This fall, escape the city and head to Hamilton Halton Brant for places that are big on small-town charm. From riverside appeal to fetching downtowns and heritage beauty, this is the season to head to some of Ontario’s sweetest small towns to soak in their history and character. These day trip options will also lead you to great shopping, tasty eats and knockout nature along the way.
Located at the Forks of the Grand and Nith Rivers in Brant County
Who needs a fall trip to Europe when the dreamy riverside town of Paris delivers such a postcard-perfect alternative? The downtown embodies a number of architectural styles—Victorian, Edwardian, Gothic, and Post Modern—but Paris is renowned for its cobblestone buildings, including two churches and 10 residences that are still in use today. It’s no surprise that this spot has been voted the “prettiest town in Canada”.
A large river, The Grand, flows right through the town. Although the weather may no longer be warm enough for swimming, you can spend the day alongside it and cross your fingers for fresh fall patio weather. Area outfitters, like Grand Experiences and Grand River Rafting, also offer fall paddling trips. Don’t miss the open-air cafés, bakeries, award-winning fine dining restaurants, unique shops and picturesque photo-ops.
• French bistro fare at Juniper Dining Co., creative cuisine and cocktails at Edit at The Arlington Hotel, or eating on the patio at Stillwaters Plate and Pour.
• The Paris Wincey Mills Co., a historic building that is home to a year round farm-to-table market hall and comfortable café.
• Paddling on the Grand River, whether you “turbo tube” or pedal and paddle.
Located a short drive from the city of Hamilton
Autumn calls for street strolling, and you’ll find walk-worthy downtowns in two places just outside of Hamilton. Travel to the quiet little find that is Dundas and stroll its vibrant main street, featuring longstanding restaurants, boutiques, and businesses with well-preserved 19th-century architecture. The town’s geographical location in a valley makes it the perfect starting point for exploring the surrounding conservation areas that include a wealth of trails and waterfalls.
A short drive away is the village of Ancaster, one of the oldest communities in Ontario. For a century the town was a gristmill hamlet, and its rebuilt historic mill now operates as a restaurant. Its heritage is also evident in the area architecture, best enjoyed by a walk through the downtown with its quaint shops, restaurants and historic buildings. The character and beauty of the community is intertwined with the Niagara Escarpment, so take some time to enjoy its natural geography and hiking opportunities this fall.
• The Dundas Museum and Archives, located on one of Dundas’ most sublime residential streets.
• Quatrefoil, Dundas’ five-star dining pride and joy, or its acclaimed coffee house, Detour Café.
• The Ancaster Mill, a scenic creek side eatery in a restored mill that offers farm-to-table entrees and a fixed price lunch.
• Tiffany Falls Conservation Area, with its eponymous waterfall and hiking along the Heritage and Bruce Trails.
Located in the northwestern end of the Greater Toronto Area
Small town seekers often enjoy the drive as much as the destination. Take a ramble along the rural roads of the Halton Hills and you’ll come across an abundance of small towns, villages and hamlets that are in spring bloom. Start your day in Georgetown, founded in 1823. Wander through the historic downtown where many original historic buildings still stand, making it one of the most frequently filmed towns in Ontario.
Nestled on the banks of the Credit River Valley at the north end of Georgetown along the Niagara Escarpment, Glen Williams is home to many visual artists, and contains a collection of artist’s studios. This small hamlet is also noteworthy for its antique market and antique stores. From the Georgetown area, a short drive will take you to Acton, another location that can make a claim as one of the oldest communities in Ontario. The town is also affectionately known as “Canada’s Leathertown” and “the last small town near Toronto”.
• Browsing the works of thirty artists and artisans in the four historic buildings of the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre in Glen Williams.
• The Credit Valley Footpath, a 16 km trail that takes you through Glen Williams and to a beautiful view overlooking the hamlet.
• The Hide House in Acton, widely known as Canada’s largest leather store with a large selection of fashions, accessories and furniture.
Located south of Cambridge in Brant County
Antiques and artisans are the draw for those travelling to the small town of St. George and its environs. Reminiscent of a small British village, the single block downtown core offers numerous antique stores, some with multiple co-operative dealers and others specializing in furniture, china and collectibles. Head outside of town to visit local studio and craft artists that call the area their home, or pick a spot close by to access the Grand River for canoeing or the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail for spring hiking.
• The Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead, the birthplace of the co-founder of the Women’s Institute Movement.
• The studio and store at Donn Zver Pottery, a few kilometres east of town, where you can purchase dishes and serving pieces or eat from them at the on site cafe.
• The showroom at Robert Hall Originals, home of unique pewter products, petrified wood “statues” and dazzling amethyst geodes.
We Look Forward To Seeing You Safely
As the COVID-19 situation in Ontario continues to change, a minute or two of extra planning is an important step in ensuring hiccup-free fall adventures. Follow the latest travel guidelines for your community and any communities you plan to visit. Check with the places you plan to go to in advance to see if reservations or activity bookings are required. On the day of your trip, do a quick check to verify the places on your agenda are open and serving visitors in the way you’re expecting.
Don’t forget to share pictures of your foodie finds with us by tagging them with #greatcanadiandaytrip.