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COLUMN: Mid-Winter Social has something for everyone

Annual attraction at Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene includes everything from educational opportunities to snow tubing and an escape room

Family Day is soon upon us.

It’s an opportunity to spend quality time together and make new memories. Don’t squander it. Instead, dress warmly, bundle the kids in the car, and head for Discovery Harbour and its Mid-Winter Social.

Discovery Harbour, located in the Georgian Bay town of Penetanguishene, is a recreated 19th-century Royal Navy base. For nearly five decades, from 1813, the base protected the Upper Great Lakes from American aggression, home to 100 naval personnel, half a dozen naval vessels, and a small army garrison at its peak. Today, it’s a living history museum, home to more than a dozen historic buildings and the celebrated King’s Wharf Theatre.

Discovery Harbour slumbers for much of the winter, nestled under a blanket of snow, but comes alive for three days of revelry over Family Day weekend. The park’s Mid-Winter Social is the perfect blend of history, entertainment and winter joy with activities for visitors of all ages and interests.

In keeping with the nature of Discovery Harbour, heritage plays a prominent part in the day’s activities. Historical interpreters in period costume provide an authentic glimpse into early-19th-century life during the winter. They share fascinating stories and presentations, demonstrate the firing techniques of black-powder muskets, and offer guided tours of the historic buildings, including the elegant Officer’s Quarters, the only original structure on site.

Embrace winter to its fullest by racing down the snow tube run or by strapping on a pair of snowshoes and trying this most Canadian of winter activities (weather permitting, in both cases). Hop aboard a tractor-pulled wagon for a journey through the recreated Royal Navy base, with its buildings and grounds draped in white.

Adding to the festive atmosphere are local musicians and your young child’s favourite costumed characters, all of them eager to take photos with their beaming fans. Fuel yourself with delicious snacks served up at the Snowshoe Cafe and browse the artisans’ market for a unique souvenir to take home.

No sailor wanted to be confined to the brig (a jail building), but visitors to Discovery Harbour thrill at the prospect. That’s because the brig there serves as an escape room experience. Groups of four to six people (minimum age of 12) have an hour to escape confinement in this exciting adventure. Admission for the Bosun’s Brig Escape Room is $36 per person.

As I said, there’s something for everyone.

Admission is $12 per person, with kids five and younger admitted for free. Tickets can be purchased at