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15 Alternatives to a Disney Vacation

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15 Alternatives to a Disney Vacation

You never know who you might meet. • Credit: Destination Ontario

Experience a truly magical and memorable family holiday

Discover Ontario’s animal kingdom, adventure mountains, and enchanted winter wonderlands



International travel is highly discouraged during the era of COVID-19. Instead of going south this winter for a Disney vacation, discover the magic that Ontario has to offer.

two horses pulling a red sleigh with lots of kids on it.
There are lots of rides to choose from and there are no line-ups.  Source: Destination Ontario 

Bring the wonder of your favourite Disney movies to life. Enjoy the same fun snow adventures that Frozen’s Princess Anna and Kristoff have. Build your own Olaf snowman. Skate on frozen lakes under a million stars, cozy up by a wood fire or snuggle up on a magical sleigh ride. 

Mother and young child feeding a deer from a wagon.
Just bundle up and explore Ontario's winter wonderland. Source: Destination Ontario 

Discover Ontario’s Animal Kingdom. Zoom down Ontario’s snow-covered mountains on skis, snowboards or tubes. Or climb a frozen waterfall.

Here are some of the best family winter adventures Ontario has to offer, from the province’s most remote corners to popular spots just around the corner. 

GO WILD WITH ANIMAL ADVENTURES

In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can experience man-made replicas of exotic environments. You can go on a guided tour of an African savannah, trek through the jungle, have a rip-roaring raft ride and visit a Conservation Station to encounter and learn about fascinating animals. 

In Ontario, you can experience real adventure in true Canadian wilderness. You can see and learn about wolves, elk, moose, polar bears and more. Take a guided dog sledding or horseback riding tour in the magical snow-covered forest. So instead of going south this year, go wild in Ontario.

Close up of a wolf.
Dispel the fairy-tale myth about the Big Bad Wolf. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #1: Haliburton
Package: Wolf Centre at Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve
Why You’ll Love It: Learn about wolf behaviour and ecology on a self-guided tour of the exhibits at the Wolf Centre. The wolves live in a large, naturally forested environment. You can watch them through one-way glass from inside the centre or on live wolfcams. 
How To Make It Happen: Book your visit online or call 1-800-631-2198 option 3 for more information.
While You’re There: Haliburton Forest offers a variety of accommodation options so you can stay on-site and enjoy dog sledding and the ATV and snowmobiling trails. Snowmobile rentals are available.  

Close up of a polar bear walking on snow.
Travel north to see and learn about polar bears. Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #2: Timmins/Cochrane
Package: Wildlife Park Tour and Canadian Polar Bear Habitat
Why You’ll Love It: Get up close to bison, elk and fallow deer while riding in a tractor-drawn wagon during a wildlife tour through a 100-acre wildlife park at Cedar Meadows Resort in Timmins. Learn about polar bears then see Ganuk, Henry and Inukshuk, the polar bears living at the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat in Cochrane. 
How To Make It Happen: Book your stay at Cedar Meadows Resort in Timmins by calling 1-877-207-6123 or email reservations@cedarmeadows.com. Reserve your visit for the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat by emailing customercare@polarbearhabitat.ca.   
While You’re There: Go on a quest to see the Spirit Moose in Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park. The park is only one of two places in the world where all-white “Spirit Moose” are regularly seen. Be sure to save time to enjoy the outdoor Nordic baths at Cedar Meadows.  

Best Getaway #3: Calvin (just east of North Bay)
Package:  Von Doeler’s Ranch Life Packages  
Why You’ll Love It: Ranch life packages are perfect for families interested in truly getting involved with animals and experiencing ranch life. Help saddle up then ride the horses, learn cattle sorting and help with ranch chores. Stay in a rustic log cabin. Trail rides, lessons and riding camps are also available.     
How To Make It Happen: Select a one, two or three-night ranch life package or classic cabin package then call 705-477-6655 or email vondoelersranch@gmail.com to book.
While You’re There: For more old-fashioned outdoor family fun, visit Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge. Go skiing, tubing or snowshoeing or try kicksledding on this 485-acre property overlooking the Laurentian Mountains.    

MOUNTAIN THRILLS & SKILLS

Okay, so it’s not Space Mountain or Splash Mountain, but you’re sure to be exhilarated by these really cool Ontario mountain thrills.

Young man catching air on a snowboard
Discover Ontario's adventure mountains. Source: Destination Ontario

Learn how to ski, snowboard or tube then launch yourself down these slopes to feel like your roaring through space. Or climb a frozen waterfall on a mountain. 

Group of people on tubes at bottom of snow covered hill
It's fun for the whole family.  Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #4: Timmins
Package:
Ski, Board and Tube at Kamiskotia Snow Resort
Why You’ll Love It: Kamiskotia offers 25 unique runs ranging in difficulty, two chair lifts and two surface lifts. Get a thrill as you zoom down the mountain at the tallest tube park in Ontario.
How To Make It Happen: Book a stay and play package with a local accommodation. Get rentals and lift tickets here
While You’re There: Get up close to bison, elk and fallow deer while riding in a tractor-drawn wagon during a wildlife tour through a 100-acre wildlife park at Cedar Meadows Resort in Timmins. Learn about polar bears then see Ganuk, Henry and Inukshuk, the polar bears living at the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat in Cochrane. 

Best Getaway #5: Blue Mountain 
Package: Stay & Ski at Blue Mountain
Why You’ll Love It: Blue Mountain is a magical place for family getaways. Ski or board on runs ranging in difficulty. Stroll along charming cobblestone streets in Blue Mountain Village sparkling with lights. Choose from endless dining options.
How To Make It Happen: Choose a Stay and Ski Getaway or a Stay, Ski and Rent package that has everything you need to get started.
While You’re There: There’s lots to do at Blue Mountain. Go snowshoeing, fat biking, tubing or sign up for a kids program. Find out more.

Little boy smiling after climbing up a small slope.
Kids love to learn new skills.  Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #6: Thunder Bay
Package: Learn to Ice Climb with Outdoor Skills & Thrills  
Why You’ll Love It: You don’t have to head to the Rockies to learn to ice climb. Since the 1980s, the sport has been thriving in Northwestern Ontario, attracting climbers from around the world. During this workshop at Kama Bay or Orient Bay, you’ll learn to confidently climb a frozen sheet of ice using crampons and ice axes. 
How To Make It Happen: Outdoor Skills & Thrills offers half-day and full-day courses for all skill levels. Reservations are required. Call 807-472-4742 or email info@outdoorskillsandthrills.com for more information. 
While You’re There: For more thrills, try snowkiting, outdoor skating, downhill skiing or fat biking in Thunder Bay.   

BRING MOVIES TO LIFE

Snow days are perfect for watching your favourite Disney movies. How many times have you seen Frozen, Call of the Wild or Snow Buddies? Instead of curling up on your couch and watching them again, why not bring them to life with your own winter adventure?

DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF WINTER

The Disney movie Frozen celebrates the wonders of winter and the adventures of Princess Anna, mountain man Kristoff and snowman Olaf in the magical land of Arendelle.

Group of people building a snowman.
Build your own version of Olaf the snowman. Source: Destination Ontario  

Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Arendelle to find sparkling, snow-covered landscapes, the northern lights, sleigh rides, frozen lakes to skate on and more. It’s all right here in Ontario. 

Man and young girl laughing while putting on mittens
Everyday is a SNOW day. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #7: Mattawa
Package: Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge Winter Adventures  
Why You’ll Love It: Escape to this 485-acre off-grid winter wonderland overlooking the Laurentian Mountains. It’s truly a magical place where you can unplug and have good old-fashioned fun with your family. Go snow tubing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing and kicksledding. Then relax in a wood-fired sauna and sip on steaming hot cocoa around a campfire under a million stars.
How To Make It Happen: Book your stay in a Pacific yurt, Mongolian yurt, Ma’ayan chalet, Shamayim cabin or glamping tent by calling 705-223-4340 or emailing rest@naturesharmony.ca
While You’re There: Spend a day downhill skiing or snowboarding at nearby Antoine Mountain.

Best Getaway #8: Slate River Valley (near Thunder Bay)
Package: Winter Sleigh Ride Party at Gammondale Farm
Why You’ll Love It: This just might be the most magical way to enjoy winter. On Sue and Gerry Gammond’s farm south of Thunder Bay, you can take an old-fashioned sleigh ride around the foot of Candy Mountain with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.
How To Make It Happen: Sleigh rides for small groups of up to 15 people cost $300, which is room enough for your family and friends. Bookings may be made through Gammondale Farm’s website.
While You’re There: After your ride is over, make sure to pay a visit to the farm’s goats, sheep, rabbits and hens. They deserve a little love, too.

Kids loving a ice crystals on their mittens
Discover the beauty of ice crystals. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #9: Batchawana Bay
Package: Explore the ice caves of Algoma County
Why You’ll Love It: In 2019, The New York Times named Lake Superior’s ice caves one of the top 52 places in the world to visit. The ethereal, icicle-coated caverns are created when large waves up to 20 feet in height freeze. However, they’re threatened by climate change—so the time to visit is now.
How To Make It Happen: Exploring the ice caves on your own can be dangerous. Superior Exploration Climbing and Adventure offers three-hour cave tours for $100 per person (or $300 for a group of four, if you want to make it a double date). All gear, including ice crampons and boots, are supplied.
While You’re There: For an even bigger adventure, why not try ice climbing with Superior Exploration? Nearby Sault Ste. Marie offers lots of fun winter activities and interesting attractions, plus great local brew pubs and places to stay.

Two adults skating on frozen lake with two small kids.
Outdoor skating is fun for the whole family. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #10: Sudbury
Package: Skating in Kivi Park and on Ramsey Lake Skate Path
Why You’ll Love It: One of the newest recreation areas in Sudbury, Kivi Park is an all-season playground set on over 450 acres of Cambrian Shield. You can hike, ski, snowshoe or fat bike through its extensive network of trails, but its latest addition is a 1.3-km skate path, complete with lights and a sound system. Skate by Science North on the 1.5-km-long Ramsey Lake Skate Path.
How To Make It Happen: Local outdoors store Adventure365 offers a rental service, with a location right in Kivi Park. Everything you might need or want—from fat bikes to skis—is available to hire. Find places to stay.
While You’re There: The kids will love spending the day exploring the all-ages exhibits at Science North. Get more skate time on the 1.5-km Ramsey Lake Skate Path

DEEPEN YOUR CONNECTION

The movie, Call of the Wild, is set in the gold rush days of the 1890s in the Alaskan Yukon. This story of Buck, a big-hearted dog, and the man he has to trust, illustrates the strong bond that is created by working together in the wilderness.

Snow Buddies features adorable talking golden retriever puppies who help a boy realize his dream of competing in the Alaskan Iditarod dog sledding competition. 

These Disney movies showcase the connection between people, dogs and the wilderness.  They illustrate how journeys in the wild can strengthen our character and deepen our appreciation of nature and history.  

Team of dogs pulling a sled with snow falling.
It's a must-do adventure. Source: Destination Ontario 

If your kids love watching these movies, they’re sure to love these Ontario experiences.

Best Getaway #11: Haliburton Highlands
Package: Winterdance Dogsled Tours
Why You’ll Love It: Discover the thrill of dog sledding by learning to drive a dog sled team. Younger kids love riding on the sled. Explore Haliburton’s wilderness during a two-hour, half-day, full-day or multi-day dog sledding trip. You may even meet owner Hank Debruin, who has run the Iditarod and Yukon Quest several times. 
How To Make It Happen: Select the tour that is right for your family then book by phone at 705-457-5281 or by emailing info@winterdance.com.
While You’re There: A visit to the Wolf Centre at Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve is a must-do. Yours Outdoors offers a variety of fun winter adventures for the whole family.

Best Getaway #12: Vermilion Bay
Package: Borealis Sled Dog Adventures
Why You’ll Love It: This is the quintessential Canadian experience. Located in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, Borealis offers truly authentic dog sled adventures that connect you to not only the dogs, but to each other and the land. It’s a trip of a lifetime. 
How To Make It Happen: Select your adventure online then contact Borealis by phone at 807-227-2203 or email at borealisdogsled@juno.com.  
While You’re There: For more thrills, try snowkiting, outdoor skating, ice climbing, downhill skiing or fat biking in Thunder Bay.   

Woman and child in dogsled basket with man driving.
It's a thrilling ride. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #13: Algonquin Park
Package: Snow Forest Adventures
Why You’ll Love It: Journey into the heart of Algonquin Park for two to five days of dog sledding and traditional winter camping. You’ll learn everything you need to know from mushing the dogs to staying warm and dry at night.
How To Make It Happen: Select the trip that is right for your family online then contact Snow Forest Adventures at 705-783-0461 or by emailing info@snowforestadventures.com.
While You’re There: The Algonquin Park Visitor Centre has world-class exhibits on the Park’s natural and human history, plus a great theatre and outdoor viewing deck.

Best Getaway #14: Sudbury
Package: Lure of the North Traditional Winter Camping With Kids
Why You’ll Love It: This six-day fun, educational, hands-on, skills-focused introduction to traditional winter camping is a great way to spend time with your kids in a natural setting forest school.
How To Make It Happen: View the package online then contact Lure of the North at 705-280-6809 or by emailing info@lureofthenorth.com.
While You’re There: A visit to Science North in Sudbury is a must-do. Kids can learn about nature and science in a fun and creative way.

Traditional heated wall canvas tent in snow with snowshoes.
Step into history with traditional winter camping. Source: Destination Ontario 

Best Getaway #15: Algonquin Highlands
Package: Yours Outdoors Fur and Flintlock Package
Why You’ll Love It: Discover the fascinating world of Canada’s oldest industry—the fur trade. On snowshoes, travel back in history with an 18th-century fur trader to an authentic trading post log cabin. Learn about the fur trade and handle reproduction trade goods. See demonstrations of flintlock firearms and traps. 
How To Make It Happen: Review the package online then call 705-457-7557 or email info@yoursoutdoors.ca.
While You’re There: A visit to the Wolf Centre at Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve is a must-do. Yours Outdoors offers a variety of fun winter adventures for the whole family.

DISCOVER REAL MAGIC

Winter creates a sparkling wonderland to play in. So instead of heading south for a Disney vacation, enjoy a truly magical and memorable family vacation right here in Ontario.

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