My wife, Ellen, and I look forward to fall drives which become magical for us for life slows right down as with our recent two-hour, 120 km drive from Niagara to Brantford. We started at 9am on a Friday, leaving from Pelham and driving north along the Grand River Scenic Parkway (Highway 54). Appropriately named, it was the most picturesque part of our trip, especially at this time of the year. And we "owned the road."
As we travelled along this lazy, winding road, parallel to the Grand River, we passed flaming red maples and golden sugar maples that reflected from the Grand River as well as old barns, curious cattle and historic farm houses. Our first stop was Caledonia where we headed to Jones' Bakery to pick up a few butter tarts and Empire cookies plus fresh sandwiches. The Jones' have been operating this bakery since 1904 and retain their original century old brick oven, items made from scratch with real butter, pure extracts, fresh eggs and cream. A few km ahead, we stopped at Harrison Landing, pulled out our lawn chairs and enjoyed lunch. The view was spectacular, and we could inhale the sweetness fall with a gorgeous sense of calm.
We made our way to downtown Brantford, ready for a walk, strolling past magnificent century old stone buildings such as the post office and several churches. The city is alive with the student energy who attend Sir Wilfred Laurier University or Nipissing University. Enrolment for full and part-time students at both universities is approximately 8,600. A number of the historic buildings have been renovated to accommodate student housing and classrooms. The large student population has created new places to eat. We enjoyed lunch at the Piston Broke Gastro Pub on Dalhousie Street then spent time at Harmony Square where free community sponsored entertainment is offered year-round. An outdoor skating rink inspires action during the winter months.
If you arrive on a Friday or Saturday don't pass up a visit to the Farmer's Market (Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.). It's one of the oldest indoor markets in Canada established in 1848. And farmers who sell their own grown fruits and vegetables practice old-fashioned courtesy. For those who live on the wild side, the OLG Casino Brantford is a stone's throw away and they will take your money anytime.
The Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in the centre of town was first opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1919. It has undergone extensive renovations with live theater and concerts performed throughout the year.
You can't write about Brantford without mentioning that this is where hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky was born and raised. We drove to the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre where we saw a new 12-foot statue of "the Great One." The statue features a young Wayne with his parents, Phyllis and Walter looking up at an older Wayne hoisting the Stanley Cup above his head.
Although easy to drive back to Niagara the same day, we decided to stay for the evening. One of our favourite places to put our head down is the Best Western Plus Brant Park Inn. There's an excellent indoor swimming pool and sauna where we relaxed for the evening.
Historic Bell Homestead
Ontario Travel: Discoveries In and Around Brantford
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.