part of the Headwaters Arts Festival running from September 25th to October 12th. Ontario’s brilliant fall colours will be at peak then and the Credit Valley Explorer, a local fall colour train, will be running tours out of nearby Orangeville. Perfect timing for a Millcroft getaway!

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I’ve always been fascinated with the history of The Briars. On every visit to this Lake Simcoe resort that we have made through the years, I have always taken a keen interest in the old York County maps hanging in the resort’s lower floor, but news of their new history room is particularly exciting.

Ontario’s only peacock house (red brick) is found at The Briars Resort.

Ontario’s only peacock house (red brick) is found at The Briars Resort.

This treasure trove of perfectly preserved historical artefacts was recently discovered entirely by chance. The Briars’ archivist Diana Rowney guides popular historic tours of the resort and on a recent tour, she discovered a locked room. Out of interest she asked John Sibbald, owner of The Briars to open it. There, in perfect condition and stacked from floor to ceiling were boxes of long forgotten heirlooms and artefacts from the Sibbald family. They included documents that date back to the birth of Canada, including written statutes of Upper Canada dating from the 1830-40s. A prized family bible long thought lost was also found and perhaps, the most significant find were the journals of William Sibbald dating back to the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion and his involvement in the famous revolt.

The Briars Resort is a popular Ontario wedding and honeymoon destination.

The Briars Resort is a popular Ontario wedding and honeymoon destination.

The collection also includes diaries from Dr. Frank Sibbald dating back to 1875. There’s a history of the purchase of The Briars property by the Sibbald family in 1878. Also found were prize ribbons and glass milk bottles from The Briars Dairy which operated from 1922 to 1989 and old china and antique family photographs in near perfectly preserved photo albums.

Enjoying the Lake Simcoe view from the deck of one of the cottages at The Briars.

Enjoying the Lake Simcoe view from the deck of one of the cottages at The Briars.

In September, The Briars will unveil its history room at an invitation-only luncheon, but for history buffs seeking an interesting Ontario fall getaway, The Briars history tours will give you a glimpse of this treasure trove too.

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Two of my favourite Ontario drives are found in the 1000 Islands. Hwy. 2 is the old stagecoach road between Montreal and Toronto and the 1000 Islands Parkway hugs the St. Lawrence River between Brockville and Gananoque. Both routes take you to the town of Gananoque, a riverside community dating back to the late 1700s. The 1000 Islands is also where you’ll find two Resorts of Ontario properties – the Gananoque Inn and the Glen House Resort.

View of the 1000 Islands area from the air.

View of the 1000 Islands area from the air.

Originally built as a carriage factory, the Gananoque Inn first began welcoming guests in 1896. It was a heady time for the 1000 Islands, which was fast becoming a summer playground for the rich and famous. Millionaires like George Boldt, owner of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, and the Singer family of Singer sewing machine fame were building their palatial homes back then. The area was becoming known as the “Venice of the North”.

The Gananoque Inn welcomes guests in the 1000 Islands.

The Gananoque Inn has been welcoming guests in the 1000 Islands since 1896.

Today, the Gananoque Inn is a relaxed place to spend a couple of days. I stayed here a while back with a British TV crew that was scouting locations for a Survivor-type TV show. I’ll always remember the crew and my first meeting with Chad, a survival expert who ran a wilderness school in the wilds of eastern Ontario. In the parking lot of the Gananoque Inn Chad wowed the British TV crew (and me too) by rubbing two sticks together and igniting a small handfull of dried bullrush in a matter of seconds. He was hired on the spot as the outdoor resource guy. During our five-day stay at the Inn, the crew and I ate most of our meals on the fab deck overlooking the St. Lawrence River and the Gananoque Boat Lines. The Gananoque Inn is also just down the street from the 1000 Islands Playhouse. Many theatre-goers arrive by boat at its two theatres, one a 1909 canoe club, and the other an old fire hall.

The Glen House Resort in the 1000 Islands of Ontario.

The Glen House Resort in the 1000 Islands of Ontario.

The Glen House Resort is on a picturesque piece of St. Lawrence riverfront just east of Gananoque. Its idyllic setting is popular with wedding parties and often families will book the entire resort for their celebration. The resort has a 180 degree view of the St. Lawrence at one of the river’s widest points. You can explore the waterway in a Glen House boat, canoe or kayak, or for landlubbers, bicycles are available for cycling on the path along the parkway. I’m itching to play the resort’s Smuggler’s Glen, a championship 18 holes that has had rave reviews. I checked, and the Glen House Resort has some great mid-week and weekend golf deals for it.

A peaceful moment on the St. Lawrence River from the dock of the Glen House Resort, 1000 Islands.

A peaceful moment on the St. Lawrence River from the dock of the Glen House Resort in the 1000 Islands area of Ontario.

In fact, if you plan on touring the 1000 Islands, check out the Gananoque Inn and Glen House Resort’s summer and fall packages. In addition to golf, both include Gananoque Boat Line cruises and Thousand Islands Playhouse Theatre.

The official tourism bureau of the 1000 Islands region.

Gananoque

Gananoque Inn & Spa

Glen House Resort

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