My Heart Belongs to Muskoka

This past weekend I found myself in Muskoka… wondering why I haven’t been spending every single weekend of the entire summer there. The well-kept downtown core of Huntsville, the cute little shops, the boardwalk that snaked along the water and the abundance of delicious restaurants at which to eat had my heart singing as I melted into the relaxed vibe. It was blissful.

We were headed to Muskoka for the Ironman 70.3 race. Steve, Willow’s dad, had been signed up for this triathlon event for months and had been pouring his heart and soul into his training. There was rarely a day that went by where he wasn’t swimming, biking or running (or some combination of the three) and I was so excited for him to see the fruits of his labor set against a hilly, and scenic, backdrop. We left Ottawa in the afternoon on Friday and headed to our hotel in Huntsville. We stopped for some photos along the way as the landscape required it.

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Once we got to Huntsville, and checked into our room at the EconoLodge (more on that in a moment), we headed downtown to grab some dinner as we were all STARVING. We ended up going to this place called The Mill on Main and it really is a must-try if you are in Muskoka.

The Mill on Main has a wide range of food that will suit any appetite but the elevated patio, which faces the water and a lush park area, is a fantastic place to sit and relax with a glass of red. I had their garden salad and split chicken tenders with Willow whereas Steve had the Smoked Duck Salad and raved about it. With my meal I had a glass of red sangria (it was okay, not a sangria to rave about though) and we shared potato wedges with made-in-house hummus (highly recommend!)

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After The Mill on Main, we headed over to The Nutty Chocolatier, which is right on Main Street in Huntsville. This place is incredible and will, quite honestly, give you a cavity the moment you walk through the door. From ice cream and gelato to espresso and coffee (a must-try is the Muskoka Maple coffee… SO GOOD!) to candy and chocolate and homemade fudge. It really is my version of paradise on Earth.

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After stocking up on candy and a quick visit to the Main Street toy store, we headed back to our hotel. Steve had booked the hotel before I knew that Willow and I were going along so when he told me it was an EconoLodge, my first thoughts were a bit less than impressive. I was expecting full-on motel style accommodations and while I don’t like to think I’m a total hotel snob, I have raised my bar a little working with the Marriott, the Brookstreet and other fine hotel chains. That said, I was actually quite pleased with the hotel stay and would recommend the hotel if you are looking for somewhere affordable, clean and pleasant to stay.

The next day we woke up and headed to Deerhurst Resort where the Subaru Ironman 70.3 event was being held. We needed to get Steve’s race kit and check in his bike. Let me tell you, for those of you have never ran a triathlon, the process to get yourself ready for an event like this is a bit insane. The process that the Ironman organization has to go through to get 1,500+ racers registered and in the right place, for an event like this, is nothing short of ludicrous. I bow with great respect to the Ironman organization. It was impressive.

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After registering for Ironman, we knew that we wanted to do something FUN with Willow so I had lined us up tickets to go to Santa’s Village! It was about a twenty minute drive from Huntsville, in a little town called Bracebridge, and a place I hadn’t been to in over twenty years. My parents took me when I was a child and I had such fond memories of going there. I knew that we had to make that a must-do while we were in the Muskokas and I’m so happy we did. Willow LOVED it!

If you’ve never been, Santa’s Village is a theme park, geared toward children, that is themed around the idea of Christmas, Santa Clause, his reindeers and everything else that makes the holiday a fun one. They have a little stage with live entertainment, tons of rides, a little carnival area, a fantastic playground, a splash pad, face painting and more (so much more) including a reindeer rollercoaster.

Excuse me for a moment while I digress into a hundred photos from Santa’s Village alone (sorry / not sorry!)

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After Santa’s Village, we reconvened at the hotel where Steve’s parents joined us. It was really awesome that they were able to come up to share in the Ironman experience with him. We decided to go out to dinner, as we were all starving, and I had been recommended 3 Guys and a Stove earlier that day by someone working the Lululemon booth at the race expo so we went there. Lemme just tell you right now – GO NOWHERE ELSE. It’s incredible. Seriously. The atmosphere inside is amazing (especially upstairs!) and the open kitchen, as soon as you walk in the door, makes your mouth water instantaneously. So, so good.

Steve’s mom and I both had the pasta shells (delicious), Steve had the Yellow Fin Tuna (pictured below), Steve’s dad had the Beef Tenderloin and Willow had pasta with cheese and apples to start. I also tried the Pumpkin & Sweet Potato soup to start and it was so, so delicious. Everything was well plated, well made and so tasty.

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After dinner, we explored the downtown area a bit. We stopped in the park to let Willow play and wandered around the boardwalk area. It was such a gorgeous evening and it was really nice to spend time as a family in such a beautiful space.

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The day after that, Sunday, was race day. Steve and his dad woke up early (4:30am early!) to head over to the race location and I let Willow sleep in. Once she woke up, we packed up our stuff and headed over to Deerhurst to catch the race. We were able to see Steve transition between the bike and run portion and of course, we saw him finish. What a hugely inspirational day it was and it was so incredible to see what those athletes endured over the course of the morning and early afternoon. Steve did great – finished 178th overall and placed really well in his divisions / categories. We were really, really proud of him.

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Now that we’re home, and I’m reflecting on the trip, I can’t help but feel like sending a tiny note to Muskoka with a few simple words on it: give me my heart back please!

What are your favourite things to do and see in Muskoka?

Comments

  1. Barbara Stachera says

    Hi Erin, I have been in Muskoka, Bracebridge and Huntsville area and loved it….so beautiful..
    The scenery is just awesome and you definitely need to bring the camera…( of course, we never forget to do that, right?

    So glad to hear you all had a wonderful family time together….that’s such a great memory for all…

  2. Dave says

    Love Huntsville and Bracebridge too, possibly with a nod to Bracebridge. We always pop over when RV camping in Algonquin. We haven’t been for a few years but there is a small local grocery store across from 3Guys called Farmers Daughter or something like that, always great veggies, etc. Have to hit Kawartha Dairy too. In Bracebridge there’s a cafe called Marty’s with a huge chalk board on one wall, captures a whole summer of tourist comments. Very cool. We are headed to Mew lake this weekend for our second last camping trip and can’t wait. Great post.

  3. Julia says

    LOVE that area. We had friends that worked on an island for several years for some very wealthy property developers. The main house was rented out for $6800/week. It was insanely gorgeous and obviously WAY out of our budget. When it was empty we were often offered to stay there for free for a few days. It was a little slice of heaven. Now that my pals have moved on, I’m thinking it’s time to meet some new ones around there 😉