BY: NICOLE DEFOREST
With the warm weather upon us and the kids out of school, summer is the season to explore your own backyard and travel locally and with Canada 150, there’s no better time. Whether you’re spending the weekend or simply taking a day trip, Ontario has much to offer. Here are some budget-friendly family getaways from Toronto.
Be a tourist in your own city and discover the attractions you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had the time. Summer holidays call for a trip to Canada’s Wonderland or Medieval Times. Go up the CN Tower, visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario or St Lawrence Market, to name a few. Hike, cycle, or canoe on Toronto Island, or enjoy some down time at the beaches or harbourfront. Or, simply take a stroll through one of Toronto’s vibrant neighbourhoods like the Distillery District, Chinatown, or Yonge and Dundas.
About two hours from Toronto, Niagara Falls offers plenty of fun activities like arcades, wax museums and haunted houses, not to mention the awe-inspiring sight of the Falls itself. Enjoy the excitement of Clifton Hill with all of its attractions like the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Take a boat cruise to get close to the Falls or board the Niagara SkyWheel observation deck to soar above it all. If you’d like to stay active, enjoy a visit to a waterpark for slides and splashes or Marineland to spot beluga whales. Plus, with historic museums, botanical gardens, and the pretty town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, this family-friendly destination suits every interest.
Just an hour from Toronto on the way to Niagara Falls, Hamilton boasts fantastic restaurants, over 100 beautiful waterfalls, and kid-friendly museums. With almost 50 km of city-owned trails, pack your running shoes and go for a hike (Dundas Peak is especially beautiful). Visit attractions like the Royal Botanical Gardens (Canada’s largest), the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Dundurn Castle, or stroll through one of the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods including James Street, Locke Street or the quaint town of Dundas. You can even visit the first ever Tim Hortons.
Visit the nation’s capital for an educational jaunt and beautiful scenery. Must-sees include Parliament Hill, Byward Market, Rideau Canal, Royal Canadian Mint and plenty of museums like the Canadian War Museum, National Gallery of Canada to admire work from the Group of Seven, and the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Pack a picnic and enjoy the sunshine and many green spaces as you explore all that Ottawa has to offer.
Enjoy a lakeside relaxing getaway in the Muskoka and Algonquin Park region, less than three hours from Toronto. Known for its stunning natural surroundings, waterfalls, and outdoor activities, families can visit the Muskoka Discovery Centre, enjoy a speciality kids cruise with the Muskoka Steamships and walk through parts of the Group of Seven’s outdoor gallery to see the beauty that inspired their work. Algonquin Provincial Park is the spot for camping, biking, boating, canoeing, fishing, white water rafting and wildlife watching. The Dorset Observation Tower and Lions Lookout Park both provide beautiful views of Algonquin.
Located on the Avon River in south-west Ontario, this historic town is celebrated for its music and arts scene, particularly its six-month-long Stratford Festival. Enjoy Shakespearean plays and other performances in the various theatres, taste your way through the Stratford Chocolate Trail and relax in the beautiful parks and gardens. Check out the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, McCully’s Hill Farm, 19th-century architecture, boat tours, Shakespearean Gardens, and other attractions in this picturesque city.
Enjoy swimming in the world’s longest freshwater beach with 14 km of sandy shores at Wasaga Beach. It’s water sports and lively promenade with shops and dining attract people from all over the province to soak up some rays. If you’re looking for something a little bit quieter, the quaint town of Collingwood is just twenty minutes away from where you’ll find Blue Mountain Village loaded with family-friendly activities. Get in touch with nature and enjoy cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and zip lining while parents can relax at the famous Scandinave Spa.
If it’s sun and sand you’re after, there are lots of other Ontario beaches to spend your summer besides Wasaga Beach. The second longest freshwater beach in the world is Sauble Beach, with 11 km of white sand to enjoy. We also love the beaches of Cobourg, Sandbanks Provincial Park, Port Stanley, Elora Quarry, Port Dover, Grand Bend and Turkey Point.