Port Stanley Terminal Rail’s Santa Treats Train Ride

Are you looking to hit the road and explore more of Southern Ontario this Winter? London, Ontario has a lot to offer, but if you are considering a road trip, why not take in the diverse sights of the surrounding counties? Between camping, outdoor sports, spa days, and seasonal festivities and shopping, there’s a new activity right around the corner to add to your family’s winter tradition. The following 10 Day Trips are definitely worth the distance to reach them!

1. Take a Ride on Port Stanley Terminal Rail’s Santa Treats Train Rides

Our first stop is the one closest to London, the Port Stanley Terminal Rail. This tourist railway operates scenic tours of Elgin County by an old-fashioned train car. Some special experiences with the railway include seasonal activities and dining. One such special train is the Santa Treats Train, which is an especially wonderful way for children to meet Santa Claus. Tasty Christmas treats aside, the real treats on these trains are the heated cars, allowing passengers to enjoy the winter season from the comfort of a warm train. The Santa Treats Train operate over the last two weekends of November and every weekend in December until Christmas Day. If you are looking to make a weekend out of it, the Village of Port Stanley has as much to offer in the winter as it does in the summer. The beaches may be frosty, but that is all the more reason to sit down and enjoy your stay at many of the charming Port Stanley Bed and Breakfasts.    

Distance from London, Ontario: 40 minutes

2. Hit the Trails! Stratford’s Christmas Trail

Stratford’s Christmas Trail

Not all trails put you in the midst of the great Canadian outdoors! In fact, Stratford, Ontario is home to trails that are downright cozy. Through November and up until the week of Christmas, the City of Stratford offers a special way to complete holiday errands. The Stratford Christmas Trail consists of 25 stops, with most of the stores concentrated in charming downtown. The main benefit of the trail is the voucher system. For $30, trail-goers get six vouchers that can be exchanged for goods at the local artisan stores. Between each stop on the trail, visitors can also stop by the countless local cafés and restaurants to re-fuel for the next leg of the journey. The Christmas Trail is a seasonal event in Stratford, but other year-round trails can be combined together for a jam-packed day of Stratford goodies! Two other trails offered by the city are the Bacon & Ale Trail and the Chocolate Trail. Both trails are self-guided and have trail vouchers for $30 that can be exchanged for appropriate treats. If there’s a bacon, ale, or chocolate lover on your list, then it makes perfect sense to add those stops to your Christmas Stratford Tour. 

Distance from London, Ontario: 55 minutes

3. Winter Camping and Activities at Pinery Provincial Park

Winter camping at Pinery Provincial Park

If you thought the sandy beaches of Lake Huron for summer enjoyment only, think again! Pinery Provincial Park, located North of London in the Grand Bend area of Lambton County, is open all year long - and yes, that includes the winter season! This Ontario Park offers beautiful wintertime forests, dunes, and snow-covered beaches. More impressive than the scenery is the range of activities available even in the winter. Visitors to the Park can enjoy snowshoeing, tobogganing, and 38km of cross-country ski trails. Another popular activity is winter camping - or ‘glamping’ if you prefer, which can be done in an RV or in a nice, warm, yurt rental complete with furniture and electricity.

If winter camping isn’t your style, then consider checking in to the Oakwood Resort in Grand Bend. The resort is about 10 minutes away from Pinery and offers dining and spa packages alongside the relaxing rooms. Before leaving Grand Bend, be sure to check out the awesome spread of local shops and restaurants to make the road trip complete. 

Distance from London, Ontario: 1 hour

4. Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort, Kitchener

Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort, Kitchener

If you have mastered the slopes at London’s Boler Mountain and are looking for new hills and trails to descend, then Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort is just over an hour away from London in Kitchener, Ontario. Chicopee offers nine trails, which includes two easy, four medium, and three difficult hills. In addition to those nine, Chicopee also has an easy “Kid Zone” trail and a challenging “Racer’s Alley” servicing the downhill racing scene at the hill. A terrain park is also available for public use and for specific lessons about jumps, tricks, and freestyle. On the topic of lessons, Chicopee instructors teach both skiing and snowboarding to a variety of ages and a range of levels, including a “discover” course aimed at first time downhill explorers. Another of Chicopee’s specialties is the racing program, running lessons and leagues for both children and adults. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Chicopee also has a chalet for warming up and dining, a hill for Magic Carpet rides (with separate lifts), and a winter Disc Golf course. Lift tickets are available by day rate for a one-time adventure or by seasonal membership if Chicopee becomes a part of your winter weekend routine.

Distance from London, Ontario: 1 Hour and 10 minutes

5. Kitchener Christkindl Market: The Original German Christmas Market

Kitchener Christkindl Market: The Original German Christmas Market

The Christkindl Market is a four day festival and market in Kitchener, Ontario. The name comes from German and calls back to the Christmas traditions of Medieval Europe. This award-winning event has been running in Kitchener for over 20 years and spreading a traditional kind of Christmas cheer. In 2019, the festival is taking place between December 5th to 8th in an outdoor village and the first two floors of the Kitchener City Hall with free admission. This one-stop Christmas shopping destination has over 100 vendors offering gifts like local art, decor, traditional wooden toys, clothing, jewelry, and other handmade Christmas decorations. While you walk amongst the charming shops and decoration of this one-of-a-kind market, enjoy the venues entertainment featuring choirs, children’s shows, blacksmithing demonstrations, and other musical performances from open to close, all weekend long. It’s not a German Christmas Market without the baked goods! Many of those 100 vendors are bakers offering popular treats for the holidays like strudel, fritters, shortbread, and chocolate! You can snack on the treats as you go, enjoying them alongside a warm cup of apple cider or alcohol-free Glühwein, or tuck them away as the perfect holiday gift for later in the season!  

Distance from London, Ontario: 1 hour and 20 minutes

6. Keep Warm at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

Christmas at Cambridge Butterfly Conservator

If the winter, wind, and snow has got you down, then the tropical interior of the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory will be a great change of pace. The Conservatory facility is over 10,000 square feet, filled with thousands of species of butterflies, exotic plants, flowing waters, and other features designed to mimic the natural butterfly habitat. Other exhibits include crystals, art, other insects, and even some animals. No day-trip to the Conservatory is complete without a visit to the aptly named  Chrysalis Cafe which serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and other light lunch menu options for adults and children as well. All of those are just the year-round attractions of the Conservatory, there are also special events just for the winter season. First off is the special Milk & Cookies with Santa event with treats and crafts for children, then the Conservatory remains open on New Years Eve Day and Family Day with self-guided holiday activities. Another winter exhibit is the “Flight of the White” from December to January where the tropical Conservatory gardens are decorated with Christmas Poinsettia, lights, and the star of the show: Rice Paper Butterflies. The large, white wingspans of this friendly species imitate the falling snow outside.

Distance from London, Ontario: 1 Hour and 10 minutes 

7. Celebrate a Canadian Treasure with the Icewine Festival 

Niagara Icewine Festival

You are probably familiar with Canada’s world-class reputation as a producer of maple syrup, but there is another bottled Canadian treasure that rivals even classic Canadian “liquid gold”. Canada is one of the world’s best makers of icewine and the Icewine Festival celebrated throughout the Niagara Region honours that legacy. Icewine, as the name implies, is made from grapes that were frozen on the vine, making chilly Ontario a prime growing region for the luxury dessert wine. The Icewine Festival takes place across the Niagara Region with events spanning January to February. The festival includes the Niagara Icewine Gala on January 10th, the Icewine Discovery Pass over several weekends in January, and the Snow Globe Soirée taking place January 16th to February 16th. The Discovery Pass will take guests on a tour of Niagara wineries to experience new food and wine pairings while the Gala and Soirée events offer unparalleled evening dining in view of the Falls. In addition to the main events, several towns in the region are offering their own spin on the season including Twenty Valley’s ‘Winter Winefest’ and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine Village.

Distance from London, Ontario: 2 Hours + Tour Time

8. Experience the Niagara Winter Festival of Lights

Niagara Festival of Lights

Another feature of the Niagara Region’s winter season is the award-winning Winter Festival of Lights running from mid November until January. During the festival, lights line the streets of Niagara Falls, some forming elaborate art displays and others leading the way to the Falls themselves colourfully illuminated. The route of lights runs along the waterfront, looping into more displays at Dufferin Islands. In addition to the nightly lights, the Festival also features special opening ceremony displays and New Years Fireworks. If you aren’t able to make it to either, a weekly firework show takes place every Friday evening for the duration of the festival.   

Distance from London, Ontario: 2 Hours and 10 minutes + Tour Time

9. Start a Christmas Tradition at Sloan’s Village and Tree Farm

Sloan’s Village and Tree Farm

Having a real Christmas Tree can both brighten and freshen the holidays. When it comes to choosing that perfect tree, consider visiting Sloan’s Village for a prime tree nursery and a Christmas wonderland experience for the enjoyment of all ages. Between its two village locations in Bothwell, Ontario (near Chatham-Kent), Sloan’s has an unparalleled selection of pre-cut and u-cut trees to suit any holiday tradition. After choosing a tree, you can also enjoy some of the village’s attractions and activities like the obstacle course, petting zoo, sand mountain, family camp fires, and the Village Express train ride.

Distance from London, Ontario: 1 Hour

10. Cross the Border: Winter in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan

Christmas in Windsor Ontario

The last destination on the list is more of a two-for-one. Many people know that Windsor, the third largest city in Southwestern Ontario, is about two hours away from London, but Windsor’s sister city in Detroit, Michigan isn’t that much farther. In winter, Windsor offers Christmas markets, festivals of lights, stage performances, and concerts alongside their year-long assets like restaurants, shopping, and galleries. Once you’re in Windsor, crossing the border into Detroit is a simple 10-minute trip that opens up a lot of great new holiday possibilities. Detroit can be a convenient destination for U.S. shopping, skating and dining at Campus Martius Park, or spending the afternoon and evening at the Detroit Zoo. The Zoo has a special holiday event running from November into January called Wild Lights, which features a total of 280 light-up displays of Christmas classics and zoo favourites alike, a skating rink, and a 4D Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer show.

Distance from London, Ontario: 2 Hours (Windsor), + 10 minutes (Detroit)

Ontario is a pretty big province, but because of the City of London’s central location, there are tons of great attractions about two hours away. So, take a road trip, enjoy the best that Southern Ontario has to offer, and make new holiday memories this winter!