Arts·I He(art) My City

An artist's guide to falling in love with Sudbury: Blueberries, 'yard sailing' and maker markets

It's not just a mining town. Videographer Brandon Gray celebrates the food and drink, nature, and creative community that make him proud to live here.

It's not just a mining town. Brandon Gray celebrates Sudbury's food and drink, nature, and creative community

(CBC Arts)

Everyone knows about the art scenes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — but what about Lethbridge, Sudbury or Victoria? In CBC Arts's new series "I He(art) My City," a local artist offers an insider's guide to the city they call home. Here, videographer and photographer Brandon Gray shows you his Sudbury.

When out-of-towners think of Sudbury, they remember the dirty days of the '70s. Well, times have kind of changed. We've got trees, lakes on lakes on lakes and a thriving, creative community driven to make Sudbury a place to be proud of. I was born and raised in Parry Sound, Ontario — a small blue-collar town nestled on the shores of Georgian Bay. When I moved to Sudbury after high school to study, I home. Sudbury has all the charm you'd expect from a small town and all the comforts you'd expect from a small city.

Sudbury is a mining town through and through. As luck would have it, a meteor decided to settle down in our region nearly 2 billion years ago, leaving behind rich deposits of nickel and copper. We quickly became the top nickel producer in the world, but mining and smelting processes during the first half of the 20th century obliterated all vegetation in the region. Our landscape was ruined. (Honestly, Google that shit.)

Fortunately, smelter technologies changed in the '70s and the city, along with the help of literally every resident, began its regreening efforts. Since 1978, we've treated 3400 hectares of land with crushed limestone and planted almost 10 million trees. Our crater looks and feels like a Northern Ontario town again with lush forests and thriving lakes, and we appreciate it. Like, really, really appreciate it.

Here are a few of my favourite things to do in Sudbury:

Get your blueberry pick on

(Brandon Gray)

One summer day when I first moved to Sudbury, I came across an apocalyptic scene. I was driving along a highway and noticed dozens of abandoned cars parked along the shoulder. I had no idea what was going on — until I saw someone emerge from the forest toting baskets overflowing with blueberries. Sudburians are miners first and blueberry pickers second. The city's lowbush blueberries thrive in poor soil and grow on hills damaged by the smelting processes of the past. Basically, blueberries were one of the first native plant species to return to the Sudbury region and they are everywhere. So grab a basket and wander off into the bush. You'll easily find some in July and August.

(Brandon Gray)

Go full send on a can of Stack beer

(Brandon Gray)

Stack is Sudbury's local craft brewery and affectionately named after the Inco Superstack (pictured above). The superstack is the tallest chimney in the Western Hemisphere and graciously dominates our skyline. Stack makes great beer and their wide selection can be found at most bars in Sudbury or at their local retail shop. They also have pretty good distribution in LCBO's across Ontario, so you can pick up a can of Stack wherever you need to send it.

Get cultured at Up Here Festival

(Brandon Gray)

Up Here Festival is one of our prides and joys. Run by a handful of local keeners, Up Here is an urban art and music festival held every August in Downtown Sudbury. The festival brings in muralists from around the world to paint pieces across the city, and has helped transform our downtown into a larger-than-life art gallery. The festival also curates some of the best music programming a group of people with excellent music taste and a limited budget can buy. (This year they've got Charlotte Day Wilson, Patrick Watson, Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois and a bunch of other great artists performing.)

Muck a burg at Deluxe

(Brandon Gray)

Deluxe is a Sudbury fast-food institution. You want a solid chicken on a bun? Hit up Deluxe. You want a dependable cheeseburger for cheap? Hit up Deluxe. Their fries and shakes are bomb too.

Shred some trails on a mountain bike

(Brandon Gray)

Sudbury has hundreds of kilometres of mountain bike trails with a wide range of skill levels. It's a great way to explore the city, see the lakes and get your sweat on. Head over to The Outdoor Store to rent a helmet and a bike. They'll give you all the encouragement you need and will help you find a trail that suits your ability.

Buy other people's junk at yard sales

(Brandon Gray)

What do you get when you cross a gigantic blue collar community with the excessive buying habits of our parents' generation? The perfect storm for yard sailing. Seriously, get your asses out of bed on Saturday morning, slam a cup of joe and get in your car. Follow the handmade signs stapled to hydro poles or just look for houses with a bunch of cars parked out front. Looking for a bargain? Haggle. We're pretty nice up here.

Rip a hike

(Brandon Gray)

Sudbury is an absolutely beautiful city. We've got hiking trails winding around lakes, across rivers, through marshes and up hills, all within city limits. It doesn't matter where you live or where you're staying in Sudbury — you're probably less than a kilometer from a trail. Check out the Rainbow Routes Trail Map to see what's around.

See what's happening at the Art Gallery of Sudbury

(Brandon Gray)

Located in a historic mansion previously owned by lumber barron William J. Bell, the Art Gallery of Sudbury is an important part of our arts community because it's more than just a visual gallery. The AGS is an educational hub, offering art classes for every age and skill level, and it's home to new exhibitions every month, many of which blend contemporary art with local history and culture.

Peace out in a kayak

(Brandon Gray)

Did I mention that we've got lakes? Hit up the Laurentian University Outdoor Centre to rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddle boards.

Get some grub at Tucos

(Brandon Gray)

Sudbury isn't really known as a culinary destination, but there are a few spots doing it just right and Tucos Taco Lounge is one of them. They serve authentic Mexican and Central American vegan dishes, but don't let the vegan title scare you away. Veg or not, it's straight-up great food. They source many of their ingredients locally and even grow some of their own herbs. If it's your first time, get the buffalo tempeh tacos or (AND) the sopes. They have a great cocktail program, a really good beer selection and one of the best patios in the city.

Check out Makers North

(Brandon Gray)

Makers North is a community organization that runs handmade markets, art shows and maker meet-ups. Their markets are home to some of the best makers in Sudbury and it's kind of like a craft show for people with fine arts degrees.

More local arts essentials:

Check back every week as we add new guides!

About the Author

Brandon Gray is a filmmaker and photographer from Northern Ontario. When he’s not chasing sunsets he can usually be found on a basketball court.