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Life with dogs Lifestyle Travel Wellness

A Fall Weekend Getaway to View the Fall Colours in Ontario

If there’s one thing you must do every Fall in Ontario, it’s take a trip to see the changing Fall leaves. The beautiful vibrancy of red, orange, yellow and golden hues is truly a sight to be seen. To celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary and enjoy all that Autumn in Ontario has to offer, we decided to book a weekend getaway at the Trace at Oak Lake in Havelock, ON.

Bright moon overlooking Oak Lake in Havelock, Ontario at The Trace Resort.

The Trace is a dog-friendly, private lakeside wellness and leisure resort, situated on the beautiful Oak Lake. There were a variety of chalets and cabins that you could rent, though to keep our budget in mind, we chose the Queen Studio for the weekend. In the summer months, something that size would have been perfect, since you’d hopefully spend most of your time outdoors anyway. But we ended up with a very chilly weekend (went down to -5 overnight!!), so we definitely wished we picked something with more of a lounge seating area to enjoy. While the property was stunning, our only feedback was the bathroom – it had seen better days, and definitely needed a facelift – at the very least a new tub/shower.

Fall weekend getaway at The Trace in Havelock, Ontario on Oak Lake. Vibrant red and orange leaves overlooking a lake.
Blue Muskoka Chairs on Oak Lake at The Trace wellness and leisure resort in Ontario with Fall leaves in the background.
Blue muskoka chairs around a fire pit in Cottage Country during a fall weekend getaway in Ontario to view the Fall leaves.

While we weren’t able to use all of the amenities like the boat rentals due to how cold it was, we were able to enjoy the outdoor firepit! The blue jays play-off game (the tragedy game…) was playing in the background while we had a fire and it was a really nice! We purchased a s’mores kit and enjoyed a sweet treat.

Oak Lake with Fall coloured leaves in the background.

I found a local Provincial Park to explore that was about a 20 minute drive. We made our way to Petroglyphs Provincial Park, located in Woodview, ON and it ended up being the very last weekend that the trails were open! We hiked the Nanabush Trail, about a 5.5km loop, after visiting the Petroglyph site. It’s the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada, also known as “The Teaching Rocks”, that are protected in a building where you can view the drawings from a 360 viewing deck. Dogs are not allowed within 100m of the site, so we had to each go individually while the other waited with our dog, Koda. We love to add a little history to our trip, so it was great to learn more about the area and enjoy all of the sights.

Woman enjoying fall hiking trail in Ontario. Best place to view fall colours in Ontario.
Red, orange and yellow bed of leaves on hiking trail at Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Women's hiking shoes with fall leaves.
German Shepherd mix dog enjoying Fall hiking at Petroglyphs Provincial Park with vibrant fall leaves on the ground.

Unfortunately, after the hike we found a tick on our dog, which we were able to brush off, but we did find another one on her about a week later that we had to remove. Just something to keep in mind while hiking in that area – always best to be tick-smart, ensure you’re wearing long clothing and tuck your pants into your socks and always check yourself and your dog after! We have a tick spray called Atlantick that we use, but should have packed it on our hike and reapplied. Next time!

Fall leaves in Havelock Ontario at The Trace Resort

There is so much more we could have explored in cottage country and since it holds a special place in my heart, we’ve decided that each fall we’ll make a weekend or day-trip out of it to take in the fall views!

Here are some of the best hikes to view the Fall colours in Ontario that I’ve done so far:

Can’t wait to add more to this list! What are some of your favourite activities to do in the Fall? Let me know below!

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Travel

Travel Guide: 5 Day Itinerary for Banff National Park

If you love turquoise waters, breathtaking mountain ranges and enjoying a slower pace of life, you will love exploring Banff National Park. I have been so eager to travel to Banff for as long as I can remember. The mountains, the lakes, the views, it’s probably one of the best spots to vacation in Canada to see the sights and true wonder of the Canadian Rockies. We had been waiting to take this trip for some time – a long postponed honeymoon trip (we’re celebrating 5 years this October!). In anticipation for this long-awaited trip, I read and watched quite a few travel guides (like this one!) to prep. We packed in a great mix of adventure time and down time to make the most of our 5 day trip, so I wanted to share our itinerary and some key places like Lake Louise, Bow Falls, Sulphur Mountain and more, in case it can spark some inspiration for anyone’s upcoming trip to Banff, Canada!

Travel Itinerary for 5 days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Day One – Fly into Calgary & Explore Banff

We travelled the last week of August/first week of September and it was absolutely beautiful. Sunny weather, cool in the mornings and low 20’s in the afternoon (you know you’re from Canada when you care so much about the weather), it was the perfect time to visit.

We booked an early flight and arrived at Calgary airport for 9:30am so that we could make the most of our first day, then grabbed our rental car and drove about 1 and half hours away to Banff National Park. The drive towards the mountains was absolutely breathtaking. We purchased National Park passes in advance, so we were able to drive right through, which I highly recommend. You can buy them at the gates, but be prepared for long wait lines. If you plan on visiting other parks during your stay, make sure to check the local sites for any permits or passes you will need.

Once we dropped off our bags at the hotel, we headed for brunch at Melissa’s Missteak. It was delicious! Since it was a beautiful morning, we ate on the patio to really take in all the views. Though be warned Google maps has their location in the wrong place. The restaurant is actually right on the main road (which I think makes it that much nicer since the main road is closed to cars in the middle section).

Best brunch in Banff at Melissa's Missteak in Banff National Park.
Best brunch at Melissa's Missteak on the main road in Banff National Park with mountains in the background and picturesque views.

We then checked into the Moose Hotel and Suites and I could not recommend this lodge enough! The rooftop pool-sized hot tubs, fire pit and views, along with it’s close proximity to shops and restaurants, made our trip that much more amazing. It had the perfect mix of cozy cabin vibe meets modern, renovated suites and amenities. A definite must-stay, in my opinion, when you visit.

Banff National Park mountain views from the roof-top hot tubs at Moose Hotel and Suites in Banff, Alberta
View from the hot tubs!

After we checked in, we decided to venture out to Bow River and rent kayaks. This was the first time really getting to see just how turquoise the waters were – it was truly spectacular. We kayaked down river and took in all the views. The water was super calm and for a beautiful day, was not very crowded, which was great.

Kayaking on Bow Valley River in Banff, Alberta.
Kayaking on the turquoise waters at Bow Valley River in Banff, Alberta.

We then went to dinner at The Keg in town and did some shopping in the village and made sure to stop at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to grab some Bear Claws!

Day 2 – Lake Minnewanka and Banff Gondola

The next morning we grabbed brunch at The Maple Leaf and headed out to Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, for a cruise tour! It was one of the highlights of our trip. The water was stunning and our tour guides were so fun and knowledgable. I enjoy weaving in a historical tour on any trip to learn even more about the place that we’re visiting, we even saw a baby Bald Eagle!

Lake Minnewanka mountain and glacier lake views in Banff, Canada.
Lake Minnewanka mountain and glacier lake views in Banff, Canada.
Lake Minnewanka mountain and glacier lake views in Banff, Canada.
Boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka with mountain and glacier lake views in Banff, Canada.
Boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka with mountain and glacier lake views in Banff, Canada to view the "devil's gap" tourist attraction.

There are plenty of short trails you can do around the lake, along with enjoying a picnic or even renting kayaks and canoes there. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours!

After that we had some downtime enjoying the hot tub at the hotel (we honestly didn’t even go to Banff Springs because we basically had it at the hotel). Then headed to the Banff Gondola. Parking at more popular destinations was definitely a challenge in Banff. We opted to take the free shuttle to the Gondola, which worked out great.

To get the most of the experience at the top of the mountains, we chose the Sky Bistro and Gondola package which included a 3 course meal at the Sky Bistro, where the views were incredible. This was a splurge meal for us, but it’s always nice to pick one super nice restaurant if you can fit it in your budget. With six stunning mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley and the town of Banff below you, views from the Sulphur Mountain summit were nothing short of breathtaking!

Six mountain ranges and Sulphur Mountain views at Banff National Park and Banff Gondola.
Dinner at the Sky Bistro in Banff National Park, Sulphur Mountain and Banff Gondola.

Day 3 – Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon

Lake Louise holds a special place in my heart. It was my grandmother’s favourite spot and when we got there and saw this iconic place, it was a moment I don’t think I will ever forget.

Pink and blue sunrise at Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.
Sunrise at Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.

Although, our original plan was to watch the sunrise at Lake Moraine and then go to Lake Louise but we were not able to get a parking spot at Lake Moraine (and we got there around 5am!!). Definitely listen to the locals when they say take the shuttle. Regardless, we got a great spot at Lake Louise, and it was a beautiful moment of our trip. We were able to sit on the dock with front row seats with everyone sitting along the lakefront, cuddled in blankets and quiet. It was a surreal moment to be with so many people, peacefully and quieting enjoying its beauty.

We stopped by a local bakery on the road back and enjoyed it by the river. An unexpected stop on our trip, but beautiful nonetheless!

Stunning mountain and river view in Banff National Park, just outside Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.

We then went to Johnston Canyon to hike to waterfalls. It was a well marked path and beautiful views throughout the hike.

View of river and mountains at Johnston Canyon waterfall hike in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon waterfall hike just outside Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon waterfall hike just outside Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon waterfall hike just outside Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

That afternoon we booked a horseback riding tour which was a great experience! We travelled up the mountains and down beside the Bow Valley.

Horseback riding on Bow Valley trail in Banff National Park.
Horseback riding guided trail on Bow Valley trail in Banff National Park.

For dinner we ate at Pacini at our hotel, which had great comfort food and nice atmosphere. The weather was threatening to rain, so we stayed indoors, but their patio has fireplaces and cozy seating, which would be a great option!

Day 4 – Drive to Kananaskis Nordic Spa

Our last morning in Banff we grabbed coffee at the Whitebark Cafe (really good!) and headed to go check out the Fairmont Banff Springs. Parking and entry was extremely expensive, so we opted to do a quick drive-by and then parked at Bow Falls to walk the trail there. The sparkling turquoise water is there too, and definitely a lovely place to walk and enjoy. On our way back to the hotel I had to stop at the 2-story Christmas Store – definitely recommend if you love Christmas as much as I do!

View of the Rocky Mountains at Bow Falls in Banff National Park.
View of the Rocky Mountains and waterfall at Bow Falls in Banff National Park.
Banff National Park main street.

We then drove to Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, a modern hotel in the middle of the mountains and forests. We enjoyed their Nordic Spa, which is a hydrotherapy cycle spa with a series of hot saltwater and cold plunge pools with three different sauna types. We had mountain views and their were cozy fireplaces nested around the pools to rest and enjoy.  It was a great way to end our trip of constant adventures and lots of walking. The eucalyptus steam room and exfoliating station was probably my favourite part – plus the robes were so cozy. We stayed at the resort and enjoyed dinner at the Blacktail Bar.

Spa day and relaxation at Pomeroy Kananakis Mountain Lodge Nordic Spa just outside Banff National Park.
Photo Credit: Play Outside Guide

Day 5 – Pack up and Head Home

The next morning we grabbed a to-go breakfast and coffee at the Market Cafe and headed to the airport. Our flight departed just after lunch and we landed in Toronto around 7pm.

Overall we had an amazing, amazing trip. I feel like there’s so much to do, you really can choose your own adventure. Next time we’re out west (we just came back from a trip from Vancouver and Whistler for my 30th birthday which I will document soon!), I would love to visit Jasper National Park and drive up the highway. Maybe even visit the Dark Sky Conservatory to hopefully (one day) see the Aurora Borealis. In the meantime, I hope this gives you some insight into our trip and things that you may want to add to your list!

Travel itinerary for 5 days in Banff National Park. Best things to do in Banff, Alberta.

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Life with dogs Lifestyle Travel

Our Trip to Blue Mountain Resort: The Perfect Ontario Winter Getaway

There’s something about a winter trip that I absolutely love! Considering Winter is one of my favourite seasons (I say this as it’s currently snowing in the middle of March here in Ontario while I write this), getting away for a weekend or week vacation is a great way to enjoy what winter has to offer. We have been to Blue Mountain in the Fall for our anniversary and definitely loved being there in the Winter even more!

Even though I’m a fan of winter, I had never been skiing. I had a snowboard when I was young and attempted tobogganing hills… but I honestly don’t think that actually counts. So this year, we decided to jump straight into it. Even if you’re not huge into skiing and snowboarding, there really is something for everyone at Blue Mountain Village (though I’d probably recommend a weekend trip versus an entire week). With all of that being said, here’s a breakdown of our trip!

Day 1

Checked into our dog friendly Airbnb, which was a large chalet just a 3 min drive from the Village. Our chalet had a private hot tub and steam room, which I highly recommend since our muscles were sore after skiing. We headed into the Village for dinner at Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen.

There are ski-in and out style condos for rent that are in the village, so if your trip is centred around just skiing and you’re a party of 2-4 people, that could definitely be a good option for you!

Day 2

Took the dogs for a walk around our Chalet and took in the views. The mountains are so beautiful. Unfortunately it rained our entire first day, so we moved our skiing to Day 3 and enjoyed the hot tub, lots of board games and had a really nice day to just relax!

Collingwood was just a short 8 min drive from our Airbnb, so we picked up some groceries the night before and made a big breakfast. We headed into the Village to visit Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and a few clothing stores, including the Christmas Store, of course!

Day 3

Our ski day! Since we had never been skiing before, we opted to do the Newbie Ski and Snowboard Program. Which was a self-guided course, where you followed the signs that showed you instructions and tips. The ticket included rentals and a lift ticket (and definitely more cost effective if you’re learning for the first time).

We picked up our ski rentals from the main office and our experience wasn’t quite what we were expecting… Feedback for Blue – newbie skiers don’t know how things are supposed to fit and we really didn’t feel supported or guided through the process. It felt chaotic and ultimately 3 out of the 4 of us had terrible fitting boots that resulted in slight bruising and blisters by the end of our morning. I will say that although that part was unfortunate, it did not take away from our experience skiing! I would definitely do it again as it made a good intro to skiing, but would opt for an instructor and/or to get my rentals outside of the village so that I could choose my equipment and find something that had more inclusive boot sizing.

If you’re going to do the Newbie Ski program, I highly recommend watching YouTube videos or to bring someone with you who knows what they’re doing. We went early to beat the crowd and didn’t have any staff there to help us other than the people operating the lifts. The goal is to do the newbie hill, then the undergrad hill and then to your first green. Though only my husband made it to the green (yay!) and that’s totally okay – there are plenty more winters to continue to learn. 😉

Yellow box is South Newbie Hills and the purple star is where the main Newbie Hill is (and the one that we did).

We learned at the Newbie hills at the heart of the village, but there are apparently even better circuits on the South side of the hill (yellow box) with more space. Keep that in mind when you’re going! If it didn’t rain the day before, we would have gone to the South side for a 2nd trip out.

We headed to Jozo’s Bar for Après Ski and enjoyed a well-deserved pitcher of beer and food! Then grabbed a Starbucks and headed back to the chalet. We decided to order in pizza for dinner from Firehall Pizza (mmm 🍍 on pizza), hit the hot tub and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Day 4

We checked out the Hike N’ Tube, which we thought was going to be much bigger…if you have a younger family, you will love it, but for the price of $26/adult, we decided it was not worth it. Instead we walked around the village, grabbed a coffee and some beavertails and sat by the fire pits.

In hindsight, we wish we would have brought our skates (we ended up not having room in the car), but will definitely visit the Woodview Mountaintop Skating Trail next time we are there. It’s a 1km loop with a stunning view. We were told to ensure it’s a good day, because the drive up the mountain in bad weather could leave you stranded.

We finished off the night at Rusty’s, a BBQ restaurant, but definitely want to try Magnone’s Italian Kitchen and Twist’s Kitchen and Cocktail next time! View the full list of their eateries here.

Day 5

Packed up and headed home!

Overall it was a really nice getaway and definitely crossed off some items from my bucket list. Though, there are still some things on my list I’d like to check out for next time! The Blue Mountain website breaks down activities to explore in each season, which is really helpful.

Some things I’d like to explore next year:

  • Breakfast/Brunch spots
  • South Hill Skiing
  • Mountaintop Skating
  • Snowshoeing and more hiking.
  • Scandinave Spa – book well in advance for this! We’ve been here before and loved our experience. Would be so nice after a couple days of skiing!

Have you ever been to Blue? If you have what’s your favourite activity there? Let me know in the comments below ❄️!

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Holidays Lifestyle Travel

Evening at the Distillery Winter Village (Toronto Christmas Market)

Another holiday festivity checked off the list! We visited the Toronto Christmas Market, now known as the Distillery Winter Village. An annual family tradition – filled with lots of photo-taking, good food, yummy drinks and the usual chilly weather. Though, definitely not as cold or busy as years passed.

We went on a weekday after 5pm and was able to walk right in (after our proof of vaccination, of course!). But no line, and no hassle. A few years ago I remember waiting around the block just to get in and we had a TICKET! Thankfully this year, parking and entry was a breeze.

Though it was still a little too busy to bounce around from booth to booth with a group of 8, we managed to grab a bite to eat at the Mill Street Brewery and enjoyed some sightseeing, hot chocolate and hot donuts — basically tiny-toms but make it festive. We had cinnamon sugar (of course) and ginger molasses.

The red and gold decorations are my favourite, sometimes they’ve done the blue and silver, but it feels good to see the traditional colours this year. Something about this Christmas feels like it should be traditional. I definitely zero’d in on the red, plaid and gold at home, so I’m right there with the traditional decor. Next year we’ll be switching over to coloured lights! It always reminds me of my childhood. What’s your preference?

Whether you’re visiting the food, getting some Christmas shopping done or just enjoying the scenery and holiday atmosphere, it’s definitely worth the visit!

Overall, everyone was super respectful of space and it was great to have room to take photos in front of the tree. We had so much fun laughing with our family – and also strangers passing by! We had our very first photo-bomb of the season. Truly, the spirit of the holidays and just being back around people and being somewhat “normal” was refreshing.

Are you planning a visit to a Winter Village in your community or maybe heading to the Toronto Christmas Market this year? Let me know below!