Baby, it’s cold outside! To ward off the winter chills, we at York Durham Headwaters invite you to get out and revisit the thrill of bygone days, gorge on delicious foods, and quaff tantalizing brews that our region has to offer. The Prohibition Era of the Roaring Twenties began a century ago, but the teetotalers of the temperance movement were actively decrying the evils of alcohol for decades before the demon drink was officially outlawed. Our region is rich in temperance history, a legacy that has grown and inspired a talented corps of craft brewers, distillers and winemakers. These modern-day bootleggers are now producing their innovative, creative, and even award-winning libations entirely above-board—thanks to the tenacity and daring of their renegade predecessors.
To celebrate the ingenuity and innovation of our contemporary artisans, and to honour the temperance-era history of our region, we have created our immersive YDH Temperance and Temptation experience. While we may not be able to offer this experience as it was meant to be before COVID-19, there is still so much that you can explore from the safety of your own vehicle. Don’t let winter keep you bored and indoors. Get out, learn our unique temperance history, and warm your belly with some of our tantalizing brews.
Haven’t heard of our Temperance and Temptation experience? Let us tell you all about it.
If you’re interested in our Self-Guided Temperance and Temptation tour, then there is no need to book an appointment. Just jump in your jalopy and go. In this time of social distancing, you don’t need to worry about crowds, lineups and maximum capacities. Our do-it-yourself tours let you take an authentic journey through our region’s Prohibition past at your own pace. However, if you are comfortable with getting out of your vehicle to explore, we have a number of great stops lined up for you to consider. Many of these locations are still open during COVID-19 and are operating with modifications to comply with health and safety measures (please check ahead for individual availability, of course).
Your self-guided tour comes with accompanying audio tracks to bring the era to life. Each of our three regions has its own unique tour, since each region has its own particular history. For example, did you know that the rail lines of North Durham were instrumental in moving goods to and from the Gooderham and Worts Distillery in Toronto? Or that in East Garafraxa Township of Headwaters, local legend Bob Cook was a real, notorious bootlegger with an illegal still in Mud Lake? These stories and more await you on your Temperance and Temptation road trip. Check the links below for details:
Detours to Consider
Of course, our Temperance and Temptation experience is about so much more than just driving and listening. If you are comfortable making stops with the necessary COVID-19 safety measures, we’ve curated some great points of interest to enhance your journey. Here is what we have for each of our three regions (once again, please check in with each venue to ask about their particular capacities, availabilities and requirements).
Detours in York
Magnotta Winery – At its flagship location in Vaughan, you are invited to sample Magnotta’s Vidal Icewine and take a tour of the facilities where award winning wines, beers, ciders and spirits are expertly crafted for your enjoyment. Like its Prohibition predecessors, this local business overcame enormous obstacles to be welcomed by an industry which, at the time, did not celebrate the small-scale producer. Today, Magnotta has proven the virtue of tenacity, and a rebellious spirit can bring about welcome and celebrated change.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection – We admit that the McMichael in Kleinburg isn’t specifically connected with the Prohibition Era… but it’s still a great place to stop and explore. The spiritual home of The Group of Seven (whose alliance coincidentally flourished during the same years as Prohibition, 1920-1933) this boutique gallery holds a permanent collection of over 6,500 works of Canadian art. You can also explore the surrounding grounds and trails, with sculpture garden, historic buildings, and a breathtaking view of the Humber River Valley as you work up an appetite for…
Hungry Brew Hops Good Eats Co. – This traditional pub offers craft food and craft beer with a spin. Enjoy a rotating beer menu of over 30 different varieties on tap—if that doesn’t make their bootlegger predecessors proud, we don’t know what will.
Detours in Durham
The Port Social – This wonderful vintage pub is all about making memories over your favourite tapas, beers, cocktails, wine and spirits. Continuing in the traditions of yesterdays, this pub will provide you and your fellow Temperance and Temptation friends with the best atmosphere, service and selection of fine spirits and expertly crafted cocktails. With an inspired staff, there is always something new happening.
Bistro ’67 – You are sure to have a memorable field-to-fork dining experience within Durham College’s award-winning W. Galen Weston Centre for Food (CFF). Here community, local agriculture and learning come together. Visit Bistro ’67 for a dining experience that will delight your palate while supporting the next generation of culinary and hospitality professionals. Bistro ’67 is a 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant and holds a Feast ON designation in recognition of its use of local food and beverage.
Detours in Headwaters
Hockley General Store – This quaint store is a throwback to a time when the village general store was the hub of goods and gossip. With unique gift ideas, a liquor store, coffee shop and restaurant, the Hockley General store is a must-see with an urban savvy.
Mono Cliffs Inn – Opened in 1853, the “Cliffs” operated as a general store for over a century. Since then, the store has been reanimated as an inn, where exceptional food and cozy atmosphere are offered in a gorgeous country setting. The downstairs pub is a favourite with the locals, complete with a toy train running above and behind the bar. Be sure to poke your head into the wine cellar while you’re there—this would have been the perfect spot for secret imbibing of forbidden giggle water during Temperance.
Alton Mill Arts Centre – Home to 25 studio artists, a mill pond, backwoods trails and a thundering waterfall, this Headwaters gem is also a heritage museum and unique shopping experience that is well worth the detour! Explore the beautifully restored, longest-running water-powered mill on Shaw’s Creek and learn about Alton’s unique milling history.
Forks of the Credit Inn – Believe it or not, this is the site of a real speakeasy that operated as an illicit establishment from 1916 to 1950. As Caledon’s first brewery, this stop is rich in the history of bootlegging. In addition to being situated next to the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park and Belfountain Conservation Area, Forks of the Credit Inn is your escape to nature with countless hiking trails nearby to spend your time enjoying the surroundings and reflecting on the area.
Sadly, in these times of COVID-19, we have had to suspend our popular guided tours. But we still want you to know about them. Hopefully, when we make it through this difficult time, we will be able to offer our storied experience once more, and we are looking forward to planning some great trips.
Experience the secret stories of Ontario’s silent still. Take a guided journey back in time when the dry days of abstinence led to illicit thirsty nights filled with toe-tapping music, tasty food, hotsy-totsy dancing and plenty of giggle water. Complete with colourful characters from the era (or, you know, our fine actors looking “sharp” in period “glad rags”), our tours have historically included both day options as well as overnight stays.
We will continue to update you on the progress of our guided Temperance and Temptation tours, so be sure to check in and see what new trips are available here.
Accommodations and More!
Whichever tour you take and wherever you end up, we hope you spend the day getting lost in our region’s rich bootlegging history and our modern-day descendants. Want to turn your day into an overnight stay? We’ve got all the links for accommodations in one place to make it easy for you. No matter where on the tour you end up, you’ll be close to one of our hotels, inns, or bed and breakfasts. Check out what’s around:
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Plan ahead and safely. Please check with all the businesses for hours of operation and protocols.
Story by Katherine Ryalen