We’ve been celebrating Family Day in Ontario for 14 years now. It’s a day to experience whole family activities and have some fun amid warming February temperatures. This year, given the recent loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, we can eat in or get take-out at local restaurants, take in a movie, or simply get outside and enjoy all that Canadian winter has to offer.
And too, supporting local businesses has never been more important.
Here are some potentially new, or maybe not so new, family activities to try out.
An easily accessible and novel experience is the Family Day Winter Picnic which takes place on February 19, from 1 – 6. This is an opportunity to enjoy an outdoor picnic in a winter wonderland that is located just north of Madoc at Woodland North 62 Lavender Farm. Bonnie and Derek Moore, who own the 94- acre nature preserve, will have camp sites with fire pits, access to farm trails, guided winter hikes, areas to toboggan, snowshoe or ski, and homemade apple cider. Bonnie says,” we came up with the idea because not a lot of families have a big back yard or a place for kids to explore outside.” Email to confirm your space.
Tweed is the place to be this Family Day weekend. The municipality just opened its first outdoor skating trail, and it has BIG plans for the weekend.
This year, the Tweed Winter Carnival is upping its ante and hosting a range of activities, including the opportunity to participate in (or just watch) a Polar Plunge. Our local MP, Shelby Kramp-Neuman, along with about a dozen other cold-water enthusiasts, has signed up to take the plunge; proceeds go to various charities.
There’s also an Arts & Craft Show, a Snowman contest, a Demolition Derby (1 pm at the Fairgrounds), a Maple Syrup Contest, Saturday bonfire, karaoke, Rock’n Bowl, and evening fireworks. Jennet Honey, Chair of the Tweed Winter Carnival, “anticipates at least 20 cars for the Derby” and noted that “they are trying to do the events that are safe, given COVID.”
If you’re in the north part of the county, why not try something completely novel? Renting a dogsled or a snowmobile at Highland Wilderness Tours in Maynooth is a cool thing to do. You can book a sled (either type), as well as local accommodation, including the tour’s own cabins. The dogsled tours run on 10 km of a private trail system, and the snowmobile tours run on thousands of hectares of groomed OFSC trails. The Great White North awaits you.
Interested in exploring the past? In real time? Book some time at The Woodland Escape, located near Marlbank. Peter Kelly and Catherine Wolfe are outdoor enthusiasts, who are also completely devoted to recreating what life was like in this area in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Cozy up and watch their videos about pioneer life on their The Woodland Escape YouTube Channel or book an overnight stay that’s a blast into the past.
Spend a night or two in a cabin and yurt. This isanother unique way to spend memorable time with the fam. It may be too late this year to book a stay in a yurt this Family Day weekend, but it’s something to consider for later in the year or for next year’s Family Day. There are several yurts for rent in Hastings County, and the experience is one that is unforgettable.
And then there are the trails. Hastings County has lots of trails for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing adventures. Not to mention that getting outside is the best thing you can do for you and your family. H.R. Frink Conservation Area & Outdoor Education Centre offers 13 km of trails through hardwood and coniferous forests. Located north of Belleville, this is a great trail for hiking or snowshoeing.
There are also excellent trails near Stirling. The Sager Conservation Area is a great place for a hike, but maybe not for skis or snowshoes given the steps. And the view at the top is breathtaking!
Located just a few minutes from Sager, check out the Sidney Conservation Area which offers 1.3 km of trails through majestic pines. Another gorgeous place to hike is located at the end of a no-exit road near Marmora. Callaghan’s Rapids Conservation Area offers a spectacular view of rocks and rapids.
O’Hara Mill Homestead & Conservation Area, located just north of Madoc, has short, inter-connected trails that meander along old stone fences. Explore the heritage buildings and mill. It’s also a great place for tobogganing.
Much of the 15 km trails at Vanderwater Conservation Area, near Thomasburg, are groomed this year (for the first time)and make for excellent skiing or hiking.
Further north, the groomed Nordic ski trail at McGeachie Conservation Area, located about half -way between Madoc and Bancroft, is the only designated ‘non-motorized, groomed’ trail in the county.
The Gut Conservation Area, just east of Apsley, is a 400 acre site with trails, a lookout and an impressive gorge. In L’Amable, be sure to check out Egan Chutes; a short hike takes you to an impressive waterfall. And Bancroft Eagles Nest Park, long considered an autumn must- see vista, is equally majestic in winter.
Family Day – it’s a great opportunity to support local businesses and restaurants – and it’s a great opportunity to try something new.