Explore the connection between history, art, and entertainment by discovering local heritage sites, and revel in the vibrant arts scene in South Eastern Ontario. A brief tour through the creative communities in South Eastern Ontario provides inspiration to spare – while at the same time paying homage to years gone by.
If You’re Coming From Toronto…
Start the excursion in the Bay of Quinte at the National Air Force Museum of Canada. The museum enjoys a national reputation for having the largest number of aircraft on static display and the most skilled team of restoration volunteers of any military museum in the country. Next, skip over to Belleville’s Glanmore National Historic Site, a large Victorian-era home decorated and preserved to 1883-style in the most authentic ways possible. Book in for a matinee show at the Belleville Theatre Guild as it hosts a full slate of musicals and plays at the Pinnacle Playhouse!
Prepare to get your creative juices flowing in Prince Edward County! From photography to paintings, pottery to hand-blown glass, art is everywhere in Prince Edward County. Showcased in modern galleries and rustic barn studios, The County’s art scene is like no other.
Discover the boundless creativity of Canadian fine artists and artisans along the Prince Edward County Arts Trail. Using the Arts Trail Guide and Map – and watching for the distinctive blue Arts Trail signs – explore professional County studios and galleries year-round. Prince Edward County celebrates its history and is still steeped in it, too.
The Museums of Prince Edward County offer a surprising snapshot of what life was like culturally in the past; explore heritage houses, lighthouses and more while learning about this one-of-a-kind area. A unique way to uncover history in PEC is checking out Escape Camp Picton, an immersive escape room located at a former WW2 air force training base. The site is steeped in history, and as the only remaining British Commonwealth Air Training Plan sites in the world with so many buildings still intact, it is one of Eastern Ontario’s most inspiring architectural heritage sites!
Follow the historic Loyalist Parkway into Kingston, where Kingston’s Fort Henry offers exhibit and museum tours, live artillery demonstrations, mock battles, a daily half-hour Fort Henry Guard parade, guided tours and kids can march with the Fort Henry Guard!
The award-winning world-famous Sunset Ceremonies take place Wednesday evenings in July and August; celebrate Canadian military heritage with the Fort Henry Guard, featuring precision marching, rifle drill, military music, cannon firing, and a fireworks finale. Don’t forget to discover intrigue behind bars as the Kingston Pen tours of Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum-security prison are not to be missed!
This city is rich is history and has many learning experiences waiting to be discovered such as the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes; the Museum of Health Care and even the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum outside of the city. Jump aboard the Kingston Trolley Tours and explore the historic downtown to see the city hall, market square and more!
Be sure to visit the Grand Theatre in Kingston for fantastic stage performances in the heart of the city. One of the main cultural venues in the greater Kingston region, the City of Kingston’s Grand Theatre serves as the prime performing arts venue for hundreds of professional and amateur performances.
If You’re Coming From Ottawa…
Let history lead the way and explore Gananoque’s storied past. The 1000 Islands History Museum welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year to learn about the rich cultural and natural history of the region through interactive exhibits. Next door, the Thousand Islands Boat Museum on Gananoque’s shoreline ties it all together, bringing tales of the river to life while paying homage to river-going vessels. Discover the intimate connection between boats and the people here. This hands-on museum allows history to be touched, built and experienced with a boat building shop, children’s activity centre and exhibit galleries, in addition to brand new docks where the museum showcases a collection of watercraft; visitors have the chance to explore antique boats that have been on the river for generations.
For stage buffs, the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque embodies performances that shine a light on high-quality professional theatre. Watch stories unfold on stage in front of you! The Thousand Islands Playhouse is known as Canada’s Dockside Theatre and has been presenting live entertainment in the heart of the 1000 Islands for more than 35 years. It’s Springer Theatre features two decks that have a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River. This renovated heritage venue, built-in 1909, was originally the Gananoque Canoe Club and retains the vintage cottage-style craftsmanship. Patrons can arrive at a show by water and dock right in front of the theatre. It produces seven professional productions each season in two fully-accessible venues that overlook the stunning St. Lawrence River. The venues create a true river ambiance, with the Springer Theatre veranda providing the perfect place for patrons to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the twinkling lights on the St. Lawrence River during intermission.
Hit the back roads and explore along the Rideau Canal. Maybe it’s a natural beauty, maybe it’s the friendly people, maybe it’s inspiring landscapes and relaxed way of life – whatever the reason, artists flock to the Rideau to sculpt, paint, build, write, photograph, carve, imagine and dream big. While artist studios dot the landscape, art associations are also active and many galleries showcase local work. Look to Merrickville for a veritable artist’s haven, housing internationally-renowned glass blowers, and many more artists in beautifully-adorned shops. Plan an afternoon in the village to explore and appreciate the art, dine at a local restaurant and go boutique shopping. Find one-of-a-kind accommodation here too!
Grab a down-home breakfast and coffee for the road and head over to Brockville for a day of stepping back in time! First, visit Fulford Place, operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust. It’s an elaborate, 22,000-square-foot mansion built for a millionaire business tycoon and Canadian senator. After touring the remarkable residence and grounds, settle in for some refreshment in the authentic tea room. The Brockville Museum nearby also has its own stories to tell, with displays on Brockville’s industrial and social past.
Stroll through time – walk through a piece of our country’s history at Canada’s first railway tunnel! The Brockville Railway Tunnel runs underneath the city’s downtown and is a must-see destination. The sounds of trains chugging through the tunnel transport visitors back in time when this was a valuable link from the waterfront under the city. The experience is amplified by an ever-changing light show inside the tunnel with reds, blues, purples and greens cascading down the walls. The tunnel doors close at 9 p.m. so there is plenty of time to visit after watching the sunset over the St. Lawrence River. Later on, head to the Brockville Arts Centre and take in live music or a movie!
Travel a little further east to unravel exciting heritage in Prescott with the Battle of the Windmill site and the National Historic Site of Canada, Fort Wellington, which is open for public tours. The fort is enlivened each summer by costumed interpreters, explaining how the St. Lawrence River and its Canadian communities were defended from the Americans in the War of 1812.
The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott brings Shakespeare to life through professional outdoor theatre staged against the backdrop of the St. Lawrence River in the amphitheater at the town’s harbour. Nighttime comes alive as the stage is filled with enchanting professional outdoor performances.
Over in Morrisburg, the Upper Canada Playhouse professional theatre with a twist it serves up a funny and memorable prescription of musicals and comedies from April through December. Operating out of a charmingly converted, 275-seat former toothbrush factory, the Upper Canada Playhouse is one of the most acclaimed professional theatre companies in Eastern Ontario.
Carrying on to end your journey in Cornwall, the County Jail historical site is considered one of the oldest public structures in Ontario, constructed in 1833. Guided tours are available to the public and reveal stories of hangings, tours through cell blocks, the exercise yard, governors’ residence, guards’ station and more. Discover what life would have been like behind the walls of the County Jail. Another intriguing venue, the Aultsville Theatre hosts live music and entertainment including comedians, Wayne Rostad’s Christmas show, theatre shows and more. Fun fact: no seat is more than 90 feet from the stage!
Feel the creativity where intriguing history meets exciting entertainment on a three-day excursion in South Eastern Ontario!