Cover Story

Staycation In Windsor, Essex County & Pelee Island

Enjoy an afternoon out at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery in Amherstburg. Photo courtesy of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.

Take A Staycation To Explore Every Avenue In Windsor, Essex County & Pelee Island

Award-winning wineries, scenic lakefront tours, river cruises and fun for family members of all ages are combining with high gasoline prices and climbing U.S. exchange rates to make staycations (stay-at-home vacations) more and more attractive for Essex County residents.

Not only do staycations provide much-needed financial relief for busy families, they also create economic opportunities for area businesses willing to go the extra mile in attracting families and visitors.

With this initiative in mind, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (VisitWindsorEssex.com) recently kicked off a campaign designed to showcase the region and its many attractions, including festivals and cultural events. Dubbed “Where Can WE Take You,” the campaign promotes the region’s tourism industry and encourages local residents to explore their own backyard. (WE is a friendly acronym for Windsor Essex)

Tourism Week” was held May 27 to June 2 across Canada, but local officials are extending the campaign for the entire month of June.

Tourism Week in Canada is a grassroots initiative that brings attention to the economic opportunity available to Canada through travel and tourism and the public policy challenges preventing the sector from capitalizing on those opportunities,” says Lynnette Bain, TWEPI Vice-President. “Tourism Week in Canada aligns tourism organizations, businesses and other partners from across the country around a common vision: a tourism sector unencumbered by government policies and recognized for its contribution to the Canadian economy.”


Big contributors to the local tourism economy are events and festivals, but we are saving our summer event coverage for the July/August issue. And while beaches and parks provide fun for the entire family, it’s area businesses and organizations that support the local economy and provide entertainment and activities to suit every palate, which are the focus of this article.

We’ve chosen to highlight things to do you might not be familiar with that suggest a different experience from the area’s casino gaming and bingo industries.

All ideas mentioned here are within driving distance (except the island of course). After you check out these area attractions be sure to stop by a local restaurant for a bite to eat on your way home or maybe stay overnight at an area hotel, Bed & Breakfast or campground.

Now we invite you, your family and friends to discover a little more of what Windsor and Essex County has to offer.

Get To Pelee Island For The Perfect Weekend Getaway

It’s less than two hours away by ferry, but it seems as if a trip to Pelee Island takes visitors away from their cares and worries and sends them home refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

A nature lover’s paradise, the island offers hiking and biking along scenic waterfront nature trails, as well as a marina and a Pelee Island museum featuring local treasures and a bookstore.

For entertainment, there’s the Stone & Sky Music & Art series, which runs throughout the summer months with a variety of entertainment options for every taste.

Visitors are also able to stay overnight or even longer at a variety of accommodation options, including motels, campgrounds, cottages and bed-and-breakfasts.

One of the newest attractions on the island is Stonehouse 1891, a craft bar and kitchen featuring Canadian craft beers and an eclectic kitchen, which serves salads, sandwiches, pizzas and shareable plates during the day and a variety of farm-to-table dishes in the evenings. Check out their website at: Stonehouse1891.com to get the full scoop.

A visit to Pelee Island would not be complete without a tour of Pelee Island Winery, a bite to eat in the Pavilion (you can barbecue items purchased at their Deli Hut) and a glass of wine in the outdoor wine garden. More details can be found at: PeleeIsland.com.

Sailings to the island leave either from Leamington or Kingsville.

For more information visit: Pelee.org.

Raise A Glass At All The Essex County Wineries

With a climate rivalling that of Northern California, fertile soil and a long growing period, Essex County has become one of the hottest wine regions in all of Canada.

There are almost 20 wineries across the county and all offer tours and tastings as well as staging special events such as festivals and wine and food pairings.

Represented and marketed by EPIC Winegrowers Association, many have collaborated on a passport program, which costs just $10 and allows winery guests to participate in wine tastings throughout the year.

In addition to events coordinated by EPIC, almost all of the wineries offer tastings, tours and food year-round,” says Melissa Muscedere of Muscedere Vineyards and EPIC President. “It’s a really nice afternoon out in the county and it’s so close to Windsor that it’s very convenient for everyone.”

It’s a fun, friendly way to see what our local wineries are doing while enjoying the wonderful county scenery,” adds Muscedere.

Muscedere notes that WindsorEats.com, a local website that focuses on food, beverages and restaurants across the region, operates bicycle tours to various wineries and that there are also trolley tours, which take people to wineries from a central location.

A great many wine enthusiasts also put together their own itineraries.

 Wineries participating in EPIC events include: Aleksander Estate Winery, Colio Estate Wines, Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, Coopers Hawk Vineyard, Mastronardi Estate Winery, Muscedere Vineyards, North 42 Degree Estate Winery, Oxley Estate Winery, Pelee Island Winery, Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, Viewpointe Estate Winery and Vivace Estate Winery.

For more information on addresses, events, tastings and tours at wineries across Essex County log on to: EpicWineries.com.

Please note there are five other wineries, which are not members of EPIC, but participate in many of the same events — Sanson Estate Winery, Wagner Orchards and Estate Winery, Black Bear Farms Estate Winery, Erie Shore Vineyards and Paglione Estate Winery.

Enjoy A Cold Brew (Or Two!)

The Windsor region is also gaining a reputation as a supportive home for craft breweries and a small-batch award-winning distillery, Wolfhead Distillery.

Among the local craft breweries are: Craft Heads Brewing Company, Chapter Two Brewing Company, Lonsbery Farms Brewing Company, Motor Craft Ales, Sandwich Brewing Company, Walkerville Brewery, FRANK Brewing Company, The Grove Brewhouse, Banded Goose and BREW microbrewery.

Open since mid-July 2017, G&L Heritage Brewing Co., one of the county’s newest craft breweries, was built on century-old farmland, which has been in the Grondin family for seven generations.

Today, married couples Dwayne and Jen Grondin along with Greg and Cathy Grondin operate an agriculture-based brewhouse, tasting room, beer patio and retail shop at 8728 Howard Avenue (Essex Road) in Amherstburg. (GLHeritageBrewing.ca).

In addition to tasting four styles of beer, visitors to the brewery can sample a flight of beers or grab a pack or growler to go and share with friends.

To visit a few other local breweries check: BarrelsBottlesBrews.ca for a passport to download and a list of where you can try some samples.

Go Cruisin’ On The River

The 197 passenger Macassa Bay operated by Windsor River Cruises offers a perfect opportunity for relaxation, entertainment and fun, far from the fast-paced, noisy city life.

The Macassa Bay sails on an almost daily basis offering a variety of cruise options, including dinner and dance outings, sightseeing tours, private charters, lunch and brunch tours, a round-trip to Amherstburg, weddings, sunset cruises with entertainment and special events.

Owner and Operator John Sheridan says his business brings up to 100,000 people downtown every year and “many haven’t been downtown in years, but they come for our cruises.”

People are attracted to water and it’s a fun way to see the backs of the many beautiful homes along Riverside Drive,” notes Sheridan.

Sheridan says his Friday night cruises featuring tribute acts with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and other impersonators, have become very popular. This summer, he plans on holding amateur nights with prizes for the winners.

Cruise prices range from $26.55 for sightseeing tours all the way to $99.95 per person for weddings. Children’s prices are also offered.

To see the schedule for all sightseeing tours check: WindsorRiverCruises.com.

Explore The Shore

This annual event (ExploreTheShore.ca), which encourages area residents to take a leisurely drive along County Road 50, takes place July 28 and 29. Participants include farms, wineries, restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, golf courses, bed and breakfasts, marinas, artists, authors and small business owners.

The tour can be taken any time during the summer, but it all culminates in a festival-like atmosphere with everyone putting their best foot forward on the final weekend of July.

Lock In A Good Time At An Escape Room

Anyone seeking a challenge, a brain-teaser or some good old-fashioned puzzle-solving activities, can visit one of four Windsor escape rooms and one in the county, all designed to test deductive abilities.

Participating teams of four-to-six people are locked in a room with a time limit, typically 60 minutes, and given a series of clues and directions all designed to be solved within the time period so they can escape the room.

The five local escape rooms are: APE Escape Windsor (ApeEscapeWindsor.com); 2017 Biz X Award winner Exodus Windsor Escape Rooms (ExodusWindsor.com); Enigma Escape Rooms (EnigmaWindsor.com); Hidden Trail Escape Rooms (HiddenTrail.co) and a newcomer, Breakout Canada in Kingsville (Kingsville.breakoutescapegame.com).

At APE, there are themed rooms with different challenges including “Prison Break,” “Casino Heist” and “Island Quest.”

Jarrett Robillard, who co-owns APE with Silken Matte-Leach and Jon Netler, believes escape rooms are becoming more popular because of the mental challenges involved in successfully completing the tasks.

It’s interactive and because there’s a mental challenge involved, there’s also an adrenalin rush and satisfaction in opening the lock,” says Robillard. “There’s a lot of intensity as well as the clock ticks down, but it’s extremely satisfying when you are successful.”

And it’s not easy.

Robillard estimates that only about 30 percent of his players successfully complete their assignment.

For more information on addresses, prices and times at escape rooms, refer to their respective websites.

Take A Staycation Continues…