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The Best Day Trips From Toronto on Public Transit

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The Best Day Trips From Toronto on Public Transit

For many of us, COVID-19 has put a dent in our dreams of hiking to Machu Picchu or enjoying freshly made pasta in Tuscany this summer. Instead, Canadians are turning to our own backyard to fulfill our summer plans. And while chasing the midnight sun in Iceland makes for a way better Instagram photo than a view of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, there’s plenty of hidden gems in Ontario you may have yet to explore. 

We’ve rounded up seven fun, low-cost day trips you can make on public transit or gather your friends for a weekend getaway without even having to set foot behind the wheel. 

7 day trips to escape the city using public transit 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

While we threw a little shade at the falls, down the road sits the picture-perfect town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The town is one of the easiest and prettiest car-free day trips from Toronto. Scrub up on your grade school history and visit Fort George and the homestead of Laura Secord. Grab lunch at a local cafe, or make a day of it and enjoy lunch at a local winery, such as Two Sisters Vineyard. Order their Caprese Salad and seasonal pasta, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in Italy. Pro tip: Pack your bike and helmet and take a leisurely tour of the nearby 40 plus wineries, scattered between fields of fruit orchards and vineyards. 

Time: Around 2.5 hours 

Cost: Approximately $20 per person

How to get there: Take the GO Train from Union Station to Aldershot GO, which departs every half an hour Monday to Friday and every hour on weekends. From Aldershot, catch the #12 bus to Niagara Falls bus terminal, then catch the WEGO bus to Niagara-on-the-lake.  

Hamilton Waterfalls

The Hammer has rightfully earned a reputation as a culinary and arts destination (anyone who has ever visited Supercrawl can tell you why). Also, you’ll find one of Ontario’s hidden gems – more than 100 waterfalls tucked behind the Niagara Escarpment. Hamilton Waterfalls, which include Webster Falls and Devil’s Punchbowl, make an easy day trip for anyone wanting to escape the heat of the city.

Time: 2.5 hours (including hike) 

Cost: Approximately $12

How to get there: Take the GO train from Union Station to Hamilton GO, departing every half an hour Monday to Friday, and every hour on the weekends. Take the  #5 Delaware bus on King Street towards Dundas. Depart at Bond at King and take a scenic 40-minute hike to Spencer Gorge. 

Barrie and Lake Simcoe

If you’re looking to escape the city for the day and head to the beach, take the Go Train from Union to Allandale Waterfront GO Station and go to Centennial Beach. The beach spans more than 5km, which means you can socially distance yourself while soaking up the summer rays and fun beer scene, as well as play beach volleyball or rent a canoe and paddle Lake Simcoe. Bring your rollerblades and hit the 6.7km Waterfront Trail.

Time: 1.5 hours

Cost: Approximately $15

How to get there: Take the GO bus from Union Station to Aurora Go. Transfer at Aurora for the bus to Barrie Transit Terminal. Buses depart hourly Monday to Friday and every two hours on the weekend. 

St. Catherines

Hike along St. Catherines Participark Trail, a 2-kilometre stone dust path that is also wheelchair-accessible. It winds through St. Catherines, along the west bank of the Twelve Mile Creek valley and a short walk from St. Catherines GO station. Pick up fresh Niagara produce at the Farmers’ Market, which has been operating since the 1860s, or stop for a craft beer at one of Niagara’s longest-running craft breweries, The Merchant Ale House.  

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: Approximately $20

How to get there: Take the GO train from Union Station to Burlington GO, then transfer to the #12 Niagara Falls bus and get off at St. Catherines GO. 

Kingston

Get far away from Toronto with a weekend escape to Kingston, Ontario. Tour Canada’s oldest and most notorious prison, the Kingston Pen, pick up some fresh produce at the farmers’ market, work on your tan at Breakwater Park, or sample a pint of India Wheat Ale at Spearhead Brewing Company.  

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: $30-$150

How to get there: Depends on if you take the Megabus or Via Rail. Megabus requires passengers to wear masks and social distance. Via Rail is also taking additional precautions to ensure a safer way to travel together.

Stratford

Even though the Stratford Festival has moved online for this season, there are still plenty of reasons to make a day trip to Stratford. Did you know the town has a museum dedicated to its hometown hero, Justin Bieber? Beliebers will want to check out the Stratford Perth Museum’s Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom exhibit. The town’s charming market square is also serving up Al Fresco dining, with dozens of restaurants reopening their doors to customers. Dig into Nashville Hot Chicken with a side of Miso Corn “Ribs” and Buttermilk Biscuits at The Red Rabbit. In lieu of dessert, take a self-guided tour of the Stratford Chocolate Trail

Time: 2 hours 15 minutes 

Cost: From $29 with VIA Rail  

How to get there: Take the VIA Rail train towards Sarnia and get off at Stratford Station. Train departs Union Station at 10:55 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. daily. 

Algonquin Park (and other hiking day trips) 

Camping in Algonquin Park is synonymous with summer in Ontario. No car? No problem! You can still make it to Algonquin Park by hopping on the Parkbus, which is offering limited routes in Ontario as of August 1. To keep you safe on the 3.5-hour journey, Parkbus has installed plexiglass between some seats and is keeping capacity low (so book ahead!). Stop at Algonquin Outfitters and sort out your camping permit if you plan to stay overnight, or arrange to hire a bike and cycle along the Old Railway Bike Trail. Parkbus is also offering trips to other destinations, including Elora Gorge, Albion Hills and Rattlesnake Point. 

Time: 3.5 hours

Cost: Day trips are available for approximately $100 with pick up in Toronto early morning and drop off in the evening.

How to get there: Parkbus departs at 7:30 a.m. at Bloor-Yonge subway (Yonge Street Entrance) and also picks up passengers at the Major Mackenzie & Hwy 400 carpool lot at 8:15 a.m. Bus returns to Toronto’s Bloor-Yonge subway at approximately 8:20 p.m. 

Use transit to explore more of Ontario and stay safe 

You don’t have to have to buy a car (or even rent one) to explore cool new places in your province. Our list proves it’s possible to still make the most of summer with family and friends while sticking to a budget. Remember, take the precautionary measures needed when taking transit, including wearing a face mask, social distancing, cleaning your phone, and using hand sanitizer. That way, you and those around you can stay safe! Different cities in the province may have different rules for social distancing and wearing face masks, so find out before you leave.

For many of us, COVID-19 has put a dent in our dreams of hiking to Machu Picchu or enjoying freshly made pasta in Tuscany this summer. Instead, Canadians are turning to our own backyard to fulfill our summer plans. And while chasing the midnight sun in Iceland makes for a way better Instagram photo than a view of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, there’s plenty of hidden gems in Ontario you may have yet to explore. 

We’ve rounded up seven fun, low-cost day trips you can make on public transit or gather your friends for a weekend getaway without even having to set foot behind the wheel. 

7 day trips to escape the city using public transit 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

While we threw a little shade at the falls, down the road sits the picture-perfect town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The town is one of the easiest and prettiest car-free day trips from Toronto. Scrub up on your grade school history and visit Fort George and the homestead of Laura Secord. Grab lunch at a local cafe, or make a day of it and enjoy lunch at a local winery, such as Two Sisters Vineyard. Order their Caprese Salad and seasonal pasta, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in Italy. Pro tip: Pack your bike and helmet and take a leisurely tour of the nearby 40 plus wineries, scattered between fields of fruit orchards and vineyards. 

Time: Around 2.5 hours 

Cost: Approximately $20 per person

How to get there: Take the GO Train from Union Station to Aldershot GO, which departs every half an hour Monday to Friday and every hour on weekends. From Aldershot, catch the #12 bus to Niagara Falls bus terminal, then catch the WEGO bus to Niagara-on-the-lake.  

Hamilton Waterfalls

The Hammer has rightfully earned a reputation as a culinary and arts destination (anyone who has ever visited Supercrawl can tell you why). Also, you’ll find one of Ontario’s hidden gems – more than 100 waterfalls tucked behind the Niagara Escarpment. Hamilton Waterfalls, which include Webster Falls and Devil’s Punchbowl, make an easy day trip for anyone wanting to escape the heat of the city.

Time: 2.5 hours (including hike) 

Cost: Approximately $12

How to get there: Take the GO train from Union Station to Hamilton GO, departing every half an hour Monday to Friday, and every hour on the weekends. Take the  #5 Delaware bus on King Street towards Dundas. Depart at Bond at King and take a scenic 40-minute hike to Spencer Gorge. 

Barrie and Lake Simcoe

If you’re looking to escape the city for the day and head to the beach, take the Go Train from Union to Allandale Waterfront GO Station and go to Centennial Beach. The beach spans more than 5km, which means you can socially distance yourself while soaking up the summer rays and fun beer scene, as well as play beach volleyball or rent a canoe and paddle Lake Simcoe. Bring your rollerblades and hit the 6.7km Waterfront Trail.

Time: 1.5 hours

Cost: Approximately $15

How to get there: Take the GO bus from Union Station to Aurora Go. Transfer at Aurora for the bus to Barrie Transit Terminal. Buses depart hourly Monday to Friday and every two hours on the weekend. 

St. Catherines

Hike along St. Catherines Participark Trail, a 2-kilometre stone dust path that is also wheelchair-accessible. It winds through St. Catherines, along the west bank of the Twelve Mile Creek valley and a short walk from St. Catherines GO station. Pick up fresh Niagara produce at the Farmers’ Market, which has been operating since the 1860s, or stop for a craft beer at one of Niagara’s longest-running craft breweries, The Merchant Ale House.  

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: Approximately $20

How to get there: Take the GO train from Union Station to Burlington GO, then transfer to the #12 Niagara Falls bus and get off at St. Catherines GO. 

Kingston

Get far away from Toronto with a weekend escape to Kingston, Ontario. Tour Canada’s oldest and most notorious prison, the Kingston Pen, pick up some fresh produce at the farmers’ market, work on your tan at Breakwater Park, or sample a pint of India Wheat Ale at Spearhead Brewing Company.  

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: $30-$150

How to get there: Depends on if you take the Megabus or Via Rail. Megabus requires passengers to wear masks and social distance. Via Rail is also taking additional precautions to ensure a safer way to travel together.

Stratford

Even though the Stratford Festival has moved online for this season, there are still plenty of reasons to make a day trip to Stratford. Did you know the town has a museum dedicated to its hometown hero, Justin Bieber? Beliebers will want to check out the Stratford Perth Museum’s Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom exhibit. The town’s charming market square is also serving up Al Fresco dining, with dozens of restaurants reopening their doors to customers. Dig into Nashville Hot Chicken with a side of Miso Corn “Ribs” and Buttermilk Biscuits at The Red Rabbit. In lieu of dessert, take a self-guided tour of the Stratford Chocolate Trail

Time: 2 hours 15 minutes 

Cost: From $29 with VIA Rail  

How to get there: Take the VIA Rail train towards Sarnia and get off at Stratford Station. Train departs Union Station at 10:55 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. daily. 

Algonquin Park (and other hiking day trips) 

Camping in Algonquin Park is synonymous with summer in Ontario. No car? No problem! You can still make it to Algonquin Park by hopping on the Parkbus, which is offering limited routes in Ontario as of August 1. To keep you safe on the 3.5-hour journey, Parkbus has installed plexiglass between some seats and is keeping capacity low (so book ahead!). Stop at Algonquin Outfitters and sort out your camping permit if you plan to stay overnight, or arrange to hire a bike and cycle along the Old Railway Bike Trail. Parkbus is also offering trips to other destinations, including Elora Gorge, Albion Hills and Rattlesnake Point. 

Time: 3.5 hours

Cost: Day trips are available for approximately $100 with pick up in Toronto early morning and drop off in the evening.

How to get there: Parkbus departs at 7:30 a.m. at Bloor-Yonge subway (Yonge Street Entrance) and also picks up passengers at the Major Mackenzie & Hwy 400 carpool lot at 8:15 a.m. Bus returns to Toronto’s Bloor-Yonge subway at approximately 8:20 p.m. 

Use transit to explore more of Ontario and stay safe 

You don’t have to have to buy a car (or even rent one) to explore cool new places in your province. Our list proves it’s possible to still make the most of summer with family and friends while sticking to a budget. Remember, take the precautionary measures needed when taking transit, including wearing a face mask, social distancing, cleaning your phone, and using hand sanitizer. That way, you and those around you can stay safe! Different cities in the province may have different rules for social distancing and wearing face masks, so find out before you leave.

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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