Paw Prints & Weekend Escapes: Plan The Perfect Pet Friendly Weekend In YQG
Original Blog by Daniel Reyes Cocka | August 2022
As the summer officially starts to wind down, it’s time to think about the Labour Day long weekend and planning weekends in the fall – which I have to admit is my favourite season of all. Ontario offers some of the most beautiful destinations, and while many of us dream of beaches and plane trips, I am also here to remind you that a perfect weekend can happen just a few hours away. So it’s time to pack up your special someone, grab the dog, and come along with me to one the best kept secret Ontario has to offer.
While Julio and I get excited for a trip to the Windsor, Essex County & Pelee Island region almost ten years after my first ever trip for the blog (which brought me to the same region), there’s a certain sense of a full circle moments taking place. While the drive is a smidge longer than it was from Toronto now that Ottawa is home, that doesn’t mean that I am any less excited to rediscover the region and it’s distinct ambiance.
Especially since the pandemic and everything it has taught us, I am a huge proponent for the #SupportLocal energy that a trip like this can entail. I have rediscovered the importance of supporting a local bakery or tasting and buying a few bottles of local wine as opposed to the person I once was,. For many of you who have followed along with me over the years, I think there is a certain sense of Pride of doing that with me. While I am not born in Ontario, it has been my home province for decades and even after hundreds of trips exploring each corner of the province, there is always something new to explore and see.
Amid a trip away before a busy TIFF season, I wanted to go see what the region, it’s locals and it’s businesses could not only offer the three of us and to bring you reading this who are thinking you could use a chance of scenery along with me.
As of late I am so curious about hotel experiences, food and local wine, supporting small businesses who have shown such tenacity over the last few years and of course the beauty of getting outside to see the sights, especially in a region surrounded by such beautiful bodies of water and with views like no other destination in the province.
So what does the perfect Labour Day Long Weekend / Weekend getaway look like for us? Let me tell you about it a little more!
Let’s talk about local food hot spots that I’ll be hitting up first over the course of a few days, because let’s be honest, it’s one of the most important parts of any trip. Especially if your special someone is like my Julio and is hungry every few hours!
Bubi’s Awesome Eats is FAMOUS to food lovers, and for good reason! Featured on Food Network, Bubi’s is a funky, fun place to dine, known nationally for copious garlic usage across the menu. NOT the standard food stop. They offer the most unique dining experience that Windsor has to offer. And that outdoor space is golden in the summer time!
The Iron Kettle Bread Boutique is a must on anyone’s to do list when it comes to scrumptious food and I have to admit I am slightly biased. The owner Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin and I worked together many years ago and he followed his dreams of opening a bakery in the region. Known for their scones and sweet treats that sell out quick, I highly recommend you stop by during your visit and tell him Daniel sent you. He’ll get a kick out of that I have no doubt!
Sandwich Brewing Co. is known for their ‘love for old buildings, (which) is eclipsed only by our love of exceptional beer” which is something everyone can appreciate. Having checked out their menu ahead of time (as any food lover would do) I can assure you that there is something for everyone. I appreciate that I can look forward to a delicious charcuterie board and that they also have a vegan option of it and many items to be savoured by locals and tourists alike!
The Barrel House in Windsor likes to lead with the following – #Pour, #Pair and #Share – which sounds like they are my kind of people. “A rustic, nostalgic escape surrounded by the aroma of Ontario craft beers…” is where you’ll find Julio and I relaxing after a long day exploring the region with Canela in tow. If I had to pick ahead of time, I’m most excited to try the Mushroom Medley paired with a local beer or two. Definitely a destination for craft brew lovers from coast-to-coast of our great country.
Have you ever had breakfast at a Farmer’s Market? Me neither! But that is about to change and I think you need to do it on your next visit The Amherstburg Farmers Market at GL Heritage Brewery from 8:30am to 1:30pm every Saturday between April 9 until the end of October.
Banded Goose dinner is the culinary destination which is a part of Banded Goose Brewing Company (BgB) – the brewing ‘wing’ of JACKS GROUP. Proudly brewing locally sourced craft beers at JACKS Gastropub, 15 Main St East, since 2013. I’m told their burgers and fish n chips are some of the best in the area and I can’t wait to try for myself and report back to you all in real time on social media.
Jim’s Sub Shop & Restaurant is famously known for their greasy spoon vibe and delicious menu items. Nothing makes me happier than a big breakfast in the morning before exploring a new area or town. This is definitely the spot on Main Street that you can enjoy just that and much more. Jim’s Sub Shop has been a family business for the past 39 years and I can’t wait to meet them!
Westview Tavern on Pelee Island is a must for those of you visiting the Island like we are for a day trip! Similar to most businesses in the area, The “Westview” has been family owned and operated for three generations. Known for their fresh Lake Erie yellow perch, wings and hand made burgers – this is going to be the perfect stop for us after we explore the island!
Ure’s + Mini Golf & Country Kitchen is a stop where you can not only find something fun to entertain yourself but can enjoy a yummy meal and grab some snacks before a day of exploring. Ure’s Country Kitchen is a family owned and operated Café, Ice Cream Shop and Convenience store established in 1988 by Randy and Laurie Ure and I can’t wait to meet them! I mean food, sun and some laughs over mini put sounds pretty amazing to me if I do say so myself!
The Grand Cantina is a must for taco lovers like Julio & I – and omg is their food delicious! Tacos and Tequila with other fun street foods located in the heart of Ford City? YES PLEASE. (Editor’s Note: The Grand Cantina is temporarily closed and will re-open soon at their new location in Walkerville!)
Last on our to food do list is Wolfhead Distillery which, is no shock to anyone excited to explore the region like we are, is known for it’s premium craft distilled products. We’ll be enjoying a meal there and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into local Pickerel, Steak bites, Summer salads and all those delicious drink options. I wonder how much room I’ll to pick up some of there spirits for our bar at home!
These and many other delicious options in the region can be found on the Visit Windsor Essex website and you can find even more delicious options here.
Now of course it wouldn’t be a visit to the area without a visit to some of my favourite Canadian wineries. Here are just a few (among many more) that I am looking forward to visiting with Julio!
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery – Handcrafted VQA wines at a lakefront destination winery located in the Lake Erie North Shore Wine Region. I think what I’m most excited for is to learn about the terroir with their team because it’s often a wine making area of Ontario that is overlooked and under represented in wine discussions.
“For 30 years we have been committed to growing world class premium VQA grapes along the shores of Lake Erie in the bountiful EPIC wine region, 30 minutes south of Windsor/Detroit. Today, the Winery is owned and operated by the Mitchell’s Steve, Tanya and Jake and their friendly staff. The family run vision and dedication to their products and staff shines through in the wine and quality experiences you can enjoy when visiting the Winery.”
Did I also mention how spectacular the property is? Wedding anniversary goals for sure Julio – hint hint!
Muscedere Vineyards has been one my radar since I first tried it years ago thanks to Wine Country Ontario. “The vineyard is located in the Lake Erie North Shore (LENS), designated viticultural area, nestled on a picturesque 163-acre family farm, with 83-acres of natural forest and 13-acres of vines. The beauty of the land conceals the richness of our soil. It is the soil that is responsible for the dramatic intensity of the fruit we use to create our wines. The 13-acres of vines grows Vidal, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. The thirteenth and most recently planted acre of vines is dedicated to the two Northern Italian varieties used to make Barolo wines, Nebbiolo and Barbera.”
Their sparkling Rosé is one of my favourite Ontario wines and I highly recommend snatching up a few bottles during your visit.
CREW Colchester Ridge Estate Winery is making waves in the wine world and after doing some research I can tell why!
“Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, or “CREW” as we are readily known, was established in 2001 by the husband and wife team of Bernie and Nancy Gorski. The Gorski’s planted twelve acres of vinifera vines on their family land in 2001, produced their first vintage in 2004, and opened the shop in the red building behind the vineyard in 2006. After years of continual growth led by product quality and personal hospitality, the Gorski’s proudly presented the new CREW Winery & Gallery as of November 1, 2019.
The name CREW didn’t necessarily come from a love of sailing, but is certainly a happy coincidence. Our name CREW is an acronym for Colchester (where we are) Ridge (for the ridge formed by the ice age as it passed through our region) Estate Winery”
I’m most excited to experience the winery and its wines for the first time ever (doesn’t happen often for a wine lover like me after all these years) and to take you all along in real time with us like all these destinations via our social media accounts.
I wonder how many bottles I’ll have room for in the trunk to take home and support this amazing local business to the region that you also have to visit and experience for yourselves!
Pelee Island Winery holds a very special place in my heart and has for years. As mentioned, it was in fact my first ever blog trip that brought me to the region ten years ago and during this trip, to the winery itself. At over 700 acres of vineyards, Pelee Island Winery is the largest private estate winery in Canada – at the southern most part of Ontario in the middle of the lake.
While there is a “mainland” winery for those who don’t want to take the ferry, there’s something quite magical about getting to the island and exploring it and the winery via golf cart. If you haven’t been, it’s definitely a must.
Also I encourage you all to taste and buy the entire line of Lola wines. You won’t be disappointed!
Of course the region boasts many more delicious wines and I encourage you to check out more information on the Visit Windsor Essex website and by using and following #wineYQG on social media.
Scenery and small shops that needs to be enjoyed includes but aren’t limited to the following Insta-worthy spots that we can’t wait to explore and support! Before we headed off to explore, we wanted to make sure that Canela enjoyed her stay as well, so a quick stop at The Doggy Bakery made sure of that!
Holiday Beach Conservation Area is quite beautiful to explore all year round, but especially going into the autumn months. The area offers offers “a long sandy beach on the Lake Erie shoreline, plus many amenities. It is ideal for a day at the beach, a beautiful picnic, or a vacation getaway. Holiday Beach Conservation Area has serviced seasonal campsites, a stunning rental cottage, new showers and washrooms, large shady picnic areas, a playground, nature trails, a boardwalk, and a three storey observation tower.” Not to mention the famous bird watching you could get done since its international recognition in 2000 as a globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA), joining BirdLife International’s global network of IBA sites
Shopping in Walkerville is always a nice idea for those of you looking to explore and support small businesses. I am most looking forward to a visit to Urban Art Market, Walkerville Mercantile, and Jones & Co. which of course are just a few of the many businesses known for their distinct charm in the area.
“Walkerville is one of the most unique neighbourhoods you’ll find in Canada, with a rich history steeped in the rollicking days of smugglers during Prohibition, the birth of the auto industry, and many “firsts” for a model 19th town. … Now a modern, lively part of Windsor Ontario, Walkerville retains its heritage with an innate sense of “small town” welcome. Revitalization projects are constantly on the go, including a recently completed two-phase streetscape that recaptures the pedestrian-friendly flair of its founding.”
Sounds pretty special and I can’t wait to explore the nooks and crannies of it all with Julio and Canela!
For the outdoor lovers like us Windsor Riverfront and Sculpture Park are absolutely spectacular to take in the views and enjoy some time outside together with a warm drink or a disguised something else. Who I am to judge! Whether early morning walks with the dog or a romantic stroll with your special someone after a lovely meal, this picturesque area looks absolutely spectacular.
Well we all know that we’re going to Pelee Island, but for those of you planning to do the same don’t forget to the check out the Pelee Island Lighthouse. I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest a visit to Vin Villa which was founded in 1866 on Pelee Island, the southernmost point of Canada, Vin Villa is one of the most historically significant viticultural sites in North America. And of course is it a visit to Pelee Island without stopping by Coneheads Ice Cream? I think not!
Vin Villa’s significance derives from being:
- Canada’s First Commercial Winery
- The Birthplace of Champagne in North America
- The First Wine From North America to Win World-Wide Recognition
Honestly Pelee is a lot of fun for a day trip or for a few days and you can find accommodations on the island though they usually sell out quick!
Final suggestion for your trip once you pick a date is a walk through Amherstburg for their award winning gardens, stunning water views, history and architecture, eclectic shopping, unique festivals and the gateway to local wineries and the famous Waterfront Ice Cream store! A few shops I’ve been told I have to check out include River Book Shop, Evelyn’s Candy House, Terra Green Gardens, King’s Navy Yard Park, and Fort Malden National Historic Site just to name a few!
Lastly, since we’ve now built you such a fabulous list of to do’s, it’s important for us to find you somewhere to stay! Here are just a few options that we have enjoyed in the past and look forward to exploring for the first time this long weekend!
Best Western Plus Waterfront Hotel is a classic when travelling, especially for those of you with kids or the dog, and everyone is made to feel at home. We’ll be arriving at different times I think so this made sense to hit the hay after the drive and my day one with Canela. Once Julio arrives and we get to exploring the city and the region we’ll be stay at The Grove Hotel in room 4 which already is getting me excited!
“We are a destination boutique hotel in Kingsville, Ontario along the north shore of Lake Erie. Since opening our doors in 2016 in the landmark hotel at 12 Main Street East, we have sought to create a downtown hub that provides a unique and memorable experience, genuine hospitality and celebrates everything that our southernmost locale has to offer.”
If nothing else, I hope that this blog post helped to inspire you that travel in Ontario is full of adventure, new things to explore and regions that have been working tirelessly to become their best selves. I have got a busy rest of the year ahead and I can’t wait for you to fall in love again with Windsor Essex alongside Julio and I!
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Photos: Daniel Reyes Cocka and all participating brands and partners
Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year
Daniel Reyes Cocka xo