Writer: Jim Bamboulis

It's a city often overlooked, even and especially amongst Ontarians. But Thunder Bay has, and continues to reinvent itself as a destination city for everything from outdoor adventures, and cultural immersion, to culinary experiences. Over the past few years, Lakehead has attracted visitors yearning for a change in travel routine, while expats have returned in droves, putting to practice their expertise learned abroad, eagerly and proudly ready to be a part of the city's evolving, strengthening heartbeat. Overlooked no more; come see for yourselves.

In CommonStart with coffee downtown at St. Paul Roastery. Pro tip: the 'Buford' is a 10oz medium roast plus 2oz of Espresso in one magical cup of java that will keep you alert for the entire day. Next door, and connected to the roastery is Swell Bakery, a place so enticing, people line up before it opens. Sweet and savoury delights await, including one of the most perfectly flakiest Croissants west of Quebec.

The Sal - pleasing palates since the mid-60s - is famous for everything from giant-sized breakfast platters to classics such as the loaded, and gravy-drenched 'Burger Nip', best eaten unconventionally with a knife and fork. Closer to downtown, Rooster's Bistro offers everything from sandwiches and burgers, to bowls and wraps. But, its 'Breakfast Eggstravaganza' features items such as Stuffed French Toast, Steak and Eggs, and The Viking Benny complete with 4oz of Norwegian Salmon.

For lunch or dinner, In Common is a chill resto-bar with exotic cocktails and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, including the Dream Bowl with grilled halloumi, turmeric, and maple tahini dressing, while down the street, Tomlin Subdivision offers snacks and salads, but features a wide selection of thick-crust Detroit-style Pizza, prepared, sauced, boxed, and served. For a more intimate experience, pop into Picnicki, and pick up a curated picnic basket, loaded with everything from sandwiches and salads to artisanal chocolates and even locally made S'mores kits with portable campfires.

Pro tip: For a relaxing, filling experience, a trip to Kangas Sauna is a must. Part sauna, part 'Little House of Pancakes', it's best to hit the sauna first and build up your appetite, then order their famous Finnish pancakes with strawberries and real whipped cream!

Sailing with Sail SuperiorMeander along the waterfront, or take a soothing sailboat ride around the harbour courtesy Sail Superior. On Red River Road, Goods & Co. Market is a woman-led hub for everything from local food and beverage to merchandise. West of the city, hop into Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, the first Gouda farm in Ontario, for award-winning Gouda that's cherished worldwide.

Outside of the city is where nature takes over. To the west, thundering Kakabeka Falls - the Niagara of the North, while to the east, the hikes, trails, and vistas of awe-inspiring Sleeping Giant Provincial Park beckon. For those yearning for an adrenaline rush, Outdoor Skills and Thrills - led by Aric Fishman and his team of qualified instructors - offers exceptional rock-climbing experiences for everyone of all ages, and skill levels.

Bask in the beauty of Ouimet Canyon, complete with panoramic views of the 150m wide gorge, sheer cliffs, and arctic plants at the base. Walk the 600-foot suspension footbridge - Canada's longest - at Eagle Canyon Adventures, and visit Amethyst Mine Panorama for guided tours, and a chance to pick your own amethyst.

Anemki-wajiw, also known as Mount McKay, towers almost 1000 feet, and offers incredible views of the city, shore, and mountains. Considered sacred ground by the Fort William First Nation, it's still used for sacred ceremonies by the Ojibwe. Meanwhile, go deep into history at Fort William Historic Park, a sprawling, hands-on, interactive, and fascinating heritage attraction that details how the fort came to be, the role it played during the fur trade, and the story of its modern reconstruction.

Room at The Courthouse HotelLike a beacon atop the hill, The Courthouse Hotel looks over the city like a protector. Beautifully transformed from a Superior Court of Justice into an elegant 40-room boutique hotel, it's a mix of classical revival and modern design. Leisurely luxurious, it offers lovely views of Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant, and is walking distance to all restaurants, shops, nightlife, and attractions  both downtown, and along the water.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) is an organization that works to restore, preserve, and maintain lighthouses along the north shore. One in particular - Porphyry Island and Lighthouse - is open to charter trips, allowing visitors to explore, and enjoy the volcanic island while learning more about its century-old history. Stay in the 1940s-era, 3-bedroom light-keepers’ dwelling, complete with rustic wooden floors, kitchen, bathroom, and even a sunroom. Enjoy complete tranquility with unobstructed views of the Superior sunset, Milky Way skies, and the sound of gentle waves crashing ashore.

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