The many different options for spending a long weekend in Ontario can be dizzying. Throughout the mammoth province there are vibrant capitals, white sand beaches, back country adventures, charming small towns, and over 250,000 lakes creating an ideal backdrop for cottage getaways, camping trips, scenic road trips, and so much more. Arts and entertainment, cultural attractions, world class shopping and some of the country’s best festivals and fairs are all found throughout Ontario. When a long weekend finally arrives, scores of choices are available for almost any mood and lifestyle. Here are six ways to spend a long weekend in Ontario:
6. Niagara Region
The Niagara region of Ontario is a scenic summer destination that doesn’t disappoint. There are scores of attractions for families with kids of all ages and a ton of things to do for adults both day and night. During official Canadian holidays and long weekends, Clifton Hill entertainment district is ripe with deals, offering up deep discounts on attractions like the Niagara Skywheel, indoor water park, Wild West Coaster, and countless other kid-friendly and adult-focused stops. The many popular Niagara restaurants and bars also contribute to the overall savings with some great bargains on dining and cocktails, wine tours and tastings, and exciting helicopter rides over the falls. Pair the attractions with some great hotel and B&B deals (and an incredible fireworks show above the falls) and you’ve got one fantastic long weekend adventure. Journey beyond the falls to hot spots like the escarpment, Queenston Heights historic park, and Crystal Beach.
5. Haliburton Tour de Forest
The county of Haliburton, called Haliburton Highlands, is an important part of Ontario’s popular cottage country area with Haliburton village holding the central spot. Brimming with more than two dozen lakes and rivers, Haliburton boasts swimming, fishing canoeing, kayaking, and beach combing. The incredibly scenic backdrop lures and inspires artisans, the catalysts for Haliburton Tour de Forest which happens annually over the August civic holiday long weekend. This tour of local work is a big deal and a terrific way to meet talented local artists; anyone appreciating art and culture will love it. Works from 20 artists throughout eight fine studios are displayed and include intricately formed pottery, extraordinary glass works, fine jewelry, textile arts, woodworking, an array of paintings, photography, and much more. For those road-trip adventurers, the area beyond Haliburton is home to many impressive tourist towns including Huntsville, Dorset, Bracebridge, and Gravenhurst, each within easy driving distance.
As Canada’s capital, Ottawa is one of the most interesting and entertaining places. Located picturesquely along the Ottawa River inside southern Ontario’s east side, the city presents a remarkable number of things to do and see. Ottawa presents big-city with a small-town feel; locals are friendly and unhurried, the streets are wide and clean, and the diversity of experiences on hand is incomparable. Every Canadian long weekend in Ottawa features a host of events happening all around the area. There’s always a long weekend festival to check out—Ottawa knows how to make things happen! Kid’s attractions, live music events, carnival games, midway rides, and more are usually on the long weekend celebration roster and coincide with a fun festival and exhibition along with special outdoor markets and theater shows. Outside of planned celebrations, there are museums and galleries, country drives, neighborhood tours, and tons of outdoor excursions in the vicinity.
3. Blue Mountain Village Beach Party
Each year, Blue Mountain Village throws a long weekend bash filled with special events, activities, and attractions during the August civic holiday. The village is the heart of the resort area and where you’ll find shops and restaurants lining cobblestone streets brimming with buskers, outdoor music, and an evening fire pit. The cool beats of Calypso and Reggae music spill from the Blue Mountain Village Beach Party while interactive drumming lessons, face painting booths, lively dance parties, scavenger hunts, and more are hosted. There’s live music all weekend long and a flashy fireworks show too. The most enterprising souls might want to check out the triple zip line, a boat rental, a segway tour, or some local rock climbing. For a completely action-packed weekend, there are also gondola rides, an aquatic center, and a putting course available. Enjoy it for a day or stay overnight to experience all the festivities.
2. Algonquin Provincial Park
The vast, seemingly endless interior of Ontario’s gorgeous Algonquin Park offers an incredible number of things to do during a long weekend. Historically home to some of Canada’s Aboriginal groups, the park is the largest in Ontario (almost ¼ of the size of Switzerland). Picture Algonquin and imagery leans to the great outdoors, but that doesn’t have to mean roughing it in the least. The park accommodates every option imaginable: rustic interior campsites or those with convenient utilities, unique historic cabins, cheap motels, and even five-star luxury lodges. From most points, visitors can fish, swim, canoe, kayak, and hike. Incredible trails, scenic boardwalk paths, a host of museums, panoramic picnic grounds, visitors’ centers, and a smattering of gift shops are available. The number of different campgrounds is staggering; some in-depth research does wonders for finding the area best suited to particular interests—and be sure to book well in advance.
1. Prince Edward County
Famous for award winning wineries and beautiful beaches, Prince Edward County boasts beauty, adventure, and an ideal climate. Spending a long weekend exploring back road scenery, visiting wineries, and willing hours away on the beach is a little slice of heaven. A trip to this lovely county is just two easy hours from Toronto but it feels more like a million miles from everything. On the southern side is Sandbanks Provincial Park and it looks just as it sounds. This is where to ditch the daily grind, bask on one of Ontario’s finest stretches of sand, stroll along the dunes, pick up local roadside produce, and rest your head in a charming bed and breakfast. The artist community has jammed the area full of quirky browsing galleries and studios, adding to the already-charismatic landscape. Sure, top-notch wineries are a definite attraction here, but the area features far more than just wine.