6 most festive day trips from Toronto this winter

The winter snow provides loads of family fun around Toronto
The winter snow provides loads of family fun around Toronto © LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty Images

Toronto offers plenty to see and do, but there are more places in Ontario worth adding to your bucket list. The winter months bring snow-covered mountains that both locals and visitors flock to in droves.

As the holiday season ramps up, winter light festivals, vineyards and breweries welcome visitors with their festive decorations and family-friendly delights. Wrap up warm and dive into our pick of the best day trips from Toronto this winter.

Colored lights shine on Niagara Falls, making a rainbow misty effect; Toronto day trips
Niagara Falls only gets more exciting at night when colored lights illuminate the cascades © Manuel Romaris / Getty Images

Get festive near Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a wonderful sight to see, but a trip there isn’t complete without a visit to the famous Clifton Hill Street. From wax museums, to mirror mazes, to haunted houses, there are tons of fun and carnivalesque attractions to explore in this little area. You can also enjoy sweet treats from the Fudge Factory and get an incredible view from high on the Niagara SkyWheel. It’s a great destination for both couples and families.

The temperature drop means the famed boat tours of Horseshoe Falls don't operate during the winter season, but there's still plenty to see and do to get you in the holiday spirit. The Winter Festival of Lights runs from mid-November until the end of February 2022 and provides endless fun for the entire family. The largest free outdoor light festival in Canada has gotten bigger than ever this year and features huge 3D animals, festive displays, and over three million lights that are guaranteed to get you feeling festive.

How to get to Niagara Falls: Travel from Toronto to Niagara Falls through GO Transit starting from Toronto’s Union Station or through Megabus from near the Toronto Eaton Centre. You can also rent a car for the 1½-hour drive.

Sample wine in Prince Edward County

While the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake are well-loved by many Torontonians, Prince Edward County is becoming another favorite destination for wine lovers. They may be newer to the scene, but with a few dozen wineries perfecting their craft in the County, they certainly know what they’re doing.

Prince Edward County is also a popular getaway destination for millennials, as it’s home to Instagram-worthy spots like the June Motel and the Drake Devonshire Inn. "Rosé all day," as they say.

How to get to Prince Edward County: If you’re visiting on a weekday, ride the Greyhound bus from Toronto to Belleville, then take the Deseronto Transit bus into Prince Edward County. Otherwise, you’ll have to rent a car for the 2¼-hour drive.

Spot waterfalls in Hamilton

With more than 100 waterfalls in its vicinity, Hamilton has often been called the "waterfall capital of the world." Some require hiking on rough trails (be very careful when the temperature drops), some you can walk right up to, and some you can see in the comfort of your air-conditioned vehicle. Parking lots can get busy during the weekends, but don’t park illegally – the Hamilton police keep an eagle eye out for infractions.

After you’ve exhausted the waterfall hikes, grab a meal (and perhaps a drink) along King William Street. This popular street in downtown Hamilton is filled with trendy and amazing restaurants such as Black Forest Inn (great German food) and HAMBRGR (unique burgers).

How to get to Hamilton: To visit Hamilton from Toronto, take GO Transit from Toronto’s Union Station or rent a car for the 45-minute drive.

A man stands on a snow-covered rock taking a picture of the frozen bay in Ontario
Bruce Peninsula National Park is a beautiful place to visit in the winter © jimfeng / Getty Images

See the Grotto in Tobermory

The Grotto might be the most beautiful natural wonder in Ontario. Located in Bruce Peninsula National Park, the Grotto is a limestone sea cave with stunningly crystal-clear water, and fun to swim through. The bonus of visiting in winter is smaller crowds and no need to book parking in advance. If you have more time, take a short ferry ride to see Flowerpot Island.

The drive to Tobermory from Toronto is more than 3 hours, so many locals prefer to stay overnight. But you can definitely make it a day trip if you start earlier and leave later. With incredible rock formations, clear blue waters and forested cliffs, the Bruce Peninsula is a stunner.

How to get to Tobermory: Rent a car for the 3½-hour drive. Alternatively, the Parkbus picks up near Toronto’s Bloor-Yonge Station at 8:30am with a drop-off at the Grotto for 1:30pm, then picks up from the Grotto at 5:30pm, returning to Bloor-Yonge Station at 10:15pm.

Experience the Bard in Stratford

Stratford is a beautiful town filled with arts, culture and a love for all things Shakespeare. The Stratford Festival is a theater festival running annually from spring to fall, with around half a million visitors each year.

Catch a live performance at the Avon Theatre, grab some of the best vegan food you’ll ever have at The Planet Diner and sample local stouts and ales at the Shakespeare Brewing Company. If you didn’t already know, Stratford is also famous as the hometown of Justin Bieber.

How to get to Stratford: Take the VIA Rail from Toronto’s Union Station or rent a car for the 1¾-hour drive. The Stratford Festival also offers a Direct Bus from Union Station to Stratford for theater ticket holders.

At twilight, brilliant yellow lights illuminate a charming small ski town reflected in a lake in the foreground; Toronto day trips
The charming Blue Mountain Village is home base for adventures no matter what time of year © benedek / Getty Images

Get outdoors at Blue Mountain

A popular skiing destination in the winter, Blue Mountain offers year-round adventure activities including canoeing, kayaking, zip-lining and mountain biking.

Once you’ve had your adventure fix, shop and dine in the adorable and picturesque Blue Mountain Village. While you’re there, check out the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster, a rollercoaster-like ride up the mountain and through the trees. It’s quick but exciting, and you can control your own speed.

How to get to Blue Mountain: Take an AUC Tours shuttle in the winter or Greyhound bus year-round from Toronto to Blue Mountain Village or rent a car for the 2½-hour drive.

Just back from: Toronto & the Niagara Peninsula

This article was originally published on September 3, 2019.

This article was first published on September 3, 2019 and updated on November 26, 2021

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