O.K. – you spent a few days exploring the historic underground railroad sites. They are an important part of North American history. Now it’s time to unwind a bit and see the relaxing side of this beautiful area on the U.S./Canadian border.
There’s a lot more to do in Windsor and Essex County besides visiting the inspiring historic sites. There is the Las Vegas style Caesar’s Windsor with plenty of gaming action and a four diamond hotel. And how about a one hour guided distillery tour of the Canadian Club Brand Center which includes a free drink, a free Canadian Club glass and more. And for serious shoppers you can’t do better than the Windsor Crossing Premium Outlets. Be sure and ask for their free VIP Card for additional savings.
And for more lighthearted fun a visit to Colasanti’s ought to do the trick. Well, it started out as a farm (this area of Ontario has thousands of acres under greenhouses) but now it’s a major amusement center. Here you’ll find everything from the expected plants & flowers to the unexpected cactus gardens! Baby lions & tigers, a few alligators, some exotic birds, an 18 hole golf course, gift shops, an indoor playground, homemade fudge and much more. Even a restaurant specializing in Joe’s famous broasted chicken, pure apple cider, hot doughnuts and a buffet complete with salad bar. And if you want to buy a plant they’ll tell you which ones can be taken across the border into the U.S. If you get a chance to meet the boss, Joe Colasanti, you may have to wait in line behind the kids waiting to see him. He’s like a magnet to them and he usually has some sort of little treat for them when they track him down as he wanders through this enormous complex. He’s a great guy who is always available to offer his contributions to the community.
Are you ready for a bit of beach combing, a visit to a lighthouse and a taste of Pelee Island Wine? Then let’s meet at the Ferry dock to board the MV Jiimaan (Ojibway for “big canoe”) for the ride to Pelee Island. This is Canada’s southernmost inhabited point with 175 year round residents and more than a thousand in summer. Why Pelee Island? How about safe beaches, clean fresh air, hiking the nature trails or bicycling around the island? And, it is one of the premier migratory bird watching sites in North America.
After walking along the beach and visiting the restored lighthouse you may want to stop at the Pelee Island Wine Pavilion. If you have lunch there you can grill your own Buffalo Burger before shopping for the perfect bottle of wine to take home to your dog sitter. How about a nice Ice Wine?
Be sure to visit the Island’s Heritage Center to learn about the Native Cultures and the natural history of the island. In addition to the many species of birds that migrate to and from Pelee Island, there are rare creatures like the Spiny Softshell Turtle.
If you visit in October or November you can participate in the Annual Pheasant Hunt, a 60 year old Pelee Island tradition. Other times of the year you can just visit the Pheasant Farm and see them before they become the evening’s entree. And there are several really nice Bed & Breakfasts if you decide to stay over.
Since you’ll probably be flying into or driving through Detroit, you’ll want to begin or end your visit with a stop at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. This beautiful facility will add an extra dimension to your journey. And don’t miss the one hour “Walking To Freedom” workshop held daily at the Second Baptist Church to learn more about this last stop before freedom on the UGRR.
Click here to view Part One of the story: Night Train to Freedom.
Story and photos by Robert Painter: [email protected]
Enjoy your visit and . . .
Keep on Traveling!