The Getaway
Hey Girl, Check out Ryan Gosling's Hometown: Cornwall, ON

If you've followed pop culture in the past few years, you've definitely seen Ryan Gosling pop up everywhere. This charming actor has captured the hearts of fans everywhere thanks to his talents and effortless charisma, but his origins might surprise you. He grew up in the small town of Cornwall in Ontario, Canada. However, though the town may be small, it is as charming as the actor who helped put its name on the map. From history enthusiasts to outdoor adventurers, visitors of any background or age can find something they will love about Cornwall. If you're considering a trip, maybe make some time for this town that is bursting with history and culture.

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01 Stroll the shores at Lamoureux Park

When it comes to Cornwall's outdoor opportunities, Lamoureux Park is one of the city's pride and joys. This green oasis sits right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, making it a perfect blend of everything there is to love about nature—lush greenery, waterfront promenades, local wildlife, and a variety of amenities. From an outdoor gym to the Rotary Eco Gardens and even a community splash pad, visitors of any age can enjoy themselves for hours. Lamoureux Park is also the city's main gathering place for major events and festivals, including Canada Day Celebrations, Cornwall Ribfest, and Arts in the Park.

best Citizen of the Year Walkway in Lamoureux Park Nataliia Reshetnikova / Shutterstock.com

02 Travel back in time at Upper Canada Village

Anyone with even a slight interest in history will love Cornwall, especially if they choose to visit Upper Canada Village. A ticket for the village might as well be a ticket to a time machine. This extremely detailed recreation of a 19th-century village includes everything from authentic buildings to costumed actors, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the daily life of a town before the Canadian Confederation. The village contains plenty of educational opportunities, as well as classic storefronts offering everything from baked goods to handmade crafts.

Actors play the role of residents at a medieval festival at the Ontario Open Air Museum. Young teacher in an old rural school izikMD / Shutterstock.com

03 Visit an ancient land at Prehistoric World

If you have ever been curious about what it would be like to step into a real-life Jurassic Park, Prehistoric World is one of the best ways to do just that. Wander through a variety of landscapes, including grasslands and forests, discovering life-sized replicas of the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. Imagine just hiking along a path and suddenly seeing a towering Brontosaurus poking its neck through the tree line. Prehistoric World also offers interactive exhibits and fossil displays that make the park perfect for all ages.

04 Unlock the power of nature at Saunders Hydro Dam Visitor Center

Hydroelectricity is one of the most important innovations in human history. But how much do you actually know about this technology? Visit Saunders Hydro Dam Visitor Center to discover everything about hydroelectricity and its uses, all while filling your eyes with one of the greatest views in Canada. Step out onto the observation deck for panoramic vistas of the St. Lawrence River. Inside the visitor center, you'll find many interactive displays that make the complex topic of hydroelectricity accessible and fun. With the currently renewed focus on sustainable energy solutions, there has never been a better time to visit the dam.

05 Uncover the past with the Cornwall Community Museum

Another way visitors can immerse themselves in the history of this charming town is by visiting the Community Museum. This incredible celebration of the region's history is housed in a restored Loyalist home from 1840. From the area's Indigenous roots to the fur trade to the genealogical history of Cornwall's families, the Cornwall Community Museum is full of diverse collections focusing on a range of topics. The museum's knowledgeable staff is always ready to help and inform, answering any questions you might have about the town or its past.

06 Encounter ghosts at the Historic SDG Jail

As fun as it may be to learn about the more positive parts of a town's history, there are always more serious and darker aspects. The Historic SDG Jail was first constructed in 1833 and continued to house inmates until 2002. Throughout its life, the jail served as both a minimum and maximum security facility, as well as an asylum and a house of refuge. Purchase some guided tour tickets to discover the winding—and often dark—past of this historic building and its many inmates. If you time your visit right, you may even be able to participate in some paranormal investigations.

07 Get active at Guindon Park

Whether you're looking for a calm escape into nature's embrace or a heart-pumping hike over rolling hills, make sure to visit Guindon Park. The sprawling, 500-acre park has dozens of kilometers of hiking trails, ranging from those perfect for leisurely strolls to some pretty intense workouts. You can also enjoy many off-road bike trails or the BMX track if you're feeling particularly adventurous. From May to October, visitors can even go horseback riding. And, thanks to its proximity to the St. Lawrence River, Guindon Park also has rowing opportunities—courtesy of the Cornwall Rowing Club.

08 Discover what was lost at the Lost Villages Museum

In the 1950s, the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway required the flooding and destruction of 10 Ontario communities. Now known as the Lost Villages, many people felt that losing these towns also led to the loss of many historically important buildings, items, and locations. The Lost Villages Museum has attempted to salvage some of these objects and educate visitors about the lost communities. The museum features salvaged buildings and displays honoring the quaint homes, schools, and churches. With guides offering insights into the Lost Villages and the circumstances surrounding the Seaway's construction, the museum provides a sobering and poignant glimpse of the cost of human progress.

09 Spot some geese at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Just west of Cornwall lies the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a resting place for dozens of waterfowl species like the iconic Canada goose. Running along the St. Lawrence River, the Sanctuary was once a re-establishment site for Canada geese that ended up attracting thousands of migratory geese. Along with geese, waterfowl, including dabbling ducks like mallards and diving ducks such as the common merganser, all visit the sanctuary regularly. Species like the great blue heron, double-crested cormorant, and belted kingfisher are also common. The sanctuary itself covers a diverse landscape of wetland areas, forests, and grassy areas.

10 Unwind at Crysler Beach

A short train ride or drive can take you from Cornwall to a perfect location for a family beach day or, really, any gathering: Crysler Park Beach and Picnic Area. Enjoy one of the 14 available picnic areas, or stroll over to the marina and watch as the ships sail in and out. Regardless of what you choose to do, the gentle breeze coming off of the St. Lawrence River makes any visit to the beach a relaxing endeavor. In the warmer months, you can also find people paddling, kayaking, and paddleboarding across the waters.

11 Wander through Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area

The greater Cornwall area is home to some of the most diverse eco-regions in Canada. The best example of this biodiversity is the Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area, which contains the greatest number of living species of any eco-region in the country. Explore the 4.5 kilometers of marked trail and a network of natural spaces, finding hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Throughout the area, you'll find signs with information about local greenery and wildlife. Don't forget to stop by the wind phone so you can reconnect with lost loved ones.

12 Explore one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches at St. Raphael's Ruins

Back in 1970, a raging fire consumed the church of St. Raphael's. This building was one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in English-speaking Canada. However, despite the strength of the flames, the outer walls did not crumble, leaving behind this example of the incredible scale and masonry work of these churches. Visit on your own in the Summer months or wait to enjoy a tour with a curator in July and August. There is no charge to explore the gorgeous and historic area, though officials do accept donations.

A fire destroyed all but the outer walls of St. Raphael's Catholic church in 1970, it's now a National Historic Site since 1999. Jim Cumming / Shutterstock.com

13 Splash around in The Cornwall Aquatic Center

Cornwall isn't all parks and historic locations. It also features many activity centers that are perfect for a day of fun, regardless of age. The Cornwall Aquatic Center offers swimming lessons, aqua fitness programs, leisure swims, and a massive water slide. A wheelchair-accessible rehab pool is available for those who need it. Guardians with young children can also keep them engaged in the warm toddler pool that features a toddler slide, umbrella, and spray features. There are small fees to use the pools.

14 Drive along the Long Sault Parkway

Aerial photo of Long Sault Parkway scenic route crossing Thousand Islands archipelago in the Saint Lawrence River near Cornwall, South Stormont, Ontario, Canada. Photo taken by drone in June 2022

A short distance west of Cornwall are 11 islands and a 10-kilometer parkway that connects them. Across these beautiful islands, you'll find campgrounds and public beaches that formed due to the flooding for the St. Lawrence Seaway. The parkway is perfect for a simple drive, taking in the scenery, or finding the most picturesque views of the waterways. All you need to do is look at a single photo of this area to know why it is such a popular destination for visitors.

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15 Hit the track at the Cornwall Motor Speedway

Any fan of high-speed races needs to visit the Cornwall Motor Speedway northwest of the town. The quarter-mile dirt track features weekly race classes including sportsman, modified, pro stock, semi-pro, and mini stock. Every year, the track also puts on a range of shows and races—some of which have some impressive grand prizes. August is particularly packed with events, including the special fans night with $5 tickets or the Rumble on the Seaway.

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