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Plan a trip to St. Thomas -- Ruralist

Top: Sunnybrook Farm. Second row left: The Turkey Shoppe at Oegema’s Farm, Briwood Farm Market. Third row: Jumbo the elephant. Fourth row, left: Shaw’s Ice Cream; right: Railway City Brewing’s Janus. Bottom left: Jennings Furniture & Design; right: Pinafore Park in winter.


11 Reasons to Plan a Visit to St. Thomas

St. Thomas is a small city to the south east of London that traces its proud identity as Railway City to its history as the junction of 27 railways. You’ve probably heard of Jumbo the elephant or tasted Shaw’s Ice Cream, but you may not know that St. Thomas is home to the gorgeous Pinafore Park. Or that one of Ontario’s largest craft breweries, named for the city’s heritage, boasts ongoing success there! There are also some food and shopping destinations you won’t want to miss.

1.  Railway City Arts CrawlFeb 27-28

The Railway City Arts Crawl is a free winter event celebrating local arts and culture. Participants are given a passport to guide them to the various sites throughout St. Thomas. Explore at your own leisure between 6 and 9 p.m. on February 27th and 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. February 28th. Get your passport stamped at each of 10 stops to be entered into a draw for one of several prizes! Get all the details on the website.

And then, to kick it up a notch, there will be fireworks starting at 6:3o p.m. on Saturday the 28th! There will be excellent viewing of this Fire in February display from the Roadhouse to Ross Street. Then, at 7:00, join the organizers at the Midtown Tavern (701 Talbot Street) for the After Party. Join the artists, enjoy some local food appetizers, and experience some great live music for this fun night. Did we mention it’s free?

2. Jumbo the King of Elephants

While you’re in St. Thomas, be sure to stop in to get your picture taken with a life-sized statue of the most famous elephant in the world! Jumbo, “The King of Elephants,” was tragically killed when he was struck by a Grand Trunk Locomotive on September 15th, 1885.

On the 100th anniversary of Jumbo’s death, the city dedicated a 38-tonne statue as a tribute to the most famous elephant who ever lived. Now, the statue is the most popular tourist attraction in St. Thomas!

3.  Railway City Brewing

Railway City Brewing is one of the largest, if not the largest craft brewery in Southwestern Ontario and it is still growing. They recently expanded into a new facility and offer tours daily.

You won’t want to miss the signature ale, Dead Elephant, named to honour that famous beast, but the Blonde, Copper, and Amber Ales are all smoothly delicious. Then there are the seasonal brews, such as Shambock for St. Patrick’s Day, the summery, citrus-y Witty Traveller (Johnathan’s favourite), and this winter’s feature, The Magnificent Janus, which make stopping in for samples a must-do.

See more of Railway City Brewing on Ruralist here.

4. St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre

The St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre has accomplished a remarkable amount in its relatively short history. It has amassed a collection of over 1500 works of art, representing a diverse number of 19th and 20th century Canadian artists. The Centre has the distinction of being ranked as grade A-1 museum facility, capable of housing works of almost any shape, size or description from around the world. All of this illustrates a commitment to a mission to collect, preserve and promote our visual heritage, and to educate all interested.

As part of the Railway City Arts Crawl, you can see renowned London artist Larry Russell do a live painting demonstration at the Art Centre on February 28th from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. While you’re there, walk through all three galleries to see the permanent collection as well as a few temporary ones.

5.  Briwood Farm Market

Even though it’s winter and the outdoor markets are closed, you can still find places in St. Thomas to buy delicious local produce.

Briwood Farm Market specializes in providing the most fresh and best quality local produce they can source. Find some unique Ontario items such as Elgin’s own Shaw’s Ice Cream; Hewitt’s Dairy products; milk, eggs and cheese from Bright’s and Jensen’s; Ontario pork and beef and of course their hand-selected fruits and vegetables.

6. The Turkey Shoppe

Oegema’s Turkey Farm is a third generation family farm, started in 1958. Then, in 1992, The Turkey Shoppe opened, offering turkey products to consumers direct from the farm. Now, you can buy everything from fresh turkey pepperettes or Oktoberfest sausage to turkey bacon and jerky to turkey pies! And, of course, you can get fresh, whole turkeys to roast for the holidays.

7. Jennings Furniture & Design

Jennings Furniture & Design has been a truly a full-service destination for renovators and builders alike for generations now. If you’re thinking of giving your house a face-lift, add a visit to Jennings to your must-do list. You’ll find upholstery and leather, cabinetry, furniture, art, decor, linens, and much more. And, if you’re looking for something that you can’t find on the shelves, the in-house designers will work with you to custom-make it!

8. Sunnybrook Farm Holiday Suite

Sunnybrook is all about immersion in nature. Located just outside St. Thomas, it is a quaint getaway with amenities still close at hand. The garden level suite is set in 9 acres of lush Southern Ontario countryside, with an orchard, meadow and lots and lots of wildlife.

9. Pinafore Park

Loved by locals and tourists alike, Pinafore Park is your destination for many year-round outdoor activities. You can do everything from hiking to skiing to tennis to baseball! Then there’s the wildlife sanctuary, the splash pad, the lake, the playground, and the bandshell. Fireworks, historic pavilions, gardens… the list goes on. Needless to say, you won’t want to miss it!

10. Shaw’s Ice Cream

Anyone that has made the trek to Port Stanley on a summery day and has driven past Shaw’s Ice Cream knows how difficult it is not to stop in and get a cone or a cup of one (or more) of the many unforgettable flavours. My favourite is Caramel Turtles and Fudge… yum! When the weather is warm, enjoy your sweet treat on the patio, or, if you’re going for this weekend’s Arts Crawl, take a pint to enjoy later!

11. Le Cafe Siam

Rated St. Thomas’s most popular restaurant on TripAdvisor, Le Cafe Siam offers authentic Thai food that is beloved by locals and travellers alike. They’ve got my favourite, Panang Curry, and Johnathan’s, Mass Sa Mun Curry, and some lesser known dishes as well. Known for excellent service and decor that will have you feeling as close to Thailand as you can get while still in Southwestern Ontario, you will want to make sure you make a dinner reservation here while you’re in town!



Railway City Arts Crawl

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Try The MacGregor Point Experience

MacGregor Point Provincial Park, located just outside of Port Elgin, is a winter paradise! I am determined to take my family there for a getaway this winter. I asked Lisa Greig, Tourism Officer at Explore the Bruce, to give me the lowdown on how to enjoy this beautiful park and here’s what I learned:

Where to Stay

Yurt Camping – If you’ve never stayed in a yurt, you have got to give it a try! What is a yurt? A yurt is an eight-sided, 16 foot diameter, tent-like structure installed on a wooden deck floor. It can accommodate up to six people.

They are nicely equipped with electric heating, outlets and lighting. Four vinyl windows let you see the snow fly from the comfort of your toasty accommodations. Outside the yurt you will find a fire pit, kitchen shelter, picnic tables and a propane barbeque with a side burner – it’s virtually a home away from home!

While the yurt itself is quite the attraction, you will of course want to get outside and enjoy the winter wonderland that the Park offers.

What to Do

Outdoor skating - This awesome 400m ice trail makes its way through the woods in the Park. It’s open from 9am – 10pm, and is lit at night. There is also a hockey pad available if a game if shinny is what you’re after.

Skiing and Snowshoeing - This is a major activity in the Park during winter. Choose one of their many trails to explore. 7km of set track cross country ski trail and 20 km of unplowed trails road and shoreline for snowshoeing await you. If you are new to these activities, get in touch with Thorncrest Outfitters in Southampton for rental and guiding options.

Winter Birding – Many of the migratory birds that call Bruce County home in the summer do head south for the winter, but there are a number of species that stick around. Bring some bird seed and patience with you and you may be able to get them to feed out of your hand.

Where to Eat

Cooking on the barbeque and over the fire are great meal preparation options, but if you are looking for a break from cooking, there are great restaurants very close to the park.

Breakfast – Aunt Mabel’s Country Kitchen – 5084 Highway 21, Port Elgin 866-8682880

Lunch – Allan’s Fireside Grill – 623 Green Street, Port Elgin 519-832-4745

Dinner – Saffron, A Taste of the Exotic – 2-522 Goderich Street, Port Elgin 519-832-9121
Ristorante Rosina – 698 Goderich Street, Port Elgin 519-389-5977

Late night – Queen’s Bar & Grill – 603 Goderich Street, Port Elgin 519-832-2041
Wismer House: 705 Goderich Street, Port Elgin 519-832-5565

Get Your Gear

Thorncrest Outfitters, 193 High Street, Southampton 888-345-2925

How to Get There

MacGregor Point Provincial Park, 1593 Bruce Road 33, Port Elgin, 519-389-9056

For updates on MacGregor Point or other winter activities in Bruce County follow Explore The Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.


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  • B. Brill - Interesting to see how others enjoy the place I grew up, the forests of MacGregor Point.ReplyCancel


That Perfect Piece in Shakespeare Ontario is one of my favourite places to hunt for one-of-a-kind vintage treasures. But today I wasn’t there to shop (although I did come home with a brand “new” circa 1960’s desk for my husband’s office). I was there, camera in hand, to chat with Lorraine, the shop proprietor.

Lorraine greeted me with a smile and offered me a coffee as she apologized for not having had a chance to dust her (perfectly spotless dust-free) shop. As I pulled out my gear, Lorraine went to assist a customer who was admiring a vanity. Eavesdropping on their conversation, I heard one of the shoppers, were giddy with excitement, exclaim, “I really did find the perfect piece!”

Not only did they purchase the vanity, but they picked up a few smaller items as well. I couldn’t help notice how happy the ladies were with their “finds” and wondered; would they be as excited about a big box store purchase? There’s something different here. Something better. Lorraine was happy that they were happy and was obviously glad to see her vanity had found such a nice home.


Between customers, Lorraine took the time to tell me how That Perfect Piece came to be. After a battle with breast cancer, Lorraine felt that her life needed a few changes.  It was important to her that she embrace her passions, and she was determined to be more environmentally responsible and create a healthier Ontario for us all. Lucky us, right? And, Lorraine accomplishes this in such a wonderful and fashionable way!

That Perfect Piece not only sells vintage treasures but it also stocks new items made from reclaimed materials, old items restored lovingly to new condition, locally sourced items from artists, and Canadian-made products.

I asked Lorraine how she sources her inventory, and as if on cue a gentleman opened the door and called out to Lorraine that he “had a truckful today” and did she want to see? Lorraine looked at me and smiled, “sometimes the stuff finds me!” I followed her out and snapped as she selected three items from the truck, all of which were in need of “a little love” before they would be put out on display with the rest of the up-cycled items.

Lorraine’s husband, John Nolan, is the man behind the scenes. John does a lot of the restoration work himself. Lorraine proudly pointed out a hutch that John had ingeniously created out of some unwanted kitchen cupboards. It was an item that I had my eye on when I first walked in. The idea that purchasing this piece would not only mean I had a stunning one-of-a-kind piece of furniture, but that I had prevented something from going to a landfill had me reaching for my wallet, but I remembered my truck would be full with the desk I had already purchased (so it’s still there if you want it!).

John came out to help me get my desk in the truck, Lorraine gave me a hug and some potted pansies, and I was off, but not for long. I might race you back for that hutch!

That Perfect Piece is located twenty minutes outside of Waterloo.  If you’re coming, don’t forget to stop at Herrle’s Country Market and The Best Little Pork Shoppe on the way. If you don’t see what you’re looking for in the shop, just ask: there’s a store room plus a workshop full of great finds and what they don’t carry they will make or source for you!

That Perfect Piece
Reclaimed. Restored. Recycled. Retro.
10 Huron Road West (Highway 7/8), Shakespeare, Ontario
Feel good about what you buy!


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  • Brittany - Hi, I’ve been to your store and just loved the things you had. I see that you showcase local artists and have some things that I was wondering if you would be interested in. As well as there being some stained glass ornaments, I’ve got some lovely vintage glass mason style jars complete with the lids, that you may be interested in. Let me know and I can send you some pictures and see how it goes!

    Looking forward to speaking in the future,

  • {Get} Furniture from Second Bloom Design » Ruralist - […] Nic’s Floral Picks in Dorchester–owner Nicole will go out of her way to help you. Also, That Perfect Piece in Shakespeare–owners Lorraine and John have some wonderful vintage […]ReplyCancel

  • {Win} The 12 Days of Christmas Ruralist Giveaway » Ruralist - […] in Shakespeare; it’s a feast for the senses. To learn more about about Lorraine, read our Ruralist feature and discover how a pivotal experience in Lorraine’s life made her decide to pursue her […]ReplyCancel



Try A Creemore Kitchen Doughnut

They say a picture says a thousand words. This one says: Beet doughnut with Beet Juice Cream Cheese Glaze, Pumpkin Spiced Maple Glazed, Grasshopper Pie, Chocolate Peppermint Cruller, Just For Fun, Maple Bacon Cruller, Chocolate Lover, Peppermint Patty, Cherry Raspberry Galette.

I’m pretty sure photo above says it all, but in case you want to know where you can get these outrageously gorgeous doughnuts, here’s the scoop: Creemore Kitchen is located in the village of Creemore. Open Thursday to Sunday, this gem of a restaurant serves up intensely fresh food made from locally sourced ingredients. It is recognized as a FeastON “Certified Taste of Ontario” by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. The restaurant is open for lunch, brunch and dinner from 11:00 am to 5:30 pm, while the bake shop is open from 11:00 to 2:30 only and the doughnuts are ONLY available on Saturday. So there’s no messing around — if you want to experience one of these insanely delicious treats, you better get in there!

This fully licensed restaurant has a lovely selection of handcrafted cocktails, local craft beers and a comprehensive wine list. Call the restaurant to make reservations before you go. Creemore Kitchen is located at 134 Mill Street, Creemore, (705) 466-2900.

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Call it Puppy Love

I have a new Valentine this year–he’s soft, furry and loves lots of hug and kisses. Twix is our adopted Bichon Frise and he has stolen my heart! In truth, our whole family has a serious case of puppy love. In fact we can’t imagine life without him. Bonding with Twix has been a wonderful experience for our family. When we considered getting a dog we spent a lot of time thinking and researching the right type of dog for us. We knew it would be a BIG commitment and we wanted to make the right choice.

Shannon Brennan Recommends:

Whenever we have dog-related questions we always consult with our good friend and local dog expert Shannon Brennan of Barks of Bayfield. Shannon is a huge help in giving us good advice and support to make sure we do things right. Her many years of experience in both grooming and positive training have been essential to making a great home for our little buddy Twix. I asked Shannon what a few of her favourite doggy essentials were, and she quickly named these seven things:

1. Red Dingo Pet Tags – pick your tag, colour, and size, personalize and then have them delivered. These tags are long-lasting and look great.

2. Benny Bully’s  are available at most pet food stores. Dogs love this treat; Benny Bully’s are the Cadillac of dog treats.

3. Tricky Treat Ball keeps dogs busy and entertained while also making them use their brains so much fun to watch. TSC, Giant Tiger or most any dog store will carry them.

4. Dublin Dog Collars are fashionable non-stink collars, great for beach dogs are available online.

5. Kong makes great durable chew toys, perfect for the crate and to help boredom. These Squeez Jels Pigs are bright, animal shaped characters that squeak and have a unique bounce when thrown for a game of fetch. Kong has lots of fantastic stuff and keep dogs busy! Click here for a link to their expert tips.

6. JW Pet Toys are durable and reasonably priced. I love the Bad Cuz, it’s a good ‘squeaky’ and I adore the Cuz Tail. The dogs go crazy for it! These are great toys available at Pet Value.

7. Chewber is a chew proof Frisbee and I love, love, love them. They are available at almost all Pet Valu stores. I love that their website has great training techniques available too. My dog Heidi has had one since she was a puppy that has lasted for 9 years. It says a lot about a toy to last that long! Click here for a list of Ontario dealers.

These ideas would all be grrrr-eat for your four-legged Valentine this year!


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  • Amanda P. - Love the pictures of the two poochies – and of course the pictures of Twix! Love his little snaggle tooth!!!ReplyCancel

    • Erin Roy - Thanks Amanda! We like to think that tooth makes our little Bichon look fierce.ReplyCancel

  • Cliff Glassfield - A bit disappointed about the dog product article. Some good Canadian companies but not happy about promoting all the multi-national and American sites. There are many local, Ontario and strickly Canadian companies for pet products. I thought this was a Rural Ontario site promoting shopping at home. Sorry, bit disappointed more research into Canadian companies wasn’t done.ReplyCancel

    • Erin Roy - Thanks for your feedback Cliff.

      You’re right, there are some excellent domestic suppliers worthy of our attention. We will have to do some further research.

      In the meantime, please support your local pet stores that carry these
      products, they are vital to our communities and rely on the quality
      brand names products for their customers that you see here.

      I would also ask you to please send us the names of your favourite domestic brands so we can do our homework on a follow up story.