St. Jacobs, in the picturesque county of Waterloo, is an ideal choice for a romantic getaway with your valentine. Located on the banks of the Conestogo River in the heart of Old Order Mennonite Country, it's a community of 1,400 surrounded by a patchwork of farms and fields. Watch for the "Slow Moving Vehicle" signs because you share the roads with horse-drawn buggies and wagons. Yes, there's a sense of calm here.
Things to do
Visit the enclosed St. Jacobs Farmers Market and Flea Market with over 400 vendors and open Thursday and Saturdays from 7am until 3:30 pm. Purchase a symbolic jar of Saugeen Country Honey from David Schmit and his nine-year-old son, Joshua.
Book a horse-drawn sleigh ride at the market. Wrapped in a blanket and pulled by powerful horses through open fields and tall sugar bush, when the hour-long tour finally ends, sip on hot apple cider in a convenient sugar shack.
Pick up flowers from Floral Express. Vendor Sarah VanWyk revealed "I have one guy who brings his sweetheart flowers every week. He told me, he didn't understand Valentine's Day because he loved her every day and will for the whole of his life."
Downtown St. Jacobs is easy to walk about with myriad things to explore. Sweep your partner of her feet when you step inside an old blacksmith's shop. Hamel Brooms has been in operation since 1908 and is the last corn-broom shop in Canada, but don't buy her a broom!
If you crave antiques, head for St. Jacobs Antique Market just off the main street. The Old Mill anchors one end of the street. Originally a flour mill, it's now home to some fine shopping and museums.
The Home Hardware Museum is fascinating. St Jacobs is the birthplace of this owner-operated co-operative and its headquarters remains in this rustic community. There's a Maple Syrup Museum containing artifacts and a replica sugar shack. It's sweet! Admission is by donation.
When it's time to enjoy a bite, head to The Stone Crock Bakery for oh-so delicious baked goods that will threaten to clog one's arteries.
St. Jacobs Visitor Centre on the town's main street contains a sleek Mennonite Museum explaining the history, lifestyle and beliefs of the Mennonites. Drop some money in the donation box. In the museum shop buy a two-dollar self-guided tour of Mennonite country.
Mennonite Country Tour
A sure highlight of your visit, a one-hour, lazy, pastoral drive carries one over rolling hills and lovely farm country. The guide explains the large wooden Mennonite homes, farms and businesses of these charming people. Along the way, stop at Wallenstein's, a Mennonite general store, (closed Sundays-cash only). Pucker-up at the West Montrose Covered Bridge (Kissing Bridge) Ontario's oldest covered bridge, built in 1881, near the end of the self-guided tour.
Where to Eat
Benjamin's Restaurant is housed in a refurbished 1852 inn in the heart of St. Jacobs. This romantic place exudes the ambiance of an historic inn with hand-hewn beams and open fireplaces. Save room for their fabulous desserts.
The other option involves a ten-minute drive to Verses Restaurant, a heavenly dining experience in this unique, former Apostolic Church. Romantics will savour it. Tables replace pews. The heartfelt service, food and ambiance inspires one to sing their praises. Both restaurants offer Valentine's Day specials, and these two best-bets will surely reward you with a bouquet of kisses.
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.