Mark Clairmont |

BALA — It’s not like it’s been a couple of millennia, but the Bala’s Trek to Bethlehem is just past a quarter of a century old.

And if you haven’t made the trek to Bala for it, your’re truly missing one of greatest attractions in Muskoka — with a colourful, friendly cast of more than 100 period-costumed actors.

And 2019 should be your year to experience the moving pageant that moves you along with it.

This year it’s Dec. 7.

Ask anyone who’s attended and they all rave about the hour-long night-time guided tour of the back streets of Bala that takes you back to the birth of the baby Jesus.

It’s a fun night that starts with a warm welcome in the Community Centre across from the arena and legion.

There, you’ll be greeted with a choir of carollers and warm cider as you meet your guide who will conduct the candle-lit tour.

Then it’s out for a short stroll and a almost a dozen stops along the way, including at the fiery camp of the three kings, some angels, a farm yard, past the centurions post and into the city of Bethlehem where there’s a huge market and more — all leading up to the stable where Mary and Joseph found comfort at there was no room at the inn.

So, amid the hustle and bustle of December shopping and all the challenges of the holidays, why not take a break to learn and really enjoy the true historical meaning of Christmas.

This year, come to the hamlet of Bala and “Tour the Trek!”

If you’re looking for a family-friendly Christmas event this season, join the community of Bala as it presents the 26th annual Trek to Bethlehem on Saturday, Dec. 7, three weeks from this coming weekend.

It’s a miraculous circle of Bala streets, which will be darkened, lit only by friendly fire pits. As the area is transformed into a Biblical village where visitors journey back in time to experience what the first Christmas night might have looked, sounded, and felt like.

The tours start at the Bala Community Centre at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Guests soon enjoy singing Christmas carols inside. Each guest is handed a decree stating that they are summoned to the City of their Fathers ‘to be counted’ and to pay their taxes.

Departing in small family groups, guests are led by a costumed guide, escorting them around the incredible Trek.

Along the route visitors will meet up with an impressive cast of biblical characters: Three Magi are encountered with their wealth and gifts for the Messiah. An astonishing choir of angels predict the future in song.

Families then journey on, greeting shepherds, avoiding Roman soldiers and a lonely leper, finally arriving at the tax collector’s tent to be counted and to pay taxes.

After touring the magnificent marketplace, the infamous Inn, and encountering a prophet, groups continue on to the miracle of the manger scene.

The journey ends at Jerusalem Inn, better known as the Bala Arena, where families enjoy warmth, hot chocolate and cookies.

While donations are welcome, there is no charge. The Trek to Bethlehem has been a Christmas gift from the Town of Bala since 1993. Please dress accordingly – The Trek is an outside walk.

For more info, contact Pat Gidley at 705 762 3405 or email her at

Or the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commcerce at 705 762 5663;

You can see mor at their Facebook page:

Email Mark Clairmont at


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