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7 ways to ring in the new year in cottage country

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time of year, but with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy for New Year’s Eve to sneak up on you. So in case you find yourself in cottage country with no plans this year, here are some great ways to start 2016.

Celebrate in a stunning ski village

While Collingwood might not be considered cottage country to everyone, there is no denying that the area is absolutely picturesque in the wintertime. When Blue Mountain is lit up and covered in snow, the surrounding buildings look a bit like a life-size Christmas village.

Renting cabins and townhouses at Blue Mountain for New Year’s Eve isn’t exactly the most original idea in Southern Ontario, so it’s worth noting that the area is always busy and this plan is best suited for those looking for a crowd. There are five restaurant’s in the village’s core—ranging from casual to upscale—that offer New Year’s dinner or party plans with pre-purchased tickets.

For those of you who aren’t interested in shelling out the money for a rental property, tickets to Blue Mountain Inn’s NYE Party includes DJs, dancing, and a shuttle service to nearby areas including Wasaga Beach, Stayner, Thornbury, and Meaford. There are also free, family-oriented fireworks scheduled to go off at Mill Pond at 9 p.m., and an even larger show at midnight.

Get rustic in Algonquin

If you’re hoping to end your holidays with a little peace and quiet, a trip to the wilderness capital of Ontario is likely your best bet. Though the experience doesn’t come cheap, Algonquin Eco-Lodge will have you cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, and hiking before you even arrive at your destination. As a guest at a resort that prides itself on sustainability, you will have no access to TV, phone, or even laundry, but you will have access to the first carbon-neutral, waterfall-powered, lakeside hot tub in Central Ontario. Typical New Year’s festivities include enjoying a communally-built bonfire and fireworks on the lake, where guests can opt to take a dip in the frozen waters and join the International Polar Bear Club.

Soak up some Canadian heritage

Why not add a little history lesson to your New Year’s celebration? Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is the world’s largest fur trading post in North America. The post was extremely significant to Canadian and North American development in the 1800s and remains in pretty great condition after minimal restoration. This year, Fort William is hosting the New Year’s Eve Family Frolic, which includes free live entertainment, a bonfire, and fireworks, along with opportunities to skate, toboggan, and snowshoe. A long list of other snow-centric activities for kids include snow graffiti, winter golf, and a snowball slingshot.

Watch skiers light up the sky

Orillia’s Horseshoe Resort is a golf and ski club just north of Barrie in Ontario’s “Lake Country.” At 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, ski professionals and instructors light up the hill and the night sky by individually skiing or snowboarding down with torches, creating the “Torch Light Parade.” This free event is followed up by fireworks cascading over the ski hills.

Take a horse-drawn carriage through a festive display

More than 18 kilometres of Christmas lights, including 200 individual displays, are currently showcased in Owen Sound, Ontario, for the annual Festival of Northern Lights. The bright bulbs run along the Sydenham River and are undoubtedly impressive, especially for anyone who has struggled with a single string along their rooftop. If you’re looking for a little romance, you can take a tour of the lights by horse-drawn carriage, which are becoming an increasingly popular option over the holidays.

Skate the outdoor loop in Bruce County

If we could guarantee cold temperatures and snowfall straight through the 31st, skating the outdoor loop at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in Port Elgin would be pretty high on our list of ways to spend New Year’s Eve. Through the winter, the typical campground loop that exists in the summer (you know, the gravel path that takes you from your campsite to the washrooms) is flooded by a pickup truck, creating skating loop through the provincial park. Perhaps the best part, however, is that you can still camp at MacGregor Point throughout the winter, and you get to do it in a yurt.

Catch a show where Shania Twain got her start

If you’re interested in a more upscale evening, head to Muskoka’s Deerhurst Resort, which is one of the nicest in Ontario. The resort offers a ton of winter-themed activities, from snowmobiling to snowshoeing, and a handful of activities specific to New Year’s. There’s also the Waterhouse Theatre, which is where a young Shania Twain performed many moons ago. Today, in true New Year’s Eve fashion, the show includes a live show of popular musical hits, a buffet dinner, a DJ, and dancing.