There’s no better way to beat the winter blahs than by taking a mini-adventure. Make the most of the snowy season with a staycation that celebrates one of the many winter wonderlands found close to home. Whether your ideal weekend away involves hitting the slopes, warming up with some of the region’s best food and drink or admiring snow-dusted historic architecture, you’ll find your perfect winter escape in Bracebridge, Temiskaming Shores and Durham Region. Start planning the cold-weather getaway of your dreams with these ideas for how to spend a memorable 48 hours in each destination.
Known for its beautiful lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, Bracebridge is a mainstay for summer getaways to Ontario’s cottage country, but winter in the “Heart of Muskoka” offers just as many outdoor activities – not to mention an abundance of culinary delights. For fresh coffee and homemade baked goods that will warm both your hands and your belly while exploring downtown, there’s no better spot than Big River Bakery.
When the midday munchies strike, stop by Main St. Delicatessen for old-school deli-style sandwiches like pastrami on rye or Montreal smoked meat. You also can’t go wrong with a pizza from The Oven, a petit bakery and pizzeria that serves its wood-fired pizzas on tangy sourdough.
At El Pueblito, a comforting bowl of sopa de tortilla or hearty mole poblano are surefire bets to chase away the cold. For a sweet treat, head to Kitchen’s Buttertarts for one of its indulgent tarts, which come in flavours ranging from classic raisin to salted caramel chocolate.
You’d be remiss to leave Muskoka without visiting its namesake brewery, but up-and-coming brewery Katalyst, which occupies Muskoka Brewery’s former digs in the historic Granary Building, is also well worth a visit. If you’re passing through on a Friday, stick around for its fun-filled weekly trivia night.
What to do
While Bracebridge is typically associated with outdoor pursuits, the town also offers plenty of attractions to catch the eye of culture vultures. Lined with handsome red brick buildings, downtown Bracebridge oozes historic charm. Keep an eye out for the Clock Tower, which was built in 1915 and now houses cute boutiques and studios, then continue getting acquainted with Bracebridge’s artistic side at Chapel Gallery. Set in a striking replica of the town’s first Presbyterian church, the gallery hosts rotating exhibitions by local and provincial artists.
Where to stay
For a place to stay that also offers a bevy of wintry joys in its own right, opt for Touchstone Resort. There’s a spa, sauna and steam room, locally-driven restaurant, as well as snowshoeing trails and a seasonal ice rink. Inviting rooms range in size from comfy standard rooms with kitchenettes to sprawling three-bedroom lakeview suites that are big enough for the whole family.
This lakefront city, which encompasses the communities of Haileybury, New Liskeard and Dymond, combines gorgeous natural scenery and a thriving culinary scene with oodles of small-town charm. Temiskaming Shores is a haven for foodies thanks to its fertile farmlands and location bordering both Quebec and Ojibwe land, the latter of which brings a distinctive blend of cultural influences to its regional fare. At L’Autochtone restaurant in Haileybury, Anishinaabe chef Gerry Brandon combines First Nations, French, and English cooking techniques with local ingredients to create intriguing dishes like seasonal frybread doughnuts or a riff on deviled eggs made with pickled beets and candied bacon.
While in Haileybury, be sure to swing by WhiskeyJack Beer Company to sample a wintry craft brew like the Chocolate Chaos stout. For a delectable dish mash-up, head to Dida’s in Earlton to try the Burger Cordon Blue, made with breaded chicken breast, local swiss cheese and housemade honey mustard.
A short detour north will bring you to Thornloe Cheese, which has been producing artisan cheeses and grass-fed butter since the 1940s. Pick up a wedge of its signature Devil’s Rock, a mild blue cheese with a deliciously creamy texture.
What to do
Thornloe Cheese’s Devil’s Rock is named after a nearby landmark cliff, which offers jaw-dropping views over Lake Temiskaming. Strap on some snow shoes or snow cleats to take on the pleasant, two-kilometre trail leading to the top of the cliff. Winter sports fans will also enjoy Temiskaming Nordic Ski Club, which offers a series of cross country skiing trails that traverse through lovely forest scenery. Take a break from the cold to check out the Haileybury Heritage Museum or Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum, where you can learn about the history of Temiskaming Shores.
Where to stay
Rest and relax after a day of eating and exploring at the Waterfront Inn. The inn’s large, well-kept rooms are spacious, with some offering views of the lake. The inn is easily accessible from nearby snowmobile trails, plus an attached public fitness centre includes a pool, sauna and hot tub.
Located an hour east of Toronto, Durham Region offers the urban conveniences that come with proximity to the city, along with a serene rural ambiance that feels a world away from the hustle-and-bustle. Kick off your culinary tour at Navarra’s Eatery in Uxbridge, a homey restaurant known for its hearty weekend breakfasts.
Don’t miss a stop at Slabtown Cider Co. for barrel-aged ciders made with Ontario apples. Uxbridge is also home to Urban Pantry, a farm-to-table restaurant that takes inspiration from Durham Region’s fresh, seasonal bounty for dishes like Ontario grass-fed ribeye steak frites. In Whitby, KB Food and Bistro ‘67 dish up more tasty locavore fare.
In the evening, head to Chúuk in Pickering for modern Mexican cuisine served in a bright and breezy setting that will leave you dreaming of warmer weather. For another bite that will transport you to the tropics, order Jamaican patties from City Patties in Oshawa’s up-and-coming SoJo neighbourhood.
Street Momo is another Oshawa must-try, specializing in eclectic, South Asian-inspired dishes that span from chicken tikka masala to the restaurant’s popular momos, which come in varieties like korma and vindaloo.
What to do
Winter activity options in Durham Region range from scenic snowy walks to ice fishing and snow tubing. The diverse trails at Lakeridge Ski Resort are well-suited to skiers of various skill levels or, if you prefer an alternative to the slopes, the resort also offers wonderful snowshoe and winter mountain biking paths.
Warm up with a visit to Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery to check out its impressive Canadian art collection, which includes works by Painters Eleven and the Group of Seven, as well as thousands of historic photographs of Oshawa and Durham Region.
Where to stay
Set in a lovingly restored 19th-century building in Port Perry, Piano Inn’s old-fashioned allure has made it an in-demand filming location for TV series and movies, such as Reacher and Season for Love. Each cozy room features vintage details like picture windows, solid pine flooring or vaulted ceilings. Tuck into winter warmers like mac n’ cheese or oven-baked sandwiches at the onsite café.
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