The rolling, peaceful countryside of this farming area in Southwestern Ontario contains a wealth of surprises for travellers of every temperament. Noted for over 200 years of Mennonite settlement, you can visit one of many local farmers' markets, observe a livestock auction, sample "shoofly" pie, and browse for handmade quilts. Kitchener-Waterloo is the site of the world's second largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany. Visit Ontario's only covered "kissing" bridge and explore the artist colony of Elora, gazing into a spectacular limestone gorge where local legend tells romantic tales of lovers leaping to their timeless ends.
Nearby, Fergus is the home of Canada's premiere Scottish Festival each August. Visitors to Guelph can tour the home of Colonel John McCrae, author of the WWI poem "In Flanders Fields", visit the majestically gothic Church of Our Lady, modelled after Germany's Cologne Cathedral, or take in a show at the new River Run Performing Arts Centre.
Cambridge, in the heart of the region, is a beautiful city nestled on the banks of the heritage Grand River. Elegant mansions on tree-lined streets combine with excellent factory outlet shopping and easy highway access to make this area a potential "hub" for any number of touring programs.
Since 1953, the charming Victorian town of Stratford has played host to a world-class Shakespearean theatrical season, featuring over 450 performances. Classical and contemporary drama, as well as breathtaking musicals, combine to create one of North America's most extensive professional theatre experiences. "Behind-the-scenes" adventures, costume warehouse and backstage tours, and post-performance discussions are just some of the possible add-ons to make this an unforgettable visit.
London, Ontario is home to the Guy Lombardo Music Centre and every September plays host to the Western Fair, southwestern Ontario's largest fall fair, featuring midway rides, agricultural exhibitions, and big-name artists at the Grandstand.
Come to this area of Ontario and discover one of the province's best-kept secrets.
Day 1: Just an hour's drive west of Toronto near Cambridge, visit African Lion Safari where over 1,000 exotic and rare mammals and birds roam freely in large game reserves. Mid-afternoon, pick up a local guide in Cambridge for a tour along the city's beautiful tree-lined avenues. Visit various factory outlet shopping facilities, including Southworks Outlet Mall, which contains a huge 26,000 square foot antique mall. Board a pontoon boat for a leisurely cruise down the scenic Grand River.
Day 2: Enjoy a morning visit to the bustling St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. Hundreds of vendors offer fresh produce, delicious smoked meats, aromatic cheeses and maple syrup. Sit in on a cattle auction. There's also an arts and crafts area, a flea market, food courts, handmade furniture and a factory outlet mall. A horse-drawn trolley will take you to a local Mennonite farm where maple syrup, homemade preserves and beautiful quilted items are available. Nearby, the picturesque town of St. Jacobs is full of unique craft, antique and clothing stores. Optional visits to the Maple Sugar Museum, the blacksmith shop or The Meetingplace (a Mennonite interpretation centre) are possible. Enjoy lunch in St. Jacobs at one of the quaint cafes. An afternoon guided tour of the local countryside, including views of the spectacular Elora Gorge and a visit to Ontario's only covered "kissing" bridge complete the day. Overnight in Kitchener at the Walper Terrace Hotel and enjoy local Oktoberfest entertainment and Bavarian food that really "schmecks".
Day 3: Today, we travel to the quaint Victorian town of Stratford, home of the Stratford Festival, North America's largest repertory theatre. Take a fascinating tour of the Festival Theatre backstage as well as the nearby costume and prop warehouse. Lunch in downtown Stratford and then enjoy a short drive outside Stratford to visit Brickman's Botanical Gardens, a delightful mix of wildflowers, roses and over 3,000 varieties of perennials. Or take an agricultural tour to one of Perth County's more unique farms. Go nose-to-beak with an emu, feed apples to an elk, or try your hand at milking a goat. Return to Stratford, for dinner in one of the many fine restaurants then attend a performance in one of the Festival's three theatres.
Day 4: Today, head west to the city of London which received an Honourable Mention as one of the American Bus Association's "favourite secret destinations". This city of beautiful parks and rivers was the home of the Big Band leader, Guy Lombardo. Visit a music centre dedicated to his life. Enjoy lunch and shopping at one of the city's many shopping malls. Make a stop at the London Museum of Archaeology, containing a reconstructed prehistoric Indian village. Dinner this evening is at a beautiful riverside restaurant with a singing maitre d', and then it's off to a production at London's Grand Theatre, described as "Canada's most beautiful theatre".
Day 5: This morning, drive south to the lakeside town of Port Stanley and enjoy a scenic train ride on the Port Stanley Terminal Rail line. Nearby, tour the orchards and enjoy a hot dinner served in the barn at Great Lakes Farms. Catch a matinee performance at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre and stop in at Berry Hill, an intriguing country store, before departing for home.
- Waterloo County & Area Quilt Festival: Waterloo Region - Quilt-making events include juried displays, Mennonite sales, workshops, fashion shows, luncheons, teas and dinners (last two weeks of May)
- Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games: Fergus - Celtic music and dance, pipe and drum competitions, massed bands, tug of war championships and a Saturday night Ceilidh (second weekend in August)
- Oktoberfest: Kitchener-Waterloo - Harvest festival featuring a parade, German bands and Bavarian food and dancing (begins first week of October for 10 days)
- Southern Ontario Tourism Organization: Phone (519) 756-3230, Fax (519) 756-3231, Toll Free 1-800-267-3399 (U.S./Canada), Website: http://www.soto.on.ca
- Kitchener-Waterloo Visitor & Convention Bureau: Phone (519) 748-0800, Fax (519) 748-6411, Toll Free 1-800-265-6959, Website: www.kw-visitor.on.ca
- St. Jacobs Country Tourism: Phone (519) 664-1133 Fax (519) 664-2218, Toll Free 1-800-265-3353, Website: www.stjacobs.com.
- Tourism Stratford: Phone (519) 271-5140, Fax (519) 273-5041, Toll Free 1-800-561-SWAN, Website: www.city.stratford.on.ca
- Tourism London: Phone (519) 661-5000 , Fax (519) 661-6160, Toll Free 1-800-265-2602 , Website www.tourismlondon.ca
- Cambridge Visitor & Convention Bureau: Phone (519) 653-1424, Fax (519) 653-1734, Toll Free 1-800-749-7560 (U.S./Canada), Website: http://www.cambridgetourism.com/
- Walper Terrace Hotel: 1 King Street West, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 1A1. Phone (519) 745-4321, Toll Free 1-800-265-8749 Canada, Fax (519) 745-3625, Website: www.walper.com
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