Just one and a half hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, near Kitchener and Waterloo, lies Ontario’s Mennonite Country, complete with working farms, picturesque towns, Ontario’s last wooden covered bridge, and a huge market full of fresh food, antiques, and flea market finds. St. Jacobs Farmers’ & Flea Market is open Thursday and Saturday from 7am to 3:30pm year round, and Tuesdays during the summer months. You can find anything imaginable at St. Jacobs Market – from cheap sunglasses and hats to beautiful handmade wooden furniture. While the market has lots of great finds, beware if you cannot handle crowds – this place gets packed!
Fresh cheeses, meat, eggs, breads, baked goods, maple syrup and honey are some of the best items to purchase at the market, and if you near closing time (say between 2:00-3:30) you can get some great deals as many vendors cut prices. Buyer beware: while most of the food is local, there are also a few importers so avoid vendors that are really cheap or sell things that just don’t grow in Ontario (bananas anyone?!).
Make sure you don’t leave without trying an apple fritter! The line is always long but it moves pretty quickly. Two apple fritters with two scoops of ice cream is $4 and great for sharing…or not!
Stop by the Market Road Antiques, which is open daily from 10am-6pm and right across the street from the Farmers Market, to find some really cool items like beautiful jewelry, vintage records and retro furnishings. If you get tired of shopping and eating, there are always pony rides for the kids and horse & buggy tours of Mennonite farms for everyone (learn how maple syrup is made!).
If you would like to extend your day visit to a full weekend, the town of St Jacob’s is absolutely adorable and has even more shops, some great walking/hiking/biking trails along the Conestogo River, and several galleries/exhibits including the story of Home Hardware, which was founded and still has its headquarters in St Jacobs. Consider staying at one of the quaint B&B’s in the area and enjoy a weekend getaway from the city.