If you have never visited St. Jacobs, a quaint small town community located just north of Waterloo in Woolwich Township, Waterloo Region of Southwest Ontario, it should most definitely be on your “must visit” list! Approximately an hour and a half west of Toronto, it is well known for it’s Mennonite heritage and farming but also for it’s charming collection of retail shops in The Village, the St. Jacobs’ Outlet Mall and of course the 2-storey St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Thought they were only open during the spring/summer months? Think again!
St. Jacobs Farmers Market
Open year round on Thursdays and Saturdays, 7am to 3:30pm, you can find fresh meats and cheese vendors, “made-this-morning” soft pretzels, pastries and desserts like butter tarts, cakes and pies, including some gluten-free and dairy-free options. In addition, you can shop the booths of vendors selling their treasures and one-of-a-kind items as well as works of talented local artisans. This market encompasses a 2 level main building and the Peddlers’ Building. (During the summer months, there are additional vendors in outdoor tents selling their wares.) You can even sit down in their food court to rest and enjoy a tasty lunch. Then, if you’re up for it, walk across the street and visit St. Jacobs Outlet Mall where you can discover brand name stores selling clothing, footwear, cookware, home decor and more, including shops like Lego, Paderno and Royal Doulton.
The Village in St. Jacobs
Want to learn about the Mennonite history, culture and faith? Visit The Mennonite Story facility located in the centre of The Village, next to the Post Office. This multi-media, wheel-chair accessible interpretive centre welcomes you. Audio tours are available in 9 languages to accommodate the thousands of visitors they have every year from Canada and over 65 different countries!
Haven’t begun Christmas shopping yet? There is no better time than this weekend during the St. Jacobs Sparkles event! Open later hours, starting Thursday November 15 to Sunday November 18 only, enjoy special sales promotions on all kinds of items, many you just can’t find in the typical retail malls! Really want to give gifts that are rare and unique? You need to come to The Village in St. Jacobs! While you’re there, stop awhile and have a terrific lunch at Stone Crock Restaurant or Jacob’s Grill just to name a couple.
After dark, starting at 5pm, get into the holiday spirit and take advantage of a 2-horse-drawn enclosed trolley ride, listen to the heavenly voices as carollers sing Christmas carols, take in the sparkling twinkle lights and decorations in the shop windows and along the streetscape. Add to that a gentle snowfall like I personally experienced on Thursday’s opening night and it couldn’t be more quaint…or perfect!
Health Valley Trail & West Montrose Covered Bridge
Before enjoying all the sparkle of the village, still during daylight hours, a friend and I took a lovely hike in the gently falling snow along Health Valley Trail. Only about 15 minutes from St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, enter the trail from the parking lot at 35 Albert St. East. The trail follows the Conestogo River and crosses through private (though generously shared) farmlands. With only two or three spots along the trail that have a small hill, generally this trail is loose gravel on even ground. Pass through rustic wooden gates, catch ducks still swimming on the river and see the bright red berries on bushes and various mushroom/fungi varieties surviving on trees and stumps. Breathe the fresh air and take in the photo ops! There is also a designated dog park near-by so bring your best canine friend too.
The West Montrose Covered Bridge, known locally as the “Kissing Bridge”, is located just 15 minutes from the town of St. Jacobs. The only remaining covered bridge in Ontario, it was built in 1881 to replace an earlier bridge crossing over the Grand River. Why cover the bridge? The idea was to protect the wood flooring and frame against the natural elements. Later in 1937, when the province assumed responsibility for the structure, its floor and sub-frame were rebuilt and re-inforced.
Across the road from “The Kissing Bridge”, there is a picnic area where a picnic lunch can be enjoyed during the warmer spring and summer months. The West Montrose Covered Bridge itself is a valuable landmark and is considered to be on private property. If you visit, please respect the privacy of those who live in the immediate area.
Snow or summer sunshine, there is lots to do in St. Jacobs. In the summer St. Jacobs Country Playhouse is home to professional performances. Beginning in March, the 2019 season is already posted! For details, visit draytonentertainment.com. Book a suite at one of the nearby hotel or bed & breakfast locations and make a weekend of it! In the meantime, enjoy the St. Jacobs Sparkles weekend and Happy Christmas Shopping!