Spring Break Plans Cancelled? Take a Road Trip Instead
Take a break from air travel and enjoy spring closer to home.
It’s the time of year when Canadians throw in the towel on winter and flock to airports and cruise ships in droves – well, usually. This year, with COVID-19 causing unpredictable quarantines and making international travel somewhat unappealing, a lot of folks are either making the decision to stay home or are having the decision made for them.
Having your international plans cancelled doesn’t mean you need to spend spring break hibernating at home. I’ve been staying in Ontario for spring break with my daughter for years, and we always have a blast. We can’t promise much in the way of suntans, but new experiences and great memories are very likely. Who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy it enough to consider doing it again, even when you don’t need to.
Arm yourself with soap and hand sanitizer and head out to these places this spring, accessible from Canada’s three largest cities.
March Break is a great time to head outside in Ontario. It’s just warm enough to take the bite out of the air and make outdoor activities enjoyable. Some years, we get really lucky and it stays cold enough up north to allow for skating on lakes and cross-country skiing through forest trails. This spring has been a little warmer, so if you have a favourite destination for these activities, it would be wise to call ahead. I’m expecting that my kid and I will be doing more hiking instead, but we enjoy doing that in the spring before the bugs come out, too.
Here are a few themes to plan an itinerary around:
– Go hiking or camping. Point Pelee National Park is open year-round and, as of this writing, has plenty of openings in the oTENTik campground at Camp Henry throughout March Break. These heated and self-contained camping units come with basic supplies such as dishes and beds already on site. Bring your own bedding and food (in sturdy containers like coolers that can be stored in the wildlife-proof bins on site), and you’re all set to try out late winter camping. The park, located about three hours west of the GTA on the Canada’s southernmost mainland point, has March Break activities planned all week.
A number of Ontario Parks are open as well, some for day use and other for overnight camping, including some that are closer to Toronto such as Bronte Creek and Presqu’ile or a few further afield like Frontenac (near Kingston), Rondeau (on Lake Erie), or Pinery and MacGregor Point (on Lake Huron). A full list of March Break activities at Ontario Parks is available here.
– Take a cheese tour. Most of the producers on the Oxford Cheese Trail, located between Kitchener and Woodstock, operate year-round. Some offer tours, while fresh cheese curds may be available at others if you arrive at the right times. Piling the family into the car to try and buy different kinds of cheese is one of the best reasons around to go for a drive.
– Visit a maple syrup festival. This is the time of year when the sap starts to run, which means there are all sorts of maple syrup festivals in and around the GTA. There’s a good rundown of the sites that are open over March Break here. These are popular and are often busy as it is, and this year may be even more so with more people staying home, so be sure to pack a healthy dose of patience.
– Road trip to Ottawa. An education vacation? Groan. No, really, though – the kids will love it. Ottawa and Hull are a fantastic place to spend a few days, from free tours of the Parliament buildings to wildlife at Omega Park or the long list of museums and art galleries, there’s more to do than you could possibly get through in a week. A thorough rundown of activities is provided here.
People from Quebec generally don’t need to be told to get outdoors in the winter! The school holidays are already over in La Belle Province, but if you find yourself with time booked off and nowhere to go, you could head for Ottawa as noted above or consider these alternatives:
– Quebec City. A stroll through the streets of Old Quebec City is beautiful at any time of year. With a few days to spare, it’s possible to add on a visit to Montmorency Falls and, if you’re missing the chance to play in warm water on the beach, perhaps a visit to the Bora Parc indoor water park at Village Vacances Valcartier to tide you over for a while longer.
– Profit from the parks. Many Sépaq parks are open for outdoor activities throughout March – a list of planned activities is available here – and La Mauricie National Park is also open year-round with bookings in the oTENTiks at Rivière-à-la-Pêche available throughout March.
Late March can still see the weather on the mountain roads tending toward the dicey side, so if skiing doesn’t make the trip worthwhile for you, here are a couple of different ideas for those who were really hoping to get out of the city:
– Visit Victoria. Hop on the ferry to spend some time in B.C.’s capital. A few of Tourism Victoria’s suggestions: go whale watching, visit Butchart Gardens and the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, share an appreciation for animals at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, explore Craigdarroch Castle, and more. If the timing is right, late March could be ideal for touring the city’s many streets lined with cherry blossoms; check out some tips for doing so here.
– Hike in Lynn Canyon Park. The park’s trails are open year-round, and the work that was scheduled for February for the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge and the west portion of the Baden Powell Trail has been completed. The Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre is running mini-camps for kids during the first half of the break.