There are a ton of choices available to you when considering where to spend your summer vacation dollars.
And as Canadians continue to struggle with a weakened dollar and creeping fuel prices, should we consider packing up the car and the kids and make a road trip to southwestern Ontario or perhaps east to Prince Edward County and the beaches of Sandbanks or go further afield and splurge on a trip to Paris for a little je ne sais quoi? Whatever your summer vacation plans, here are some followsummer options to make following your summer vacation dreams a reality.
Prince Edward County, Ontario
Six friends and former Toronto neighbours have gathered at a Cherry Valley cottage for a Good Friends and Good Wine weekend in The County to reunite, reminisce, and share some laughs over the incredible wine, food and friendship The County has to offer. We linger over a late breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and savoury scones and lots of hot, head-remedying coffee before we trundle ourselves into our van for day one of wine tasting, shopping, and memory making. And, like the rural quaintness of the French River of Nova Scotia and the excitement of the Napa Valley of the 1980’s, the County has grown up! Our rustic next door neighbour is growing up and attracting local, national and international attention offering exciting wineries, farm to table restaurant choices, unique shopping, local artisanal foods and cheeses, and serving up a warm-hearted and generous way of life, steeped in rural tradition with just a hint of modern thinking.
Prince Edward County continues to captivate her visitors with a spirit and engagement that is exciting to witness.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Planning on heading east from Toronto this summer? Then make Halifax, where friendly Haligonians enjoy their music-filled pubs and rooftop patios, a must-stop on your Atlantic adventures. I just returned from five rather cool, rainy and beer-soaked days in this historic gateway to the East Coast, but the soggy weather certainly did not dampen the locals’ spirits in their rowdy, packed bars, pubs, and patios, literally spilling over with plentiful and flowing local craft beer. Grab some food, quaff some ale, and if you linger into the evening, you will be treated to one of the many local bands that pump out long sets of popular and traditional music to the hand clapping, spontaneous dancing revelers that Halifax is known for.
The Princess of Acadia chugs her way into the grey, fog-swept Digby Gut and gracefully docks, allowing eager camper-vanners, Japanese tourists and some home-sick locals to disembark and begin their summer vacations or to simply ‘head home.’ The 3-hour crossing has been uneventful, other than a possible breach sighting of some whales as we approach the Digby Neck. Nestled between South Mountain and the Bay of Fundy lies the fertile Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia’s farming center and we have 5 days of touring and exploring the coastal roads of the Annapolis Basin, including some family time, some great meals and cocktails on sunset decks, watching the clammers clamber over the low-tide mud and a slowly rising full moon, begging to be howled at.
Ontario’s Southwest is perhaps one of the prettiest and rural parts of the world. This time of year the western sun sits lower and more reflective on the gently rolling hills west of Toronto. Travel the 403/407/401 route and avoid the headache of the 401/427/403 interchange hassle. Once past Milton, you’re home free and will enjoy the beautiful green, undulating summer landscapes and rich farmland west of Kitchener, New Hamburg and onto Stratford and St. Jacobs. Looking for more adventure? Continue up to Ontario’s West Coast and Lake Huron, Bayfield, Goderich and north towards Southampton, famous for its fabulous sunsets and on any given Saturday summer evening, be serenaded by the skirl of a bagpipe at the foot of High Street.
Toronto is a four-season city full of eating and drinking patios, fabulous roof-top hotel views and foodie neighbourhoods, brimming over with tourists and locals alike. We love our city in the spring, summer, and Indian summer-fall and have been known as well to plop ourselves down on a winter-white park bench to extend our patio cravings. As summer approaches, we have some recommendations to make your Toronto stay-cation a memorable one!
La Belle Ville de Québec is home to the continent`s first parish Church, its first Museum, first Anglican Cathedral, first French-speaking University and the continent’s oldest Hospital. At first glance, no romantic, French glamour to be seen nor the apparent sprucing up that La Ville undertook for their 400th anniversary a couple of years ago. But very soon a warm and welcoming magic will embrace you as you pull up to your Relais and Chateaux listed Auberge Saint-Antoine, situated an ancient stone’s throw from Le Vieux Port in La Belle Ville’s Old Lower Town and feel your excitement grow in anticipation of your vacation in La Belle Ville de Quebec!
Summer isn’t the only time to experience the shores of western Michigan. Ice cream, fudge stores, family dining, unique antiques, lovely beaches, quaint B & B ’s and a well established Artists Community await those who hop in their cars and do the 6.5-hour drive from Toronto to this undiscovered and virtually unknown to Canadians, part of Western Michigan. Unlike those mid-summer bathing togs and sun hats, Michigan’s fall harvest flannels, coveralls and snow pants can be a bit more unkempt and rustic. But don’t let that stop you from heading west along I-69 to Flint, flanking to the north of Lansing before merging onto the I-96 toward Grand Rapids and experiencing this unique part of Western Michigan.
Dreaming of an all-American, bunting and burgers kind of summer beach vacation this year? Then the hurdy-gurdy, loud lewdness of Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts is for you. Join the throngs of foot traffic that daily battle the crowds of car-laden, lost tourists on the one lane, one-way main street that dissects downtown PTown from east to west. The West End beckons the party boys and their boozy BFF girlfriendz, the Bears, the Muscle Boys and yes even some well-heeled Cape Cod Tourists and Boston Ferry Day-Trippers, kids and strollers in tow, sharing some casual West End Herring Cove or Racepoint Beach time with a saucy drag queen. Ahh, summer in this, the first and original summer beach resort in America.
The Blackburn and Suessdorf standard ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ softly serenades as a languid late afternoon summer sun greets us as we roll through the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. It has been a long 9-hour drive, and we are in the middle of Vermont ski country, in August, and neither of us ski. Our hotel’s website offers outdoor activities such as ‘romantic sleigh rides’ and ‘grab a pair of snowshoes’ but we have decided to discover the beauty of Vermont with the last waning days of a hot, dry summer and tour the green, rural roads of small-town New England. Southern Vermont resorts offer a unique style of vacation and are completely different in harvest ‘moonlight’ August than they are in the ‘icey finger waves’ of February. From hiking Vermont’s state parks or fishing and wildlife viewing to those simply craving quiet downtime or a ‘romantic setting’ long weekend at a luxury resort as we were, there is nothing like a summer vacation in Vermont. Enjoy some country luxury, indulge in some downtime, wander in the green. ‘You and I and moonlight in Vermont’: beautiful in any season.
When you think about Paris, which followsummer does ALOT, you probably think about the Eiffel Tower; Bateaux Mouches rides on the Seine or perhaps un café or demi-litre of white wine in cozy, cobbled pavement cafés –the usual, touristy things to do in Paris. Why not wander away from the ‘usual suspects’ and explore some of the more unusual things to do in Paris, experiencing a taste of what local Parisians enjoy every day, and especially in the summer, when most Parisians exercise their four-week August vacation options and exit the city to the countryside and seashores of the south and west.
World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Happily married to John Mountain and Dad to Sophia and Ariel, two of the best cats in the world.