RV travelers love fall at Ontario Parks even after Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October). Some even camp in winter. Park staff affectionately call these campers ‘winter warriors’ since staying warm and maintaining the water systems in your RV in Ontario’s winter temperatures is a challenge. These four Ontario Parks are your best bet for late fall camping in an RV. Know that trailer fill stations for water are normally closed later in the season, based on weather. However, three parks have campgrounds offering electrical service and comfort stations with hot showers that are open year-round. The fourth, Killarney Provincial Park, does not have electrical service. The park also closes its comfort stations and turns off its water systems following the Canadian Thanksgiving, but the bathrooms outside of the main office remain open along with a tap so campers can access water to fill large jugs. Don’t forget that you need a park permit to camp in any season at Ontario Parks. More detailed RV information is on the Ontario Parks web site.
Mew Lake Campground is in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario’s oldest provincial park and its most famous. It’s about 3.5 hours north of Toronto at km 30.8 on Highway 60 which runs east-west through the southern portion of Algonquin. You can get cell phone reception at the Algonquin Visitor Centre which is open on weekends. Algonquin’s legendary fall colors generally peak in late September. Late fall colors known as the ‘golden encore’ are worth experiencing too, especially on the park’s many hiking trails. Ian Shanahan, a former Algonquin Natural Heritage Education Specialist, describes the ‘golden encore’ in this Park Blog post. In winter, Algonquin’s cross-country ski trails are fantastic. They’re groomed, well-signed and include heated warming huts. Pine Tree Loop, one of Algonquin’s Leaf Trails is regarded by many as the finest cross-country ski trail in ‘southern’ Ontario. For Algonquin’s news, follow @Algonquin_PP
MacGregor Point Provincial Park and its year-round Birch Boulevard Campground are on Lake Huron near Port Elgin, about 4 hours northwest of Toronto. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served or reservation basis, depending on the time of year. Birdwatchers ‘flock’ to this park especially during spring and fall migrations. Visit in spring for the park’s annual spring Huron Fringe Birding Festival which celebrates the return of songbirds. And in the fall, Wild for the Arts art festival is another popular park event. Electrical sites in Birch Boulevard are large, level, and well-treed. Staff suggest you pack an extra-long electrical cord to ensure you can reach your site’s electrical outlet. Park hiking trails range from easy to moderate. Mountain biking is also permitted on some trails so pack your bike. In winter, the park’s heated yurts are popular for overnight stays. Eleven kilometers of trails are groomed for cross country skiing, and you can ski or snowshoe many more kilometers of unplowed park roads. If you love to skate (weather-permitting). MacGregor Point’s cool skate path through the woods is worth the drive. For the latest park news, follow @MacGregorPoint on Twitter.
Sunsets at Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron are rated by National Geographic as “among the top 10 best in the world’. This popular beach park is booked solid in summer but in late fall it is far less busy and offers some good year-round recreation in its rare Carolinian forests and rolling dunes. There are 10 kilometers of walking trails, a 14-kilometer bike trail and 38 kilometers of groomed ski trails (weather-permitting). Thousands of Tundra Swans pass by the park in spring. In winter, Red-tailed Hawks and Tufted Titmice hang out at the park’s Visitor Centre feeders. The park’s Riverside Campground Area 1 stays open all year and has electrical outlets and a winterized comfort station with flush toilets and showers. Heated yurts and a winterized cabin are also available for rent in the campground. Get Pinery’s latest news on Twitter @PineryProvPark
A wild Lake Huron- Georgian Bay coastline, the LA Cloche quartzite mountain range and 50 sapphire-colored lakes are what you can expect to see at Killarney Provincial Park. Fall hiking trails range from two to sixty kilometers in length and their degree of difficulty runs from moderate to strenuous. You can also bike Killarney’s roads or the bike trail which runs along the Chikanishing Creek to the Chikanishing Access Point. George Lake Campground is open year-round but as mentioned earlier in this post, it does not have electrical sites and turns off its water and closes its comfort stations following the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday (second Monday in October). Park staff do leave the main office outside bathrooms open and have installed a tap specific to fill large water jugs. In winter, George Lake campground is walk-in only. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers rent the campground’s heated yurts. Park staff provide toboggans so campers can haul their gear to a heated yurt. Staff say winter campers love the walk-in since it gives them a sense of “remoteness”. The trail is between 500 and 700 meters long.
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It was bound to happen – Meier’s Creek Brewing Company was the first Harvest Host that failed to exceed my expectations. Don’t get me wrong – the experience was acceptable, but I wouldn’t go back. There are just too many options that are BETTER.
The facility itself is great. Modern buildings with an industrial feel – the perfect ambiance for a microbrewery. Outside was replete with amenities ranging from cornhole to disc golf on a well-manicured lawn. It is family & pet friendly with kids & dogs everywhere., sure to bring a smile to your face.
Getting down to business – “good beer” is highly subjective. I generally live by the credo there is no such thing as a bad beer, just some are better than others. After trying a flight of beers ranging from mild to sour to stout, I was unable to find a beer that tasted good to me. Cindy also ordered a flight that contained a couple of seltzers. She was able to find a winner there. So… I ordered a diet Coke & she ordered a seltzer, then we wandered outside to find a seat & enjoy one another’s company.
Despite having a lot of green space, the single harvest host spot was located in the corner of the parking lot in a section striped off for no parking. If you’re into the cracker barrel parking lot experience, this is a good fit. That said, I know they could do better.
It was safe & well lit, so I can’t argue that.
It’s hard to describe just how wonderful this place is. Our Harvest Host was Rustic Ridge Winery, but they share a “campus” with High Burl Brewery. When we checked in we were greeted by Connie. One never knows what will happen at a harvest host check-in. It’s a 50/50 shot the person that you connect with has any knowledge of the program, but in this case, she was expecting us – Yay!
The area for campers was a short distance from the Wine & Beer facilities and adjacent to a corn field with beautiful views of the valley. The breathtaking scenery was right out of a movie.
Once we got settled, we walked over to the Winery where both Cindy & I took a seat at the bar for a wine tasting. Connie told us the grapes used were from the Finger Lakes region of New York. I’m not sure if the wines are produced on-site or “imported” from the Finger Lakes. Frankly, I was more interested in the taste than the origin story and I was not disappointed. My favorite was made from grapes developed by Cornell University in conjunction with Finger Lakes Vinyard operators.
After the tasting, we decided to take a break & hang out at camp for a while. After Dinner, we took a stroll over to the brewery where we each had a flight of beer. The icing on the cake is that live music was happening that evening and we were able to carry our beer samples outside to a picnic table and soak in the music while sampling beer. The atmosphere could not have been more perfect. The live entertainment ran thru 8 PM and just as that was winding down, the rain was ramping up.
Back at the campsite, we were treated to a spectacular Rainbow and colorful sunset. We were the sole campers that evening, so it was extremely peaceful and quiet.
If you find yourself in the Cooperstown area of New York, do yourself a favor & check this out.
The last time Cindy & I visited Bully Hill was 30+ years ago. These were the days before visitors were charged for wine tastings & the scene was much more casual. What made that visit particularly memorable was the man himself, Walter S Blanked (Taylor), was pouring very generous samples that day. You’ll get the “Blanked” reference if you know the Taylor story.
Fast forward to July 2022 and the Bully Hill complex has grown exponentially. In addition to the traditional tour & tasting, they have a gift shop replete with Branded merch, in addition to wines. They also have a restaurant on site for pairing your favorite wines with a meal.
The new tasting room is big and gorgeous with a view of Keuka Lake. For $8, you can sample 5 pre-selected wines and get a free souvenir wine glass. There is also a bar next door in the gift shop, where you can make your own selection for $2 per wine. As I have said before, I’m no sommelier, but I liked the wines being sampled that day.
As fate would have it, Stephen Taylor, Walter’s son was working that day and was checking in on the wine tasting. I relayed the story about meeting his dad and the joy it brought us. I bumped into him again the following morning, walking his dog, as I was getting up and around. I expressed my appreciation for Bully Hill’s participation as a Harvest Host. He said they had only started about a month prior and that we were “pioneers.”
Our Campsite was the lower parking area of Bully hill with the same expansive view of Keuka Lake as the tasting room. There was only one other Camper there and we never saw the owners. There was an on-site ports potty which is nice to have, despite being self-contained.
In summary – this place is awesome – great people, great wine, great scenery – 4 thumbs up!
Our first experience with Harvest Hosts was a stay at Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery. My initial impression was very positive. There were a couple of RV’s already there and the camping location had a spectacu
lar view of Cayuga Lake. Visitors are directed to a vintage barn, which serves as a one stop welcome center, gift shop and wine tasting bar! Our greeter was a pleasant young woman and recent college grad. In addition to knowing her wines, she was also a service dog trainer and introduced us to her current student – a beautiful and well-trained Golden Lab
The owner, Tom, has operated this Vinyard for the past 30 years. He made it a point to come over to meet and chat with us, while we were bellied up to the bar. He even suggested the best location to set up camp. My wife & I each sampled 4 wines. I am by no means a wine connoisseur, but I know what I like. Some suited my taste more-so than others, which is to be expected. If you find yourself in the Finger Lakes and are having trouble deciding which Wineries to check out, I encourage you to add Cayuga Ridge to your list – you won’t be disappointed.
Ah, camping — a chance to get out into nature and away from the toils of everyday life. But in today’s tech-heavy world, have we forgotten how to occupy ourselves without the aid of gaming devices and television? Luckily, people have been playing games a lot longer than we’ve had the benefit of electricity, so we know it can be done. Whether you’ve got a group of young kids or hard-to-please teenagers, there are activities to engage them all. Here are five family camping games to keep in mind as you plan for your adventure!
1. I Spy
“I Spy” is a classic game of distraction that can refocus bored or antsy kids. The premise is simple: One person begins the game with the phrase “I spy, with my little eye, something …” and fills in the blank with a letter, color, or texture. So, if the object you pick is a flower, you might say, “I spy something yellow” or “something that begins with the letter ‘F.'” The other campers will look around and take turns guessing which item it might be. The “spy” can offer clues during the guessing. Whoever guesses correctly gets to start the next round. “I Spy” is great to play while on a hike, because it draws attention to the things around you. You can also use it to make chores, like setting up a campsite, go more quickly.
2. Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great way to get everyone on their feet to experience the surrounding landscape. You can take your scavenger hunt in one of two directions — either plant your own objects and clues around the campsite or else simply look for things already found in nature. Safety is an important consideration for scavenger hunts. If you have younger kids, pairing them up with an experienced camper is a good idea, so that they can learn what plants to avoid and how to safely navigate the terrain. Set a time when everyone must be back at the campsite, at least a couple of hours before dark. And, when you hand out the clues or list of things to find, give each team a whistle and a flashlight to use in case of emergency. Once everyone is back at the campsite, have each team do a show-and-tell with their findings.
3. Map-making and Navigation
Being able to understand what a map is, and how to read one, is important for campers of all ages. Start your smallest campers out on the right track by having them draw their own version of a map. You can use the area surrounding the campsite, or have them draw the hiking path you just took. It’s a good opportunity to talk about landmarks and directions. Challenge older kids by giving them a compass and having them plot the directions you take on a hike.
Another fun map-oriented activity is a constellation hunt. Look through a book about constellations with your kids and see how many you can find in the night sky. You can even work a little history lesson into the mix by telling the stories behind each constellation’s name. See any other shapes lurking in the stars? Have your kids make up names and stories for these brand new constellations.
4. Capture the Flag
If you have a larger group, organize a game of capture the flag. This is a game that can be as complicated or simple as you want to make it, depending on the age and energy levels of the players. The basic premise is this: The group is divided into two teams, each of which has its own territory. Make sure there’s a clear dividing line between the two territories; it can be something natural like a stream, or something you set up to mark the boundary. Both teams start at the dividing line, and when the referee starts the clock, the players have a set amount of time (usually two or three minutes) to hide their flag. The flag can be anything from a bandanna to a dish towel. The flag’s hiding place can be inconspicuous, but some part of the flag has to be visible. After the hiding time is up, the goal is to sneak into the other team’s territory, find their flag, and steal it without being caught. If a player is caught in enemy territory, that person is put into the “guard house.” The game ends when the enemy’s flag crosses the border over to home territory. It’s a great way for hyperactive campers to burn off some energy, and it’s fun for the adults, as well.
5. Round-robin Storytelling
As the day draws to a close, finish up the activities with stories around the campfire. The pitch-black wilderness just outside the firelight lends itself to spooky tales in particular. But it doesn’t have to be a one-person show; the entire group can get in on the act with round-robin story-telling. A round-robin story is one that each person adds to. You can create a story sentence-by-sentence, or each person can add as much or as little to the story as they wish. Simply go around the circle a set number of times, or until the story seems to be finished. Round-robin storytelling challenges everyone’s imagination and demands quick thinking of the participants. It also allows the younger campers among you to participate, as opposed to simply listening.
So, there you have it — five great camping games for your family! Check out the next page for lots more information and ideas.