North Bay was on my itinerary for a business meeting and I really dreaded going there. I had heard that it was a cultural wasteland. Was I in for a surprise! Not only is there plenty to do in North Bay in terms of culture it is also a centre for a variety of quality out-doors activities. Even better it is a mere 3 and a half hours drive from Toronto.
As a summer destination North Bay it is a wonderful place to enjoy the untamed wilderness of the great Canadian Shield and in winter it is a centre for phenomenal snowmobiling on a vast system of trails and ice fishing on several lakes. Hunters, fishermen and canoeists flock to the city which has numerous lakeside resorts and lodges and a full range of diversions for the entire family.
Spread along the shore of Lake Nipissing, North Bay has an enormous beach that is safe for swimming in the fresh water and is great for good long beach walks. For a close-up experience of the Shield there are a number of trails in the Laurier Woods, a 118 acre marsh and forest wildlife viewing park, right in town.
For a less taxing way to see the Ontario northland I highly recommend a cruise on the Chief Commanda II. On this twin hulled vessel up to 320 passengers can enjoy a trip around the Manitou Islands in Lake Nipissing, take a sunset cruise with a meal, travel a greater distance and explore the Upper French River or enjoy the spectacular fall colours on a 2 hour trip along the north shore of Lake Nipissing.
North Bay also is a city with many cultural attractions. I recommend taking in a performance at the Capitol Centre. It is a restored 1929 theatre with many of the original decorations. Even more interesting for families with kids is the Heritage Railway & Carousel. The carousel is more than just a restored relic of an amusement park. It is a work of art. Local carvers created some of the horses and local artists painted the horses and the 28 scenes that adorn the carousel. The merry-go-round also has carved local winter wonderland animals so the choice of which animal to mount or which horse to choose can be difficult for the masses of enthusiastic children who ride the carousel each year.
If you are in North Bay on Labour Day weekend be sure to attend the Nippising First Nation Pow Wow. It’s a spectacular event that includes competition dancing, good food and an area for vendors and traders. Be sure to bring your camera. Dancers in their elaborate costumes and spectacles like the Grand Entry are perfect subjects for every level of photographer.