Tag Archives: Family Activity

The Hidden Gem of Orillia

While I’m usually visiting my friend in Orillia for some fun and relaxation, a couple of weeks ago I decided to beat the long weekend traffic by heading up a day early. My plan was to simply work on the Friday from up north; however, since my wife was also working, she ordered me out of the house so I didn’t distract her. As a result of my eviction, I decided to go work at the library, and when I got there it dawned on me what a great city Orillia is. Not just to visit, but to live and work in.

In terms of the library, I was completely surprised by how modern and new the amenities were. From updated computers, to quiet rooms that you could book, to free WiFi, and all sorts of amazing programs and activities.

But the library was really just the tip of the iceberg to the other benefits of living in the community. As mentioned in my last blog, Orillia has a large number of chain retail stores (Costco just opened up there), tons of shopping, and a variety of restaurants. In addition to a variety of amenities, the city also has a modern hospital that has recently expanded.

When it comes to transportation, the city is close to the highway, has public transit within the city, and if you need to get down to Toronto, there’s a number of options (if you can get to Barrie there is also GO trains and busses).

One other thing that I’ve come to notice in Orillia, is that there aren’t really many traffic jams. Even in the summer time, with people going to the beach or the cottage, traffic generally moves along smoothly. While there are still cars on the road, it’s never crazy busy like Toronto’s main streets or the 401, so it is also a less stressful commute. Another bonus for drivers is that for whatever reason, the gas is much less expensive than it is in the city, with the price being as much as 15 cents less a litre!

When it comes to real estate, the market also seems to be much more reasonably priced for both buying homes, renting apartments, and leasing office space.

Orillia is the OPP’s headquarters, so I have to think it’s a relatively safe community. I’m not sure what the employment opportunities are like, but it has just about any of the amenities that a larger city would have.

As I get a bit older, I realize that there’s certainly an allure to being able to work during the day and only be minutes from the beach or a boat for the evening and weekends.

A lot of people have migrated from Toronto to Barrie, but it might be worth looking another 20 minutes north to Orillia, for another potential hidden gem.

 

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Orillia: A Place to Visit

A few years back, a close friend of mine moved to Orillia for work.  While he often visits Toronto on the weekends, my family and I have also had the added benefit of visiting Orillia as well.  It is only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, or 20 minutes north of Barrie!   While we often take advantage and spend a lot of time lounging around my friend’s pool in the summer, there are also tons of places to go in the area, with plenty of things to do…museums, parks, and farmer’s markets, to name a few.  Orillia is not a summer-only stop!  There is tons to do in all four seasons!

The pool aside, I love going to the local beaches.  The two main beaches are sandy,  have clean water, changeroom facilities and washrooms,  friendly lifeguards and are never unbearably crowded. The parks by the beach have some great playgrounds.  Of course, with lakes on both sides of the city, there are always people going on leisurely boat rides, fishing or just walking.

Looking for other summer activities?  There’s some great hiking trails, a go-kart track between Barrie and Orillia, and a drive-in movie theatre…perfect for a cozy date!

If you are visiting during the cooler months of the year, there are still lots of things to do:  a trip to the sugar bush for maple syrup and pancakes, great hiking trails, treetop trekking and fantastic tobogganing hills.

If eating out is your thing, there are a wide variety of restaurants to experiment with.  Choose from diners, chain restaurants, great independent spots and if that is not enough choice for you, you could always drive 20 minutes south to Barrie! I have to mention the classic:  when you are up in Orillia, you’re only minutes away from Weber’s, the burger joint on Highway 11 that signifies you’ve arrived in cottage country. Head in the opposite direction and you have Casino Rama – a great spot for dining, concerts, shows and gaming.

After your stomach is full, if you want to flex your retail muscle, at more than just your average chain stores, there’s a very robust main street. Of course, you can’t bypass the main street without going to the Mariposa Market for some delicious pastries and baked goods. In the evening, the area comes alive with some bars and restaurants playing live music to make it a lively and fun atmosphere. An opera house regularly has incredible shows and plays.

I often like watching a movie or two up in Orillia, as there’s only one theatre (a sixplex), but because it’s smaller than those in Toronto, it’s usually not as crowded.


Lastly, when you exhaust all that there is to do in Orillia, there are also little day trips you could take, such as driving up to Gravenhurst, Midland, or Port Carling.


Though it’s only a short distance away from Toronto, if you want to get away from the big city and take a break from it all, make Orillia your next stop!

https://www.orillia.ca

 

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The Canada Day Weekend is Almost Upon Us…SQM Will Help You Celebrate!

Another long weekend is coming up, and at the ripe, old age of 151 years old, Canada has plenty of events and activities that will be taking place across the country.

Try one of these ideas for your precious three day weekend:

Camping: With black fly season almost behind us, the Canada Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer camping! Check out ontarioparks.com for dozens of options on where to set up camp, both close to Toronto and throughout the province. Whether you’re going to one of the provincial parks for a simple day trip, or staying overnight, there’s tons of different things to do outdoors. Camping is a great inexpensive trip for a big group!

Fireworks: Go traditional and nab some fireworks from stores like Phatboy Fireworks or Kaboom Fireworks, and enjoy yourself a colourful spectacle in the sky. If you can’t do your own, Downsview Park, Canada’s Wonderland, and Ashbridges Bay will be putting on a lightshow worthy of Canada’s birthday.

Swimming: By July 1st, all of the municipal pools should be open, so check out the schedule and either exercise those muscles with a nice, relaxing swim, or take in some sun followed by a cool dip in the water. Find the nearest pool to you here.

Sports: Love sports and happen to be in the Toronto area on July 1st ? There are three sporting events, with Toronto FC, Toronto FC2 (academy team), and the Toronto Blue Jays all playing.

Day or Dinner Cruising: Whether you’re in cottage country or near the Toronto harbour, you can try taking a day or dinner cruise. One popular cruise is the RMS Segwun– North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. The RMS Segwun currently tours around Muskoka Lake and has afternoon and evening departures (it’s also a beautiful trip to take in the fall when leaves are changing colours – but don’t worry, we will remind you in the fall).

Ottawa: It’s always exciting to be in the nation’s capital over the Canada day weekend! There will be fireworks and festivals- plus, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in Canada’s wonderfully rich culture at a number of art galleries and museums.

Ribfest: For those in the Toronto area, head on down to ribfest at Etobicoke Centennial Park, featuring music, magic shows, fireworks, and of course, ribs!

BBQ: Like the Americans when they celebrate July 4th with a BBQ, there’s nothing like grillin’ some dogs or steaks on the bbq. Looking for some inspiration? Look no further.

Whatever you end up doing over the upcoming long weekend, and wherever you end up doing it, I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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Rose and Sons: All grown up….and delicious!

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the revamped Rose and Sons to take my wife out for our anniversary lunch. Rose and Sons was the first of a unique set of restaurants, such as Big Crow, Fat Pasha, and Schmaltz Appetizing -all owned by Anthony Rose.

Rose and Sons is a tiny hole in the wall, that when originally opened, could best be described as an upscale diner. It was a licensed establishment, with amazing dishes and high-end comfort foods. The location at Dupont only fits about 20-25 people, but it’s always busy and popular.

Back a few months ago, restless for change, Rose and Sons revamped their menu, and instead of a diner, it’s now an old school delicatessen. I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Chopped liver was our appetizer and was absolutely amazing. This was followed by my wife and I both ordering pastrami sandwiches…which is the house specialty, brined in house and smoked at Big Crow. As a funny aside, it was a tough choice for my wife, choosing between that and the smoked turkey, so I jokingly mentioned to the server that if any turkey fell onto the plate, I wouldn’t complain if they left it there. Low and behold, the cook overheard this and put a few pieces of turkey on the side for us to try.

Aside from the sandwiches, we also tried the thick cut french fries, which were served hot, crispy and perfectly salted. Lastly, how could we not share a dill pickle?

All of the food came out hot and fresh and the chopped liver was not only attractively presented, but delicious! The portion sizes were generous and we left stuffed.

Though there were only a couple of servers due to the size of the restaurant, the service was fast, friendly, warm and the employees were very knowledgeable and excited about the new menu. The cook was also extremely friendly and clearly strives to provide customer satisfaction.

The price is a little north of your typical delicatessen and you may end up waiting for a table as it can be busy on weekends, but it’s worth every penny and every minute of your time.

For those that know me, even though there are a lot of restaurants I enjoy, there are very few restaurants that I really look forward to going back to. This is one of them. While I will miss the diner (the patty melt remains on the menu!), I am happy to welcome a superb deli experience!

Rose and Sons
176 Dupont Street
647-748-3287
http://www.roseandsons.ca

 

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Things to Do on Victoria Day Weekend

It’s finally that time of year again! What are you planning to do this Victoria Day weekend? Don’t worry if you don’t have any plans yet, as we have some great ideas for you.

1. The long weekend is a great time to travel up north to take a step back from life’s busy moments. While it’s still too cold to go into the lake, it’s cold enough to avoid black fly season. Hit the road and travel to Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie to visit national parks and a wonderful view.

2. Drive In movies are always a magical experience! Places like 5 Drive-in and The Stardust Drive In Theatre are a blast from the past. Cozy up in your car with some snacks and popcorn. No need to sit uncomfortably close with people you don’t know.

3. Fireworks are always a fantastic display and fun for the whole family. In our area we always do a block barbecue, complete with a bbq and fireworks. It almost seems like the perfect way to announce the arrival of the warmer weather.

4. The Blue Jays are in town this year! Catch a baseball game on the long weekend. Games are on May 18th, 19th, and 20th. Baseball games are always a pleasure to watch, and can be an inspiring and enchanting memory for kids. Baseball is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s still much fun and entertainment to be had at games.

5. It’s the perfect weather to take a leisurely bike ride in a park. Dust off your old bike and head to your nearest park to take in all of that vitamin D. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent a bike downtown, and then ride around the heart of Toronto or along Habourfront for a fantastic view near the water.

6. The Artfest at the Distillery District is happening throughout the long weekend. Take a look at some paintings, photography, clothes, jewelry, and more to see if anything tickles your fancy. As well, the Distillery District is known for its unique restaurants, so be sure to grab a bite while you’re at it.

7. Junior is Harbourfront’s new international children’s festival. Head on over for some magic tricks, storytelling, and music. It’s a great way to entertain your kids while making the most of the nice weather.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you have a great long weekend!

 

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