Lately, we've been cooped up in our apartments for more hours than we care to admit (just because you can order everything for delivery doesn't mean you should). With the condo buildings around us seemingly multiplying by the second, and the days getting shorter and shorter, the city can be a bit claustrophobic – and that's putting it lightly.
To remedy the feeling of your four walls closing in, we've found the best destinations for a day-cation out of Toronto. Arranged by activity, our list leans on some lesser-known locales so you can avoid the droves of weekend warriors headed to wine country.
From foodie tours and craft beer tasting to outdoor snow sports and waterfall hikes, you can get your fix of travel and tourism, and still make it home in time for curfew. As always, be sure to check for the most up-to-date information before you hit the road.
The best day trip ideas from Toronto for the great outdoors
Find it in: Hamilton
Home to more than 100 of the watery wonders, Hamilton has been dubbed the waterfall capital of the world. You can hike the many winding trails of the Niagara Escarpment – this stretch of the soaring ridge cuts through Hamilton, creating the dazzling abundance of waterfalls minutes from downtown. Once you're tired of trekking, hit up local breweries like Collective Arts, Fairweather and Grain & Grit, while foodies will love the up-and-coming dining scene. Bonus: fans of The Umbrella Academy can check out the show's filming locations, including the Corktown Irish Pub, the Emerald St. Pedestrian Bridge and Breezy Corners diner.
Find it in: Muskoka
One weekend in Muskoka is enough to make you want to pack your bags and leave city life behind. For starters, you can actually see the stars there – and planets. At night, a blanket of twinkling constellations and galaxies covers the sky and lights up the pristine lakes, but if you really want to see stars like you've never seen before, head to Torrance Barrens, Muskoka's dark-sky preserve surrounded by protected land and far away from any city light pollution.
Skiing and snowboarding
Find it in: Collingwood
By far, the best skiing and snowboarding within day trip distance of the city can be found at Blue Mountain in Collingwood. The ski resort boasts seven chairlifts, which access 365 acres of skiable terrain. Runs range from the green beginner bunny hills to some fairly steep double black diamonds. Meanwhile, three terrain parks offer plenty of options for pros to push their limits. To zip downhill in a different fashion, ride the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster. In your own car, you control the speed – up to 42km/h. For those who don't want to spend the whole day shoop-shooping down a hill, the Blue Mountain Village is kitted out with more than 50 cute shops and restaurants.
Find it in: Algonquin
You know what's better than a dog? Multiple dogs. Now imagine having them pull you in a sled through winding trails of fresh, glistening snow or over a frozen solid lake – hello, best day ever. Algonquin Park has two designated dog sledding trails: Sunday Lake and North Algonquin. Several companies offer tours, but our favourite is Snow Forest Adventures because they offer a more personalized, focused guide – and care for the pups always comes first.
How do you fancy ice skating along a trail through thick evergreens dusted with snow by the light of the moon?
Find it in: Huntsville
In winter weather, is there anything more romantic than ice skating? How about skating a 1.3 km trail that winds its way through thick evergreens dusted with powdery white snow by the light of the moon and hundreds of tiki torches? At Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville, the skating trail offers just that. While a visit during the day is also lovely (and likely warmer), their Fire & Ice Nights are the real fairytale experience. Before you head out, be sure to check the status of the trail as its opening is weather dependent.
Find it in: Barrie
If you're not into skiing and the thought of snowboarding makes your knees hurt, snow tubing is the ideal winter "activity" that still allows you to embrace your inner kid as you fly over fresh powder at Snow Valley in Barrie. This isn't your average backyard hill: the snow tubing here is a whole day experience with three lifts and 14 chutes. After you've hit the slopes, check out the trails on a $25 rental pair of snowshoes.
The best day trip ideas from Toronto for food and drink
Find it in: Stratford
There's more to Stratford than Shakespearean theatre and Justin Bieber's origin story. Ideal for a food-focused day trip, Stratford's culinary creators offer a number of tasty trails and tours. Follow the Stratford Chocolate Trail to find all manner of cocoa-based delights, from the confections themselves to a chocolate porter, Bavarian chocolate coffee and even an aged dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. Meanwhile, stops along the Stratford Bacon & Ale Trail offer equally as inventive treats. Stratford is one of the best places in the world for foraging food so book in with tour operator Puck's Plenty for a trek to find wild mushrooms, followed by the opportunity to feast on the fungi of your labour.
Find it in: Guelph
Whether you're in love with craft beer or want to get to know it better, get yourself to Guelph. There are four main craft breweries in the Royal City: Wellington Brewery (the OG), Royal City Brewing (fun, approachable), Fixed Gear Brewing (small batch, Junction hotspot) and Brother's Brewing Company (creative community hub). Each brewery has their own approach and techniques, but a passion for craft beer and having a good time connects them all. Why visit one, when you could spend the day hopping around all four?
Find it in: Kitchener Waterloo
The Kitchener Waterloo area is ringed by a whole swath of distilleries – with a few breweries tucked in there, too. While they may actually be located nearby in smaller towns, Kitchener is your best jumping off point for exploring the surrounding area's spirit producers. Billed as Ontario's only moonshine-exclusive distillery, Murphy's Law is the place to get your hands on some hooch. At Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery, sip craft beer or cocktails made with their gins and vodka while you tuck into farm-fresh fare. Then, stop in at High Spirits to grab their canned sparkling vodka drinks. Elsewhere, Red Circle Brewing, Wave Maker, Waterloo Brewing, Descendants and TWB Brewing all have taprooms dishing up their brews and bites.
Butter tart tour
Find it in: Kawarthas-Northumberland
Sure, museums and walking tours are nice and all, but you haven't really lived until you've experienced the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. This sweet tour will take you to top community-rated, award-winning butter tart spots: Dreamer's Cafe in Port Hope; Betty's Pies & Tarts in Cobourg; and Just Like Granny's in Brighton. Warning: make sure you wear your stretchy pants.
The Big Apple
Find it in: Cobourg
No, we're not talking about New York City – this is a literal giant apple. If you've ever taken a road trip east of the city, you've likely passed the large red sphere beckoning drivers from the side of the 401. Aside from the kitschy photo op, there are plenty of other activities to do at this destination, worthy of a day trip in its own right. Peer through the glass to see where bakery items are made before heading into the market place to shop their range of apple-based goodies and items from local producers. The apple pies and apple bread here are famous – and for good reason. They also make their own cider, pressed on-site. Food trucks, a smokehouse kitchen and country kitchen round out the food offerings. Outside, kids (and the young-at-heart) will love the petting zoo and mini putt.
The best alternative day trip ideas from Toronto
Indigenous cultural experience
Find it in: Six Nations of the Grand River
There's no better way to rediscover Ontario than with the Indigenous people who know the land best. Six Nations of the Grand River is the largest First Nation in Canada, and there you'll find tours to help you experience the world through an Indigenous lens. Paddle through history on the Grand River, lined by some of the last remaining Carolinian forests of North America; practice your archery; or explore local artists and studios like
Sapling & Flint in Ohswé:ken.
Find it in: Kingston
Antiquing isn't just for your grandma, especially at Kingston's Antique Alley, where anyone can find a hidden gem. Tucked away in a literal alley with pictures and retro signs hanging on the brick walls, this vintage Narnia off Wellington Street is way larger than it appears. Inside, over 4,000-square feet of one-of-a-kind decor, unusual collectables and eclectic vintage clothing awaits. If you're into secret alleys (who isn't?), make sure you seek out Martello Alley, a whimsical outdoor art gallery.
Find it in: Niagara
It's super fun to play tourist for a day, even if you don't have to travel too far. Niagara is the ideal place to lace up your running shoes and grab your binoculars. We all know about the stunning falls that you can tour behind, zip line over or marvel at from the lookout, but what you might not know is that the surrounding area is full of kitschy gems. From haunted houses to wax museums, casinos and a bird kingdom – and who could forget wastin' away in Margaritaville.
Find it in: Grafton
East of Cobourg, nestled amongst Grafton's rolling countryside, is the peaceful and idyllic Ste. Anne's Spa. Located in a country castle from the 1800s, you'll feel like you've gone back in time, or, at least feel like time has stopped for a little while. Staying in your plush bath robe all day is heavily encouraged here (most guests wear theirs to dinner). Treat yo' fine self to one or more of their 35 rejuvenating spa treatments, and save time for a dip in the heated all-season pools.