6 weekend driving getaways from six major Canadian hubs

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Extend the holiday travels by a day or two, rent a car and visit somewhere new.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: December in Canada kind of sucks. It’s freezing, dark early and the crush of the December holidays isa whirlwind of social and family functions. Instead of hibernating inside, load up the fam and head out for a weekend getaway to unwind. The drive is half of the adventure.

Each of these weekend driving getaways is less than two hours from one of six major Canadian cities across the country.

From Calgary…

Visit: Canmore

Time: 1:45

Avoid the Banff madness and opt for a winter wonderland getaway in Canmore instead. The Trans-Canada is the quickest route from Calgary, but we say skip it. Instead, take the 1A. It’s the scenic route, which means it’ll take longer, but weaving alongside the snow-covered Bow River can be spectacular, as long as you’ve got proper tires and four-wheel drive.

From bed and breakfasts to chalets and chain hotels, there’s accommodations for every taste, and when it comes to taste buds, go to by Blake, an award-winning eatery tucked inside of a converted car garage. (In the summer season, you can dine inside of its on-site double decker bus for a truly unique experience.)

From Winnipeg…

Visit: Whiteshell Provincial Park

Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

There’s much to explore inside Whiteshell Provincial Park, but the perfect staycation spot is at the family-run Falcon Trails. The drive from the Winnipeg area is pretty simple–head straight East–so don’t expect any skill-testing, weaving roads. But don’t let that deter you. Upon arrival, you’ll have all the visual stimulation you need. Enjoy the stunning natural surroundings and its many ski trails, but best of all are the glorious hot tubs at these lakefront cabins in the woods.

From Toronto…

Visit: Elora

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Skip the 400 series and take the back roads to Elora. This picturesque town in Wellington County is best known for its enormous gorge, limestone architecture as well as rafting and camping in the summer season, but it’s a must-visit spot come winter, too. You can try your hand at ice climbing or ice fishing, head out for a hike, rent a snowmobile, bring your skates or snowshoes. Whatever you choose, afterwards, a hot chocolate (or coffee, if you’ve got to keep up with kids) at the Lost & Found Cafe is a must.

From Vancouver…

Visit: Bowen Island

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Less than half an hour by ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver is Bowen Island. Yes, it’s tucked in the Howe Sound which means it requires a boat ride, but once you get there, you’ll feel the stress melt away. There are several picturesque and winding roads on the island, so if you’re looking for a memorable drive, consider an afternoon of exploring by car.

Spend and evening or two and opt for a room in a traditional bed and breakfast or find a space to call your own–the Bowen Island Cabin, available on Airbnb, sleeps six. Just remember to book your sailing spot each way or else your travel time could increase exponentially, especially during peak hour on weekends.

From Ottawa…

Visit: Perth

Time: 1 hour

Perth is a teensy town with big charm. There are a handful of Concession roads to get you here from Ottawa–it’ll take around one hour, depending on the route you map out–all of which pass through quintessential Eastern Ontario farmland. Stay at the Perth Manor Boutique Hotel for the sheer joy you’ll feel pulling up to the heritage building and dropping your keys to be valeted. The whole region feels a bit like stepping back in time, including this hotel.

In addition to the heritage town’s standard offerings of bakeries (stop in for a slice at Perth Pie Co.), restaurants, bookstores and antiques. There’s also a distillery and a brewery to discover, and November through December the community offers a range of holiday activities and events.

From Halifax…

Visit: Chester Basin

Time: 45 minutes

If you’re from the Maritimes, the novelty of the ocean may have worn off, but that doesn’t mean a quick weekend getaway to a seaside town should be missed. There are countless villages within an hour’s reach that are worth driving to for a recharge (mentally speaking), but Chester has to be one of our favourites.

In town, get your culture fix at an art gallery, see a play at the Chester Playhouse. Foodies won’t go hungry thanks to the variety of eateries like The Kiwi Café for breakfast or The Rope Loft for classic seafood fare later in the day. If you’ve done Chester before, leave the car in town and hop on a passenger ferry to Big Tancook Island for the day and experience the mainland views from a different perspective.

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