How to make our first trip to Toronto, and Bala, awesome?
May 24, 2016 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Sam Roberts band is going to play at Kee To Bala at the end of the summer. We don't know anything about the area. We'd like to learn and make the trip awesome. Your guidance will help!

Mrs. Thistledown and I are both huge fans, and this is about as close to where we live as he's gonna get, according to the tour schedule.

Show will be at Kee To Bala on September 3 and 4. This is usually the weekend of our anniversary, so it looks like that's where we want to go.

Neither of us have ever been to Canada, much less Toronto. I don't know anything about the area, but I think what we'd PROBABLY do is fly into Toronto, get a car, head up to Bala and then...

...what? I know this will probably be a big draw. I also know we have a lot of Canadian MeFites who would know things like the best places to stay up there, things to do beyond seeing the show. We are figuring on 2-3 days up there.

What would make this trip totally awesome?

About us - m/f couple, early 40s, no kids. Love music, love exploring places we've never been. More indoorsy than outdoorsy people but we've been known to hike or bicycle - we don't camp, though - prefer beds.

We like trees and water and relaxed settings. Kinda makes me wonder why we live in DC. :)
posted by Thistledown to Travel & Transportation around Bala, ON (11 answers total)
The Muskoka tourism site might give you some ideas if you haven't found it already.

My parents live in the area, and they have enjoyed boat cruises on Lake Muskoka. I think they took them out of Gravenhurst, but I think you can do them out of Bala too. Some include a meal. You'll see lots of trees and water, as well as some spectacular cottages along the lakeshore.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2016

This recent question answers Toronto-centric stuff.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2016

Bala is a 2 hour drive from Toronto on a good day, but on a summer weekend with cottage traffic I'd give it at least 3. The area is pretty outdoorsy-focused no doubt many great trails for hiking or biking. Renting a canoe or boat to paddle around the (thousands of) lakes is a great time for the non water-averse.
You might want to secure accommodation sooner rather than later as its kind of where everyone in southern Ontario wishes they were all summer.
posted by rodlymight at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can, arrange your flights and drive so you aren't heading north on Friday afternoon/evening and south on Monday afternoon/evening.
posted by TORunner at 10:19 AM on May 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

That's labour day weekend, which is one of the last really popular cottage weekends of the summer in the GTA, so definitely get a hotel/cottage/AirBnB now.
posted by renderthis at 10:28 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can one park one's car and then bike around the lake or something? It seems like traffic will be significant that weekend.
posted by Thistledown at 11:45 AM on May 24, 2016

Traffic to and from Muskoka will be significant. People tend to get to their cottages and sit or do watersports. People do ride up there and if a resort offers bikes, they'll have an idea of routes. There are smaller roads that will be very quiet. They aren't necessarily paved.

I'm at a bit of a loss since my recent Muskoka experience* has been based more out of Huntsville than on Lake Muskoka. I did a triathlon years ago out of Gravenhurst and the riding was nice. The tourism site is decent.

The Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve is supposed to be wonderful and is near Bala.

*I was sent to summer camp repeatedly in Muskoka. It's beautiful.
posted by TORunner at 2:57 PM on May 24, 2016

Have fun! The lee to Bala is a pretty amazing venue. If you stay in Bala, you can walk basically anywhere. If I were you, I'd find a cottage or hotel on the lake. Bala itself is pretty small, but the lake is pretty large!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 8:19 PM on May 24, 2016

Not a whole lot to do in Bala, itself, around that time of year, but you could also hit up Bracebridge, home of Marty's Ice Cream, McCrank's "department store," putt-putt at Santa's Village, a fairly new brewery, movies, and a few decent restaurants. It's where we always went as kids spending the summer in Muskoka, but there are some adult-friendly activities there, too.

There's also some stuff going on in Gravenhurst, but Bracebridge always felt a bit more fun to me. YMMV.

Also, on your drive up, definitely stop at Weber's for burgers, if you're a meat-eater. Just look for the bridge across the highway.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:26 PM on May 24, 2016

Thanks, all! It did seem like Gravenhurst was a bit larger, and I found a bike place there that does rentals and gets good reviews, so that may be on the weekend itinerary. It's hard to get a sense of the scale looking at the maps.
posted by Thistledown at 4:55 AM on May 25, 2016

You won't be able to bike around the lake. Lake Muskoka, which is the main lake in the area, is quite large and oddly shaped with dozens of bays, inlets and little islands. But there would definitely be some on road and off road bike trails in the area. Note that a cottage or hotel on Lake Muskoka is going to be very expensive. It is like the Hamptons of Ontario with many properties owned by celebrities from around the world and costing millions of dollars. Also the fact that it is holiday weekend at the end of summer prices are going to be at their maximum everywhere. Try looking at one of the smaller lakes near by if you don't mind driving. Unless you stay right in the village of Bala you are going to be doing a lot of driving anyways. If you are looking to just relax and enjoy the stunning natural setting up there of lakes, trees and rocks I would just head straight to Bala from the airport and skip Toronto all together. Especially if you only have a few days or a long weekend. If you have a week then I would definitely look at adding Toronto in. Also note that in Ontario we refer to the area you are going to as either 'cottage country' or 'Muskoka' as that is the name of the regional municipality as well as the large lake that centers it.
posted by Fred Wesley at 12:56 PM on May 26, 2016

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