Family travel isn’t as much about the destination but the journey and the memories we’ve made over the years on road trips are some of our very favourite – chaos and all! We love jetting off to unique international destinations, but also love the freedom of road travel and not having to venture far to enjoy memorable experiences as a family with the convenience of having our cargo tag along with us. As a big family of six, road trip travel affords many benefits to us – it’s budget-friendly, offers the freedom to set our own pace, and fewer worries about over-packing and luggage restrictions gives us peace of mind with the ability to squeeze in all the essentials. Since family travel planning for the year ahead is picking up, and many looking to avoid the kerfuffle of air travel, we wanted to share some of our favourite short and long-haul road trips for the whole family from Toronto we’ve enjoyed over the years across Canada & the USA. Our kids are now 7 – 14, so these suggestions are for tykes – teens! We’ll be adding more to this list as we take more road-trippin’ adventures, but for now, here are the Best Family Road Trips from Toronto in Canada & the USA we’ve experienced so far:
*Disclosure: House of Kerrs earns compensation, hosted travel experiences and/or commissions from travel partner links we use ourselves to facilitate our reviews and keep our travel content flowing. As always, opinions are our own and reflect our authentic experience. Read our Disclosure*
Best Family Road Trips from Toronto in Canada
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Just over an hour and half from Toronto, an annual visit to Niagara Falls has become a family tradition and a hub for all-ages family fun. Our favourite places to stay have been Sheraton on the Falls given its proximity to EVERYTHING (steps from the Falls viewing area, Fallsview Waterpark, Clifton Hill & some of the best family restos) & Embassy Suites (larger family suites with multiple rooms, complimentary buffet breakfast & The Keg on premises).
TIPS: Don’t miss the nightly fireworks over the falls, and grab a multi-activity pass for some savings if you’ll be visiting Clifton Hill. For the thrill or unique experience-seekers of your gang, try the Zipline to the Falls – grab the big kids and hurl yourself down a 220-foot zip line along the Niagara River Gorge at 40+mph. It’s really, REALLY cool! Kids must be 7 years+ to ride & you can save a bit of money booking an “early bird” time slot.
The Blue Mountains – Grey County
A very special place for us since getting engaged here many years ago, a stay at Blue Mountain Resort is another annual family tradition. About 1.5-2 hours north of the Greater Toronto area (weather & traffic permitting), this all-season, family-focused resort packs in a lot of all-ages fun. We’ve stayed at all the in-village properties (Weider Lodge is ridiculously close to the ski slopes, Seasons had cozy multi-room suites with a breathtaking view of the mountains, The Westin feels a little more upscale & exclusive (the kids still gush over the heated outdoor pool they got to swim in on one of the coldest nights of Winter), but our favourite (given our big size & love of a bit more privacy) are the Resort Homes at Rivergrass.
TIPS: mid-week stays have been our most enjoyable (less crowds). For winter visits, we love the mountain top skating trail, but be sure to check the website or call to ensure it’s open prior & bring your own skates if you can (the line up for rentals was long). In Summer, take advantage of the savings from an Activity pass. Year-round, most restos don’t take reservations (exceptions: Tholos & Copper Blues), so if you have a place in mind for dinner, head there earlier than you want to eat to get on the waitlist.
Cottage Country Ontario
Not sure there’s a more beautiful scene then the lake views and natural surroundings of Ontario’s cottage country. We’ve enjoyed making memories at the family cottage in the Kawarthas, but also love some of the family-friendly resorts scattered around the Muskoka region. Our favourites: Fern Resort (all-inclusive, fun for all ages, including time outs for tired parents 😉), Deerhurst Resort, and Severn Lodge – all 1.5 – 2 hours north of the City.
Muskoka Getaway Beyond Resorts (*Updated July 2023*)
We enjoyed a mini escape to Muskoka to kick-start summer break and loved finding a new ‘home away from home’ to immerse in some of the bests of the region!
Residence Inn by Marriott Gravenhurst Muskoka Wharf – a moderately-priced hotel set along beautiful Lake Muskoka with modern, spacious suites for families and conveniences like fully-equipped kitchens, FREE buffet breakfast, indoor pool, laundry facilities, 24-hour Fitness center and walking distance to the Steamships + Discovery Centre, the shops & restos along the boardwalk & Shipyards, and Gravenhurst Farmer’s Market!
Eat & Play
The Residence Inn Muskoka hotel is a short drive to other all-ages family fun we enjoyed – casual eats & DadChef & I trying new suds at Sawdust City Brewing Co. (*take a pic on the HUGE Yellow Muskoka Chair*), Gull Lake Rotary Park Beach (*old school-charm beachin’ with lots of shady areas to picnic*), Ice cream hauls to cool down at Ice Dreams Soda Shop, and the Water Ski Show at Windsor Park in Bala (*Every Tuesday at 7:30 pm in Summer. Bring towels – the show ends with a ‘Muskoka shower’ ;)*)
Lambton Shores/Grand Bend, Ontario
The blue flag beaches, Lake Huron sunsets, provincial parks, fantastic family-oriented lodging at affordable prices, and so much more make the Lambton Shores/Grand Bend area a fabulous spot to road trip, not too far from Toronto (about 2 1/2 hours).
‘Canada’s Caribbean’ in the Bruce Peninsula is calling, and your family MUST go! Our family calls Tobermory “Tob-Amore” for a reason – your heart will soar there! The azure blue waters, National Parks, limestone structures, ship wrecks, fantastic family eats, for these reasons and SO many more, a road trip to Tobermory should make your Canadian road trip list (about 3 1/2 hours from Toronto). Our suggested Tobermory itinerary HERE, including the most fabulous place for your family to stay! We’ve also shared our other favourite places to staycation in Bruce County, Ontario HERE.
So many wanderful ways to get your #LocalLoveON in KINGSTON – about a 2 & 1/2 hour road trip from Toronto/GTA.
- Kingston was the first capital City of Canada
- Kingston is home to the original Hockey Hall of Fame🏒
- Good eats aren’t hard to find – Kingston boasts the highest number of restos per capita in Canada, 2nd only to New Orleans in all if North America!
Suggested Itinerary for a Family Visit to Kingston, Ontario
If you have a few hours’ pit stop on your Ontario Road Trip , cross-border adventure, or will be staying overnight, here are some ways to enjoy Kingston with your family:
- Park at one of the lots along the waterfront & patio dine with a view of the St. Lawrence River 🍽
- Follow the Waterfront Pathway to see the 1000 Islands Ferry Dock ⛴, Confederation Park, the K-I-N-G-S-T-O-N Tourist sign & – Spirit of Sir John A. -Engine 1095 🚂
- See why Kingston is known as “Limestone City” by visits to heritage sites constructed using local limestone – including City Hall & Kingston Pen – the former max security prison to some of Canada’s most notorious criminals 🏛
- Watch some great hockey at the Leon’s Centre – home of the OHL’s Kingston Fronts 🏒
- Find all the tributes to Kingston’s very own homegrown (and Canada’s beloved) band “The Hip”, including the Gord Edgar Downie Pier memorial on the Waterfront off King Street.
We did a spontaneous stop-over in our Nation’s Capital en route to Tremblant last summer, and we’re so glad we did! So many options for families of all ages from edu-taining to full on adventure and just 4-4.5 hours from Toronto by car. A stay at Les Suites Hotel in the downtown core was a perfect place to lay our heads for the night with multi-bedroom suites + kitchenette for families plus its excellent proximity to most of Ottawa’s bests. We were just steps away from the Rideau Centre and Byward Market Square, and under 15 minute walk to Major’s Hill Park, the Rideau Canal Locks, the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill. Our favourite spot for family eats was Zak’s Diner in the heart of the Byward Market and just steps from the landmark O-T-T-A-W-A sign.
The joie de vivre vibe, foodie family dining options, endless activity options for all ages, awe-inducing natural beauty and scenic sites for the senses have made us fall madly in love with Quebec. Our road trip to Mont Tremblant was the highlight of last Summer, as was our visits to Lanaudiere (rural) & Laval (urban). Amenity and history-rich Quebec City is a family trip must, and Montebello in The Outaouais is fantastic for a mini family getaway or stopover en route to a farther destination along the way. Charlevoix is another less popular yet no less wanderful region as well. J’aime le Québec. All regions are fabulous all-season destinations for families with plenty of options for every one!
Best Family Road Trips from Toronto – USA
Lake Placid, New York
Just over 6 hours drive from Toronto, Lake Placid, NY meets all the fun-tastic marks for an unforgettable getaway by car – scenic Adirondack mountain views, Olympic heritage spirit running through, award-winning lodging & dining options and opportunities to immerse in unique experiences galore! While the region is compact and charming, it’s amenity-rich and bursting with options for families of all-ages. Our family stay was at the budget-wise, and conveniently located Crown Plaza Hotel, while a previous visit was at the historic meets luxurious Mirror Lake Inn. All the details on how to make the most of your visit to Lake Placid HERE!
About a 5-hour drive from Toronto, we’ve stayed in Pittsburgh twice – once as a stop on our long-haul trip to Myrtle Beach, another for our son’s hockey tournament. What a pleasantly surprising city with lots of options for families to enjoy – an array of delish dining options for foodies, historic discoveries along the North Shore & sport-lovers’ entertainment hub.
Our Favourite Pit Stops in Pittsburgh for Families
1) DiAnoia’s Eatery for homemade Italian goodness;
2) The Original Pancake House with kids’ menu & 10+ flavoured pancake options;
3) The North Shore with no-cost visits to the War Memorial Monuments & “Tribute to Children” statue honoring Mister Rogers (a Pittsburgh local & humanity hero);
4) Roaming around Heinz Field – Steelers football Country;
5) Catching an NHL game at PPG Paints Arena; and
6) A ride up the 140 year-old Duquesne Incline for a panorama view of the city named one of the “10 most beautiful views in America”!
We parked in Gold Lot 2 for our day of exploring The North Shore area, which gave us walkable access to the North Shore Riverfront Park, the “Tribute to Children”, the war memorial and Heinz Field (under $10 to park for a few hours).
There are a handful of family-friendly museums as well – we were pressed for time, but will have to return to check those & so much more out too! Check out Visit Pittsburgh for suggested activities for families (we got some of our ideas from this Mister Rogers-Inspired Itinerary)!
“Virginia is for lovers” and we were totally smitten with our short but wonderful summer visit there as a second stop along the drive to Myrtle & a bucket list stay at Mountain Lake Lodge (“Kellermans” – the real life Dirty Dancing Movie Resort!; read all about that HERE). Just over 10 hours from Toronto, or 5 hours from Pittsburgh by car to Pembroke, VA where Mountain Lake Lodge resides. The drive through Virginia is scenic with views of the Appalachian Mountains & the family friendly options plentiful – National & State Parks, museums, festivals, beaches & more. This is one state we know we need to re-visit!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Just over 14 hours from Toronto, this was our very first (and longest) road trip with our gang yet! And also one of our most memorable. With four kids of all ages, Myrtle is a fantastic choice and made for families of all ages. We stayed at the Caribbean Resort & Villas – mostly covered with our travel credits! It’s an excellent choice for big families given the multi-room suites with full kitchens, 2 bathrooms, large balcony & laundry machines.
The resort’s close proximity to all the family-focused fun in Myrtle Beach – The Strand Boardwalk & Skywheel, the Pier, shopping (Target, The Market Common), Ripley’s Aquarium, Wonder Works, dining (it’s adjacent to the popular Sea Captain’s House!) made it an ideal choice too!
Since our 2017 visit, they’ve made renos to suites & now have a new Oceanfront Pool Bar. Family perks like heavily discounted tickets to shows, on-site movie rentals & arcade, indoor/outdoor pools (with waterslides!) made this trip and stay at Caribbean Resort & Villas a hit for all-ages fun!
Fly n’ Drive Vacation
Southern California: San Diego to Malibu
If you’re looking for a hybrid vacation – part air, part road trip – check out why Southern California is our top pick for families and our favourite seaside stops for families along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego – Malibu HERE.
Family Road Trip Pre-Departure Checklist
Our family road trips have made for some of our most memorable adventures & we’re pumped for some new fam-ventures ahead to add to our list. Be sure to check out our Road Trip Pre-Departure Checklist before you hit the road for less stress, maximum enjoyment! Not listed below but highly recommended for cross-border road trips – check the Canada-USA border wait times in advance of your arrival HERE.
Tips for Fuel-Efficient Driving – Get More Mileage from Your Gas
This post has been in drafts for some time (since Winter 2020 before you know what!), and since then, gas prices have skyrocketed to mind-blowing levels. We value this article by CAA (which we are a Gold Member of for road side assistance, food and travel booking perks and savings), that gives some great tips on “Hypermiling” (i.e. – ways to make your fuel last longer) and how to save some bucks at the pumps.
More Family Travel Inspo
If you enjoyed this post, you may also find these helpful in planning your next family road trip adventure or day trip:
We hope sharing some of the best family road trips from Toronto we’ve previously enjoyed have inspired some travel ideas for your crew. We’ll be adding to this list as we wander. In the meantime, we’re always looking for our next family adventure inspo, so tell us some of your favourite road-trippin’ experiences below!
Keep well, travel safely,