International travel is highly discouraged during the era of COVID-19. Instead of going south this winter, most Ontarians will be spending their winter holidays at home and many are already dreaming about their 2021 summer vacations.
In the thick of social distancing measures, being outside has become one of the few available activities left for escaping the house. Many people have discovered the beauty and health benefits of spending time in the great outdoors in their own backyard.
What is a Staycation?
A staycation is when you stay at home but explore all the fun things in your local area. Typically you only travel within a day trip distance of your home and return home for the night. The goal is to create the feel of a traditional vacation – like avoiding daily routine while staying in your local area.
During this time of COVID-19, it’s important to know and respect the level of public health measures for your region. These measures control what is open and how businesses are operating. Before exploring, be sure to learn about the five levels of public health measures shown below and check what level your local area is at.
What Can I Do on my Staycation?
So for those of you looking for a little getaway – even for a day – this guide will help you discover new ways and places to have fun safely in Ontario’s outdoors.
What To Expect When Travelling In Ontario
The world has changed because of COVID-19 but Ontario’s businesses are doing their best to keep you, your family and their employees safe. Please be kind to them and consider thanking them for being open.
The New Normal
When traveling in Ontario, you’ll find new rules, additional expectations and a lot more signage to pay attention to. Even though these changes may seem strange at first, they are in place to keep everyone safe. As requirements vary for each region, be sure to know and follow local rules. If you are from a high-risk area, please consider the implications before travelling to a low risk area.
Here are some common changes you can expect to find.
- Plan Ahead – As the situation is constantly changing, it’s a good idea to plan ahead before heading out. Check tourism, business and public health unit websites and social media for the region you are in or travelling to.
- Masks – The Ontario Government has made it mandatory to wear makes in all indoor public areas and when you can’t keep two metres apart. Learn more.
- Social Distancing – Businesses are working hard to keep you 2 metres (six feet) apart from others. Please pay attention to signage and respect others by giving them the space they need. Learn more.
- Sanitation Procedures – Cleaner is always safer. Please use the hand sanitizer or washing stations provided to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Learn more.
- Protective Barriers – Please stand behind the barriers when interacting with the person serving you.
- Advance Ticketing and Reservations – Limiting the number of people in any given location allows space for social distancing. Instead of lining up at the door, you will now line-up virtually, get advanced ticketing or have time-slot reservations.
- Contactless Pay and Menus – Many businesses are no longer accepting cash and instead are asking for you to pay using contactless methods (e.g. tap on credit/debit card or paying ahead online). Many restaurants are asking customers to read their menus virtually on their phone.
- Contact Tracing – Don’t be alarmed if you are asked to provide your name, phone number or other information prior to being admitted to a local business. This information is being collected so that the business can contact you if another customer within your vicinity tests positive for COVID-19. Learn more about the COVID Alert mobile app.
Shop Local, Stay Local and Explore Local
Staying home is currently the top recommendation from the Ontario government to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19, however, if you choose to go out, travel local, travel safe and do your part by following public health advice for Ontario and your region.
This is the year to explore new local places and try new local adventures. The regional tourism websites listed below can help you discover local exhilarating outdoor experiences, fabulous food and drink, relaxing places to stay and more.
Before venturing out, get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 levels and measures, based on public health unit boundaries. Please note the health regions may not correspond to the tourism regions listed below.
- Ontario’s Southwest
- Explore Niagara
- Hamilton, Halton, Brant
- Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington
- Greater Toronto Area
- York, Durham, Headwaters
- Bruce Grey Simcoe
- Kawarthas Northumberland
- South Eastern Ontario
- Ottawa & Region
- Haliburton Highlands to Ottawa Valley
- Muskoka, Parry Sound, Almaguin and Algonquin Park
- Northern Ontario
Amazing Outdoor Places To Explore
There are so many incredible places to explore in Ontario. When you venture into the wilderness, please remember to Leave No Trace and to pack out what you pack in. Be sure to plan ahead and know what you need to bring with you as some facilities and shops may not be open.
Ontario Parks offer incredible outdoor recreation opportunities in all seasons. Most of the usual facilities and services are available to visitors, however, some restrictions may apply.
Winter in Ontario Parks provides many fun adventures for visitors. Try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating or tubing. Discover which parks are open for day-use and ones that offer overnight camping in yurts, cabins or tents. Keep updated on all trail conditions with the new Ski Report.
COVID Related Travel Tips
- Latest updates on Ontario Parks and COVID-19
- To plan your trip, go to OntarioParks.com, click on the ‘Parks’ tab and select the Park you want to visit. Then view the Facilities and Activities Summary and icons to see what’s available at the park you want to visit.
- Before travelling, check the social media channels for the individual park to get up to date information. See list of all Ontario Parks social media accounts.
To make the most of your visit to Parks Canada places in Ontario, plan ahead using the website of specific locations you wish to visit and the travel tips below. Be sure to check the COVID-19 information for each location.
COVID Related Travel Tips
- Get latest updates on Parks Canada and COVID-19
- How to Visit During COVID-19
- How and Where to Camp During COVID-19
- Frequently Asked Questions
Conservation Areas in Ontario
Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities collectively own and operate over 500 Conservation Areas. Nearly 300 Conservation Areas are accessible for you to get outdoors and be active. They provide year-round facilities and recreational opportunities like birding, camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, cycling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and even more extreme sports such as snowboarding, rock climbing and ice climbing.
COVID Related Travel Tips
- Get latest updates on Conservation Ontario and COVID-19
- Plan your visit based on the activity you are looking for.
- Download the Conservation Area Guide.
- Find your local Conservation Authority contact information. Please call ahead or visit the website to find out if there are any closures or service disruptions.
Find Your Outdoor Adventure
When you book an adventure in Ontario, you can rest easy knowing you are in good hands. Our operators are doing everything possible to keep you safe by maintaining the strict protocols required by the Province. In addition, many have obtained a ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, which means they have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols.
Be sure to call or email ahead to ensure there is a space reserved for you and be as self-sufficient as possible as some facilities may not be open.
Winter Outdoor Adventures During COVID-19
Snow brings new excitement and romance to some of your favourite destinations. Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in a winter wonderland, try fat biking on snow-packed trails, carve down a mountain, skate under a million stars or mush a dogsled through a glistening forest. Just getting started? Equipment rentals and lessons are available or supplied for all winter adventures.
It doesn’t matter what you choose – just get out and experience Ontario this winter.
Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding and Tubing Resorts – Discover ski resorts near you and get snow conditions. Learn more.
Cross Country Ski Resorts & Trails – Discover Nordic ski resorts near you and get snow conditions. Learn more. Also refer to the Ontario Parks section below for great places to cross-country ski.
Dogsledding Adventures – Choose from one hour to multi-day trips with these excellent dogsledding outfitters across Ontario. They’ll teach you the basics and introduce you to one of the best ways to enjoy a winter day.
Fat Biking - It’s a hot winter trend to go biking on snow. Check out these 10 fat biking hotspots.
Ice Skating – Experience thrills and serenity on these best Ontario outdoor skating trails.
Winter Getaways for Families – Check out these 21 adventure getaways for families.
Resorts of Ontario – Many Ontario resorts offer packages with a sampling of fun winter adventures – snowshoeing, skiing, dogsledding, downhill skiing and more. Find your perfect winter getaway here.
Northern Ontario Snow Adventures – Discover the perfect place to play in the snow this winter.
Spring, Summer and Fall Outdoor Adventures During COVID-19
Already dreaming about your next warm weather vacation? Get inspired and start planning your Ontario outdoor adventure holiday now.
Paddling – Discover the best paddling rivers, SUP destinations, fly-in canoe trips, world-class kayaking tours, whitewater rafting adventures, backcountry camping adventures and more. Learn more.
Cycling & Mountain Biking – Find the best gravel bike rides, weekend cycling getaways, mountain bike trails, bike parks and road touring routes. Learn more.
Hiking, Camping & More – Get complete guides to hiking some of Ontario most spectacular trails – Killarney, Lake Superior, Pukaskwa and more. Get tips on camping and discover the top 25 camping spots in Ontario. Find the best family vacations. Learn more.
Other Planning Resources
Explore Ontario’s Trails
Plan Your Outdoor Adventure Staycation
Ontario is the perfect place for an outdoor adventure staycation in all seasons. You can easily play outside while practicing safe social distancing and following other COVID-19 measures.
So for those of you looking for a little getaway – even for a day – we hope that you’ll experience some new adventures in Ontario’s great outdoors.