1. Niagara Falls
- Driving time from Toronto: 1.5 hrs
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 - 2- days
We'll start with the most well-known trip outside the city. From the heart of the city to the Canadian side of the falls, it's about a 1.5 hour drive. Seeing the falls is good for a day trip, or even an overnight stay. Niagara Falls, ON has lots to do with a street full of tourist entertainment (think casinos, haunted houses, mini golf, arcades, a wax museum, Ripley's Believe it or Not, etc.)
I know you're wondering, should I visit the Canadian (Niagara Falls, ON) or American (Niagara Falls, NY) side of the falls?
From my experience I've found the Canadian side is a little more tourist oriented, with lots of attractions built up with the tourists in mind, while the American side took a more minimalist approach. The American side of the falls is able to be viewed from a large park, and there's a few tourist attractions, but not as plentiful as on the Canadian side.
Also the view from the Canadian side is generally agreed upon to be better, but on the American side you can get superrrr close to the water just before it takes a tumble down the waterfall.
Keep in mind, I might very well be biased seeing that I'm Canadian, so clearly I prefer our side!
Want to visit the American side? It's just a few minutes longer to make the drive from Toronto, and then add some time for a wait at the border. You can check border wait times on this site.
2. Niagra-On-The-Lake + Winerys
- Driving time from Toronto: 1 hr 45 mins
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 - 3 days
Niagara-On-The-Lake, just a short scenic (30 min) drive down the road from Niagara Falls is the definition of charming. Every building will awe you with just how adorable it is. Yes, even the fast food restaurants, and convenience stores are beautiful structures.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is perfect for a walk down the main street during the day to window shop, and strolling the streets nearby to see some beautifully large, and impressive homes.
The Niagara region is also well known for its wine. There is plenty of opportunity to drive around to each winery yourself to stop in and do some wine sampling. Alternatively, many companies offer services to bus you around to the winery's, or if you're feeling more athletic, bike to them.
3. Lewiston, NY
- Driving time from Toronto: 1 hr 40 mins (+ time crossing the border)
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 day - 1 weekend
This little gem is the definition of small-town charm, just a quick drive from the Niagara Falls & Niagara-On-The-Lake areas.
I visited a friend living there a couple years ago, took one walk down the classic main street, and fell madly in love. It was voted #5 on Business Insider's 10 Best Small Towns in America, and this town loves a reason to celebrate.
The whole town comes out to attend the many events happening, primarily, over the summer months including as the Jazz Festival, and Peach Festival. See the full event line up here. (I wouldn't call myself a Jazz fan, but I did have a great time at the Jazz Festival - really it's a street party with jazz music).
I would personally suggest getting a drink at The Brickyard on the main street, and stopping at Water Street Landing for a meal overlooking the Niagara River. You'll find American flags flying from the front porch of every other quaint house on the blocks just off the main street, so be sure to go explore off the main road as well.
- Driving time from Toronto: 3 hrs (4+ hrs if going up on a Friday afternoon or coming back on a Sunday evening in the summer - the busiest time)
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 weekend - 1 week (OR as long as you can)
As you know well from my About page, my favourite place in the world is a dock overlooking the lake in cottage country, Ontario. Where exactly is cottage country? Muskoka is the definition of typical cottage country life, and the entire region is beautiful every month of the year. One visit, and I wouldn't be surprised if it became your favourite place in the world too.
Muskoka is spotted with sparkling blue lakes left and right, as well as cute shops, ice cream parlours, and friendly cottage-goers. Muskoka is the name of the region and includes the towns of Rosseau, Minnett, Port Stanfield, Bala, Bracebridge, Huntsville, and Gravenhurst.
Summer is the high season, (so expect higher prices), however Muskoka is also breath-taking in the fall when all the leaves change, and it a wonderful spot for a cozy romantic weekend, and a few winter sports during the colder months.
When you're in Muskoka, check out the Kee to Bala. It was a dance hall 70 years ago (where a friends grandparents met - "aweeee") and is still the spot to go to for a night out in the area. Every weekend of summer they bring in famous bands and musicians, so check the website for the line up.
For more on Muskoka, see this post.
5. Wasaga Beach
- Driving time from Toronto: 1 hr 45 mins (2+ hrs if going up on a Friday afternoon or coming back on a Sunday evening in the summer - the busiest time)
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 weekend
This popular summer spot on Georgian Bay is perfect for a good weekend party. It's the beach to go to outside the city, and the strip is filled with lots of restaurant and bars. Camping or renting a hotel or cottage is a great way to stay here.
Keep in mind during the weekends in June, high school students from around the province flock to Wasaga for their prom-weekend-after-party's.
Summer is the season to visit Wasaga, the party moves just a little down the road during the winter to...
6. Blue Mountain Village
- Driving time from Toronto: 2 hrs 10 mins
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 weekend - 1 week
Just 35 mins down the road from Wasaga Beach is the winter destination of choice for Ontarians, Blue Mountain in Collingwood. This destination, popular for the large ski/snowboard resort, Blue Mountain, provides the best skiing in the area. (Which, admittedly, the ski resorts in Quebec or Ottawa area are bigger and better - but those are 5-7+ hours from Toronto.) Blue Mountain, and the few other ski hills in the area (Horseshoe Resort, and Mt. St Louis Moonstone) are perfect to get outside of the city, get a few runs in, and have a couple drinks.
Blue Mountain has a little village to explore that resembles the famous Mt. Tremblant (in fact they're owned by the same company - Intrawest Resorts), and has a number of non-ski/snowboard activities available too.
7. Alqonquin Provincial Park
- Driving time from Toronto: 3 hrs
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 week
When you hear about Canada, you generally hear about how stunning the nature is. If there's just one park you visit in Ontario, make it Alqonguin. Bring your camping gear, or get set up with some at the outfitters nearby and/or in the park, because camping at Algonquin is an experience to remember for years to come.
For backcountry camping, you paddle through the many lakes to make it to your campsite, and enjoy the entire place almost entirely to yourself. You might pass by another canoer or two during the day, but otherwise, it's just you, sparkling blue lakes, and greenery. The option of drive-to camping is also available at many spots throughout the park.
8. Elora Gorge Park
- Driving time from Toronto: 1 hr 40 mins
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 day - 1 weekend
This park is perfect for a day trip or weekend camping stay. My favourite park of this park? The natural lazy river. Hop in a tube, and float the day away. It's a beautiful spot, and a relaxing way to hang out with friends or family. All the camping at Elora Gorge i drive-to, if you're not adventerous/experienced enough for the backcountry stuff.
9. Glen Williams + Credit River
- Driving time from Toronto: 1 hr
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 day
As you'll soon find out, I have a love of floating down rivers. This summer, as my mother was off hunting for a new house, we came into the adorable town of Glen Williams. She wanted to find a house or piece of land on the Credit River, so we spent the day driving through the town following the river. As we did, we noticed many people carrying floaties down to the river, and hopping on.
Obviously, I had to do it too, and so just a couple of weekends later a friend and I were on the river, making friends with the friendly residents, floating on down.
The town of Glen Williams itself is another one of those quaint towns (seems I have a love for those as well) with a bursting art scene. There's many shops and exhibits to be found in the town with everything from glass blowing to painting, to sculptures.
If anyone hears of some land or a house available on the credit river near/in Glen Williams, let me know. Mom is still looking for the perfect spot.
- Driving time from Toronto: 2 hrs
- Suggested Stay Length: 1 day - 1 weekend
Stratford is famous for two things.
- Being the hometown of Justin Bieber
- Being home to the areas theater performances
Stratford has a wonderful art scene, and the plays are extremely well done. A visit for a day to explore the town, and visit a show is a must. Visit www.stratfordfestival.ca for details on show tickets.
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