Canada is 150 years old this year. With our neighbor, we share a border and natural resources including the Great Lakes. Along Lake Erie in south coast Ontario, there are beautiful beaches popular with both Canadians and Americans. With an enhanced license or passport, you can cross the Peace Bridge to explore the area and see how it is changing while preserving its natural beauty and unhurried pace.
Most baby-boomers like to reminisce about childhood trips to Crystal Beach amusement park. Buffalo area businesses and communities promoted the park by providing buses and selling tickets, which were free when you produced A’s on your report card. Ships ferried people over the lake to the pier that still stands in the bay. In 1989, the 101 year old amusement park closed yet the park lives on in its famous suckers, loganberry drink, and vivid memories of rides including the Comet roller coaster, the eclectic Magic Carpet as well as the slightly spooky Laff in the Dark.
If you were to cross the border and head west along the shore today, you would find Crystal Beach Yacht and Tennis Club where the amusement park once stood. These residences house both year round and seasonal dwellers. Next door to the club, there is still a public sandy beach that attracts thousands of visitors each summer from the United States and Canada, including the rapidly growing Toronto area.
In addition to the beach, there are restaurants, clothing stores, a yoga studio and spa in the buildings on Derby Street where food concessions for amusement park goers once stood. A business on that row, Yoga Joy, serves people seeking rejuvenation. According to owner, teacher and reflexologist, Joyce Senese, “If you create a sanctuary, people will come” and they do; classes in the yoga studio fill up daily. Joyce strives to make yoga accessible to all who want it with beach yoga and donation only classes. Check her website www.yogajoy.ca for a list of classes and arrive early if you want to ensure a spot.
Next door to Crystal Beach is Ridgeway, a quaint town with a walkable Main Street, called Ridge Road. Along the street, there is the Brimstone brewery in a former church with a farm to table menu, large outdoor seating area and sandbox for the children. There is also the Kitchen sandwich shop with excellent bread and salads and other restaurants worth checking out.
Thursdays evenings in the waterfront park, they have the “Supper Market” where you can choose from several food trucks and beverage stations. There is a band stand with live music and the Buffalo skyline in the background. In the mood of the beach and yoga for that matter, it is relaxing. The crowds are friendly and not too big, parking is accessible and it’s not far for border town Buffalonians to make an outing to celebrate Canada’s big birthday and summertime.