Winter Wonderland?
June 12, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

White Christmas 2012 Edition: Sault Ste Marie, CAN? Advice from those in the know, please.

A handful of years ago I pulled out one of these sorts of guides to determine where the best place of finding a white Christmas within a 16 hour drive of Northern VA would be. We selected Conway, NH at the base of Mt Washington and loaded up the car with our ornaments and our dogs for a road trip. Trip report is here for those interested. We had a lovely, romantic, perfect getaway with tons of snow (incl on Christmas day) and the little postcard perfect community had a lot of holiday events incl a Christmas dinner. There was also a lot of outdoor winter events we took advantage of (snowshoeing, cross country skiing, cog railroad, horse drawn sleigh rides, etc).

We want to do it again, but we are adventurous sorts and would like to try a new location. Sault Ste Marie, CAN shows close to 100% chance of snow on Christmas morning (our #1 criteria) and is a 14.5 hour drive. But I know nothing about the location and google results don't really give me a good feel for how cozy/romantic/winter wonderland kind of place it is and how nice the people are. That's where you come in. I'd like to hear all about the town with regard to winter wonderland potential for a DINK couple arriving with 2 dogs in tow.
posted by TestamentToGrace to Travel & Transportation around Sault Ste Marie, ON (9 answers total)
Sault St. Marie is not noted for being romantic and cozy. It's a steelworking town.

I'm assuming you're starting from somewhere near Richmond, which puts both Ottawa and Quebec City within your 16 hour drive, and both of those are more likely to offer the kind of picturesque winter vacation you have in mind. Quebec City has a very high chance of snow on Christmas -- upwards of 95% according to Environment Canada, and it's got the kind of sleigh rides and old stone buildings atmosphere you'd probably want.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 AM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've only been to the US sault ste marie (my husband was stationed up there for a few years).

I find the locks fascinating, but they will be closed in December. In the summer it's kind of kitchy touristy. I can't imagine you won't have snow, if I'm remembering correctly there is a lot of snow from November onwards. Very good hiking, snowmobiling, and other outdoors activities in the area. I don't remember any cute country inns up there but then I didn't ever look for any. It is definitely a blue collar town, but the people we interacted with were very nice.

If you enjoyed New Hampshire, I would second the recommendation to go to Quebec though.
posted by lyra4 at 9:50 AM on June 12, 2012

I know that across the river in Sault St. Marie Michigan they've been promoting the tourism industry for at least a couple decades now.

Also as you probably recall from your trip to Conway, driving in the northeast at that time of year can be treacherous. You should at least drive THROUGH Michigan, as I-75 in the middle and eastern part of the state has got to be a lot nicer than trying to drive between the lakes, and around Huron, due to the lake effect (notice how many of the streams intersect your intended route if you plan on going through Canada). And at that point I guess I wouldn't bother crossing the bridge into the Canadian industrial town.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:58 AM on June 12, 2012

I've lived in the Soo, both sides. As far as I remember, the romantic-cozy comes from being snowed in and having a fireplace or wood stove. There is typical winter-stuff to be done, most of which we did in the backyard so sadly, I have no recommendations. A lot of the fun stuff is not around Christmas, like the Bon Soo carnival. Generally it is not a place I would go for what you are looking for, although it's certainly not an awful place.

The U.S. side, incidentally, is the only place in the country I've ever experienced racial harrassment, although both sides are overall nice.
posted by sm1tten at 10:12 AM on June 12, 2012

One of my aunts has a chalet at Searchmont ski resort, a half hour out of the Sault. It's always had snow at the holidays and would be a very nice way to spend a weekend. My aunt goes up there every year for the torch-carry night ski on New Years.
posted by bonehead at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2012

If you want to stay kind of in that general area, how about Petoskey or Traverse City, Michigan? A couple hours south, but touristy and beautiful at the same time. They both get quite a lot of snow.

(I've only been to the Soo one time, overnight, about 15 years ago)
posted by getawaysticks at 1:09 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

For whatever it's worth -- and it shouldn't be much, if you want my opinion -- the locks should be open on and about Christmas Day. I don't know whether saltwater vessels are doing business that late in the season (though I suspect they are) but the Great Lakes fleets run until something like the beginning of February, when the Detroit River becomes impassable.

I never stayed in the Soo myself, but I worked as a deckhand for a while and went through the locks something like 90 times, and my impression of the town was not that it would be a good place for a family holiday. Not if you don't know people in town, that is. It's a small working town and likely quite insular.

I second getawaysticks re: alternate destinations in the area. You might consider Marquette, Michigan, if you're willing to drive a bit further, or Mackinac City if you decide to drive up through the lower peninsula. I present Mackinac City with the caveat that, with the main tourist season over, it may be a ghost town. It's hard to believe that they don't do it up for Christmas, though, and getting out to the island could be a treat.
posted by mr. digits at 6:12 PM on June 12, 2012

I grew up in the Sault and spend every second Christmas there. It is neither cozy, nor romantic, and definitely not worth a 14.5 hour trip. If my parents weren't still resident, I would happily never set foot there again.

I have heard that Stokely Creek--which is about another 45 minutes on after the international bridge into the Sault--is lovely, however, if you are into cross country skiing or snowshoeing. There just wouldn't be anything else to do for miles around.
posted by looli at 6:58 PM on June 12, 2012

Thanks for the sound advice everyone. Looks like we will stick with New Hampshire this year again or perhaps wander into Maine (I do love Quebec and have been there many times but it is definitely longer than a 15 hour drive from northern VA).
posted by TestamentToGrace at 2:53 AM on June 13, 2012

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