Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Getaway: Maple Sugar Rush

Earlier this month I was invited to a press trip to Kitchener-Waterloo and the surrounding regions. When I think of a weekend getaway, Waterloo is not the first place that comes to mind... but they mentioned that there will be maple syrup and lots of it so I was intrigued! KW is an hour and 15 mins drive West from downtown Toronto and to my surprise, there was enough fun and cool things to do to keep us busy for 2 whole days.

Photo Credit

One of my favourite things to do in every city is to check out their Farmer's Market. There's just something about getting lost in rows of crafts, fresh produce and sampling homemade edibles. Inside St. Jacobs Market you will find delicious ready-to-eat foods like perogies, cupcakes, meatballs and lots of international cuisine so bring your appetite!

Our next stop was the St Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway. Now this is no ordinary toy train set but it's an O scale model railway showcasing Southern Ontario in the 1950's. Solmaz from The Curious Creature and I quickly discovered we had an obsession with everything miniature!

One could easily spend hours peering into the tiny windows to discover a wedding in full swing or simply just watch the set transform from day into a night scene complete with illuminated passenger cars.

Giddy up! A true Canadian winter experience should always include a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the sugar bush - a forested area where maple syrup is collected.

Then of course, we had to sample the goods! We took a break to warmup in a rustic sugar shack and enjoyed hot apple cider and maple toffee on ice.

Forget what you see on Breaking Amish. Head to the Village of St. Jacobs for the real deal. "The Mennonite Story" is a self-guided tour through a multi-media centre that includes an exhibition of artifacts, photos and films about the history and traditions of the Mennonite people. Don't save this for a rainy day - it's actually really fascinating!

After a tired but fun day, we checked into the newly renovated Four Points by Sheraton Hotel. It is conveniently located off Hwy 85 and across from Conestoga Mall. The rooms are clean, tastefully decorated and have complimentary wi-fi. The fresh smelling organic lavender soaps and lotions found in the bathroom are also a bonus.

On day 2, flights of fancy awaited us at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. There are over 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies (and some exotic birds) here and they all float freely among lush blossoms and greenery.

Eeeks! My son was fast asleep and oblivious to the giant female nymph that landed on his lap!

Our last stop was the Waterloo Region Museum - the largest community museum in Ontario. The main exhibit traces the human history of Waterloo Region from approximately 12000 years ago, to European settlement at the start of the 1800s, to the manufacturing heydays of the 1900s, to the high tech sector boom of recent years.

I admit I'm a pop culture geek so the "Coming of Age" exhibit was definitely my cup of tea. The display highlights the life of teenagers from 1920 through modern day. How rad is that daddy-o?!

Doon Heritage Village is a picturesque 60 acre living history village that shows visitors what life was like in Waterloo Region in the year 1914. It opens from May 1 to December 23 so I'll definitely be back to check that out!

I was really impressed to see that KW is not just a college town and home of the Blackberry! Thank you Celina and the Region of Waterloo for hosting us!

For more details about the Maple Sugar Rush, please visit the Explore Waterloo Region website. My family had a blast and I'm sure yours will too... so book off a weekend and go go go!

Click here to enter the #MapleSugarRush contest and WIN A Family Getaway!

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