Within an hour or two's drive, you can be transported to these charming escapes.
Sometimes, the bright lights of the big city need to be swapped out for the charm of a smaller town or the tranquility of a country inn. Here are a few of our favorites a short drive from Toronto.
Prince Edward County
Boasting craft cider and excellent wines, cheeses and restaurants featuring local products, Prince Edward Country is a food-lover's ideal getaway. East of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario, there are about forty vineyards to explore here, including Hinterland Wine Company (insiders love their bubbly) and Karlo Estates (North America's first certified vegan winery), all of which use the limestone-rich soils of the region to produce remarkable wines. Savor the award-winning artisan crafted cheeses at Fifth Town Cheese—make sure the Cape Vessey Washed Rind is a part of the sampling—and stay at the boutique Drake Devonshire Inn in one of eleven rooms or two suites that showcase stunning views of the lake and surrounding area. Dine in the hotel's restaurant, where dishes making use of what comes from the nearby land and lake is the main draw, or ask their "cultural curator" for more ideas in a pocket of Ontario that's getting more exciting by the day.
Beamsville and the Valley
Most locals head out of Toronto and point their cars west toward Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's the picture-perfect postcard of olde Victoriana, with pretty boutiques and tea rooms. But if you're looking for a real sense of place, head an hour west of the city to Beamsville and the Twenty Valley. The Good Earth Food and Wine Company offered one of the first farm-to-table dining experiences in the area, and it's set among lush gardens in the summer and cozy bistro dining in colder months.
Don't miss the winery's Good Girth Supper Club listings every month, featuring themed, locally sourced dinners paired with their own wines (sip the award-winning 2012 Cabernet Franc or their 2010 Pinot Noir for full effect). Fielding Estate (known for its Viognier) and Malivoire Wineries are both in Beamsville, and the Twenty Valley offers a pretty strip of antique shops, independent retailers, and Inn on the Twenty, where you can enjoy a snow-capped view of the surrounding valley in their lovely dining room.
If you're looking for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking and a chalet vibe, head north to Ontario's largest ski resort, Blue Mountain, in the Collingwood area. From classes for beginners to freestyle boxes and rail jumps for the more adventurous, there's a little something for most winter sporting enthusiasts. The Blue Mountain Village at the foot of the hills has bars, shopping, restaurants, and nightlife when you want a break from the slopes.
The Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is Canada's oldest and longest marked footpath. The big draw here is its access to the UNESCO World Biosphere designated Reserve, the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from Niagara to Tobermory, offering extensive trails for the serious hiker, cross country skier, mountain biker, or endurance runner. There are featured hikes, suggested trail routes, and guided hikes for those who prefer more structure. We suggest you stop by the picturesque town of Dundas, Ontario (west of Toronto), where you can refuel at Detour Coffee for a perfectly roasted cup of joe and a hearty lunch, or Taylor's Tea Room down the road for one of the best scones and cuppas outside of the UK.
Theater season goes dark in the winter in Stratford (starting up again in April), but there's plenty of cultural buzz to keep the weekend warrior satisfied. From romantic winter escapes at one of the town's many inns and spas, to beautifully prepared meals (including at the hands of visiting celebrity chefs with the help of students from the town's chef school), live musical concerts to gallery exhibits, Stratford keeps visitors and locals entertained. Or take a tasting, featuring Niagara Beer and Ontario Cheeses at the Milky Whey Fine Cheese Shop in the heart of the city.
Mary Luz Mejia covers Toronto for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter.