The great white north...the northern lights...snowmobiles...ice fishing...snow everywhere. When Canadians think of the north, those are a few of the images that come to mind. Sudbury ticks all those boxes. At certain times of the year, there are gorgeous displays of dancing lights in Sudbury. There are 330 lakes in the Greater Sudbury area, hence it is known as the city of lakes. Snowmobiles replace cars on many snowy days in winter, and ice fishing delivers delicious fish fries throughout the frozen months.
Torontonians bemoan cold winters and thank their lucky stars they do not live further north, yet many Sudbury residents born and raised love winter. I met a fellow who grew up there and he told me his four favourite months of the year were between December and March because he played shinny on the pond, rode his snowmobile, went ice fishing, used the skating paths to visit friends, and hung out and played the whole time.
Our family recently spent a weekend in Sudbury. Below are five things I would recommend doing while there:
Watch the sunset over a lake
Having 330 lakes in one municipal area is unbelievable. And when you drive around Sudbury, you notice the lakes. Ramsay, Long Lake, and Wanapitei are big, clean, and desirable. People pay a lot of money to live there, most over a million and a handful of houses in the multi-millions. Minnow, Bethel, and Simon are smaller and far less prestigious. Historically you have not been able to swim in those lakes. Nonetheless there are houses there worth close to a million.
We rented an Airbnb in Estaire on Lake Nepahwin south of the city. Lake Nepahwin is peaceful and serene. Although it permits power boats, the tenor of the lake is quiet. Many of the cottages are rustic and older and the newer builds still respect the personality of the lake as being modest and down to earth.
As we sat out at night reading and talking, the sun began to set. The colours started pink and moved to purple and green and blue and yellow as the rays shone across the lake and reflected on the water. It inspired feelings of wonder and awe. There is nothing better than a pristine, spectacular northern sunset.
Visit the Big Nickel and take the mine tour
One of the most iconic symbols of Sudbury is the Big Nickel. Weighing in at 27,000 pounds (about 12,000 kg), the statue was unveiled in 1964 as part of Canada's upcoming 100th birthday celebration. It is a popular tourist attraction.
Sudbury produces nickel. Sudbury has been producing nickel since 1888 and currently has the deepest nickel mine in Canada. Canada exports $4 billion worth of nickel each year. The need for nickel is expected to increase because nickel is used to make the batteries in electric cars.
Coupled with the Big Nickel is Science North's rock museum and mine tour. It is simple but well done. Great at teaching kids about mining, the mine tour takes you more than 70 feet (about 22 meters) underground. You walk through a re-enactment of mining from 1888 to present day. Down that far, it is wet everywhere and dank and dark but by spending time in the environment, you really appreciate the process of mining and its dangers and constraints. The museum itself is a wonderful place for kids who love rocks of all kinds as it displays hundreds of diverse types of rocks and minerals.
Watch a professional hockey or basketball game
Sudbury is home to the OHL's Wolves. There have been Wolves' hockey teams playing in Sudbury since just after World War I, and the iconic Sudbury Community Center Arena has been downtown since 1951. Holding 4,600 seats plus standing room only for another 500, its capacity is 5,100. Every time the Wolves' score, a taxidermic wolf rolls out on a pulley system to howl at the opposing bench.
Stompin' Tom Connors wrote a song about a Sudbury Saturday night and a statue of him greets fans out front of the arena. The current OHL team has been in town since 1962 playing under the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey Association and merging in 1972 under the OHL. More than 20 decent NHL players and a handful of superstars have come through the Sudbury Wolves OHL team, and it is known as one of the best development programs in the league for NHL talent.
Sudbury is a hockey town. The 23 rostered Wolves' players are local celebrities, often appearing in the paper, on TV and on radio. When Sudbury makes the playoffs, fans line up for 10 hours to secure playoff tickets. It is the hottest ticket in town.
If it is not hockey season, you can watch the Sudbury Five play basketball. Since 2018, the Five have been in the National Basketball League of Canada. They also play in the Sudbury Community Center. Seven of the players are American and five Canadian, and they put on quite a physical show.
Eat at Rudy’s
Rudy's Restaurant is everything you want in a diner. It is a little bit ratty and outside of the downtown core. The wait staff are a bit rough but friendly. The cook staff are visible from the interior of the restaurant, and nothing is hidden. Most items on the menu are delicious.
We started with Caesar salad, which was excellent. That was followed by grilled cheese, the all-day breakfast and chicken parmigiana with noodles. For dessert, a deep-fried Mars bar, strawberry funnel cake, and frozen yogurt topped off the meal. Everyone left satisfied.
We were also told to try Deluxe Burger in town and did. The milkshakes were fabulous, but we vastly preferred the food at Rudy's.
Get on the lake
There are myriad activities related to the lake. In Spring, Summer, and Fall, I recommend canoeing or kayaking on the lake, ideally in the morning. The early morning sunshine coupled with the calmness of the water and the animal sights and sounds makes this activity good for the soul. Communing with nature is essential when you canoe or kayak because you are so close to the water and can see the water bugs, the activity on the shore, the waves move over the water, and the sky changing overhead. I try to take every opportunity to enjoy with my children whenever we are on a lake.
If you happen to be in Sudbury in the winter instead, skating the city-maintained path on Lake Ramsay is a complete pleasure. Beginners and experts alike can enjoy the cleared path around the lake. Further, if you are a hockey player, there is nothing better than playing shinny. Finally, ice fishing is a whole industry in Sudbury, and you can rent huts and equipment to ensure you catch the most fish in the best spot. Expertise abounds all around town.
Canadiana is epitomized by small town Northern living. The simplicity of life, the beauty of nature, the one-industry towns, the love of hockey, and the embracing of the physical world through all four seasons are all characteristics of the town of Sudbury. The prices for Airbnb and hotels are far less than you would pay in most places in southern Ontario. The unique northern experience is worth the three-and-a-half-hour drive. Go see the great white north!
Entrepreneur and mom to four amazing kids
Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?
A: Because it was soda pressing.