It seems as though the holiday season comes earlier each year. In the North Bay area, Christmas can come as early as March and as late as October. But how, you may ask? It’s thanks to the booming film and television industry in the region.
Although the city of North Bay has been welcoming film and television productions since 2009, over the last few years we've seen an increasing number of Christmas-themed productions filmed here. In fact, a whopping fifteen holiday pictures, often made for Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas series, have been shot in and around North Bay recently. With our historic downtown, beautiful shops, cathedrals, and scenic waterfront, it's easy to see why movie producers are flocking to North Bay! If you're lucky, you may bump into some of your favourite Hallmark Channel characters in and around towm–like actress Jen Lilley, who was spotted exploring North Bay with her sister on her last film shoot.
Here are the top 10 spots around North Bay where you can check out the locations of your favourite Christmas films.
Downtown North Bay
1. Main street westImage from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday
Producers are attracted to the city’s downtown core, more specifically the Main Street West area where historic buildings are easily transformed into specialty boutiques and shops. The vibrant downtown showcases a special “small-town” main street vibe. When those stores are dressed for Christmas it immediately transports viewers to their own childhood. Specifically, the morning after Santa leaves you presents during the night: your eyes are shining under the tree lights, gathering with your family, opening gifts, singing carols, happy and carefree–full of the Christmas Spirit.
You can catch these colourful downtown buildings in the following films: Christmas Inheritance (2017); Christmas in Angel Falls (2017); Return to Christmas Creek (2018); Angel Falls: A Novel Christmas (2019); Christmas in Love (2018); Last Chance for Christmas (2015); and Northern Lights of Christmas (2018). When you are exploring this location be sure to stop into all the fantastic shops along the way.
Located at 164 Main St West, the Opera Bakery Café has been used in 3 films as of late. The local favourite starred in Return to Christmas Creek as Pamela’s (played by Kari Matchett) restaurant. In Christmas in Angel Falls, the café is owned by couple Stan and Barbara Wilson. The restaurant also appears in the semi-sequel Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday. Take a seat, enjoy a coffee, and taste some of their famous desserts.
Located a short walk west of the cafe is the historic Capitol Centre, North Bay's performance centre for arts and entertainment. One of the last theatres left from the 1920s, the Capitol Centre is a hub for the arts that hosts local, national, and international artists such as North Bay's own Cory Marks, and is also home to the North Bay Symphony Orchestra. In A Veteran’s Christmas, which was shot in Huntsville and North Bay, Joe’s niece stars in the town Christmas play and yes, you've guessed it, this was filmed at the Capitol Centre.
4. North Bay Museum & Jack Burrows Plaza
About a three-minute walk from the Capitol Centre lives the North Bay Museum and the Jack Burrows Plaza. The museum has been used as multiple locations in many Christmas films. In the photo above, the museum played stand in for a bus terminal in both Christmas Inheritance and again in Christmas in Angel Falls. For the semi-sequel, Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday, this plaza transforms into the hub for all town holiday activities. Return to Christmas Creek uses this space for character Mike Ruggles' (portrayed by Stephen Huszar) toy drive. Most recently it was transformed into a Christmas market for actors Rachel Boston and Neal Bledsoe's characters in the upcoming TV movie A Christmas Carousel.
Take a trip in the summer months to visit the local award-winning Farmers’ Market in the plaza. Then hop into the museum to learn about the history of North Bay from the fur trade to the military to the lumber industry to the railways. Then, on the second floor, compare the Main Street of today versus the Main Street of yesteryear with the permanent immersive exhibit about North Bay Main Streets from the 1920s–1940s.
5. Oak Street West
The downtown scenes in A Veteran’s Christmas are split between North Bay and Huntsville (only an hour and 20 minutes away). If you want to walk where Grace and Joe do, stroll down Oak Street West, you can stop into one of the shops or spas. If you are starting to get a little hungry stop in at Lou Dawg's for some southern bbq eats.
Located at 480 McIntyre West you will find a picturesque location that is used as a backdrop in many holiday films. The cornerstone of the Pro-Cathedral was laid in June of 1904 and since then, this historic limestone building has been one of the most recognized in North Bay. It’s because of this that both Angel Falls movies have used aerial shots of North Bay with the Pro-Cathedral as a focal point for establishing scenes and transitions. The back half of the building, dubbed The Bishop’s Palace, was used in Christmas Inheritance as a centre for the silent auction and a dinner with Santa that the folks of Snow Falls were putting together. A recent restoration of the surrounding area allows people to rest their feet at one of the benches and take in the beautiful scenery, including Richard’s Fountain.
If you want to visit the restaurant that many of the White Deer residents in Christmas In Love flock to, check out North Star Diner on 348 Algonquin Avenue. This quaint café has also been featured in Christmas Inheritance, Northern Lights of Christmas, and A Veteran’s Christmas–those red stools are hard to miss! At North Star Diner, they serve locally inspired plant-based edibles so it’s safe for vegans and meat-eaters alike (at time of writing, the diner is temporarily closed due to Covid-19).
8. King's Landing
Christmas In Angel Falls features several waterfront scenes that include North Bay's local cruise ship. In fact, you can spot the Chief Commanda II in one scene (shown below). This 320-passenger, all-aluminum twin-hull vessel features 3 decks, 2 bars, handicap accessible washrooms, a snack bar, and an open-air BBQ. In the summer months, visitors can choose from five cruise options on Lake Nipissing and the French River, the shortest being 1.5 hours and the longest at 4.5 hours. Bring your camera to snap the scenic landscapes and your comfiest shoes for the live music that will have you dancing the cruise away.
9. Kiwanis Bandshell
Just before King's Landing, you’ll notice a green park space with a bandshell. This is the Kiwanis Bandshell–often used by local musicians and starting places for fundraisers. For Christmas In Love, this area was transformed for the White Deer Christmas Festival! The photo below is a behind the scenes peek–you can see how much goes into making a holiday film!
Again in A Veteran’s Christmas, the town’s holiday festival is truly a magical place. Characters Joe and Grace spend a romantic ride on a carousel. This is North Bay’s own Winter Wonderland Carousel located on the waterfront. The two leads sit in Santa’s sleigh, and viewers can spot a mountain lion and a chipmunk in the back. These creatures represent the ones found in our Northern Ontario rivers, lakes, and forests and were carved and painted by local artists. Hop on and enjoy your own winter carousel ride! (at time of writing, the carousel is temporarily closed due to Covid-19).
St. Andrew’s United Church plays a large role in Christmas In Angel Falls. Gabby Messenger (Rachel Boston) becomes the new volunteer coordinator at St. Andrew's (the name is kept in the movie) and hopes that will help with her overall mission to bring back the holiday spirit to Angel Falls. St. Andrew’s as it stands now was built in 1904 and has had various additions added on throughout the years. A large section, 16 to 20 feet, of the bell tower is being demolished and will eventually be replaced with an illuminated spire. This church is LGBTQ+ friendly and states that they take social justice issues to heart.
195 Regina Street
Originally built in 1908, 195 Regina Street (formerly the Ontario Northland Railway Offices has been used for two Christmas movies so far. In Christmas in Angel Falls, this building was transformed into the closed community centre. Gabby Messenger (Rachel Boston) is determined that the Angel Falls community centre must be reopened in time for the holidays. For Christmas In Love, it was used for the exterior of the Carlingson Bakery office in White Deer. When you come to visit, you may notice that the factory is missing–don’t worry you’re not in the wrong place, that factory was digitally added!
Used as a true turning point for one of the characters in Christmas Inheritance, the Green Store became a bus terminal in the film–producers even created a gas station to complete the effect. In reality, the Green Store is a lovely shop for giftware, gourmet preserves, and home décor. What they are most known for in the area is their ice cream parlour and homemade fudge. Come for a little shopping, some ice cream, and enjoy the view of Trout Lake from the decks.
Despite the pandemic, North Bay’s film industry is still going strong. When you arrive in North Bay, be sure to check out these spots, you never know who you might bump into.
Be sure to keep an eye out this holiday season for the December 19 premiere of A Christmas Carousel on the Hallmark Channel and the Women's Network.