10 Best Staycations Around the GTA

14 May

Gaining popularity during the 2007 – 2009 financial crisis when people couldn’t afford to holiday, the term “staycation” was officially added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2009.  Literally meaning “stay” (at-home) “vacation”, holiday-seekers are beginning to venture around their home country more and more, well after the recession has ended.  So jump on the bandwagon and test it out this season.  Good for any weather condition or group size, follows is a list of the 10 best staycation ideas outside of the Greater Toronto Area:

1.  Hotel-Cottage Resort (Muskoka, Ontario)

Get lost in the woods at the Delta Sherwood Inn, Muskoka.  This unique hotel-cottage concept has all the amenities of a typical Delta hotel, but set deep in the woods and offers a cottage-like feel overlooking the lake.  Choose from rooms at the Inn, your own private cottage or a stay in the exclusive Boat House Suite.  Whatever you fancy, each room, crafted with beautiful wooden details and pristine waterfront views, offers all major in-room utilities.  Enjoy delicious, award-winning, Muskokan cuisine in the dining hall or terrace followed by an afternoon on the beach or boat.  Hike or bike the scenic Muskokan trails or partake in one of many outdoor activities such as badminton, tennis or fishing.  Be sure to take advantage of the relaxing spa facilities as they use all natural products.  Nestled among the pines and maples, lose track of time for a few days at the Sherwood Inn.

2.  Travel Back in Time (Quebec City, Quebec)

Like a scene from a Charles Dickens story, Quebec City’s charming Parisian-esque aura has a certain je ne sais quoi.  For artisans, sports fanatics and lovers alike this is one Canadian locale that truly has it all.  Stroll along the cobblestone streets of masterpiece-haven, Place Royale, or revel in black-current liqueur, ice wine and freshly baked bread at the historic farmland, Ile d’Orleans.  Visit Mont-Sainte-Anne for the thrill of canyoning, paragliding or mountain biking or admire the nearby waterfalls, even larger than Niagara, at the Montmorency Falls Park.  Feel like you’ve whisked away to Paris for the weekend without leaving the country.

Where to stay:  Don’t miss out on staying in the world’s most photographed hotel, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.  Its enchanting castle-like appearance will wrap your entire staycation up into a perfect little bow. 
3.  Wine Tour on Horseback (Niagara Valley Region, Ontario)

Combine a two-day horseback riding excursion with a three-day wine tasting tour for a unique Niagara-on-the-Lake staycation.  Situated in one of Canada`s most impressive natural settings, Niagara Riding Stables offers horseback riding throughout the Escarpment and Wine Region.  Marvel in the wildlife Canada has to offer by spying on fox, coyote or falcon in their natural habitat or enjoy a journey through the vineyards, all on horseback.  Plan your staycation around one of many Niagara wine festivals throughout the year and spend the next few days visiting the twenty-plus wineries in the area.  For more information go to www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com

Where to stay:  Offering more than just what is in its name, the Hilltop Manor Hot Tub and Garden Retreat has won various traveller awards over the past four years, provides coupons to several wineries and makes the most delicious gourmet baked apple pancakes. 

4.  Off the Beaten Track (Bruce Trail, Ontario)

Quite possibly the longest hike in Canada, the Bruce Trail, from beginning to end, would take approximately 31 days to walk.  For the adventurer who wants to spend their staycation off the beaten path, enter from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Milton, Collingwood, Tobermory or anywhere in between and camp your way from town to town.  The trail offers an abundance of caves, cliffs, and conservation areas to discover so sight-seeing is never dull.  Meet fellow hikers along the way, dine with local Ontarians and sleep under the stars.  With pre-determined routes and trail markers, you choose your own adventure as you submerge into the great outdoors for a unique and challenging staycation.  For a downloadable map, travel tips, and accommodation listings along the trail go to www.brucetrail.org

5.  More than Just Skiing (the Blue Mountains, Ontario)

The ultimate one-stop hobby destination, Blue Mountain is no longer just for skiers and snowboarders.  Shake up your staycation from one day to the next by trying a variety of activities you wouldn’t otherwise find in the city. Be the first of your friends to try the newly launched Ridge Runner, Ontario’s first mountain coaster.  Zip down a kilometre of mountain on a self-controlled coaster overlooking Georgian Bay’s views.  Try it this season.  Alternatively, get your shoes dirty with caving, zip lining, rock climbing, hummer tours, scavenger hunts, live outdoor theatre or extreme water sports. 
Where to stay:  With an array of chalets, condos and lodges all within five minutes of the Blue Mountain Village and other major areas, finding accommodation to match your staycation requirement is easy to come by.  For easy one-stop shop reservations, go to www.bluemountain.ca
6.  Cooking Workshop at Le Cordon Bleu (Ottawa, Ontario)

Staycation in Ottawa this season for an intensive four-day cooking course, taught from the best global talent who will leave you a professional.  No experience or skill required, the internationally renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute offers short-term courses for big foodies from all over.  More than just French fare, you will learn how to craft gourmet pastries, blend international flavour combinations, invent your own sauces and learn key grill and knife skills necessary for any ardent chef.  Before you dig in, start your excursion with a demonstration and dinner event to fuel your inspiration.  Be part of an engaged audience watching your dinner preparation, after which, you will get to enjoy. 

Where to stay:  The Days Inn Ottawa, situated in the heart of the city, offers comfortable and affordable accommodation only a fifteen minute walk from Le Cordon Bleu.
7.  Raft the White Waters (Cobden, Ontario)

Known as Hell’s Half Mile, Lemming’s Leap and Butcher’s Knife, the main and middle channels of the Ottawa River is the most daunting raft route in Canada.  Approaching forty years as Ontario’s premiere adventure resort, Wilderness Tours is the place to spend your staycation this season.  Located just outside Ottawa in Cobden, this all-inclusive resort offers four or five-day adventure packages, finely prepared meals and comfortable cabin stays for families and extremists alike.  Spend your days overcoming impulsive rapids, kayaking, mountain biking or bungee jumping followed by a soothing evening with live musical entertainment.  A lounge bar and a variety of on-ground activities are also on site and a kid’s camp is available during your stay when necessary.  Whatever your budget or agenda, your staycation is sure to packed with adrenaline at the Wilderness Tours Resort. 

8.  Life on the Road (Northern Ontario)

Integrate soft adventure with relaxation for your staycation this season by renting an RV for the family or with your best group of mates.  With over 450 overnight RV parks in Ontario, flexible pick up and drop off sites and affordable rates, this makes for an exciting, convenient and homely excursion.  With an RV staycation you can eat whenever you want, sleep wherever you want and go at your own free will.  Journey to Northern Ontario and experience what our far, but never forgotten, cities have to offer.  Explore the Agawa Canyon in Sault Ste Marie or learn about Shania Twain’s claim to fame in her hometown, Timmins.  Find out what the Sleeping Giant is in Thunder Bay followed by fresh local food-tasting in North Bay.  Rediscover a world outside of the GTA with the ease and flexibility of an RV.  For more information go to www.ontariorvrental.com
9.  Vintage Spa Retreat (Caledon, Ontario)

What was once an old knitting mill in 1881 is now an architecturally-stunning spa retreat.  The award-winning Millcroft Inn & Spa in Caledon is perfect for a rejuvenating staycation.  Nestled among 45-hectares of woodlands and meadows, this massive stone-built beauty sits on the bank of the Credit River.  Each suite, some two-story, is individually decorated for varying degrees of ambience.  Enjoy five-star organic cuisine from top culinary artists while overlooking a gorgeous waterfall and river setting.  Although the retreat offers a whirlpool, garden terrace and golf course, the medley of spa treatments is the true reason for coming here.  At the Millcroft Spa, their secret is to combine ancient healing practices from across the globe with the newest and best health and wellness discoveries.  You can also take advantage of the complimentary yoga each Sunday morning for greater clarity and restoration. 

10.  Diving in the Great Lakes (Southern Ontario)

We may not have an array of sexy tropical fish to gaze at but one thing’s for sure when diving Canada’s Great Lakes is the freshwater preservation of our historical shipwrecks.  Follows are the top three dive sites in Southern Ontario:

Kingston – As a major Canadian port, the over-abundance of shipping vessels caused a rift in our water transport system many years ago and as a result, thousands of ships and boats were deliberately sunk.  Today, in the semi-tepid waters of Lake Erie, divers can enjoy the hundreds of wrecks for their viewing pleasure and the opportunity for their own new finds.  Although there are fewer vessels than those found in Tobermory, more intact boats are found here
Where to stay in Kingston:  Ambassador Conference Resort is a ten minute drive from the popular Collins Bay dive site and offers a whirlpool and sauna to relax in after a hard dive.  The affordable alternative is the Bayside Waterfront Motel Suites situated directly across from Collins Bay and offers convenient comfort with waterfront views.
Tobermory – Nestled within Fathom Five National Park, this Lake Huron dive locale hosts the wreckage of ships that never made it inland from the Bruce Peninsula cape.  For an $8.00 entry fee, divers have the ability to explore delicately detailed vessels and multi-level ships including one portrayed on Canada’s $100 bill.  Although there are more vessels than those in Kingston, fewer boats are still intact here.
Where to stay in Tobermory:  Camp at Fathom Five’s own Flower Pot Island.  Isolated with nothing but a few fellow campers and Georgian Bay’s shoreline, you can rest and prep for your next dive on the island’s beachy inlet.  If you go, you will need to obtain a camper’s permit from the Park Visitor Center. 
St Lawrence River – Only for those in proper physical condition, the St. Lawrence boasts the most magnificent wrecks of all of Ontario’s diving sites.  The challenge?  Deep water dives and strong currents have caused some fatalities in the past.  Play at your own risk.    
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