How to Road Trip: A guide to creating the best road trip ever – Part Three: Where to go

5 Road Trip Destinations that deserve your attention

(1) Niagara Falls

 Where to stay: Pick a spot with a view of those iconic waterfalls and within walking distance of key Niagara Falls attractions.

A few to consider:  The Niagara Falls Marriott Gateway and the Hilton Hotels and Suites both offer a variety of choices right alongside the iconic waterfall. Click here for more.

niagara

Photo from Expedia.ca

The Flipside: Travelling with kids? Consider a stay at Great Wolf Lodge where the focus is on the indoor/outdoor water park and families can participate in a host of planned activities ranging from story times and pyjama parties to wizard expeditions at Magiquest.

On Route from Toronto:  Niagara Falls is a quick day trip from the GTA. Avoid rush hour to keep your energy high and plan to arrive in the early afternoon.

Possible Pit Stop: Hamilton (they’ve got a great waterfront area with restaurants and a park for kids to burn off some steam) and St. Catherine’s offers roadside fruit stands in season and the new Outlet Collection at Niagara will be a hit with shoppers.

When You’re There:  What you do in Niagara Falls is up to your energy levels and interest. There are plenty of choices for those who want to get up close to the water from all angles. Ripley’s Entertainment venues let you play tourist for a day and hosted tours can give you some insight into the area’s history and importance. Travelling as a couple or with friends? Consider taking a romantic tour into wine country.

How to make it memorable:  Don’t rush through. Niagara Falls is a great stop year-round and has plenty to offer whether you’re travelling as a family, a couple or solo. Plan to stay for a few nights to soak it all in.  Check with your concierge to find out if any major events are happening that will enhance you stay. Concerts, fireworks and light shows happen at various times throughout the year

(2) Orlando

Where to stay: Families have been flocking to Orlando for decades with good reason. A host of offerings that range from active adventure to family fun mean that there is something here for everyone in your traveling party. When choosing where to stay you will need to keep in mind what you’re looking to do while in the city. Theme Park fiends? Pick a spot on the grounds to secure extra perks like early entry to the parks.

The Flipside:  Head away from the hotels and book into a rental home instead. The range of offerings means you can have a condo apartment or a house with as many as six bedrooms (perfect for a multi-generational stay.) Community programming, private hot tubs, full kitchens and more make your vacation stay a little more like home 

On Route from Toronto: There are several routes you can take from Toronto and though it is possible to do the drive in less than 24 hours, we recommend taking your time and making time to stop in great cities along the way.

Possible Pit Stops: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Be careful, this city is bursting with so many new things to see and do and you may find yourself tempted to derail your trip with an overnight or two. About 6 hours from Toronto, the culinary scene here makes it a great choice for a lunch/dinner break. Consider visits to the Children’s Museum and the waterfront trail. The Heinz History Center gift shop is fun for adults and kids alike.

Savannah, Georgia – While you’re technically just on the doorstep of Florida at this point, Savannah is still worth a few days of your time. Book on to a trolley tour and explore the city’s many courtyards and squares. An ice cream stop at Leopold’s – the family owned shop in business since 1919 – is a must.

When you’re there: Depending on your goals for Orlando, you can do as much or as little as you like. Theme parks will take you several days to conquer fully. Try not to overdo it to avoid burn out. Limiting your visits to one theme park per day is a good way to spread out your time.

Want a break from the excitement? Head into neighbouring Kissimmee and explore some of the natural learning adventures available there including airboat tours that will show you the alligators that call the area home.  For an awe-inspiring and educational adventure take a tour down to the Kennedy Space Center. The facilities and tours will pique your imagination and there are plenty of hands-on interactive exhibits for the kids to explore.

nasa

How to Make it Memorable:  Theme Park breakfasts with the characters are always a surefire hit with youngsters but plan ahead as many of the interactions need to be booked in advance.

(3) San Antonio

Where to stay:

San Antonio has plenty to offer and many hotels but the ones on the gorgeous River Walk are going to be your best bet for making the most of the most famous sites. The San Antonio River Marriott puts you in the center of the action.

The Flipside: Looking for properties with historical ties to the city? Try the Menger hotel (built in 1859 and only steps from the Alamo) (built in 1909) across the street.

On Route from Toronto: The drive will take you 2-3 days if done comfortably. Alternatively consider flying to Florida and making the drive along the panhandle and west through Louisiana. 

Possible Pit Stops: Whether you opt to drive from Toronto or fly to Florida and make the drive from there, consider including Louisiana in your trip. New Orleans is a great city for a few extra days.  Take a trolley tour of the historical quarters and don’t miss the family-friendly cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Hint: Come hungry!  

 cooking

When you’re there:  History, culture and food options run wild in San Antonio. A visit to the Alamo where historical talks offer some insight into the legendary mission is a must. Then consider heading out to see the age old Mission Concepcion, one of the area missions recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also home to the largest Mexican market in the United States (Even if you aren’t hungry take a peek inside Mi Terra Café. The décor is memorable!). Kids will lose their minds at Schlitterbahn – regularly voted as the Worlds Best Water Park.

How to make it memorable:  Take a Rio San Antonio Cruise to gain a better understanding of the Riverwalk layout. And consider a daytrip (about an hour’s drive) over to Austin. From the incredible eats at barbecue trucks to the music that has made it famous and the gorgeous State Capitol grounds you’ll find plenty to keep you smiling.

(4) Seattle, Washington

Where to stay:  Although it isn’t in the centre of town the Home2 Suites by Hilton property is a great spot to get settled if you’re looking for a comfortable home-like feel for your time in the city. Free parking, free breakfast and free internet mean you’ll be able to stay on budget. Laundry facilities and kitchenettes will make travelling with young kids a breeze.

seattle

Photo from Expedia.ca

The Flipside:  Book a room at Hotel Five. The quirky boutique property is filled with bright, funky colours and is only six blocks from the Space Needle and Experience Music Project museum. The free bicycles on site will make exploring the area easy and fun.

On Route from Toronto – A road trip to Seattle from Toronto will take you at least eight days but you should budget much more time to allow yourself to take in the great cities along the way. Alternatively, you could fly to Vancouver and drive the less than 3-hour route to this fabulous city.

Possible Pit Stops:  The drive down from Vancouver can be as long or short as you like. Stretch it out to take advantage of the gorgeous scenery in this Pacific Northwest region. The San Juan islands offer the chance to spot whales just off the coast. Want to drive further? Keep going south to Portland where you’ll find plenty of shops and activities to pique your interest.

When you’re there:  Park the car and explore Seattle on foot. The EMP Museum is a must if you’ve got pop culture and music lovers among your group. Just outside you’ll also find great playground equipment for the kids to burn off steam. Pike Place Market is a great spot for picking up some snacks for the road.

EMP

How to make it memorable:  Consider using Seattle as a hub for exploring the incredible parks nearby.  Mt. Rainer National Park offers a great experience with iconic views and memorable hikes.

(5) Vancouver, BC

Where to stay: The Pinnacle Hotel Vancouver Harbourfront offers waterfront views and rooms with floor to ceiling windows that slide open to let the breeze flow through. Steps from the waterfront, you’ll be well placed if you like sunset walks.

The Flipside: Ready for some pampering after all that time in the car? The Shangri-La offers you 5-star luxury in the heart of the downtown core.  The attention to detail will make it difficult to move on.

On Route from Toronto: Want to drive from Toronto to Vancouver? No problem! While you could do the drive in under a week, it would be hectic and hurried. Plan on doubling or tripling that time so you can take in the changing scenery as you go. Want to shorten the trip? Consider flying to Calgary, Alberta and then driving through the mountains to your final destination.

Possible Pit Stops: Once you’re in Vancouver driving trip options abound! Head over to Vancouver Island and make the most of the small communities that call it home.  Cities like Victoria and Tofino, each have their own personalities and in between you’ll find gorgeous views of age-old forests including the must-see Cathedral Grove.

When you’re there: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain and the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park are all worthwhile ways to spend your day. Want to up your Canadian pride? Head to Canada Place on the waterfront. The mountain and sea backdrop, as seaplanes land in front of you are photo worthy. FlyOver Canada is a family friendly virtual flight experience that showcases the country’s beauty. And don’t miss any of the Vancouver Foodie Tours’ offerings. You’ll gain insider knowledge of the city while tasting some of the best food it has to offer. And whatever you do, don’t forget to stop for the World’s Best Gelato (according to the experts in Italy!) at Bella Gelateria. The line-up is worth it especially if they’ve got salted caramel.

tour

Photo from Expedia.ca

How to make it memorable: Head for Granville Island. The market on the island that is accessible by land or water taxi is a gem in the city’s core. Market stands offer up everything from fresh sushi to local cheese and is a must-stop for the city’s chefs and local picnic-ers.

 

 

 

Prev How to Road Trip: A guide to creating the best road trip ever - Part Two: What to Pack
Next How to Road Trip: A guide to creating the best road trip ever - Part Four: The Journey

About Author

Heather Greenwood Davis

Heather Greenwood Davis is the award-winning writer behind GlobetrottingMama.com. Her photos, writing and personality are frequently found in international publications, radio programs and television shows including National Geographic Traveler (she's the FamilyTime columnist), O Magazine, Canadian Living, The Toronto Star, NPR, Canada AM and more. In 2012, Heather returned from a yearlong trip around the world with her husband and two sons (29 countries on six continents) and was named among National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s first “Travelers of the Year.” When not in an airport or on Twitter, Heather can be found in Toronto, Canada fighting for sunshine one travel itinerary at a time.

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