A winter staycation in Summerside? Heck yes! [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]If you understand my enthusiasm at the prospect of exploring PEI’s city by the sea, please take the express lane to the next section of this blog. If, however, you’re raising your eyebrows or chuckling right now, I humbly ask you to set aside whatever preconceptions you have about Summerside. This small city on the island’s south shore has grown up so much in recent years and is emerging as a must-visit destination for visitors and Islanders alike. It’s a gem and once you unearth it for yourself, you’re going to want to go back again and again. And in every season!
In the depths of winter and following multiple snow storms, I was beyond ready for a getaway and Summerside beckoned. The last time I took a staycation in The City by the Sea, I went with my beau, Luke, and had a lovely, relaxing visit.
This time around, however, I envisioned a gals’ getaway filled with laughs, good food and drink, and plenty of outdoor adventure. Luckily, I knew just the friends to round up for a night in Summerside. Crystal, Chelsey, and Misty were all as excited for a getaway as me. Plans were hatched, hotel rooms were booked, bags were packed (full of snow gear and extra wine!), and next thing you know, it was February 3rd. The countdown was over!
Winter Warmth in The City by the Sea
We had a packed itinerary for our weekend getaway because the Winter Warmth Festival was in full swing and we didn’t want to miss any of the happenings!
The Festival, which is a relatively new addition to Summerside’s winter scene, takes place over three weeks each February. Each year, the schedule of events grows and then grows some more. It started off primarily as a culinary event, but now includes all sorts of outdoor activities and live entertainment. And there’s something for every age and desire – from adrenaline-pumping fat biking to chill snoga, seaside campfire parties, snowshoeing under the moon, dueling pianos, scotch tastings, and more!
Stay Cozy at the Quality Inn
It was a sunny, mild Friday afternoon when we arrived in Summerside. Our first order of business was checking in at our accommodations for the night. Located on eastern end of downtown, it’s handily located across from the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts and beside one of the city’s longest standing restaurants, Brothers 2. Our rooms were bright and cozy (and, importantly, there was a mini fridge for wine chilling!), and the staff were friendly and helpful. It was the perfect home away from home for four gal pals.
Cheers to that!
It’s Snow Time!
I’ll be the first to admit that as I get older, I find myself more prone to hibernation during the winter months on PEI. It’s not that I don’t like snow per se, it’s that outdoor winter activities tend to require a lot more effort than I care to exert. You usually have to drive somewhere, pack up equipment (skates, skis, snowshoes) or rent it on-site), then wait in line-ups, etc. You get the drift (and it’s a snow drift, obviously). I’m more into outdoor activities that require minimal planning/preparation – like walking and hiking!
That’s why I was beyond excited to try By the Moonlight Snowshoe Walk, part of the Winter Warmth Festival schedule. A free guided snowshoe walk of Rotary Friendship Park with snowshoes provided on-site? Now that’s my style. It was a gorgeous evening – mild and a little cloudy. The moon was almost full and cast a pale light on the snowy, wooded trail that our intrepid guide, Brandon, led us along. Even though we were still in the city, it felt like we were miles from anywhere and it was perfection.
The next morning, we took in another easy-peasy outdoor activity that I’d never done before – snoga! As the name implies, snoga is yoga that takes place in the snow. This time, the venue was Green’s Shore Park, located on Summerside’s gorgeous waterfront. With the Gulf of St. Lawrence as our backdrop, we joined the 20+ other snogis in an hour-long class that was full of stretches and laughs. What were we laughing about? Well, mostly the colourful commentary provided by our snoga master, Greg Weeks. As he led us through a series of easy moves and breathing techniques, he kept us engaged with plenty of hilarious quips while simultaneously bringing us into tune with ourselves and nature. I couldn’t have asked for a better snoga experience!
Finer & Diner Dining
Culinary experiences always play prominently into my travel itineraries and I was excited to visit two Summerside icons I’d never been to before. First up, our gal gang enjoyed a Friday evening feast at Five Eleven West. Located in the Credit Union Place and headed up by Owner-Chef Emily McKeown, the restaurant serves up a casual fine dining experience to residents and visitors year-round.
I was SO excited to finally enjoy a meal at FiveEleven West and I was not disappointed. I opted for the 3-course Winter Warmth menu and was thoroughly impressed with each course. I’m not going to lie, while I was enjoying my delicious salmon and mashed potato main, I was also ogling the gourmet burger Chelsey had opted for. With a menu packed full of tempting apps, salads, casual eats, and global flavours, I quickly concluded that I would have to return many, many times to try everything
The next morning we headed to Starlite Diner for breakfast. What a treat for the taste buds and all the senses. I love the 1950s and the decor in this gem of a diner is a full-on homage to the era. We had fun posing for pics and checking out the selection of songs on the jukebox. The food was equally praise-worthy and the portions incredibly generous.
In my humble opinion, the only way to truly experience a place is to find out where the locals like to hang and make your way there. Summerside is rich in local gems, as I’ve discovered each time I pay a visit and unearth new ones!
This time, I was raring to visit the Summerside Farmers’ Market. I hadn’t been in ages (we’re talking at least 3 years), but I knew without a doubt that we’d find plenty of local treasures! The market was bustling and I marveled at the number of vendors offering an array of fresh foods, hot dishes, craft brews, sweets, and artisan wares. Truly, our Island is so, so rich with passionate and talented folks! I left with a haul of gourmet chocolates from Jane & Sue Chocolate and Space Treats (dehydrated candy) made by Brooke Wagner,
We capped off our Summerside staycation at Samuel’s Coffee House, a well-loved local hangout that serves up delicious drinks, sweets, and breakfast/lunch items. Cozy and bright, it was the perfect bookend to our gals’ getaway in Summerside. As we rehashed the highlights of our visit, we all quickly concluded two things. First, Summerside has really come into its own over the past few years and has SO much to offer visitors! Second, we need to plan another visit to The City by the Sea stat!!!