An Insider's Guide to Sudbury

9 ways to experience this Northern Ontario city like a local—from papaya pops to festivals to relaxing days at the lake.

My family has lived in the Greater City of Sudbury for five generations. Why, you ask? What's kept us all here in Northern Ontario's biggest city for so many years? Well, I'll let you in on a few of our family secrets—it's an incredible place to live with so much to discover no matter what the season. 

So if you've already taken a selfie at the Big Nickel here are 9 ways to experience Sudbury like a local. 

1. Explore Our 330 Lakes

crowley lake
Crowley Lake in Kivi Park is a popular spot with locals. 

Know as the City of Lakes, Sudbury has 330 freshwater lakes—more than any other city in Canada. We're also home to one of the largest freshwater lakes within city limits in the world. You could almost visit a different lake every day of the year, but that may be ambitious. We also have 28 lake stewardships and the world-class eco-research facility, Vale Living with Lakes Centre. In summer, my family and I keep our lake essentials packed and ready by the door. As soon as I'm home from work, we’re off to spend a few hours at the lake to swim, kayak, fish, or just take in the sunset before coming home to a barbeque. It’s the perfect way to end a workday.

2. Hike, Bike, and Stroll our Urban Trails

Sudbury has hundreds of kilometres of trails to explore. Photo credit: Thomas Leduc

If we’re not at the lake we’re on the trails—every season of the year. Hiking is our favourite outdoor activity. Whether it’s a walk through the city along Junction Creek, a Rainbow Routes trail, or a day hike at Kivi Park, the city’s trails never disappoint. We also love feeding the birds in winter at the Lake Laurentian Conservation Centre. If you don’t want to walk, we have skiing, snowshoeing, and biking trails as well as ATV and snowmobiling trails. We're a powersports-friendly city, too—Sudbury bylaws allow ATVs and snowmobiles on some city streets for easier trail access. 

3. Experience Our Summer Festivals

The Greater City of Sudbury is one of the most diverse cities in the world and we have the festivals to prove it—from African to Greek to Japanese we love to celebrate our local communities. We also have Graphic-Con, the Blueberry FestivalWordstock, Jazz Sudbury, and the weird and wonderful Up Here. One of my family's favourite events is the Northern Lights Festival Boréal, Canada’s longest-running music festival held in the beautiful Bell Park. This four-day celebration in July always rocks our summer.

4. Get Fresh at the Downtown Sudbury Farmers Market

The Farmer's Market offers in-season local produce and makes the perfect stop on your afternoon stroll downtown. Photo credit: Sudbury Market

One of the best ways to spend a Saturday morning is to pick up a coffee from Old Rock café then hit the yard sale circuit and end up at the Sudbury Farmers Market. After picking up fresh fruits and vegetables you might want to consider strolling down Elgin to visit The Monique Legault Studio and Store or the Good Luck General Store for some great one-of-a-kind finds to add to your yard sale goodies.

5. Take in a Game (We've Got More Than Just Amazing Hockey!)

From the Sudbury Wolves to Sudbury Five we love our sports teams (and our mascots). This city offers every kind of sport imaginable and if you can’t find a team, well, just start playing on our streets. In Sudbury, sports are everywhere. 

One of my family’s favourite pastimes, however, is golf. There are fourteen golf courses within a twenty-mile radius of Sudbury, but our family’s secret gem is the Chelmsford Golf Course. This family-owned course has been around since 1975 and is sure to challenge you with its beautiful, scenic holes. After eighteen holes be sure to stop at Papaya Pops for a well-deserved treat—a family-owned business, each popsicle is made with fresh local ingredients wherever possible. (You can also find these treats at the Farmers Market if you’re in town). With flavours like strawberry rhubarb and chocolate monkey this place is a hole-in-one.

6. Take In Some Live Theatre 

Sudbury has a thriving theatre community. For a great night out of dinner theatre see the Sudbury Performance Group, or check out a classic dinner and show at the Sudbury Theater Center. Looking for something a little more risqué? Try Sudbury Burlesque. If that's a bit too much for a first date, try a Paint Social event. All are sure to make for an authentic Sudbury Saturday night

7. Enjoy Backyard Fires and Local Brews

The backyard firepit: a true Sudbury experience. // Photo credit: Thomas Leduc

After a long day at the beach, hiking or playing golf we’ll stop at the local brewery Stack Brewing. Named after the city’s famous smokestack, this tasteful brewing house is full of award-winning blends. With brews like Nickel City, Saturday Night, and Black Rock, you’re sure to taste a bit of the north. We’ll either eat in or pick up a six-pack to go and sit by our backyard fire. Yes, you heard that right. Sudbury is one of the very few cities in Ontario that allows its citizens to have a fire pit in their backyard. The city tried to pass a by-law for us to require permits, but we quickly put that idea up in flames. Be it in winter or summer, a beer by the fire is an amazing way to end your day.

8. Have Some Holiday Fun (From Halloween to Memorial Day)

Locals love the Ramsey Lake Skate Path. 

Here for the holidays? This is how you'll find locals enjoying the city! On Christmas break, we like to do a holiday light run—every season Sudbury will publish a list of all the houses with the best light shows and carols. On a snowy night, we’ll drive by each one and end up at the Science North’s Festival of Lights and then with a thermos of hot chocolate, or Stack beer, your choice. We’ll finish the evening enjoying the city's iconic Ramsey Lake skate path. Victoria Day weekend we help each other open up our camps, Canada Day we're back on the Ramsey Lake boardwalk watching the fireworks. Labour Day weekend we’re all at camp so if you want the city to yourself this is the time to come. Halloween we’re doing another tour of houses or one of the many haunted tours, our favorite produced by Northern Screams. On Thanksgiving, in the fall, we’ll take a hike and enjoy the colours. And of course, year-round, we love getting together for a barbeque. I have even seen family barbequing at the A.Y. Jackson Lookout Trail or Fielding Memorial Park—both great places to spend a holiday. 

9. Find Family-Friendly Activities (Did Someone Say Trains?)

The locomotive simulator is a kid-friendly favourite at the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum. // Photo credit: Northern Ontario Railroad Museum

Even if it's not a holiday, we like to get together with family or friends to do all sorts of fun adventures like Chillin' N Tubing—with a beverage and some sunscreen, you're ready to go. If this doesn’t wet your whistle, try the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre. It’s right on track for some family fun. There’s also the  Anderson Farm Museum,  or Dinosaur Valley Mini Golf.  Had a hard week at the office? We take out our frustrations at Nickel City Paintball, then end the day with a visit to the Sudbury Classic Cruisers car show—or we hit the Sudbury Kartways to see who is the fastest on the streets.

Now that you know our family secrets, feel free to stop by, crack open a cold one, sit by our backyard fire, and tell us your Sudbury secrets. 

About Thomas Leduc
Thomas Leduc was Poet Laureate of Sudbury, Ontario, from 2014-2016 and the President of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild from 2017-2021. His poems and short stories cover an array of subject matter and genres. His work has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Tom is the author of Slagflower Poems Unearthed From A Mining Town with Latitude 46. Recently, he published the community-driven chapbook Painted Voices with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

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