Many may know Canadians for their friendly nature, hockey, poutine and maple syrup. In truth, Canadians are a vast ocean of ethnicities making up our great country; each with our quirks and specific-to-Canada vices. Maple Syrup is a big part of Ontario and celebrated in tourism, along with the many fun-filled winter travel bucket list activities at Casino Rama and in Ontario’s Lake Country.
I had the wonderful opportunity to experience a Tap Into Maple #LetsGOMaple Winter Escape this March. What is Tap Into Maple to you? It’s the perfect time of year to celebrate the beginning of the maple syrup season in Ontario’s Lake Country and perfect reason for individuals, couples or families to add it to a winter travel bucket list.
Winter Travel Bucket List – Where to Stay
When you stay in Ontario’s Lake Country there’s only one way to travel, in style, comfort and luxury. From casino and spa to satisfying your taste buds at award-winning St. Germain’s Steakhouse, Casino Rama offers a 5 star resort in a playground to fill the senses full of entertainment for couples or families. Yes, families.
Although Casino Rama Resort gaming is geared towards adults, the resort is huge with plenty of space and activities in the surrounding area for families to enjoy. Head out for the day to enjoy the many family winter activities Ontario’s Lake Country offers and return for dinner at one of the many restaurants, a dip in the pool and a fun day breathing in ALL that fresh air in Ski School. Once the kids are in bed with grandma, enjoy some table games with your spouse. Subtle enough?
This resort holds events regularly at their very own venue with big name concerts or sporting events like the MMA; as a fighting sport fan, I think that may have me a tad excited.
This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of eating at St. Germain’s, each with a completely different menu made to the finest taste and detail of each dish. We started with a Scallop radish appetizer with a surprise spicy kick, crispy bacon and brussels sprouts with smoked ricotta, pomegranate and local maple and a main dish of beef tenderloin with maple braised short rib presentation. Each dish was equally as delicious but when the triple chocolate, maple Crème brûlée and tiramisu came for dessert I think my heart skipped a beat. Then, the handmade designer chocolates made an appearance. My eye may have twitched a little and a slight drool might have escaped my lips.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, St. Germain’s needs to be on your travel itinerary.
Winter Travel Bucket List – What to Do
Beyond the fun of Casino Rama, there is so much to do in Ontario’s Lake Country to add to your winter travel bucket list.
1.Shaw’s Syrup Bush – As a prairie girl from Saskatchewan, I’ve never had the opportunity to learn about the process of maple syrup so when the opportunity came up to learn about tapping maple trees, I was eager.
The Shaw family history of tapping maple trees began back in 1904. Now with over 4000 trees, families can visit the Pancake House for a delicious stack of pancakes (or french toast) smothered in farm fresh maple syrup before hitting the treed trails, tubing or a wagon ride.
2. Horseshoe Resort – Families can spend a lot of time here exploring many fun and different activities for days. With immensely supportive Ride Guides, I felt more than comfortable trying Fat Biking along the trails and other firsts at Horseshoe Resort. I’d never tried snowshoeing or fat biking and found out how much fun I was missing. If you don’t know what Fat Biking is, it’s mountain bikes with wide tires capable of all terrains, including snow. What a beautiful way to see the backcountry trails in the area.
I was excited about these two new activities but there is so much more to Horseshoe Resort: tubing, downhill or cross-country skiing and mini snowmobiling to name a few. This place has it all for a winter travel bucket list destination; I could easily see my family staying there for a week’s winter vacation. Did I mention, they have a camp for the kids. Snow School starts for kids as young as 3 years old in Kids Korral Lessons. That deserves a high-five to all the parents.
3. Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) – For a suggested donation of $5 per family, families can drop in OMAH between 2-3pm on Sunday’s for a family art activity. If you prefer a theme, check out the scheduled monthly art activities you can book to explore your creativity together as a family or tour the exhibits.
I toured the museum during the International Women’s Day Art Show; I was in awe at the varying styles of art displayed by talented female artists, all equally as beautiful and inspiring as the next. Stepping into the OMAH shop, it was this bee pottery mug that I couldn’t leave without. It’s perfect for me. There hasn’t been a morning I haven’t enjoyed my coffee in this mug without a smile on my face.
Pop into OMAH when in for your next winter travel bucket list destination for creative time with your family and see what inspires each of you individually.
4. Mount St. Louis Moonstone (MSLM) – What I loved about skiing at MSLM was that I could start small and move up in ski hill intensity with my confidence and skill level. I hadn’t skied for about 8 years before attending MSLM so naturally I was a bit nervous about jumping back on a pair of skis.
I learned how to ski when I was in elementary school and over the years would go with friends, co-workers or family. As the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike”; it really is but practice and reintroduction to ski equipment and technique helps confidence. At first when I was offered a ski lesson at MSLM Ski School, I declined because I knew how to ski but just hadn’t been in awhile. I decided to take the lesson and was so glad I did. The instructor was very patient with our large group of different skill levels, spending time on each individual to tweak a few techniques and better our skiing habits.
One of the biggest issues for me is my fear of heights; I like to ski but the chairlift and initial start down the hill scare me. The lesson was just what I needed as a refresher course to get over my fear, break some bad skiing habits and build my confidence back up as a skier. In fact, one of the ladies in our group had never skied; it would have been easy to decline the chance to ski, but she took a beginner lesson and ended up skiing 12 runs, even tackling the chairlift and enjoying it.
With ski lessons available from ages 3+, it’s never to early or late to learn. Moms and dads, did I mention MSLM has kids ski camps? Hint; hint.
I know all ages of my 5 kids (from 4-18 years) would have days of fun at MSLM for a winter travel bucket list destination.
Casino slot machine and above skiing image provided with permission by Casino Rama associates
5. Apres Patio Family S’mores – After a day of winter activity family fun, enjoy the warmth of the bonfire, roasting marshmallows and the view of the hill at the Crazy Horse Bar & Grill. This was the perfect atmosphere to end a busy fun-filled day on the hill.
If you haven’t decided that Casino Rama and Ontario’s Lake Country is your next winter travel bucket list destination yet, just wait until I talk about the food.
Winter Travel Bucket List – Where to Eat
It’s really about the food (for me) when I decide on our family travel winter destinations. I mean, the kids eat but it’s hubby and I who really appreciate the local flavours found in local eateries we find along our travels. These 3 restaurants have their own unique atmosphere and flavour inspiration from each other but they all share one thing, local inspiration.
1.Crazy Horse Bar & Grill – Right at the base of the Horseshoe Resort ski hill, you can step in for a quick lunch and beverage. This is a family-friendly restaurant, a perfect spot to refuel after a day on the hill or enjoying one of the many winter activities at Horseshoe Resort.
2. Rustica Pizza Vino – Located in downtown Orillia, Rustica offers Italian inspired wood-fired pizza with added local flavour inspiration. If you’ve never tried wood-fired pizza, it’s a flavour all it’s own but it doesn’t stop at how the pizza is cooked; the topping combinations will have your taste buds dancing.
I tried a few pizzas, my favourite was the Romano Balsamic pizza. For dessert, Pizza Doughnuts because deep-fried pizza dough dusted in sugar on a bed of Nutella with a side of strawberries is just perfection. I repeat, deep-fried pizza dough dusted in sugar and Nutella people. I know my little people would be in heaven at Rustica.
For the adults, what goes best with pizza? Beer. Is that really a question. Maybe it’s because I’m a prairie gal or maybe I love a good crafted beer but when I tried Horseshoe Brewing Company‘s Cold Water Clear Lager, I loved it. It’s a nice light beer; for those who appreciate light and crisp flavoured beer that goes with everything, Clear Water is available in several local destination locations and across other alcohol distributors.
3. Grape & Olive Restaurant – This fine cuisine restaurant offers a menu featuring flavours of Ontario’s Lake Country and Barrielicious, 3 course meal interactive dining by Chef Derek Mayes before your eyes. For those in the area longer, cooking classes, including 3 course meal take home instruction, are available with a monthly theme.
After a long day I like to carb-it-up with my favourite, Chicken Alfredo Penne, because…I love all the PASTA. Generally speaking, Chicken Alfredo is pretty consistent flavour-wise but this was a cheese-filled explosion of goodness. I personally feel like cheese should be its own meal so when you add the extra cheese effort to my pasta, you get me.
Another option was beef Yorkshire and after seeing this beautiful pot of Yorkshire pudding I was kicking myself for not trying it. The bowl was made of Yorkshire folks; not only is that creative, imagine the flavour in every bite. I may be drooling a bit.
I ended this delicious meal with apple crisp and a proper chocolate truffles cooking demo where we learned the different qualities of chocolate, baking techniques and temperatures for working with chocolate. Anyone who has tried working with chocolate knows how easy it is to burn; a quick tip from the very knowledgeable Chef, heating temperatures are different for each type of chocolate.
If you are looking for a winter escape (or girlfriend getaways) filled with winter activities, relaxation and amazing local flavour inspired cuisine, Casino Rama and Ontario’s lake Country should be on your radar to explore during Tap Into Maple for your next winter travel bucket list destination.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post; I was provided accommodations to experience the LetsGOMaple Tap Into Maple winter escape. All opinions are 100% my own and are not swayed by sponsorship.