Ours to Discover

Ours to Discover: Cambridge, A classic city close to home

Cambridge is a worthwhile day trip from Toronto for those seeking culture, natural beauty and great dining

By Jessica Huras Wheels.ca

May 14, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, and shows you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”

With historic limestone buildings and a riverside setting that feels reminiscent of a European town, it’s no wonder Cambridge has become a popular filming site for TV shows and movies like the “Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Red.” In addition to its romantic architecture are an abundance of hiking routes, a handful of top-notch restaurants and an easy-going vibe makes Cambridge ideal for a quick day trip from Toronto. Here’s how to explore the best it has to offer on a day trip.

In the morning: Leave Toronto by around 8 a.m., heading west on Hwy 401. It’s slightly more than an hour’s drive to your first stop, Monigram Coffee Roasters. This small-batch roaster is located in a century-old building in Cambridge’s storied Galt neighbourhood. Pick from a range of coffee blends – all of which are brewed from ethically-sourced beans and roasted on site – paired with a light pastry or a filling bagel sandwich.

Linger over your coffee in Monigram’s charming interior or take your drink to-go on a self-guided tour around Galt, one of three small town that merged to form the City of Cambridge in 1973. A designated heritage district, Galt’s scenic location on the Grand River and 19th-century limestone buildings create an enchanting ambiance. Check out the stately homes along Lansdowne Road and Brant Street, admire the beautiful architecture of buildings like the Galt Collegiate Institute and the Central Presbyterian Church, and take a photo in front of the “Wings” mural on Ainslie Street South.

Cap off your morning at the Fashion History Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts dating back to the 17th century. Peruse more than 12,000 pieces – including a hat worn by Julia Grant, wife of U.S President Ulysses S. Grant – and its extensive library of fashion publications and documents.

Discover Cambridge

In the early afternoon: For a casual lunch, order a Holey Burger – a burger with a hole in its middle – and hand-cut fries from seasonal hot dog shack LA Franks. It is a local institution that’s been serving comfort food for almost 30 years. Or, if the mood calls for something more upscale, head to Cambridge Mills and enjoy farm-to-table fare served in a former mill building with lovely river views.

After lunch, it's time for an insect encounter at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, which is home to more than 40 butterfly species. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of butterflies, as well as small birds and plants, as you stroll through the conservatory’s 10,000 square-foot tropical garden.

Ours to Discover

In the late afternoon: Pop into Reids Chocolate, a family-owned chocolatier that’s been operating in Cambridge for more than 70 years. Grab some sea salties – vanilla caramels covered in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt – or its beer brittle to munch on now or to take home as a souvenir (or both).

Discover Cambridge’s great outdoors with a walk along some of its nearly 58 kilometres of trails. The Grand Trunk Trail, which follows the Grand River south for 10 kilometres through Cambridge, is a popular option that includes a picturesque waterfall, pretty forested areas and a few interesting sites, including a 19th-century mill.

Be sure to have binoculars handy if you choose the Bob McMullen Linear Trail, which is known for its excellent birdwatching. Or you might prefer the Mill Run Trail loop, which offers pleasant views of the river and a trio of mill runs (water channels dug in the ground to power watermills).

In the evening: By now you'll have worked up a sufficient appetite for dinner. Book your reservation well in advance for a meal at Langdon Hall, which regularly ranks among the best restaurants, not just in Cambridge but in all of Canada. Chef Jason Bangerter draws inspiration from Langdon Hall’s 75-acre estate for an outstanding seasonal menu.

Vegetables, herbs and honey produced right on Langdon Hall’s grounds are complemented by other local bounty sourced from nearby farmers and foragers. A classically elegant dining room and exquisite plating complete this memorable dining experience.

After a magical dinner, make your way back to Toronto or stay a little longer to take in an evening show at the Hamilton Family Theatre, a modern 500-seat facility that hosts a variety of musicals, plays and other live performances.

If you're not ready to leave, turn your day trip into a weekend getaway and splurge on an overnight stay in Langdon Hall’s luxury estate accommodations. Spend the second day of your trip exploring the property’s idyllic grounds and enjoying a treatment at its stunning spa.

COVID-19 need to know

Cambridge is following Ontario’s COVID-19 guidelines. Some businesses may request you wear a mask. Contact individual businesses to find out how they’re currently operating.

For the drive

Familiarize yourself with Cambridge's past and present by listening to the “Explore Our Story” podcast, which recently launched its second season. Hosted by local historian and city archivist Dan Schmalz, the podcast chronicles notable moments in the city’s history, spanning from its settlement more than 200 years ago to the present.

TIMELINE: Drive guide

  • 8 a.m. Leave Toronto

Drive west on Hwy 401

  • 9:30 a.m. Monigram Coffee Roasters

  • 10 a.m. Stroll around Galt

  • 11:30 a.m. Fashion History Museum

  • 12:30 p.m. LA Franks

  • 2 p.m. Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

  • 3:30 p.m. Reids Chocolate

  • 4 p.m. Trail walk

  • 6 p.m. Langdon Hall

Note: Times are suggestions only




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