It’s dreadful to think I nearly missed the chance to explore Sault Ste Marie the other weekend.
A couple days before a friend and I were headed off for a business trip from Sudbury to Wawa we realized there was time to stop in the Sault for a day on the way back. We added it to our itinerary hastily.
I didn’t know what to expect in the dead of winter, but to say we would have missed out had we just driven through is an understatement. In 24 short hours, the small northern city charmed us with its array of thriving small businesses, friendly faces, and historic buildings.
We started our visit at Winnie B’s Vintage Emporium on a Saturday afternoon. In fact, we raced (as fast as you can race following the speed limit, of course) down from Wawa to catch the store before it closed and made it there with seven minutes to spare. Fortunately, the owner Patricia Bowles is from Sudbury too, and had no objections to staying open a few minutes longer just so we could look around.
The store was jam-packed with gems that rival the offerings of Toronto’s Kensington market, and at far more reasonable prices. A wide selection of both men’s and women’ clothing was supplemented with antique dishes, old books, and quirky accessories.
After purchasing a sweet plaid skirt and a red mini dress to add to my collection, we headed down the street to Shabby Motley on Patricia’s recommendation. The cozy yet spacious coffee shop that doubles as a yarn store was the perfect space to chill out after the long snowy drive. Coffee from St. Joseph’s Island and in-house baked goods fed our bodies, while the eclectic decor and wide variety of knitting supplies fed our eyes and souls.
We continued our tour of the downtown strip with a visit next door to Outspoken Brewing. After some samples, I fell for their beautifully balanced, easy-going Deadfall Lagered Ale. If there’d been more time, I would have stuck around for some food.
As it was we had a strict schedule to keep, and we wanted to hit up the Northern Superior Brewing Co. before it closed. We headed back to our car and couldn’t help but appreciate the nostalgic atmosphere lent by all the historic buildings in the downtown. It reminded me of Hamilton’s older neighbourhoods.
While I hear there are a few bars in town worth hitting up, we opted for something a little more low-key: bowling! When we got to Northcrest Lanes, the place was packed and the tunes were blaring. Bowling to The Strokes? OK!
After we built up our appetites with a couple games of arm-straining 10-pin, we hit up Burger Don for some extensively-online-reviewed burgers.
We could have had beef, crispy chicken, or even lamb if we were meat-eaters; but much to our delight there were not one, but two, options for veggie burgers! My friend had the special, a black bean patty with juicy sweet corn in it, and I opted for the crispy fried portobello burger. While I was tempted to try the doughnut bun, there are (some, very few) limits to my gluttony, and the classic sesame bun won out. I made up for it by piling on fried onions, garlic aioli, and plenty of cheese: their toppings list is a glutton’s dream. Crispy fries and plenty of local drink options rounded out the meal nicely.
The rich meal knocked us out and we hit the hay at our accommodation. The next morning we were back on the road for some last minute exploring.
We started with some astronomically huge apple fritters from Superior Home Bakery. While I would have liked a few more apples in mine, I can’t complain about the cinnamon specked, sugar crusted pastry I devoured with some locally roasted coffee we picked up downtown.
The fritter fueled a morning excursion to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, which I vaguely remember visiting as a little girl, and was pleased to find out is equally if not more fun as an adult.
They’ve managed to fit a surprising number of old planes into their downtown hangar, and I got a kick out of climbing inside some to look around. The museum was jam-packed with information-from videos to campsite recreations-that was a perfect balance of entertaining and informative.
We wrapped up our morning with a late brunch (those apple fritters were seriously huge, we were full for hours) at Muio’s on the recommendation of a friend back home who passes through while touring sometimes.
The old-school diner, marked with a classic neon sign, was the perfect conclusion to our trip. The sweetest server kept us supplied with plenty of hot coffee, and their extensive Italian menu gave us plenty of options.
We hit the road shortly after brunch, with one last drive through the downtown to absorb the architecture.
When I got home, the first thing I asked my boyfriend was, “Hey, do you want to go back up there with me sometime?” If this is the Sault Ste. Marie in the winter, I can’t wait to see it in the summer.
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