When my husband Johnny Jet and I were first invited by Ontario Travel to visit York Durham Headwaters and take the Temperance and Temptation Tour, I admit, a lot of questions came to mind. York Durham who? Where is that? And what exactly does temperance mean? But that’s the beauty of what we do as travel writers. We are constantly learning and exploring and this journey gave us a fascinating education. In fact, our fall road trip to York Durham Headwaters helped us discover a gem of a destination that is basically in Toronto’s backyard. And now I’m kind of obsessed with it.
York Durham Headwaters
The York, Durham and Headwaters regions are called Ontario’s ultimate road trip destination. The area is less than an hour’s drive from Toronto but feels like a world away. Our October drive was scenic and pastoral and the fall foliage fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect on our stay in ‘the country’ but I was delighted and pleasantly surprised at every turn. There was a perfect mix of historic and modern in almost everything we experienced.
Temperance and Temptation Tour
The Temperance and Temptation Tour takes visitors along on a journey back in time to Canada’s unique version of the Prohibition Era via either self-guided tours or immersive VIP tours that come complete with one-of-a-kind experiences, music, performances and history. My husband Johnny, two-year-old son Jack and I did a modified, family-friendly version of the self-guided tour. Here’s a look at our stops along the way.
Rosemont General Store
We started our day at the Rosemont General Store, which is a delightful restaurant and store combo. (Canadiana alert! When I hear the words ‘general store’, the first thing that comes to mind is Matthew buying all that sugar when what he really went to the general store for was a dress with puffy sleeves for Anne. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. Sorry – I digress!) We fueled up on the buttermilk pancakes with Inisfil creek maple syrup and an omelet made with three free run eggs. The food was amazing and I loved the curated selection of items inside the store, from lots of eco-friendly toys for kids to stylish kitchen gadgets and imported British treats like I grew up with. I loved that they had a toy trunk filled with things for kids to play with (well, Jack loved it even more than I did!). It was hard not to buy all the things in there so I was forced to exercise some restraint, but I did buy some maple syrup and vanilla fudge!
Museum of Dufferin
The Museum of Dufferin is not your typical museum but it offers visitors a unique look into the rich history of the area and the local community. Visitors can expect to see a range of art shows and exhibits like the Temperance and Temptation exhibit, which showcases the secret stills and stories that arose during this time, as well as attend a variety of events like fall storytelling and arts and crafts sales. What I loved the most was taking a peek at the artifact collection. The Museum of Dufferin has over 10,000 artifacts that are related to Dufferin County’s history and that of the people who were born, lived in or contributed to the region. The museum offers a fascinating look at the past, while keeping a steady eye on the future as it plans exhibits and programs that are modern and inclusive in every way.
Landman Gardens & Bakery
Landman Gardens & Bakery offers something for everyone. The most unique thing about it is definitely the Blackhouse that’s on the premises. A Blackhouse is a small, traditional stone house typically found in the Scottish highlands. It looks like something straight out of a movie and can be booked for private dinners. The farm was most exciting for our son, who couldn’t get enough of all the goats, pigs and chickens and I was in heaven inside the bakery, where the aroma of freshly baked pies made with farm-fresh ingredients lingered heavily in the air. We went home with our arms full of Thanksgiving pies and a box of butter tarts. My American husband had never heard of, let alone tried, this Canadian staple so we had to remedy that quickly. He tasted his first butter tart at Landman Gardens & Bakery and it was love at first bite!
Grand Spirits Distillery
Situated in Grand Valley, Ontario, inside a schoolhouse from 1982, Grand Spirits Distillery is a charming homage to the past, yet very much present-day in everything about it – from its custom-made Steampunk Still to its contemporary menu of food and drink. Under the direction of acclaimed Chef Martin Kouprie, the menu features local, seasonal fare that is inspired by the food of the 1920s but thoughtfully updated to please the discerning palates of today’s visitors. After touring the distillery and photographing the beautiful still from every angle, you’ll definitely want to stop and eat in the speakeasy-style dining room.
Spirit Tree Estate Cidery
The orchard at Spirit Tree Estate Cidery was at its peak when we visited in early October and the apples were ripe for the picking! The picking season in Caledon runs from early September until the end of October, and typically includes Cortland, McIntosh, Gala, Golden Delicious and Ida Red apples. Inside, cider is made downstairs, while upstairs, the Ciderhouse Bistro is a busy and popular spot for lunch and dinner. And as you might expect, the menu is full of quality, locally-sourced ingredients. But I was told that they have the best wood fire oven pizzas, too, which I would have tried if we hadn’t just had lunch. The Farm Shop is where you’ll find all kinds of great things to-go, from wood oven bread and sweet bakery treats to food and drink items from local artisanal suppliers. I couldn’t resist picking up a few bottles of milk from Sheldon Creek Dairy, which makes fresh milk in seasonal flavours like salted caramel and pumpkin spice.
We ended our grand tour of this gorgeous Ontario region at Downey’s Farm, where the first thing we saw when we pulled up was an enormous pumpkin patch that my son just dove into and could barely be pulled away from. It was the perfect spot for some fall family photos! There’s lots to do at Downey’s Farm – there’s a farm (obvs!), a market, a winery … but we headed straight to Pumpkinfest, which is packed with fun things for kids to do – from wagon rides and puppet shows to jumping pillows and duck races! Jack couldn’t get enough of Goat Mountain Slide and we all had fun traipsing through the 8-acre corn maze. A friend recommended picking up some of Downey Farm’s famous pumpkin doughnuts for our ride home and we completely forgot so I guess that means we definitely need to go back!
This is a sponsored post but all opinions expressed within are my own.