7 Small Ontario Towns With Big Appeal

Ontario is Canada’s most populated region, filled by big cities buzzing with activity and laden with attractions. Grand, cosmopolitan cities like Toronto and Ottawa draw millions of annual visitors ready to pack their holidays with urban adventures, but it’s the province’s small towns that are most captivating and offer indulgences no big city ever could. “Charm” is the staple word here, amid these cozy, enchanting, and layered communities filled with unique stops and awash with interesting things to do and see. Find out which small, Ontario towns are loaded with appeal below:

7. Collingwood

Collingwood is a unique, small town in Ontario with endless appeal in every season. In the winter months, the Blue Mountain Resort is where X marks the spot for great skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and the après ski culture throughout the village where there are shops, outdoor fire pits, and lots of events. The spring and summer bring a whole new landscape to life: there are zip lining excursions, caving, eco adventure tours, and a slew of different cruises along beautiful Georgian Bay. There are long stretches of sand, golf courses, and the famous Apple Pie Trail where the Niagara Escarpment and Georgian Bay join forces to create perfect growing conditions along an extensive 37-stop trail through to nearby Meaford (where fishing is outstanding). Summer brings another special, world famous event, The Elvis Festival. The annual homage to Rock and Roll’s pioneer is held each year in July.

Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com
Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

6. Gravenhurst

In Ontario’s Muskoka region is the lively town of Gravenhurst, ripe with cottagers staying for the dazzling landscapes and legion of lakes. The town is filled with opportunities to take in galleries and arts, antiques and vintage wares, and all kinds of interesting specialty items. The community is tight-laced and always hosting something fun, from Cinema Under the Stars (a weekly community film night) to special events downtown. The Muskoka Wharf is a sweeping, lakeside area dedicated to Gravenhurst’s diverse and unique history. The conglomeration of shopping, dining, and town heritage is put together magnificently in the waterfront retreat where there’s a featured Farmer’s Market, the annual Dockside Festival of the Arts, and Music on the Barge on Sunday’s in summer. Year-round there are special events, plays, and concerts at the Gravenhurst Opera House and also a bounty of parks with great swimming, public docks, and convenient facilities.

LesPalenik / Shutterstock.com
LesPalenik / Shutterstock.com

5. Creemore

The town of Creemore looks like any small farm town in Ontario when just driving by. It might not seem like anything special—and it is quite small—but there’s more than meets the eye here. Old Victorian homes line streets, filled with mom and pop shops of all types, and where friendly is the name of the game. Set on the edge of the stunning Niagara Escarpment—a World Biosphere Reserve—and close to many fun destinations, Creemore wins almost anyone over. The handful of excellent art galleries combine perfectly with book shops, a small brewery, and super cool artisan shops (lots of creative types here). Scenic drives are the way to see rushing rivers, rolling hilltop farms, and perfect views of Georgian Bay. Bike, hike or walk the Ganaraska or Bruce Trail in the warmth or hit the cold for excellent snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.

Photo by: P199 via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: P199 via Wikimedia Commons

4. Cobourg

The historic port town of Cobourg sits on the shores of Lake Ontario less than 63 miles from Toronto. The Northumberland County border of Cobourg is made up of forests, lakes and trails. If you like to shop, there’s the famous auction house or check out one of the cute, vintage shops around for a rare find, like at Vintage Legacy, where you’ll uncover tons of curiosities including old TV and film set props. Up-and-coming (and established) craft breweries, wineries, art shops, hiking and “treetop trekking” in Ganaraska Forest, and an array of restaurants add to Cobourg’s appeal. The beach and marina are popular during steamy summer months—the best place to soak up some Vitamin D. Daytime hours are wiled away with kids at the shores, playground, and splash pad, and there’s a boardwalk that makes for perfect starry night strolls before calling it a day.

Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr
Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr

3. Elora

There’s so much beauty in the village of Elora, throughout charming downtown and centuries-old buildings, in the arts around every corner, and the outskirts filled with striking scenery. Set on the Irvine and Grand River banks on the fringes of magnificent Elora Gorge, the village is a hotbed of artists, culinary pioneers, and gracious innkeepers. The shopping is unique, the food to die for, and just a few overnighters is perfect for taking it in. There’s a lot happening here but nothing at too quick a pace. A great way to see Elora is on one of the many shady, gastro pub patios with a local brew in hand. But if you’re adventurous, there’s world class fly fishing, river tubing, climbing, and cycling. Toss in a ton of music and arts festivals, fantastic camping and swimming, and plenty more outdoor pursuits, and there’s a pretty priceless combination to explore.

Elora, ON

2. Niagara-on-the-Lake

Pretty, tree-lined Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of the most popular small towns in Southern Ontario, famed for wineries, breweries, and eateries but also for a picturesque setting and moderate climate that makes everything grow with fervor. One of the most popular things to do, for those moderately physically fit, is a cycling wine tour, a great way to sample (and buy) award winning regional wines. You’ll get a bicycle and comprehensive map and hit the circuit of lush vineyards, enjoy many samples, and have all your goods picked up and delivered by the end of the trip. If that’s too exhausting, wine is available throughout an eclectic mix of restaurants and pubs, where the food is just as pleasing. Enjoy theater shows during the annual Shaw Festival, explore several historic area forts, and savor the outdoors throughout three nearby provincial and state parks.

Niagara On The Lake

1. Picton

Picton is a small, scenic town in delightful Prince Edward County and adjacent to gorgeous, dune-laden Sandbanks Provincial Park. Outside winter months, Picton thrives with tourists who love its lovely landscape and friendly locals, but also everything it offers. With scores of art galleries and studios, quirky souvenir shops, world-class wineries, and excellent beaches, Picton is a holiday destination where you won’t need much else than what’s there. It is renowned for historic, architecturally-significant buildings (many found along Main Street flanked by unique shops), award-winning restaurants, and small, cozy tent vendors in the summer months. Downtown’s Regent Theater plays host to the summer jazz festival and plenty of small theater shows, documentaries, and films. Each year brings more than forty arts, culinary, and cultural fetes across the region but in the summer, most people laze away the days around the marina, dunes and impressive beaches backed by substantial dunes.

ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

Canada’s Top 15 Best Value Cities to Visit in 2015

A recent study by the popular hotel booking site Trivago, released the top 15 best value cities in all of Canada to visit in 2015. The study took the average price of a hotel room, combined it with the satisfaction of hotel guests and looked at everything there was to do in that city. What they found was 15 cities that boasted incredible value, amazing hotels and plenty of things to do whether you are looking for romance, family vacation or just an escape to a new city.

15. Toronto, ON

With the Pam Am games making its way to Toronto this summer, we were actually surprised to see this city still end up on the list as hotel prices in the city jumped. Luckily it seems that Toronto is home to enough hotels, rentals and other accommodations that the prices don’t seem as astronomical as one might think. With access to professional sports fields, the CN Tower, the new Ripley’s Aquarium, the five-star restaurants and festivals throughout the city; there is certainly no shortage of things to do. Public transportation got a facelift for the Pan Am games and getting around the city is cheap and easy. The average accommodation price per night in the city is $179 with lots of deals to be found online, making Toronto a perfect place to visit this year.


14. Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, but quite affordable if you just want to visit for a few days. With an average hotel price of $179, this city is a prime spot for tourists from all over the world. Summertime brings visitors who walk along the seawall, dine on delicious seafood and explore the nearby towns. One of the best times to head here is in the fall, when the hotel prices drop significantly, the leaves start changing color and the weather is still nice enough to enjoy the outdoors. Vancouver transit makes it easy to get around the city at a reasonable price and there are plenty of free activities for everyone to enjoy, including Stanley Park, walking the beaches, visiting the many art galleries and visiting Granville Island.

Vancouver from the Water

13. Ottawa, ON

The capital of Canada makes this list with an average price of accommodation being just $155 a night, a bargain considering more than 80% of travelers are happy with their hotel stays. Visiting Canada’s capital is something everyone should do as the city of Ottawa is full of history, excitement and spectacular architecture. The summer is the absolute best time to head here as the warm weather and festivities make the city feel alive and buzzing with excitement. It also happens to be when hotel prices are at its highest though. It is a good thing then that the city offers incredible value. Tour the parliament buildings for free, head over to the RCMP stables for a chance to look around and perhaps a musical performance if you are lucky or spend an afternoon at one of the city’s beaches. Ottawa is teeming with markets, bike paths, picturesque picnic areas and outdoor art throughout the city for you to enjoy.

Ottawa, Ontario

12. Calgary, AB

It is one of the most expensive places to live on this list but visiting here gets you good bang for your buck and promises an unforgettable vacation, minutes from the beautiful mountains. A hotel room in this city goes for an average of $172 a night and many travelers choose to make Calgary their home base while they explore the city and the surrounding mountains. Plan your vacation around one of the many free summer festivals and you won’t have to reach deep into your pockets to explore all this city has to offer. Besides festivals, visiting the numerous attractions here cost little to nothing, including one of the world’s largest indoor botanical gardens, the plethora of art galleries, shops and the free entertainment during the stampede. Ride a portion of the CTrain for free, grab an inflatable tube and float down the Bow River or simply explore the downtown area and all its charm.

Calgary, AB

11. Niagara Falls, ON

Niagara Falls is home to the most inexpensive average hotel room on this list, coming in at $112 a night. If you have never been to the Canadian side of the falls, there is no better time to visit than 2015. Besides getting an incredible deal on hotels, Niagara Falls is packed full of activities, many of which can be done at little cost. Cruise the streets down by the falls which are packed with wacky fun houses, arcades and rides that are lit up with flashing lights and sounds. Visit one of the casinos and try your luck at one of the many games or slots. Walking along the falls and watching the spectacular firework show that happens in the summer won’t cost you anything either. Surrounding this area also happens to be a large number of wineries that you can tour for free, with tastings only costing a few dollars.

Niagara Falls 1

10. Montréal, QC

The city of Montreal is a perfect getaway, whether you are looking for a romantic escape or heading there for the slew of incredible music festivals and culture. With an average nightly price for accommodation being $172, one can enjoy this city while not breaking the bank. Exploring the city is best done on foot, whether you are traversing the streets of Old Montreal, taking the Golden Square Mile tour or curbing your hunger in many of the city’s most appetizing attractions. Montreal is also loaded with opportunities to try something new for free, including outdoor yoga classes and ballroom dancing. The city teems with rooftop patios and sidewalk cafes; perfect for people watching and relaxing. Take in one of the many free concerts and performances that happen throughout the city year round and enjoy one of the finest cities in all of Canada.

Montreal Canada

9. Edmonton, AB

It may not be the first place you think of when you think vacation in Canada, but Edmonton has a lot to offer and at the average price of just $151 a night, you can’t go wrong heading to this city. If you are looking to explore the outdoors, Edmonton might be just right for you. The city is famous for its North Saskatchewan River Valley, which offers over 100 kilometers of recreational trails, wildlife viewing, city views and Canada’s largest historical park, Fort Edmonton Park. One thing to splurge on when visiting here is the West Edmonton Mall. It is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America complete with amusement park, artificial beach, indoor wave pool, casino, movie theatres and an indoor lake. If you happen to visit here in the winter, head outside the city away from the lights and look for the Northern Lights. They are often visible from December to March.

Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com
Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com

8. Québec-City, QC

It is one of the most romantic cities to visit in all of Canada and with an average room price of $161 a night; many couples choose to visit Quebec City anytime of the year. In the winter the city comes alive with Christmas lights, turning the historic part of the city into a true winter wonderland. In the summer, the cobblestone streets are full of tourists, outdoor cafes and festivals. There are many historic churches that boast incredible architecture, an impressive number of parks and green space and a plethora of boutiques and shops to discover. The cuisine in the city is incredible, the people are friendly and strolling through the walled city of Old Quebec anytime of the year promises to be absolutely charming. For free entertainment, one should head down to the boardwalk along the St. Lawrence that is always full of buskers and entertainers during the summers.

Quebec City

7. Victoria, BC

It is one of the most beautiful cities on this list if you are into stunning mountain views, ocean harbors, colorful houses and natural beauty. It also happens to be a bargain when you look at the average nightly price of accommodations only being $143. The city is full of things to do and see, whether you want to splurge and visit the famous Butchart Garden or the Royal BC Museum, or whether you are looking to stick within a budget. Strolling the causeway, home to breathtaking views of the water, parliament and skyline is a popular activity for both locals and tourists. It is here when you can snag a seat on the Harbour Ferry and discover floating restaurants, historic homes, classic yachts and shipyards during the 45-minute narrated tour. Between the parks, mountains, beaches and art; there is no shortage of things to discover in this city.

Victoria coast line

6. Mississauga, ON

If you want to be close to the city of Toronto but don’t want to shell out the money, Mississauga is the absolute perfect place to stay. With an average room price of just $123 a night, spending less on a hotel means more spending money in your pockets. Many vacationers choose to make Mississauga their home base and travel into the city to explore the many activities and sights that Toronto offers. If you are looking for things to do in Mississauga though; why not head to the parks in Port Credit or feel like a kid again at Playdium Arcade. Mississauga is also home to a wealth of restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world and it pays to check them out heading into Toronto for a great meal. Whether you are staying here for the city itself or looking to spread your budget by staying outside of Toronto, Mississauga is a great value city.

Atomazul / Shutterstock.com
Atomazul / Shutterstock.com

5. Kelowna, BC

Kelowna’s location along the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake creates a diverse landscape where outdoor recreation thrives and people from all over the world flock to this incredibly beautiful city. The lake itself draws many tourists interested in boating, kayaking and swimming while the rolling terrain is great for hikers, golfers and bikers. In the wintertime skiers and snowboarders head to Big White Mountain. The plethora of outdoor sports is what makes this city so affordable to visit. Pack a picnic, grab your kayak rental and head out for the day. Perhaps strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the region. Head out and visit the wineries where they offer free tours and cheap tastings. With an average nightly room price of just $140, Kelowna is the perfect natural outdoor getaway.

Kelowna BC

4. Winnipeg, MB

Winnipeg is a diverse city that combines breathtaking architecture with ample green space to create this unique backdrop for a vibrant city. Visitors here will find warehouses that have been converted to restaurants and shops, outdoor festivals and concerts and an abundance of art and culture. The city is home to over 1,100 restaurants and is known for its top notch food scene that is well-priced. One of the most popular things to do in this city is head to The Forks, a downtown area where the two rivers meet that is home to the market, artisan shops and interactive fun. With an average room price of $141 a night, this cultural melting pot beckons visitors from all over the globe. It is recommended you head here in the summertime because the winter here can be downright freezing cold!

Winnipeg, MB

3. Mont-Tremblant, QC

This city located in the Laurentian Mountains is most famously known for its ski resort located at the foot of Mont Tremblant Mountains. Winter sports enthusiasts flock here to downhill ski, snowboard, snowshoe, dog-sled and cross-country ski in some of the best snow in the country. But winter isn’t the only season that flourishes here. Summertime brings eco-adventures, hiking, canoeing, cycling and fishing with Lac Tremblant at the centre of most of these. An average room price in this city will run you $189 a night, keeping in mind that winters are the most expensive. Many of the hotels offer discounts if you book early in the season and work with the ski resort to combine lift tickets with hotel prices. Book early, pay once and enjoy this awesome destination, summer or winter.

Mount Tremblant

2. Kamloops, BC

Kamloops is a hidden treasure amongst the West coast of Canada and with a highly affordable average nightly room rate of just $119; it won’t stay hidden for long. Home to the 5th best golf course in Canada, one of BC’s biggest ski hills and an abundance of outdoors to explore; visiting Kamloops and sticking on budget is easy. Many of the activities and restaurants are lower priced than the surrounding areas such as Vancouver or Kelowna, making this city incredibly budget friendly. Popular activities include a visit to the BC Wildlife Park, a hike to the waterfall, a visit to the farmers market and taking in the largest cowboy festival in Canada. There are endless possibilities for winter or summer, making this the number two valued city in all of Canada.

Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

It is the city with the most expensive average accommodation on this list at $203 a night, but seeing as Niagara-on-the-Lake is known as one of the prettiest towns in all of Canada; it comes as no surprise that it can be pricey. You won’t find high rise hotels here either; instead you will find historic homes, charming B&B’s and beautiful cottages that offer luxury amenities. This 19th-century village is home to award-winning restaurants and wineries and world-class theatre. Strolling the charming streets, touring the wineries and walking along the river won’t set you back anything. This romantic getaway is often visited by those looking for an intimate experience, complete with fine dining, great wines and cozy accommodations; which are exactly what they will find in the charming town.

Niagara On The Lake