Down South in Windsor

By Susan Huebert   Trail Canada

What Canadian city combines unique museums, classical concerts, festivals, and much more, all situated as far south as the United States? While many cities have a wide variety of activities and sights for tourists and locals to enjoy, Windsor has a special character born of its history and location. With museums, art galleries, concerts, and sights to see, Windsor has something for everyone.

Windsor's location as the southernmost Canadian city has given it an intriguing history. Across the river from Detroit, Windsor played an important role in the nineteenth century as a point of entry for the Underground Railroad transporting escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. Statues at the City Hall Esplanade on the waterfront commemorate that contribution. Nearby, the Charlie Brooks Peace Fountain celebrates Canadians' roles in promoting peace. Windsor has a long history; it was settled in 1748 as a French agricultural society and has been inhabited ever since, making it one of the oldest continuously-occupied cities in North America. A large French community still exists in Windsor, and the many French street names recall the city's background. Windsor officially became a village in 1854 before becoming a town in 1858 and finally a city in 1892. Now a city of over 200,000 people, Windsor is the centre of many industries and cultural activities.

Windsor is a popular tourist destination because of the short distance from the US border. Car enthusiasts might wish to see the Chrysler mini-van plant, one of the Ford Motor Company facilities, or another of the automobile manufacturing factories. For those visitors who prefer family-oriented activities, Windsor Water World is a good place to spend an afternoon or an entire day, while the XS Family Fun Centre gives children the chance to burn off energy with laser tag, go-karts, and other games. When these activities are done, Market Square is a good place to visit for its five different restaurants and many vendors selling baked goods, meat, cheese, and more.

If Market Square fails to satisfy the appetite, Windsor's other eating establishments are sure to fill the gap. Brigantino's is a well-known Italian restaurant where diners can eat to the accompaniment of nightly entertainment, and many other restaurants are also available to cater to all kinds of culinary tastes.

Visiting the historic houses and buildings in and around Windsor can occupy days. Mackenzie Hall, formerly a courthouse but now a museum, is an imposing limestone building where poetry readings, puppet shows, social events, and many other activities take place. Workshops and other programs are also available. Willistead Manor is another good place to spend the afternoon; its sixteenth-century Tudor-Jacobean style of architecture and twentieth-century amenities make the house ideal for a Christmas tour or a visit at any time of the year. The library, dining room with mahogany panelling, and the wide, curved staircase are only a few of the elegant sights to see. The white marble fireplace in the drawing room is also an attraction. Outside are the Paul Martin Gardens, where visitors can still enjoy the spacious grounds even after the end of flower season.

Outdoor attractions abound in the Windsor area. The Odette Sculpture Park runs for 3.5 kilometres along the Detroit River, with works by famous sculptors from around the world. A short distance away near Amherstberg is the 546-acre Holiday Beach Conservation Area, known as one of the best birding spots in North America. Within Windsor are the Coventry Gardens, across from Belle Isle in Detroit. In summer, the Peace Fountain operates in the park, but the grounds are still enjoyable in winter. A unique feature in the Queen Elizabeth II Gardens in Jackson Park is a war memorial featuring two military airplane replicas. The most famous park near Windsor, however, is Pelee Island. No visitor to the city should miss going there to cycle, visit the local winery, or just enjoy nature. Parks are central to Windsor's life and are the reason the city is nicknamed "Rose City" or "City of Roses."

Festivals and concerts are good ways of seeing the culture of a city or town, and Windsor has many of them. The winter schedule is full, with everything from the 21st Annual Wedding Extravaganza in January to concerts with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra to the Winter Festival at the Ojibway Nature Centre. Comedian Andre-Philippe Gagnon is scheduled to perform in February, and a golf show shortly afterwards will please fans of the sport. March will see the Boat and Outdoor Recreation Show, and several spring events will celebrate the maple syrup harvest. With so much happening in Windsor, there is sure to be something for every visitor.

History, culture, nature, and entertainment all come together in Windsor. With festivals and parks, Canada's southernmost city is an excellent place to visit during the coming winter.

Windsor Features

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