Vacation that's driving distance from Montreal? With 1 year old?
June 21, 2016 11:21 AM   Subscribe

So this summer, we're all off for the last two weeks of July. We originally didn't plan a vacation because our budget has been tight, but we now have a little wiggle room and would like to do a short getaway with our 12 month old daughter. We'd like to stay in Canada due to the exchange rate, and would prefer to stay within a reasonable driving distance from Montreal for baby. Where can we go?

This will likely be a 4-5 day trip during the week. Kid-specific activities or attractions aren't really that important to us, but we need to be able to take our daughter everywhere we go. We're open to everything, big cities, small towns, peaceful lakehouses, nature. We aren't interested in camping.

Some of the places suggested to us by friends have been:

- Toronto (SO has never been, but I've been many times, and although I know Toronto has the most to offer in terms of activities, yummy food, culture and things to see, I'm not that excited by the idea of vacationing there)

- Stratford (I've always heard nice things about Stratford. Is it walkable? Would it be a pleasant baby vacation?)

- Niagara Falls/Niagara-on-the-Lake

I had a lot of nice vacations in Ontario when I was a kid, but I can't remember where we went specifically.

I imagine that most destinations will be totally packed since it's the busiest time of the year and a lot more Canadians are travelling within Canada these days.

Can anyone really sell one of the three options above?

Suggestions for places we haven't already considered are very welcome.
posted by ohmy to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Toronto is one of my favorite cities, but the drive would eat an entire day each way.

Have you done Quebec City?
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2016

I forgot to mention that we'd like to find a place outside of Quebec, as we've done a lot of travelling within the province lately.
posted by ohmy at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2016

Ottawa has a lot of neat things to do and see, is about a 2.5 hour drive from Montreal, has a nice outdoorsy market in the summer time and has the canal.
posted by birdsquared at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Kingston! We are actually quite pleasant. Our downtown is lovely, we have a nice amount of green space and parks (Lake Ontario Park is especially lovely), Wolfe Island is a free ferry ride away, and we are also close to Gananoque and the Thousand Islands.
posted by Kitteh at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is Thousand Islands a bad choice because of a small child or seasonal busy times? We drove through it a few years ago (enroute from NY to Montreal) and were impressed with how pretty it was.
posted by vunder at 11:53 AM on June 21, 2016

Is PEI too far? I would totally go to PEI again.

NF/NOTL is at most a days worth of activity, two if you do some hiking in glen Eden which is close by.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:40 PM on June 21, 2016

I like the idea of Kingston, the Thousand Islands, and that whole area. You've got a fun little city with university vibe, Lake Ontario, cute towns along the river, and the Thousand Islands, and it's pretty close.

Stratford is cute, but if you're not going to any theater I don't know that it would have enough to keep you occupied for many days. Have you considered Georgian Bay? My family is partial to the Bruce Peninsula, but it's gorgeous along the eastern side, too.
posted by ldthomps at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2016

Seconding Ottawa (I'm biased, though). It's super close to Montreal, very green, fun things to do (in the summer, anyways), but also easy to rent a cottage just outside the city and be in nature. I mean, it's not the most exciting city ever, but it has a lot going for it, in the summer particularly, and it's very walkable.

I love Stratford, and go every summer for the Stratford Festival, but I think you'd get bored after a couple of days if you weren't seeing plays. It's extremely walkable, cute little 'downtown' (main street, really), nice to walk by the river, but it is very, very small. You could do it as part of another trip, though, like in combination with a visit to Toronto, for instance.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2016

I know you prefer places outside of Quebec, but if you haven't been whale watching on the Saguenay River and the Saint-Laurent from Tadoussac, visited Sagueney (formerly Chicoutimi and Jonquière), and camped in the Parc des Grands Jardins, I would recommend all three. And if you've done them, then you're fortunate!
posted by brianogilvie at 7:26 PM on June 21, 2016

Re: Stratford - Do you like to eat? Is your kid able to handle nice restaurants (at an early hour of course)? If so Stratford might work otherwise give it a pass as you won't be doing theatre which is the main draw. I can suggest a couple places that'd work if you like. My wife is from stratford so I'm there every month or so and we have a kid who we have been dragging to restaurants since he was 6 weeks so he's acclimatised to eating things other than chicken fingers and cheese pizza.

However, you could use stratford as a base of operations to explore using our method... One of the things we do with the dauphin in the summer, is we pick a town with a nearby provincial park within a 2 hour drive from our home. Ideally the park has a beach. The other criteria is that somewhere near this location there is a town or village with a fair or a festival going on or some weird attraction. We hit the fair or attraction in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon, grab some supper at a local restaurant and head home. This has been our go to summer vacation when we are broke and/or can't get a lot of time off. Hilariously it is these spontaneous adventures everybody remembers fondly and not our more expensive destination vacations.

Our other go to vacation is car camping. Ideally, picking a spot close to a town. Hey camp near Ottawa (gatineau park maybe?) And go into town when you're bored of nature or want something other than camp food.

Good luck and I hope you have fun!
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:21 PM on June 21, 2016

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