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    5 picturesque towns just a short drive from Toronto
    These historic villages, idyllic wineries and peaceful forests are perfect for a day trip from Toronto 
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    Looking for a change of pace from Toronto’s urban life (and countless photo ops to boot)? Just a short drive from the city lies a myriad of charming towns and communities waiting to be explored. Here are five picturesque destinations to explore that aren’t too far from Toronto, Ontario. And, don’t forget Cathay members get special discounted rates for car rentals too, allowing you to earn Asia Miles along the way.

    Elora River. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Elora River blue sky.  Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Elora River stones.  Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Elora

    This small community 90 minutes west of Toronto lives up to its name as “Ontario’s Most Beautiful Village”. Much of that charm is owing to Elora’s heritage limestone buildings, many of which were built by Scottish stonemasons in the mid-1800s. Today, you’ll find art galleries, shops and restaurants operating in these traditional structures. 

    Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots and swimsuits for this road trip if you’re visiting between 1 May – 15 October when the Elora Gorge Conservation Area is open for the season. There, you can hike along the gorge and admire its majestic cliffs, some of which reach 70 feet high. In some spots, the water is shallow enough to walk through barefoot. If you’re looking to explore deeper waters, rent a canoe or kayak and paddle along the Grand River, and for those brave souls, you can even go river tubing .  

    Niagra. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Niagra
    Man playing guitar

    Niagara-on-the-Lake

    If you thought Niagara was just about its wondrous falls, think again. Just 30 minutes north of Niagara Falls and 90 minutes south of Toronto lies the picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake. Its main street is a heritage district with charming, well-restored buildings from the 1800s, like the Niagara Apothecary and St. Andrew’s Church . Theatre lovers will want to check out the Shaw Festival ’s lineup of shows at its three venues, spanning ten months of the year.   

    But the best part of Niagara-on-the-Lake really is the hundred-plus wineries growing grapes like Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Riesling. Ice wines – when grapes are pressed after they’ve frozen on the vine – are the speciality here. Try renting a bike to pedal from winery to winery , touring facilities and sampling pours along the way. Or, if you need a break from grapes, head down to the Niagara Gorge, where you’ll find 15 kilometres of hiking trails to explore.  

    Picton grape crushing. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Picton trees. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Picton friends drinking wine. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Picton

    A hipper, younger cousin of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Prince Edward County is a newer wine region in Ontario, Canada. The largest town in the county is Picton, where there are plenty of photo-worthy historic buildings, like the Regent Theatre , Macaulay Heritage Park and Merrill House , which is now a boutique hotel. 

    Picton is a little further from Toronto, about two-and-a-half hours east, but it’s a worthwhile spot for an overnight stay or weekend trip. You could spend a day hopping between the wineries, breweries, cideries and distillers of the County – many of which are smaller craft operations that use local ingredients and experiment with traditional techniques. Be sure to check out the other towns in Prince Edward County too, like Wellington (don’t miss the restaurant at the Drake Devonshire , an outpost of Toronto’s Drake Hotel) and Bloomfield, with its cute antique shops.

    Cambridge art gallery. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Cambridge forest road. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Cambridge town. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Cambridge 

    TV aficionados might recognise this southwestern Ontario city’s historic facades from shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Queen’s Gambit and Designated Survivor, all of which were partly filmed here. Visiting Cambridge might feel a bit like stepping back in time, thanks to its 19th-century architecture. The Dickson Mill , once home to a flour mill, sawmill and a wool factory in the mid-1800s, is now a fine dining restaurant. On Saturdays, you can also visit the Cambridge Farmers’ Market – running since 1830, it’s one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the country.  

    For art and culture lovers, Cambridge’s three art galleries showcase a mix of traditional and contemporary art. The Fashion History Museum houses over 10,000 garments, some dating back to the 16th century. And for the Instagrammers out there, dozens of murals along side streets and industrial buildings of Cambridge make for the perfect selfie backdrop. 

    Gravenhurst (Muskoka). Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Gravenhurst (Muskoka)

    Canada is renowned for its green forests and peaceful lakes. You won’t have to head too far out of Toronto to experience them for yourself. The Muskoka region is just two-and-a-half hours north of the city and it’s chock-full of impressive, peaceful scenery perfect for a restorative weekend in nature.

    Gravenhurst is a great spot for your home base in Muskoka. The town is right on the edge of a bay, and it’s surrounded by great beaches, walking trails and cottage properties you can rent out. In the town, you could cruise around Lake Muskoka on a steamship , grab a pint at Sawdust City Beer and go for a stroll in the forest along the Old Stone Road Trail . While summer is peak season here, Muskoka is especially stunning in autumn, when the leaves turn vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow.  

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