If you live in downtown Toronto, you can easily forget the little things that exist in small town Ontario. Sometimes you need to step away from the chaos and just take a breath. It's kind of like reluctantly agreeing to go on a nature retreat, you're unsure... still unsure... until you get there and the views are beautiful and life is simple and the company is great.
If you take a visit to one of these small towns in Ontario, you'll find there are many whimsical and attractive cobblestone buildings, natural parks, shops, cafés, cinemas, landmarks and eclectic hotels to stroll around and discover. Some of these spots would even be considered rare, as you can't experience this life within any city centre.
This riverside town of Paris is absolutely dreamy and it looks straight out of a postcard. The downtown core manifests several different architectural styles-- Edwardian, Gothic, Post Modern and even Victorian-- but the small town of Paris is infamous for its adorable cobblestone buildings and pathways. It is actually known as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada, and it definitely adds to the small town vibe.
Downtown Paris has an abundance of open-air cafés, boulangeries, cinemas, and award-winning restaurants. This town is a good balance between the traditional old-smalltown-vibe and contemporary amenities.
Picton, Prince Edward County, ON
Picton is another one of Ontario's lively wine regions: Prince Edward County. Main St. encompasses many small town attractions like tea shops, historical landmarks, parks, bakeries and boutiques. On the other spectrum, Prince Edward County's countryside includes scenic fall greenery, famous vineyards and the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park. In other words, you'll have an endless list of things to do while indulging on wine and cheese.
Some shops you'll want to peruse around are City Revival, which is a massive designer consignment store featuring brands from Gap to Gucci, all sourced from Toronto. Books and Company is a captivating bookstore where you can enjoy a latté from Miss Lily's (an adorable coffee shop right next door), read or play with the bookstore's cat. If you go here, don't miss out on their world-famous wineries & vineyards (check out Taste Trail and Arts Trail).
One of the most spectacular aspects about Picton in my opinion, is its unassuming yet GORGEOUS motel. I know what you're thinking-- motel? The June Motel isn't just any motel, it has 16 staycation rooms that looks like an interior design Pinterest board just spit out. If you plan a getaway here, this motel is highly recommended!
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara, ON
Speaking of wine and cheese, Niagara-On-The-Lake is a must go in Ontario. Niagara-On-The-Lake is home to classy wineries, luscious vineyards, Shaw Festival, a quaint historic downtown area and the exciting Niagara Falls.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is also known for its culinary prestige so if you're a foodie, you'll want to check out some of their award-winning restaurants. If you're a shopalic, do allocate some time to check out The Outlet Collection at Niagara. If you're a nature-lover, head down to the lake by Queen Street for some unreal, glowy views of the Niagara sunset.
Overlooking Lake Huron, Goderich has earned the title of Canada's prettiest town from Queen Elizabeth II (some may argue that Paris, ON is actually Canada's prettiest town). One thing is certain-- Goderich is full of earth's natural beauty and historic charm, as the town is built and designed in an octagon-shaped park.
The town of Goderich is overflowing with gardens of of elegant flowers and fauna, three sand beaches and endless ancestral heritage architecture! The heart of Goderich lies "The Square," which is where alot of the town's main attractions and events are held.
Port Hope, ON
Port Hope is a serene town on the north shore of Lake Ontario that offers busy city dwellers some heritage and natural beauty. The Ganaraska River loops its way through the town, boasting beautiful waterfront nature trails, sandy beaches, peculiar villages, a scenic countryside and a lively yet historic downtown area.
Popular outdoor activities in Port Hope are cycling, ziplining, fishing, golfing and hiking. If you want to do something that stimulates your cultural side, you can always tour heritage sites, museums, enjoy live entertainment or take an architectural tour. They also have an abundance of unique boutiques and shops to choose from. Once you're all tired out from the day, you an enjoy a glass of chardonnay and choose to dine at some fine restaurants, pubs or bars, then relax in your well-appointed B&B, boutique hotel or country heritage home.
Main Street Unionville, Markham, ON
Many renowned television shows are actually filmed in Main St. Unionville, like Gilmore Girls, Suits and even the dramatic Hollywood blockbuster movie A Simple Favour, featuring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. I grew up in Markham, so I can personally attest that Unionville's Main Street is lovely, and it's hardly surprising that many TV productions choose to film scenes here.
This town exudes old-world vibes with cobblestone buildings and streets to fun arts, culture, dining and boutique-shopping experiences. Though as old-world vibes as Unionville gets, they still feature contemporary shops like Aveda and Jimmy's Coffee. The Old Firehall Confectionery is a must-go if you stroll around Main St., as their homemade ice creams, chocolates and caramel-glazed candy apples are scrumptious. Aside from stores and dessert bars, there is also a large park area filled with cute birds, butterflies, turtles, Canadian geese, swans, a pond and a biking/hiking trail.
Ontario’s Stratford lies on top of the Avon River and is famous for its theatrical productions that showcase the plays of William Shakespeare. You'll feel like you're in small-town England if you choose to visit this particular town in Ontario. Apart from Stratford's exciting cultural hub of the performing arts, beer and cheddar is also popular here (can't get any more English than that). You can also play golf, explore downtown, get a massage at a spa or check out some of their gorgeous gardens and nature trails. Another dreamy highlight is that this small-town is well known for their abundance of swans!
Wolfe Island, Kingston, ON
Having spent my University years in Kingston, I distinctly remember the beauty and small-town charm of Wolfe Island. Wolfe Island is only a short ferry ride away from the town of Kingston and it is filled with tall white windmills, a giant beach, an amazing bakery, a gorge and many farms. The place is so serene it'll be sure to melt your troubles away.
The island is very strong in its sense of community, everyone is friendly and always willing to help each other. It may because Kingston is a small University town and its culture and vibes rub off on the general local public. Whatever the reason, you won't feel like you're away from home when you visit Kingston, no matter how disparate the views may be.
St. Jacobs, ON
St. Jacob's is largely recognized for it's incredible farmer's market, horseriding and buggy parking. Located in the heart of Ontario's Old Order Mennonite community, this cute village is home to fantastic artisan stores. This small town is only an hour and twenty minutes from Toronto and is an ideal spot to enjoy the fall months. You can't get more traditional fall than heading to a farmer's market, can you?
Aside from the farmer's market, there's also outlet shopping at St. Jacob's Outlets, which is open every day including weeknights until 9pm year round. You can find brand names in clothing, shoes, gourmet foods, home decor as well as other gifts and trinkets here. If that's not your thing, you can also experience the drama of theatre in the heart of St. Jacob's with performances by Drayon Entertainment. Aside from outlets and theatre, you can find endless things to do in the village near the Conestoga River, like river trails for example. You can tour the township river valleys and discover twenty birding trails in the Grand River watershed. Click here for more info.
Elora is home to the dramatic Elora Gorge which sits along the banks of the Grand and Irvine Rivers. This straight-out-of-a-thriller town displays beautiful limestone cliffs, gushing waters, stoney storefronts and a romantic old mill. This town in Ontario is an ideal place to spend the weekend at a cottage with friends or family, as Elora is nearby many breathtaking and panoramic nature views.
The town of Elora is also home to a three-story spa and hotel, which is a one-of-a-kind travel attractions for many tourists. The best part of this hotel/spa is that its perched on top of an actual waterfall, which is on top of a cliff. Elora is definitely a small town that will make you feel like you're in a movie.
Elora also has plenty of outdoor activities to do during fall like hiking, biking and tubing down the Elora Gorge. They also have its own musical festival called Riverfest, where you and your squad can enjoy arts, culture, food, drink and live music. Elora is definitely a town in ONtario that has maintained its historical allure because century-old buildings has dramatically transformed into more conventional structures like gift shops, studios, restuarants, cafés and art galleries.
The city can be kind of tough sometimes to get a breath of fresh air, but most city folk always feel the need to travel to like, Ireland or Scotland to experience grassy nature and old-town vibes. Don't get me wrong, that sounds like a great option, but sometimes travelling long distances isn't exactly in one's budget or timeline. Travelling Ontario is often overlooked because people just don't believe there's much to see or do-- but in reality, there is an awful lot.