Looking to get out of Toronto for a while? Lucky for you, there are plenty of cool city breaks only a quick two-hour drive away from Toronto, some of which you know and others you may not have yet heard of. Whether you live in Toronto or are just visiting, plan a day trip or a weekend getaway and check out a new city or two this year.

Niagara Falls

Visit Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular destinations for Torontonians to take a quick city break — and for good reason. Here, you can enjoy one of Ontario’s most famous natural wonders while checking out the the vibrant downtown streets and exploring the quaint historic charm (and wineries) of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

With so many different things to see and do (a trip on the Maid of the Mist, anyone?), Niagara is the perfect place for a day or weekend escape. Plus, you can take always hop over to Buffalo, New York to take in their Art Deco architecture and chow down on some of their famous wings.

Every year, the two Niagaras — the Canadian and the American — welcome around 30 million visitors. That’s almost the entire population of Canada! If you’re planning to spend the night, find charming vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts near the falls or nearby in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Local Tips for Things To Do

What do do in Niagara Falls? If you’re there in the winter, be sure to catch the Festival of Lights — check out our guide.

If you’re visiting Niagara Falls in the spring or summer, the falls are the superstars, of course. Luckily for us, the Canadian side is home to Horseshoe Falls, which are more than twice the size of the American falls!

The best views? You’re a little spoiled for choice — the falls are beautiful from wherever you are — but locals have scoped out the best spots. If you have your passport handy, Goat Island on the American side has some crazy over-the-edge views. On the Canadian side of the border, the Journey Behind the Falls allows you to experience and feel the power of the falls close-up.

Besides the falls, you can spend the day hopping around the fun houses, shops and amusement park in town, or try your luck at the casino. If you’re a wine lover, you can spend your day wine touring around the nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Stratford

Try weekend getaways from Toronto like Stratford
Source: Balcer on Wikimedia Commons

Industria et Arts. Industry and arts — Stratford’s motto is a tantalizing invitation. Just a quick trip from Toronto is this tranquil destination, a bastion of arts and culture in Southern Ontario.

May through October is the high season for tourism in Stratford. Settled in the 1830s, this historic city still has many buildings from the 19th-century, making it a charming city to explore. The downtown area is particularly enjoyably and is packed with shops, dining and a top-notch theatre scene. Be sure to catch a play while you’re there!

Stratford’s historic character hosts a multitude of charming vacation rentals. If you’re heading out for a weekend, check out our selection.

Local Tips for Things To Do

Summer weekend getaways in Ontario for culture-lovers should definitely include the Stratford Festival. Every summer and beyond (the official months are April to October) Stratford hosts all manner of theatre companies, from popular Broadway musicals to Shakespearean classics.

When taking in a show at one of the main four theatres, keep your eyes peeled and your camera close, locals say Stratford’s very own Justin Bieber often sees a play when he’s in town.

In addition to a vibrant theatre culture, Stratford’s restaurants are also worth a visit. If you want to rub shoulders with the local foodies, check out the Red Rabbit, a hip and rustic favourite.

London

London is one of the gems of places to visit near Toronto
Photo of London Ontario Downtown, Victoria Park by Itskdoubt is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 

Planning a weekend getaway from Toronto with a little class? Consider London — London, Ontario, that is. Like its European eponym in the United Kingdom, Ontario’s London is built on the banks of a river named the Thames, and — we think — it’s just as beautiful.

London is filled with interesting museums, including Fanshawe Pioneer Village, Banting House, and London Regional Children’s Museum. The area outside of the city offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Canada, so you can also get out of the city for a bit and enjoy the great outdoors.

If you want a mini-getaway London is a great spot for a one day trip from Toronto. Don’t feel like you need to cram it all in a single day, though — a vacation rental in the heart of London means you can get up the next day and keep exploring.

Local Tips for Things To Do

Slow down and stroll through some Canadian and British history in London at Victoria Park. It used to be a British military base (and cricket field!), established in 1874, and today is a recreational meeting centre for London visitors and locals.

If you’re planning a winter weekend getaway from Toronto, Victoria Park turns into a Winter Wonderland in the weeks leading up to the holiday season.

Whether you visit in winter or summer, stop in for a bite at some of the cafes and bistros that dot the city. The Early Bird Siner is a particular fav — get some all-day breakfast, or swing by on Thursdays for barbeque (and beer!).

Hamilton

Check out Hamilton for the best weekend getaways
Photo of downtown Hamilton, ON by Sandra Mulder, Banko Photographic Ltd, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

Built on the shores of Lake Ontario and steeped in history, Hamilton is full of interesting things to see and do and is one an underrated place to visit near Toronto.

Dundurn Castle, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton are all popular activities within the city for a little educational sightseeing. If exploring nature is more your thing head to the Royal Botanical Gardens, a nature sanctuary featuring more than 27 km of nature trails. It’s a popular weekend destination that lets you enjoy nature while staying close to the city.

If you’re planning a trip from Toronto, consider extending your stay in a vacation rental. You’ll appreciate night away after a day on the trails.

Local Tips for Things To Do

In between climbing castles and hiking, make some time to visit the HMS Haida, one of the Canadian navy’s most decorated destroyers. Docked on the waterfront, the floating museum is a National Historic Site of Canada. Enjoy a self-guided tour, or join one of the may daily tours to learn about some of the ship’s secrets.

Locals have a secret, too. Not all of Hamilton’s attractions are museums. The entertainment scene is vibrant and lively! Theatre Aquarius hosts local theatre performances and classes. Check out the ever-changing show schedule for a night of Canadian culture whenever you’re in town.  

Buffalo, New York

Road trips from Toronto to USA in summer should include Buffalo

Who said every weekend getaway from Toronto had to be in Canada? All you need is a passport, and you can hop across the border to the United States! Weekend road trips from Toronto to the USA aren’t complete without a stop in New York — but we’re not talking about New York City.

Head from Toronto to Buffalo, New York through Niagara Falls for an international adventure in an afternoon. Buffalo has plenty of interesting activities to enjoy, from the Buffalo Zoo to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Canadian travellers might find Buffalo reminds them of home in the best ways. The American city is so close to being an honorary Canadian that they even have a shout out in a Tragically Hip song! Get to know our neighbours with a stay in a vacation rental in Buffalo.

Local Tips for Things To Do

Once an industrial stronghold, Buffalo has been busy reinventing itself as a vacation destination for the whole family.

Old factories and buildings have been reclaimed and reused all around Buffalo. You don’t want to miss a visit to RiverWorks, a complex of converted industrial land on the Buffalo River — where else can you climb up the side of an old grain elevator?

After checking out the RiverWorks roller rink, beer garden, and shows, you might be in the mood for a treat. Buffalo loves historic Parkside Candy, an ornate confectionary shop that’s been in operation since 1927. We dare you not to eat all your souvenir lollipops on the drive back from Buffalo to Toronto!

Barrie

Barrie also shines for summer getaways from Toronto
Photo Barrie, Ontario by Reg Natarajan on Flickr

The city of Barrie is a popular tourist destination with plenty of activities to keep you entertained all year round.

Check out Snow Valley’s winter sports area in the winter, Park Place in the summer, and MacLaren Art Centre at any time of year. A popular local photo op is the Spirit Catcher sculpture on Lakeshore Drive.

No matter when you decide to make the trip from Toronto, you can make a weekend of it and choose from many all-season cottage rentals in the Barrie area.

Local Tips for Things To Do

If you’re heading there in the winter, there’s no shortage of guides to Snow Valley — we even have a few of our own (go snow tubing in Snow Valley). But Barrie is a popular destination all-year-long.

With a lovely waterfront, Barrie is a prime destination in the summer months. Check out Centennial Beach for sandy lake access, playground and a waterfront trail.

For anyone who likes a challenge you can write home about, there’s Iron Nation Axe Throwing. Yes, you read that right — axe throwing! Make it an evening with friends for a memorable and possibly the best weekend getaway.

If throwing dangerous objects isn’t your thing, try some of the local cider at one of Barrie’s wineries and cideries, like the Heritage Estate. Their cider is made with locally grown apples for a truly Ontarian taste.

Theatre, waterfalls, and classic candy. Snowy slopes and a whole lot of history — if you’re looking to plan a weekend getaway from Toronto, you’re spoiled for choice.

Where will you go next?

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