Growing up in the GTA, one of my favourite school trips was to Casa Loma. With all its rooms and all its mystery and history, I didn’t know at that age that homes could be so grand.
Who knew that Oshawa had its own version? Parkwood Estate. Located just beside Lakeridge Health Oshawa Hospital, Parkwood Estate is a focal point of the Oshawa community that has something of an exclusive reputation. Parkwood was the home of General Motors founder Samuel McLaughlin and his family from 1917 to 1972. It is now heralded as a national historic site and is well preserved.
On August 2nd, in very rare form, the grounds were open to the public. As the website boasted, “Parkwood does not allow picnics to be held on the grounds except for this one ticketed picnic per year. Here's your chance to picnic on the expansive grounds for one time only!” A friend and I bought our tickets, packed our picnic, and arrived at the grounds. We were told to explore and enjoy the 11 acres of outdoor space. Rabbits leapt from well-manicured tree to well-manicured tree, likely trying to avoid the picnickers. We walked the stone path and eventually landed upon a sprawling landing overlooking a fountain, hedges, flowerbeds, and more manicured grass. We walked down.
Blanket splayed, we sat among the greenery while also thinking deeply about how spaces like this seem inaccessible to some, if not most. Kids played in the gravel, and families of all kinds made themselves at home. It was a display that I think could only happen because we were outdoors: we put our bums in seats, put our feet on the furniture, laughed loudly, and really relaxed into the opulence of “this is not ours, but tonight we will relish in it.” The summer event lasted from 6 to 9 p.m., with sunset descending on us.
The grounds had many corners that were fit for weddings, photo ops, and other botanical displays of the success begot from starting General Motors in Oshawa, a generations-long institution. If you are a business owner, it may also please you to know that you can host corporate events at Parkwood and give your employees a welcome change of scenery, the opportunity to build with the local community, and an environment in which workers can dream beyond what their eyes can see. Prosperity has to become available to us all.
Typically operating as a museum, there are several opportunities to take part in a tour, paint night, candle making, succulent workshops, flower arrangement making, and high teas. On Saturday, September 23, from noon until 4 pm, Parkwood will even host a Beer Fest. As a local, doors like these may often feel closed to us. As summer ends and we fully embrace the spooky season and winter months, there are lots of family-friendly reasons to visit Parkwood Estate and know that we, the community, belong in places like Parkwood too.
As an adult, one show I treasure is Schitt’s Creek, a comedy I don’t need to explain. It is a runaway hit! Like Goodwood, Parkwood is a tourist location that attracts several visitors annually because of the many films that have been shot on location. Even when planning my trip to Parkwood for the picnic, I had to pay attention to the dates that they would be closed for filming. That being said, take a look at their website sooner than later to see what events you can attend!
With our 10% off coupons in hand, we passed one of the various greenhouses and walked into the gift shop. There were chachkies of all kinds, ranging from housewares to Halloween socks, to stationary, to plushies for the kids. The souvenirs were cozy and reminded us that Oshawa has many ways to make us feel comfortable, take us away from the bustle of work and traffic, and instead transport us into a green space fit for decadence. We brought homemade finger foods, of course. Even us, the gritty grunge kids from the fringes, found ourselves letting loose among the flowerbeds. Souvenirs in hand, we headed home to enjoy the full moon, hearts and bellies full.