Toronto is well located in southern Ontario, with culture, nature and small-town charm just a short drive from the city. In less than three hours, sightseers can shop in quaint towns, explore lakes and nature reserves, enjoy an adrenaline adventure at an amusement park, attend a performance at the country’s most famous theater festival or soak up the magic. from Niagara Falls. Some of the main attractions are seasonal, with theme parks and lake areas bringing crowds during the summer months, while others, such as Niagara Falls and Blue Mountain, are popular destinations all year round and may even be at their best during the winter months. While most of these adventures are self-guided day trips,
1 Niagara Falls
One of Canada’s most famous and wonderful locations is less than a two-hour drive from Toronto. For many travelers, seeing Niagara Falls is the highlight of their visit to Toronto, or even Canada. This astonishing spectacle has been wowing visitors since early explorers came through in the 1600s. Today, there are many ways to see the roaring falls, from boat trips to the base of the falls to feel the mist on your face, to wandering tunnels behind the falls for a glimpse of the back of this curtain of water. One of the most popular options is a trip to the Skylon Tower for a bird’s eye view of the falls and the entire area.
As a day trip, Niagara Falls can’t be beat. There are countless things to do for all ages. Located on the falls, the city of Niagara Falls has long maintained a carnival-like atmosphere, making it a fun place for families.
From Toronto there are several tours with excursions to Niagara Falls. Usually these tours are combined with a visit to the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake . Some tours also offer a chance to see the waterfall illuminated at night, either staying overnight or returning after dark. One of the most popular tours is the Niagara Falls Small-Group Tour from Toronto. This is a full-day excursion with pickup and drop-off at Toronto hotels, including transportation, a Hornblower cruise to the base of the falls, optional lunch, free time to explore the city and falls, and a stop at Niagara-on-the-Lake on the way back.
For self-drive visitors, paid parking is available at the falls, near the water’s edge. The town, the waterfalls and many of the different attractions are all within walking distance of the car park.
Read also: top visited tourist attractions in Toronto
Once the capital of Upper Canada, this beautiful historic city is one of Southern Ontario’s little treasures. All buildings are either from the 18th century, built in response to the destruction that occurred during the War of 1812, or designed to look as if they were built during that period (1815-1859). As a result, the city is a National Historic Site of Canada. Although very small, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a tourist town filled with horse-drawn carriage rides, souvenir shops and tourist shops, and a beautifully decorated main street, always decorated in season. The historic Prince of Wales Hotel , on the main street, is one of the city’s main attractions.
Just 20 minutes from Niagara Falls and an hour from Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake is often visited in conjunction with a trip to the falls. The scenic Niagara Parkway follows the Niagara River from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake, on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the river. For those looking for a little exercise, a paved trail runs along the Niagara Parkway for most of the route between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Biking the parkway during the warm weather months is a popular activity. The ride is mostly downhill from the waterfall to town.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is beautiful all year round but has a special charm in the fall when the autumn colors peak and the red and yellow leaves line the streets and sidewalks. From spring to fall, the city hosts the annual Shaw Festival . This festival has been running for over 50 years, featuring the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Shavian playwrights. It’s a summer tradition in southern Ontario, drawing theatergoers from across the region.
3 Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is Toronto’s starting point to escape the city and experience nature. Lakes, forests and rivers attract canoeists, kayakers, campers, hikers and nature lovers in general. Wildlife is plentiful, with wolves, bears, elk, deer, loons and other small critters calling the park home. Most visitors will see at least some wildlife, especially on hikes or canoe trips. One of the park’s most popular programs is the Wolf Howl, which takes place on Thursday evenings in August and early September. For this unique wildlife interaction, naturalists take participants to howl at the wild wolves that inhabit the park and listen to the wolves howl back. This is an event that lasts about three hours and attracts literally thousands of people over the course of the month.
The park is open all year round and has a number of main attractions depending on the time of year. In early spring, when the salt from the roads runs into the ditches, elk come to the side of the road for the salt and can often be seen in the morning by passing cars. During the summer months, the park rents out canoes for visitors to explore the explore lakes and rivers. This can be as simple as a few hours of paddling or a longer multi-day trip. The park has a variety of backcountry campsites for canoeists and kayakers throughout the park. Hiking trails around the lake shores and to high points with lookouts are also popular day trip activities. In the fall, thousands of day trippers come here to see a spectacular display of fall colorswhile the trees turn yellow, orange and red. Bus trips run virtually from early to late September to mid-October. And those heading into the park from the west gate should stop at Ragged Falls for at least a quick look at these large falls.
Travel time from Toronto to the west gate of Algonquin Provincial Park, the most convenient access from the city, is just under three hours. The main corridor, with many of the hikes and camping areas, is Highway 60, which runs through the park from west to east. To return to Toronto, the options are to turn around and go back the same way, or continue and do a loop, heading south on Highway 127 towards Bancroft, passing several other highways on the way back through Peterborough and on to Toronto. This is a much longer route than simply walking back through the park.
Official site: https://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/
4 Blue Mountain en Collingwood
The Blue Mountain ski area, just outside Collingwood, is a perfect day trip almost any time of year. About 2.5 hours northwest of Toronto, this Intrawest Resort is always packed with families who come here year-round to ski, bike, hike and play in and around the Blue Mountain Village. With a reputation as the best ski hill in Southern Ontario, the appeal of this place in winter is obvious. But those who flock here in the summer will find the village just as busy, with good food, shopping, outdoor events, hillside mountain biking, a climbing wall, zip lining and much more. In the winter, the resort offers ice skating at the Mill Pond Skating Rink; snowshoeing; pipes; and the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster, for a little downhill fun on a trail. Also in the area,
The nearby town of Collingwood, on the shores of Georgian Bay, is another popular summer destination. This lively town has its own schedule of events including the very popular annual Elvis Festival , a number of good cycle shops with information on local mountain bike trails, waterside walks and all kinds of dining options. East of Collingwood is Wasaga Beach , a small town with a beautiful and lively stretch of beach that becomes a real beach scene in the summer. About 25 minutes south of Collingwood is the village of Creemore , with a population of only 1,300 people but a host of high-quality restaurants and numerous artist shops and other shops that draw a year-round crowd.
5 Stratford Festival
One of Ontario’s most famous cultural events, the Stratford Festival is a celebration of theater that lasts from May to October, with performances in multiple locations throughout the town of Stratford. With Shakespeare as the basis of this festival, there is always a Shakespeare play, but the festival is much more, with a mix of classical and contemporary theater performances. The Stratford Festival is a summer tradition that has been around for more than 50 years.
Stratford is located about an hour and a half drive from Toronto, in rolling countryside surrounded by farms. Many people come simply to enjoy the rural scenery or spend a night in one of the many quaint little B&Bs found in and around Stratford. The center itself has some interesting old buildings, nice shops, good restaurants and is a nice place to wander around after a gig.
Official site: https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/
6 Canada’s Wonderland
Just an hour north of downtown Toronto, Canada’s Wonderland is the country’s first amusement park, featuring some of the best roller coasters in Canada, along with other rides, games, circus performances and the smell of candy and carnival food wafting through the air blowing. Splash Works is the place to be on hot days, with water rides, a lazy river and Canada’s largest outdoor wave pool. Special events are regularly organized, from acrobats to stunt shows. The level of excitement is always high here, perhaps because this amusement park is a seasonal event, only open from spring to fall. It’s what kids wait for when they know summer is coming. Families visit Canada’s Wonderland from across Ontario and across the country.
Adres: 1 Canadas Wonderland Drive, Maple, Ontario
Official site: https://www.canadaswonderland.com
7 Gravenhurst and a cruise on Lake Muskoka
Gravenhurst and a cruise on Lake Muskoka
The town of Gravenhurst is located on the shores of Lake Muskoka in the heart of Southern Ontario country. This famous lake, home to summer cottages owned by some of Canada’s best-known movie stars and personalities, is a beautiful introduction to Ontario’s desert landscape. Two steamships, the RMS Segwun and the Wenonah II, offer tours of the lake to see the exposed rocks and towering pines, as well as the lake cottages, many of which are multi-million dollar homes. These cruises last between one and four hours, depending on the type of tour. Options include a simple one- or two-hour cruise, a lunch cruise, a sunset dinner cruise, and a Millionaires Row sightseeing cruise. Specialty cruises also take place on public holidays.
Gravenhurst is a typical Ontario village, with shops and restaurants on the old main street. The waterfront offers views of the lake along the harbor. For nature lovers, the council maintains a number of walking and hiking trails in the area, and on the edge of town is the Buckwallow Cycling Center , with well-established mountain bike trails through the forest.
Gravenhurst is located about two hours north of Toronto. Past Gravenhurst on Highway 169 is the town of Bala , another popular summer destination in the country, with an ice cream soda shop, a bakery, a few restaurants, the Bala Falls, and frequent live entertainment by well-known bands.
Another favorite summer theme park is Marineland in Niagara Falls, about two hours outside of Toronto. With everything from killer whales and belugas to unique attractions like the park’s famous Sky Screamer, this is a hit with most families. Key attractions include Active Cove, where visitors can feed beluga whales, and Friendship Cove, for up-close viewing opportunities with the orcas. Marineland is open from mid-May to mid-October, with reduced hours in the spring and fall.
Adres: 7657 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Official site: https://www.marinelandcanada.com/
9 St. Jacob’s and the farmers market
The village of St. Jacob is located in a beautiful rural setting about two hours west of Toronto, near the city of Waterloo , in an area known for its large population of Old Mennonites. The most famous attraction here is the year-round farmers’ market, where local farmers come to sell their goods. The farmers market is more than just fruits and vegetables, featuring artisans with unique art, craft and homely decor, along with prepared foods. The food court alone is worth the trip, with local specialties and well-known favorite dishes. Depending on the time of year, there are often vendors located outside the market hall with clothing and seasonal products for sale.
In the village of St. Jacob’s a variety of shops also offer arts and crafts, jewelry, clothing, furniture and gift items. St. Jacob’s Outlets have the latest brand names in fashion and home decor, while Market Road Antiques has everything in the old department. The city is especially popular with shoppers at Christmas.
Official site: https://www.stjacobs.com/farmers-market
10 African Lion Safari
This fun outing, about an hour’s drive west of Toronto, isn’t your typical trip to the zoo, and it’s not all lions. Visitors drive their own cars, at their own risk, through the park to see all kinds of exotic and domestic wildlife. Animal encounters can be more than just watching from a distance, with baboons jumping onto car hoods to play with windshield wipers and watch passengers. New vehicle owners beware!
This is a chance to see wildlife in an environment that is neither the wild nor a zoo. Some of the animals that call the African Lion Safari home include lions, elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, cheetahs, zebras, bison and many more.
Adres: 1386 Cooper Road, Hamilton, Ontario
Official site: https://www.lionsafari.com