Story by Waheeda Harris
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
OAKVILLE, ONTARIO — December should be a fun, joyful time — celebrating the season with family, friends and colleagues. The iconic Norman Rockwell-esque atmostphere of gently falling snow, strains of Christmas music and happy shoppers is what is in our mind’s eye and what we want to experience when we’re off to find that perfect gift.
But for many of us the reality is often long lineups, cranky staff and crowded mall stores that amplifty anxiety. For those of us who wouldn’t mind an escape from the big city, heading west to downtown Oakville will help conjure up that holiday spirit.
Best known to many 416 area-code dwellers as a “bedroom community” for Toronto, or a place to visit the grandparents, the town of Oakville, nestled between Mississauga and Burlington on the shores of Lake Ontario wants to change that perception, to become a destination for those of us who appreciate old-fashioned main streets.
Downtown Oakville is working on lures to bring locals and visitors to its stretch of Lakeshore Road East and surrounding streets, with more than 400 businesses working together to offer a better shopping experience. Their focus? Reminding visitors that an afternoon strolling the streets, popping into boutiques, art galleries or shops can be a pleasure, not a stress.
For Kathy Thomas, a business owner in downtown Oakville for more than 10 years and Events, Marketing and Sponsorship chair of the local BIA, she knows the key to making Oakville a destination is not just encouraging a shop-local mentality. “We’ve been compared to Niagara-on-the-Lake, but I want Oakville to set itself apart and become a place that’s habit-forming.”
A new logo, new signs along Lakeshore Road East (the main street) and a collaborative effort of BIA members to work together to encourage more locals and visitors to become regular patrons, as well as events throughout December, are aimed at encouraging people to leave the big boxes of suburbia to explore the quaint offerings of this town’s shopping district.
Best of Downtown Oakville:
Stylish ladies and gentlemen will appreciate the numerous offerings to find wardrobe worthy gifts. Take time to peruse the elegantly curated racks at Zuri Fashions for work or casual clothing or find some fun, trendy additions at Want Boutique for women. Men will appreciate the contemporary masculine offerings at Johnathan Quinn, as well as the consummate service and career-making suits at M for Men.
Need something for the budding chef in the family? To Set a Table has got you covered with gadgets, tabletop items and cookware to please a hostess, while Just an Olde Fashioned Butchery and Seafood has high-quality meat and seafood for holiday entertaining, as well as tasty sauces and spices for the aspiring gourmand. House Warmings’ tactile offerings will help transform a house into a home for the holidays, and provide decorative gift ideas.
For those wee ones on the gift list, drop into Jacadi Paris for a holiday outfit or Pick of the Crop for the perfect storybook for bedtime.
And as a gift to yourself or for someone who’s got everything, consider some me-time idea — mediation or yoga classes at Akasha’s Den, or perhaps a body treatment or massage at Rosewater Spa, where there’s even room for two or more, with the spa’s VIP suite, a spacious, relaxing spot with fireplace.
And after hours of finishing off the gift list, sustenance can easily be found in the neighbourhood. For necessary caffeine, The Green Bean Coffee House (from $2) is a welcoming stop, while for a casual lunch, the Southside Cottage Grill offers classic pub faves (from $10). For those who want to experience classic Italian cuisine with a modern twist, make a reservation at the new addition to the strip, Salvatore’s. A satisfying three-course meal with wine (from $50) will be the perfect way to finish a day exploring Downtown Oakville.
If you’re looking for street food, you can join the line for Italian sausages from Just an Olde Fashioned Butchery. The grilling is done on the street corner outside of the storefront. Across the street, you’ll want to drop in on the Black Forest Pastry Shop for baked goods, including a tasty Yule Log ($31.95) that will satisfy up to 10 of your guests.
More about Downtown Oakville
General inquiries and business directory: http://www.oakvilledowntown.com/
Parking: Shopping patrons of Downtown Oakville can benefit from discounted parking with the town’s parking token program, providing $1 of free parking at municipal parking lots and meters.
Directions: heading west to Oakville from downtown Toronto via the Gardiner Expressway and the Queen Elizabeth Way, it can take from 35-40 minutes, longer during rush hour or if there is traffic. Visitors can also take Go Transit, from Union Station via the Lakeshore West Train ($6.85 one-way adult fare, with numerous daily options).