A Fall Drives Adventure
Jessica Dennis | October 25, 2016
The beginning of the fall started the same as most, with apple picking and pumpkin spice everything. The only difference – it was all being enjoyed in 30 degree weather. I’m all for an Indian summer, but I was sure happy that my days on the road provided me the cool weather I was craving to sport the female fall uniform; a baggy sweater, tights, boots and a beanie. The change in temperature happened at the best of times, a time when Windsor was buzzing with energy (partly from the pumpkin spice lattes) and packed full of festivals and tours for every age.
My fall drive started with the 11th Annual Doors Open Windsor event – a self-guided tour that offered residents a sneak peek into some of the oldest and most historic buildings in the city. Our first stop was a walk through the glamourous and legendary Walkerville Theatre. Mary, the owner of the theatre, greeted all of us with cookies, coffee and unbelievable stories. We all crowded in close to hear about how she brought the building back to life when it had been vacant for years and was set to be torn down and turned into a parking lot. The venue now plays host to dinner theatres, comedy shows, movie nights, weddings and countless parties. Even if you’re not a theatre buff, seeing the establishment in all its glory is quite the experience!
We kept the Walkerville vibe alive as we made our way down the small shop-filled streets to visit The Willistead Manor and the Canadian Club Brand Centre*. I was really excited to make these two stops because I had never been to either locations and I had been hoping to get them crossed off my Windsor bucket-list ASAP! Walking through the grounds of the Willistead Manor made me feel like I had become part of the history that makes Windsor so profoundly different than other Ontario cities. Canadian Club was equally as exciting, as we were immersed in all things whisky. They even showed us the types of barley and rye that go into making the Boardwalk Empire-inspired liquor. I learned more in one day about Windsor’s history than I had the entire time I’ve lived here, so I would definitely say that the event was a true success.
* The Canadian Club Brand Centre is not currently offering tours (as of April 1, 2017)
After a few hours of touring we were ready to make eating part of our own personal history, so we hopped in the car and drove to Rock Bottom Bar and Grill, which offered a special Doors Open Windsor menu. The small plates-style menu gave a variety of delicious snacks to choose from. I decided on the grilled fish tacos and an adorable mini Reuben sandwich that was piled high with corned beef and gooey cheese. Rock Bottom never disappoints and we felt like rock stars having a menu created with us hungry travellers in mind.
Our fall drive adventure continued the following weekend on a cool sunny morning when the grass was dewy and the leaves were beginning to change into fall coloured hues. Our travels took us on a journey to Kingsville for the Art Free 4 All street festival. I had never been to Kingsville, so when we arrived I instantly fell in love with the Gilmore Girls small town vibe (if my reference goes over anyone’s head, please get on Netflix and binge watch the show #guiltypleasure). We lollygagged for a good hour watching street performers and artists singing, dancing and capturing the hearts of people passing by. If you’re an artsy person or a shopaholic like I am, make sure to bring some cash because the jewelry and art pieces are one of a kind and sell out quick. I got my hands on a beautiful hand-carved soapstone necklace made by Kingsville designer Isabelle West – I swear I’ve worn it with every outfit since!
After almost buying up the entire street, we had worked up an appetite, so we bid adieu to the lovely town festival and drove to the new and wildly popular Beacon Ale House in Amherstburg. The restaurant was so quaint and fit in perfectly with the surrounding venues. We decided to get in our last bit of patio time before the weather turned too chilly, so we sat on their front porch patio. The entire restaurant and street made it feel like we were on a vacation in Grand Bend or somewhere fabulous in Muskoka! Their eclectic menu looked so delicious we couldn’t decide so we asked our server to choose for us. We were so glad she did. We sampled their mouthwatering crispy, tangy Buffalo Cauliflower and their pulled Chicken Tacos that would be comparable to a taco straight from Cabo San Luca. This definitely made my “Must Try Again” list.
Fully satisfied, we continued our drive just a few seconds down the road to Gibson Gallery where we met the very talented and equally bubbly artist Nancy Bauer, who is currently exhibiting her work at the gallery throughout October. Nancy welcomed us with a tour of the gallery, a brief history about her as an artist and finished by guiding us to the guest book and placing a sticker on our hand. We used the sticker to vote on our favourite painting in the gallery. It wasn’t an easy task to be dealt considering her work was spectacular. After much deliberation, I chose a painting of a very life-like purple teacup that looked like it was jumping – or spilling – off the canvas. We said goodbye to Nancy and began the last leg of our drive back to where it all started – Windsor.
Our adventure wouldn’t have been complete without checking out Windsor’s very own w.a.v.e.s Festival. As we walked around I felt like it had a Toronto’s Nuit Blanche-style vibe to it. It was an amazing experience being able to witness each artist’s perception of what art means to them. One artist made a gigantic instrument of wood and pipes and had everyone walk by and play it to see what kind of music could be created. Others designed large and small scale sculptures- some that were abstract and others that were life-like. The festival encapsulated everything that art is about – creativity, uniqueness and having fun.
Our last stop was just a hop, skip and a sculpture away at The Bistro on the Riverfront. I’ve been to the Bistro many times throughout the summer for the stunning riverfront view and their white wine sangria that’s packed with juicy pieces of fruit – it’s to die for! Ordering was a breeze since we already knew that their spinach and artichoke dip was our top pick. I’m a person who needs lots of options when it comes to food, so a spinach dip that’s accompanied by garlic bread, naan and nachos on one dish definitely satisfies my food OCD.
As the sun began to set over the Detroit skyline, the chilly fall breeze made me reminisce about seasons of the past. The start of the Fall 2016 season definitely takes the cake for being the most action-packed and adventurous yet!
To plan your Essex County Road Trip this fall, please go to www.visitwindsoressex.com/fall-drives or follow #falldrivesYQG for plenty of reasons to visit – the website is updated with fresh ideas each week throughout the season.