Burlington, Ontario, is a stunning city nestled between Toronto and Niagara Falls. The culturally lively metropolitan, located on the northern beaches of Lake Ontario, is an easy day excursion from bustling Toronto.
The Canadian city is packed with abundant family-friendly activities, quaint alleyways, trendy boutiques, and of course, gastronomic delights. So finding fun things to do in Burlington Ontario should be no problem.
As one of the best places to visit in northwestern Ontario, you’ll find an array of Burlington things to do. So without further ado, here is the list of top things to do when visiting this fun city.
By the way…If you’re craving a summer getaway along Lake Ontario’s shores, check out this guide to finding Ontario’s best beaches.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
History of Burlington, Ontario
Burlington City is located at the head of Lake Ontario, 50 km west of Toronto. The town first served as a beach resort and a fruit-growing center until it later developed from the northeast of Toronto in 1950.
Today, Burlington has become a lakefront residential city and is world-renowned for the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Getting to Burlington (from Toronto)
Burlington is located next to major highways that connect to the Greater Toronto Area, Kitchener/Waterloo, and the Niagara Region.
It’s easily accessible by road via the ON-403 highway, and there are plenty of public transportation options, like the VIA Rail and Go transit public transportation services to Burlington. There are also plenty of taxi companies, cycling lanes, and Burlington Transit services within the city too.
Moreover, it’s within 45 minutes of major international airports: Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, Buffalo, and Toronto Pearson.
The Afternoon Before Burlington Activities
Before you head off to explore Burlington in a day, there are a few things you’ll want to do the afternoon before your adventure.
Cottage Country Candy Outlet (Scholtens Inc)
The first thing you’ll want to do, before your Burlington day adventure, is to stock up on some goodies at the Cottage Country Candies Outlet. Here you’ll find some mouth-watering delights, including vegan-friendly sweetmeats, candies (and sugar-free ones), nuts and trail mixes, chocolates, and snacks.
I mean…what’s a day of activities without a handful of things to nibble on?
Royal Botanical Gardens
A 3-minute drive from the Scholtens Inc outlet lies the beautiful, must-see gardens. The Royal Botanical Gardens are not just any garden, but it’s Canada’s largest garden and arguably one of the top Burlington attractions.
The exquisite landscapes are divided into several sections and spread across 900 hectares of land. It features four outdoor gardens, three restaurants, a gift shop, and one greenhouse. Take a stroll around the picturesque gardens and discover the world’s largest lilac collection and over 1,000 plant and flower species.
Once it’s time for dinner, there’s no better place for a delectable meal than the Pepperwood Bistro. It’s a local hot spot in Burlington, serving up contemporary bistro fare and their own on-premise brewed beers served by the pint.
Holiday Inn Burlington
Now that you’ve stocked up on snacks, take a stroll around the stunning gardens, it’s time to find your accommodation for the night. The Holiday Inn Burlington has located nearby popular shops, restaurants, and attractions. It features a spa, and pool and the rooms provide flat-screen TVs, wifi, a bar, and more.
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What to Do in Burlington 1 Day Itinerary
What to do in Burlington, Ontario – in a day? Well, for starters, you’ll want to commence with breakfast at your selected hotel. The Holiday Inn serves breakfast in your room with tea and coffee – what a win! Once that’s checked off your list, it’s time to dig into some Burlington, Canada, points of interest around the city.
Note: Check out my guide on what to do in Burlington on a weekend getaway, for a fun and inspiring trip.
Compliment your day trip to the city by sampling some soft, buttery Sunshine Doughnuts found in the heart of downtown Burlington. These round balls of love are handmade with fresh dough and sugary goodness.
Art Gallery of Burlington
Located in the heart of the city near Spencer Smith Park and a 3-minute drive from Sunshine Doughnuts is the award-winning Art Gallery of Burlington – the seventh-largest public exhibit in Ontario. The gallery has over 1,000 pieces of art in a 4,100-square-meter space.
One of the biggest attractions is its collection of contemporary Canadian ceramics, which is also the largest in Canada. It also boasts a lovely courtyard that hosts around 20 exhibitions throughout the year.
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is a must-visit if you have a sweet tooth and would like to try some vegan baked goods when visiting Burlington, Ontario.
Located in downtown Burlington near City Hall, the bakery is home to some of the most decadent, delicious vegan cupcakes. Sample some mouth-watering giant cookie sandwiches, award-winning Mile-High Brownies, and Nanaimo bars.
And while you’re in downtown Burlington, only a 4-minute walk from the bakery, catch a hint of European charm in Village Square. It’s home to lively farmer’s markets in the summertime and the North Coal Christmas market in wintertime.
Here you’ll find an array of shops and eateries – especially when it comes to Christmas time and the holiday season. Walk along cobblestone alleyways and admire some historic architecture hugging this small square.
Village Cigar Company & Barbershop
Whether you’re a smoker or not, a must-visit destination is the Village Cigar Company & Barbershop. It’s home to a 100-square-foot humidor, housing the finest cigars in the city. Learn about recognizing the tastes, people’s preferences, and make recommendations in the cigar world.
The North Coal
A minute from the cigar and barbershop, you’ll find the North Coal – and no, not the North Pole. And if you’ve come during the holiday season don’t miss the Christmas Market. From hot wings and popcorn mussels to soft shell tacos and walnut-crusted salmon, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal and shop for gifts and apparel.
The Odd Spot
While you’re in the area, take a stroll around The Odd Spot. As the name suggests, you’ll come to a place filled with some fun, odd, and exciting things, from Star Trek TV show props to a 1970’s SuperCycle Vintage bike and recycled clothing.
Nickel Brook Brewing
If you enjoy an ice-cold draft of beer now and then, make your way to Nickel Brook Brewing Co and sample some of the best craft beer in Ontario. It’s a microbrewery located a short ride from downtown Burlington and a mere 6-minute drive from the Joseph Brant Museum.
The brewery serves various beers, including stouts, ales, IPAs, and sour beers – all crafted onsite in their ‘Funk Lab.’ Moreover, you can purchase other items such as apparel, glassware, accessories, and tasting kits to take home with you.
The Burlington Performing Arts Centre
From large-scale theatrical productions to one-person shows, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC) is the city’s music and theatre arts hub. Located near the waterfront, the centre features an array of entertainment options.
The 720-seat main stage has had performers from all over the world, while the 165-seat Community Studio Theatre has hosted several productions that have enthralled thousands of viewers. If you’re looking for a state-of-the-art entertainment evening, treat yourself to an incredible performance at BPAC.
Spencer Smith Park
Speaking of strolling, why not take a leisurely 6-minute walk to Spencer Smith Park. Home to Ribfest and the Burlington Beer Festival (need I say more), the park is great to enjoy some fun activities in Burlington.
The exquisite parkland boasts several pathways, a wide promenade that hugs the lake, and benches dotted throughout. Find a spot on the expansive green lawns to relax and have a picnic, or take a stroll and enjoy the peaceful scenery. And if you’re taking the family on the road trip, the park also has a children’s playground and water jet area.
Joseph Brant Museum
Along the lakefront, 3 minutes from the park, you’ll come to find the Joseph Brant Museum. Take a stroll around the place and learn about the founding, settlement, and development of Burlington. The museum features three galleries as well as it hosts many travelling exhibitions too.
Note: It opens from 10 am to 4 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Spencer’s at the Waterfront
Once you’ve worked up an appetite and to end off an exciting day of activities in Burlington, head for dinner at the waterfront. Located at the west end of Spencer Smith Park, you’ll find the Spencer’s on the Waterfront Restaurant.
You’ll get to savour freshly grown produce from their farm and sustainably sourced seafood. It’s the perfect place to end a beautiful day, enjoying delectable food with a spectacular view.
Brant Street Pier
A 2-minute drive from The Odd Spot, you’ll find the Brant Street Pier. Located on the shoreline, it’s an S-shaped pier that stretches 137 meters over Lake Ontario.
If you’re keen on discovering some exquisite views, walk along the pier and go up the circular staircase to the elevated deck. There you’ll get to soak in the panoramic views of the lake and the Burlington shoreline.
Note: The pier is open between 7 am and 11 pm so that you can enjoy the area in the morning, noon, or night.
A Footnote on Fun Activities Burlington for a Day
The Sound of Music
One of the many reasons Burlington is one of Canada’s most beloved cities is the abundance of cultural events and festivals. And one of Canada’s largest annual music festivals, the Sound of Music Festival, is not one to miss.
It’s been held every June since the 1980s and showcases many local artists and performers that come together to celebrate Father’s Day weekend in Spencer Park.
One thing is for sure – the city of Burlington manages to captivate its visitors year-round.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a pleasant stroll along the waterfront promenade, sampling some delectable vegan cookies, or visiting Canada’s largest botanical gardens, Burlington has you covered.
So there you have it, the top attractions and things to do around Burlington within a day. If you’ve visited this city, what’s your favourite thing to do and see here? Please share; I’d love to know!
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