‘Tis the season for lots of different and beloved annual traditions. This week, the staff here at The Brock Press has decided to share some of their favourite Fall activities, pastimes and events. Some may be familiar and some not so much, but we hope you enjoy reading and, perhaps, discover something that you can add to your Autumn season this year.
A bag of flour and some autumn cheer
Morningstar Mill is a heritage site owned by the City of St. Catharines that features a working grist mill. This grist mill is operational, but only on certain days throughout the year. Luckily, in the month of October there are two more chances to see the mill in action. Come for the flour, but ultimately stay for the historical atmosphere. Let’s face it, there’s no better way to hide from your midterms than by retreating to 1872 (or at least a site from that time).
As much as Morningstar Mill is an autumn tradition for me, it’s also a Spring, Summer and Winter tradition — it’s beautiful all year round. The trees, painted in lush colours of red, brown and orange create a picture serene enough to be on the cover of a Niagara Senior’s Leisure Catalogue.
The Mill is just minutes from the Brock University St. Catharines campus and boasts miles of trails and green space. From the 75 foot waterfall to the gorgeous escarpment and winding river, students need to check out Morningstar Mill before the winter months. Bring a picnic lunch, check out the leaves as they change and bring a donation to the completely free and volunteer-run historic site.
October 18 and October 19 are the last days of the year that the mill will be operational, so bring some friends and spend the day in the tepid autumn weather!
A stroll of pomp and pleasure
Described as the ‘prettiest’ town in Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is an ideal destination for anyone looking to visit the not-so-distant past, enjoy an old-style English beer, ride in a horse drawn carriage and maybe even indulge in that infamous fudge we’ve all heard our friends talk about.
Located a stone’s throw of the border, NOTL has an exceptional past that leaps out from the pages of history, seemingly frozen in time and uncompromising in its will to stay that way. In fact, as far as I can tell, no other city in the area can claim having multiple bars and establishments that date back to the war of 1812, a time when NOTL was technically the capital of what was then Canada.
To enjoy your time, you simply have to walk the streets of the town, soak in the atmosphere and share a few brisk drinks with someone special. The houses along the lakefront and throughout the city are particularly nice. For those, like myself, who love old-English style Architecture, NOTL is a hot-bed. The houses around town are notable for their grand-Victorian style, complete with beautiful widow’s watches and even the occasional underground passage system – ever heard of the underground railroad?
For those looking for a more “adventurous” time, NOTL offers many ghostly hot-spots including the Doll House, The Screaming Tunnel as well as the famous Fort George Ghost Tours and The Olde Angel Inn, one of the oldest operating bars in Canada with its share of ghost stories. In fact, sightings have been reported there as recent as the 2000s.
So if you’re looking to spend an ideal day in a town that combines the old with new, the contemporary with the current, be sure to check out Ontario’s living history, NOTL.
Haunted happenings in Hamilton
One of my favourite things about the Fall season (besides cozy knit sweaters, vividly coloured leaves and pumpkin spice lattes) is Halloween. Fortunately, for those attending the Brock Hamilton Campus, there are many events for eerie endeavours.
Haunted Hamilton is a company that hosts a ghostly number of events such as ghost walks (downtown Hamilton, Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, Niagara-on-the-Lake), tours, haunted cruises, campfires, bus trips, and my favourite, the annual Halloween Costume Ball.
Haunted Hamilton’s 13th Annual Halloween Costume Ball takes place on the night of Halloween this year, Friday, October 31 from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. in the grand ballroom of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, a spooky, old castle once home to Hamilton’s 27th mayor in 1896. Located downtown, it’s the perfect venue.
The night will also feature a buffet, performances, and prizes for the best costumes. Being a costume ball, it is encouraged that guests arrive dressed up. The costumes seen here are absolutely over-the-top and fully extravagant.
If you love Halloween and want to experience an unforgettable, ghoulish night of scares and fun, be sure to purchase your ticket and start picking out a costume.
Tickets are only $40 and sell out every year. For more details, visit haunted-hamilton.com
Keep calm and meditate
When I think about outdoor meditation, my mind drifts to popular scenic locations that are out of town, often forgetting that there are plenty of areas in the Niagara Region that provide relaxation. Not far from Brock is the Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park that features a boardwalk overlooking a lake at the top of the Niagara Escarpment. There is also a large green area where many community members have been seen playing with their dogs. This park is a perfect go-to spot for students living in Thorold, as it is located very close to many off-campus residences in that area.
Once on the boardwalk, I watch the water with complete serenity, focusing on the pace of my breathing, sitting amidst the brisk fall air, and enveloping myself with the oneness of the natural environment. Not many people walk through the boardwalk, providing me with ample time to be alone in silence, as well as enjoy the surrounding scene. I have always loved being in and around a body of water, and though the community is restricted from boating and swimming in this lake, the state of relaxation I find myself in by the end of my visit to Mel Swart Lake makes up for not being able to be in the water. Meditation is proven to be beneficial for students, especially for those who often experience bouts of extreme stress and anxiety, and being outdoors while partaking in this activity heightens the ability to be at peace because you start to be one with nature.
Cycling through the season
Autumn is an important time for cyclists as it signifies the end of another biking season. While some cyclists continue to ride all year round, even through snow, fall is a great time to squeeze in some last few scenic rides. As the winds are becoming crisp and the leaves are turning into gold, many cyclists in St. Catharines can take advantage of this beautiful season. There are many different trails for cyclists in the Niagara region that offer beautiful fall landscapes ripe for exploration.
Cycling is a wonderful mode of transportation that allows for exercise while taking you on a scenic journey. If you are interested in a smooth ride, cycling along the Welland Canals Corridor is a treat for both your wheels and your eyes. This trail puts cyclists at ease as it is speckled with brightly coloured foliage. Hurry though, as the season progresses the cold winds from the canal are not so nice to cycle against. There are also multiple routes along the Bruce Trail which put you in the heart of the Greenbelt during it’s peak season.
Unlike those sweaty Summer bicycle adventures, Autumn can also be a great time for leisurely riding throughout the city. Perhaps you can cycle to your favourite pumpkin patch, or cruise downtown to pick up a warm cup of apple cider from the farmer’s market. Fasten your helmet and go exploring this season; happy trails!
Howell’s Pumpkin Patch
No one is ever too old to go to a pumpkin patch. Whether you feel like spending a day with a little sibling, niece or nephew, or have a day-out with the roomies, Howell’s Pumpkin Patch is the place for you. This has been a tradition in my family ever since my nephew was born, but my sisters and I always end up having just as much fun. Throw in a hay ride, a corn maze, a petting zoo and pumpkin dinosaurs and you’re full-steam ahead for a fall-filled, October day. Conveniently located off of Merrittville Highway, only a ten-minute drive from Brock University, Howell’s is easily accessible for any Brock student.
While there are plenty of activities for kids, it’s also a great way to spend a couple hours with friends. The property is very scenic, complete with grazing sheep and a picturesque landscape. There are also trails located in the forest on the property that visitors can walk through if you feel like taking a mild hike on a cool autumn day. This place is an absolute haven for everything “fall” and a total hot-spot if you feel your Instagram is lacking on fall-ish photos. Everyone has to have a picture of themselves in front of a pile of pumpkins, or pretending to be scared by a dinosaur made out of pumpkins, right? Yes.
Activities include a scenic wagon ride, a haunted barn, a corn maze, a scarecrow display, forest walks and a zombie graveyard.
If you love October and all that it entails, then you definitely need to spend a day at Howell’s to celebrate all that fall brings.
For more information, visit ahowlinggoodtime.com
Football and Thanksgiving: Buffalo Bills are a winning combination
One of my fall traditions that’s been a staple for me for the past 10 years is attending the famous Canadian Thanksgiving weekend Buffalo Bills game. For those of you that haven’t been to a Bills game before, only half the fun is the actual NFL game. On the Sunday of the of Thanksgiving weekend, the Bills play a football game at 1:00 p.m. in Orchard Park, NY, just 20 minutes from the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, ON. However, if you’re not there by approximately 9:30 a.m., you’re missing out on most of the fun. Before an NFL game a lot of fans come extremely early in order to ‘tailgate’ together while they get ready for the 1:00 p.m. kickoff. Trust me, nobody knows how to run a tailgate party better than the Buffalo Bills.
First off, make sure you purchase a cheap hibachi from either Canadian Tire or the Super Store. Then grab some hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, bacon, vegetables and whatever else you want to grill on your hibachi. For those of you that are over 21, make sure to go to the beer store in the U.S., and purchase a few brewskis to add to your entertainment during the tailgate party. Lastly, any other snacks, such as chips, are highly recommended.
This is a tradition that I partake in annually on Thanksgiving Sunday, and I will be one of 80,000 others that will be partaking in a festival tailgate party with hours of entertainment, food and drinks leading up to the start of the Bills game at 1:00 p.m.
Lastly, since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and all of the boarders will be backed up after the game, lots of people start a post-game tailgate party. Instead of doing so, I recommended going to do a little shopping or grabbing a little dinner at the Walden Galleria. The Galleria is a great way to kill some time, avoiding large border traffic and coming back to our great country later in the evening.
Getting out of town
The philosopher and mystic Jiddu Krishnamurti said “tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.” Everyone has a harmless tradition. We like to think such simple and innocuous reliefs from the everyday and the banal, like the family vacation or that lunch with close friends entertain to rehash their glory days over coffee at their favourite restaurant are ‘traditions’. But in another sense, they aren’t traditions. They serve as an escape from the bland and the usual, from the unchanging scenery that seems to surround us no matter where we happen to find ourselves.
However cliché it is, human beings are pattern seeking primates; it’s in our nature to ‘settle’ and acclimatize ourselves to our surroundings. We get use to what we do and how we do it and we often take it for granted. In this sense, our ‘traditions’ are an escape from our everyday lives. Most people would be loathe to admit it, but for the vast majority of everyday ordinary people they know, their everyday lives can be and usually are boring. Sorry to sound so jaded but I think ultimately you will agree with me.
Our traditions add flavour and colour to an otherwise grey existence. This is probably the reason I feel compelled around this time to take a road trip. The fall road trip is perfect. Partly it’s the natural beauty of the changing seasons I love to appreciate but it’s also the excitement of going somewhere new, somewhere I’ve never been before.
I haven’t quite made up my mind as to where I’ll go this time around, but in any case, I’m feeling southbound, for whatever reason.