If you were to go far enough South on the 401 West, you would eventually run out of road – or accidentally hop onto the Ambassador Bridge – and come across the city of Windsor. “Canada’s Detroit,” some people call it; to others it’s “Ford City,” or the “City of Roses.” It may be because of the overwhelming employment in the auto industry – leading to the Chrysler and Ford loyalists – or the American youth coming to downtown Windsor to take advantage of the lower drinking age.
The Detroit River is a small border, but the colourful Detroit city skyline featuring the towering GM building can be the winner for some when visiting Windsor. The locals see the appeal; they aren’t fazed by the overwhelming Caesar’s Windsor and light shows that can be seen from across the city – instead they comment on never swimming in the river. Not only is it illegal, but you may come out of there with an extra limb and scales.
You could take a drive down Riverside, the more wealthy of the neighbourhoods that follow the river, and end up into Lake Saint Clair, passing by Hiram Walker’s and being assaulted by the sickly sweet brewing yeast. Take a walk downtown where, unless it’s 2 a.m., the few blocks of office buildings and scattered pubs, tattoo parlours, and bars will be a dead end. Although you may run into Feather Hat Guy – Windsor’s cordial celebrity who does, in fact, wear a wide brimmed hat adorned with feathers. The friendliest of old street men, he walks the varying streets of the downtown area wearing a backpack or two over his olive green vest, always glad to receive a cheerful greeting. One year, during the weekend of the Windsor Pride Parade, festival goers could be seen walking around with rainbow flags; as a particular group of wide-smiling locals pass by, Feather Hat Guy is heard asking them,
“What country is that for?”
Surrounded by the Great Lakes, and the most southern city in Canada, Windsor is often grouped together with its surrounding towns, Lakeshore, LaSalle, Tecumseh, Amherstburg, Kingsville, and Essex.
It can get pretty humid during the summer – so whether you take the weekend to cool off by fishing along the campgrounds of Leamington, visiting Jackson Park where all prom photos are taken every year, getting ice-cream with your loved one by the Detroit River, leave yourself plenty of extra time. Windsor is unfortunately also known for its habitual, soul-sucking construction that seems to never leave. Not to mention if you want to partake in the great deals in all shopping across the border, it can take a couple hours at times to get across the bridge or the tunnel.
If you feel like taking a walk through Windsor’s history, you could also take a trip to the distillery headquarters of Canadian Club whiskey and go on the Prohibition tours they offer. Windsor is the home of many still standing Speakeasies where you can learn a bit about the famous rum runners Windsorites were. Learn about the bootleggers and the ingenious ways they would smuggle liquor across the Detroit river during the Roaring 20’s, along with tales of the secret tunnels to the river and passage ways to hidden rooms where even local politicians revelled in the illegal gambling and drinking.
Now, Windsor may be over looked – even locals in Detroit sometimes ask us how the weather is right across the river, as if they suspect I, too, live in an igloo like the rest of Canada. I may have been asked about my “American” accent a time or two, or others are amazed (or terrified) at how close I live to the Ambassador Bridge, and therefore the horrors of the US, and Windsor is still somehow seen as the friendly Canadian version of Detroit.