Living in downtown Toronto for the past decade I’ve seen the city slowly morph into the cultural epicenter it is today. It has fostered culture, art, culinary innovation, young people, and entrepreneurs. The overall culture of this city and perhaps even globally, has steadily shifted towards a market and consumer philosophy of people who are interested in thoroughly understanding the whole process of food and beverage from farm to table, are dedicated to supporting the arts and the artists within those sectors and overall we are truly understanding to believe in the passion of entrepreneurs. There is no doubt that this exciting and global trend can be seen all over Canada.

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In a recent trip to Windsor & Essex County in Ontario’s Southwest, I was able to spend time discovering some of the great things in the region that truly help bring the above trend to life. I was seriously impressed with the abundance of creativity, passion from the locals and the market opportunity that exists for small and start-up businesses in this up-and-coming travel region. Although I’ve traveled all over the globe, it was right here in our province that has inspired me to believe that you don’t have to travel far and away to be inspired and see a world of opportunity and creativity at work.

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With adventure and good taste around the corner the Windsor Essex County region is a seriously great spot to take a trip and get inspired to relax and release your inner creative. The water is close by and shallow Lake Erie is always warm and brings a sense of peace – which everyone from the city can appreciate.

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Here are some great new hot spots and a great to-do list for your next visit  in Ontario’s Southwest and around Lake Erie North Shore and Windsor. These items will have you seriously impressed with our local talent, culture, taste and innovation.

IMG_32891. Sip Wine

Once a year for the last 22 years the wineries around Lake Erie North Shore gather for their annual Vintage Tasting with EpicWineries.com, this country garden party, complete with a vineyard tractor ride, gourmet chefs and treats, live music and all the wine you can possibly taste is a fantastic way to meet the locals, learn about the area and taste the wines from the region from almost every local vintner. It’s a very cool event and it’s a truly great way to show your love for everything local.

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IMG_33062. Stay in a Boutique Hotel

Looking for a quaint hotel with a big city feel in the middle of a small town? Head to The Grove Hotel in Kingsville, this simply magical hotel is uniquely designed without one small detail being overlooked. This heritage building has 18 differently designed rooms each with a modern flare and artistic touches sure to impress. With a brewery and restaurant being designed on site, it’s the perfect romantic getaway.

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IMG_33203. Enjoy an Epic Food Truck Experience at one of Canada’s busteraunts.

This Bristol Lodekka 1965 double decker bus from the U.K. has been remodeled into a full restaurant. Featuring all of your favourite dishes from Perch Tacos to poutine. Have art for Breakfast. Head to Merlis’ for a delicious breakfast and spend time perusing his collection of local art covering every inch of the bistro. With a cappuccino in hand and no-where to go fast, you might just end up buying a few pieces supporting the local artists to add to your collection. All monies go to each artist with no additional fees.

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IMG_34064. Spend an afternoon at a local distillery

For an amazing afternoon of sipping and discovering a new local distillery, make your way to Wolfhead Distillery in Amherstburg. This small batch, ultra-premium vodka and whiskey distiller is sure to tickle your taste buds and make you smile with their grapefruit infused vodka or their coffee infused whiskey. Enjoy lunch and a cocktail on their beautiful patio. Try the coffee whiskey or grapefruit vodka (both of which I purchased and brought home)

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IMG_33485. Grab lunch down a Windsor alleyway

The Squirrel Cage located down a quiet alley called Maiden Lane. With a west coast vibe this restaurant is charming and serves up great lunch fare.

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6. Walk & drink through Walkerville

Connect with Windsor Eats to be your perfect host! Enjoy a “Drinks Walking Tour” through historical Walkerville and learn about the history of Canadian Club, the Hiram Walker empire (the founder of Canadian Club and also Walkerville) by visiting the Canadian Club Brand Centre. Learn about prohibition and sip some great rye along the way.

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IMG_34077. Grab a local Brew

Setup in an old warehouse building Walkerville Brewery serves up what they call an “honest beer” for all to enjoy! Take home a growler of your favourite and watch production from the tasting room.

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Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.47.55 PM8. Laugh over cocktails

Stroll into The Willistead, and allow the friendly bartenders to mix you up a cocktail, teach you about bourbon or enjoy a glass of the local wine. Reminding you of a hip restaurant on Queen Street West in Toronto, this cool place is a pinterest lovers dream. Uniquely designed and filled with passionate talent, you won’t believe you’re in Windsor!

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Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.51.47 PM9. Order a delicious Windsor pizza

A father and son dynamic restaurant duo run The Walkerville  Eatery, a well designed pizza and sliders restaurant/tavern that’s a must visit spot. Order their house casear cocktail and with it comes a beef slider as a garnish to the drink. Interested in a dessert pizza, no problem, their smores pizza will have you drooling. All pizza’s are made inside of their in-house pizza oven.

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10. Enjoy a Lake Erie North Shore sunset

Put your feet into the warm waters of one of Ontario’s Great Lakes and feel at peace with nature. This is something you can do for FREE and it will invigorate your spirit. While on the beach pop open a bottle of Lily sparkling – one of my favourite’s from the region. The other amazing thing you can do is head to one of the area’s lavender farms.

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