As of May 12, 2023, all restrictions on leisure crossings at the U.S.-Canadian border related to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak have been lifted. Travelers no longer have to provide proof of vaccination nor fulfill pre-clearance via any mobile web applications.
Watertown (NY) rolls out new dining and shopping
The popular Hobby Lobby store opened in the Salmon Run Mall just off I-81 and about 20 minutes drive from the border. Watertown’s downtown Public Square saw the launch of Starch, a trendy café housed in a long-ago laundromat with a retro vibe that includes antiquated furnishings including artifacts from places such as Boldt Castle. There’s also Empire Square, a contemporary bistro with a Prohibition-style bourbon bar that’s worth the foot traffic since it’s nearby favorites such as Spokes and Boots Brewing. Be sure to check out Northern Lights, an all-new event for 2022 located just outside Watertown in Evans Mills! The Evans Mills Raceway Park is hosting a drivable light show every Thursday-Sunday evening from American Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, through New Year’s Day! Load up the car and spend 15-20 minutes driving through a decorative light show! Admission is $20/vehicle and bus groups are welcome. More lights at the Zoo New York’s, Winter Wonder Lights, enjoy exploring the Zoo while it is lit up and decorated with holiday lights! Various winter activities and special guests will be hosted throughout the event every Friday and Saturday through December.
Clayton (NY) More Beautiful Than Ever
The riverfront community of Clayton underwent a massive facelift while the border was restricted. The downtown core removed all unsightly utility poles, added ornamental lighting, healthy trees and redesigned sidewalks to shine this crown jewel of the 1000 Islands region. A pedestrian walkway now lines the St. Lawrence River, allowing visitors to truly enjoy life along the water.
The View from Above
Only on the Canadian side can visitors to the 1000 Islands see the view from above. 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours flies everything from scenic cruises above Boldt Castle to winery stops! Yes…winery stops! Want to stay a bit more grounded but still see the islands from up high?
Cool town alert – Sackets Harbor (NY)
Located along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor underwent a bit a few changes for the better since border restrictions were put in place. The downtown hotel got a full rebrand but kept the same local ownership and now the Harbor House Inn boasts all new rooms, furnishings and fun like daily wine meetups with the owners. The Whiskey Coop, Battlefield Eatery and The Sandwich Bar all opened within the past year. Be sure to check out Sackets on your trip stateside. Christmas on the Farm returns to Old McDonald’s Farm Nov. 27, Dec. 10 and 11! Advance ticket purchase required to visit Santa on the farm along with real reindeer and holiday fun.
Cool town alert – Kingston (ON)
Historic Kingston still holds the title for coolest urban vibe in the 1000 Islands. With far too many to name, the Limestone City’s seemingly endless dining spots are a reason enough to visit. Add in breweries, fun and amazing retail and you’ll quickly learn that the past two years haven’t dulled Kingston’s shine.
Duty Free Savings
Two years of border restrictions limited traffic to Duty Free Americas and 1000 Islands Duty Free, meaning deals are awaiting savvy travelers looking to stock up on favorite spirits and wines, apparel and specialty food products. A duty free store flanks each border station so be sure to stop in before heading back home.
More Savings South of the Border
For Canadians heading into the States, there are savings to be had on retail goods. Each Canadian can being back $200 worth of American goods tax free and a 48-hour trip – think a weekend – allows each Canadian to bring back a whopping $800 in goods tax free!
If you know, you now! Crossing the Thousand Islands Bridge and getting onto either Highway 401 or the Thousand Islands Parkway to your favorite spot. Head to Brockville and check out he Aquatarium and for a bit to eat and a some cold beers at the 1000 Islands Brewing Company. Don’t miss the River of Lights on Blockhouse Island, thousands of lights dance in time to a music mix of classic holiday tunes and modern favorites. If craft beverages are your thing, be sure to check out BUSL Cider Company and neighboring Arbru Brewery – Canada’s first solar-powered brewery – in Mallorytown along the Parkway. Gan Brewing Co., Panache Bakery and other favorites are still in downtown Gananoque, just the way you remember. If heading west to Kingston, get ready to be reminded what a gem the Limestone City truly is with classic stops such as Riverhead Brewing.