Situated on the southern edge of Georgian Bay, Owen Sound is a pocket of culture and art, particularly highlighted by festivals that draw crowds to its picturesque Kelso Beach Park area. A quaint downtown, paired with many Owen Sound natural attractions, make the area a must-see in the province.
When looking for things to do in Owen Sound, start with Grey Roots Museum and Archives, a contemporary museum space with artefacts from the area's past, as well as a heritage village that gives visitors a sample of the pioneer era. The village features a log cabin, farmhouse, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse and other buildings that create a late-1800s setting. Costumed characters give tours while going about their traditional work with horseshoes and tending the village's farm animals.
The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival is a popular Owen Sound attraction that draws thousands of music lovers to Kelso Beach Park every August. Run since 1975, the festival includes dozens of performers, and visitors stake out viewing spots on a gently sloping hill that is a natural amphitheatre. Artisans show off a wide selection of crafts, with items like handmade jewellery, clothing and artworks.
In winter, Owen Sound's Festival of Northern Lights is a beloved family tradition for many locals and travellers from across the province. Holiday-style lights are strung along the Sydenham River to the sound, winding through the downtown area. Every evening from November to January, the abundant lights illuminate the harbour, riverbanks, downtown and Harrison Park. Visitors delight in ice skating in the evenings, or taking long strolls through town to marvel at the breadth of holiday displays.
The focus on cultural pursuits and small-town friendliness is a significant switch from a rowdy history. Named after a surveyor who first mapped the area, the town was incorporated in 1857 and quickly built up a lively seaport. Known to sailors as "Little Liverpool," Owen Sound became so reputed for vice and carousing that city officials banned drinking for decades, until the prohibition was lifted in 1972.
Since then, the community has focused on creating a pretty, peaceful spot that gives travellers a chance to unwind and take in some lovely bay views. Outdoor pursuits are very popular, and leisure time can be spent in the Pottawatomi Conservation area, golfing at one of four local courses or hiring a fishing charter to do some angling in the sound. Harrison Park, located in town, boasts streams, trails, gardens and forest, as well as a campground and bird sanctuary. A series of trials leads to Inglis Falls, a well-visited spot with an 18-metre-high cascade over rounded stones.
With its combination of culture and wildlife, this Ontario city is a distinctive destination. Whether stopping in at Owen Sound Marine and Rail Museum to glimpse the province's transportation history or taking a leisurely stroll along the bay, visitors will find an array of things to do in Owen Sound.