How I had Winter Fun up North, when the Pandemic took away travel options..

Everybody who knows me, knows I can’t stand the cold. I am not a winter person. Even as a born and raised Canadian, I can’t skate, ski, or play hockey….all of the things that would make winter worthwhile. Without an interest in winter sports, all I have to look forward to as an urbanite in Toronto winters are slushy dirty snow, traffic accidents, public transit delays, a sun that sets at 5pm, and the depression constant darkness brings. It’s a season that gives me nothing, other than a gut from over eating out of boredom, and the lack of the ability to get outside for fear of being frozen. So for travel ideas if given a chance to chose in a non-pandemic travel world, one would find me on a white sand beach, or walking down big city streets, or soaking up culture in the finest museums internationally.

With the start of this year’s holiday season, it was also the start of another variant of Covid, and again the usual patterns of hibernating, being bored at home was all too tempting. But having time off work put pressure on me to think outside the box. Avoiding the stress from all the international travel restrictions, I instead planned a trip up North to a small cottage town called Bracebridge in Muskoka, a very picturesque area of Ontario that I never explored before. And thus launched the idea that maybe I could have fun this winter. Think trees, a lovely winding river and quietness. My son and I enjoyed days in with a magnificent view and cozy comfort food at the Inn’s pub. What I learned was winter could be beautiful and starting the New Year seemed positive. Travelling to remote areas in the winter has it’s perks, and while it’s no tropical paradise, it was relaxing and replenished me somehow.

On a hill with a bridge. Overlooking the river, my inn was just in the buildings behind.

Why Leaving the City for a Northern Getaway Worked:

  1. Traveling out of the city to a remote small town meant I didn’t have to get on a plane to go somewhere new and unexplored. And while Muskoka area was not too different from Toronto climate (albeit much colder), just the fact that getting there didn’t rely on delays, stress and customs at an airport, made it enjoyable. A two hour bus ride was all it took.
  2. I was by the beautiful Muskoka river and it was quiet and serene: Toronto doesn’t have big areas of peaceful water. It’s busy and hectic to get down to the harbour front and cold and windy to be near Lake Ontario during the winter. It’s hard to enjoy winter in the city. But it was pristine up North.
  3. “Baby it’s cold outside”: Just like the Christmas song implies, I didn’t need to be outside to have fun up North. I invested in a gorgeous suite that overlooked the river on a ravine. It was cold outside so after an afternoon of hiking around outside, I could return to my suite and just hibernate all night by the faux fireplace while enjoying Netflix and the view. Being inside and aiming to isolate never felt so right.
  4. The locals up north were friendly: Toronto is a grumpy city. Forget that we are supposed to be “nice Canadians” we just aren’t. So when I get random “happy new years” greetings from locals and staff it’s actually really nice.
  5. Because small towns are less populated, there is less adherence to strict Covid methods, such as I was barely screened for vaccination when dining, and there was just a calmer outlook when in public.

All in all I had fun up North in the small town of Bracebridge and that surprised me, considering I going somewhere colder and more remote based on pandemic restrictions. But this trip proved that sometimes being in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter can be fun.

On a steel bridge in Bracebridge feeling the small town charm, forgetting the cold!

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