Sudbury secedes from its past; presents a new history
This past summer, while attending a travel blogger conference in Toronto, Canada, I had an opportunity to take a trip to Sudbury—a community located in the northeastern part of the Ontario province. As I would soon learn, Sudbury is working its way out of a negative impression that rests in the minds of many Canadians. When I mentioned that I was heading to Sudbury, folks looked at me and said, “Sudbury,” in an animus and questioning tone. Not a single person I spoke with had visited Sudbury in many years, so I tried to remain optimistic about my trip. The premise for the less than flattering (past) image of Sudbury is explained below.
I have always found that no matter where I travel, there is usually something interesting, exciting or unique to see, do or experience. Sudbury would be no exception.
My journey started with a short flight from Toronto, which was an unexpectedly great start to the trip. As a road trip blogger, I don’t take to the skies that often anymore—I’d prefer to visit the dentist. I certainly don’t envy my fellow travel writers who log many arduous air miles. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the flight aboard Porter Air. My flight departed from the downtown Toronto Billy Bishop Airport, which is located on a small island that requires a ferry ride all of 30 seconds or so in duration. As I made my way into the gate area, I noticed that it seemed more like a first-class lounge. I was actually wondering if perhaps I was in the wrong section. I also noticed an inordinate amount of people enjoying refreshments and snacks. After a few minutes, I began to wonder if perhaps the refreshments were complimentary. I saw an employee clearing some of the tables and asked if there was a place I could get some water. She responded by pointing in a general direction to which I promptly headed. What I discovered was a refreshment zone stocked with bottled water, cashews, biscotti, sodas and even espresso machines. It was all included! One of the perks for flying this up-and-coming Canadian airline.
During the flight, we flew over a spectacular area dotted with islands—thousands of them in fact. Actually, to be more precise, 30,000 islands. It was unlike any coastline I’ve ever seen before. I later discovered that this was the Georgian Coast, which I believe is part of Parry Sound, and, is often referred to as the sixth Great Lake. Georgian Bay’s beauty is serene, with towering cliffs, windswept pines, and clear blue water. As we flew over, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it would be to explore some of the islands by kayak.
After arriving at the Sudbury airport, I and three other travel bloggers who were on the same press trip, were escorted to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Sudbury. After having a couple of hours to get familiar with our surroundings, and to freshen up before dinner, we were whisked away to M.I.C. (Made in Canada), a local Canadian eatery and pub. I tried the Pickerel, which I didn’t think I h ad ever tried before, but later discovered that it’s also known as Walleye, which I had just tried the year before in Minnesota. After an enjoyable dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest up for a bevy of activities in store for us the following day.
Our first stop on a glorious early summer day was La Boulangerie, an artisan bakery and deli where we splurged on croissants, espresso and other breakfast treats. Above the bakery is actually a two room B&B that looked quite charming.
Our next stop was the “Big Nickel,” which as the name implies, is a very large nickel that has become the iconic symbol of Sudbury. Let me rephrase, this nickel is not just large, it’s ginormous! About 30 feet high. The “Big Nickel” is part of Dynamic Earth, a previously working mine that has been turned into a state-of-the-art science and educational center. In addition to an awesome underground tour of the mine, they also had an amazing interactive dinosaur exhibit (click here to see the Vine video).
I mentioned earlier that Sudbury has had a less than favorable impression with folks who were familiar with the town of yesteryear. The reason for the critical opinion was that Sudbury once led the world in nickel mining production, and back in the day, the methods were less than favorable for the environment—as well as the residents. The mining practices required an astonishing amount of fuel to smelt the nickel out of the ore, so nearly every single tree from the surrounding landscape was sacrificed. The fires would burn for long periods of time and the soot that was discharged left a lasting impression on the countryside for many years; as a matter of fact, the rocks in many areas are still black in color from the char.
Today, however, there has been an ongoing concerted effort by local leaders and the mining community to replenish and resurrect the town of Sudbury. All I met were extremely passionate about their town and the positive direction in which it is headed. For starters, there have been literally millions of trees planted over the past twenty years or so, and now the vegetation is abundant and thriving.
It was fascinating to learn, and, to see first hand, how a single industry could decimate an area, then later become its savior. Dynamic Earth, for example has turned one of its old mines into a science center that has become an ombudsman for safer and more environmentally friendly methods of mining. Visitors, as well as scientist and engineers, can learn not only about past and current nickel mining methods, but can participate in a host of more traditional science center exhibits.
After the stop at Dynamic Earth, we headed to the other side of town where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at “Curious Thyme’s By the Water.” Our view was equally impressive…that of Lake Ramsey, which is located in the heart of Sudbury. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the largest “city lakes” in the world, and, one of 330 lakes in the area. After lunch we headed down to the yacht club where we boarded a small sailboat for a cruise around the lake.
It was getting late in the afternoon, so we headed back to the Radisson to freshen up before dinner. This evening we made our way to a cool and funky establishment known as, “Respect is Burning (RIB).” It’s kind of difficult to wrap RIB into a descriptive box, and I think that’s part of the charm. You’ll find eclectic artwork adorning the walls. You’ll hear funky music playing by live local musicians. The attitude and vibe from the staff make you feel as though you’re at your cool uncle’s house for a family party. The food is Italian themed, but infused with a zest of cachet that makes RIB an unforgettable experience. You’ll even find the owner/chef making his way to nearly every table to make sure his guests are enjoying themselves. They even have a money-back guarantee in case you are not 100% satisfied.
After a fantastic evening of delicious food and levitating libations at RIB, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest as we had another full day ahead.
The science center is located and divided into two separate areas of town. On this day we headed to “Science North,” where they have a planetarium, IMAX theater, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a 4D experience and a whole lot more. There is a robotic replica of the tallest man in the world. You get to see him go from a seated position to his full height of 8’10” tall (click here for Vine video). I’ve been courtside at an NBA game before; this guy would have dwarfed them all! One of the other highlights for me was getting to ride in one of those human gyroscopes (click here for Vine video)…there are three circles and once you strap in, you use your momentum to get all three circles moving in different directions. It was a blast…and, it was amazing how much energy it took. When I got out, I was huffing and puffing. Beyond the plethora of exhibits, the building itself is quite an architectural marvel in how its built into the landscape.
After a half-day at Science North, we made our way to the Laughing Buddha, a local favorite for lunch. (I had to laugh at the creative names of the restaurants we visited). With its intimate interior, unique patio and gastronomic menu, the Laughing Buddha was the perfect end to our introduction to Sudbury.
While Sudbury will likely not be the first place you think of when planning your next vacation, it is a place worthy of consideration. If you go, you’ll find easy access to pristine wilderness, some fantastic attractions, and, some pretty nice lodging and dining options. In addition to Porter Air, you can also get to Sudbury by rail on VIA.
If you’ve ever been to Sudbury before, please leave a comment below share your favorite aspects.