1. The “Fall in love with Canada” trip — Toronto to Niagara Falls
Starting point: From Toronto, take the 427 South to the QEW West. To get to the Falls, exit the QEW at McLeod Road. Turn east and follow the road to the entrance to Marineland. Turn left onto Upper Rapids Boulevard then turn left onto the Niagara Parkway.Stops along the way: Once past Hamilton, you have the option to take a more scenic route by getting off the QEW at Fifty Road or Casablanca Boulevard and take Highway 81 through the towns of Beamsville and Jordan, home to many of the region’s greatest wineries. Angels Gate and Thirty Bench in Beamsville and Cave Springs in Jordan Stop are some tourist favourites.
At your destination: There are plenty of ways to see the Falls after you arrive. Take the classic Maid of the Mist boat ride to admire them from below. Adrenaline junkies will want to board the Whirlpool Jet Boat. Go behind the falls where you’ll walk through tunnels and emerge from observation decks located at the foot of the falls for a view from below or head up to the top of the Skylon Tower for an overhead perspective.
You can also stop in at the Niagara Botanical Gardens. Located along the scenic Niagara Parkway, a 10-minute drive from the Falls, the botanical gardens are home to 40 hectares of beautifully maintained gardens as well as the butterfly conservatory featuring more than over 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies.
Also visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Cross the Rainbow Bridge then follow the signs on the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Take a horse and carriage ride around the old town, see a play at the historic Shaw Theatre or shop in the historic district. Don’t forget to visit Maple Leaf Fudge. This classic treat is made fresh daily using the old-fashioned method in copper kettles and creamed on marble slabs right in front of you.
2. “A capital journey”— Toronto to Ottawa
From the 401, you can see a giant apple on route to Colborne. The Big Apple restaurant is a great place to stop for lunch. Climb 25 feet to the Big Apple’s observation deck for a 360-degree view of the village of Colborne and Lake Ontario. Don’t forget to try their famous apple pie.
At your destination: Parliament Hill, the site of Canada’s federal government, is Ottawa’s most visited attraction. Take a free guided tour or walk around the scenic grounds overlooking the Ottawa River. During the summer, the front lawn of Parliament Hill is the setting for the changing of the guard ceremony.
Just east of Parliament Hill is Byward Market, a historic farmers’ market and shopping district by day. Don’t miss out on trying Ottawa’s most famous pastry, BeaverTails, at the entrance to the market.
If you’re visiting Ottawa in the winter, skate the Rideau Canal — lace up your skates (or rent some) and visit the world’s largest ice rink. Take a break at the rest stops stationed along the 7.8 kilometre canal for hot drinks and tasty snacks.
3. “You don’t need to own a cottage to Visit Cottage Country” — Toronto to Muskoka
At your destination: After snapping a photo of the giant Muskoka chair, turn toward the wharf and Gravenhurst. A former shipyard, this area was the arrival point for rail passengers who transferred to steamships that carried them to their lakeside resorts. Steamships still depart from here and host cruises for lunch or dinner.
You can also visit Port Carling, called “the Hub of the Lakes,” where Lake Rousseau and Lake Muskoka meet. Browse downtown boutiques and art studios and stop in the Muskoka Lake Museum where you’ll see a pioneer cabin, traditional canoes and learn about the history of the region.
Or feeling up for some nature worshipping? Pack your hiking boots and hit one of Muskoka’s many scenic hiking trails.
4. “A Shakespearean adventure” — Toronto to Stratford
Still hungry? Stop at the Best Little Pork Shop — you’ll want to carry a cooler in your car for this pit stop. The sign of the giant pig is the ultimate destination for those seeking high-quality port chops, ribs and bacon.
At your destination: One of the most prominent theatre festivals in Canada, the Stratford Festival runs from April to November and is best known for its Shakespeare productions.
Stratford is home to many prize-winning gardens as well, including the Shakespearean Gardens, which contain 60 varieties of herbs, flowers and shrubs that Shakespeare mentions in his plays.
Watching the swans swim along the Avon River is a favourite pastime of Stratford residents and guests. These regal creatures have been raised in Stratford since 1918. Since the swans can’t survive on the water all year round, they’re taken to their indoor pens in the winter and are released back into the water in early April to the pomp and circumstance of the Stratford Police Services Band in what the town calls the Annual Parade of the Swans.
5. “A taste of Quebec history” — Toronto to Montreal to Quebec City
Next, take Exit 623 (Country Road 15) off Highway 401 and turn right on County Road 2 to learn about Canada’s military history at Fort Henry. This British fort protected the entrance of the Rideau Canal and the town of Kingston. Peek into 19th-century military life and view military demonstrations performed by university students acting as Fort Henry guardsmen.
At your first destination: Take a glimpse of French-Canadian history — stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal by foot or by horse-drawn carriage and marvel at the still-preserved 19th-century architecture.
Basilique Notre-Dame is probably the most significant landmark and architectural gem of Old Montreal. This Catholic Church has a stunning medieval-style interior, stained-glass windows and one of the largest organs in North America.
For something sweet, visit Canadian Maple Delights. The shop offers a free maple museum tour in the basement where you’ll learn about the history of maple syrup and how it’s made.
At your second destination: After departing Montreal, stop at Drummondville along Highway 20 for a visit to Fromagerie Lemaire. This cheese-making boutique sells cheese curds and serves up a great plate of authentic poutine.
While eating your first poutine might seem like a spiritual experience, you can also stop at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre shrine. This neo-Roman style basilica has been a site of miracles for the past 350 years. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it’s worth a visit for its stunning architecture.
If visiting in the winter, you won’t want to miss North America’s only ice hotel. Made of blocks of ice, the hotel melts in the spring and is rebuilt each year.