Stratford


STRATFORD

Stratford has a special kind of magic. And it’s no wonder: it’s home to a world-famous theatre festival in a picturesque setting along the Avon River. But there’s a whole lot more to “festival city” than the obvious — as a year-round destination, Stratford boasts an impressive culinary scene and lively local arts. Bonus: It’s easy to get to Stratford by bus or train, and the walkability of the downtown core won’t have you missing your car, making it a good weekend or weekday getaway.

July 05, 2023 | Photo Courtesy of Destination Stratford



Day One

MORNING

STRATFORD DOWNTOWN

BROWSE THE BEAUTY

There are few more relaxing ways to start a day than by strolling through beautiful Stratford, where time seems to slow down. You can too, at one of the city’s indie coffee shops. For healthy deliciousness, try The Ashborne Café Bar, for a cute and cozy spot, pop into The Livery Yard; or visit revel, which is known for its pastry and serious coffee attitude (its slogan is “independent coffee for a revolution”). Along the way, browse boutiques and galleries — a few possibilities are Distill Gallery for well-crafted Canadian designs, Gallery Indigena, which celebrates and promotes art of native peoples, or visit the newly reopened Agora Gallery.

You can’t help but notice Stratford’s unique, Y-shaped layout, a design based around the point where four townships met, today centred around red-bricked City Hall, located on a triangular-shaped city “square.” In the mid-1830s the settlement was called Stratford as a tip of the hat to England’s Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. But its architecture is unique and variable: residential streets reveal homes in styles ranging from Ontario Gothic and Victorian to Arts and Crafts. There’s even a Beaux-Arts mansion at 210 Water Street, the former home of furniture magnate George McLagan — once upon a time Stratford dominated Canada’s furniture market. Free self-guided audio walking tours provide curated routes, including the Saints and Sinners, which delves into Stratford’s streets and the people who once lived on them. Or take the Tom Patterson tour, which tells the tale of the founder of the Stratford Festival, and how his vision shaped the future of Stratford.

Photo Courtesy of Destination Stratford

AFTERNOON

SHAKESPEAREAN GARDENS & UPPER QUEEN’S PARK

GARDENS GALORE

Stratford’s parks are linked by the tranquil Avon River, but it wasn’t always thus. Citizens in the early 20th century fought for riverside parkland rather than rail lines. Enjoy the results of their civic-minded pride, starting with the Shakespearean Gardens. Once home to the Dufton Woolen Mill; today an impressive chimney is all that remains to mark that history. Originally, the garden contained only plants referenced in Shakespeare’s plays. You’ll still find fennel, rue, tarragon, rosemary and the like, but also find plants common to Shakespeare’s times, and benches upon which to admire them. Next, your green walk takes you to the jewel-like Tom Patterson Theatre, its natural gardens planted with indigenous species that coincide with the spring-through-fall performance schedule.

Then it’s Upper Queen’s Park, a perfect place to relax with picnics or paddling — you can explore the two-kilometre Lake Victoria via canoe, kayak or paddle boat rental. The park itself is home to the iconic Festival Theatre, where the Stratford Festival all began. The “Miracle of Stratford,” as some early patrons called it, started in a tent, and the Festival Theatre still evokes a glorious tent-like feel. It’s surrounded by the Arthur Meighen Garden, which has rightfully been called “a botanist’s delight” for its neatly-labelled perennials. A walk on the north side of the Avon brings you to the Falstaff Family Centre, where you’ll find the Medicine Wheel Garden, planted by a member of the Haudenosaunee of the Oneida Nation. As you wander by the Avon, you’re likely to see Stratford’s beloved swans. These long-necked beauties return each spring in the annual Stratford swan release.

Photo Courtesy of Destination Stratford

EVENING

DINING AND THEATRE-GOING

WORLD RENOWNED, LOCALLY LOVED

Dame Maggie Smith, Christopher Plummer, Martha Henry, Paul Gross… the list of brilliant actors who’ve played Stratford is long. The continent’s largest repertory theatre festival was founded in 1952 by Stratford local journalist Tom Patterson. It specialized in the works of William Shakespeare and transformed the small city, then in an industrial decline, into an international destination for theatre goers. Today, the festival hosts a dozen plus productions running from April through October, including contemporary dramas, stellar musicals and ground-breaking performances of the Bard’s work.

Play-goers have four venues to choose from: the Festival Theatre, with its famous thrust stage allowing audience members to sit on three sides (a design that inspired imitations around the world); downtown’s Avon Theatre, known for lavish sets on a traditional proscenium arch stage; the intimate Studio Theatre, and the Tom Patterson Theatre, a curling rink-turned-theatre recently transformed into an award-winning venue. Note: while the play may be the thing, so are innovative cultural talks, concerts, master classes and dining experiences, all offered by the Festival’s Meighen Forum.

Robert Markus (left) as Mark Cohen and Kolton Stewart as Roger Davis with members of the company in Rent. Stratford Festival 2023. Photo by Jordy Clarke, Courtesy of Stratford Festival.

Of course, if the stages are dark you could opt to linger at one of Stratford’s many acclaimed restaurants. Visit Revival House for innovative dishes served in a striking former church; Stratford Thai for authentic Thai cuisine, Raja for Northern Indian curries and tandoori, or The Common for its eclectic globally-inspired menu. Then there’s Stratford Chefs School, where – during the school year – students prep and serve exceptional prix fixe menus for the public.

Photo by Terry Manzo. Courtesy of Stratford Chefs School

Day Two

MORNING

STRATFORD-PERTH MUSEUM; GALLERY STRATFORD

HISTORY, ART, AND ARCHITECTURE

With a plethora of theatre, dining, and walking options you might be tempted to overlook museums and galleries, but don’t! The Stratford-Perth Museum, located in an 1870 Victorian home, has so much to offer. Situated amid woodlots and trails, the museum boasts one of Ontario’s earliest ongoing collections of regional history, from quilts to CN railway equipment. It also mounts rotating exhibits exploring more recent cultural ground, including an exhibition devoted to hometown popstar, Justin Bieber. Plus, you can learn and create with workshops on everything from Indigenous storytelling and crafting to how to decorate a Shakespearean sonnet.

Gallery Stratford, located in Stratford’s cottage-like 1883 original pump house, was slated for potential demolition in the 1960s but was saved by the Stratford Art Society’s proposal to create a gallery of regional and Canadian contemporary art. Today it’s an active cultural centre with a community studio that offers classes, as well as home to a permanent collection of Canadian work. It’s also the jumping-off point for the self-guided Stratford Public Art Walk. Along the way, check out Copperlight, a community arts centre in the repurposed Knox Presbyterian Church.

Photo by Scott Wishart. Photo courtesy of Stratford Perth Museum

AFTERNOON

CULINARY TRAILS

FABULOUS FOOD YEAR ROUND

Stratford’s culinary reputation springs from a proud agricultural history. There are more dairy farms within a 100-kilometre radius of Stratford than anywhere else in Canada, and the city’s home to one of the province’s oldest farmers’ markets, open Saturday mornings all year round. So, yes, come for the strolls, the swans, and the Shakespeare, but stay for Stratford’s fabulous food.

In addition to the many restaurants and cafés, explore local cuisine via self-guided Culinary Trails. The Chocolate Trail offers everything from hand-made truffles to chocolate-imbued teas and honey, plus a chance to meet confectioners and bakers. If pork and pints speak to you, take the Bacon & Ale Trail (bacon popcorn, bacon shortbread, bacon burgers, anyone?), while learning about Stratford’s long pork and brewery history. The al fresco Savour & Sip Trail (available ‘til the end of October) is literally a moveable feast; a true picnic lover’s dream.

Photo Courtesy of Destination Stratford

EVENING

STRATFORD SUMMER MUSIC (WINTER TOO)

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE…

Stratford’s impact on musicians is legendary, inspiring jazz great Duke Ellington to create “Such Sweet Thunder,” a tribute to Shakespearean works, and classical genius Glenn Gould to perform frequently at the Stratford Festival in its early years. That legacy continues with Stratford Summer Music, an acclaimed festival featuring over one hundred talented musicians performing in eclectic venues, from a floating barge to a mid-century modern church. Then there’s the Stratford Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choir. Visiting in the fall and winter? After summer is over, the music plays on at venues like Heritage Hops Brew Co., Revival House, and The Hall.

KUNÉ at Stratford Summer Music 2022, Courtesy of Stratford Summer Music

YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE


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This guide represents a two-day experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.


St. Catharines

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ST. CATHARINES

St. Catharines is the urban heart of the Niagara region. The city offers abundant wine and culinary experiences, plus unique festivals and cultural events including live music, theatre and sports. As the largest city in the region, this year-round destination is rich in significant Black and Indigenous history and is within easy reach of any location in the GTHA. (Not to mention a comfortable day’s drive from the U.S.)

April 11, 2023 | Photo Courtesy of Niagara Artists Center



Day One

MORNING

DOWNTOWN ST. CATHARINES

STEP INTO HISTORY

Indigenous trails predating European settlement underpin St. Catharines’ major streets, including St. Paul Street. The construction of the first Welland Canal along Twelve Mile Creek made St. Paul Street a hub of commerce — the History InSite permanent installations are a great way to view historic locations downtown.

People of African descent began settling in the area in the late 18th century, and their descendants continue to live and thrive in the community today. That deep history is reflected at Salem Chapel BME Church with its famous congregant, legendary Underground Railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman. (Do book ahead for a tour as there are no walk-ins.)

Start your day with a visit to vibrant downtown St. Catharines. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Catharines.

AFTERNOON

NIAGARA ARTISTS CENTRE AND LUNCH

ART AND A MEAL, RIGHT DOWNTOWN

While you’re exploring downtown visit the Niagara Artists Centre, one of the oldest artist-run organizations in Canada, sharing interdisciplinary contemporary arts of all kinds, including film, music and literature. Summer rooftop concerts are a favourite! NAC also runs The Studio Shop, an artist-run vintage clothing and art shop curated with an eye toward one-of-a-kind finds.

Take a lunch break at one of downtown St. Catharines’ many restaurants (there are over 70!): coffee at eclectic The Brazen Café, empanadas at Fiesta Empanada, or vegan cuisine at Rise Above Restaurant & Bakery are just a few of the choices. On Thursdays and Saturdays, check out the Farmers Market, operating since the 1860s and loved in the 2020s for both local produce and work by local artisans. The market regularly hosts live performances and a “Discovery Table,” connecting local farmers with market-goers.

Visit the artist-run Niagara Artists Centre for interdisciplinary art for all ages. Photo by Amber Lee Williams

AFTERNOON

MONTEBELLO PARK

A WALK IN THE PARK

Next, stroll through leafy Montebello Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, famed for co-designing New York City’s Central Park. Montebello has a splendid rose garden and a historic bandshell and pavilion, making it a perfect setting for festivals (including the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival). Another park-walking possibility is Richard Pierpoint, a park named for a one-time enslaved loyalist soldier with a celebrated St. Catharines history. At the age of 68 Pierpoint helped create “the Colored Corps” in the War of 1812, the only unit in Upper Canada composed entirely of men of African descent. Those men both fought in the war and helped repair fortifications at the mouth of the Niagara River.

Take an afternoon stroll through Montebello Park. Photo by Mike Keenan.

EVENING

FIRSTONTARIO PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

CELEBRATING CREATIVITY

This beautiful, state-of-the-art cultural complex is right downtown and boasts four impressive performance venues where you can enjoy live music, theatre and film. One of those venues is The Film House, featuring world-class cinema accompanied by Niagara wine and craft beer. Every September the Celebration of Nations holds its annual anchor event here, a three-day festival showcasing Indigenous arts and artists, with traditional and contemporary performing arts, visual arts and films, plus workshops and hands-on activities. FirstOntario PAC is also a partner of Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, which means you might catch some emerging talent in performance — all part of the Centre’s role as a catalyst for downtown St. Catharines arts and culture.

Visit one of the four performance venues at the Firstontario Performing Arts Centre cultural complex. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Catharines

Day Two

MORNING

ST. CATHARINES MUSEUM AND WELLAND CANALS CENTRE

FROM LOCKS TO LACROSSE

The Welland Ship Canal is a passageway for both “salties” (ocean-bound ships) and “lakers,” connecting the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Explore its history and get a front rail seat at the Lock 3 viewing platform as vessels pass through the lock. The adjacent park is the site of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial, a contemplative spot to reflect on the incredible human demands involved in the creation of such a feat of engineering. Many of St. Catharines’ stories are told in the St. Catharines Museum itself, from the history of St. Catharines’ women to its significant Underground Railroad legacy.

Then there’s the game of lacrosse, Canada’s official summer sport, created by Indigenous peoples. Learn all about “LAX,” as the sport is nicknamed, at the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame, located in the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre.

The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial remembers the people who died while building the Welland Canal. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Catharines.

AFTERNOON

FOLLOW THE WINE ROUTE

SO MANY WINERIES; SO MUCH GORGEOUS SCENERY

There are many possible paths through wine country – the entire Niagara Peninsula boasts one hundred wineries! – so plot your route via Wine Country Ontario’s detailed map. The 13th St. Winery, named the top Ontario winery at the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada, is a lovely and chic jumping-off point that’s only ten minutes from downtown. It’s where you’ll find the 13th Street Gallery, dedicated to Canadian fine art, as well as a delightful sculpture garden. Consider strolling the outdoor space with a glass of wine in hand. Then grab a meal at The Farmhouse Bistro’s locally-inspired cuisine (seasonal hours), or head to the 13th Street Bakery for Canada’s Best Butter Tart (as awarded by House and Home).

 

Onto more wine, or perhaps ale. There are half a dozen nearby wineries to choose from, including the famed Henry of Pelham family estate with its “old world charm and new world winemaking.” Book a tour to learn about the history of the winery and the life of a wine grape — while sipping on Estate grown wines. The Coach House Café (seasonal hours) is where fine wine meets fine food: charcuterie, inventive mains and the like. Of course, wine isn’t the only beverage the region boasts. Lovers of ale will want to visit at least one of St. Catharines craft breweries along the Niagara Ale Trail: Cold Break Brewing, Decew Falls Brewing Company, Dragan Brewing & Wine, Lock St. Brewery and the Merchant Ale House. Cheers!

While you’re visting the 13th Street Winery, check out the Gallery, which houses Canadian fine art. Photo by Natasha Wielink.
Take a tour of one of the half-dozen wineries in the region. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Catharines.

AFTERNOON

PORT DALHOUSIE

ONLY FIVE CENTS A RIDE

Port Dalhousie pretty much defines “waterfront charm.” Located on a small peninsula separating Martindale Pond from Lake Ontario, the town is famed for sandy Lakeside Park Beach, where you can stroll peacefully while taking in spectacular harbour views. If you’re feeling more energetic, you can also swim, paddleboard or kayak. In season, ride the historic Lakeside Park Carousel, purchased for St. Catharines’ early 20th century amusement park (with many visitors arriving by steamship). The menagerie has been meticulously restored to its turn-of-the century glory, and riders of all ages can enjoy a turn-of-the-century price — only five cents a ride!

Follow the walking trail to the wildflowers and willows of Rennie Park where you can watch as rowers glide by on Martindale Pond. It’s also where you’ll find the annual Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, its famous course constructed in 1903. Before heading home, take a turn around Port Dalhousie’s piers to enjoy the sunset, or stay on for dinner — popular spots are classic Italian (“with a twist!”) at The Twisted Pig and Spanish cuisine at Patio Andaluz.

Take a ride on the meticulously restored, historic Lakeside Park Carousel, still only five cents a ride. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Catharines.

YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE


YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE

This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

Ontario Culture Days thanks its tourism partner the City of St. Catharines for their support and assistance with this article. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.


Thank you to Arterra Wines Canada for support of this ON Culture Guide.



Niagara Black History Tour

January 25, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Destination Ontario

Niagara Black History Tour

Traveling along the Niagara River offers a vast and stunning experience of nature. The River is quite a sight, often presenting an alluring teal blue colour as it stretches 58 km between Lake Erie and the spectacular Niagara Falls. The River’s extensive journey marks the border between the United States of America and Canada.

Many tourists to Niagara Falls may be unaware of how Black communities have shaped this region for centuries. The area served as the Underground Railroad for many who followed the route seeking freedom in the mid-19th century. During the War of 1812, this is where British colonies’ allies, which included Black and Indigenous soldiers, battled with the United States of America.



Day One - Niagara-on-the-Lake

MORNING

QUEENSTON HEIGHTS AND THE MACKENZIE PRINTERY

WAR OF 1812 AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Follow the Niagara River for a journey into the extensive Black history of the borderlands. Explore Queenston Heights, a lovely park on the Niagara escarpment. Here, you can find the memorials dedicated to the War of 1812, when British colonies in North America defended themselves from the United States of America. Visit the Coloured Corps War of 1812 heritage plaque, which is dedicated to the Black soldiers who fought with the British allies, and the Landscape of Nations Memorial, commemorating the Indigenous soldiers who also fought in the war.

Follow the North Star with Niagara Bound Tours to learn about the migration of Black American slaves coming to Canada. They’ll invite you to join a caravan tour to view the underground railroad. Listen to and learn from the impactful stories about escape from slavery.

Next, make your way to Queenston, a little village in the valley, and stop at Mackenzie Printery. This newspaper museum printed the Act Against Slavery in 1793, a first step in the gradual abolition of slavery in Canada.

Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks

AFTERNOON

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE

BLACK HISTORY THROUGH ART

As you venture through Niagara-on-the Lake, keep an eye out for the memorial plaque to Chloe Cooley. It was her resistance that prompted the Act Against Slavery in the late 1800s. You can also take part in a self-guided walking tour (a handy app is available) as you wander around the Voices of Freedom Park. A series of art installations teach visitors about the history of Black people in the area, including those who were enslaved, Black loyalists, those who sought freedom, and free Blacks. As you make your way through the park, you’re reminded about the often-unacknowledged contributions Black settlers made in developing the area.

As you explore Niagara-on-the-Lake, there are plenty of restaurants and patios to choose from. After lunch, if the weather is warm, why not take a horse-driven carriage ride around the area? It’s a special way to soak in the essence of this popular strip.

Chloe Cooley plaque, photo courtesy of Ontario Heritage Trust

AFTERNOON

WILLIAM SUSANNAH STEWARD HOUSE, NEGRO BURIAL GROUND AND FORT GEORGE

AN AFTERNOON OF HISTORY AND HERITAGE

In the afternoon, head over to the William and Susannah Steward House (a viewing-only site). William Steward was African American and a community leader. Nearby you’ll find the Negro Burial Ground – a graveyard at the Niagara Baptist Church where members of the Black community worshiped.

Alternatively, you can pay a visit to Fort George, the home of the Coloured Corps, which is open seasonally. Step inside the fort’s restored buildings to see what life was like for soldiers in the 1800s. In the summer you’ll find re-enactments, costumed guides, and marching bands. Before you leave, be sure to pause at the Niagara River beside the fort.

Fort George (the home of the Coloured Corps.), courtesy of Destination Ontario. 

EVENING

FIRST ONTARIO PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

ENTERTAINMENT IN THE CITY

Once you’re done exploring Niagara-On-The-Lake, make your way to St. Catharine’s for an evening of entertainment. The First Ontario Performing Arts Centre is known for blues, jazz and rock concerts, comedy stand-ups and even local movie screenings.

FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, photo copyright Peter Legris

Day Two - St. Catharines

MORNING

ST. CATHARINES FARMERS MARKET AND SALEM CHAPEL

HARRIET TUBMAN’S TOWN

Make an early start to the day with a trip to the St. Catharines’ farmers market, (open seasonally). Power up with local coffee and nibble on homegrown produce and freshly baked pastries as you stroll and seek souvenirs.

Harriet Tubman is the most famous resident of St. Catharines. You can find her pew in the Salem Chapel in the British Methodist Episcopal Church. This local museum has many tales of Tubman and the Underground Railroad (make sure to call ahead and book a guide). After the tour, extend your afternoon with a stroll around Richard Pierpoint Park – named after a Black hero of the War of 1812.

St. Catharines

AFTERNOON

CARIBBEAN EATS, ST. CATHARINES MUSEUM AND WELLAND CANALS CENTRE

DIG IN – TO LUNCH AND HISTORY

For lunch, why not check out some of the local Caribbean cafés and restaurants? These include the Caribbean Eatery, Island Spice Take Out and JamRock Irie Jerk, which features Jamaican dishes like slow-cooked oxtail, jerk chicken breast meal, and curry chicken roti.

After lunch, head out to the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre. The temporary exhibit Last Stop: In their Own Words, provides a look at the experience of the Black community in St. Catharines as told in their own words, and as they navigated their new lives in Canada. The viewing Lock 3 platform will provide an up-close view of ships as they lock through the Welland Ship Canal.

Photo courtesy of St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

EVENING

FORT ERIE

BEACH PROMENADE AND BATTLE REENACTMENTS

Fort Erie is a quaint hamlet at the south end of the Niagara River. Start with a visit to Waverly Beach Park and discover an amazing view of the Buffalo, USA skyline. Stroll the shores of Erie Beach Amusement Park which has a series of heritage plaques about the hotel and its role in forming the American Civil Rights movement in 1905. It was the forerunner to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Old Fort Erie is a historically rich spot where visitors can view battle sites from the War of 1812. There’s a museum nearby that offers education and context on the war itself. In the summer you can watch scores of re-enactors as they play out specific battles, which include Black and Indigenous troops who were crucial in defending the British colonies. Just down the road is Freedom Park. This small and quiet park is the site of a former ferry terminal and memorial to the Black people who crossed over here for freedom.

End the day with some food at any of the waterfront cafés and restaurants at Crystal Beach – or further along at Port Colborne.

Old Fort Erie, image courtesy of Niagara Parks

WANT TO TAKE A DETOUR?

CYCLING ALONG NIAGARA’S NATURE TRAILS

You can do this entire tour on a bicycle by traveling along the Niagara Recreational Trail. The paved trail is mostly along the Niagara River, with a few sections on quiet side roads. The Niagara bike trail joins up with the Welland Canal Trail, which offers another safe and quiet route along the water.


YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE


YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE

This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. Jacqueline Scott, Ramona Leitao, Keira Park and Kaitlyn Patience contributed to this culture guide.


We acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.


Windsor, Border City

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Windsor, Border City

Stretched along the Detroit River, Windsor is a hub of cultural, industrial and creative innovation. The region is speckled with galleries, concert venues, international foods, and – as Canada’s southernmost city and a historic entry point into our nation – rich in Black history.

As a border city, Windsor played an important role in the Underground Railroad, an anti-slavery freedom movement that helped thousands to escape enslavement and start new lives in Canada where slavery had been abolished in 1834. This heritage is preserved in local museums and through annual cultural events.

October 11, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Ontario Heritage Trust



Day One

MORNING

RIVERFRONT

SCENIC VIEWS AND SCULPTURE

In the morning, start your trip downtown getting to know Windsor’s riverfront, which flows past a variety of landmark experiences. The Detroit River has always been a place of convergence – before settler contact, Indigenous peoples called it Wawiiatanong, meaning ‘where the river bends.”

Whether you travel on foot or pedal along calming bike paths, you must pause to explore the Windsor Sculpture Park. This outdoor gallery holds over 33 works of public art by internationally recognized artists, including Haydn Llewellyn Davies, Sorel Etrog, and Xiaofeng Yin. With waterfront views and paved pathways, this free-entry park can be enjoyed throughout all four seasons.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Windsor-Essex

AFTERNOON

JOSIAH HENSON MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-CANADIAN HISTORY OR CHIMCZUK MUSEUM

RECLAIMING BLACK HISTORY

Discover Black history on a drive to the beautiful village of Dresden about 1.5 hours away. Here you can visit the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History, an Ontario Heritage Trust stewarded site. Henson was a preacher, author and, while escaping from slavery, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, rescuing 118 enslaved people in his time. Once in Upper Canada, Henson turned his passion for self-reliance and education into a new settlement, Dawn, with a school, farming community and industries. He was fictionalized as Uncle Tom in an anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But this was an identity and name he refuted – so, the museum has recently renamed itself to reflect his objection. The sites of the Dawn settlement and its Underground Railroad stories are now told here through interactive exhibits, Black History Month programming and special events to mark Emancipation Day.

Then visit the nearby Buxton National Historic Site and Museum. Once a settlement for escaped slaves and free Black people, today the site tells the story of the Buxton community and its significance to the Underground Railroad and Black Canadian history. The museum offers guided tours, exhibits, and educational programs that help paint a picture of the community that once lived there.

Another option in Windsor’s downtown core is the Chimczuk Museum, which features a walk-through of Windsor from the pre-historic era to the modern day, including a darkened tunnel-like space which tells the stories of those who traveled the Underground Railroad.

Photo: Ontario Southwest/Chatham-Kent Tourism, courtesy of Ontario Heritage Trust

EVENING

THE CHRYSLER THEATRE

STAND-UP, SINGERS AND STAGE DOORS

Return downtown for an evening at the Chrysler Theatre. Situated within the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts, which boasts a competitive musical theatre program, this facility is abuzz with creative talent and offers another stunning waterfront view. There’s something for every audience, including concerts, stand-up comedy, movie nights, drag shows, and professional theatre and dance.

Photo Credit Walter C.

Day Two

MORNING

RUM RUNNERS BUS TOUR

DANCE THE CHARLESTON

Rum and whisky flowed along the Windsor-Detroit border during Prohibition in the 1920s, when spirits and alcohol were outlawed on both sides of the border. For an immersive experience, hop on the Rum Runner’s Tour bus and let a colourful, funny cast of roaring twenties characters take you back in time. Your ticket to this multi-hour tour includes lunch in a reimagined speakeasy filled with piano music of the era and boards to dance the Charleston on, if you’re feeling adventurous and up for a spin.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Windsor-Essex

AFTERNOON

ART WINDSOR-ESSEX (AWE)

AFTERNOON AT THE ART GALLERY

Come back to current times with contemporary art, found at the renowned gallery Art Windsor-Essex. With nearly 4000 works of art, it is the largest public art gallery in Southwestern Ontario and includes an extensive collection of works by Indigenous artists, like Norval Morrisseau and Bonnie Devine, and artwork by Black artists Charles McGee, Kara Springer and Tim Whiten, in addition to related thematic exhibitions. You’ll also find work by a diverse array of artists at the Arts Council Windsor & Region in the Artspeak Gallery, and through their Art.Work workshops and New Voices program.

Later, you can grab a quick bite near the gallery, with The Mini Restaurant (Vietnamese), Dhesi Swaad (Indian), or Steak n Shawarma (Middle Eastern). Or for more delicious options a 5 minute drive away, try Bubi’s Awesome Eats for gourmet burgers, Native Wonders Gourmet Grub’s Indigenous inspired and traditional fare, or Mazaar with its Lebanese cuisine.

Photo courtesy of Art Windsor-Essex

Day THREE

MORNING

SANDWICH FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

BUILDING BLOCKS OF HISTORY

On your final day, dive deeper into Black history around the Windsor area. The first stop is Sandwich First Baptist Church. Sandwich was a town amalgamated into Windsor in 1935, but its history stands tall in this National Historic Site, the oldest – and still active – Black church in Canada. Noted for its simplicity and modest design, the church is built with bricks made of clay dug from the Detroit River. More importantly, the bricks were molded and laid by hand by Underground Railroad refugees, freemen, and runaways who settled in Sandwich. They formed a congregation which further rescued and sheltered more people escaping through the Underground Railroad, often using hidden rooms in the church to shelter newcomers from authorities.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Windsor-Essex

MORNING

AMHERSTBERG FREEDOM MUSEUM AND FORT MALDEN

SITES TO THE SOUTH

Next stop is small town Amherstburg, 25 minutes south of your morning’s activities. Here you’ll find two museums: for War of 1812 history and re-enactments, go through Fort Malden; for African-Canadian history, spend the afternoon at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

Amherstburg was for many the last stop on the Underground Railroad; between 1800 and 1860, 50,000 men, women and children passed through or settled in this sanctuary. Those people would’ve seen the same sites preserved today by the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, like the Nazrey A.M.E. Church and the home of George Taylor, a formerly enslaved man. The museum offers guided and self-guided tours for walk-ins and tour groups, and if you come during certain seasons, you can catch cultural programming like Ribs & Ragtime and Emancipation Celebrations. Curators at the museum put together limited-run exhibits, in addition to a permanent collection of artifacts that educate and inspire.

For lunch, enjoy a picnic in nearby Centennial Park or along the banks of the Amherstburg Harbour.

Photo: ©Parks Canada / Fort Malden National Historic Site

AFTERNOON

POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK

ECO EXPLORATION

For an unforgettable nature experience, take a scenic drive to Point Pelee National Park, Canada’s most ecologically diverse National Park. Birdwatching here is renowned during the migratory seasons and avid watchers can participate in the Festival of Birds, a 3-day event in May. More than wildlife, the park is also ripe for swimming, canoeing, cycling, or hiking the trails. In the fall, enjoy the annual afternoon arts market, Art at the oTENTiks, or biweekly stargazing nights. The park remains open in the winter, where you can explore quiet trails muffled by snow, surrounded by natural ice formations.

Photo Courtesy of Destination Ontario

EVENING

LEAMINGTON

LOCAL EATS

Finish your day by choosing from a selection of well-regarded restaurants in Windsor including Eddy’s Mediterranean Bistro, India 47, Thai Time, or Zuleeats (which promises to take your tastebuds on a trip to Ghana with savoury pies, sausage rolls and butter tarts!).

WANT TO TAKE A DETOUR?

A BLACK MECCA IN CHATHAM

An hour away from Windsor, and run by the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, the Black Mecca Museum is dedicated to uncovering and celebrating the rich history of the region’s Black community. Once known as “The Forks,” Chatham was a sanctuary for runaway slaves and saw a significant increase in its Black population by the mid-1800s. Interactive displays and exhibits explore the lives of Black families who settled there.

VISIT THE ISLAND

Should you find yourself with additional time to enjoy the region, visiting Pelee Island is a must. This beautiful location houses a rare Carolinian forest, two provincial nature reserves and more than a handful of conservation areas. Wine and history buffs may want to sign up for a Pelee Island Adventures tour of Vin Villa – the most historically significant winery in North America. As part of the tour, you’ll be offered delicious tastings, and the opportunity to wander through ruins and a restored basement that will make you feel as if you’ve travelled back in time.


YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE


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This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. Jacqueline Scott, Glodeane Brown, Eilish Waller and Kaitlyn Patience contributed to this culture guide.
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We acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.