Educational Adventures, Featured, Going Solo, Green Spaces, Museums, Small Towns

Sudbury, Ontario: Far More than ‘The Big Nickel’

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I never thought I’d visit Sudbury, Ontario.  This is mainly due to the fact that until eight weeks ago, I did not know that Sudbury, Ontario existed.  But it does.  And now I’ve been there–and back.  And I have to say, it’s a great little town.  Sorry Sudbury–I know you think you are a city; you’re not.  You’re a town.  But that’s fine, because you are a great one.

If you know of Sudbury, it is likely for one reason–the big nickel.  And yes, there’s a really big nickel in Sudbury.  But there isn’t a photo of said nickel in this post.  Why?  Because Sudbury is far more than just the big nickel.  I spent three jam-packed days there, and maybe only five minutes with the Paul Bunyan-sized coin.  Here’s what I did–and what you can do….

Enjoy the Outdoors

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Over and over again, I was informed that Sudbury is home to both the largest and the second-largest inner-city lake.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sail out on the second-largest lake–Lake Ramsay–with one of the members of the Sudbury Sailing Club.  He navigated us around the various islands in the admittedly rather giant lake while telling tales of his mortal enemy–the rowing club (dum dum DUM!)  For the record, neither the rowing club nor the sailing club can stand the ultimate enemy–the omnipresent and entirely evil Canadian geese.  This is clearly a town–I’m sorry, a CITY–with some pretty serious rivalries.

Experience Community

One generation ago, Sudbury, Ontario looked completely different.  After decades of mining and the destruction that came from the smelting beds–giant swaths of land burning openly for sometimes months at a time–the landscape was barren and rocky.  People my age remember playing in fields of rock, nary a tree in sight.

Today Sudbury is green, thanks to what they call a ‘re-greening’ initiative.  Since the early 1980s, Sudbury has been actively changing the landscape, transforming it from a gray and stark moonscape to a verdant, thriving, tree-filled community.  More than one person told me “everyone who lives here in Sudbury has planted a tree”.

I believe this Lorax mindest plays a huge part in the spirit of community I experienced in Sudbury.  I’ve often said that it is the people that make me fall for a city, town, or region.  If I love Sudbury–and I think I just may–it is thanks to all of the people who I met there.  They are all so proud of their city (see–I used the right word this time).  And why shouldn’t they be?  They helped grow it.

Interact with Science

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The semi-subterranean entrance to Science North.

The Sudbury science center–Science North–is every teacher’s dream.  You know the term ‘hands-on’?  Yeah.  You can literally touch–or interact with–nearly everything at Science North.  Oh–and it is built directly into Sudbury’s famed rockbed.  Which makes for a kind of cool experience.  Because a picture is worth a thousand words–and a picture with a caption is worth even more–check it out….

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After walking through the bedrock, you spiral upwards towards the various exhibits.

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This is the rock tumbling lab. Kid can bring in their own rocks and…tumble them. How cool?

There's a butterfly habitat.  They are everywhere; make sure to check yourself before you leave the room.  Two landed on me.

There’s a butterfly habitat. They are everywhere; make sure to check yourself before you leave the room. Two landed on me.

And...there's this.  No explanation needed.

And…there’s this. No explanation needed.

Explore a Nickel Mine

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Last summer, while having breakfast at crappy Poconos hotel before a music festival, a friend and I overheard a family preparing for a mine tour.  There may have been hysterical laughing over undercooked self-service Belgian waffles.  After all, who goes on a mine tour?

Well, as it turns out, I do.  And as it also turns out, mine tours–at least the one offered at Sudbury’s Dynamic Earth–(is)are grippingly interesting.  And eerily beautiful.  I’ve been missing out.

And more than beautiful, Dynamic Earth is uber-educational.  I learned about everything from dinosaurs to NASA; I learned about minerals and mining and smelting (oh my!) One could say that I learned about everything–and the kitchen sink.  Oh–and I learned about kitchen sinks.  Seriously.

Savor Fine Dining

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Ok, I’ll admit it.  I didn’t expect to be impressed with Sudbury’s restaurant scene.  After all, this is Northern Ontario–not exactly a region known for it’s cuisine.  But then, one beautiful night in late May, I found myself seated at a table at Respect is Burning, a restaurant who’s name is as obscure as its food is amazing.  And the space is pretty amazing, too–see decor photo, above.

How mind-blowing is the food at Respect is Burning? I have three words for you: tandoori basil risotto.  I near about cried when it was placed in front of me.  It was so good that I’m using terms like ‘near about’.  That’s right–this meal was so good I’m using improper grammer.  I can’t even really talk (well, write) about it without tearing up.  I’d walk back to Sudbury just to eat there again–but I’d much rather fly.

By now you should be thinking ‘damn, I never imagined that all of that would exist in a town I-may-have-never-heard-of.  But it does.  Which is why I encourage you to check out Sudbury.  And any other obscure town–I’m sorry, city–you have the opportunity to visit.  You never know what you’ll find.

Disclosure:  I was hosted by Sudbury Tourism as part of a group familiarization trip through TBEX, the Travel Blog Exchange’s annual convention.  But, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Have you ever been to Sudbury?  What was your experience?  And if not, which destination surprised you the most?  Share your own stories in the comments below.  

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