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Side Trips from Toronto Travel Guide

  • Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Plan Your Side Trips from Toronto Vacation

The rush of 700,000 gallons of water a second. The divinely sweet, crisp taste of ice wine. The tug of a fish hooked under a layer of ice. Sure, the big-city scene in Toronto delivers the hustle and bustle you came for, but escaping the city can transport you to another world. The struggle is choosing which world to visit first.

There's Niagara Falls, acres of local vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake

and the surrounding wine region, or the whimsical “cottage country,” with its quiet towns, challenging ski slopes, and lakefront resorts. Two major theater events have long seasons with masterfully orchestrated plays. Or you can hit the outdoors on Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest and longest footpath, which winds from Niagara Falls to Tobermory 885 km (550 miles) north.

If superlatives are what you seek, the mesmerizing and deservedly hyped Niagara Falls, one of—or more technically, three of—the most famous waterfalls in the world, is Ontario's most popular attraction. Worth seeing at least once, it is truly beautiful (say what you will about the showy town behind it).

Oenophile trailblazers should consider Niagara's rapidly developing wine trail. The Niagara Escarpment, hugging Lake Ontario's western shores, is one of the most fertile growing areas in Canada. A lakeshore drive southwest of Toronto yields miles of vineyards and farm-to-table restaurants, culminating in the Victorian white-picket-fence town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, known for its amazing five-star restaurants and hotels and nearly-as-luxurious B&Bs.

Nourish your appreciation for the arts in and around Stratford. Two major theater events, the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival (in Niagara-on-the-Lake), have long seasons with masterfully orchestrated plays by William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.

Both outdoors enthusiasts who want to "rough it" and soft-adventure seekers who yearn for a comfortable bed with the glow of a fireplace at night feel the lure of the nearly 3,000-acre Algonquin Provincial Park. Sunday drivers find solace near Georgian Bay and in the Muskokas, part of Ontario's lake-smattered cottage country.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. The Falls Niagara Falls' amazing display of natural power is Ontario's top attraction. See them from both the U.S. and Canadian sides.
  2. Shakespeare and Shaw A couple of long-dead British playwrights have managed to make two Ontario towns boom from May through October with the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  3. Wineries The Niagara Peninsula has an unusually good microclimate for growing grapes; most of the more than 60 wineries have tastings.
  4. The great outdoors Ski at resorts north of Toronto; canoe backcountry rivers in Algonquin Provincial Park; hike or bike the Niagara-to-Lake-Huron Bruce Trail or the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara River.
  5. Edible Ontario Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford are both renowned for their skilled chefs who serve culinary masterpieces created with farm-fresh ingredients.

When To Go

When to Go

With the exception of destinations like wineries and ski resorts, June through September is prime travel season: Stratford and Shaw festivals...

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