Exploring Ontario’s Lake Country with #LetsGoMaple

This time last week I was packing my bags for #LetsGoMaple, a sponsored two-day/three-night trip with 15 other Canadian bloggers to explore Ontario’s Lake Country (Orillia/Rama/Oro-Medonte and area, about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Ottawa). As someone who struggles with anxiety (social and otherwise), I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I needn’t have been. At the risk of sounding sappy, my travel companions and hosts were as sweet and warm as the maple syrup we poured over our pancakes at Shaw’s Sugar Bush. Which made trying small things loom less large, and a lot easier. Come along and see some of the fun and delicious goodness the area has to offer. 

The trip was organized by SJ Consulting and sponsored by area partners including Casino Rama Resort, our home base and indoor playground. (Watch for more on Casino Rama later this week.)

Our first stop: Shaw’s Sugar Bush, a family farm that’s been making maple syrup since 1904. Shaw’s offers horse-drawn wagon rides, taffy on the snow and a mean pancake breakfast topped with syrup produced in-house from the sap of some 4,000 maple trees.

lgm shaws syrup

lgm shaws

Fifth-generation owner Tom Shaw gave us a tour of the farm and took us through the syrup-making process from tree to table.

lgm shaws tubes

Shaw’s uses an extensive tubing system to collect some 160,000 litres of sap each year. (The sap to syrup ratio is about 40 to 1.)

lgm shaws sap

Bucket collection is far less efficient, but there’s one available for demonstration purposes. You can see the sap looks just like water.

lgm tapped with tube

lgm sandy breakfast

Breakfast is served daily from mid-February to mid-April. We feasted on pancakes, sausages, french toast, coffee and maple tea and Shaw’s own maple syrup, served warm. Syrup, barbecue sauce and other maple products are available to purchase in the gift shop. (Of course I brought some home with me!)

The hearty breakfast was exactly what we needed to fuel our adventures at Horseshoe Resort. In addition to downhill and cross-country skiing (29 runs and 45 kilometres of groomed trails), the resort offers numerous activities for solo travellers and families of all skill levels.

lm fat biking

Stacey, Sandi and Jo-Anna ready to roll.

While some hit the cross-country trails, Ride Guides Cycling Adventures got the rest of us outfitted for some fat biking (that is, biking on bikes with fat tires). One guide lead the pack while another brought up the rear, ensuring that everyone was moving along and offering encouragement along the way.

lgm linda and julie biking

And yes it is as fun as it looks! Linda and Julie had a ball.

lgm me fat bike

lgm snowshoeing setting off

And from the bikes to snowshoes. I’d never tried it before and was surprised how lightweight they are, and relatively easy to walk in. Granted the snow was pretty packed down — somebody ordered the perfect conditions for us!

lgm me snowshoeing

And after snowshoeing, snow tubing! I was afraid I’d break my camera and didn’t take any pictures, but I’ll share links to other bloggers’ posts as they go up so you can see some of the shenanigans.

Orillia’s Rustica Pizza Vino welcomed us for dinner one night with a pizza-making demo and beer-tasting from Horsehoe Valley Brewing Company.

lgm cheers.jpg

Ann, Sandi and Jo-Anna toast to a great day in the outdoors.

lgm pizza sandi

Sandi captured the first pizza out of the oven — a beauty Marghertia pie with San Marzano tomato, fior di latte and fresh basil.

lgm pizza

The Romano Balsamic was also a favourite with caramelised onions, roasted garlic, fior di latte, arugula, romano cheese and a sweet balsamic glaze.

lgm cathy brewski

Cathy wasn’t a beer fan before tasting Horseshoe Valley Brewing Company‘s cold lager, but somehow she made room for a couple.

Our third night saw us wined and dined by The Grape & Olive Wine & Martini Bistro (again in Orillia), followed by a truffle making demonstration. I’ve been craving another piece of their flourless chocolate tart ever since — omg I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

We were also treated to a private tour and art lesson the the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH). As the community’s cultural hub it offers unique exhibitions, tours, art lessons and school programs, as well as a research room equipped with publications on a number of general local and national topics of interest and access to ancestry.ca, where visitors can research research family genealogy.

lgm omah

Current exhibitions include Renewal, a non-juried art show in celebration of International Women’s Day.

lgm linda and shannon museum 2

Linda and Shannon explore the collection.

lgm stacey om 1 2

lgm stacey om 2 2

Stacey‘s maple-themed art.

lgm omah jail

OMAH is housed in what was originally a federal post office and customs house designed in 1892 by architect Thomas Fuller, who later worked on the Parliament Buildings. In the mid-1950s to the late 1970s it was used as a police station, with the cell blocks located in the basement as you see here.

lgm sandy jail

Sandi had a number of falls during our visit (curiously, none at OMAH but on the slopes and snow tubing) so we locked her up in the cell where she’d be safer. Is she still there? Check back later this week to find out and follow the rest of our adventures, as we explore the great indoors that is Casino Rama Resort.

A special thank you to Julie, Stacey, Jenna, Natasha, Lisa and Jenn for all of your work in putting our stay together, and to everyone (including Julie, Stacey, Jenna, Natasha, Lisa and Jenn!) who made us feel so welcome. I can’t wait to bring my family back to stay and play!

For more on our stay, check out the following posts from my fellow bloggers (I’ll update this list as they’re posted):

All Bets Are On The Table For A Great Staycation at Casino Rama

Winter Fun in Ontario’s Lake Country 

Exploring Ontario’s Lake Country Winter Wonderland

Enjoy a Winter Wonderland in @OntLakeCountry! #LetsGoMaple #OntLakeCountry

Indoor Fun in Ontario’s Lake Country #LetsGoMaple

#LetsGoMaple and Challenging Ourselves

Fascinating Facts About Ontario’s Casino Rama Casino #LetsGoMaple #ramarocks #OLG

Great Places to Eat in Orillia. @OntLakeCountry #LetsGoMaple #ontlakecountry

Exploring My Adventurous Side in Ontario’s Lake Country #LetsGoMaple #50FirstsAt50

Travel Outfits and my #LetsGoMaple Trip

Have you visited Ontario’s Lake Country? What would you like to see and do?

27 thoughts on “Exploring Ontario’s Lake Country with #LetsGoMaple

  1. Looks like a great weekend spend with fellow bloggers . The resort , the food pictures and the educational tour is interesting and great!

  2. Wow, was all that captured in just 2 days and three nights? Love love the pics – it all looks like so much fun. What family wouldn’t enjoy all of that !
    Glad the weather man smiled down on your group and hopefully Sandi was let out for good behaviour.

    1. We really did pack a lot in. 🙂 I can’t wait to return with Lily and James. They’re going to *freak out* when they see the size of the snow tubing hill at Horseshoe, the pool at Casino Rama (pictures to come) and the pizza at Rustica Pizza Vino.

  3. Love this recap, Julie, and it brought back so many great memories! What an amazing experience #LetsGOMaple was, made even better by being able to spend time with people like you! xo

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