Hello 2024! A new year brings new adventures and Ontario is the place to be for winter road trips to small towns. This east-central Canadian province borders the United States and the Great Lakes and is home to vibrant neighbourhoods, diverse landscapes, thrilling outdoor winter activities, rich culture, historic sites, and Canadian charm. A road trip in Ontario is the perfect way to experience the province’s rugged beauty at your own pace.
Toronto, Ontario’s energetic capital city, is a great home base and within driving distance of the small towns below. Before heading out make sure your car is up to date with tune-ups, packed with emergency supplies, travel necessities, and perhaps a hot apple cider for the road. You will need a passport if crossing the border into Canada from the United States.
Blue Mountain Village
Whether you are seeking the rush of adrenaline skiing down soaring hills or that cozy sitting by the fire feeling, Blue Mountain Village won’t disappoint. From Toronto it’s a ninety-minute road trip north-west off Highway 26. During the winter season there is bus transportation departing from four Toronto pick-up locations and going directly to Blue Mountain if you prefer not to drive.
In addition to skiing down Ontario’s popular mountains, other wintery sports include shinny ice hockey, downhill tubing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and mountaintop skating for breathtaking views of the escarpment. Rent equipment on site if you don’t have your own. Save time to walk through the cobblestone pedestrian village surrounded by turn-of-the-century Ontario architecture while browsing in cute shops. After a day of frosty adventures, indulge in a tasty gourmet meal and choose from family friendly, fine dining, and casual restaurants. If you are spending the weekend at Blue Mountain there are many accommodations ranging from rustic lodges, cozy chalets, and luxurious upscale suites to fulfill your winter wonderland dreams.
Carleton Place, located on the pretty Mississippi waterway, is an adorable small town with scenic trails, fun activities, and rich heritage. Downtown Carleton Place is about a four-hour road trip from Toronto and only 45 minutes from Ottawa, Canada’s bustling capital city. Bundle up and explore the city streets admiring unique artistic murals around town. From Stompin’ Tom to the Last Steam Train there are enough murals to keep you busy until you get hungry. Then head to a cozy café for a hot drink or meal at a local restaurant. Carleton Place also has craft breweries if you prefer something stronger. After lunch, get in some retail therapy along Bridge Street while shopping for treasures at indie bookstores, specialty clothing shops, and unique vintage apparel stores. History lovers should check out The Heritage Museum, reopening February 8, 2024, located in a magnificent 1872 old stone building. What began as a Town Hall was then converted into Victoria School in 1879, and now has an exhibit gallery telling the story of the town’s history with over 10,000 artifacts.
Outdoor fans can get all the fresh crisp air they desire with a hike along one of the many trails around town including the stretch along the old rail bed that runs through Lanark County, or ski or snowmobile nearby.
Niagara On The Lake
Did someone say icewine? Niagara-on-the-Lake boasts the largest celebration of icewine festivals in the world including many fun events in January. There is a sparkling Icewine Village and a popular Street Festival on select January dates where you can sip on famous local icewine while sitting around a roaring fire. If driving from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake it’s about an hour and a half and approximately 30 minutes from Buffalo, New York.
Upon arrival, this adorable town will win you over with Victorian Era architecture that can be explored on foot with a brisk winter walk through the heritage district. Niagara-on-the-Lake has a popular culinary scene, and in the winter chefs team up with local brewers and winemakers to create savory pairings. This charming town is also a fun place to search for antique treasures, trendy new styles, and unique souvenirs. As for outdoor adventures, hike the nearby Waterfront Trail among the beauty of snow topped trees. The loop trail is open year round and takes just over an hour to complete. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to multiple skating rinks including the pond turned ice rink at Wayne Gretzky Estates where you can also enjoy the Whisky Bar Patio and sip cocktails under cozy heaters. It’s the perfect place to celebrate Canada’s favorite sport and toast the 2024 winter season.