A guide to the best (just!) south of the border escapes right now
Gas up. These are the driving-distance getaways to get at right now.
From sea to shining sea, Canada really is a stunner, with so much to see, do and discover. But for a large majority of the population residing mere hours from our American neighbours, that gravitational pull due south can feel quite strong. Why now? #Summer! And also, when it comes to our Canadian currency exchange rate woes, which had been wreaking havoc on our US travel plans (among other things), it seems as though things might finally be looking up. With several summer weekends still left and a lovely fall straight ahead, we've pulled together a round-up of exciting destinations for Canadians across our border, that are just a car ride away.
Drive time from Montreal: 2.5 Hours
From biking and breweries (be sure to check out the Stowe Mountain Biking & Breweries tour), to maple creemees and hidden swimming holes, all four seasons offer something special in Stowe. With an eclectic village and a thriving art scene build your visit around a performance, festival, art show or a long list of seasonal activities. Bring the kids and explore the Percy Farm corn maze or the original Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory for a tour!
Mount Mansfield offers epic shredding for ski enthusiasts throughout the winter months and hiking during the rest of the seasons. If nature walks are more your thing, you'll be keen to take a wander around Smugglers' Notch State Park or take a dip in the crystal waters and magical cascades at Bingham Falls.
Peep some leaves this Autumn when the region and its trees turn into a rainbow of colours. And when you're there, be sure to dine at Trattoria La Festa in any season, it's a local institution.
Tucked into Vermont's legendary Green Mountains, we love Topnotch Resort as a luxurious retreat to enjoy any or all of Stowe's magical four seasons. Or if you are a party of 2, try the adorable and aptly named Airbnb 'The Itsy Bitsy Guest House'.
Lake Placid, New York
Drive time from Ottawa: 2.5 Hours
Excursion around the storied Adirondacks — an OG family-friendly escape. This protected park and stunning mountain range in NY State (the highest peaks in the east coast of Canada and the US no less) provide the perfect antidote to the trials of city life. The region rose to popularity thanks to William H. H. Murray's publication 'Camp-Life in the Adirondacks' in 1869 which unleashed a flood of tourists to the area, it is also the namesake for the Adirondack Chair (later adapted by Canadians as a Muskoka Chair). The region is home to the largest concentration of Great Camps built in the craftsman style during the later half of the 19th century. These lodges, compounds and home-away-from-home cabins used local timber & rustic materials with no shortage of creature comforts (from movie theatres to massive porches and sometimes even bowling alleys).
Skiing (Whiteface Mountain has prime programming for all family members), skating (on Mirror Lake where the city clears a loop throughout the winter), sledding, or après-ing are de-rigour in the winter months while simple summer pleasures like swimming, paddling (plenty of gear shops to rent whatever you need), hiking and forest bathing are on the summer docket. Consider hiring a local Adirondack guide to get the most out of your visit. Pack a picnic with sandwiches and refreshments from Saranac Sourdough for any season. And take a walk on the wild side, literally: the Wild Center's wild walk is the high-line of the wilderness, taking guests across a series of bridges above the treetops, a view not often seen by humans. The iconic and exclusive Lake Placid Lodge is enticing visiting Canadians with rates at par. A member of Relais & Chateau, this modern-day Great Camp is the perfect splurge. For family-friendly lodging complete with a movie-theatre, games room and programming for even the youngest guests, we love checking-in to the Whiteface Lodge.
Ithaca, New York
Drive time from Toronto: 4.5 Hours
Known for it's fertile pastures and winemaking masters, a visit to the Finger Lakes region is never complete without partaking in some farm-fresh dining (taste the flavours of the region at Coltivare, serving seasonal New American cuisine), wine sipping (summer Saturdays at Buttonwood Grove on the deck with a glass of their Cabernet Franc), antiquing, waterfall chasing and country rambles.
Do a digital disconnect and sleep beneath the stars at Firelight Camps, a cool and quirky glamping experience located just outside of town or try the stately Argos Inn. Take the trailhead to Buttermilk Falls State Park and visit some of Ithaca's iconic gorges. Sample wine from a variety of vinters by checking out the Cayuga Wine Trail (download the map and guide here) and be sure to seek out Rusty Oven, a food truck serving wood fired pizza from a mobile oven popping up all over the Finger Lakes region. A Saturday or Sunday is well spent strolling through the farmers market (at the waterfront on weekends)
Escape mid-week to avoid weekenders traffic.
Drive time from Quebec City: 5.5 Hours
In search of a chic seaside retreat fit for an ex-president? Add this beachside town to your travel to-do list. Kennebunk (as the locals refer to it) has an adorable Main Street full of old-timey souvenir shops, former-sea-captains-mansions-turned-fine-inns, and carefully curated boutiques (we love Day Trip Society and Day Trip Jr). The restaurant scene is thriving, with notable chef's manning the kitchens of multiple dining destinations, like The Burleigh - pop by for comfort classics like their fried chicken wontons and hand-crafted cocktails. We also love The Tides for a romantic twinkling candle-lit dining room & stunning seaside nautical motif (their happy-hour is worth a visit for $6 small plates and $9 glasses of wine).
Lazy days should be spent biking to the beach, sampling ice cream from the local dairies (Goose Rocks has heaping scoops of inventive flavours), eating Lobster rolls and tasting lemonade at one of the many competing shacks (The Clam Shack is known by locals as the best). Leave time for sitting on a cottage porch, enjoying a book or roasting marshmallows around a campfire before retiring to bed. For a truly relaxing retreat, we love the charming and discreet Hidden Pond, a collection of cute cottages, a 10-minute bike ride to the beach. Their in-house restaurant, Earth, is a must for anyone visiting Kennebunk (a destination in and of itself) offering a delectable menu of wood-fired favourites - try their handmade pastas and fried chicken. If being lazy isn't your thing, Liquid Dreams in Ogunquit offers an amazing surf camp. Lovely and qualified instructors will have you riding waves in no time — regardless of your skill level.
Drive time from Vancouver: 2.0 Hours
This is the town that launched grunge music and created coffee culture as we now know it, sip your way around Seattle sampling the brews (coffee, craft beers and wine) and tunes while enjoying the city's many sites. Zeitgeist Coffee is at the top of our list for a caffeine fix, and for beer stop by Outer Planet for a Blueberry Farm Sour, made in house and offered on tap. From the famous Pike Place Market (sample your way around the vendors) and artisanal farm-to-table dining (head to Local 360 in Belltown). Of course a visit to Seattle would not be complete without taking in the views at the Space Needle, but you might also consider taking a day trip to Mt. Rainier. In search of off-beat cool and curious? Head to the hipster hood of Capitol Hill. Filled with quirky boutiques, trendy restaurants and bohemian bars. Don't miss Unicorn, for an instagram moment (potential mythical creature sighting a bonus). Take a workshop at the Pratt Fine Arts Centre or rent a bike from Dutch Bike Co. for a self-guided tour of the city (rainy weather withstanding). A number of hotel properties offer attractive incentives to visiting Canadians. From discounted parking to residence rates (inclusive of BC residents) — be sure to inquire.
Glacier Park, Montana
Drive time from Calgary: 3 Hours
From fly fishing to horseback riding, summering in cowboy country is a wild ride! And because the state of Montana has no sales tax, it makes visits to The Land of the Shining Mountains even more attractive to Canadian adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Montana has accommodation ranging from basic chain-motels calibre to exclusive (and expensive) private lodges. But we suggest embracing that beautiful Big Sky by sleeping right beneath it, in a fitted out safari tent or camper van.
Explore Glacier Park by day, the beautiful State Park is one of America's most popular destinations, and for good reason. With more than 25,000 acres, over 700 lakes, 563 streams, 24 species of fish, 71 species of mammals and 276 (documented) species of birds, it is quite literally a nature-lovers paradise where peaks touch the sky, glaciers move the earth, waterfalls carve the rock, and wildlife roam free.
Hiking, biking, boating and backcountry camping are just some of the activities you can expect to enjoy. Don't miss the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road, a quintessential part of any visit. Be sure to download this audio tour for an insider's scoop and short history lesson while you drive or hike. Sleep under the stars at Under Canvas Glacier outfit located just outside the National Park or book one of the historic lodges in the park (these book up one year in advance so call now for next summer!).
Drive time from Windsor: 20 minutes
Spend a weekend devouring the newly rejuvenated art & food scene while soaking up the Art Deco masterpieces and neo-gothic spires of iconic American architecture. Detroit's historic and distinctive skyline rose throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century with many of its buildings being recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (DIA), join a group bike ride (test out the MOGO Detroit cycles!), suntan on the beach at Campus Martius, wander the Dequindre Cut or catch a film at New Center Park. But definitely check-in at Trumbull & Porter Hotel - a hipster haven in Corktown. The foodies are dining at Selden Standard and Grey Ghost - two awesome examples of seasonal Detroit chef driven menus. All architecture-curious visitors should be sure to tour the Ford Estate in Grosse Pointe for a peek back in time of how the auto tycoon lived. Grab a java at the just-opened New Order Coffee then stroll through nearby Eastern Market for the perfect way to pass any afternoon (we recommend the Sunday Street Market with all manner of local vendors peddling their wares).